October 21, 2016
While growing up, French Hill entertained thoughts of becoming an oceanographer. But as a grandson and a son of bankers, Hill gravitated toward the family profession. “I started my business as an idea sketched out on the back of a napkin and built it into a successful enterprise as a result of hard work, not government handouts or bailouts.”
French Hill is a Little Rock businessman and job creator. He is the founder and chairman of Delta Trust & Bank. For the past twenty years, he has been working, investing, and creating jobs in central Arkansas across different industries. He is a champion of our Second Amendment rights, life member of the NRA, and a passionate outdoorsmen.
Mr. Hill’s business experience, economic analysis, and professional leadership have been sought by multiple U.S. presidents. He served as senior policy advisor to President George H.W. Bush, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and senior advisor to Governor Mike Huckabee.
Kerry and Congressman French Hill discuss business and the relationship of business and government plus starting and running a business, naming a business and much more in this informative episode!
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
UP IN YOUR BUSINESS WITH KERRY MCCOY RADIO SHOW - EPISODE 06 - CONGRESSMAN FRENCH HILL
[0:00:09.1] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:03.3] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents. Now, it’s time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:19.1] KM: Hello everybody, you’re listening to Kerry McCoy and it’s time for me to get all up in your business. You may be asking yourself, “What makes this lady qualified to do this?” I’ll tell you, experience.
In a minute, you can email or call and ask me anything. My experiences deep and wide and my advice is free. 40 years ago which is $400 I started Arkansas Flag & Banner. Since then it's morphed into simply flagandbanner.com with sales nearing 4 million. That's worth saying again. I started Arkansas Flag & Banner with just $400 and today we have sales nearing 4 million.
I started by selling flags door-to-door and then went to telemarketing, next mail order, and catalog sales, and today we rely heavily on the internet. In addition, over the last 40 years, I've navigated flag and banner through two recessions and two wars. When people find out I’m that woman who owns Arkansas Flag & Banner, they often say, “Oh! I’ve heard about you,” and begin asking the business advice. I amaze even myself with all the knowledge I've gained.
If you call me for advice or my guest, you will not be given textbook answers or theory, but you will be given candid advice from my real world experience, so be prepared for the truth. It's not always easy. For instance, you may not want to hear this; in business there are very few overnight successes. Starting and owning a business takes persistence, perseverance, and patience. When I started Arkansas Flag & Banner, I supplemented my income by waitressing all while I pedaled my flags door-to-door. After nine years — Did you hear me? Nine years working a part-time job, the company began to grow and solely support me.
My first hire was a bookkeeper to handle the clerical side of my business. My first expansion was to begin manufacturing of custom flags, so a sewing department developed. The next decade ushered in Desert Storm war, flags were scarce, so a screen-printing department was hardly built to meet consumer demands. In addition to sales and manufacturing, Flag & Banner now has a purchasing department, a shipping department, technology department, marketing department, call center and retail store, and I spearheaded the development of every one of these departments. My experience is deep and wide and my advice is free. Unbelievable!
Before we start taking calls, I want to introduce you to the people at the table. We have our very own Tim Bowen, our technician who will be taking your calls and pushing the button. Say hi, Tim.
[0:02:57.0] TB: Hi, Tim.
[0:02:57.7] KM: I never get tired of that. Before I introduce my guest at the table today, I want to thank RJ from iProv for subbing for me last week and to his guest, Randy Clifton of RCX Solutions. I learned a lot, Randy. If you’re listening, I had no idea that we were in a shortage of truck drivers across the nation. It seems to me like a great job and a great way to save your marriage. Don’t they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder?
My guest today is Congressman French Hill. He is the founder and chairman of Delta Trust & Bank. He attendant Vanderbilt University, graduating magna cum laude with a B.S., that’s a business in science, in economics. His education, business experience, economic analysis and professional leadership have been sought by multiple U.S. presidents. He served as senior policy advisor to President George H. W. Bush, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and Senior Advisor to Governor Mike Huckabee.
French’s website boast he is a Little Rock businessman and job creator. For the past 20 years, he has been working, investing, and creating jobs in Central Arkansas across different industries. Welcome to the table, Congressman French Hill.
[0:04:21.6] FH: Man! I can’t think of anybody I’d rather get up in business with than you. So I’m glad to be here.
[0:04:26.7] KM: Thank you. I love the show. Every time I ask a guest on, or at least so far, I’ve known them, and I’ve known you for a while but I never really know until I go and do the research. I had no idea that you were a politician or worked in politics or assisted presidents of all things. I had no idea until I read about your biography. I just thought that one day that you decided to run for office, that you were a banker that just decided to run for office.
[0:04:55.3] FH: Yeah, I’ve had a variety of careers. It’s been hard to keep a job over the 35 years. I think it’s always helped me in my business career. When I was in my 20s, I worked up on the Senate Banking Committee for a couple of years from a senator from Texas named John Tower. I did that for two years, then I went back to Texas to work at a venture capital company.
Then as you noted, I got to work for President Bush 41 for four years, and he’s a man I really admired. One thing that I think made Bush a good president is that before he was a congressman and a CIA director and some other things he did, he was a business guy. He innovated in the oil and gas business and his partners were the first investors in and successful builders of a semi-submersible offshore oil platform. He created a company called Zapata, which was the first big offshore drilling rig contractor in the Gulf during the late 50s and early 60s.
Bush kind of brought that same can-do West Texas, Houston common sense —
[0:06:06.2] KM: Entrepreneurship.
[0:06:06.4] FH: Entrepreneurship — To the decisions he had to make, and that’s what I wish we had more of in government today. It’s one reason that’s attracted me to public policy, is to bring that business common sense. Something that you deal with every day. If we had that in our legislative bodies, I think we’d probably make better decisions.
[0:06:27.1] KM: I have a question for you later in the show that goes right into that. You also have so much deep and wide experience. There’s French Hill, the entrepreneur. There’s French Hill, the man, who is funny. I hope that that comes out and everybody gets to see how funny you are. Then there’s French Hill, the congressman. I want to start first with you as an entrepreneur. You said, and I quote, “I started my business as an idea sketched out on the back of a napkin and built it into a successful enterprise as a result of hard work, not government handouts, or bailouts.”
