Jobs Jobs Jobs and Reality Checks

Prelude: It is really pretty simple. In business, when a product doesn’t work, you have to fix it or drop it – FAST. And you have to fix it the way the marketplace wants it. No exceptions. Circular reasoning, like: “well it is the customers’ fault – they just don’t realize what this product can do for them,”  doesn’t work. If you try to change the conversation or tell the marketplace that it doesn’t understand, the marketplace rewards you with this: “Hey! Listen to us or we’ll go elsewhere with our business. You have 10 seconds!”  That is a forced reality check most business owners cut their teeth on. The ones that didn’t are no longer around.

  • I think some politicians are getting one of those reality checks but they don’t recognize it for what it is.

It looks like the president and politicians in Washington are ready to move the conversation to the economy and the job situation. I thought we already did that early in 2009 with the stimulus package. But somewhere in early summer the emphasis got moved over to the health care realignment project. (I wonder if that got the spotlight because the stimulus launch didn’t produce the bump in jobs many pols hoped for last spring).

  • They can’t be unhappy about us

Now that a Massachusetts upstart (a Republican at that) helped put a stopper to the increasingly unpopular healthcare realignment project (as it now stands and was recently manipulated) it looks like it is time to turn the conversation back to jobs, jobs, jobs. After all, the public has shown it is not happy and it must really be about the economy, right? Perhaps we can lay the blame at the feet of the banks for the jobs situation and get some traction. If they’re unhappy, let’s by all means speak into their unhappiness!

Here is a possible script – “Jobs, jobs, Bush, jobs, last 8 years – oops before ‘the change’ – jobs, jobs, banks, Cheney, the French (wait, how did the French get there?)” Certainly they cannot be unhappy about us (ruling incumbents), so it MUST be about jobs and some still-repressed subliminal vibes from George Bush, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.  What else could it be?  So let’s hit jobs another lick.

  • A clue – how jobs come about.

I don’t pretend to be a big businessman but I did start several small businesses and learned a lot about where jobs come from. In the private sector they come from people in businesses having confidence, feeling like the captains of their ships, and having the strength of heart to take on risks. Then they hire. Oh, and there is another element. Decent business leaders (and the ones I know are mostly very decent people) refuse to hire a person and take on responsibility for other people’s lives unless they feel that the ground is solid under their feet. It would be unfair to do differently. They must feel there is enthusiasm in the public marketplace.

  • Why people aren’t enthusiastic

Massachusetts, an extremely entrepreneurial state, proved that the enthusiasm quotient is low. People questioned overwhelmingly answered that the thing they were most upset about was the way that Capitol Hill was approaching the health care realignment project. That does not explain the entire lack of enthusiasm, but it does point the way. The idea is that the politicians are not listening to us – they are only listening to themselves. The government seems to want to control all the ships (they understand ships in Boston).

Most businesses will not hire when they feel not-in-control. Maybe in France they do,  not in the good ‘ole USA. Not in the tinkering, garage-band, backlot-project world of the American entrepreneur. And when those folks are not enthusiastic, most of the rest of the country is not either, because they are us – by the millions – from the Amway rep to the basement programmer to the realtor to the Jaycees greeter.

  • Time for  a reality check.

Go back and study how Ronald Reagan got confidence back to into the entrepreneur class and how the enthusiasm swelled back into the whole country in 1981 and 1982. That was right in the midst of the last really bad recession. That same army of American entrepreneurs and unorthodox, underfunded tinkerers helped create the digital revolution we are still riding today. Talk about jobs…

You have to get the nation’s enthusiasm up. You can’t push your product at us if we don’t want it. You have to listen.

Conversational marketplaces

“Markets are conversations” is one of the rallying cries of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto.  I posted a bit on that here.  I have been thinking more about that – especially as a number of readers have commented about privacy issues, getting more transparent, open, public in our lives (online) and so on.

It seems that what is happening is that the extended, revealing and potentially powerful ‘conversations’ the Internet has allowed people to have are becoming less ‘virtual’ and more real.  If that is true, it impacts the marketplace from all sides. Not only do businesses have the responsibility (and opportunity) to be more transparent, but we regular people have the same. A true marketplace is much more than a sterile environment where information, money and goods change hands. It is a place where people meet to be people.

I remember once I was in the crowded open-air market in Zagreb in Croatia. I really did not want to buy any souvenirs or carved plates (beautiful as they are there) that morning. But a very persistent woman kept putting them in my hands, lowering the price, adding more value – by putting more there – and still lowering the prices. I was not haggling, I just had not planned to buy. But she wanted to sell them to me – actually – at the price she got down to – she was practically giving them to me.

I ended up buying – it was a whale of a deal and she wanted to deal so badly. I tried to pay her more than the final price and she would not accept it. I said to her “you cannot have made any profit at that price.”  She answered that it was not profit she was after. She wanted to make business – and I helped her do that. She was happy. I was ecstatic – had all my holiday shopping done in one armload. I walked away feeling good, lucky, and very warmly human. The marketplace in Zagreb taught me that.

I have often thought of that when shopping in the US. I often feel our marketplaces  lack the humanity of that one in Croatia that cool morning.

I welcome the marketplace filled with conversations. I am glad the Internet, or whatever, has brought back all the talk that many cultures never lost.

It may be between amateurs. Good.

It may be ‘virtual’ or real, or a strange mixture of both.  It may be scary because we have to reveal more of our own humanity than we often do in our semi-autonomous-shopping-cattle-chutes here.

But it is good.