Our Government Needs to Let Us Work Smarter, Not Harder

Army veteran Andrew Lewis shares a lesson from his family business.

When working for a small business, no two days are alike. That’s one of the first things I learned when I joined my brother at Tradesman Drywall after leaving the military.

Similar to the Army, in a small business each member of the team needs to be flexible and ready to wear a variety of hats — sometimes unexpectedly. In business, often the things we can’t plan for make the work exciting. But when those unknowns come in the form of government regulations that could put us out of a job, it can be downright terrifying.

One of my jobs in our family business is to make sure we’re complying with local, state and federal rules. Most of these regulations are important, like those made to ensure the safety of our employees. However, too often, the federal government takes a one-size-fits-all approach to regulating businesses and the results are rules made without enough input from the small firms themselves. These rules can come with costs that are difficult for small businesses to manage.

As a construction and drywall business, this means we regularly interact with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. We are mandated to ensure that our employees have completed multiple safety trainings and that they have the necessary equipment and supervision to do their jobs safely and well. We support the objectives of these rules and we enforce them to the best of our ability. We certainly want our team to be safe, and we give them the resources they need to do the best job possible. But the reality is, even one brief lapse in protocol that we immediately correct could lead to a crippling fine for a business of our size.

Listening to small business owners early-on in the process would help solve problems rather than creating them, as the current system does all too often. Last summer, a number of our employees wanted to wear shorts to work as temperatures started to climb. Despite our evaluation that it would be perfectly safe, and our concerns about dehydration and overheating, we had to deny their request because of OSHA rules.

Ultimately, smaller firms like ours are left out of the federal rule-making process and are disproportionately affected by rules themselves. Too often, regulations don’t reflect the reality of running a business, and we don’t have the resources large corporations do to navigate the complex regulatory process. For many small businesses, the cost of hastily made regulations — or finding yourself out of compliance — could shut off the lights for good.

Giving entrepreneurs the chance to succeed is an integral part of the American dream, one that our country’s economy relies on. Asking the government to listen to the small business community when making rules is one of the best ways to ensure the regulations that govern our work are, at their core, reasonable, fair and beneficial to us all. 

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