French, I felt like I was reading the story of FedEx and probably so many other companies that started their business on a napkin. Can you tell us a little bit about who you were with and how it started?
[0:07:11.7] FH: I remember exactly when it was and who was there. You said something that overnight success take perseverance, and my expression I used at Delta Trust was the average overnight success takes 14 years.
[0:07:29.0] KM: I’m using that.
[0:07:29.5] FH: That’s the way to think about that perseverance part. I was with a couple that’s very close friends with Martha and me, two couples. We were having dinner one night and we were talking about what became Delta Trust. I took out this cocktail napkin at this restaurant and I wrote trust, investments, and banking on it, the three core functions of what became Delta Trust. Those were the three core services, because we were struggling with a name. We chose Delta because Delta is a three sided triangle, obviously. Equal sided triangle.
[0:08:09.9] KM: I just thought it was a place down south Arkansas.
[0:08:11.9] FH: This is the key. We said we have these three core services; trust, investment, and banking. The bank that we’re investing in that we want to grow is in the Mississippi Delta, down in beautiful Parkdale, Arkansas, Ashley County. The third thing was is that Delta in math is the sign of change. It’s the change descriptor. Of course, it’s very hard when you start a company to get people to change from whatever they’re doing now to you.
[0:08:41.5] KM: It’s hard to get people to change anything.
[0:08:43.1] FH: Right. In any small business, this gets right to the heart of what you do. Someone looking for customers has to realize they have to acquire those customers from something else, an alternative. Delta Trust became the name of our company and the whole business strategy that we worked on and perfected, I guess, you’d say for 16 years.
[0:09:05.5] KM: I wondered when I was working on these questions for you, which I have like — The coming pages of questions I have for you. You’ve done so much. I hope we get to all of them. I wondered what trust meant, if it had a double meaning, because a trust can be a trust fund and a trust can be trust in somebody.
[0:09:20.9] FH: It did. We inverted the name. Most people had grown up with banks that were called First National Bank & Trust, and our company was Delta Trust & Bank.
[0:09:31.5] KM: I noticed that.
[0:09:32.4] FH: We inverted the name on purpose for both reasons. One was we put trust services and investments first. It’s our lead service that we’d go to families and business owners with. Secondly, we were not — It wasn’t an accident to put trust and convey that in our advertising and marketing. We said trust is our middle name on purpose, because we wanted to convey a sense of we want you to trust us with your financial questions.
[0:10:01.3] KM: Of delta being change. Freud has a death principle, and it’s called doing something you’ve always done before. That’s the death principle, not changing. You were helping people by talking them into changing.
[0:10:15.4] FH: Right. If you want to get the same results, if they’re meager, keep doing the same thing over and over again is another risk in a small business, if you’re not growing and not having success.
[0:10:25.7] KM: If you don’t change — I heard of — I can’t remember who it was, but I heard some man say, “If your business isn’t changing every 10 years, you’re going out of business.” I believe that today. You heard my intro. I’ve changed and changed and changed and changed.
[0:10:36.7] FH: Think about that, from personal door-to-door, then to basically catalog type sales, or flyers.
[0:10:42.6] KM: Telemarketing. Now, the internet. Four decades, four different business models.
[0:10:48.3] FH: I told our guys we started our company in 1999. It’s now part of Simmons now as of 2015. I said over that 16 years, you’ve seen war, you’ve seen two lows in interest rates, you’ve seen two stock market crashes, the famous —
[0:11:05.7] KM: Desert Storm and the banking, 2008.
[0:11:07.5] FH: Yeah. That’s a lot in a young — Let’s say somebody came to work at Delta Trust and they were 23 and then they were late 30s. Most people would see that kind of radical change; technology, war, recession, interest rate swings in a whole career, not 15 years.
[0:11:26.1] KM: Boy, it’s moving fast these days. Isn’t it?
[0:11:26.6] FH: It is, that’s why business people have to be really on their toes.
[0:11:30.5] KM: I was going to ask you about selling your business. How does it feel? How did you make the decision? It’s something I’ve never done. I’ve never sold a business. Before I ask him — Yeah, you think about that. I want to talk about your decision to sell your business and why you did it and how hard it was to let go of your baby. Before I do that, I want to say you’re listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy on KABF. My guest today is Congressman French Hill, founder of Delta Trust & Bank. If you’ve got questions or comments for either of us, call —
[0:12:02.4] TB: 501-433-0088.
[0:12:05.9] KM: Tim, say that again.
[0:12:06.7] TB: 501-433-0088.
[0:12:09.6] KM: He says that so fast. 501-433-0088. I can’t even think that fast, Tim. You can email us questions —
[0:12:21.1] TB: @upyourbusiness.org.
[0:12:22.5] KM: That’s right. The questions is with an S. Congressman, thank you for coming on my show.
[0:12:28.1] FH: I love it.
[0:12:29.2] KM: People just think I am the cat’s pajamas because I’ve got the congressman on my show. Tell me about selling your business. Was it hard?
[0:12:37.8] FH: It’s always hard to sell a business, and as a banker, an investment person for 35 years, I’ve helped a lot of people prepare their business for sale or talk them —
[0:12:47.9] KM: Oh, I bet.
[0:12:49.6] FH: I’ve always been on the other side of that equation for the most part, except as an investor and something, but this one was really connected to me personally having been the founder and the CEO of it. I had investors who were very eager after 15 years redeploy their capital. They had urged me as the CEO to consider what are the best circumstances I could of sale.
I approached it as a fiduciary. I approached it as their agent. I tried to take my own emotional position out of it to somewhat. Some of the things I considered were; can I find a place where our employees would be happy? Can I find a place where our customers would get great quality service and have the same values that we had at Delta Trust? Can I find a group that would be accepting the unique products that we developed over that period of time and actually give those products and services a home? After a lot of work and several years, we made that decision. It’s always tough to do that.
