My Silent Business Partner

I've been in business now for six years. For all six of those years, I've had a silent business partner. My partner's contribution to the enterprise has been sipping sweet cream during those years while I labored and toiled to try to make a go of things. It seems that the only noise he makes is when I don't send his cut on time.

I struggle each month to find new ways to drum up business and sales; he merely changes the rules of the game on me. I desperately find new ways to cut my overhead costs, while he weighs me down with more regulatory requirements. I seek new opportunities to make more money, all the while wondering why I do this when I know that my partner is going to be guaranteed a bigger cut each time. He makes more for doing nothing, yet I make less for doing everything! Who's the schmuck in this equation?

My partner, whom I'll refer to as Sam, has no skin in the game for this or any business. I have invested all of the capital and taken all of the risk...but he continues to take his cut before all other expenses. Three years ago, did Sam recognize that I had to borrow from relatives to feed my family as I used my wage to pay for more advertising? Two years ago, when I had to lay off our last employee, did he care that I went two weeks without sleep, trying desperately to find a way to save this worker's job? Last year, when the economy tanked, did he express any concern over the fact that I had to take money from my personal savings account to cover the business bills? No, for Sam's only concern is that he gets his slice of the pie.

Now my partner wants to throw a multitude of additional costs on my back. The new health care mandate will cripple my business with the one simple amendment that requires me to send a 1099 to all of those whom I do business with ($600 and up). If the Cap and Trade bill is rammed through, I'll have more costs associated with meeting my partner's environmentally friendly mandates. What will happen to my business if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire? If I can grow the business and add employees, what happens if I'm forced to unionize? Do you think my partner cares? If I shut the business down, do you really think my partner will care?

Today, in an effort to save face, my partner is throwing around his ideas on how to help make our business grow. He has proposed a capital gains tax break for businesses. I don't want to sell my assets to cover my expenses, so this is a joke. He wants to force banks to lend to me? I don't want to borrow myself further into debt. If I have no sales, why on earth would I want to expand my business? He wants to give me a tax break with advanced depreciation on equipment and capital expenditures? I'm not going to go out and buy three new computers in the hopes that this will make customers walk through my door! 

My partner is also a partner with all of my competitors and every other business in the U.S. In the past, it really didn't matter if we went out of business, for Sam knew that there were four or five others just waiting to take our place. Today, that environment has changed. There are limited numbers of entrepreneurs out there willing to take chances and expose themselves to the risks involved in operating a business with so many unknown variables floating around out there, particularly when they see the signs of an uncontrollable partner who desires more and more of the profits. 

If the incentive to make money is limited by our partner's regulatory restrictions and confiscatory participation, why even risk it? If one or two more of my partner's schemes are written into law, I'll just have to shut the business down and go to work at the local food mart. In all honesty, I'll take home more money there, I'll sleep at night, and I'll have to share only a paycheck with Sam.

D.L. Hammack owns a small real estate sales and development company.
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