A Milestone to Celebrate: I Have Closed All My Businesses in Ventura County, California

Normally, the closure of a business operation or division is not grounds for a celebration, but in this case I am going to make an exception.  At midnight on December 31, I not only drank a toast to the new year, but also to finally getting all my business operations out of Ventura County, California.

Never have I operated in a more difficult environment.  Ventura County combines a difficult government environment with a difficult employee base with a difficult customer base.

  • It took years in Ventura County to make even the simplest modifications to the campground we ran.  For example, it took 7 separate permits from the County (each requiring a substantial payment) just to remove a wooden deck that the County inspector had condemned.  In order to allow us to temporarily park a small concession trailer in the parking lot, we had to (among other steps) take a soil sample of the dirt under the asphalt of the parking lot.   It took 3 years to permit a simple 500 gallon fuel tank with CARB and the County equivilent.   The entire campground desperately needed a major renovation but the smallest change would have triggered millions of dollars of new facility requirements from the County that we simply could not afford.
  • In most states we pay a percent or two of wages for unemployment insurance.  In California we pay almost 7%.  Our summer seasonal employees often take the winter off, working only in the summer, but claim unemployment insurance anyway.  They are supposed to be looking for work, but they seldom are and California refuses to police the matter.  Several couples spend the whole winter in Mexico, collecting unemployment all the while.  So I have to pay a fortune to support these folks' winter vacations.
  • California is raising minimum wages over the next 2 years by $2.  Many of our prices are frozen by our landlord based on past agreements they have entered into, so we had no way to offset these extra costs.  At some point, Obamacare will stop waiving its employer mandate and we will owe $2000-$3000 extra additional for each employee.  There was simply no way to support these costs without expanding to increase our size, which is impossible (see above) due to County regulations.
  • A local attorney held regular evening meetings with my employees to brainstorm new ways the could sue our company under arcane California law.  For example, we went through three iterations of rules and procedures trying to comply with California break law and changing "safe" harbors supposedly provided by California court decisions.  We only successfully stopped the suits by implementing a fingerprint timekeeping system and making it an automatic termination offense to work through lunch.  This operation has about 25 employees vs. 400 for the rest of the company.  100% of our lawsuits from employees over our entire 10-year history came from this one site.  At first we thought it was a manager issue, so we kept sending in our best managers from around the country to run the place, but the suits just continued.
  • Ask anyone in the recreation business where their most difficult customers are, and they likely will name the Los Angeles area.  It is impossible to generalize of course, because there are great customers from any location, but LA seems to have more than its fair share of difficult, unruly, entitled customers.   LA residents are, for example, by far the worst litterers in the country, at least from our experience.  Draw a map of California with concentric circles around LA and the further out one gets, the lower the litter clean-up costs we have.  But what really killed it for me in Ventura County was the crazy irresponsible drinking and behavior.  Ventura County is the only location out of nearly 200 in the country where we had to hire full-time law enforcement help to provide security.  At most locations, we would get 1 arrest every month or two (at most).  In Ventura we could get 5-10 arrests a day.  In the end, I found myself running a location where I would never take my own family.

And so I got out.  Hallelujah.

PS-  People frequently talk about taxes in California being what makes the state "anti-business."  That may be, but I guess I never made enough money to have the taxes really bite.  But taxes are only a small part of the equation.

Update:  Wow, reading this again, I left out so much!  An employee once sued us at this location for harassment and intimidation by her manager -- when the manager was her sister!  It cost me over $20,000 in legal expenses to get the case dismissed.  I had an older couple file a state complaint for age discrimination when they were terminated -- despite the fact that our entire business model is to hire retired people and the vast majority of our employees are 70 and older.  And how could I have forgotten the process of getting a liquor license?  I suppose I left it out because while tedious (my wife and I had to fly to California to get fingerprinted, for example), it is not really worse than in other places -- liquor license processes are universally bad, a feature and not a bug for the established businesses one is trying to compete with.   We gave the license up pretty quickly, when we saw how crazy and irresponsible much of the customer base was.  Trying to make the place safer and more family friendly, we banned alcohol from the lake area, and faced a series of lawsuit threats over that.

 

  • tmitsss

    "That may be, but I guess I never made enough money to have the taxes really bite. "

    I don't want the cheese, I just want out of the trap.

  • slocum

    So what's likely to happen with these sites? Will they close and sit vacant? Will new operators come in with new leases that allow them to charge enough to defray the higher costs? Will the government try to operate them directly?

  • LucidFur

    Sounds like the only organization that can run the sites will use illegal aliens and off-shore corporation structure that can disappear when sued. You know because, capitalists are greedy.

