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Small Business owners side by side, The NFIB began its National Small Business Summit of 2008. NFIB President, Todd Stottlemyer ...
and eBay CEO, Meg Whitman.
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Todd Stottlemyer: Well, before I start, I just want to recognize Karen Harned who sang the National Anthem today.
For those of you who may not know, Karen is actually on the NFIB team and she runs our National Small Business Legal Center. I’ve never heard her sing before and she was truly spectacular. Now she’s a lawyer as well so there’s some joke around lawyers and singing but I won’t get there but I want again thank Karen, just a beautiful voice.
Well, good morning and welcome to the National Small Business Summit. I do hope that you had a great evening last night and had a lot of fun. I also hope that you’re rested because we are going to have a very busy and exciting next two days. NFIB is very excited about partnering with eBay for the 2008 National Small Business Summit.
Our two organizations are truly stronger together and we are forced to be reckoned with. If you are currently not a member of NFIB, I want to say welcome and thank you for being here. And I hope by the end of this summit, that you’ll see the value of this great organization and consider becoming part of the NFIB team.
If you’re currently a member of NFIB, I want to say thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for all your great support over the years and I’m very pleased that you’re here with us in Washington D.C. I also want to take a minute to thank all of our sponsors. Without them, this summit would absolutely not be possible. So let’s give them a round of applause. Let’s give our sponsors a well applaud.
Now they haven’t visited their really site would encourage you to do so. You can’t miss it when you come in. they have lots of great information. And please, over the next couple of days, take sometime to go visit with our sponsors.
Now I’m glad that you’re here. I’m glad you’re here because you are America’s Job Creators. You’re over one half of the US economy. You are risk takers and you are innovators. You are the heart and soul of our communities across the United States.
And according to a National Gallop Organization Survey, you are more trusted than any other American institution other than the United States Military. And let me say that again, according to the Gallop Survey, the American people trust you more than any other institution in the United States other than the men and women who serve in the military and put their lives at risk everyday to protect our freedom and that’s something you should be very, very proud of.
Now legislators, they need to hear fro you. They need to understand that the small business community represents 43% of the voting elector today in the United States. Now that’s an incredibly powerful voting block. Now, we hear about other traditional building blocks like unions and so called “sucker moms” and “NASCAR dads” but we represent 43% of the voting elector today in the United States of America. So I encourage you to go to Capital Hill tomorrow. Tell them your concerns and very importantly, tell them that you vote.
When you go to Capital Hill tomorrow, let them know that small business owners will be very, very active in this November’s elections. Let them know that small business will stand with those who stand with America’s job creators or small business owners across the United States.
Now together we can drive home the message that the small business agenda is America’s agenda. There’s no voting block more powerful or more effective and you don’t want to miss this opportunity. We are stronger together and very importantly, we must stay together as a small business community.
Now I don’t have to tell you that American entrepreneurs in small businesses face, unprecedented challenges tonight record high, oil, and other commodities prices, a fiscal admonitory crisis that makes it a very difficult to obtain credit. Rapidly increase in health care cost that are making health insurance unavailable for small business, a broken immigration system and in ever increasing tax and regulatory burden on small business across the United States.
Over the next two days, we will discuss many of this topics and very importantly what we collectively are doing about them. It will be serious, highly interactive and it’ll be fun. We had fun last night; we’re going to have fun over the next two days. And we have an outstanding group of speakers that I think you’re really going to enjoy over the next two days.
It is now on my great pleasure to introduce our next speaker.
Meg Whitman joined eBay when it was a small online auction with only thirty employees and annual revenue of just $4 Million. Ten years later, eBay has worth approximately $35 Billion and that’s billion with a “B” and employees 15,000 people around the world. Now to me, that is a very successful small business story.
After ten years, Meg stepped down as President and CEO of eBay in March of this year. She’s consistently been named one of the fifty women to watch what the Wall Street Journal and fortune ranks her among the top three most powerful women in business in the United States. Meg continues to serve on the eBay Board of Directors, as well as on the boards of the eBay Foundation, Procter and Gamble, and DreamWorks Animation.
