Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The future is bright, hope is renewed

1/30/13 Wednesday
          Today is a wonderful day, as is every day I wake up. I understand deeply that we live in a world where evil is rampant and spreads like a dark fog, ever growing and infecting all it touches. But I also know that there is light which shines brightly and where the light is darkness can’t abide. It is my desire to be a light in this darkness and to help others come into the light of the love of God but to do that I must fight the darkness. Jesus said “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."

          There is much to do, as there always is here on the farm and in the other areas of life we have. Gracie kitty just crawled on my chest as I lay here with the laptop and decided to start “grooming” my beard. Makes typing a challenge. We love our animals and they love us. The heartbreak of losing our puppy, Maisey, is still raw and I miss her every day, as does Cherie also. The other three dogs we now keep very close at hand and they spend much more time inside.

          We had another West Texas blow yesterday so I will go see what has come and gone with the wind. There are already things I found uncovered that had been buried. One area of my garden had not been disked up and when I drove in from town I could see the sand/dirt blowing away from there. I had not disked it because we had just buried drip irrigation hose there so I didn’t want to risk cutting up what I had so carefully put a foot underground. Eventually I hope to build a device I can put on the back of the tractor that will allow me to put drip tape underground deeper and much easier. It would be easy to build but I don’t have the steel or tools to make it. We know someone who has a nice shop where I could build it but my relationship with him is…awkward I guess would be the word to use. We could do so much with just a little help and much of what we have came through the love of others. In the perfect world, the ideal one I strive to achieve, everyone would help everyone else but in the real world people are…human. Some good, some bad, some wander from good to bad and I’ve seen bad people do good things. Oh, and I understand well that I am right there with them, not always doing the good I want and sometimes doing the very thing I don’t like. But I strive to be better and hope to encourage others to do the same.

          We talked with the attorney yesterday. I am constantly learning and in learning will understand better and correct ways to do things. It was to be a half hour meeting but in reality  we talked with the attorney for almost an hour and a half. Great conversation that helped me understand what we need much better. I had the concept that what we needed to do was create the corporation and then sell stock to investors. Wrong!!! If we created a class C corporation that had a public stock offering then it would work that way but the last thing we want is a C corp. What I understand now is that I need to get investors lined up and then we create the corporation with them as partners or shareholders. I’m not sure that the word shareholder is appropriate. The corporation will either be a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) or what’s called an S-Corporation. They both cost about the same to set up and the main difference seems to be in how taxes are done. Even after talking to the attorney I’m not totally clear and he said that this required an accountant to explain and set up. We won’t be selling stock like a corporation on the stock market has, the investors will be sharing in the corporation as partners.

          The one thing that both attorneys suggested is that I don’t want a lot of investors, that it would be better if I just found 2 or 4 big money guys to do this with. The consensus is that the more people we have involved the more likely we will find a “sour grape” who can make life for all difficult. Patrick (the first attorney we saw) used the term “unsophisticated” in reference to the small investors. I have many thoughts regarding this and will share them with you along with inviting everyone to tell me what you think.

          First thought is this. We live in a world of imperfect people and thus will always have problems. Nothing goes smooth as glass, especially when money is involved. Greed is an evil that can poison the purest heart and of course greed revolves around the acquisition of money. We have had “friends” who are wealthy. These friends helped us in many ways but when they looked at our oil well lease tried to get us to sign over the mineral rights and give them full authority over the well. It caught us by surprise and when I refused they suddenly became very unfriendly. (That’s putting it mildly)

          We have watched a show called “Shark Tank” where people petition a panel of millionaires to invest in their ideas. The name “Shark Tank” is entirely appropriate and one of the investors glories in his greed, bragging about how greedy he is as he works to convince those asking for help to surrender most or all of what they have to him. The rest of the panelists are less aggressive and more willing to help the petitioners profit along with them. The point is that they all enjoy making money and there is nothing wrong with that but I have seen much in life and wish to avoid the pitfall of having an investor who is more concerned about himself than in helping everyone to succeed. We just watched a program on PBS about Henry Ford and saw there the problems that came from investors and greed.

