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The cost of doing business

April 11, 2012

I am a small business owner. My company has serviced industrial machinery for the last 20 years. For every dollar I pay an employee in hourly rate (current top rate is $25.00/hr, worth over $70,000 with overtime), I pay another dollar in worker’s compensation insurance, payroll taxes, health insurance (I pay 100% of a plan that matches my RN wife’s plan with the same carrier at a teaching hospital, cost to me over $1400/month for a family plan), and company IRA. So, before I earn a dime to pay for the company truck that they take home (no transportation cost to get to work), pay for vacation (my long term employees get 4 weeks vacation, 9 holidays, and sick time), pay for the shop, pay for the legal and accounting expenses, liability and auto insurance, and overhead (repairs on company trucks, tools, supplies, replacements for broken tools, or government mandated training days), I have to charge $60.00/hr. Add in the other costs, and I have to charge $75.00/hr for me to cover their expenses to me. I still haven’t made a dime. My pay comes from doing the same work they. In 20 years of business, I have averaged less in income than my top three employees.

The last three years due largely to the drop in business (three of my customers have gone under)  and increases in costs (taxes, fuel, insurance, and health insurance have increased by an average of 35%), in order to stay in business (I am ineligible for unemployment because I own the business but have to pay 7% of my earnings toward unemployment insurance), my pay has dropped to the lowest paid employee. My part time people make more than I do. Ultimately, I had to lay off three employees because I couldn’t earn enough through my billable hours or money I could borrow to pay them.  When I laid them off, my ex-employees were convinced I screwed them and tell everyone that I did. Currently,  I am struggling to reinvest in equipment and new types of services to rebuild the company.  Fortunately, I have a second business and a wife that works, so I don’t have to depend on this one.

So, when you complain about no jobs, start a business and learn what business owners go through, before you complain. Oh yeah, according to the government, thanks to my wife and I both working hard at two jobs, we are almost rich enough to have to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax.  To top it off, we only avoid being part of the 1% because my other business has two partners that spreads the sales of the LLC over three families.


Robert Stanley Fry

March 5, 2012

Bob Fry was my dad.  He was the codger that had in many ways the biggest influence on my life.  From him, I got my voice (I sound exactly like him), my love of people, my love of the outdoors, much of my wildlife and plant knowledge, my sales ability, and many of my stories.

My dad wasn’t a feel good kind of dad.  He had very high expectations and let you know when you failed.  My brother and I share many memories of his teaching us to be men.  One that came up recently, in reference to being taught to shoot and to hunt, was “Do you think bullets grow on trees, boy?”.  This was first heard when my brother and I (3 and 9 at the time) were on the firing range.  I was learning to shoot an open sight .22 Remington and had just completely missed the 3′ x 3′ target at 50 yards.  At the time, a brick (100 rounds) of .22 ammo sold for about $0.50.  The wasted round cost $0.005.  not a big expense even for the time.   The point to my dad was that nothing was inconsequential.  Everything counts.

Years later, when I received my grades for first semester at college, I received a dressing down because I had failed to achieve a 4.0 average.  The 3.14 GPA wasn’t good enough.  I felt that I had undeservedly been reamed out.  After all, I was attending an Ivy League school and had to work, nearly full time, in order to earn the money to stay there.  My dad didn’t see it that way.  He felt I could and should have worked harder.  I didn’t appreciate the rebuke.  However, it strengthened my resolve to be successful, if only to prove my dad wrong.

As a teenager, he made sure there were plenty of chores and work to be done around the farm.  The resultant hours spent in these activities prevented me from getting into any significant trouble.  I didn’t appreciate the wisdom of this until I read an article in the Readers Digest about a troubled teenager who had been assigned the responsibility to cut the burdock in the pastures.  He didn’t realize that the energy expended in clearing the weeds kept him out of trouble and helped him learn a work ethic.  In my life the two chores that produced the same results were clearing brush from fence rows and mowing a two acre lawn with a push mower.  It took nearly five hours a week to mow the lawn.  The week after my brother moved out, a Cub Cadet lawn tractor was delivered to enable my dad to do it in an hour.  Up to that point, the lawn was “too steep” to be mowed with a lawn tractor.

My dad was a salesman.  He sold automotive service equipment (engine analyzers, tire balancers, etc) in central Pennsylvania for 30 years.  During that time, he developed the skills that made him an incredible salesman.  He was the typical 60’s vintage salesman, complete with a fedora hat.  He knew more about the lives of people than anyone I have ever met.  He never forgot a face, a name, or tidbits about the person.  Almost everyone described him as a friend.

While writing the eulogy for his funeral in 2001, I realized how much of an impact he had in my life.  I truly am a chip off the old block.  And I love him for it.

Star Spangled Banner

March 5, 2012

Saturday was the anniversary of the “Star Spangled Banner” being made our national anthem by Congress in 1931.  The interesting part for me is to quote Paul Harvey’s immortal words, “The Rest of The Story”.  The rest of the story in this case is the rest of the song.  Did you know there are four verses?  Did you know what they say?  Read on……


O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Martin Niemöller

February 9, 2012

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak out because I was Protestant.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

This is credited to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), an anti-Nazi German Pastor.

My update:

First they came for big business because they didn’t pay workers enough –

and I was silent because I didn’t work for one.

Then, they came for the banks because they didn’t lend to the “right” people –

and I was silent because I was able to borrow when I needed to.

Then they came for the “rich” –

and I was silent because though I had enough, I wasn’t rich.

Next, they came for the Catholics because they didn’t believe in abortion –

and I started to wake up.

Finally, they came for me –

and I was standing alone.


December 14, 2011

As a small businessman, I deal with government regulation every day.  Some of it is good.  Much of it is annoying.  Some of it is very bad.  The problem is that government rarely applies the self examination and testing required of businesses.  As a result, there is no way to correct mistakes of the government.  Ultimately, it is completely self serving.


