Allow me to lay a foundation for some context as it relates to the incredible hurdles the government of Palmetto Bay presents to those who wish to make the Village their business home. My name is James Thomas. I’m past president of the Rotary Club of Palmetto Bay, past Chairman of the Board of the Palmetto Bay Business Association, and past Chairman of the Board of the Economic Development Council of South Dade. When I served in these positions it was not uncommon for those who wished to start a business in Palmetto Bay to come to me to see if our organizations could help them in their frustrations as it relates to the ridiculous hoops the Village wants you to jump through in order to do business in “their” community. It’s now my turn to experience what my colleagues went through.
For a few years one of my companies had offices in Palmetto Bay but we moved to a more centralized location in the county. Fast forward a year or so and we decide to put a small satellite office, a 250 square foot professional space in the Palmetto Bay Centre (US 1 at SW 157 Ave.) in order to better service our clients in the south part of the county. Wanting to do the right thing, I go to Village Hall to obtain an occupational license; that’s when the ridiculousness began. You’d think at least one of the employees would smile and say, “Welcome to the Village.” Nope. The first thing was, “Have you had an office in the Village before?” Yes; “Then let me check to see if you have any outstanding permits so I can assess the fines.” What? I knew it could only get worse from here. She hands me a stack of papers (15 pages) and tells me I need to get a building permit and an occupational license; afterwards I must go to DERM and then the Fire Department has to inspect. All this for a 250 square foot professional office with a desk and a computer of which you pay rent month to month. Really? If I could have gotten back my deposit I would have and simply said no thank you. So I ask her why do I need a building permit (with required drawings and a check) accompanied by the signature of the building owner/manager, folio number, etc., etc.? I’m not building anything; I am occupying a 250 square foot professional office space that has been used for the same purpose in the Village since they built the place. “Those are the rules,” she said.
Before it’s over, I will end up writing one check to Village for the building permit, another check to the Village for the occupational license, a check to DERM (to inspect a building that has already been inspected), and a check to the Fire Department (to inspect a building that has already been inspected).
I fill out the information the best I can and then I leave the stack of papers for my new building manager to sign as well. A few days later he calls me to pick up the paperwork and I return it to Village Hall. By the way, the building manager has other properties in the county and confirmed with me that Village is the most complicated. “They need to streamline the process,” he tells me.
I go back to Village Hall and there is a new customer service agent (I use that term VERY loosely as I don’t think she has ever cracked a smile either) who processes half my paperwork, inputs it into the computer, takes my check, and then lets me know that a building inspector will be by to inspect the office space. But I’m not building anything. It’s a 250 square foot professional office with a desk and a computer. “Those are the rules,” she said.
The next day I get a call from the first unhappy customer service person from the Village and she leaves me a voice mail that I have improperly turned in the paperwork in the wrong order. The permit must come first and then the occupational license next. Furthermore, what I did turn in must be notarized so I have to start over. Really? She emailed me all the paperwork presumably to start over. My question is, if it was wrong then why did the second customer service agent accept it, input it into the computer, take my check, and then advise me that a building inspector would be by to approve my plans (for the space I am not building out).
It’s time to take action to see why it is so difficult to do business in Palmetto Bay!!! Therefore, I called the mayor. “It’s not my problem, call the manager,” he tells me. So I call the manager and leave a message; no return call. By the way, didn’t the current vice-mayor run as part of his platform that he would change the poor customer service to excellent customer service as it relates to Village employees? Apparently that was just an empty campaign promise.
I still don’t have a building permit or an occupational license but I am paying rent in Palmetto Bay. When do I get to practice my trade and quit running around filling out ridiculous paperwork for people who obviously have no idea what it takes to run a small business?
In conclusion, it is my experience that either the Village of Palmetto Bay does not care about small business or they simply have such terrible customer service skills that they don’t know how to treat the people they are supposed to assist. The Village has a systemic customer service problem that is ingrained in its corporate culture that flows from the mayor and manager all the way to the support staff. They might as well hang a sign on the front door of Village Hall that says, “If you have a small business, go away…we don’t want you.”
As an adjunct professor at the local college and as a business consultant I will share my experience with others so they may carefully consider their options before trying to hang their proverbial shingle in the Village of Palmetto Bay.
Dr. Thomas has earned both a Masters and Doctorate Degree in Business Administration, is CEO of Computer Systems and Software, Inc. (www.cssITsolutions.com) and COO of The Guayabera Lady., Inc. (www.TheGuayaberaLady.com). He serves as Chairman of the Board of the Guayabera Lady Foundation (a not-for-profit 501C3) that assists children with special needs (www.TheGuayaberaLadyFoundation.org).