Thursday, July 30, 2015

Why I'll Never Hire You

It doesn't matter which political philosophy to which you subscribe, the hard, cold truth is that seven years after America's worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression, its economy might be off life support, but it's hardly thriving.  Government agencies tally up the data on a monthly basis, producing meaningless (and often baseless) statistics designed to measure just how well or poorly the economy is doing.  One of their favorite numbers is the unemployment rate.

I'm not here to justify one man's figures against another man's numbers. There are infinite ways to calculate the unemployment rate, producing a range of "reliable" results from 5% to 25%, depending on the extremist view to which you subscribe. I don't believe any of them. What I do believe is that the jobs lost in the Great Recession are never coming back. Not because there's no need for workers, but because beyond NAFTA and TPP, employment itself is a daunting, if not impossible, proposition.

Most people believe that businesses employ people in order to keep the business moving. The employees are the arms and legs that propel products and services through its pipelines for eventual consumption and profits.  Unfortunately, there are a lot more reasons not to hire employees, to which few people pay any heed.  I've put together a little list of those reasons, just in case you were wondering why nobody wants to hire you:

1.  I have to match your Social Security payments.  You know all those deductions taken out of your paycheck on a regular basis? Roughly 7% is what you pay into Social Security. Bet you didn't know that I, as your employer, have to match that with another 7% I pay out of my own pocket. That's makes you 7% more expensive than your salary would imply.

2. I have to pay you even when you're sick. If you're on salary and not working, I still have to pay you, which actually costs me twice as much, because I have to pay someone else your going rate to do the work you're not doing. That means my costs can double at any time, unpredictably, throwing the viability of my business into question.

3. I can't fire you, even if you do a bad job.  Even if I hire you on an "at will" basis, labor laws are such that if I fire you -- even for just cause -- you can sue me for back pay and punitive damages. Just the threat of a lawsuit will cost me time and money.

4. You can sue me if I provide a negative reference.   If you leave my company after a less than stellar performance and your next prospective employer calls me to verify what you put down on your resum√©, I can't make one negative comment, even if it's to dispel any blatant lie you may have composed. If I do, I can be sued for "costing you a potential job."

5. You might have a baby.  I can invest all kinds of time, training and money into you in hopes of retaining a long-term, productive employee for my business, only to have you get pregnant and either take leave or simply quit. There's no way I can recoup my costs from you. I just have to find someone new -- at my cost.

6.  I never know when you'll leave for another job.  It's a market economy, I get it. Which is why I can't ever be sure you're going to stay with the company or be lured away by a competitor. Since there's no real allegiance, I have to stand ready to replace you, usually in less than two weeks, because nobody wants an employee who's leaving in two weeks to spend those two weeks poisoning the rest of the crew.

7.  The government makes me pay health benefits if I have more than 25 employees. Same argument as Social Security, which chews into my business's profitability with no tangible benefit to me.  As a result, I may have to raise my prices and lose market share.

8. The government regulates the minimum hourly wage I have to pay you. No matter how unenforceable or ridiculous its programs are structured, the government dictates the minimum amount I can pay my employees, never taking into consideration how my business operates or whether it can afford it. Again, I may have to raise my prices and lose market share.

9. Any minority can sue me at any time.  No matter what you look like or where you come from, if you decide there aren't as many of your ilk in my company as you think there should be, you can sue me for discrimination -- even if your work product is inferior to those who occupy the positions you seek.  That costs me time and money -- and maybe even my business's work product quality, which ultimately can tank my entire enterprise.

Those are just nine quick reasons that give business owners pause to think before they hire. And when they do, they often arrive at two conclusions that don't involve employees:

1.  It's smarter to outsource with independent contractors.
2.  Software never calls in sick.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Political Brands 2016: Donald Trump

Every few presidential elections, the American public is treated to an event about as rare as a total eclipse: An independent candidate mounts a serious effort to claim the presidency.  Over the last century, nobody has done it successfully, but they have done effective jobs in determining who did win it.

In 1980, John Anderson launched a bid that nobody saw coming, especially that stupidest president of them all, Jimmy Carter.  Back then, Carter was an inept incumbent who'd basically tripped his way into office by essentially not being Richard Nixon. The American people were sick and tired of Watergate and "the establishment's" dishonesty and promotion of corporate interests.  Sound familiar?  

Jimmy Carter was the "people's president" in 1976, but by 1980, he'd left America in shambles and himself as a worldwide laughing stock.  Ronald Reagan stepped up to run against Carter, with Reagan's main theme being the restoration of America's greatness, lifting its economy, stronger defense and getting America back to basics. Okay, does that sound familiar?

John Anderson entered the race as an independent, whereupon Carter refused to take the national stage when it came time to debate both Reagan and Anderson -- a high profile Democrat refusing to discuss issues.  Well, that should definitely sound familiar.  Eventually, Reagan crushed Carter, but Anderson finished with 7% of the national vote -- after securing Carter's reputation as a sissy during the election.

It happened again in 1992, when businessman Ross Perot -- maybe the shortest man to run for the office -- stood on the stage and twanged about "getting back to basics" while Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush battled it out on the usual waffle-worthy issues.  Perot's arguments were, to be honest, pretty lame. They were simplistic, but they were different enough for him to claim 19% of the national vote -- enough to steal support from Bush and allow Clinton to steal the victory with only 42% of the vote.

So independents don't have to win elections to make a difference.  They just have to influence them. Enter Donald Trump.

While media and leftists love to hate him, everyone needs to pay close attention to him, because he's the perfect fed up candidate.  Like Perot and Anderson, Trump has struck a chord with a broad cross-section of the American public who are tired of dealing with problems not of their making.  They're not gay.  They're not transgender. They're not immigrants. In fact, they're not anything other than simple, basic, hard-working Americans who feel forgotten except when it comes time to pay for somebody else's bill.

Are they justified?  Maybe. But the fact is that they feel justified and nobody is taking up their cause.  Nobody is vocalizing their thoughts or speaking on their behalf -- except for Donald Trump.  Sure, some people submit Bernie Sanders is doing that, but they're wrong: Sanders tells them what he wants; Trump tells them what they feel

Think his hair looks funny?  Happy his business partners terminate relationships?  The media is totally being played by Trump, completely misunderstanding that every time a sponsor drops him, ten more line up to do business with him because they know he speaks for millions of likewise fed up voters. They claim his "brand" is destroyed, but that only proves their ignorance about what branding is and how it works.  

Laugh it up, kids. You may not like him, but Trump is the catalyst that's getting everyone talking about issues nobody really wants to discuss, in very specific terms they'd prefer to avoid. 

At this point, Democrats fear him because he's a force that could send shock waves through the Republican platform.  Republicans fear him because they don't want another Independent handing the election to Hillary Clinton.  So don't kid yourself.  Trump is more effective than you think.

Of course Donald Trump may never make it to the finish line, but at this very moment, millions of marginalized voters are actually beginning to pay attention. And if he's the guy that mobilizes interest, how bad of a thing can that be?