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Those &^*#$@ people . . .

December 6, 2009

A “frustrated” business owner I know recently exclaimed that “business would be fantastic if it wasn’t for the &^*#$@ employees!” We both knew he didn’t really mean that the way it sounded, and he was expressing the frustration of trying to run a business on the one hand while dealing with a wide diversity of demanding people (employees AND customers) on the other hand. Nobody said business would be easy.

Now is the time to be building our businesses. The conventional wisdom is that there are lots of “A” team players on the streets these days. Well, maybe so. I know several truly highly effective executives on the street due to downsizing that finally started cutting into the meat of an organization. I also know that an A player from one company may well not be an A player on another company’s team. Kira Bruno shares some thoughts on the “A” team being so “easy to find.” Right.

Hire and Fire

Hire and Fire

Frankly, I have not had any trees order my services. I have not had any dogs ask me to coach them. I have had my cats tell me where to go. (My wife sometimes agrees with them.) No buildings are writing me checks for helping them out. Okay, you get the point. We can’t earn a living, build a business, or find intellectual stimulation unless we interact with – yes, you get it, people. Even when we are out of work, most of us want human interaction of some kind.

Many of us speak about how our people are our most important asset. We may actually believe that too. Yet, when times get tough and we begin looking at how to survive on less and less revenue, people are quickly found to be expenses not assets. Sad, and we wish it were different, but it is true that for many businesses the largest expense we have is payroll. And that’s where the major savings potential lies.

Right now it appears that we may be bumping along the bottom in the present economic downturn. We hope to see a halt or at least severe slow down in the layoffs and a gradual pickup on the hiring side of things. In a survey of 9,000 U.S. workers, 29% said their employers are laying people off, the highest rate since July, according to Rasmussen Reports. That compares with 14% who are hiring. So hopefully, this is the “last gasp” before we start hiring full time employees. Part time employment, a leading indicator to full time, is picking up a bit. That’s good news.

So back to my point. Now is the time to start rebuilding and restructuring our companies. If you have major projects such as updating your ERP, putting in a new CRM or investing in capital equipment or real estate, now is a good time to do that – assuming you have the cash. We will be paying back our debt with inflated dollars in the years to come. I make the assumption that you will not become over leveraged as so many people have been over the last several years. Be cautiously optimistic and make sound investments in your company.

Now is also the time to think about our people assets. I advocate making the assumption that despite the various opinions to the contrary, there are many highly and even over qualified executives and professionals ready to get back to work or change positions. I’m picking up a theme as I work with executives in transition. They are coming to the conclusion that: a) they have much more to contribute, b) they want to continue contributing, c) they will not likely find a position at the same pay package level they previously enjoyed, and d) they got married for “better or worse,” NOT for lunch at home. They and their spouse want them to be back to productive work. Not only for financial reasons; rather for the intellectual challenge they crave. This all adds up to an employers’ market in my book. I highly recommend taking a chance on a senior executive (I mean experienced here, not age particularly – although they seem to track!) who can add a great deal of value to your team. The work ethic is usually high with these hard chargers and they are grateful to be contributing once again.

So where are you on the hiring/layoff chart? Are you as a business owner hiring yet? Part time? Full time? Would you consider putting a highly qualified executive on your payroll and developing a position specifically tailored to her or him even though you don’t have that position developed yet? If you are an employee, what’s your company doing now? Hiring? Still laying off?