Tag Archive for 'unemployment'

Why I Thanked My Boss for Firing Me

In 1989 I was managing the national ad sales effort for a sports magazine, based out of my home office. Having designed that office space as part of the house I’d built a dozen years earlier when I was a territory sales rep for Xerox, I was home-based long before being home-based was cool.

At 8:30am one Monday the phone rang – of course, I was at my desk. The caller was a boss who got to the point: They had a new plan for how they were going to market, but I wasn’t going to be part of their plan. The call was over by 8:35.

As I collected my thoughts, the first clear one was that I’d better dust off my resume. After all, I had a pretty good one: 23 years of successful corporate employment, from sales rep to C-Suite. And then there were those five other details: a wife, two teenagers and two mortgages.

But for some reason, I couldn’t pull the trigger. I remember thinking, “I don’t need any help screwing up my life; I can do that by myself.” So at 8:36am, my Macintosh and I designed the logo and business cards for my new business, Jim Blasingame & Associates, Business Consultants. At that moment the Mac and a laser printer were my associates.

Reinvention was nothing new to me. I had successful tenures in more than one industry over the years. But this trip was new because I was now going to work the high-wire act of entrepreneurs, which by definition means without a net. A professor friend calls it, “Living by your wits.”

That life-changing phone call came 26 years ago this week and I’ve since reinvented myself as a business owner at least one other time. Along my entrepreneurial journey there have been good times and bad times. Speaking of the latter, there were times when I didn’t know if I would be in business one more hour, let along another day. Entrepreneurship is not for sissies.

But in all the time since that momentous call I’ve never looked back – even when offered a job during one of those tough times. I’ve loved being a small business owner for the past 26 years, warts and all, for one prime reason: ownership. But not just business ownership.

This might sound strange, but I love that I have ownership of the challenges, too. All of them, against all odds. Because when you own the challenges, by definition you own the opportunities you turn them into.

Money and stuff are just ways to keep score. Claiming ownership of a Tyrannosaurus Rex business-eating challenge and turning it into your advantage is, to me, what being a small business owner is all about.  Perhaps you can relate.

By the way, within a year I called that boss and thanked him for firing me.

Write this on a rock …

Ring, ring … “Hello. Oh, hi, boss. What? I’m fired? Okay. Thank you very much.”

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

Does the U.S. need another Jobs Council?

Unemployment just went up – to 7.9%. The economy just went down – negative growth in the 4th quarter 2012. Consumer confidence (Conference Board) and small business optimism (NFIB) both are down.

The government is experiencing annual operating deficits of over $1 trillion and the national debt, over $16 trillion, is on par with GDP. Let’s put that last number another way: if the U.S. were a business, it would owe as much as it sells.

With this set of realities facing our nation, it’s interesting that President Obama chose to say very little about the economy in his second inaugural address, but did talk about his climate change agenda. We wanted to know what small business owners think about the president’s priorities, so last week we asked this question in our online poll: “The President said climate change will be a major focus of his second term. What do you think?” Here’s what we were told.

Those who said, “I agree. Climate change is our greatest problem,” came in at 6%. The middle group, at 38%, believes the president “… should focus on economy recovery more than climate change.” And the rest, 56%, allowed that Mr. Obama “… should focus on the deficit and debt more than climate change.”

Clearly President Obama is watching a different ballgame than 94% of small business owners, plus we just learned that his Jobs Council was disbanded after two years. This 25-member committee is noteworthy because of the make-up of the roster: big business CEOs (16), venture capitalists (3), academia (1), politics (1), union bosses (2), and 1 – count them, ONE – small business owner.

That’s right, the group that signs the front of the largest batch of payroll checks (70 million) every week in America and has created almost every net new job for more than a generation was represented on the President’s Jobs Council by one very brave small business owner, Darlene Miller, CEO of Permac Industries, Burnsville, MN 55306. Permac has 30 employees.

Miller has been a guest on my radio program and recently told me she believes the Jobs Council actually did create jobs. But if that’s true, with more than 20 million Americans still unemployed or underemployed, shouldn’t it still be in business?

Well, the truth is the president doesn’t need a Jobs Council to create more jobs. He just needs to spend his efforts on policies that make America’s job creators think he’s watching the same ballgame as they are.

Small business owners will create more jobs when the government stops acting like it’s working against them.

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Recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I also talked about the lack of businesspeople in President Obama’s cabinet plus the failure of the Jobs Council with Rick Newmanchief business correspondent for U.S. News & World Report. Click on one of the links below to hear what he and I had to say. I’m also interested in what you think, so please leave a comment.

Why no business people on Obama’s cabinet? with Rick Newman

Obama is not watching the same ballgame as small businesses with Jim Blasingame

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Small Business Advocate Poll: The truth about unemployment

The Question:
Will you give the President credit for the drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8%?

17% - Yes - It shows his policies are creating new jobs.

81% - No - it doesn’t include those who stopped looking for work.

2% - Undecided.

My Commentary:
Recently, the U3 unemployment rate was reported to have dropped to 7.8%. For the entire time President Obama has been in office, this indicator has been above 8%, which historically does not bode well for the incumbent facing reelection.

We wanted to know how small business owners felt about this new number, so last week we asked this question on our online poll: “Will you give the President credit for the drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8%.” Here’s what you told us.

Seventeen percent said they would indeed give the president credit because “… his policies are creating new jobs.” Those who were undecided came in at 2%. But the big number - 81%, said they would not give the president credit because, “… it doesn’t include those who stopped looking for work.”

U3 is the classic unemployment metric most often referred to, but it is basically a household survey, not a comprehensive standard. In any other context, such a statistic would be considered no more than a rule of thumb. The more comprehensive metric is U6, which includes those who are unemployed and under-employed.

