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Cassity: Sorry, but we did build that

August 02, 2012|By Chuck Cassity

In a speech he gave in Roanoke, Va., on July 13, President Obama said, "… If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. … If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. … If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

Let me take you back to early 1977.

My wife was gainfully employed as a registered nurse. I was knocking down very good money as an executive for a medical company. Although quite comfortable, we believed we saw an opportunity. We applied the first principle of marketing as I had learned it, which states: "Find a hole and fill it." In essence, it means discover a need unmet and then conjure up a way of meeting it.

We agonized for months over whether to take the plunge and start our own business to meet that perceived need. It was especially scary, as we were intending to create an all-new medical specialty all by ourselves. Finally, we took a deep breath and jumped in, feet first.

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"… If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

The nature of our business was such that we had to be available on a 24/7/365 basis. The plan was for me to market and sell, and for my wife to provide the professional medical services. I banged on doors. I made phone calls. I wrote letters. I pleaded for our company to be given a chance to change the way things had always been done. Finally, the phone rang, and then rang again. And it kept on ringing.

We quickly realized we were in over our heads. Business grew so fast we very often had to work all day and all night. We hired staff. We bought more equipment. We acquired vehicles. We negotiated the first of several second mortgages on our home in order to pay for the growth. We applied for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan but were denied.

I guess we didn't meet the "helpful" government's criteria.

I remember being asked what I did for a living. I said that I spent a third of my time trying to find new business, a third trying to keep the business we had already earned, and the other third trying to collect for all the services we had performed. In our business, payment terms of net 30 days in reality meant net almost never. On dozens of occasions my wife and I couldn't cash our paychecks so that our employees could cash theirs. Dozens.

"…If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

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