Who Built My Business?

Pablo Picasso created great art. How much credit goes to his father, an art teacher who trained him? How much to his mother, who handed him his first pencil? How much to the companies that fabricated Picasso’s brushes and pigments?

Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones are future Hall of Fame infielders. Should their plaques at Cooperstown recognize the people who stitched their gloves and manufactured their bats?

Nearly 20 years ago, I unpacked a new computer, sat down and wrote a business plan for the company now known as Palisades Hudson Financial Group LLC. Today Palisades Hudson has around two dozen employees, more than $1 billion in assets that we manage for our clients, whom we also help with all sorts of tax and financial matters, and offices in New York, Florida and Georgia. Our first West Coast office, in Portland, Ore., is due to open shortly.

President Obama was speaking directly to people like me when he made his now-famous remark to entrepreneurs: “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” (1)

The president was not entirely wrong. I did not build my business alone. Where he went astray – where he showed how little he knows about being a business owner, having other families depend on checks you write and decisions you make, and having customers willingly give you money they could just as easily spend elsewhere – is in who deserves to share the credit.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help,” Obama said at a July 13 campaign event in Roanoke, Va. “There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.” (1)

Before we get to his philosophy, let’s straighten the president’s bent facts.

Government research created the Internet (which grew out of the Defense Department’s Vietnam-era ARPAnet), but not “so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.” The defense contractors and academics who first linked their mainframes were not trying to create an infrastructure that Amazon could use to sell books or movies. British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web’s basic protocol while studying at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research. Marc Andreesen, an American software engineer and venture capitalist, laid the groundwork for Web commerce by building Mosaic, the first commercially successful web browser, and by launching Netscape Communications. Internet profits exist because profit-seeking entrepreneurs saw a potentially useful tool and put it to use.

Yes, I had some excellent teachers. So did everyone else who sat in my classes. We all drew upon the things they taught us in our own ways. Our teachers gave us the tools; what we made with them was up to us.

All of us in business owe a debt to our forebears, all the way back to the people who invented written language, double-entry accounting and the uniform commercial code. But this is a debt that runs from our generation to the ones that preceded us. It is a moral debt, not an economic one. The teachers who taught me were paid for their services at the time they were rendered.

The fact that I profit from what I learned does not create any obligation on my part to share those profits with those who sat next to me in class. They had the same opportunities I did, and my teachers understood that. If I studied hard and got a perfect score on a test, my teachers did not reassign some of my correct answers to less-studious classmates in the interest of fairness.

The president notes that a successful business uses public infrastructure such as roads and bridges. True, but irrelevant. Businesses and their owners pay for such infrastructure just like everyone else, in the taxes, tolls or other revenues that government collects. Businesses rent office space and pay for electricity, too, usually from private parties. This does not entitle those vendors to a share in the profits.

The president also credits “this unbelievable American system that allowed you to thrive.” That system is called capitalism, and it did not “allow” anyone to thrive; unlike other systems, it simply did not prevent us from thriving. Private profit was or is largely illegal in places like Cuba, North Korea and the old Soviet Union. These countries maintained atrocious living standards as a result. Prosperity is more heavily taxed or regulated away in many other places, including much of Europe, and these places experience chronically higher unemployment and lower economic growth as a result.

Obama is arguing that a society that “allows” success is therefore entitled to redistribute it. This would level the playing field with places like Europe through the simple expedient of making us behave more like Europeans.

But in my case, the success the president would redistribute according to his preferences is, as he says, not just my own. It belongs in large measure to the colleagues who have joined me in building a successful business. They share in that success, and to the extent the president believes we owe more to society, there is less for my co-workers – as well as me – to enjoy.

Then there are the future workers I might not hire, the offices I might not open, because the president would leave me less discretion about how to use the cash my growing business generates. He’ll take a bigger share of it out of my hands.

Obama finds it convenient to denigrate entrepreneurs because he is running against one, but I have no reason to think that he was not expressing his true feelings in that speech in Roanoke. I think Obama truly believes that those of us who build businesses are indebted to others who help us. I agree. We just part company on the question of who those people are.


1) The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, “Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event in Roanoke, Virginia”

Business Strategies – Network Your Way to a Successful Year

How often do you take the time to strategize on your business? Really have “think tank” moments where you devote time to growing your business and analyzing where you are. We did it in January… and most of us, continued throughout the first few months of the year. However, for the majority of us, it isn’t long afterwards that our own businesses return to their places on the proverbial back burner. As July approaches, and you get back into the “where I am half-way through the year” mode, it’s time to start strategizing again. Time to get into the “build my business better this year” mode. Fortunately, it’s not too late.

