Two recent articles, Rich Entrepreneur: The Wealthy Aren’t Job Creators, Middle-Class Workers Are by Bryce Covert & The Next Social Contract by Michael Lind that I read have quite succinctly point out why the American middle class is struggling while the top 1% is better off than ever before in history and also call out the fallacy that "the Super Rich (1%) are the job creators".
Bryce Covert writes that "Entrepreneur and self-described one percenter Nick Hanauer warned Congress that rich people like him aren’t the engines of the economy. In a testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, he explained why, in fact, middle-class workers are the economy’s real job creators:
In the same way that it’s a fact that the sun, not earth is the center of the solar system, it’s also a fact that the middle class, not rich business people like me are the center of America’s economy. […]
As an entrepreneur and investor, I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated.
He described what he calls a “virtuous cycle” in which middle class consumers have money to buy goods, which increases demand and therefore hiring. The rich, on the other hand, don’t fuel the economy with their consumption in the same way. “I earn 1,000 times the median wage, but I do not buy 1,000 times as much stuff,” he noted."
On the other hand, inspite of record corporate profits and sky high CEO compensations (which only recently are seeing a downswing), as per a New America Foundation report, minimum wage has changed little in the last 50 years. Come on, 50 years and the majority is still making what they did a half century ago? Prices for everything are changing as they are keeping pace with the changing times, then how come we don’t have a "Living Wage"? Shouldn't the minimum wage keep pace with the changing times?
In the op-ed “When Capitalists Cared”, author Hedrick Smith states that “In 1914, not long after the Ford Motor Company came out with the Model T, Ford made the startling announcement that he would pay his workers the unheard-of wage of $5 a day.
Not only was it a matter of social justice, Ford wrote, but paying high wages was also smart business. When wages are low, uncertainty dogs the marketplace and growth is weak. But when pay is high and steady, Ford asserted, business is more secure because workers earn enough to become good customers. They can afford to buy Model Ts.”
He goes on to note that “Other executives bought his logic, and just as important, strong unions fought for rising pay and good benefits in contracts like the 1950 “Treaty of Detroit” between General Motors and the United Auto Workers.
Riding the dynamics of the virtuous circle, America enjoyed its best period of sustained growth in the decades after World War II , from 1945 to 1973, even though income tax rates were far higher than today. It created not only unprecedented middle-class prosperity but also far greater economic equality than today.”
When Hedrick Smith talks about the “virtuous cycle” he is pointing to the fact that employers like Ford, GM, Chrysler, etc. at that time understood the importance of paying their workers a livable wage. A wage from which a worker could raise a family, save for the future and hope to live a virtuous life, meaning they did not need to depend on anybody else’s pity or handout. And he also points out that even though taxes were higher then, than today, it created a very prosperous middle class and thereby upward mobility & greater economic quality.
We now seem to have the case of the “Vicious Cycle”. This phenomenon started quite a while ago and one of the earlier instances were seen after the 2001 dotcom crash. Even during those times, Wall Street Executives & CEO’s got huge salaries & even bigger bonuses. It did not even seem to matter that those same companies are laying-off massive number of employees. The New Straits Time (September 3, 2001) reported that even as companies laid of tens of thousands of employees (CISCO- 8500 Dell- 5,800), their CEO’s John Chambers & Michael Dell made roughly US$157 million & 201 million respectively. And that was just the beginning. A similar scenario was repeated during the 2008 financial meltdown. Even while the whole economy was crashing, massive layoffs were taking place and the Lehman Bros were imploding, senior executives at firms such as AIG, Goldman Sachs, Chase, BOA, Countrywide, etc. were giving themselves huge salaries & bonuses. This transition from “Virtuous Cycle” to “Vicious Cycle” over the past 2 decades has not only led to major layoffs but overseas shipping of most of the manufacturing and support jobs, salaries cut across the board, health benefits & 401Ks decimated.
When employers devalue a workers work and pay them lesser than what they were being paid for the same work even an year ago, what did they think was going to happen? When the worker can only pay for the essentials, their disposable income goes down and they start cutting down on other expenses and this leads to even lesser services or cheaper products from businesses as that becomes the new normal. With cheaper products or poorer services, the workers make even lesser money and in return they can afford even less and hence cut further back on their spending. The bankrupting race to the bottom continues and the “Vicious Cycle” continues until the only ones left are the very rich or the very poor. That scenario cannot be good for the economy. And that’s why squeezing the middle class is not good for the economy.
Most small businesses are built to meet the needs of the communities around them. Many have built a small yet dedicated customer base. But with the easy availability of online shopping and big retailers around them, small businesses can find it challenging to get their message across and attract more customers. Most of the available marketing channels such as online marketing, billboards, TV & radio spots, etc can be expensive to use and complex to navigate. And in seeking high-tech and sophisticated solutions, we seem to have forgotten some simple and easy to community marketing channels. With the holiday season around the corner, these community marketing strategies can be very economical and help small business owners grow their sales and profits considerably.
Partner With Non-Competing Businesses
Study your neighboring businesses and your customer. What else could they be shopping for? If you are the neighborhood convenience store, it is highly probable that your customers are frequenting the nearby salon or garage. Identify some possible partners who are not your competitors and reach out to them. Form a working relationship and create a joint or cross-promotional marketing plan. You can access better advertising platforms working together than on your own, like local TV time or billboards. Pool your resources.
Partner With the Local Newspaper or Newsletter
Almost every city has a local newspaper or newsletter. Partner with them and place informational spots. These spots are very economic. They are delivered to the people who are often your customers. Use this local connection to spread awareness about your business and the service you offer. More often than not, people prefer to shop within their communities for daily necessities and services. The local newspaper or Newsletter can be a simple way to create a lasting connection.
Hold a Raffle or a Contest
Customers love contests and freebies. Have you noticed how quickly the “samples” vanish? So design a few promotions around raffles and contests. Proactively engage your customers. Try to make the contests unique. For example, you could host an eating contest (hot dogs, noodles, pizza, burgers, etc.) or hold a beauty contests. Contests like this will attract customers and increase customer recall. You might even get mentioned in the local news or newspaper creating even more free publicity.
Adopt a Local Charity or Educational Institution
Charitable activities can add a great deal of publicity to a small business. Partner up with a local charity and support their efforts through donations or labor. You can also check out local educational institutions such as schools and community colleges. See what you can do to help. It could be help a soup kitchen drive or the middle school fund drive. Promote the collaboration to their network and yours so that it creates a win-win. This positive collaboration will help you create a lot of goodwill that will translate to increased customer loyalty and profits.
Keep your Website Relevant
Big or small, almost every business has a website these days. The trouble is that they are often cluttered and out of date. A website can be a great tool for promoting a business, if used wisely. You need to make sure that the website is current and reflects not only what is currently happening at the store, but also any future events or promotions. This will keep the website relevant and help promote the business.
Don't forget to make sure that your customers have a fun, positive experience. Business owners, especially small and medium ones, often do not adequately plan ahead. So if there is increased customer traffic, they are not prepared to deal with it leaving customers harried and unhappy. Plan ahead, hire a few extra hands, and make sure that every customer who comes in feels appreciated and taken care of. These are the experiences that a customer will remember, return for, and recommend.
Do you have suggestions that can be added to this list? If so, comment below!