As I have been reporting for at least two years, U6 unemployment is closer to 15%. In human terms, more than 20 million Americans are either unemployed or not employed to their qualifications. Plus this number does not include those who have given up looking for work - or the record number who have recently switched from unemployment to disability.

Regardless of which metric is used, the U.S. has a serious and chronic unemployment problem not seen since the Great Depression. And it will take people who understand how the economy works to help job creators turn this around.

The thing that gives me hope for America’s future is that our poll indicates small business owners are not naïve or uniformed about the truth.

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Click here to listen to more of what I have to say about the politics of unemployment percentages on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

America needs jobs in all the Crayola colors

It is generally stipulated among political experts and interested observers of the 2012 election cycle that the presidential contest will be heavily weighted toward the condition of the economy, especially unemployment.

The unemployment metric most often cited by the media and politicians, called U-3, is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and was recently reported to be 8.3%, or just over 12 million Americans. This number does not include those who have given up looking for a job or transferred onto Social Security disability.

But there is another statistic tracked by the BLS called U-6, which covers a more comprehensive unemployment universe, including those who have stopped looking and those who are involuntarily underemployed. The most recent U-6 number came in at 14.8% of the workforce, or more than 22 million Americans. Expect to hear more about U-6 between now and November 6.

It can also be stipulated that the Obama Administration has been keen to promote “green jobs,” seemingly, at times, at the expense of not-so-green jobs. We wanted to know what small business owners think about this type of economic focus, so we asked this question in a recent online poll: “Emphasizing ‘green jobs’ has been a big part of the Obama Administration’s plan for the direction of the U.S. economy. Do you agree with this plan?” Here’s what we learned:

Those who said, “Government should significantly influence conversion to a green economy,” came in at 15% of our sample. The other 85% said, “Innovation and customers should decide how the marketplace converts to green.” This topic apparently brings out strong feelings, because none of our respondents were “Uncertain.”

Another stipulation we can make is that everyone likes it when a “green job” is created. First, it’s a job. Second, it’s good for the environment. And third, well, it just makes us feel good. But right now, what America needs is for the millions of small businesses to create any kind of jobs – period! It shouldn’t matter if it’s green, brown, periwinkle, or any other color in the Crayola box; we need all kinds of jobs – and we need millions of them as soon as possible.

In America’s free market economy, jobs are a product of opportunity and a casualty of fear and uncertainty. Small businesses are telling Washington to promote opportunity for all jobs with policies that minimize fear and uncertainty.

A single-minded focus on green jobs isn’t good economics, policy or politics.

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Yesterday on my radio program I talked more about the focus on green jobs and why I - and 85% of my viewers - believe the government should provide opportunities for all businesses, not just green ones. I’ve also had a conversation with Ray Keating, Chief Economist of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council about why there are policies and regulations that favor green jobs, sometimes at the expense of other jobs. Click on the links below to download or listen.

Also, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on whether the government should create specific policies for and subsidize green jobs.

What kind of jobs does President Obama like? with Ray Keating

America needs jobs in all the Crayola colors with Jim Blasingame

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Small Business Advocate Poll: Are you worried about declining American manufacturing?

The Question:
Are you worried that America has lost too many manufacturing jobs over the past 20 years?

75% - Yes, and we should do what we can to bring those jobs back to the U.S.

25% - No, the 21st century economy naturally has fewer manufacturing jobs


Jim’s Comments:

It is the height of understatement to say that the issue of creating and preserving manufacturing jobs is complicated. Manufacturing jobs are influenced by globalization, technology, politics, capital markets and customer expectations, just to name a few.

Nevertheless, when Americans are asked what should be done about manufacturing jobs in the U.S., the response, as we see with our poll this week, almost always indicates that the solution is simpler than it really is.

As you can see above, three-fourths of our respondents said “Just bring the jobs back,” while the rest are more willing to acknowledge the forces that are influencing the evolution of the marketplace. I will have more to say about this in the next week or so. Stay tuned.

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

The Blame Game

Recently, in the Small Business Advocate poll, we asked this question: Who do you think is most responsible for the current state of the U.S. economy? Here are the results:

27% - Congress

18% - President Obama

55% - Both

Jim’s Comments:

Lately, we’ve been asking what you think of President Obama’s attempts to create jobs in America. Some of our audience members said, “Hey, you’re picking on Obama - what about Congress?”

Well, there are at least two reasons why we don’t think we’ve been picking on the prez:

  1. He’s the president. It’s his watch. He asked for the job. To paraphrase President Truman, he occupies the desk upon which the buck stops.
  2. He has put his jobs plans right out there, expending a lot of words and taxpayer money on various jobs programs of which he has taken full ownership.

Nevertheless, we do agree that Congress shouldn’t be left out. So last week in our online poll, we asked this question: “Who do you think is most responsible for the current state of the U.S. economy?” Here are the results.

All by himself, President Obama did better this week, with only 18% of our voters putting all of the responsibility for our troubled economy on his shoulders. The 535 occupants of the big building on the other end of Pennsylvania Ave. faired a little worse, with 27% of our respondents blaming Congress.

The big number was reserved for Team Politic. More than half of you said both the president and Congress were to blame for the economy, which includes the worst sustained unemployment conditions in generations.

I’m not trying to be controversial, but with these kinds of numbers so close to the next election, and with the economy not expected to improve dramatically over the next 13 months, I’m predicting a major housecleaning in all three houses. Not along party lines, but along the lines of the political class - members of both parties who have long forgotten what they were sent to Washington to do and who they were sent to represent.

For my part, it’s about time.

I talked more on The Small Business Advocate Show about who is to blame for our current economic troubles. Click here to listen or download what I have to say, and while you’re there, see what other people are saying about the economy.

Be sure to take this week’s poll HERE!

Access other great SBA content HERE!




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