Now in someone of Meg’s stature retires young, and she is young, there are lots and lots and lots of rumors about what she’s going to do next. In fact, we had a breakfast this morning. The first question, “Meg, what are you going to do next? Where are you going? What are you going to do? And was she recruited by another company? No. Is she considering auditioning for the lead role in the Terminator 4 movie?” After all she is from California but NO, none of the above.
A grass roots movement has started in the State of California and we thought today that we would take this movement to the next level. So it’s now in my great pleasure to introduce Meg Whitman, the former President and CEO of eBay and the next Governor of the great State of California.
Meg Whitman: So Todd gets points for not telling me about that because he knows I would have stopped it. Thanks very much. It’s very kind of you. But we will squash these rumors right this very minute.
Well good morning and thank you Todd. It’s just a great pleasure to be here and thank you for that very kind, in fanciful introduction.
It is a privilege to be here today in a room full of small business leaders who really care enough about their country to get personally involved to effective, positive change.
And by being here today, it is so clear that you care about the direction of our economy. You care about protecting the ability of small businesses to thrive and create jobs, and you care deeply about the responsibility we all have to play a part in our representative democracy.
And let me thank Todd Stottlemyer who has really done a tremendous job of leading the NFIB and he’s absolutely committed to ensuring that it remains the voice of 21st century’s small business.
I also want to thank the outstanding NFIB staff and the eBay Government Relations Team here in Washington. These advantages you know do not happen by themselves and they’ve worked hard to put together this great event.
Now as many of you might know, this is not the first time that I’ve had the honor of addressing small business leaders brought together by the NFIB. I had the pleasure of being invited to this event in 2006 not long after Todd was named President and CEO.
And interestingly, we quickly saw that eBay and NFIB had a lot in common when it comes to government policy impacting small business. And I’m very pleased to see that is just two years, eBay and the NFIB are partnering to give small business entrepreneurs an even greater voice in Washington.
Now, as Todd mentioned in March, I stepped down as the President and CEO of eBay and one of the things I have to do more of is talk to groups about the innovation in our economy, about small business job creation and the challenges that we all face.
I’ve also been spending sometime with a certain Senator from Arizona who will be joining you at this time tomorrow. And let me tell you, one of his real concerns is keeping our economy strong and empowering people like you to create jobs.
A strong and dynamic economy is at the heart of America’s ability to deal with challenges at home and abroad. By keeping our economy strong, it does require us however to deal with the realities of business in the twenty first century. And what are those realities? I think they are very different than they even were five or ten years ago.
First and foremost, innovation is rapid fire and disruptive. For example, and just reflect on this for a minute, just five years ago Google was a little internet search firm. Not very well known and not changing the way the world runs. Today, they’ve turned the web upside down and the biggest companies of the world are scrambling to adapt to the world that Google has created. And Google has become a verb. How often do you Google something? Probably, twenty or thirty times a day.
Point number two. Whole industries can be turned upside down overnight by ideas that seem to come out of nowhere. Ask any newspaper editor or publisher, large or small, what happened to their classified ad revenue after the arrival of Craig List.
Number three, constantly re-inventing your business is critical to survival and you have to do it in less time than you’ve ever had before. Again, with Craig List, decimating traditional classified advertising in record time. News papers are being pushed in to the world of internet content and they must develop completely new online business models all on the fly.
Prosperity hinges on continuously leap frogging into un-chartered territory and adopting new technology. There is no doubt about it. We live in a hyper fast, hyper competitive global business environment and to succeed is that environment, we need to be honest about the enormous problems we face here at home and our government leaders must be prepared to take on those challenges head on and do what is needed to keep the United States as the best place in the world to start a new business to innovate and to create jobs. We must be the 21st century job creation engine.
Now for example, probably the first problem is government spending. Government spending at a several level and in many states is out of control. Consider that federal spending has increased 58% in the last ten or fifteen years. A growth rate that is unacceptable and unsustainable. Our leaders in Washington and many state houses must be willing to make the tough decisions to make the priority choices to cut spending and bring our nations fiscal house in order without more taxes.
The fact is America has reached the point where high taxes threatened the prosperity and security of our nation. The jobs that we see often go overseas do so because corporate tax rates make it increasingly difficult to run a business in this country. The top federal corporate tax rate of 39% is the highest in the industrialized world, some 25% greater than our competitors in Europe and Japan.
