On Friday, President Obama said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
My father lost his job as an electrician in 1968, due to cutbacks and his lack of seniority. He then started his own electrical company — out of the trunk of his car. No one helped him. His parents didn’t support him, and in fact, his own father told him he was stupid for even trying.
Earlier in the same speech, President Obama said:
Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. … You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
Obama is right. There are a lot of smart people out there. And a lot of them weren’t as smart as my father, who created one of the most enduring electrical contracting companies in the state of South Carolina from scratch.
Obama is right. There are a lot of hardworking people out there. And many of them didn’t work as hard as my father did to become such a great business success — against all the odds and with little help or outside support.
My dad is the smartest and most hardworking person I know.
It’s true that most people can’t become successful without at least some help. But my dad would not have been a success if he wasn’t Jack Hunter, my father — an individual with talents, skills and ambition that many others lack.
President Obama is not technically wrong in his statements. No man is an island unto himself. But the president’s comments do drastically — and insultingly — understate the importance of individual achievement in any success story.
My best friend opened her pizza restaurant three years ago. Today, it is a very successful business, achieving 400% growth in its short existence. Did she achieve this success alone? Technically, no, she had business partners, needed a delivery truck to bring her ingredients, needed quality employees, regular customers, etc.
But am I surprised that a young woman who earned two degrees in 3½ years of college, who didn’t get a business loan, who didn’t get a loan from her parents, who didn’t go to the government for help and who worked her ass off every single day — am I surprised that she’s now a success? No. But I am proud of her and her business. She built that.
I would say the same thing about my friends who run the website development company that hosts my own personal site (SouthernAvenger.com, and it looks fantastic!). When we first met, they were three young libertarians who I knew through mutual friends, and they were just getting started. I was one of their first clients. In just two years, their company has had 600% growth. They’ve acquired many new and high-profile clients. They’ve hired eight new employees.
Did they have any help? Technically, yes, in the same way a pizza shop owner needs someone else to help produce mozzarella and pepperoni. But did the fact that they’d still be busy working at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night when I’d occasionally call to see if they’d like to join me for a drink have anything to do with their success?
You bet it did. And I’m proud of my friends’ successful business. They built that.