Monthly Archive for April, 2014

SBA Poll Results: Generational Gap

The Question:
Are differences in communicating and expectations between the generations a problem in the workplace today?

26% - Yes, it’s a big problem and getting worse.

3% - It’s been a big problem but is getting better.

51% - We’ve had some issues, but we’re managing it.

21% - No, it’s not a problem and never has been.

My Comments:
The challenge of effective communication between the different generations is not a new issue. Indeed, it’s been going on for millennia. But we’re just now in a time when there are more generations in the workplace than any other time in my career. So we wanted to know how things are today with our poll question last week.

Frankly, I was surprised by the results you see above. I’ll have more to say about this in the Feature Article next week. Stay tuned and thanks for participating.

Small business ethics

While talking with an attorney friend of mine, our topic of discussion was about professional behavior in the marketplace. She reminded me that attorneys have very specific ethical and professional standards that are published, plus a well developed monitoring organization, complete with sanctioning authority.

The story is quite similar for CPA’s, architects, medical doctors, or any securities representative such as stock brokers, financial planners, etc. Much of the behavioral track these professionals run on is pretty well spelled out for them. Not that the members of these groups need to be led or coerced into good professional behavior. It’s just that, when in doubt, they have published guidelines with which to refer.

Small business owners operate in the same marketplace as the so-called professionals. Indeed, they are often our clients and customers. We serve the same businesses and consumers as other professionals, plus we enter into similar relationships, contracts and agreements. And we often find ourselves perched precariously on the same horns-of-a-dilemma as other professionals. But here’s the difference: The Universal Small Business Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics doesn’t exist.

Small business owners, like all humans, ultimately behave according to their own moral compass, sense of fair play and inclination to deal in good faith. When we find ourselves in a quandary over how to respond to a difficult situation with a customer that is in the gray area of a contract, we’re on our own. When we are faced with an ethical issue that would challenge King Solomon, there is no sanctioning body or support group to dial up, or to whom we can email a “scenario.”

There are many ancient codes small business owners can turn to for behavioral guidance in the marketplace, such as the last three of the Ten Commandments. But in terms of a handy guide, I think philosopher and 1957 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Albert Camus, may have given us the best ethical vector when he wrote, “Integrity has no need of rules.”

Wise small business owners know that life is much simpler, and exceedingly more rewarding, when we just do the right thing.

The greatest challenges of small business owners today

Ask any small business owner how business is and even those who honestly report, “It’s great!” will also likely say, “But we can always use more.”

Knowing this about the heroes of Main Street, to find out what’s really going on you have to ask the way we did recently in our online poll: “What’s the greatest challenge for your business right now?” Below are five options we provided, the responses, and my thoughts.

It was surprising to learn that less than 10% reported “Finding qualified people” was their big concern, which was down from past surveys. Some sources estimate there may be 4 million positions going wanting for qualified candidates, so my speculation is that this change has more to do with the economy than talent supply.

And it was interesting that less than 10% of our sample were troubled by Obamacare impacting their HR strategy, also down from past polls. Perhaps the fear factor has diminished since the president delayed the employer mandate to 2015. We’ll see if this response changes next year.

According to Dr. Bill Dunkleberg, Chief Economist for the NFIB, who’s polled small business owners for 40 years, their single greatest concern over this period has been taxes and regulations. But when we offered this option in our poll, only one-fourth of our folks chose it. Since taxes and regulations have actually increased in the past five years, the next response represents what it took to knock these perennial pains off the top.

The big number in our poll came in at 58% for, “We need more sales.” This response has to be juxtaposed over another response we’ve received for the past five years, which is that consistently three-quarters of small businesses feel they’re operating in a stagnant economy. At this stage of a recovery, the economy should be growing at 4%. But when you see this response from the sector that creates over half of U.S. GDP, it’s not difficult to understand why the economy has barely averaged 2% growth per year.

Response to the next option supports the previous one. Only 3% said, “We need a bank loan.” For five years small businesses that survived the Great Recession did so by de-leveraging and learning how to operate more efficiently. Bank loans are the primary source of small business growth capital, but when the economy isn’t growing so goes business loans.

Wall Street, once the leading indicator of the economy is now merely a leading indicator of itself. The new leading economic indicator is Main Street. If you want the economy to grow, create conditions that foster small business growth

If the economy is the chicken, small business is the egg.

Are You Hidebound Or Visionary?

In this week's video I talk about being a Hidebound or Visionary seller. Which one are you and what are the consequences?

SBA Poll Results: What is your greatest challenge?

The Question
What is your greatest challenge right now for your business?

58% - It’s simple: we need more sales.

8% - We’re growing but can’t find qualified people to hire.

24% - High taxes and onerous regulations.

8% - Obamacare has really complicated our benefits strategy.

3% - We need a business loan from a bank.

My Comments:
As you can see, the usual suspects showed up as the top challenges of small businesses. I’m going to have more to say about all of these responses in my Feature Article next week, as I break down the meaning of each one. Stay tuned and thanks for participating.

On top of a fence post

A while back I heard someone accept an award by telling this story. He said, “I once saw a turtle on top of a fence post. The first thing that struck me was that the turtle surely had not gotten there by himself.”

The gentleman went on to accept the award on behalf of all those who had helped him get to the top of his “fence post”.

If you are the owner, employer, and/or manager of a team of people, next time you find yourself “on top of a fence post”, make sure that you recognize the others who helped you to reach your lofty perch.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but remember, Newton’s law of gravity is especially active around fence posts. It’s handy to have people around who will want to break your fall in case you find yourself experiencing Mr. Newton’s law in an untimely descent from on high.

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