Number two, the ongoing upward spiral of healthcare cost is also a threat to our economy. As you all know, healthcare expenses are killing employers and they are strangling wage increases. Too often when companies are successful, workers see their share of success swallowed up by higher healthcare premiums rather than more take home pay. So no wonder people feel like they are not actually getting more take home pay. As you all know, coming in benefits cost grows up but take home pay stays about the same.
Education is another area of concern. Despite a higher education system, that it is the world’s best, primary and secondary education in America continuous to demand radical reform. The fact is that we are not developing enough young people with skills in math, science, engineering and technology that are going to be needed in 21st century.
Among fifteen year old high school students, fifteen year old high school students think about that, that’s about 10th or 11th grade, the US ranks 16th of 30 industrialized countries in the sciences and 23rd in math. Unsustainable as I think the new jobs in the next generation economy are going to be all round; science, technology, engineering and math.
And finally, as many of you know, litigation cost and frivolous lawsuits remain a major concern for too many American businesses, both big and small. Small businesses bear 69% of the $143 Billion annual cost that the Tort System imposes on businesses. And because many small business people don’t have the money to buy adequate insurance, much of the $20 Billion in tort liability cost comes out of their pockets each year.
So faced with all these, I think the question is, will we succeed in bringing about the kind of change that we want in the 21st century? Will the next century be the second American century? And I think the answer is yes, but we’re going to have to band together to make sure that our government, both of the state and the federal level really moves us forward.
Now, I’m not going to talk about how we’re going to tackle many of the obstacles I just described since my guest is that my friend from Arizona, Senator John McCain is going to talk to you about then tomorrow morning. But I do want to focus on two of our nation’s greatest assets as we drive our economy forward.
First and foremost, we have the hardest working, most entrepreneurial and most innovative people in the world. And that starts with our small business community. One just needs to look around like this, filled with hardworking small business entrepreneurs to see that.
Second, we remain the world’s technology leader and when we empower small business people with technology, we see success at a level never imagined.
Now during the past ten tears, I seen this dynamic mix worked its magic again and again and again and especially with the technology revolution that’s known as the internet.
The internet has fundamentally changed the way we worked, the way we live, the way we learn. It’s the single greatest source for news, information and communication ever created. But perhaps, what the internet does best is empower ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things trough their own ambition and their own imagination.
To give you an example of just how powerful a concept the internet has been, let me briefly tell you about a part of the internet under familiar with, and that’s eBay. As Todd mentioned, when I joined eBay in 1998, the company had just one website, eBay.com, thirty employees and $4.7 Million in revenue and 300,000 registered users, virtually all of which were in the United States. But even then, there was something truly remarkable going on at eBay. You see Pierre Omidyar, eBay’s 29 year old founder at that time, created the world’s first truly global market place; a market place where you could trade goods with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Pierre’s creation empowered people to be successful doing what they love. Now for example, if you had a passion for clocks, you could buy and sell clocks to your heart’s content on eBay. And if you loved clocks so much, you probably had a few other problems but if you love clocks so much, you wanted to make them your career, you could open a clock shop on eBay. And using the internet, Pierre created a level playing field where your new clock store could reach just as many customers and with just as likely to succeed as the big corporate clock store down the street. Think about it that is an enormously powerful concept, a revolution in how people see themselves and their opportunities. Today, eBay has operations in thirty nine countries and employees nearly 16,000 people. In 2007, we generated about $7.7 Billion in revenues. And last year, some 276 million registered users traded nearly $60 Billion in what we call gross merchandise volume. That’s the value of the goods traded on the site. So just to give you some perspective, that’s about $2000 a second of trading. So when I make speeches like these, I feel very productive because I’m speaking and our users are trading $2000 a minute of goods. Now if eBay were a retailer, which of course were not, we’d actually be the 6th largest retailer in the world based on that volume of sales taking place on the sight. Another way to look at it is eBay does more than double the volume of the New York’s stock exchange. And unlike the NYSC, we’re open for business 24/7, 365 days a year. But here’s the stat that I’m most proud of. More than one 1.3 million people worldwide make a significant part if not all of their livelihood selling on eBay. So it’s clear that the internet is art of the world that is now forever changed by globalization. And that word scares people. At