The Family Business

Varney and CoFOXBusiness

At first, I thought we were overreacting. Taking it out of context, even. We have now spent four days talking about President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” off-prompter remark in Roanoke, VA on Friday. (By the way, don’t think for a minute that it’s a coincidence he said it on a Friday, when news stories traditionally get “dumped” before the weekend.) Are we being too hard on him? Are we beating a dead horse? No one else outside of FBN and FNC is paying much attention to it. Are we wrong? I’ve asked this question every day this week in our morning editorial meeting, simply because every day someone has to play the devil’s advocate and I’m that guy.

After hearing business owners, economists, political pundits, and several others comment on the President’s remarks both on Varney & Co. and elsewhere, it is abundantly clear: This is not only a big deal, but it is, like Mitt Romney said, “insulting.”

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Today on the show, Kyle Koehler talked about how his father built his family tool business while working another job. They struggled at first. They did it on their own. Without help from the government. They built a successful company that now employs a couple dozen people or so. Koehler says he’s angry at the President for treating business as a villain.

But I never had to book a business owner as a guest to know what their answer was going to be. I just had to ask my family. My dad built a business. He was a swimming pool contractor in the 1970s. He had his own crew whom he paid, and pool companies would hire him and his crew to build their pools. Eventually, he went into business for himself. He named the business Christian Pools, after my older brother. (Don’t feel bad for me. I wasn’t born yet.)

The business was successful. My dad employed a dozen or so people between his swimming pool supply store and in the field for installation and service. In the early 90s, he retired, sold his inventory, and closed the store. I was in college, my brother was in the Marines and my two sisters had their own careers at the time. None of us were in a position to take over. A few years ago, my brother reopened the business. My mom took out a second mortgage on the house I grew up in to help him get started. He hired someone to completely gut and renovate a building on a lot that was otherwise decrepit. In other words, he BUILT it. Pretty much by himself. Did he have help? Sure. From the government? Absolutely not. He employs a dozen or so people, including my mom and my niece. Anytime I call one of them I am told how busy the store is. That’s good business.

But the family business success stories don’t end there. My brother-in-law was a baseball player who made it as high as AAA ball in the Atlanta Braves organization. When it was clear he wouldn’t reach the majors, he became a sports agent. He built a business. Did it struggle in the beginning? Of course. Did he have help? Yes. From the government? Of course not. Now he represents some of the biggest names in baseball. He also employs a dozen or so people. And recently, he and my sister were able to invest some of their money in a frozen yogurt franchise that is also thriving. All from private investment. Also, that store employs about a dozen or so people.

I am so proud of my family members for what they have built. They are their own bosses, and they employ more than 50 people. Nowhere was the government involved, except to delay permits on construction or renovations on storefronts. They all responded angrily when I asked them what they thought of the President’s “You didn’t build that” remark. One of them called it “a big pile of crap.”

I am thinking of starting a business myself. I have an idea, and a dream and a vision for that idea. I am confident, excited, and determined to be successful. I am also sure, like my big brothers and big sister, the government will have nothing to do with that success.

In the span of the nearly three minutes it took you to read this blog post, I described five business that were built by regular Americans who worked hard and received no help from the government to achieve success. As Ronald Reagan said, “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government IS the problem.”