Sunday, October 25, 2009

What's Really Going On?

I've been hearing a lot of grumbling from my customers about their jobs.

I've been advising them not to quit.

I love the phrase "more productive" because what that really seems to mean is getting more work out of fewer workers. That's capitalism.

Sadly, I think these economic times are allowing bosses to be a bit more bossy.

But I really don't get a sense that these 20 - 35 year old workers are quite getting the message, either. I hear an awful lot of -- "I can't live on that wage. I can't take that job because it isn't enough...."

Not sure what to say to some of them; many of those higher waged jobs aren't coming back, at least to Bend. Unemployment is tiding them over, but a lower wage job is anathema to them. Leaving town may be the only option, presuming it's better anywhere else.

There is quite a bit in the news about the 'underemployed' which makes it seem even more alarming. But my observation from street level is that the 'shadow' employment is probably almost as big or bigger than the underemployment. An awful lot of people seem to generating income that isn't strictly 'real' jobs -- even though they're being paid.

I've come to realize, too, that times like this actually produce MORE competition rather than LESS. Not well capitalized competition, mind you. Bootstrap competition. Like in all business start-up scenarios, some will succeed and most won't. The ones that don't will be in even worse shape after it's over. I guess my advice is -- if you are willing to work harder for less money, especially at the beginning, then by all means open a business. If you think it's going to replace that high paying job?

Not so much.

Obama's request that small business loans be ramped up? All I can see is increased borrowing, which I think is exactly the wrong thing to do right now. But that's coming from someone who is cutting all borrowing, not adding to my borrowing.

I'm afraid this whole stock market increase is nothing more than extend and pretend. Just as borrowing money to open businesses is putting off paying the piper. Just as borrowing money to go to school is putting it off. Just as the city still seems to think revenues are on their way. (This one still sticks in my craw, since so many of us saw the city council spending money like it was monopoly money....)

These are survival choices -- getting by today and assuming you'll be able to pay it off in the future. (Just as using a credit card is -- the absolute worst way -- to extend your lifestyle.)

Slow and steady wins the race. I'm glad I'm established enough, experienced enough, to wend my way through these pitfalls -- at least better than I could've 20 years ago.
I happy that downtown Bend seems to keep attracting new businesses -- the "Opening" side of the list is almost as long as the "Closing" side. This doesn't necessarily signal success -- just a willingness to take a chance.

Which pretends and extends downtown's energy into the near future.

There have been some changes in my life that has made all this much less perilous. Still, I want my business to succeed -- to continue to succeed -- and that means trying to get an accurate gauge of what's REALLY going on.

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