  • NL7

    Or an organization that can force non-customers to pay fees and maybe exempt itself from some of the crazier workplace laws.

  • NL7

    People talk about taxes because they're widely disliked and easily quantified, but regulation and litigation tend to impose higher costs on business in part because they are easily underestimated by people projecting IRR on a new business, branch, or venture. Politicians also prefer to cut taxes instead of regulation, because shepherding constituents through red tape makes them look helpful and heroic. With lower taxes, a politician can still wrangle an exemption or deduction for favored groups, and the budget impact of that wrangling is reduced.

  • Joe_Da

    Not directly related to operating the camps. Though the last time I had professional position open, I received numerous resumes from potential employees working in LA and San Fran. Even though the position paid 40k instead of the 60k, the applicants were currently earning, they all realized that the $20k pay cut was effectively a pay raise due to the differences in the cost of living.

  • Dave Boz

    Those folks who inspect, make rules, issue permits (or deny them) and sue you, all have what California considers Good Jobs at Good Wages. They are not the problem, they are the goal of the grand enterprise that is the State of California.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    You mean an organization like the government?

  • Matthew Slyfield

    Just wait until your former employees sue you for closing. :)

  • The Real Truth

    Stop your whining, you sound like a God damn baby. We own a business in California and have no problems. If you can't adjust to the adversity a business faces then you shouldn't be a business owner.

  • Hugh Janus

    That's right. You tellem. California is all about survival of the fittest of crony capitalists, not capitalists. Obama be praised! May his anus be upon you.

  • 98ZJUSMC

    Just what kind of business do you own?

  • Rick Caird

    Did you even notice Coyote's post was about Ventura county, not California per se. So, the question is "Are you operating your business in Ventura County"?

  • sparkee

    Perhaps you run a law practice that specializes in encouraging employees to bring lawsuits against their employers.

  • P. Johnson

    While anyone can be sympathetic to this guy's sob story, some of which is true, the man himself fails to see reality.

    The Coyote has been gaining unearned profits for all the years he operated his business, beggaring other businessmen as well as workers. In the absence of UI, the Coyote would have faced lower a profit margin on much higher expenses.

    It is an unassailable fact of economics, that absent UI, wages would rise. No one would work at a loss (wages - living expenses). Market forces would force employers to pay more.

    A wage is a price and conforms to the one, true, irrefragable and only law of economics, the Law of Prices. The Law of Prices holds the winning bids of demand in the face of supply set the price.

    All producers get constrained by the great Axiom of Profit. The Axiom of Profit holds the sum of sales must at least equal the cost of production or the producer goes to ruin.

    All laborers also are capitalists as labor is the poor man's capital. Labor is the sale of work through time.

    As the Coyote, his laborers must get a price (wage) so the sum of the sales (work) must at least equal their living expenses (cost of production) otherwise, there is no incentive to work.

    The unemployment insurance program in California as in any state, lets any business operator engage in beggar-thy-neighbor action both upon all employees who have taxes levied against them for this program but never who collect benefits at least equal to taxes they have paid as well as all other business operators who have paid more in UI taxes than have accrued net terminated employees.

    Absent unemployment insurance, even if hands would remain idle, employers would need to pay for idle hands in the form of higher wages to induce workers to at least break-even (wages equaling cost of living). It would matter not that higher paychecks would come during the work season with none coming off-season or if paychecks would be spread out over a 12-month period.

    With the presence of UI, business operators pay less than full, free-market wages into a fund, as UI is a percentage levied against active payroll. UI compensation lets a seasonal, laid-off worker break-even because UI as welfare subsidizes the laborer revenue (wages) against living expenses to achieve break even.

    Absent UI, it would have been the decision of the Coyote to deploy his efforts and capital elsewhere if not wanting to earn less.

    So, too, then without the subsidy to the Coyote and his workers, perhaps his product never would have come to market, which is what should happen in a system where people's profits (excess earnings) let them hold referendums on what everyone else should make and thus inhibition of anything not brought to market owing to efficiency under the constraint of the Axiom of Profit in the face of the Law of Prices.

    The true meaning of greed is wanting to get something without honest exchange. So wanting to gain property (right of ownership) in something (excess profits) without paying for it (higher wages absent external subsidy) is the picture perfect definition of greed.

    The right move is the end UI and all political interference in economics. That idea frightens more businessmen to a greater degree than it does the people as too many businessmen fear authentic, manly competition.

    This is why Americans suffer from crony politics, crony governance and crony regulatory capture. UI is expression of that cronyism.

