I know that our current national malaise -- a result of our current, bitter political climate mixed with a strong dose of corporate greed and recklessness -- does not leave a lot of room for this sort of discussion. I also know that a lot of the pundits and naysayers would rather want to hear "10 Million Jobs LOST in 10 Months" because that would fill the airwaves and the blogosphere faster than you could bat your eyelids and it would send shock waves throughout the global financial community. Somehow or another, we have grown so accustomed to hearing bad news that the first thing that we expect to hear when we turn on our television sets and computers is Doom and Gloom.
Make History or Be Burdened by History
I also understand that some would say that, in order to be credible, one's statement must be couched in a dose of realism and pragmatism. My answer to that is: If the electorate during the last US presidential election had subscribed to that notion, then junior Senator Barack Obama's candidacy would have suffered the fate of Jesse Jackson's and I, personally, would have never voted for him, volunteered, or made any financial contributions if I were a realist and pragmatist. The point being: We can either make history or be burdened by history, but the choice is always ours.
A Layman's Roadmap to 10 Million Jobs in 10 Months
So what does that have to do with 10 Million Jobs in 10 Months and how is that feasible? Well, here is how I came up with those "layman and very unscientific" figures:
Back in April of 2010, while conducting some research on the number of jobs that our startup, private educational institution could--and needed to--create over the next 12 months, I estimated that, from the required total, we needed, at the onset, to initially fill around 30 commission-based sales openings. It then dawned on me that, in spite of all the doom and gloom you hear in the news, perhaps there could be tons of other small businesses out there who could be in a similar situation. After all, it goes without saying that SALES is the lifeblood of every single business.
I then wondered how many small businesses there were in America. According to the 2009 IRS Databook, 24,197,000 returns for estimated taxes were filed by small businesses. Therefore, if every single small business could hire just one (1) salesperson who is currently out of work, looking for work, is able to perform AND is willing to work on a "commission-only" basis, then, theoretically speaking, approximately 24 million small business jobs could be created overnight. I then thought about slicing that number in half and, instead of overnight, spread that number over a period of 12 months, to come to an average number of 1 million new sales jobs per month, for a total of 12 million jobs over a period of 12 months. And since you need a good slogan to promote something, I thought about reducing the target from 12 months to 10 months, which would make the slogan "10 Million Jobs in 10 Months" sound better and much more attractive. No Ph.D. in economics or statistical analysis required.
After coming up with these "layman" figures, I then decided to google that slogan in order to find out how "realistic" and "pragmatic" were those figures. And, lo and behold, I came across a November 11, 2007 article from Financial Express titled "China creates 10 million jobs for urbanites" at http://www.financialexpress.com/news/China-creates-10-million-jobs-for-urbanites/237992/ :: The article states "Beijing November 11:: China has created more than 10 million urban jobs in the first ten months, meeting the target for the entire year two months before, a senior official said." I then saw another article from Huffington Post by Dave Johnson, Fellow, Campaign for America's Future, titled
"Ten Million Jobs Needed - Ten Million Jobs That Need Doing" posted on March 22, 2010 05:06 PM at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-johnson/ten-million-jobs-needed_b_508867.html which, more or less, confirmed that I was on the right track about the 10 million figure and not hallucinating.
So What is Stopping Us?
The next logical and rhetorical question that came to mind, especially when it comes to small businesses, is: What in the world is stopping us from getting our butts in gear?
A 3-Headed Monster: Government Policies, Virtual Chaos, Political Climate
However, having been in business for over 30 years, I knew better than to ask that question since one of the answers is so obvious for anyone who has been in business for any significant period of time: The government. We have a structural deficit in our economy that is the direct result of government policies which, on the surface, mean well but eventually wind up resulting in a great deal of unintended and harmful consequences to the same people that these laws were intended to protect in the first place. Various examples of these policies are incorporated and illustrated in the paragraphs below.
A second and most important answer is this: The fast and furious, topsy-turvy and dizzying pace of advances in internet, virtualization and social media technologies combined with the rapid virtualization of the workforce and the workplace have created a Virtual Chaos that has engulfed both corporate executives and policymakers. These corporate executives and policymakers are in a state of complete disarray, scratching their heads and wondering how to make economic sense out of, as well as benefit from, this massive disruption of their existing World Order.
With respect to corporate executives, they are slow to realize the sense of urgency that is needed from the standpoint of making the sort of dramatic changes that are needed in terms of how they do business in order to take full advantage of the huge economic benefits to be gained from the virtualization of the workplace and the workforce. They keep tinkering around the edges and continue to make small and incremental changes that are equivalent to either riding a Porsche on the autobahn at 35 miles per hour or displaying a Ferrari in your showroom garage and taking it out for a spin on special occasions.