[0:13:57.9] KM: Unique products. I don’t know you can get unique and creative in the banking world.
[0:14:02.4] FH: It’s harder now with regulation.
[0:14:04.2] KM: That’s what I would think.
[0:14:05.0] FH: It is. We always tried to innovate. We created one of the biggest health savings accounts banks in the country, and Delta Trust built that business 100% using Google AdWords and built that business 100% online.
[0:14:21.7] KM: What year did you do that with those Google AdWords?
[0:14:24.4] FH: I’m going to guess. It was in the middle of 2000s, maybe ’08, ’09, in that time frame. We had seen that health savings accounts were a great way for small business to combat rising healthcare cost and give both business and employees more independence. We looked around and we saw that there weren’t many banks doing it nationwide and there were very few, maybe one in Arkansas.
We built this business online. We had accounts on all 50 states. It was an online account.
[0:14:56.5] KM: There were no regulations for going in all 50 states?
[0:14:59.6] FH: No, because back in — We have nationwide branching and nationwide deposit solicitation and banking if you follow the rules, sort of say with that, the disclosure rule, which we did. It was exciting for our boys, and we basically had — I’d say it was probably third largest branch was this online office that contained the customer service team for health savings accounts.
[0:15:24.7] KM: Taking a fiduciary responsibility to selling that business is admirable. I think everybody that knows you thinks you’re admirable. I think that’s why when you go to — Actually, I went to your fundraiser this week and somebody where said, “If French ever decides that he wants a president for democrats for French, I want to be the president.”
You are the most bipartisan politician I’ve ever met in my life because your demeanor is not only fun, but trust is a perfect word for what you did with Delta Trust. Everybody that meets you likes you, trust you. I’d have to say, Martha, if you’re listening, you’re a lucky girl. I bet you keep her laughing all the time.
[0:16:04.6] FH: This is true. Believe me. Mostly laughing at me, not with me. Yeah.
[0:16:08.7] KM: I want to tell a funny story about. When I first met you — I probably had already met you, but when I first got to know you, I was invited to join Rotary Club 99, which I don’t know if people know this. It is like the top 10 Rotary in the world, and you were the president.
[0:16:24.1] FH: Right. We’re blessed. We’ve had Rotary in Little Rock since 1913. For people that don’t know much about Rotary, it started in 1905. A lonely guy up in Chicago wanted to network and find friends, make friends first. Secondly, have contacts for his business. He had no customer acquisition program. He didn’t know how to get customers. He dreamed up this brilliant idea about Rotary. Then the third component was community service. For over a hundred years now, Rotary has delivered on all three of those things for its members, and Little Rock has one of the top 10 Rotary clubs in the country in terms of size in the world, as you say.
[0:17:00.2] KM: Yeah, in the world.
[0:17:02.4] FH: Dynamic leadership — In fact, our Rotary Club, the one you and I belong to, Little Rock Rotary Club, was in the Rotary International Magazine this week that goes worldwide to the 1.2 million Rotarians and 32,000 clubs about our partnership with Heifer International to help create sustainable agriculture and healthy food just here in the Metro Little Rock area, not to mention what we partnered with Heifer over in Romania to bring the first fresh milk to the Romanian people after the fall of the Berlin Wall over there. Our club has a great reputation.
[0:17:35.7] KM: Arkansas is the biggest little town that people come here and they just cannot believe it. We have more museums, we have more artists, we have great nonprofits, we have the largest Rotarian. I can’t believe that Heifer is here. It is such a great place to — I got to tell the story. You’re the president of Rotary, and it’s one of my first times to visit in its lunch, and lunch is on Tuesdays. It’s always the same.
The Sunday before, the Tuesday Rotary Luncheon that I’m at was the masters, where everybody is given a green jacket. Everybody knows that, right? It’s per usual, you invite a fellow Rotarian to come up and tell who the guest of the day and introduce the guest.
This guy, I can’t remember his name. Let’s say, Mr. Wilson. You introduced him. He gets up, walks to the podium. He’s wearing a green blazer, and he introduces all the guests. Nobody thinks anything about it, and then you walked back over to the podium and just right off the cuff and say, “Mr. Wilson, why didn’t you tell us you’ve won the Masters Sunday?”
[0:18:33.8] FH: Unfortunately, the joke worked, and people laughed.
[0:18:35.4] KM: Oh, it’s so funny! I cannot watch the Masters without smiling and thinking about that, because you did it just off the cuff so good. That’s why people love you. That’s why you’re so bipartisan. That’s why you’re democrats for French. Tell us how you got that name.
[0:18:50.9] FH: French is my grandmother’s maiden name, and so my dad who’s alive, be in 91 in January. He’s my official Medicare adviser. Jay is J-A-Y French Hill, so my dad is J-A-Y. I’m James French Hill. My grandfather was James Wilson Hill, and my cousin here is Jay Rogers. I didn’t want to go to thanksgiving and be a little Jay, or whatever, even as a young person, and so I chose to go by my middle name and I survived elementary school, middle school, high school, and college with the name French.
I’ve heard every joke there is, except that in college, at a social event, I was being introduced and someone said, “Now, here’s the president of our club, French Hill. Please meet him.” Nobody got it. They couldn’t figure out that that was the name, so they thought my name was Fred Shell, not French Hill. For the rest of my college career, my nickname was Fred, of course.
[0:19:55.6] KM: Fred Shell. Fred Shell would be right here. You shouldn’t have told me that, because you may be that to me from now on.
[0:20:02.3] FH: Yeah, I love my grandmother and proud to carry her maiden name.
[0:20:06.3] KM: That’s nice. I also read in your bio, you’re a 9th generation Arkansan. I didn’t know there were nine generations of Arkansans.
[0:20:14.2] FH: Yeah, this was her family, my grandmother’s family. This is my dad’s mom. They came to Arkansas Post, her people, in the 1780s. They’ve lived in Arkansas. They were obviously farmers and pioneers until —
[0:20:30.5] KM: Tough people.