    Beggaring-thy-neighbors is the same whether done by politicians on behalf of government bureaucrats as the means to maintain power or by self-deceived capitalist-entrepreneurs shafting everyone else for their inefficiency and greedy quest for unearned profits.

  • P. Johnson

    Parroting the misguided phrase spoken from ignorance — crony capitalism — fails to do service to anyone. The horrible, wrong label — crony capitalism — implies there is something wrong with capitalism, when never there is.

    The problems are Crony Politics, Crony Governance and Crony Regulatory Capture. The problem rests in politics and governance rather than people in pursuit providing wanted products efficiently.

    Capitalism means living by using property as capital to produce property as potential wealth in pursuit of ongoing exchange of buying power. There is no other kind of capitalism.

    When exchange is not hampered by artificial restriction of supply, nor inflated by artificial giving of buying power, the righteousness of a free market prevails. Only through markets free from Crony Politics, Crony Governance and Crony Regulatory Capture can all benefit owing to efficiency.Parroting the misguided phrase spoken from ignorance — crony capitalism — fails to do service to anyone. The horrible, wrong label — crony capitalism — implies there is something wrong with capitalism, when never there is.

    The problems are Crony Politics, Crony Governance and Crony Regulatory Capture. The problem rests in politics and governance rather than people in pursuit providing wanted products efficiently.

    Capitalism means living by using property as capital to produce property as potential wealth in pursuit of ongoing exchange of buying power. There is no other kind of capitalism.

    When exchange is not hampered by artificial restriction of supply, nor inflated by artificial giving of buying power, the righteousness of a free market prevails. Only through markets free from Crony Politics, Crony Governance and Crony Regulatory Capture can all benefit owing to efficiency.

  • http://unix-jedi.livejournal.com Unix-Jedi

    The right move is the end UI and all political interference in economics. That idea frightens more businessmen to a greater degree than it does the people as too many businessmen fear authentic, manly competition.

    New here, aren't you?

  • P. Johnson

    Lame: New here, ...
    Better: You are new here, aren't you?

    English. Do you know how it works?

  • P. Johnson

    You are not good with people, are you?

  • Canvasback

    Pretty high-falutin' words. It's clear that you did well in your Economics class. Have you ever asked an individual how much market power they have? The honest answer for most of us (Kobe, Beiber, Beyonce excepted) is zero.. Your claim that UI depresses wages is true, but you got there the wrong way. UI is an overhead item, leaving less for actual wages. The competition in the lower rungs of the labor pool disallows a demand for higher wages. Without UI, I submit that seasonal workers would try to find other employment.
    The history of unemployment insurance doesn't show much support from the capitalists. In fact the labor unions were the muscle behind the legislation. Is there similar profit insurance for people like Coyote? He doesn't work for wages - only for the margin between his expenses and his sales. UI in California is high. Is that fair? After all, we are one of the world's largest economies, jobs should be plentiful.

  • P. Johnson

    Thanks for playing. You have it wrong, quite wrong.

    First, your lame attempt at ad hominem by innuendo amuses with your suggestive silly-minded attack mentioning words as "high fallutin'". Is Mark Twain the best you can do?

    Second, academician economics is fraught with fallacy. So, nothing of my comment comes from it.

    My comment arises from actual commercial economics, you know, trade in pursuit of profit.

    Third, you don't get economics at all, nor business.

    1) it is debatable that UI is overhead, as it is a variable cost dependent solely on actual fluctuating payroll. No one considers labor costs as UI. The rate for UI is fixed by states' legislators, but the outlay is variable to the outlay for direct labor employed in any payroll period.

    Typical overhead would be fixed cost outlays for a lease and insurance.

    2) A wage is a price and conforms to the one, true, irrefragable and only law of economics, the Law of Prices. The Law of Prices holds the winning bids of demand in the face of supply set the price.

    Employers are sellers of money (these days credit) who buy skills through time, which we call labor, or the "poor man's capital".

    Workers are buyers of money / credit, which we call wages and are sellers of expressed skills through time.

    In most job markets, inter-employer competition has employers engage in English auctions for workers, while inter-worker competition has workers engage in Dutch auctions for jobs.

    Where the winning bidders of employers and winning bidders of work seekers intersect, that is the clearing price, which, when it involves work, we call it a wage.

    Both workers and employers get constrained by the Axiom of Profit — the sum of sales must at least equal the cost of production, otherwise the producer goes to ruin.

    In short, employers can bid up for workers only where what gets sold as the product from the workers exactly equals the cost to produce it. Likewise, workers can bid down for work only where what they get paid equals what it costs them to live.