Although a good number of small businesses have taken the lead when it comes to taking maximum advantage of the benefits of virtualization of the workspace and the workforce, nonetheless, it is too small a number--may be 2%--compared to the huge number of small businesses that are out there in the US.
For example, the internet combined with e-commerce technology, virtualization technology, workspace virtualization technology, workforce virtualization, social media, social media tools, social media marketing, and virtual organization management education make the most potent, powerful, and unbeatable economic cocktail known to mankind. Other than for certain types of industries which require a physical presence (e.g. manufacturers, hospitals, theaters, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, hotels, airlines, transportation companies, railroads, etc.) most businesses could virtualize their entire operations and pass on some of the huge economic savings to their employees in the form of higher wages. As well, they would be in a position to "hire more employees" in order to expand their base of operations and economic sphere of influence. And why is that not being aggressively promoted and implemented across the board?
Imagine the ton of economic opportunities that this small "shift in attitude and thinking" would create. The economic possibilities and rewards are almost limitless. So now you can ask yourself this question: How many businesses do you know of, big or small, that actually have a "formal plan and timetable" in place to virtualize their entire operations in order to either avoid layoffs or "create more jobs" and expand? Now that you've answered the first question, ask yourself this other question: How many businesses do you know of, big or small, that actually have or had a "formal plan and timetable" in place in order to "layoff employees or eliminate jobs" altogether or just close shop? The bottom line is this, a paradigm shift in attitude and thinking by corporate executives and small business owners needs to take place before we can begin to see the sort of economic recovery that we all want, desperately need, and can have.
With respect to policymakers, they are slow in making the necessary changes in the law that are needed in order to get the hell out of the way of small as well as large businesses that are either sick, slowly dying, on life support or just terminally ill; who desperately need to make the sort of drastic changes needed in order to reverse the downhill trend they've been on. Businesses don't really need--and frankly shouldn't get--help or handouts from the government. However, that being said, businesses can "partner" with the government--but not at the expense of taxpayers--in order to bring about the necessary changes that are needed for a healthy economic climate and the social good. I will not attempt to write a dissertation on the difference between "getting help" and "partner with" since that is outside the scope of this discussion but will rather leave it up to men and women of good will to interpret my statement based on the context of this article.
For example, do you know that if you are a very small business with only one "100% virtual employee" working for you strictly out of their home, using their own computer and internet access, you are still obligated to obtain workmen's compensation insurance for that employee? Outside of that employee using their own computer from the comfort of their home, there is no requirement to engage in any sort of activity that could expose that employee to any kind of work hazard or on-the-job injury and, yet, the laws are brain dead in that regard. That can be crippling for a small business that wants to get started or expand.
Here is another example:
Do you know that if you, as an employer, wanted to hire a "100% virtual salesperson" on a "commissions-only" basis, working strictly out of their home, using their own computer and internet access, and without ever having to step outside the door of their residence, you are still obligated to pay that salesperson at least the minimum wage. It does not matter if the employee you want to hire is out of a job, ineligible to collect unemployment benefits or his/her benefits have expired, is on welfare, is a highly qualified and competent salesperson or sales executive, currently has and is paying for all the tools he/she needs in order to start working, [and is willing] to work on a commissions-only basis in order to get his/her life back on track. But, on the other hand, if such employee were an "outside salesperson" working on a "commissions-only" basis, going door to door, using their own car and paying for their own car insurance and gasoline out of their own pocket, that employer would be exempt from the minimum wage and hour and overtime requirement. It seems that it should be just the opposite but you can't make sense with a bureaucracy.
But the madness doesn't just stop there, there is more. Do you know that if you are willing to hire as a "100% virtual employee" someone who is currently unemployed and wants to make a career change into a sales/marketing related field in order to obtain a better wage and improve their standard of living, and you are willing to train that person at your expense, but can only pay that person on a commissions-only basis during a specific period of time, you are still obligated to pay that sales/marketing trainee at least the minimum wage. On the other hand, if you hire that same person as an "independent contractor", require a certain amount of capital investment from that person to cover their cost of training, and leave it up to that person to purchase out of their own pocket any of the tools and supplies they will need to perform, not provide any direction with respect to how best to complete the job but instead only demand an expected outcome, and pay on the basis of their performance, then you will not be subject to the federal and state minimum wage and hour law requirements.
It does not matter if this independent contractor is "penniless, cannot afford to make any substantial investment" to acquire the training and tools needed, and you have all the available resources that this "independent contractor" needs and are willing to provide it "free of charge." By providing these tools and training free of charge, and helping to successfully guide that person during the initial stages of their new career, you will be establishing an employer-employee relationship and, therefore, subject to the federal and state minimum wage and hour law requirements. This is a clear example of the maxim: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."
