Entrepreneurism explains optimism in face of uncertainty

Undaunted optimism in the face of business uncertainty constitutes ones of the most important attributes of the remarkable entrepreneurs who start and operate ventures. Were they to succumb to the temptation to respond like the dismally gloomy Eeyore or panic-stricken Chicken Little, entrepreneurs wouldn’t dare risk what’s often their life savings to pursue their passions and dreams. Thankfully, successful business owners and managers demonstrate a drive to somehow provide better products and services — and turn a profit doing so — in even the most challenging circumstances.

This trait helps to explain some of the juxtaposition between what’s been a generally improving outlook among business leaders in Colorado and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the implementation of federal health care law.

According to the latest results of a quarterly index, optimism among Colorado business leaders has surged on improving expectations for everything from the economy to jobs to sales. The Leeds Business Confidence Index climbed to 60.5 for the third quarter, more than 10 points above the point that reflects more positive than negative responses.

Of course, the mood has been more subdued in the Grand Valley, where unemployment rates remain higher and sales tax collections lower than other parts of the state. Nonetheless, the latest results of a twice-yearly membership survey conducted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce reflects at least cautious optimism with expectations for increased hiring and sales.

While consumer confidence remained the factor most often cited as likely to affect business over the next six months, chamber survey respondents also cited the perception of  weak economy and increased costs related to new fees and regulations. Nearly 24 percent singled out implementation of the new federal health care law.

The exact effects of that law remain unclear even years after its passage.

The Obama administration recently announced it would postpone for a year a key provision of the Patient and Affordable Care Act — specifically the so-called “employer mandate” requiring companies with the equivalent of 50 or more

full-time employees to offer health insurance or pay penalties. The fact the employer mandate won’t go into effect until after the mid-term elections in 2014 only fuels cynicism the move was partly, if not wholly, politically motivated.

The employer mandate doesn’t directly affect smaller businesses, but the uncertainty surrounding the health care law extends to firms of all sizes. The announcement some provisions will be delayed raises questions whether other provisions also will be delayed. What about the individual mandate requiring that everyone purchase insurance or pay fines? The ultimate question remains: Will health insurance premiums finally retreat under federal reforms or simply continue climbing ever higher? Given the potential costs associated with health insurance, not to mention the penalties imposed under the law, the stakes couldn’t be higher for businesses.

Of course, entrepreneurs will labor on. That’s what they do best. And some will proceed full speed ahead, damn whatever regulatory torpedoes are headed their way. But wouldn’t it be nice if entrepreneurs could base their optimistic outlooks at least in part on government policies that more fairly and evenly reward their hard work?