[0:20:31.8] FH: Oh, gosh! Tough people. They survived everything; malaria, civil war, attacks of all kinds. Then after the depression, as they say, people move to town. Everybody lost the farm in the depression. Great family.
[0:20:47.3] KM: Is that really what they say, they moved to town?
[0:20:49.4] FH: Yeah.
[0:20:49.4] KM: What do you think the secret of your success is?
[0:20:52.6] FH: I think it’s perseverance. Off the top of the show you mentioned the word perseverance. I have always had a sticktoitiveness about my personality and commitment to things. I’m a committed person, and you really need to be success in business. You really have to be personally bought in. Again, just like your testimony at the top of the show. Perseverance is essential. I think the only place work comes after success is in the dictionary. That old expression; you got to work before you can be successful. I just know that to be true.
I think that’s the secret to America. America is diverse, true, giant now, 300 million people, but there is a common code in our makeup, I think, of being willing to work hard, because we do get rewarded in our society if we work hard.
[0:21:49.2] KM: You absolutely do.
[0:21:49.8] FH: We do.
[0:21:50.6] KM: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy, and my guest; Congressman French Hill, founder of the Delta Trust & Bank. If you’ve got questions or comments for either of us, call —
[0:22:02.7] TB: 501-433-0088.
[0:22:06.1] KM: Again.
[0:22:07.3] TB: 501-433-0088.
[0:22:10.3] KM: Or if you don’t want to call us, you can send me an email — And I’m looking at my emails now, and it’s questions@ —
[0:22:17.3] TB: Upyourbusiness.org.
[0:22:19.6] KM: That’s right. You’re a passionate outdoorsman Oh! We got a call. Hey, you’re listening to KABF with Congressman French Hill. What’s your question?
[0:22:28.4] Q1: I just wanted to have them talk a little bit how politics and business kind of go together and how one affects the other.
[0:22:36.6] KM: Good question.
[0:22:37.3] Q1: Thank you.
[0:22:38.4] FH: Yeah, thank the caller for the question. The heart of our country for 240 years has been industriousness of the American people and having the freedom to pursue happiness as promised in the declaration of independence. In fact, in the list of grievances by the colonist against King George III, if you’ve ever read the whole Declaration of Independence, not just the part we memorize and we talk about, unalienable rights, but the whole list of grievances. One of them is; and he, meaning the King, has sent down swarms of his officers and eaten out their substance.
[0:23:18.2] KM: What?
[0:23:19.2] FH: This is the sense that government was too big, too intrusive, and the industry of the colonial people living in North America and that the King was all up in their business. It wasn’t appreciated. The sort of secret in our society has been letting the private sector have enough freedom to create business, create industry, create jobs and grow. Therefore, we have grown to be the biggest economy in the world over those 240 years and we have really created wealth that’s free billions of people from poverty and hunger and famine through that free market system.
How politics and business interact is in limiting that freedom, but not too much. In other words, we want to make sure business people were ethical, that they’re honest, that they don’t do criminal things, they don’t do fraud people, that they protect consumers. We have some base rules about that. We want workplaces safe. We’ve agreed to have some basic safety standards for business, some basic pay standards like for business.
It’s that tension about how politics and business interact. What business wants is the freedom to be creative, to employ more people, to change and grow their business and take advantage of the times and do that in a way that produces greater wealth for the American people.
[0:24:41.1] KM: Business is creative.
[0:24:43.1] FH: It is creative, and this is where —
[0:24:44.6] KM: That’s why people don’t want restriction a little bit, is they want to be creative, but you got to have restrictions because humans are needed — We need boundaries, like children. Everybody needs little boundaries to keep the playing field even.
[0:24:56.9] FH: I think that’s where politics comes in, is in establishing those boundaries and then having a voice with the people, whether it’s a planning commission, like in Little Rock, or a state legislature about the quality of the education in the State of Arkansas or at the federal level, where you’re talking about boundaries related to federal policy, whether it’s health, like the NIH, or FDA on drug research. How do we keep those boundaries to protect families and consumers and business for that matter and yet create an environment for creativity, innovation and growth?
[0:25:34.8] KM: Speaking of free trade and jobs and border and boundaries, what do you think — This is maybe a really hot subject, and it’s really not supposed to be — This show is not supposed to be about politics, but this is about business. What do you think about the world economy and it’s a global economic world.
[0:25:53.8] FH: Yeah. I don’t know. I’d sort of ask you a little bit about the sales of your products, if they’re all mostly domestic or not, but I just left an Arkansas State Chamber Luncheon, and two of my young friends have had neat manufacturing business, are both women owned business. One in Conway in one over in Sherwood.
[0:26:13.3] KM: They need to come on my show.
[0:26:14.1] FH: They both. They’d be fabulous.
[0:26:16.8] KM: We need a manufacturer on the show.
[0:26:18.1] FH: Gina [inaudible 0:26:17.6] and Rachel Cox are two great young business women in the metro area, and they export. Their business, it’s essential that they export. If you think about American business and services, as well as manufacturing, 95% of the customers of the world are outside the U.S. We have to think about how to do business internationally. The purpose of a good trade agreement, a quality trade agreement, however you want to have an adjective, is to open up markets for American services and goods. That’s how we measure success.
Global trade is important to Americans. Here in Arkansas alone, 350,000 jobs are tied to trade in our state of just 3 million folks and a lot of that is in the ag sector, because we’re a big big agricultural exporter. We’re the largest exporter of rice, for example.
[0:27:18.8] KM: You’re listening to KABF, Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. My guest today is French Hill, he’s a congressman, founder of Delta Trust & Bank. If you’ve got questions or comments for either of us, you can call —
[0:27:30.3] TB: 501-433-0088.
[0:27:33.2] KM: That’s 501-433-0088, or you can email me, questions, with an S, @upyourbusiness.org. I have an opinion about the — Of course, my flags are made in America, otherwise I would be egged.
[0:27:49.7] FH: Isn’t that great? I know that’s something you’re proud of and something you use on marketing.
[0:27:53.2] KM: 5th generation family. Still making them.
[0:27:56.0] FH: Where are they?
