Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream Fulfilled in Pacific Northwest Entrepreneurs

Jan 24, 2019

Monday, the nation proudly celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  One of the lenses that I look at American society through to assess its progress as a nation is MLK’s famous quote, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I believe one venue where this dream for America has been achieved in the Pacific Northwest is in the marketplace where owners of privately held companies and family owned businesses compete to obtain customers.

I have been a business broker for twenty-five years, personally facilitating the sale of over 300 businesses.  During that time period, I had the pleasure of working with entrepreneurs across the demographic spectrum who through intelligence, vision, business acumen, and hard work have lived the American dream of controlling their own destiny and creating wealth through business ownership.  These success stories have been personally written by males, females, and members of the LGBT communities. They have been achieved by people of Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic, and atheist faith.  The narratives of accomplishments have been authored by families that came to the Pacific Northwest by wagon train and first-generation immigrants from Asia, Africa, Europe, and South & Central America.  I have been blessed to have the opportunity to see this side of America as a professional.  I have heard from many who immigrated to the United States that the entrepreneurial opportunity that exists in this nation is superior to any other place in the world and that many of America’s citizens do not appreciate the opportunity they are given to freely climb a ladder to personal prosperity regardless of financial & social status by the nation’s free market, equal opportunity economic system.

One government entity that promotes & enables entrepreneurship in America is the Small Business Administration.  The services offered by this government department range from educational & business counseling programs to government guaranteed loan programs that help entrepreneurs start, grow, and purchase businesses.   Unfortunately, the SBA is one of the federal departments caught in the net of the partial government shutdown.  The Small Business Administration being closed has impacted a spectrum of individuals and businesses. The effected parties include respected government employed professional colleagues who passionately support the main street & middle market business communities. These people working in offices from Seattle to Washington DC have been forced to use personal savings to address deferment of their paychecks and more significantly been prevented from serving the community they advocate for & support since before Christmas 2018.  Imagine as a business professional having projects on your desk that you want to work on and being prevented from tackling them while at the same time knowing new projects are accumulating to greet you when the doors open and you are allowed to return to work. This is the reality of the partial government shutdown from the perspective of the employees of the SBA.  A second group impacted by the closure of the Small Business Administration are the people & businesses the department was created to serve on July 30, 1953.  Entrepreneurs seeking to participate in the quality educational programs offered by the SBA on subjects ranging from starting your own business to bidding on government contracts to securing a government backed loan currently have no classes to attend.  The holiday season is often a time when people strategically plan for the next year.  The highest execution rate on New Year’s Resolutions occurs shortly after they are made.  The SBA being closed is preventing that execution from occurring.  Imagine the frustration experienced if a New Year’s Resolution was made to get in shape and then your local gym where you were a member was closed for a month. The probability of following through on the fitness goal would likely diminish.  It is impossible to calculate the entrepreneurial activity in America that has been lost or deferred by the partial government shutdown.  This loss or deferral is costing other businesses revenue from sales and jobs from being created.

A third group detrimentally effected by the closure of this government department are the owners of family owned businesses who had reached agreement to sell their companies to a party using a SBA guaranteed loan to finance part of the acquisition.   Many of these people are selling to facilitate retirement, some motivated by health issues for themselves or family members.  It is anticipated that the transactions will occur in the future, but the uncertainty of when creates business management & personal planning issues.  IBA, as the oldest business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest, has multiple client sales in this status currently.  We empathize for the “situation beyond their control” that the partial government shutdown has put our clients, their buyers, and our brokerage team in based on this situation.  “Patience is a virtue”, it also can run thin.   IBA is a highly skilled professional negotiation firm. We consistently get parties to “Yes”.  It is our strong belief that a solution in the best interest of the American people can be achieved if our elected officials would just get in a room, talk, and negotiate.  It is time to put political goals & differences aside and find a way to open 100% of the government for an extended period and end unnecessary disruption of the lives & economy of this nation.   A final group of professional colleagues impacted by the shutdown of the SBA are the bankers who facilitate government backed loans.  They are doing a wonderful job staging financing for clients during the shutdown, but many projects require SBA engagement to move forward.  Some situations can be resolved efficiently administratively when the government reopens like obtaining prior years tax transcripts from the IRS (Another government department impacted by the partial government shutdown) employing a 4506-T while others need collaborative, problem solving with experienced government employees.  IBA empathizes with our friends in banking.  We can relate to the calls & emails you are fielding that you cannot address with anything more than “This will be one of my highest priorities when the government reopens”.

The good news is that despite the partial government shutdown, Martin Luther King Jr’s dream of an environment where people are being judged on their ability and not on their demographics is being achieved in the entrepreneurial community.  One of my favorite success stories symbolic of this achievement is Mary Wesley, owner of Flowers-Just-4-U at 701 23rd Avenue in Seattle, Washington.  Mary has been a successful female, black entrepreneur since 1981.  She has provided beautiful, professionally designed flowers to celebrate love, achievements, births, marriage, and honor people in death to Seattle residents for decades.  Mary is symbolic of MLK’s dream.  Witnessing her achievement from a foundation of skill, business acumen, and hard work makes me proud to live in America and serve the entrepreneurial community.   MLK’s dream is alive & thriving in Mary Wesley at Flowers-Just-4-U and the Pacific Northwest.

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, and mergers & acquisitions community on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.