The economy is finally recovering a bit. Besides reading the articles and seeing the statistics, you can see other signs. Commuting traffic is picking up. The line at Starbucks is longer than it used to be in the morning. Apartment and Office rents are slowly climbing.
Recovering it is, but a recovering economy comes with a guarded nature for those on the inside of it all. Employers are willing to spend on advertising and manufacturing ramp-ups for more secure bets on their product line, but often much later in their product development area on brand extensions, and later still on major new product efforts.
And hiring? The old adage that companies in aggregate make as few hires as possible in a recovering economy is still very true. Except for “critical” new hires (whatever that may mean to you) companies are very reluctant to hire just about anyone until they are convinced things are coming their way. That includes both their own internal positions as well as external consultants who could provide a real kick to their creativity, productivity, and innovation.
The result of these delayed investments, both in people as well as in capacity, is a much slower growing economy than it has to be. But together, by taking a little more risk personally, we can all do something that might just benefit both your own enterprises (by jumping them ahead of their competitors) as well as the country as a whole. So this Christmas, I’m suggesting you consider giving that still recovering economy a few very special gifts that just might help everyone.
Gift #1) Buy something from a friend or family member’s new “startup” enterprise. You can “re-gift” it of course, which is even better because by doing so you pass on the discovery you made to someone else. The act of buying something from that startup is a powerful decision because of all it causes to happen simultaneously. It supports the startup with much needed “proof” that what it is working on is of value, provides cash flow, and helps pay those whose work and creativity helped make those new products happen. It is also far more meaningful as a purchase this season because you are directly giving back to those you know and care for — in a highly meaningful way.
Gift #2) Invest in somebody else’s startup. This doesn’t have to be a big investment. You can go to Kickstarter to find some interesting small ones from people you don’t know. And you can just float a small investment (I’ll let you define “small”) in a company one or more of your friends or family members has started. They gain by getting additional funds at what just might be a critical time for them. You gain by getting stock or similar benefits in something that might turn out to be big.
Gift #3) Donate something useful other than money to a struggling enterprise that needs it. It could be a serviceable laptop you’re retiring. It could be excess office furniture from that last restructuring you did after the economy tanked the last time. It could even be “your time” in helping with a challenging planning problem a friend is having.
Gift #4) Take a risk and hire a new employee you might not have hired under ordinary circumstances. Just hiring anyone can seem risky in an economy still wobbly and not yet on its feet. But hiring someone who seems smart and creative but otherwise “different” might trigger concerns in just about anybody. My advice is to take a risk… On somebody. Especially somebody who you think might just challenge your thinking. It’s good for your company because you will be breaking a well-known pattern that entrepreneurs (once they gain some traction in their business and think they know where they’re heading) tend to hire people like those they already have. It’s good for the economy because you will be adding to the national workforce.
Gift #5). Hire an outside consultant to help you do something different. You may think you know all you need but the pool of outstanding consultants out there is equipped with skills it might take you decades to develop. And don’t just go to the big companies for this. You will get significant and often far more value from someone who is in a small consultancy or is even a sole practitioner. Sure, this is yet another risk. But besides again stimulating the economy by hiring (on a small scale) you will also get great support from someone you might never have involved otherwise. It could be in areas like product innovation, distribution strategy, manufacturing processes, and more. Outside consultants also often have a far broader knowledge of alternate business models, processes, or technologies than your internal people do. And — depending on who you pick — you might just find someone who has built businesses with billions of dollars of revenues to their credit, has a string of over 30 patents, and has supported more types and names of companies than you might ever imagine. (Like me, for instance. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
So, entrepreneurs, why not take this Christmas and find a very different way of giving back to the very economy that has allowed you the success you already have? We can almost guarantee it will make a difference both for your business and for the economy as a whole.