[0:27:56.0] KM: They’re in New Jersey, and they’ve got a great story. He was a tailor in New York and every time the boat would come over from England, he’d be waiting for his materials to come over so he could start making dresses. He was a dressmaker, Mr. Anon. He found that patrons were lining up for flags. They were wanting flags to come. They were wanting U.S. flags to fly. He was like, “I need to start making flags, not just dresses. Everybody wants flags also.” He started making flags in the New York garment district, and that was five generations ago.
[0:28:27.4] FH: Wow! That’s a great story.
[0:28:29.0] KM: They still worked. The family still works there. It is a good story. They’re great people. They gave me my first flag. Gave me credit. Gave me my first flag. Customers say to me all the time, they walk in the front door, and when I originally started my retail store, I thought, “I’m just going to sell only American made products, because that was in keeping with my flags.”
After Desert Storm, and then a after 9/11, people really wanted — They wanted to wear patriotic clothes. They wanted to put patriotic declarations in their house. They wanted to put stuff on their cars. They just wanted to show all their love for their country.
I started going to market and opened up a retail store with a storefront and I thought, “Well, I’ll buy American made products.” You can’t find gifty stuff that’s not made overseas somewhere, because I did find a few and the difference between a ball cap made in America at this time and the different between a ball cap made in Asia was $35 versus $9. I would put them right there and make a whole table that said, “All these products are made in America.” Well, they’ve got a lot of workman’s comp and a lot of great things that go to our workers that, I’m sorry to say, Asian doesn’t have that.
I’d found that my consumers were more priced-driven than patriot-driven when it got down — They’d say one thing, but when it really got down to the nitty-gritty, they always went from price.
[0:29:57.2] FH: That’s an interesting perspective, and I think you find that because we have trade arrangement with different countries and we invest there and people invest here and we have that process, consumers are among the leading beneficiaries of that.
[0:30:14.7] KM: They are, but the workers are not.
[0:30:18.3] FH: No. They’re not always, and this is where I’ve put so much emphasis of my times in the 21 months I’ve been in congress in skilled workforce, because if we —
[0:30:28.6] KM: Are you for raising the minimum wage?
[0:30:29.4] FH: No. Not at the federal level.
[0:30:32.5] KM: Not at the federal level.
[0:30:33.1] FH: Yeah, and the State of Arkansas has — In 14, the people have spoken to a phased minimum wage increase. I think all labor markets are local and you’ve got to be very sensitive about it.
[0:30:44.3] KM: Right. Yeah, because we can’t pay $15 like California is paying an hour.
[0:30:47.8] FH: Right. This is the key thing. Let me tell you an Up In Your Business type story. I met a Burger King guy a few months ago who owns the Burger King franchise in Seattle, Washington, and they have a $15 minimum wage there. It was $9 and the city council in Seattle has moved it to $15.
What’s the challenge there? We’re going to have to lay off workers and we won’t be able to have summer employment because every point increase there means our profit margin is going to be at zero. We’re going to have to raise prices and we’ll probably limit our employees and we’re going to invest in all of these robot technology.
[0:31:24.8] KM: Robo-sourcing.
[0:31:26.0] FH: Robo order on a computer screen, like an ATM screen or a touch screen in an airport. I think we ought to be sensitive to getting people into the workforce, get them the skills they need in a twilight concurrent credit, like at Greenbrier School District.
[0:31:39.7] KM: What’s concurrent credit?
[0:31:40.8] FH: Concurrent credit is where they offer all AP courses at the high school level and they actually earn college credit saving their families tens of thousands of dollars potentially.
[0:31:49.4] KM: Oh! I love that.
[0:31:50.8] FH: Greenbrier does a great job of that. These families can graduate a high school student with about 30 hours of college credit to help them better control their family budget. Of course, and it’s offered to all students.
Brenda Lawrence, she’s a member of congress from Detroit, and I co-chair this house in the House of Representatives, the skill work force conference. What we’re trying to do is find community ideas, local ideas, that are helping people get the education they need so they can have a higher paying job. We can stop debating about entry level type pay or temporary work type pay or just those starting jobs that we all had when we were teenagers or in our youth.
I think the secret of that is education. That’s why like Governor Hutchinson’s coding classes in the high schools to try to see if that’s something that is attractive area to more high school students that might want to go into computer type technology jobs as they go through high school and beyond. It takes a lot of work on this.
When you and I were in middle school, we had a little bit more guidance, I think, about whether we were going to be bound for college or bound for a mentorship and apprenticeship.
[0:33:01.0] KM: I don’t know if I did. I was kind of floundering.
[0:33:03.1] FH: Were you floundering?
[0:33:04.4] KM: I was floundering. I read yours. You did good. You went to catholic high, I believe.
[0:33:08.9] FH: I did.
[0:33:10.7] KM: I feel like you went to catholic high.
[0:33:12.5] FH: Oh, no. You don’t ever say that. Other tribe who would put you in the doghouse for that. Never say I feel. Say, I believe.
[0:33:19.8] KM: I know — Or I believe.
[0:33:21.4] FH: Right. I got to present all his War II medals the other day to a guy named Mr. Grisham, who was my 7th grade shop teacher at Henderson Junior High School here.
[0:33:31.3] KM: Full circle.
[0:33:33.5] FH: I still had the dustpan I made in 7th grade, because I don’t ever throw anything away.
[0:33:38.3] KM: I’m sorry, Martha.
[0:33:39.8] FH: It’s a very good dustpan. It’s very heavy duty.
[0:33:41.7] KM: I bet. It’s made of clay or something.
[0:33:43.4] FH: No! It’s sheet metal. We weld it together. It’s an industrial art class. It reminded me that we communicated to kids about more than one alternative when they turned 18. We wanted them to stay in school. I saw in the paper where our graduation rate is up compared to the national average in this state. I think that’s awesome. We need people having a plan when they turned 18, and I think having skills is how we get beyond this debate about pay and get people more on the pursuit of happiness. Rather they want to start their own business or go to work with some —
[0:34:14.9] KM: I heard you say one day, you were talking to some people and you said that you’re glad you’re in Washington because you feel like you’re one of the few businessman and you’re not a professional politician. Can you talk about that?