          So does that mean I am going to worry about it, to allow fear to rule? No, not at all, but it does mean that I will work hard to make sure that we are all on the same page, that we all understand we are in this together and that success comes when we work as a team. Our prayer is that God will bring in the right people, the partners who will be an asset instead of a liability. I choose to trust in the Lord in this but also understand that I play a key role here. My job will be to organize, coordinate, and make sure everything is done. I am the planner, designer, and will be the cheerleader too. Communication is the key. A big plus is that this role is one I am familiar with. My first successful company had a telemarketing room with 25 stations that ran several shifts. Telemarketing can be a depressing and frustrating occupation so I worked to create a positive upbeat atmosphere and also tried to stay on top of the internal politics that always exist when a group of people stay together. The corporation will be a little different from that but the principles are the same.

          Thought 2 – While I understand the concept of keeping the number of investors small to reduce the possibility of conflict and strife there is another side of this coin. I have been poor and I have been worth over a million dollars, and now I am poor again, according to the standards the government use to rate such things. Even though I no longer have all the material things that came with success I consider myself to be one of the richest people in the world. This is because I am alive after being dead, I have my mind back after the severe brain injury that left me like a child, and I have my faith in God back. Most of the people I minister to are poor folks struggling to make ends meet. The investors who have $25,000 or more to put into a project like this are not hurting at all. While it will be nice to find just a few people who can finance this entire operation the possibility exists that this might not happen. I told the lawyer that one way or another I will do what it takes to make our dream a reality, even if that meant I had to find thousands of small investors.

          But regardless of how that works, what I know is that for those who are living life on the tight side of finances the opportunity to invest seldom comes along. The lawyer suggested a $25,000 threshold to invest, that if someone can’t come up with at least that much to not accept their money. I understand where he’s coming from but my heart is to help those struggling, to make available to them the same opportunities those who are well off have. Considering that the attorney needs to draw up an investor agreement for every person who hands us money I can see the problems and expenses that would come with having hundreds of them to do but there is a way we can do this. One of those ways is to set up a trust and the trust is seen as a single entity even though it may be made up of hundreds of small investors. The trust then would purchase and own a percentage of the corporation. The corporation pays the trust a percentage of the profits earned and that is divided up to the participants in the trust based on the size of their investment.

          I’m not going to worry about people getting upset, I am aware that this can always happen. All of this is based on trust, and this is the key. You, the investor, have to trust and believe in me, my ability, the RV park concept, and the soundness of the business plan in order to hand me a check. Then I must trust you, that you understand the risks involved and that you will work with us all as we do what it takes to achieve the goal of creating a viable, and profitable, business enterprise.

          We will have an accounting firm to audit the books on a regular basis. There will be a board of directors who will take part in and vote for all major expenditures and activities. I plan on releasing a weekly or monthly newsletter that details what we did, what we spent, and what we plan on next. I will always be available by phone and you can drop by and see what’s happening anytime you want. Both lawyers said that I would need to become a paid employee of the corporation and my rate of pay would be determined by the board of directors.

          Part of what needs to be understood, especially by the small investors, is how the money will be handled and how you get a return on that investment. For the small investors I am aware that a thousand dollars is like a million. For those who don’t have much life is fragile and something like a car breaking down can be catastrophic, putting them in a position where they might not have food to feed their family. Then they are suddenly scratching to survive and if they had money invested in this project they would call to get it back. This is the kind of situation Patrick warned me about so here is how it works. I regard all who are in our life as family. Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as we love our self. The money our investors send us is not going to sit in a bank drawing interest, it will be spent building this business. If we can help those who have run into dire straits we will but legally that money is tied up in the corporation and if it paid for a backhoe to dig a hole we can’t fill in the hole and get the money back. When we get things built and start renting out spots to RVs then there is cash coming in. That cash goes to pay the bills first. There will be operating expenses, electrical bills, insurances, and other things. At first there won’t be much profit but once things are all built and spaces rented that will change. Then we will start paying dividends to the investors.

          How long will that take? With the old store and property on the interstate I estimate we can have it up and running in two months, and maybe even sooner. How long till you get your money back? That is harder to answer. Let’s say you invested one hundred dollars. We plan on two phases as we build this business. Phase one is to get the property on the interstate and have it up and running as quick as possible. Phase two is to build the bigger and better park on the farm land. Much depends on how much money we raise. If it is only enough for the first phase then we will focus on that and work to find investors for phase 2 after it is up and running. Your hundred dollars buys you part of the company so the cash is now converted to real estate. The dividends are a percentage of the profits made that will be issued probably every quarter. The board of directors meet and will decide that.

            I have to go now. There are people at the jail who need to hear that Jesus loves them and then I need to fire up the tractor and do some work with the dirt here. After that I must make lots of phone calls as we work to make this happen. Remember, God is good and life is what you make it.

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