Last week’s post was about the business community and the government working together to create a climate conducive to job growth. That was the Business community with a big B. This week I want to address the lower case b, the men and women like me who run companies or are in management and in a position to hire. It is up to us too. We cannot just wait on the sidelines and expect our government or someone else to take action. The private sector must act too. In recent columns I have told workers they must take risks and I have urged the government to do so as well. Now it’s our turn.
I ask us all to look critically at our workforces and find an opportunity to hire. If every business in America expanded its payroll by even just one, it would have an effect. Will it end unemployment? Of course not, but there is no one action, no magic bullet that will fix things. It will be many actions taken by individual employers and employees supported by business and government policies that encourage investment, innovation, and growth. Yes, it’s a scary time to invest but waiting for some nonexistent perfect moment isn’t realistic. An SIA article on September’s temporary job growth quoted Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at The Conference Board: “Employers are not going to step up hiring unless demand picks up. But consumers are not going to spend more until employment strengthens. There is no help on the way from monetary or fiscal policy, at the federal, state, or local level.” This stalemate is a part of the problem – if neither side budges first, which is where we have been for months, then the stalemate continues and we all continue to lose.
This situation reminds me of the story of Henry Ford, who paid his assembly line workers more than the prevailing wage because he wanted them to be able to afford his cars. If businesses want confident consumers who are ready to spend, then perhaps we need to help create those consumers. Do you anticipate new business in six months? Hire early. Has your business picked up to the point that you have employees routinely working overtime, essentially parsing part- or full- time positions among existing workers instead of hiring help? Hire now. I support finding a way to bring offshore profits back to the U.S. but what about existing cash reserves? Do you have money to invest but you’re waiting? How about increasing the confidence of your current workforce with a raise or a bonus? Can you help create jobs through your purchasing power? Is your company’s spending helping to grow our economy? Can you buy American, or locally, more often? I’m not suggesting anyone abandon their bottom line entirely, but sometimes the additional cost is only pennies and the intangible return substantial. Some choices can turn out to be less expensive in the long run (e.g., additional workers = reduced overtime = less frazzled, more focused employees).
Through our own individual hiring and buying practices large and small business owners can, and must help fix our economy. There are things that I want to see changed in terms of tax codes and regulatory requirements because I believe they stifle business growth and healthy competition but I think business owners also need to be realistic and flexible. Running a business entails risk and waiting until everything is exactly right is impossible: you can never reduce your risk to zero. With that in mind, think about whether you can take a risk today and help put America back to work!
President and CEO