Private enterprise is under assault in America to a degree not seen since the Great Depression. While Hollywood and the media attack business with rhetoric, the government uses rhetoric, regulation, and taxes. It doesn't bode well for those struggling to find employment, though it might present an opportunity for your company.
While the current recession may have technically ended, the recovery is anemic when compared to most other recoveries. It doesn't feel over. Plus, talking heads keep talking up the potential for a double dip recession. If so, the cause will likely be a result of the same reasons the recession endured so long … bad economic policy and "regime uncertainty."
Historian Robert Higgs is among a growing number of historians taking a fresh look at the Great Depression. He wrote in The Independent Review that regime uncertainty arose during the Depression because, "given the unparalleled outpouring of business-threatening laws, regulations, and court decisions, the oft-stated hostility of President Roosevelt and his lieutenants toward investors as a class, and the character of the antibusiness zealots who composed the strategists and administrators of the New Deal from 1935 to 1941, the political climate could hardly have failed to discourage some investors from making fresh long-term commitments."
It sounds like déjà vu. A Business Roundtable report, "Policy Burdens Inhibiting Economic Growth" warned that "Many regulations and legislation — both existing and proposed — exacerbate the uncertainty created by today's volatile economic environment. Virtually every new regulation has an impact on recovery, competitiveness, and job creation. Often that impact is negative. Businesses are acting cautiously to forestall any negative impact. These actions are squelching economic growth and job creation."
At the Baird Industrial Outlook Conference, Emerson CEO, David Farr said, "Washington is doing everything in their manpower capability to destroy U.S. manufacturers. Cap and trade, medical reform, labor rules. What do they want to do? Raise taxes. They're just going to destroy jobs. Jobs are going to be created offshore. They're going to be created in India and China, places where people want the products and where the government welcomes you. They actually do something."
Farr took heat for talking about the elephant in the living room, but was right. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, told the Economic Club of Washington that, "A new survey by Ernst & Young found that, whereas 48% of global investors saw North America as a desirable location for investment in 2006, by 2010 this percentage had fallen to just 22%. The most attractive market is China, favored by 39%. To quote the Ernst & Young study, "we’re competing for capital in a 'new multi-polar world' in which investors can shop the globe for ‘growth, talent, technology and productivity.'"
Federal Express' Fred Smith told the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore that, "The United States has a completely uncompetitive tax structure in general and it has a particularly onerous tax structure for firms that are asset-intensive."
Even the press is beginning to notice. "You've got nobody in the inner sanctum of the president's advisers who has ever run a business. And that's a real problem," said NBC "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory recently. "The rhetoric and the policy substantively, a lot of people feel, is anti-business and getting to a point where it could really discourage businesses in the United States and certainly the multinationals working here as well."
Not being multinationals, contractors can't move off-shore or flee to Galt's Gulch. So what's your solution? Dave Chase, chief marketing officer for Altus Alliance studied companies that prospered during the Depression. He found, "Generally speaking, those companies that not only survived but also thrived during the Great Depression were those that continued to act as though there were nothing wrong and that the public had money to spend. In other words, they advertised."
Ted Turner once famously declared the key to business success was, "Early to bed. Early to rise. Work like hell and advertise." That’s especially true today.
Let your competitors cringe. Ignore them. Ignore the news, market like never before, and prosper in spite of the economy and government actions (or lack of actions). That’s how you win the war on business.
Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, HVAC’s largest alliance. The Service Roundtable helps contractors improve their marketing and reduce costs. Learn more at ServiceRoundtable.com. You can reach Matt by email at [email protected] or toll free at 877.262.3341. Get his new book, "The Power of Positive Pricing" at Shop.ServiceRoundtable.com.