Small Businesses Continue Saying: Yes, We Did Build It!

small business

A statement by President Barack Obama on the campaign trail still rankles some small business owners a month later — and the issue doesn’t seem to be going away.

In a speech in July 2012 President Obama made the statement, “If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen. ” ABC News

That set off a firestorm of reaction.  Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s campaign seized on the comment and organized a series of  “We Did Build It!” rallies.

The President fought back with speeches and a television commercial explaining that his words had been pulled out of context by his opponent.  He restated his support for small businesses.

How Do Small Business Owners Feel?

There is no single “small business position” on this or any other election issue.  Small business owners have varying political beliefs and can be found on every side of every issue.

But “We DID build it” has become a rallying cry for some small business owners to voice how they feel about government, taxation and spending.  They are waging protests in their places of business, as recently as this past week. Small business owners are not known for protesting or mixing politics with business.  To do so at all is remarkable.

It’s a sign of deeper discontent by some small business owners. A Gallup poll from the 2nd quarter of 2012 (before the President’s comments) found business owners are the group LEAST approving of President Obama’s on-the-job performance, with 59% disapproving.  In other words, a majority of small business owners did not think the President was doing a good job according to the Gallup poll — even before the political dust-up over the “You didn’t build it” comments.

Fast forward to today, a month after the President’s comments were made:

Business Owners Speak Out

Sending a message. Just to be sure President Obama knows who built his company, biz owner Al Letizio put up signs in front of his small New Hampshire food service business so that the President was sure to get his message while passing in his motorcade through the state. Breitbart

An inside job. Deli owner Ross Murty got even closer to the Obama campaign to make his point about his small business. While catering an Obama visit to Iowa, Murty wore a shirt stating “Government Didn’t Build My Business. I did.” Washington Post

Sweet revenge. Chris McMurray, co-owner of  “Crumb and Get It”, a family owned bakery in Radford, Va., said “no” when campaign workers for Vice President Joe Biden asked whether Biden could make a campaign stop at the local mom and pop. His objection stemmed from Obama’s comment about business. WDBJTV

Summing up.  A small business owner sums it up.  Note: includes language NSFW (not safe for work).  Ace of Spades, via Instapundit.

Look at All Sides

Pulled out of context.  Erica Nicole says President Obama’s comments were pulled out of context and misrepresented by the media. Business owners should consider “the story behind the story,” she cautions. Young, Fabulous and Self-employed

Who built what? It’s a chicken and egg argument. While it’s certainly true that government expenditures for infrastructure from highways to the Internet help entrepreneurs create and sustain businesses, it’s also true that the money for these projects comes from taxes paid by those businesses in the first place, writes blogger Erica Holloway. BlogHer

That nobody can deny. The core idea of the President’s statement, that everyone has been helped by someone else on their way to being successful, is something no one can deny. But that doesn’t mean the people we owe our success to are politicians sitting in Washington, says Professor Richard Grant, nor should it. Forbes

Much ado about nothing. The problem with the debate over who really creates business success however, completely misses the point, says business advocate Nelson Davis. Here in the U.S., small businesses have traditionally viewed government as a support system for their operations, but certainly not as the agent responsible for their success. The Huffington Post

Public Perception

We’re not alone.  According to another recent poll, 72 percent of Americans believe small business owners are responsible for their own success.  Rasmussen Report


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor at Small Business Trends. A professional journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional media and online media, he attended Waynesburg University and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has held roles of reporter, editor and publisher, having founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press.

9 Reactions
  1. When did a modern day President / politician “build” something? Who is “someone else”?

  2. I’m sorry that quote was taken out of context. The president was talking about the infrastructure it takes to make a business succeed. None of us built that. If you think otherwise, try to build a company in third world places where the electricity is sporadic, you have to deliver invoices by courier because you can’t trust the postal service and roads aren’t safe from thugs.

    Building a post around this out of context quote is just pandering. Don’t you see the data that business in general – including employment, the stock market, the deficit does better under democratic leadership? Has been true for decades.

    • Thanks for your comment and criticism, John, but you missed two points:

      (1) We’re reporting what small business owners are doing, including varying viewpoints on it. That’s not pandering. That’s reporting on an important issue. I truly think something remarkable is going on here, since it is not typical for small business owners to mix politics and business. We also went to great pains to point out that not all business owners will share the same opinion about the comments. But the fact that some are moved to make a political statement in their businesses is an important issue to the small business community. Whether you agree with it or not, we should not be silenced from reporting on the issue.

      (2) We made some observations to indicate what our editors think is going on, including that a majority of small business owners disapprove of the President’s on-the-job performance according to Gallup. They disapproved even before the comments. I happen to think that most small business owners are smart enough to realize there’s a lot of political hay being made over the comments, and wouldn’t let themselves be easily manipulated by political rhetoric alone. Are you suggesting they are not smart enough to see through it? If it were JUST the comments, that would be one thing. But it’s more than the comments themselves. Look at the Gallup poll. Again I emphasize that the Gallup poll was taken BEFORE the comments, so you can’t say the majority of business owners’ perception was colored by words being twisted out of context by the Romney camp. There’s something deeper going on, and it’s a message for both political candidates.

    • John you dont know what you are talking about. The business built the roads the government gets most of its money from businesses. The government doesnt produce anthing but debt. The taxes from the companies paid for the roads. What dont you understand????

  3. It’s a sign of deeper discontent by some small business owners. A Gallup poll from the 2nd quarter of 2012 (before the President’s comments) found business owners are the group LEAST approving of President Obama’s on-the-job performance, with 59% disapproving. In other words, a majority of small business owners did not think the President was doing a good job according to the Gallup poll — even before the political dust-up over the ‘You didn’t build it’ comments.”

  4. Good day:

    The chicken came first (re: Genesis 1:20-24).

    Our President Obama is a highly educated man; you don’t need anyone trying to state he meant something else… and how dare we take him out of context.

    President Obama was not using a teleprompter; and that should tell you he stated what is in his heart.

    He is the most anti small business President I’ve seen in my adult years of voting (I’m 48).

    President Obama has lied to us over and over again from “hope and change” to being the most transparent President to having unemployment UNDER 8% if we just spent the money (that we did not have) now… and then jokes about not being as shovel ready as it should have been shovel ready.

    President Obama wasted our tax payer dollars on “too big to fail” bail outs and then brags on how he saved jobs; only to have videos’ showing the employees doing drugs and drinking alcohol on the job; aren’t we so glad we saved their jobs?!

    President Obama believes in a government that solves all problems; but in 3.5 years of complete lack of leadership has no budget. Go figure.

    In any event, I’m not surprised on how many small business owners were floored when President Ombama had the audacity to tell America how dare anyone state they built their own business.

    Thank you.

  5. You might print the whole quote, to avoid…well…lying. The truth matters.

    • DTS, the article links to the ABC News article that contains the video as well as the full transcript. ABC News is hardly in the opposition’s camp – that is why we linked to their report. Business owners can read for themselves and decide for themselves.

      Furthermore, we went to pains to point out differing views by business people or with a business focus. We could have pointed out dozens of articles by political commentators on both sides of this issue, but passed them by because they offered nothing but shrill, partisan political views, not the business person’s view.

      The real issue here isn’t about parsing words; it’s about business owner sentiment. The remarks triggered a major phenomenon affecting small business owners. You can’t deny that the reaction of some business owners has been unusually demonstrative — it’s rare that business owners let their political views hang out so publicly. That suggests something about the intensity of the feelings of business owners. As a business publication that points out key issues impacting small business owners, we felt it was important to report on this phenomenon.