The director of the Arizona Registrar of Contractors talks about the role of small business in today’s world.
Jeff Fleetham has seen all sides of business. He grew up involved with his father’s small business, ran his own consulting company, and now licenses construction businesses across the state in his new position as director of the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. Here, Fleetham discusses what he’s learned from these different perspectives.
Tell me about your relationship with small business.
My father was a small business owner. He co-owned a construction company in Oregon, which is where I was born. They moved to Arizona in 1959, and in 1962 my father started his own company, Fleet Construction Inc. I was always involved in that company, even if it was just by carrying the water buckets to workers. I worked in the consumer product industry for a while, until my brother and I became co-presidents of Fleet Construction Inc. in 2000. My brother retired from that in 2007, and I went to work for the Arizona Registrar of Contractors as an investigator and inspector. I worked there for nearly seven years, and left in September 2013 to activate 12-88 LLC. It’s a dispute resolution company, which I went into because I realized from my time at the ROC that there was a necessity for somebody with experience on both sides—both the regulator and the one being regulated.
What did you like about running your own business?
There’s something exciting about having your own vision and being able to implement your own ideas. I really believed in the mission of 12-88 LLC, that I would be able to help people get to common ground without getting all tangled up in the legal process. And I think watching the first couple of cases kind of go the way I was hoping they’d go, that’s when it really put a smile on my face. It was that moment of, “This is what I thought would be a good idea, and it was a good idea.”
What have you learned about small business from the other side—your work as an investigator and inspector at the ROC, and now as director?
The ROC really tries to develop a culture where everybody understands what we do, and how these regulations and licenses affect the businessperson. Because small business isn’t just a small version of a large business—it’s completely different. It has its own challenges and issues. I’ve worked with a lot of one-person operations here, and that’s a dynamic that a lot of people don’t understand.
What kind of business climate does Arizona have?
The new governor has dramatically changed our business climate. We have a lot of people in the state that support business, and I think there’s a new, more positive outlook about what’s possible. A lot of large businesses are moving to Arizona as well, but there’s recently more of an understanding that without the vibrant small business community, they wouldn’t be here either.
What do you value about your relationship with NFIB?
NFIB Arizona is such a great group of people. They’re very active in putting together legislation that will promote small business. I think NFIB offers great ways to stay involved by phone, by email, all that, so you can know what’s going on and still run your business. It’s a good place to hang your hat.
What advice would you give to other small business owners?
Get involved with your specific trade organization, and join an association like NFIB, and be an active member. These organizations can help you do so much, like figuring out how to handle taxes, how to handle regulations. There’s strength in numbers.