Batman's letter is, among other things, an impassioned defense of the role business owners play in our economy, and a rant against class warfare and collectivism. Batman also explicates the role his Catholic faith has in his worldview, and throws in an allusion to Atlas Shrugged for good measure. Below are two brief excerpts:
I am a product of public schools, local community college, and state university. I am only marginally educated beyond my intelligence. I was taught to think rigorously.
No job was ever beneath my dignity. I did farm work, drove a tractor to plow fields, operated a combine to harvest summer wheat, cut and stacked hay, navigated a Sunday morning newspaper route, was a fry cook at Kentucky Fried Chicken, cutter in a beef packing plant, roughneck on a drilling rig, night clerk at a liquor store, a bouncer at a discotheque, and I even trapped and killed gophers on a golf course. Yep, I was the original Carl Spackler in “Caddyshack.”
My parents never financially helped me because they could not, despite their desires to do so. They did the best they could in life and they would not have ever considered asking for a handout from anybody. I would never change one thing about my upbringing.
My wife and I started our company in 1992 with an $88,000 investment from our savings, a few untapped credit cards, a month-to-month rental on an executive suite, no customers and no employees. All we had was a dream, the willingness to work very hard and to honor the promises we made to people.
We lived frugally and saved money which allowed us to have options and choices in life like starting a business. For the first thirteen years of marriage, we lived in a 1,200 square foot home with our two young sons with mortgage payments of only $650/month. Frugality ruled the day and it still rules.
For two years after the start of the business, I drew less than a $30,000 salary, living mostly on additional savings. For the ensuing five years, I drew a salary substantially below my market value just to make the business work. This is the price a working class business owner pays for happiness.
Sixteen years later, we have a national payroll of over $125 million and the pride we feel is for the creation of so many good jobs and the opportunity to serve those we love.
A life centered on high and unchanging values is central to the life of a working class business owner. For me, the virtue of personal responsibility is so important that I will not even give a permanent job to my sons. They cannot even apply for a job at my company. They are not entitled to one from me. I love them and I only owe them a good education and an education in those life values essential to their personal joy, significance and meaning. They will be better and happier men for it.
You may not agree with all of what Tony writes, but perhaps you will find it worth reading, as I did.