It’s time to consider… what have you done right? What have you NOT done right? What can you do better? If you want to end this year ahead of where you were last year, you need to analyze and reassess where you were, where you are now, and where you want to go.

Now that you’ve done the analyzing and re-assessing, it’s time to take action steps to move you forward. Even one step a month can help. And to get you started, here is one action step you can take right now to grow your business.


Networking should be a big part of your business. It can be done online or locally, but it needs to be done. Once you get started it’s so easy to do, too. Have you ever noticed that sometimes, once you join a group, you wouldn’t even consider missing one of their meetings? But getting in the door is another story. That’s why you need to go out of your comfort zone and get yourself out there. Start small, but join at least one networking group. Now, here’s the key. The group has to carry the potential that will lead to your business growth. Joining Weight Watchers (although it can help with your weight) is not going to grow your business. We’ve seen this happen over and over again. People often sign up for networking groups; and although they can be fun, they just aren’t the right groups to help their business. They spend time in these groups, make a few friends here and there, but unfortunately don’t get the results they need, so they eventually give up and feel it just doesn’t work. It does work. You just have to know how to work it right.

First, find the right group for you. One way to do this is to pay attention to the groups others belong to. They often share these on social media communities like Facebook and Twitter. Some groups might have a small membership fee, and that’s okay. If it’s reasonable, has potential, and you can see it will lead to your business goals, then consider it. But do your research first. Oftentimes, a quick Internet search will let you know if it’s a worthwhile investment.

Attend the meetings. Been there, done that. How often have you joined a group, but six months down the road, can’t remember the last time you actually showed up for a meeting? Then you are guilt-ridden when someone posts on Facebook about what a great meeting it was. That’s why it’s important to take the networking challenge and actually show up. And, while you’re there, make sure you engage with others. Don’t sit back in a corner, business cards in hand; hoping someone will make the first move and come up to you. Be assertive, get out there and start conversations. What you will discover is most people are just like you and appreciate that someone else took the first step. Then, after the meeting, take action. Try and schedule time after the event (but before you get back into work) to reflect on how you can get the most out of the connections you made. You will be amazed at how soon this turns into a habit and is no longer considered a challenge or drudgery.

Networking is a time-tested, solid business strategy that works. And the more you work it, the better the results. What we think you will discover more than how successful it is though, is how enjoyable you’ll find it. Start now and see how by year’s end, this habit is one you won’t want to break in the coming years.

8 Tips to Have a Business That Will Be for Keeps

I have to fully admit that I didn’t know what I was doing when I started my first business as a Health Coach. It was clearly a hobby on the side that drew in a few clients and then took on a life of it’s own. But I quickly learned that a sign that I was truly meant to be a business owner was that I was 100% obsessed with my “hobby”.

I threw myself into learning everything I could about running an online business-after all, as a working mom with a full time job how could I network and build a business like everyone else?

As I began having success with clients and learning how to run my business my fun little hobby turned into a business I couldn’t wait to expand.

I could have kept on playing it safe. I could have just left it as a fun hobby that I enjoyed and that helped people but every night as I went to bed I kept thinking, I want more. I want to be a success.

As my business grew it took on wings. People started to notice my little business and I was drawing attention. Little by little I learned what I needed to do to gain clients, make money and become a successful business owner and in only a few short years of doing it part time around my insanely business life I’ve learned that when you start to discover what you’re meant to do you’ll figure out how to make it work. Some people recognize it easily others need to overcome their doubts and fears before they do.

If you’re looking to create a successful business you’ll need to create one that allows you to play for keeps and not give up when the going gets tough.

Here are 8 ways to play for keeps:

1. Work at it and stay committed to your goals

2. Learn all you need to in the areas you’re not proficient

3. Envision your success

4. Read every business and marketing book you can get your hands on

5. Master social media, it’s not going away.

6. Become a master networker.

7. Learn how to speak and present yourself

8. Develop a success mindset

It’s easy to dabble and not commit to being fully invested in your own success but if you’re anything like me you’ll not be satisfied for long with only mediocre results. If you want to have a hobby for a business or one that stays on the “side” and you don’t ever leave your job for then that’s okay but if you do then you need to first and foremost work on your mindset. Do you have the mindset that will allow you to handle the ups and downs and highs and lows of business building? If you don’t but you think you want a business then now is the time to start working on it.

How do you see yourself and your business? Are you happy with it as a “hobby” or do you see yourself as a leader in your industry? If so, what have you done to change your mindset?