As I write this in November 2011, the “Occupy Wall Street” protest and all its spin-offs in cities all over the world have been going on for about two months. But cities, businesses and the general public are tiring of their antics. Trash is piling up, legitimate events are being moved to avoid problems, and costs are soaring. Worse, the purportedly peaceful encampments are now producing murder, suicide, sexual attacks and clashes with police. Chances are, they will still be in place by the time this publication hits your desk in December.
What’s their message? What are their goals?
Anyone who has paid even passing attention to the Occupy movement knows that the protesters have been criticized for lack of clarity. They’re good at repeating euphemisms and phrases: “Corporate greed!” “Scrap the monetary system!” “People, not profits!” “Down with predatory lenders!” They’re long on signs and screaming but short on specifics.
By the way, here’s their definition of a “predatory lender”: It’s a bank that actually expects you to pay back your loan.
In the spirit of “Give peace a chance” and “Can’t we all just get along?” I humbly offer to fill in the specifics for them. It’s the least I can do. In a word, here’s my take on their message and their goal:
It’s disturbing that in modern America, people have somehow made it to adulthood without an inkling about capitalism and its role in making this the greatest, strongest, most successful country in history.
Or, maybe it’s not so surprising. Think about it: Self-sufficiency, hard work, entrepreneurship, handling money, doing the right thing, being thrifty … none of these are taught in school. They’re learned – if at all – from family and personal experience.
A new truth has emerged during this long, hard economic downturn: Small business is the heart of our economy. It is the main source of innovation, new jobs and hope. That’s a heavy expectation to hang on America’s entrepreneurs, but I say we’re up to it.
Maybe we have another job to add to that list. Maybe we need to be the primary source of education about capitalism and opportunity ... to help stamp out the entitlement mentality and improve upon business culture.
After all, we do this for our children. Why not expand the lesson into the workplace?
I’m not talking about creating classes or homework. It’s about including simple truths in discussions with your employees:
- We must take in more than we spend.
- A pay raise is not a gift from the owner. It’s driven by the business’ success and your role in achieving that success.
- Our customers have choices. We have to earn their business.
- We must make practical decisions about using scarce resources such as time and money.
- We must honor our obligations.
If your employees hear these messages and better yet, see them in action, won’t they be better equipped to help you succeed? And who knows – maybe your words and example will help someone make better choices at home.
It beats sleeping outside with a cardboard sign that says “Down with the Entitlement Mentality.”
Bill Collier is the St. Louis area coach for The Great Game of Business. He helps businesses increase accountability and results with open-book management. He is the author of “How to Succeed as a Small Business Owner … and Still Have a Life” Bill can be reached at 314-221-8558
or email@example.com. His blog is http://ggobstl.wordpress.com.