A Mutual Investment
Working For More Than Just Profit
I like to keep things simple. I really do. But if you judged me by the way I run my printing company, you wouldn't know it. It's a slightly different discipline for me because there is so much more at stake. On any given day, so many things can go wrong that you have to stop and wonder, “why in the world would anyone ever want to do this for a living?” All I can tell you is it's in my blood. My mother and stepfather started out in the business in 1978, and I grew up meandering through every part of the shop, learning every aspect of the trade.
Printing is anything but simple. No, I take that back: *running* a printing company is anything but simple. But I persevere, albeit on my own terms. And therein lies my *problem* that so many well-intended persons have tried to remedy: my immutable terms. Repeatedly, I hear (paraphrasing, of course):
"Why do you allow yourself to put up with .... [ fill-in any first-rate headache you can think of ].... when anyone else in his right mind would .... [ add something common sensical and obvious ]. That's just crazy! You're not being sensible."
And they're right. I'm not. I realize that I can easily solve most of my financial challenges and save myself a ton of stress by simply letting people go, cutting hours, and reducing benefits to employees. But, that's not the direction I choose to go in. I struggle with the fact that every solution offered to me by consulting firms, banks, colleagues, friends, and staff must be at the expense of others. Or that I have to pull someone down or cut someone off in order to improve my prospects.
I look at it this way:
Having employees is like a mutual investment. As a business, my partner Bill Leishear, and I are hoping that we can find the best talent our money can buy to improve our productivity, innovation, and ultimately our bottom line. For the employee it's financial security, an opportunity for growth, and a means to building a future of his or her own (wherever that may lead.) Now We have all types of employees -- from the truly dedicated to the truly disengaged -- but let's take your average worker. Comes to work, does his or her job, and gives 100% (well, maybe 92% — good enough). They get the job done. Again, I'm talking about your average worker. The thing is I know that they care about the work they do, and that they buy into the quality of services that we as a company provide. We need each other in order for this to work. Bill and I need them in order to have a business to run, and they rely on us to find a market for the skills and services they provide us. Essentially, they need us to keep the doors open.
My point is:
I like the guys that we have. And I want to do whatever I can to keep them working. These people have already made the investment, simply by being here and committing themselves to 40 plus hours a week. And, I am not going to be that asshole who puts profits before people. I've been on the other side of that kind of thinking; I know how that plays out. So it's our responsibility (mine and Bill's) to honor their commitment and time invested, and essentially hold up our end. It's not easy, but I can't let go of the notion that people matter. Even in business. Without them, what is the point to any of this?
Yes, I have a problem. I'm not preaching. I'm just not convinced that these are my only options. All in all, I do all right. I manage the chaos pretty well (though, not everyone will agree with me), and we're starting to turn a corner. As a business owner, I won't lie to you, we are constantly looking for ways to cut costs, and if we can find it, and it helps our bottom line, we will jump at it. So I'm not saying that sacrifices won't be made, and I'm still open to suggestions. In the meantime, I'm gonna hold out as long as I can for something more clever than lay-offs.
So much for keeping my life simple.