first, globalization seems to mean the bigger was better. Global communication, global finance, global sourcing and global shipping where all supposed to lead to a world dominated by economic giants. However, technology and the internet in particular have actually created new opportunities for small innovated businesses. The internet has created a global level playing field for the first time in history. Now I’m most familiar with the retail business. And in many ways, the past two decades have changed in retail in America point in the direction of bigger being better. Wal-Mart and the other revolutionary big box retailers like home depot and companies like that have used a range of technology tools to achieve scale and efficiencies that were previously on unthought-of. And the pressure on small and smaller competitors is very real. Many hundreds of thousands of small Main Street Mom and Pop retailers have actually been squeezed out by big box competitors. So, are small businesses in America dead in the 21st Century? The answer is absolutely, positively No. Instead, I actually think the internet has proven to be the fundamental technology that is more than just the product of innovation. It’s actually the tool for innovation itself. It empowers people from all corners of the globe to be able to connect in ways that were never possible before. So if you sell things, it means that individuals and small businesses can for the first time in history, cheaply and effectively connect with customers without regard to time and distance. The internet means that anyone can become exporter. In fact today there’s an export revolution going on with US’s small business retailers because of the internet. And to give you some perspective from eBay, 80% of small business sellers on eBay sell overseas. Many of them sell to forty, fifty, sixty different countries. And cross-border trade now accounts for nearly 20% of total sales on eBay. And today, because of the internet, a falling dollar does not just help big export giants like Bowing, and Caterpillar, and General Motors, it also means great export opportunities for small businesses as well. So the internet allows small business people to reach a global customer base at a revolutionary low cost, allowing the small business person to compete with the global big box retailer. And it also allows the small crafts person in a developing country to have a hope of engaging in global commerce without immigrating to the developed world. We have sellers in every developing country for whom the US market has opened up; for crafts, fro furniture in a way that they never dreamed possible. Now, as you can imagine with my eBay experience, I used a number of examples from the perspective of retail businesses. And well I know that many NFIB members are small retailers, I know that your membership is much broader. However, be assured the internet will not just revolutionize eBay, it will revolutionize every business. Technology marches forward. For example, we know that many people will soon be connecting to the internet through small portable devices. The internet will be mobile and the devices will be GPS enabled so that location will be integrated in those internet services. Communications, payments, advertising and customer relationships will be transformed. Cutting edge technologist in places like Silicon Valley can develop the hardware and the applications. The can develop the next generation chips and they can develop the devices and the algorithms. But that’s only half the story. It is almost certain that small business entrepreneurs like you will figure out how to take those new technologies to revolutionize our daily lives. How will dry cleaners, service station, restaurants, financial advisers, grocery stores and small B to B businesses, how will they adapt to changes that will meaningfully change our world? How will those businesses take this new technology and pioneer creativity and innovation? I don’t know the answer to that and in fact, no fortune five hundred board of directors, no conference room of Silicon Valley adventure capitalist, and no government panel of experts knows the answer. But my experience in eBay gives me a good sense that the answers will come from people like you and your NFIB colleagues, from small business entrepreneurs. The American writer James Surowiecki recently coined the term, “The Wisdom of Crowds”. It’s the idea that the best place to get answers is often to look at the collective wisdom of large groups. And this is certainly something that we believe in at eBay. Many of our most successful business decision will relay just actions that implemented things that are community of users were already doing. For example, back in 1999, a young strategic planning analyst came running to my cubicle, we all sitting cubicles at eBay, and he said, “Meg, they are selling cars on eBay.” I said, “Simon, they are not selling cars on eBay. You are mistaken. Those are little toy die-cast cars.” And he said, “No, really?” That day, there were three hundred cars being sold on eBay in the miscellaneous category. I said, “The least we can do is give him a category.” Today, used vehicles, auto parts, and accessories are the single largest category on eBay. Our users sold a million and a half used cars last year. And if a bunch of Harvard MBA and I’m a Harvard MBA sat in the conference room, the last thing on our list would have been used cars. In short, the eBay executive team didn’t have all the answers. In fact we have none of the answers when it came to cars. But when we were on our game, we could identify good answers coming from our users and we get to work helping the user’s benefit from those answers. And the lesson