[0:34:26.4] FH: Yeah. I’ve been in business, in all kinds of different business for 35 years, and when you go to D.C., you find a lot of people in the — I’ve never been in a legislative job, like an elected official or in a legislative branch. That’s a collaborative effort. You got to get people to come to your point of view. That’s the secret of legislative body.
I think experience is the best teacher there as well. If someone’s been an elected official their whole career or college professor or something like that, they don’t have the practical experience to understand what these laws do to small business people.
[0:35:02.8] KM: Weren’t you trying to put together a little pamphlet for small businesses, and the people you were trying to talk to were just dreaming up ideas to burden small business and you’re like, “Do y’all even know what you’re talking about?”
[0:35:13.2] FH: They don’t. I want to make grand statements about they don’t know. I don’t want to say that. There is a not a full understanding of the unintended consequences of somebody’s well-meaning policy idea.
[0:35:29.4] KM: Well-meaning is true.
[0:35:30.5] FH: It’s absolutely true. We’d like to do this, but what is the impact across the economy? You may help a few people here but how many people will you hurt by doing that? Small business, I think, is always bears the brunt, because if you work at some bit international corporation, you’ve lawyers and compliance people. You can always cope with it.
[0:35:51.6] KM: Was Delta Trust considered a small business?
[0:35:53.9] FH: Yeah. At our largest, we were probably about 135 employees.
[0:35:59.3] KM: Is it 500 employees or less that makes a small business?
[0:36:01.6] FH: Typically, the SBA says that. They have a sales number two, but 500 employees to me is a very big business.
[0:36:08.1] KM: It seems like it to me.
[0:36:10.0] FH: That's another example of the government. They think 500 is small. If you have a small business, 500 is like an army. What are you talking about? The government has come up with that, and that's just an example of what I'm talking about. I serve on the house financial services committee that works on rules that deal with community banks or how to get capital to small business. All those sorts of things we deal with, and I just try to use my voice and my experience to help make recommendations.
[0:36:41.5] KM: You're listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy, and my guest; Congressman French Hill. We have caller.
[0:36:49.5] TB: Caller, you’re on the air.
[0:36:50.2] KM: Hello, you’re listening to KABF with French Hill. Do you have a question for us?
[0:36:54.1] Q2: I just like a comment if I could.
[0:36:56.0] KM: Sure.
[0:36:56.3] Q2: I enjoy the program. What a timey topic. You’re talking about free trade. I don’t know if that was brought up at every presidential debate we’ve had the last couple of weeks, but I want to also say I do agree with Congressman Hill. I think $15 an hour, it might sound good on paper, but it’s not just realistic. If it costs jobs, probably not a good idea.
I did want to make a comment about something that I now a little bit about in my industry that I work in, and that’s the automotive industry. There’s a huge need for skilled automotive technicians, people that work on cars. Part of the reason that is, is because, A; people are keeping cars longer. They’re not trading as often. There’s more repairs needed down the road. B; the technology on automobiles has changed so quickly. Just the last four or five years, different kind of engines, hybrid engines and so forth that there’s a big need out there. I know there’s a lot of the high schools have automotive technology programs and I think that [inaudible 0:37:54.8] county has an automotive program and a lot of dealerships will hire people and help them on an apprentice level to get those skills needed.
I just want to say I enjoy the program and you guys keep it up and I guess I’ll hang up to listen.
[0:38:09.7] KM: Okay, good. Thanks for calling. I had no idea that we had a shortage of automobile mechanics. I had no idea. I don’t even know how you can do that anymore. They’re also computerized. They’d have to go to a computer school computer. You’d have to have a computer science degree to work on a car these days, it seems like.
[0:38:25.0] FH: This gets back to my point about skilled workforce. I think the caller is 100% right.
[0:38:30.8] KM: That would be skilled workforce.
[0:38:32.3] FH: It is. That's what I mean by helping someone in high school before they turn 18 and graduate, determine, “Hey, I think I'm going to go down the route of learning a skill,” like auto mechanics and auto technician repair, which is more complex now. There’s probably a two-year apprenticeship schooling process on that. The best thing sort of like that I've seen in the metro area is Arkansas State University, ASUBB has a partnership with John Deere, and they are one of 17 centers around the country, the John Deere Dealership. This is both for big combines as well as yard type equipment, mowers. They hire a promising young person at their dealership and then they send them to ASUBB where they’re in a couple of year program and they are getting fully certified and all the technician work, the technical work of these modern engines and modern engine repair and mechanical work. What John Deere does for ASUBB is give them new equipment every year. That's the hard part.
[0:39:38.8] KM: That’s so smart.
[0:39:39.4] FH: These schools can't afford and upgrade the hottest diesel engine or the newest Ford motor technical work, and so that partnership between industry and the school it was I think works the best and having an old car that doesn't all exist —
[0:39:55.9] KM: How is old blue?
[0:39:56.7] FH: Blue is struggling, and therefore she's right outside the studio waiting [inaudible 0:40:02.4].
[0:40:02.2] KM: Oh my gosh! I got to have a picture made with old blue. You pick me up in old blue one time.
[0:40:06.4] FH: I'm sorry. I hope it was okay.
[0:40:08.7] KM: I did now know you owned a bank. I did know you were the president of Rotary. You said, “Kerry, I’m going to take you to lunch somewhere and talk to you about business or something.” I said, “Okay.” I met you and some other ladies and we went to lunch and you picked me up in that car and I thought, “What the heck is this car? Who is this guy?” Later, someone says, “You know, he owns a bank.” I’m like, “What? He does not own a bank.”
[0:40:28.6] FH: Yeah. Old blue is doing great. This is issue, old blue is ’97, ’98. When you think about the changes —
[0:40:37.9] KM: You’re exactly the person the caller was talking about. People are keeping their cars a long time.
