A casual perusal of our trade publications today is extremely educational. Just reading the advertisements reveals a broad, deep, almost stupefying, degree of change. The changes encompass every facet of our trade, from the new materials we use, to diagnostics, to marketing and beyond. Everything is changing, and quickly. Add to these the wide ranging changes in the economic and political situation and you have a perfect storm of the good, the bad and the ugly.
How you deal with the changes and how you incorporate those changes into your business plans will, ultimately, tell the tale of your survival or demise. As we all know, being in business, especially the construction trades, is a tough way to go. The attrition rate for new starts in the pipe trades (as well as other construction related trades) is somewhere between 80% and 90%! That means that if you are reading this and still standing, you are in rare company. Congratulations!
How did you get here? How have the new political and economic realities affected your business? Have you embraced the new technologies? Do you utilize much of what the digital age has to offer? Or are you too hard at work trying to stay alive to pay much attention?
You might not pay much attention to what’s going on in the country these days, but you do so at your own peril. It's not talking out of school to say that we are in a bad way as a nation. Our politicians seem to have forgotten how business works. For some strange reason we, as members of the business community, have become the bad guys.
I apologize in advance for some of my comments below, but politely sitting on the sidelines hasn't worked for most of us thus far. Somewhere along the way being a job producing, income producing, hard working, taxpaying member of this society has been equated with being greedy and an oppressive member of some elite club. How has this happened? Moreover what can you do about it?
One thing you can do is to speak out every time someone tries to paint you as the bogeyman. Everyone knows that finger pointing and name calling are the popular sports du jour in our nation's capital. As an industry, we need to push back against the unfair, and often, scurrilous attacks leveled at our community by know-nothing imbeciles whose only claim to fame is that they've managed to hoodwink enough people to get sent to Washington, in order to continue the madness that exists there today.
Taxes and tax rates are another area we as businesspeople need to take seriously. Right now it has been estimated that most businesses are paying somewhere upwards of 50% of their gross profits in taxes of one kind or another. Some say that number is conservative, but the bureaucrats don’t think you're paying your "fair share." If you want to stay in business these days, you have to do something about the situation.
What can you do? You can make some noise. You can start at the local level, while simultaneously making your objections heard in the highest offices in the land. Join or form organizations that have similar goals. Have an achievable agenda and work towards it. Set goals and work towards them. To put it more succinctly, become political!
In times past the pendulum has swung from one end of the political spectrum to another and, for the most part, we just kept on doing business while it swung back and forth. It's painfully obvious that something has gone terribly wrong with the pendulum. Somewhere along the way a large weight has been added and it is now in danger of stopping completely.
You've streamlined your workforce; adopted new technologies and materials; utilized the digital frontier for marketing, advertising, bookkeeping, inventory and payroll; you've adapted, you've innovated. In short, you've done what any good businessperson would do to keep your company alive. In times past that would have been enough. Do you think it's enough these days?
We are moving into uncharted waters both economically and politically. It is no longer somebody else's problem. It is no longer just a difference of opinion. It is survival…of your business…of your country…of your livelihood.
You can no longer afford the luxury of ignoring what is happening to our economy, to the business community at large and to our country. Make your voice heard.
The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born author is a retired third generation master plumber. He founded Sunflower Plumbing & Heating in Shirley, N.Y., in 1975 and A Professional Commercial Plumbing Inc. in Phoenix in 1980. He holds residential, commercial, industrial and solar plumbing licenses and is certified in welding, clean rooms, polypropylene gas fusion and medical gas piping. He can be reached at [email protected].