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Dear Santa: Please bring this business owner...

By Glenn Burkins
Glenn Burkins is editor and publisher of, an online news site targeting Charlotte’s African American community. He is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and Charlotte Observer business editor.

Dear Santa,

After nearly 50 years of pleading, I’ve finally given up on getting that train set I wanted. Not that I’m bitter or anything like that. In fact, I’m moving on to submit a new Christmas wish list.

As you probably know, I’ve worked these past five years to build a small business. Two steps forward, one step back. But all along the way I’ve stayed determined, upbeat (mostly) and, yes, always moving forward. So here are a few things I think would help me in my journey:

Sounding board: The hardest part of being a lone entrepreneur, I’m convinced, is the mental isolation. Yes, money is often tight, competition is fierce, and quality help is always in short supply. But those problems can often be solved if enough brain power is applied.

Think about some of the greatest companies ever built in America. In most cases, there was collaboration. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. Bill Hewlett had David Packard. Bill Gates had Paul Allen. And even the brilliant Thomas Edison might still be somewhere sitting in the dark without the backing of J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilt family.

For every success story, of course, the landscape is littered with untold examples of pairings that failed. Still, for my money, give me a second pair of ears to listen, a second heart to encourage and a second brain to problem solve.

Crystal ball: I know this gift idea sounds cheesy. After all, even the most inept could build a successful business if given the gift of prescience. But prescience is exactly what we seem to need these days.

Did you see the “60 Minutes” segment with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos? In just a few short years, he anticipates that his company will start delivering packages to homes and businesses using a fleet of drone aircrafts no bigger than a coffee table. Talk about constructive disruption. I certainly didn’t see that coming.

And that’s just the problem. Somewhere out there, some brilliant mind is working to create a product or service that will render me obsolete. And you, too, Santa. So don’t feel smug, thinking you have a lock on chimney-style deliveries.

Although we can’t (and shouldn’t) stop the march of technology, we can as business people think more creatively and even play a role in shaping that future.

Island retreat: OK, maybe I’m being a bit greedy now. So if you can’t give me a secluded island, what about some quiet time to think and plan?

Long-term planning is crucial to business growth. Unfortunately, finding time to get away and think is nearly impossible for busy entrepreneurs.

One of my former business coaches calls it “going up on the balcony.” From up there, he said, it’s easy to see all the players on the dance floor below. It’s the same rational that military generals once used when they sat atop a high peak to command their troops on the field below.

Government cooperation: Talk about poor timing. I launched in November 2008 – just as financial markets were undergoing a near meltdown and the U.S. economy was near rock bottom. Fortunately, things have improved since then, no thanks to Congress or the North Carolina legislature.

I never thought much about government and its role in shaping the economy until I ventured out on my own. Or at least I never felt so financially vulnerable to things that threaten our still-fragile recovery.

Somehow, the Democrats and Republican must come together for the good of our nation. We need lawmakers working on issues like tax simplification and energy independence. We need them enacting smart incentives to drive economic growth and job creation. No successful business could run itself the way Washington (or Raleigh) is doing these days.

So there you have it, Santa, my Christmas 2013 wish list. If it’s not too much trouble, you can put them under my tree, along with the train set you promised but never delivered. Or better yet, I’m calling Jeff Bezos.

Glenn Burkins is editor and publisher of, a news site for Charlotte’s African-American community. He is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and Observer business editor.
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