February 3, 2013

Bureaucracy and the would-be small business owner

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Cancon, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:40

It took me less than a day to start my own business — and it was all done online. We have it good: Canada is at the top of the league table for ease of starting a new business. Americans don’t have it as easy as we do:

Last week, having read my own writing about how it’s cheaper to buy a house than rent one in most markets, I decided to take my own advice. My wife and I bought a new place, and instead of selling our old condo, we’re going to rent it out. And thus I became a small-business man.

Or, rather, I’m becoming one. Entrepreneurship — even on the smallest and most banal scale — turns out to be a time-consuming pain in the you-know-what. My personal inconveniences aren’t a big deal, but in the aggregate, the difficulty of launching a business is a problem and it may be a more important one as time goes on.

[. . .]

The striking thing about all this isn’t so much that it was annoying — which it was — but that it had basically nothing to do with what the main purpose of landlord regulation should be — making sure I’m not luring tenants into some kind of unsafe situation. The part where the unit gets inspected to see if it’s up to code is a separate step. I was instructed to await a scheduling call that ought to take place sometime in the next 10 business days.

Not that I expect your pity. I don’t even pity myself. Going through the process, I mostly felt lucky to be a fluent-English-speaking college graduate with a flexible work schedule. But the presence of a stray pamphlet offering translation into Spanish, Chinese, or Amharic seemed like it would be only marginally useful to an immigrant entrepreneur. A person who needs to be at her day job from 9 to 5 would have a huge problem even getting to these offices while they’re open.

The bureaucratic hassles of entrepreneurship turn out to vary pretty substantially from place to place. The World Bank has a fairly crude measure of how easy it is to start a business in different countries and ranks the United States 13th. North of the border in Canada (ranked third), there’s typically just one “procedure” — a paperwork filing, basically — needed to launch a business. In America, it takes more like six.

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