I have witnessed one government agency in my home Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Yes, it is not a state, but a commonwealth.  Bet you can’t name the other three!) that has done an excellent job of managing its affairs.  That agency is the Pennsylvania Game Commission.  Want a story of an agency that has successfully carried out its mandate?  Study what the PGC has done with Pennsylvania’s wildlife.


In short, prior to the PGC’s creation, wildlife was suffering from over hunting and fishing.  Habitat was vanishing.  And this was in the late 1800s!!!  PGC was tasked with managing and protecting wildlife, managing wildlife habitat, and informing and educating the public on wildlife and safe hunting practices.   In the last 116 years, PGC has enabled whitetail deer herds to flourish.  The same has been true of many other species.  They are responsible for restocking of trout to prevent overfishing and to allow many anglers to enjoy a relaxing past time.  Based on their own field research on the number of animals, hunting and fishing limits are adjusted.


The result has been sustainable harvests of those species that can be hunted and habitat maintenance for not only the sport species but all of the non-sport species.  Along with volunteers, they work to maintain clean streams, vibrant woodlands, and healthy populations of wildlife of all types.  All of this work on behalf of wildlife is funded (over $66 MILLION) by hunting and fishing licenses and sale of timber, hay, coal, oil, and other resources.  Is the PGC perfect? No.  But they are probably the best government agency I have had to deal with.


You can find very few government agencies with the long history of success of the PGC!

Businessman’s Prayer

July 17, 2011

Dear Precious Heavenly Father,

You are the Creator of the world I inhabit. You started all of history’s events in motion, knowing that one day, you would create me. You designed me with all of the traits and talents that make me who I am. You alone know the path You have laid out before me. You have been and continue to be the Perfect Provider of everything I need. You are my Friend, Protector, and Avenger because You have chosen me to be Your child.

I confess that I am not worthy of the role you have chosen for me. I live my life in my own strength, depending on the small portion of wisdom you have given me to make decisions that affect not only myself, but my family, partners, employees, and customers. Because of my pride, fueled by the successes You have given me, I continue to depend on myself and fail to seek Your perfect will in each plan and decision. I spend too much time talking at You and too little time listening to You. I am entirely too willing to be less than truthful at times in order to cover a mistake or to get a sale. Because I fail to always seek and to place You first, I am less than You have called me to be.

I am grateful that You drew me to faith in You. I am confident that You will always keep me in the palm of Your hand. I thank You for the successes that I have enjoyed, the customers that You have provided, and the people whose paths I have crossed. I thank You for Your provision in good times and bad. You have never repaid my failings with withholding of Your blessings. I thank You for the men who have mentored me as I struggled to learn the business world. I pray that I will always thank You for the path You chose for me.

As I follow Your course, I ask for the grace to accept Your direction and chastening, for the patience to learn humility, for the willingness to submit to You, and for the desire to learn of You. I pray that You would continue to lead me along the course I am running, provide for my needs, and protect my family and friends. Help me to treat employees and partners with Your Love at all times, regardless of my mood. Most of all, help me to set an example that draws others to see You.

Through Your Son Jesus Christ, Who gives me the right to call on Your Name.

Memorial Day

May 29, 2011

Two holidays have always made me sentimental: Memorial Day and Veterans Day. I am sentimental because these two days celebrate those who served, something I never had to do. In some sense, not having served is one of the few regrets in life I have. The following is a list of friends and family who have served. Honor them with me.


Those At Rest


John Fry                         Civil War     3rd PA Cavalry       Gettysburg

William Davies                WW I           Army                    Staff Driver

John Frownfelter           WW I           Army

Charles Pastor                 WWI           Army

Elmer Fry                                               Army

Bassett                                                     Army Air Corp

James Dunn                    WWII           Army Europe

Walter Fishburn            WWII           Army Europe

William Gunther            WW II         Navy                     Destroyer Pacific Theater

Wayne Kisner                 WW II         Sea Bee                 Pacific Theater

John L. Robertson        WW II         Army

Robert Fry                       Korea         Army                    ‘50-’52

Jack Jones

Nick Nickleson

Ray Heddings                 Korea          Navy

David Horne                   Korea          Marines

Ray Horne                       Korea          Marines

Richard Fry                                           Air Force

Bart Joy                                                  Navy

Robert Fishburn           Vietnam     Army

Robert Williamson      Vietnam      Army



Those Still With Us



Sam Nulton                     Korea          Army                    ‘51-‘53

Ruth Horne                     Korea          Marines

Nick D’Amico                                        Army                    Greenland

William Berger                Vietnam    Navy                     Inland Supply

Marty Gunther               Vietnam     Naval Air

Randy Heddings                                   Army                    Stationed in Korea

Robert Zelem                  Vietnam     Marines

Sue Kisner                                               Marines

William Robertson                              Navy

Greg Hernandez                                   Army

Stephen Nulton                                     Army                    Stationed in Korea

Robert Gravener             Gulf War     Army

Rob Engime, JR               Afghanistan  Army

Luke Martin                      Afghanistan Army

Kathleen West                                         Air Force

Ed Taibi                                                     Air Force Resurves

JR Milewski                                              Army

Chris Fries                                                 Navy


Thank you for honoring these men and women. There are more who should be listed here and there may be some errors for those listed. If you have additions or corrections, please let me know.

The troubled world can offer no award
To you who sleep beneath the chiseled stone.
You died because we handed you the sword,
And we are free because you sleep alone.

The tides of history well may change the cause,
And time may blunt the sharpness of the debt,
For sacrifice, a nation under laws
Is gathered here today, lest we forget.

–Robert A. Hall

I won’t forget!