[0:40:42.5] FH: No, that’s right. Think about the issues here. Not only is that a technician have to keep up with the newest trends that Ford or whoever is producing that are so modern. Many many parts, 10,000 parts, a lot of electronics, but you’ve also got customers bringing in old cars that you’ve go to keep up with.
[0:41:01.8] KM: Crazy customers.
[0:41:02.3] FH: Right. Whatever.
[0:41:04.6] KM: People always say this, “Can the government be run like a business?”
[0:41:10.2] FH: Yeah, I’ve heard that.
[0:41:11.4] KM: Forever.
[0:41:11.8] FH: Yeah. I don't think so.
[0:41:13.7] KM: I don't either.
[0:41:14.6] FH: I don’t think that that sounds good, but I don't think it's a practical reality. There are things that you can bring best practices in to line management in the government, like at the veterans administration, we seem to have a terrible customer service problem sometimes due to training, record keeping, customer service on healthcare side, customer service on the benefit side. You'd like to say, “We could bring the lessons we have in business.”
Let me tell you, current appointed head of the VA; Bob McDonald, former CEO of Procter & Gamble. One of the best companies in the world, certainly knows a little something about customer service. He has this terrible time pushing down through the tens of thousands employees, that customer service mentality, that high ethical fiduciary relationship with a patient or with a vet who needs benefits analysis, and it's frustrating.
That's why you have to work through government unions. You have to work through merit system protection board, and it's just like you read about in dealing with a school district issue or anything else. Government requires a different kind of management. It doesn't get its money.
[0:42:27.9] KM: I bet he wants to pull his hair off.
[0:42:29.6] FH: Well, he doesn’t have much left, but I think he does, because he has to testify before congress.
[0:42:37.0] KM: And he’s never worked in this government situation before.
[0:42:40.2] FH: I think he’s a West Point grad. He’s a decorated service man. He’s a fine individual, but you are in this system, and we have good people sometimes in bad systems. In the civilian sector of our government, we fight this a lot.
[0:42:56.3] KM: it’s too big and too unwieldy.
[0:42:58.9] FH: It’s why congress has this obligation to do oversight, point out these things. It's why I have the Golden Fleece Award that I hand out where I think government is doing a bad job in something, because it's a way to call public attention to something that needs to change.
[0:43:15.7] KM: You’re going to have to tell us about the Golden Fleece Award. You’re listening to KABF with my guess French Hill. We’ve got about 10 minutes left. If you want to call and ask him a question or make a comment, the number to call is —
[0:43:27.2] TB: 501-433-0088.
[0:43:31.1] KM: French, if you had no constraints, is there a policy that you would like to put in place?
[0:43:36.9] FH: On sort of any topic?
[0:43:39.0] KM: Mm-hmm.
[0:43:39.7] FH: I think one of the macro areas, so whether you’re talking about the Civilian Defense Department or the US Force Service, or the National Park Service, or the VA, it would be wonderful if we had a set of common sense hiring practices where we can recruit people into these jobs, do annual performance appraisals of them and move them out they’re not performing up to standard and recruit additional people and do that in a timely, thoughtful way, and fair, that creates an esprit de corps. Where if I look up the chain of command and one of those agencies and I see the person at the top, I know that I report to that person and that I have to do a good job in order to keep my job.
[0:44:25.4] KM: That's good. I wanted to say that, but I didn’t know how to say it as great as you did. All right, we’ve got a caller. This is Kerry McCoy. You're on the air with French Hill. Do you have a question?
[0:44:32.2] Q3: I was just going to ask Congressman Hill about what are the prospects of something to replace Obamacare; number one. Number two; I don’t think there’s a lot of people that know Congressman Hill’s background and I’m not sure why that’s not brought forth a little more. He has a really really good credential backing him up.
[0:44:58.5] KM: Thank you caller. Obamacare. I wasn’t going to bring it up, but he did.
[0:45:03.0] FH: I think we've had six years of living with the Affordable Care Act, which probably should've been called the Accessible Care Act rather than the Affordable Care Act, because it did increase access in a number of ways. Really, when we look back on it six years now, it has not increased affordability for many many people.
[0:45:24.0] KM: I have to tell you, it helped my small business.
[0:45:26.9] FH: Yeah.
[0:45:27.4] KM: You want to know why?
[0:45:28.2] FH: Yeah.
[0:45:28.7] KM: Because I'm not having to compete with healthcare. I'm too small to provide healthcare. My people were two. I didn’t have enough people, and I couldn't hire good people because I couldn’t offer healthcare. Now everybody, can get healthcare through another means beside their business. It took Arkansas flag and banner out of the business of healthcare, which I liked.
[0:45:53.5] FH: I liked the idea that we create individual's ability to buy healthcare on their own.
[0:45:59.5] KM: There you go. That’s what I’m trying to say.
[0:46:00.8] FH: Because the portability aspect of that is something that we’ve never really achieved, and I do agree that that's one of the directions that’s been good. I don't know that creating sort of this trillion dollar expense machine wrapped around it was the way one could have gone that way. I think individuals by having access to individual policies that didn't have to have the Affordable Care Act’s mandated services in them would make a more affordable and lower deductibles and lower premiums even for people in the instance that you talk about, people out on the exchange for example.
That's also because of those cost driven up group plans for people to provide group coverage to their employees and some states up dramatically, 25%, 30% a year in the last few years. Individuals have lost access to some of their doctor coverages and things like that.
[0:46:59.3] KM: Have many people have gotten healthcare though because of Obamacare? A bunch.
[0:47:05.0] FH: Yeah, and Medicaid expansion, which is a part of —
[0:47:08.8] KM: Medicaid was a problem, wasn’t it?
[0:47:11.5] FH: Right. Medicaid is the Federal Government's —
[0:47:15.2] KM: Obamacare.
[0:47:16.6] FH: No. It’s how the Federal Government gives money to states to provide healthcare opportunities for the poor citizens that we have, and the Medicaid expansion expanded that access up the income ladder a little bit.
My view there is that I would prefer us to [inaudible 0:47:33.2] grant that money to the state and let the states design their own Medicaid programs and their own Medicaid expansion programs based on what the state can afford, because the federal government has mandated the services and said will pay for it for three years and then you're off on your own. I think that's probably not the way to go.
