Tales from the Small Business Trenches: In the Beginning, the Owner Created Jobs

This is the first in a series of posts on what it takes to create a simple job. In a Seattlepi.com blog post in April, I explored the idea of creating a new job on our family ranch and boiled the options down to:

Option A:  Comply with significant regulations, recordkeeping and tax requirements; create a job and cut unemployment in my community; and grow the economy and increase my workload without increasing my income; or

Option B:  Reduce the scale of our business to avoid need for an employee; buy a better handcart to move bales; and employ occasional day labor as needed.

Inspired by President Obama’s recent campaign – uh, jobs – speech to a joint session of Congress, I’ve decided to abandon Option B and create a new job.

Just kidding. It really was Speaker Boehner’s call for bipartisan action to “liberate America’s economy and spur private-sector job growth.” And, okay, you’re right if you suspected that President Obama and Speaker Boehner had nothing to do with my change of heart. Here’s why I am seriously undertaking to wade through the red tape and create a job:

We have a market for our product and services, and we need help to fill the demand.

Now you know the secret to incentivizing entrepreneurs to create jobs – a demand for goods and services, not political speechifying or bureaucratic rule-making. Ironically, some of the demand for our vegetation management services is driven by regulations that make any tool other than grazing unusable, but there is still enough pure market demand to justify a modest expansion.

First question is where to start. According the Office of Regulatory Assistance:

“If you’re hiring your first employees, you’ll need to re-file your Business License Application with the State of Washington at a cost of $15. Your information will be forwarded to the Department of Employment Security to set up a state unemployment tax account, and the Department of Labor & Industries to set up a workers’ compensation account and obtain your minor work permit, if applicable.”

About one hour and three web site searches later, I sent this email to the Office of Regulatory Assistance:

“We have our UBI [Master Business License] number and a federal EIN [Employer Identification Number]. We are now at the point where we’ve decided to create a job. How do I tell if our current Business License is set up for employees or if I have to re-file the Business License for an additional fee? I searched the records at the Secretary of State’s website and the Washington State Department of Licensing website, and they are silent on the question.”

Now we wait.


[photo credit: Julia Manzerova]


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  1. Morgan Oyler

    Sue Lani-
    Very informative. My partner and I recently opened a coffee stand at the Spokane Public Market. We did all the necessary paperwork and paid all the fees. We opened last weekend and had a good first week. However, the health department offical came by and told us that, while coffee is exempt from the “Temporary Food Establishment” permits, milk is not. So we need a special permit (at 140 dollars) to put milk into coffee. I could not make this stuff up. And for some reason the City of Spokane does not have an online form for paying a business license.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Morgan. I hope this series becomes a place for other small business entrepreneurs like yourself to educate all of us on what it takes to run our businesses.

      I am curious how long its going to take me to jump through all the hoops in the right order to create one job and hire one person. I’ll update once a week.

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