for me has been that, the smartest ideas for our economy flow from the people, from entrepreneurs and from small business. Now of course you might sit there and think, “These are fine big ideas, but what does this mean for me?” Well, I think the message is that the internet and other technologies will transform your business too. If not yet, maybe not even tomorrow, but soon. And you must commit to getting in front of this movement. It will make you more productive, it will bring you more customers and honestly we, America as a whole needs you to innovate and to use technology because our entire economic engine is built on your success in this race to the future. Now, since we’re in Washington, I must mention a couple of important issues. And I think this are issues that you can talk about as you visit your legislators on the hill. First, we need government that is smart enough to let the private sector address problems. If you are government mandate, if you were burdened some taxes, and if you are spending programs, yield the very best results, literally, addition by subtraction. Now for example, look at the issue of internet tax policy, as I said, the internet has revolutionized the ability of the ability of small businesses to have customers anywhere in the world. This is a great thing for small business and consumers. It’s a win, win. But government in this case, state government is thinking tax, tax. They are looking to close the holes in their budget deficit and internet taxes is one way they think they can do it. The internet has completely changed the rules about where a small business needs to be located to serve its customers. Some state government want to follow suit with radical and dangerous tax policies that would fundamentally alter the notion of taxation and representation that we all learned in grade school. Make no mistake if states are allowed to claim that a small business is located wherever its customers are then an online business in Virginia for example would incur state liabilities in the fifty states of the union. This cross- jurisdictional taxing would overwhelm the ability of small online businesses to operate. Businesses need to calculate, collect and remit sales taxes to tax collectors around the nation and then face the possible audits and enforcement actions from every single state. And we believe that absent revolutionary sales tax simplification, such as one sales tax rate nationwide. The prospect of collecting and filing taxes with over 7,600 different tax jurisdictions would be almost impossible to cope with. Compliance would fundamentally alter the value of the net for small business and destroy an incredible avenue for growth and prosperity in this country. I think short sighted tax gains from which there might be some initially, would lead to long term value in revenue destruction. And customers would be hurt and ultimately no one would benefit from this. The smart government answered to new taxes on the internet is to live well enough alone in my view. And at a minimum, if our government leaders decide we need a new internet sales tax regime, we believe that a workable and robust exemption for small business retailers is absolutely critical. Exempting small businesses from a new sales tax burden would be a powerful statement in support of small business retailers. It would keep the door open for small business people to use the internet as the growth avenue for 21st century retailing. Now, let me switch gears for a minute because my first point was internet taxes, my second is healthcare reform. There are times when the government needs to got involve helping solve the problem and in my view, improving the healthcare options for small business is one of those cases. Private sector, health insurance reform has got to be a priority. It’s important for small business including those businesses that use the internet. Many eBay entrepreneurs, as they’ve grown their business have faced the choice, an opportunity really to take up their retail career full time. It’s a big and exciting decision to face, but it carries risks and it carries cost. And I have heard from too many of those hard working small business entrepreneurs on eBay that one of the toughest choices they’ve faced when leaving a job that offered access to health insurance. They didn’t know if they could quit their day job to sell full time on eBay because they didn’t know where their next generation healthcare was coming from and they realized that the market for health insurance for independent small businesses has significant problems. The NFIB has championed ideas to help end that problem and it shouldn’t be a part as an issue. There’s no reason to believe that only one answer can work, and the NFIB and eBay need to be pushing for effective policy response. I mean we are willing to work with anyone who shares the goal of making private sector health insurance more affordable, more portable and more effective so it works for 21st small business. Now let me finish by thanking you and thanking the NFIB team here in Washington for letting me join you today. Small business entrepreneurs are key to our nation’s economic vitality and long term success. We face a new generation of challenges, no less daunting or monumental than our parents or our grand parents face to join the previous century. And if America’s going to successfully address those challenges, we got to tap in to that kind of energy, commitment and resourcefulness that you exhibit every day. So, thank you for listening tomorrow. Thank you for being an advocate of small business on in your communities, in your states and on the hill. And I’d be happy to take some questions. So thank you very much.