    There are too many no-skilled Americans Dutch-bidding themselves and not enough employers who need workers bad enough to train those workers or provide them capital precisely because there is too much regulation like minimum wage laws, workers' comp, social security; and too much welfare giving unearned buying power, both which interfere in the fair, just working of markets.

    2) All producers get constrained by the great Axiom of Profit. The Axiom of Profit holds the sum of sales must at least equal the cost of production or the producer goes to ruin.

    Even if the winning bids for labor take up the budget of a firm, if that firm can not earn sales exceeding costs, whatever that cost profile is, that firm goes to ruin.

    3) The Coyote has been gaining unearned profits for all the years he operated his business, beggaring other businessmen as well as workers. In the absence of UI, the Coyote would have faced lower a profit margin on much higher expenses.

    4) I called for an end to UI, which is the only fair move for workers and efficiency-driven, competitive employers.

    Good luck with your living.

  • teapartydoc

    The county I live in is dominated by a university town and the leftists dominate the politics, and by extension every aspect of business, as well. That is a major reason why I left private practice and went to work for the mega-university ACO. Better to travel light through. the hard times. I'll probably be too old to go back into private practice when this model collapses and the higher education bubble hits and will likely retire from the U. One of my patients recently told me an early identical story to that described above, only his was in a red state county that the left is making intolerable for anyone that doesn't want to play their game. The really interesting thing about how they work here is how similar their methods are to organized crime. They demand protection money in the form of political donations and use the county and city planning departments to engage in take over of property by zoning limitations and ridiculous requirements and forced delays. If you want anything done you have to hire a bevy of lawyers and grease the skids like crazy--and I'm talking about things as simple as building a single person professional office or a house in town! Chicago-style political leftism isn't an anomaly confined to Illinois or the White House, it's their new way of doing business. Boss Tweed has undergone metempsychosis into the brain of every Democrat in the country.

  • teapartydoc

    Oh, and if you want affordable health care provided in a competitive market the only way to get it is elimination of government medical licensing.

  • teapartydoc

    You aren't exactly smelling like a rose, a-hole.

  • teapartydoc

    "No one considers labor costs as overhead"-- You've never run a business.

  • P. Johnson

    Obvsiously, you have never run a business. Direct labor costs never are included as overhead in cost accounting.

    Good luck with your living, though.

  • P. Johnson

    Boo hoo. Mere words have triggered you into rage. Look at you go!

    Little marionettes dance when their strings get pulled.

    Good luck with your living.

  • Canvasback

    Well, again, these are beautiful sentiments: "Great Axiom of Profit,"
    and "Law of Prices," and they are generally relevant. But Coyote has a
    specific problem - operating a campground in Ventura County, CA. He's
    got the experience, the competence and the organization. He operates in
    the same business environment as his competitors. And he made a business
    decision to leave the campsite for someone else.

    Your third point is unfair. Coyote doesn't enact UI, SNAP or Section 8 laws. And I doubt he would.

    Points 1), 2) and 4) demonstrate that you are a big thinker. We may need more like you in the legislatures. "P.J. 2016!."

  • Ratt Stone

    So, have you run a Business ?

  • Ratt Stone

    You got it all wrong P. Johnson, Coyote was simply pointing out he can't make a profit in California due to the Political atmosphere from the Democrats.

  • P. Johnson

    Reality isn't sentiments. Entrepreneurs must face reality if they want the gains of profit.

    Apparently, the Coyote suffers from incompetency. The Coyote faces the same price for labor as all other businessmen in Ventura County who compete for workers of such skills. His competitors aren't merely camp ground operators, though in this county, that would be the State (McGrath State Beach), the operator of Lake Casitas and a few slumlord homeless RV parks. His competitors are all those also bidding for that kind of unskilled labor.

    So the Coyote faces the same labor constraint as all other employers in Ventura County who can not run their operations without that same kind of labor. Thus, it is other factors for which the Coyote hasn't demonstrated competency that has led him to exit the field.

    If the Coyote is pure entrepreneur, so what? He had nothing at risk. Only the capitalist who lends is the one who faces loss and thus is the only one who puts at-risk anything.

    If the Coyote is an entrepreneur-capitalist, then he has been experiencing an unforeseen loss by change or what Mangolt described as a technical loss. So the Coyote, if as capitalist, should exit the field and put his remaining capital, if any, to a better and higher use.

    Clearly, there are too many campgrounds in Ventura County and not enough winning bidders of demand for camping slots willing to bid prices high enough for the Coyote to break even.

