By Bridget Gamble
NFIB Member: Jim Eastwood
Business: Puget Safety Equipment Co., Bellingham, Wash.
How did you become a small business owner, and why?
I was in a company with five other guys in Portland, Ore., and we were basically running it. Then an owner chose to sell out to a larger company, and there were no guarantees from senior managers. So I decided to start my own company and move 300 miles to the north and live where the real sailing and cruising water is for boats.
What is your favorite thing about owning a business?
I love the freedom. I don’t answer to anybody.
What does owning a business allow you to do?
Make my own decisions. I don’t have some graying boss standing behind me, deciding whether or not to cut my division or cut my people or dictate to me what I do with my day.
What is your biggest challenge right now and how are you dealing with it?
I think the Obama government. The whole aura of that government is the worst challenge I’ve seen in 22 years of business. I feel pretty secure in my own setting, but I’m very worried about the liability of my 500 customers because of the healthcare act. The ramifications have yet to be seen. There are also thousands and thousands of new regulations hitting every day that are hard to keep up with. For example, in our business—we’re a safety equipment distributor—we import an awful lot of products. We’ve really being hamstrung by this government as far as regulations on imports.
What has been your proudest moment as a small business owner?
The day that we moved into my own commercial building and get out of the rental market 17 years ago.
What have you not yet achieved that you would like to?
A lot of time off. We have a boat that we live on when the weather’s nice. It’s a good haul that can go into Alaska or the South Seas, but we haven’t had time.
What is the best part of your day?
When I open up that bottle of wine when I get home.
What do you read?
I’m reading several things right now. I’m reading the autobiography of Donald Rumsfeld. I’ve always admired him and his whole career. I’m also re-reading “Atlas Shrugged,” by Ayn Rand.
What has been your biggest mistake and how did you learn from it?
Hiring employees. What I’ve basically learned, especially given the climate today, is don’t do it. There are only two of us now, but we’ve had as many as 11. We’re making a better living now, and we’ve always gone home tired, but we’re not frustrated now.
What is your favorite thing to do off the clock? How about on the clock?
Probably be on my boat. On the clock, I enjoy making sales calls. Sales calls are mental gymnastics. It’s taking a person who may or may not know you and seeing that person turn around and then maybe even get a new customer.