I hope we can come up with ways to replace some aspects of Obamacare and get it where people have more choices and that we can result in lower prices but more access as well.
[0:48:04.0] KM: Yeah, it needs to be tweaked a lot, I think, although I don't know anything about it. I'm so glad I'm not in politics. I could not deal — How do you keep your compassion for people and your energy, which is compassion for people, and your energy that comes from anger at the system and anger that things don't work the way they should. How do you balance all that, because I would be upset all the time, I think.
[0:48:28.7] FH: We want our country to be better and stronger. We want it to be physically strong. We want it to be strong to protect the homeland, protect our citizens at home and abroad. I am a great optimist about the United States.
[0:48:41.9] KM: You’re a great optimist, period.
[0:48:43.2] FH: We’ve had 240 years of success. We’ve weathered depression, war, terrorist attack, Pearl Harbor, 75th anniversary this coming December 7th.
[0:48:50.9] KM: You said something the other night that was so wonderful about heroes. You said something about you don’t have to know your hero to have a hero. What was it you said?
[0:48:56.7] FH: Yeah. I spent a lot of time with kids, and I have, of course, a 17-year-old who’s still on high school and I have a daughter who’s in college. I love being around kids. I love to go to high school classes, and I love to go to elementary school classes. Now, I tell kids all school, I say — I was with the Perryville AP history class at Perryville on Monday. We were talking about heroes. You don't have to know somebody to be a hero, to create all the components of a hero.
For me, when I was a kid, I had sports figures I admired, but I have figures from American history that I admired, and I pulled traits from them to create what I thought was a role model, what is a mentor. I think kids are desperate need of heroes now. We have a lot of single parent families. We have a lot of almost latchkey kids that just don't have parental supervision, and they need to have role models in aspirational opportunity —
[0:49:54.7] KM: Didn’t you go to a dedication the other day?
[0:49:56.8] FH: I did. I dedicated the Perryville Post Office for Harold George Bennett who was the first U.S. POW killed by the Vietcong in the prisoner war camp on North Vietnam.
[0:50:08.8] KM: He was from Arkansas.
[0:50:09.6] FH: He was from Arkansas, he was 24-years-old. He tried to escape three times from the Vietcong. He saved all of his unit from being killed, but he was captured in the process. He’s a great American hero and a great role model for all of us, but particularly for these young people there in Perryville.
His brother; Dickie, was there, and his two sisters and their family and it brought back memories from 52 years ago. Tough memories, but also good ones, family provide and sense of duty and honor that we admire in so many people.
[0:50:44.6] KM: Fairfield Bay. I love the story of Fairfield Bay.
[0:50:47.9] FH: Fairfield Bay is a success story. In the 90s, when Martha and I moved home to Arkansas, Fairfield Bay was a place where we’d go to retreats for business and it was a happening place. Then the Fairfield Corporation went bankrupt, and Fairfield Bay went through a slump. But it is a story of self-determination.
This mayor, the city council, and the citizens up at Fairfield Bay on the western end of Greers Ferry Lake said, “You know? We’re going to rebound. We’re going to be successful.” They got a convention and conference center reopened and spruced up that spectacular meeting place. Windham has come in and done all their condos.
[0:51:27.2] KM: Windham Hotel?
[0:51:28.3] FH: Windham Hotel Corporation took over their condos and their timeshare from the old Fairfield days. We were up dedicating the first groundbreaking on 20 Luxury Townhomes overlooking the lake at Fairfield Bay, and it’s —
[0:51:44.3] KM: When was that? This year?
[0:51:46.2] FH: We broke ground this week, and so exciting to see a mayor and a town come together, create a business plan and move their town forward.
[0:51:57.5] KM: You got to be tired. You’re everywhere, every city all the time. You run for congress. You’ll be running again. This is your 2nd term.
[0:52:03.9] FH: I’m running my first free election.
[0:52:05.4] KM: Your first free election. That’s a good way to say it. It's every two years.
[0:52:08.4] FH: Right.
[0:52:09.7] KM: That just seems like too much. But, okay.
[0:52:11.9] FH: Our founders put that in the Constitution and we love every minute of it.
[0:52:15.9] KM: We’re staying with that.
[0:52:17.0] FH: God bless.
[0:52:17.4] KM: I know it, right? Any last words for our listeners?
[0:52:20.8] FH: Just thank you for the opportunity to talk about business and talk about perseverance, and I appreciate the chance to be with you. Of course, appreciate all the listeners being supportive of me as I seek a second term.
[0:52:32.7] KM: If the listeners want to donate to your campaign, what’s the best way?
[0:52:37.0] FH: They can go to electfrench.com.
[0:52:39.0] KM: That’s pretty simple.
[0:52:40.2] FH: We don’t want to make it too complicated.
[0:52:41.8] KM: Electfrench.com. I want to thank my friend and congressman, French Hill, for joining me at the table and sharing all of his wisdom. French, everybody that visits me at the table gets a cigar for birthing businesses.
[0:52:58.1] FH: Wow!
[0:52:58.4] KM: It’s your firstborn.
[0:52:59.4] FH: I am so glad to be Up In Your Business, and thanks for the invitation.
[0:53:02.6] KM: My guest next week is Paula Dempsey, she owns Dempsey Bakery and she also had a film company. Then after that is Allen Engstrom from CFO. He does a lot of finance. He owns his own business and helps small businesses. After that, we have a musician and an actor, Rick St. Vincent. He’ll be really good.
To our listeners, I want to thank you for spending time with me and my guest, Congressman French Hill. If you think this program has been about you, you’re right, but it’s also been about me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening and that it, whatever it was today, will help you up your business, up your independence and your life. I’m Kerry McCoy, be brave, and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:53:50.9] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Want to hear today’s program again or want someone else to benefit from it? Jot this down. Within 48 hours the podcast will be available at flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labeled “Radio Show”, there you’ll find today’s segments with links to resources you heard discussed on this program. Kerry’s goal: to help you live the American Dream.