    The facts remain about UI and the Coyote. For every year he operated and laid off workers while also turning a gain of profit, the Coyote earned that gain on the backs of taxpayers collected UI but paid taxes for it and other businessmen who never laid off workers but paid taxes for UI.

    The Coyote has a legit gripe about Agent Smiths shaking him down for permits and the like. However, he lacks any grounds for complaint about UI as likely, without it, he would have been out of business long ago.

    As well, all should question the skills of the Coyote as a business. The excessive lawsuits from factions of employees reveals the Coyote's incompetence regarding communication, persuasion and group dynamics.

  • P. Johnson

    And you are who, exactly and why should anyone care?

  • P. Johnson

    You can make that claim about me, but never would you be right. The Coyote can't gain profit because the sum of his sales on prices set by winning bidders for campground slots fail to exceed his cost of production.

    The worst bit is that taxpayers have been subsidizing the Coyote's cost of production for all the years he operated his business in Ventura County as taxpayers forced to pay taxes or face imprisonment subsidized the Coyote's seasonal payroll, which let him pay a price of wages below the actual market rate absent intervention.

  • Maus

    OSHA is a perfect example. Federal OSHA is the "minimum standard" so 28 states have adopted more stringent OSHA regulations. Of course, California - CAL-OSHA - is the most restrictive and onerous. All major companies who have operations in California have separate regulatory experts, training and P&P standards for doing business in that state. Like the Ventura County bureaucratic nightmare, CAL-OSHA complicates and makes anything you do in that state much more expensive and time-consuming. Many of the CAL-OSHA requirements make a minimal difference in workplace health and safety, yet add staggering compliance costs, much of it record keeping/reporting, to your cost of doing business. Hence, companies are leaving or reducing their presence.

  • Brandon

    You should move to New Hampshire. the free state project would help you http://freestateproject.org

  • http://www.sdl.com/ Brian Crouch

    "We own a business in California and have no problems." Would you have the courage of your convictions and share the name of this business?

  • larrybud

    He *is* adjusting, he's getting out. Adjust away!

  • rst1317

    that

    is

    a

    very

    long comment with far too much talk about shafting.

  • rst1317

    I'm not sure what religion you practice that you would believe God would damn a baby.

  • rst1317

    6 outside of Ventura county

    http://camprrm.com/

  • rst1317

    It's cute how you stick your head in the sand. Can we call you Ossie the Ostrich?

  • P. Johnson

    It's not so cute that you deny reality. Yet, that doesn't surprise as most lack suitable intellects to see reality.

    Instead, they parrot their indoctrination inculcated into their wee minds by their handlers.

    Any pro free-market, pro-capitalism, pro society of property, pro individualist would point out the hypocrisy of those like the Coyote who fail to make it on their own merits and cry when the rules change, rules that once favored their inefficient ways.

    Some of us want to see an end to UI, which is the only fair move for workers and efficiency-driven, competitive employers so that weaklings like the Coyote never take the field of competition.

    Big governmentalists are the same, it doesn't matter whether a Democrat leftist or Republican rightist.

  • NL7

    Yes, but I would've also accepted the mafia or a terrorist cell.

  • http://www.thegantry.net/blog Casey

    Why waste time arguing with this dilbert? He's all posturing and no data. This guy makes Cliff Claven look modest and well-informed.

  • P. Johnson

    LOLZ. The Coyote sponges off taxpayers in more than one way, in a fascist politician-private partnership.

  • Jeff McCabe

    This is pretty much normal. When someone finally caves under the excess regulation and costs of doing business in a "progressive" environment, someone always comes out from under some rock to claim that the problem was the manager of the business had a poor business model and should have charged their customers more, or God forbid they made a profit, then they were "greedy" and should have plowed every cent back into the business. Almost always in terms of higher salary and benefits for the low skilled employees. These people also never actually ran a successful business or had to make a payroll.

  • rst1317

    I don't understand how providing a better service at a lower cost than the county + state were previously doing it constitutes being a sponge. That seems like a good deal for the taxpayers and a great deal for those using the parks.

  • rst1317

    I'm wondering the same, slocum. I suspect it be a mixture of these.

  • rst1317

    That your so certain that there is a single REALITY and that anyone who doesn't see it to be what you see it to be is a dum-dum is the key problem you're going to run into with whatever it is you're trying to espouse.

    I doubt most folks that read this blog want to keep unemployment insurance around. You should have a pretty easy time here connecting with folks on that desire. Yet you inflict more loops and turns and crossovers on that simple desire, end UI, than one would find in 100 Tehachapi Passes.

  • jukin

    I'm in Santa Barbara and we make Ventura look like Nirvana.