Lately, when I attend local business meetings, I hear complaints about the economy, or trouble attracting high-paying customers, or a lack of skilled workers, or workers who are not pulling their weight, or taxes as reasons for that person’s business not doing well. It’s time for Long Island business leaders to realize that we – not the government or anyone else – are responsible for the future of work and life on Long Island. We must take action to cherish and protect the amazing ecosystem of resources available to the business community here on Long Island, instead of merely complaining and wishing for something to change – what my friend Rich Isaac calls “smoking the Hopeum Pipe.” As my grandmother would have said: “It’s time to spit out the pacifier and get back to work.”
My grandmother grew up during the depression. She raised my father on her own by working long days as a seamstress, where she was paid pennies for each garment she sewed. She didn’t watch the clock, instead she knew it was time to stop working when her fingers were raw and bleeding from being struck by the sewing needle. She never complained or blamed anyone else. Eventually she earned enough money to purchase a Brooklyn brownstone. Some people say that it’s more difficult today. I don’t think that my grandmother would agree – I don’t either.
It’s absolutely true that we have been through a terrible economic period and many industries are still trying to recover. We have also suffered from big storms and a long winter. And it’s also true that new industries and technologies have disrupted older industries. But that’s the story of Long Island and Long Island businesses. It was built by responding to challenges with new ideas. In fact, “Built on Long Island” should become a badge of honor and a goal, not an afterthought.
Long Island business leaders have access to better resources than almost anywhere else in the country. We have an educated, world-class workforce and access to dozens of universities, four-year colleges, community colleges and technical institutions. We have great natural resources. We enjoy both a sound and an ocean to provide year-round access to public beaches and beautiful views. We have the busiest commuter railroad in North America, multiple public and private airports and we are connected by bridge and tunnel to the center of commerce for most of the world. We have the ability to take our own ideas and monetize them with access to capital and other resources that other people only dream about. All we have to do, as Long Island business leaders, is accept responsibility and take action to grow our businesses and train our employees. Here are two starting points:
First, align yourself and your business with other growth-oriented business leaders. That means seeking out like-minded business leaders here on Long Island who have the same dreams and aspirations as we do for changing the cult of negativity into a positive force for business transformation. It might be difficult, you may need to stop doing business with the naysayers and complainers. My grandmother would have said, “Stop hanging around with those boys, they’re nothing but trouble” and she would have been correct. Instead look for business groups and organizations who have a vested interest in seeing all of their members become strong leaders. They are there, I promise, if you just look.
Second, keep in mind something that Napoleon Hill wrote in his book Think and Grow Rich, about how to accomplish any goal: “The starting point of all achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.” If you want to change the future for Long Island, you can’t stand by and be meek about it. We are the keys to Long Island’s future and it is time to stop complaining and get back to work, smarter and harder, to build our future.
Who’s with me?
Joe Campolo is a Long Island Business leader. He is managing partner of Campolo, Middleton & McCormick and Chairman of Protegrity Advisors, LLC. He is a proud former U.S. Marine and sits on the board of directors for HIA-LI, The Long Island Red Cross and other local non-profit organizations.