Look, it doesn’t matter what it was, ok? I am not going to point at an individual business and call them out in public, point out their every flaw. We could all do that – from a restaurant that gave you poor service, to a auto shop, you local super market, the City, State or Federal Government, we have all had service that made you say, “and I paid for that?”. Maybe you have seen even more recently. The thing is, I had to just get angry enough to think it through. Because, you know, I have been there.
This is not a anti-capitalist rant, but let’s take a look at the world as it really is. Let’s say you have a business of your own. You know that you have to pay your employees, pay your bills and insurance and such, you have to have some reserve in case you need to buy a new computer or van or furniture, you have to have some reserve so that you can work toward growing your business, and you, yourself, have to get paid. There is not really a requirement that you make a certain percent over what you made last year for the same period, you just really have to, well, make enough that you aren’t losing dough, since last years’ money is worth less than this years’.
However, if you are a public company, you do have to make a very clear percent more than last year, period to period. That is how you get judged in the horse race that is the Market. This is not a good thing or a bad thing, this is just the way that works. A company that can show continued growth and good margins is a company you (or I) will put my 401k / stock choices / investment money into; one that is flat year-to-year, well, not so much, right? No one bets on the horses that run the wrong direction on the track.
Unfortunately, there has been a downturn. I know, some of you missed it, maybe because it is not that hard to get a Medical Marijuana license or something. The rest of us have – hell, that is ALL we have seen, and we are all looking at these guys in office with a “you want to FIX this, dudes?” look on our face. I am sure glad I am not running for re-election based on the progress we have made in the last four years. Anyway, I digress – those of us with a little (or a lot) less discretionary income, well, we have stopped buying things. I think that my family has cut back maybe 50% since the good old days of three years ago. We buy more what is on sale, we put off what we do not need, and we focus on what we do need.
My dad would say that we “shoulda been doin’ that all along”, and it is hard to argue with that. Being native Coloradoans, we know about the boom and bust cycles of the West; having that mindset is what saved my family. But that doesn’t save businesses from the need to show profit year-to-year. So, what do you do? Well, I can tell you what we did years and years ago.
Back when the Earth was still cooling, we had a bust cycle. We needed to continue to make money, so we did what we had to. First, you fire the deadwood (at least, the deadwood that did not have their nose up a manager’s butt), and you cut out the fat – no free coffee, no office parties, all that. When that was not enough, then you start cutting the live wood, and taking off meat. Your management (read “salaried employees”) get to work a shift and a half, with no extra pay. Corners are cut, and you do the best you can.
If things get better, you get to rehire that half a person or what not, and life is rather back to normal. Although, it always seemed that things taken away were seldom given back. That’s the problem – if your managers can make it doing 60 hours a week, cutting it to 55 is a benefit, and yeah, not that hard to sneak it back up to 60 or 70 hours a week. If your staff is ok paying for coffee, maybe you could take their breaks from 15 minutes ever 4 hours to the 10 minute minimum. And, maybe if you fire someone that was doing just “ok” work, you can scare the others into doing more and bitching less.
The guys at the top, and the stockholders, they are just fine that you have been able to “fine tune” your processes so that you can do more with less, and so a whole bunch of guys (who were sure smarter than me) wrote a bunch of books on how to do just that. And it became a part of our process – do more with less is a mantra, and one that is taken to extremes even when it does not help. And then comes a dip – not just a little dip, but a “bridge is out” recession the likes of which we have not seen since the 30′s.
Comparative job recovery after recent US recessions.
Everyone is already doing more with less; now, they have to learn how to sell the fact that they have to do less with even less. So, the restaurant that used to have two bus boys on a busy night has none, the waitstaff are the bussers, and yeah there are less of THEM, too. The mechanic at that auto shop is doing the work of two guys, pulling off the clock overtime just to keep his job. Your local super market is having to contend with people who buy less, and shop around more, and they have cut a quarter of their staff.
And that is why “mediocre” is the new “good”.