Friday, February 09, 2007


(News-Herald, February 8) If you are going to try to make it as en entrepreneur in Venangoland, there are some specialized rules you need to be aware of.
First, and perhaps most challenging, you need to realize that we’re not very fond of success around here. Oh, we think it’s fine in principle—money rolling into the county, jobs blooming like a thousand flowers.
But as soon as we see anyone personally making money, we get grumpy and suspicious. Around here we don’t even have to meet Well-To-Do people—we know they’re all arrogant and stuck up and think they’re better than everyone else.
If someone uses initiative and wits to come up with a business idea and really makes it work, we know a hundred reasons why they’re Not So Great and their idea is Stoopid and it’s Not Right that they should get money that way.
It’s not just business people—we expect our politicians to stay in place, too. No getting fancy, no getting clever, no taking initiative.
It doesn’t just start in the adult years. You remember that kid in school—she studied for tests, did all her homework, paid attention in class, and when she got A’s the other students made fun of her and said she only got good grades because she was a suck up. As if being hard-working and ambitious is just an underhanded way to beat the system.
And while this may seem a harsh judgment, I’m trying to think of someone who has become locally successful, well-known and widely loved by achieving ambitious, daring, innovative, trail-blazing success. Can’t think of many. If I’m forgetting people, let me know—we need to talk about them.
But while we’re discussing your plan for local success, let’s talk about your personal life. I don’t mean your personal bad habits or your odd clothing choices. I mean your marriage.
We’ve seen it too many times in Venangoland. A couple’s personal issues become a court matter, their property carved up on the judicial block. And when that property includes valuable local businesses, everybody feels their pain.
Count the number of local businesses that have gone through upheaval, or that now stand empty, because Mr. And Mrs. Business Owner couldn’t work things out.
So, new rule. Anybody who’s in business around here who’s single—if they want to get married, they have to have the approval of all of their patrons. I don’t care whether you’ve been brought together by matters spiritual or biological—I don’t want to be deprived of my favorite basket weaving emporium or lemon pie dispensary because you get hitched, then later realize you made a horrible mistake and have to carve the business up in court.
If the business owner is already married, no divorce will be granted until every employee and patron in the area has taken a crack at fixing the marriage. The prospect of a few hundred marriage counselors should be more than enough motivation to make things work out.
Finally, business success in the region requires a thick skin and plugged ears. Because if there’s anything you’re going to get around here, it’s advice. We are loaded with kibitzers.
Selling something? We all know what it should cost. Made a decision? We all know what you should have done. There isn’t a person in the county who doesn’t know where the hospital should have been built or how Two Mile should be run.
And to be clear, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I happen to believe that democracy and capitalism and the free market work best with a variety of opinions, all out there loudly announcing themselves. Some opinions are smart, some are stupid, some are right, and some are just silly. But to sort them out, we have to have them out where we can see them and talk about them.
But if you’re launching an endeavor with the expectation that you will be loudly and unanimously supported by the local public, you’d be better off drilling holes in the Cranberry Mall parking lot with the expectation of striking gold. You can have as many people sit and jaw in the back seat as you like, but in the end, you’ve got to do your own steering as best you can. Even when the people in the back seat start hiring lawyers.
Just because someone has an opinion doesn’t mean you need to listen to him; not even if the opinion is printed in the newspaper.

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