Each year at election time, there is talk about the importance of job creation and the minimum wage. There are all kinds of arguments about what employees should be paid, the benefits they should receive and the tax burden the employer should be required to bear. When it is in the abstract, just competing conversations among political candidates it is easy to argue for low wages for employees and no taxes for employers. When the wage conversation has an actual employee attached and you know her name, have eaten lunch with her children and know about the need for shoes, food and college tuition, the conversation is harder.
When there are employees reporting to you and looking to you for a paycheck each week you must work each day to ensure that your business continues to operate, to make a profit and thrive. This is not an option, it is a responsibility. This means that you cannot just take the profits for the week and go on vacation in the islands. You must think about how much needs to be re-invested in the business and how much must be put aside for reserves. When you are an entrepreneur with employees the fact that your business is part of the world economy and the work you do and the decisions you make matter beyond your office doors.
One of my favorite employees of all time was my assistant at my law firm. She was a sweet and kind woman who had a perfect cup of coffee ready for me each morning when I walked into the office. She could collect money from deadbeat clients like no one’s business. After she had been working for me about a year her husband lost his job and her children needed winter coats. While we were eating lunch, she told me about her husband’s job and the need for coats. After we finished lunch, I gave her the funds to purchase coats, hats and gloves for the children.
I did not have to give her the money for the coats. I paid her a fair wage and had her paychecks ready each week without fail. I gave her the money because she was a good employee. I gave her the, money because I had it in my personal savings account and could spare it. I gave her the money because I was a small business owner and talked to my employees on a regular basis. I gave her the money because I had met her children and I could not let those cute little faces freeze. Because I owned a small business, my employees could talk to me directly without having to go through managers, supervisors or other barriers.
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Even though she needed the money and I wanted to give her the money, I did not take it out of my business account. The business was young and growing and could not afford the gift of winter apparel, no matter how badly it was need. If I took the money from the business account, I would not have been able to cover payroll the following week. No matter how much I wanted to help my assistant, I could not do so at the risk of my business and my responsibilities to the business and other employees. I had a responsibility to take my responsibilities as a business owner seriously.
Take time today to look at your business. Realize that your business contributes to the jobs of others. Think about what things other than what you sell that you contribute to the world. So, the question for you this thrilling day is what does your business contribute to the world?