But it gets much worse, if you are unemployed and collecting unemployment benefits and the government finds out that you have accepted any type of permanent, full-time position -- regardless of how much it pays and whether or not it is 100% virtual and/or a commissions-only position, and whether or not you are being trained at the expense of an employer or at your own expense, you are no longer eligible to continue to receive any unemployment benefits (if the training is not approved by your State Agency).
In other words, if you decide to take a commissions-only sales job that may take anywhere from 30-90 days before you develop a strong sales pipeline that can support you on a permanent basis, you will automatically lose your unemployment benefits.
In other words, if you had some savings and decided to pay, out of your own pocket, for the cost of going back to school to either cross-train into another occupation or to obtain some specialized training, you will automatically lose your unemployment benefits (if the training is not approved by your State Agency).
In other words, if you had no savings but your future employer is willing to provide you with FREE specialized training for a 90-day--although it can be for any length of time--period and is willing to guarantee you a job upon successful completion of training, you will automatically lose your unemployment benefits (if the training is not approved by your State Agency).
In other words, if you decide to take on a job in a "virtual role"--although it could also be in a brick and mortar setting--and as an "independent contractor", making sure that you satisfy all the legal requirements needed to qualify for that status, you will automatically lose your unemployment benefits regardless of how much income you are able to generate (if you are not participating in a self-employment assistance program approved by your State Agency). If you brought in zilch, zero income from this venture of yours, you will still lose your unemployment benefits.
When I asked the Employment Development Department why that is, and as confirmed by PART 604—REGULATIONS FOR ELIGIBILITY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION of the Electronic Federal Regulations, I was told that the way they look at it, if you are receiving specialized training or going to school, whether or not it is FREE or at your own expense, that means you are not actively looking for and available for work; and that, in order to collect unemployment benefits, you must be actively looking for and available for work. Therefore, outside of the conventional employment model and the established governmental rules and regulations in place which could not foresee the coming of another mini Great Depression, tens of million of Americans and businesses are left with only two (2) options: 1) either break the law and risk being caught, or 2) for unemployed workers, being stuck collecting unemployment benefits until it runs out, watch their savings and other resources dwindle to nothing, be reduced to living in poverty or near poverty levels until they are able to find that conventional job or a low-paying job that the government says it's OK to have, or wait until the economy finally turns around; and, particularly, for small businesses, wait until banks start lending money again so they can begin to hire the "traditional" employees that the government approves of -- that is, of course, assuming that they haven't yet gone out of business and have been able to hold on.
I know this sounds insane but that is the reality that both small and large businesses have to deal with. Just imagine the number of millions of good-paying, commission-based "sales" jobs that could be created overnight as a result of just tweaking the law as it exists today. Plenty of people available to work good-paying jobs. No need to go to the bank to try to get a line of credit from a bank that is not lending in the first place.
For those who would say that it is not fair to pay a "salesperson" strictly on a commissions-only basis, they fail to understand that that is exactly how over 27-30 million small business owners earn a living. If their business is not able to make a sale, they do not get a chance to take anything home to feed their families. They do not receive a guaranteed paycheck from the federal government or some other organization. In fact, most of them eke out a living from day to day. They are not Rockefellers or high rollers. As well, we live in a country where there is no such thing as forced labor. Working on a commissions-only basis does not mean working for free. If, generally speaking, I am faced with a choice of working on a commissions-only basis--which, by the way, is what I've been doing over the 32 years that I've been in business--or collect a meager unemployment check, welfare or food stamps from the government or starve, I would rather be the person to make that decision instead of having the government or some bureaucrat make that decision for me, no matter how well-intentioned the law is.
This vicious cycle-and-circle is a recipe for poverty and economic ruin for unemployed families and small businesses, and exacerbates today's chronic high unemployment rate. This reminds me of the welfare state we had--and, to this day, still do, to a certain extent--which encouraged welfare mothers to stay at home, have more babies, remain single and kick the children's fathers out of the home just so they could continue to collect welfare. The welfare state discouraged mothers from getting married or going out to find work to improve their economic situation because, if they did, their only economic lifeline would be snatched from them. Contrary to public opinion, they were not lazy and pernicious. They did, and do, want the same things that every parent wants to provide for their children. For those of us who live in America, we all know too well the results of these policies as evidenced by the legacy of slums and projects mired in crime and poverty that exist to this day.
But to be fair, I must mention that the federal minimum wage and hour laws and the workmen's compensation insurance system were designed to protect workers from scoundrels, abusive, exploitative and unscrupulous employers, of which there is no shortage, and that, when these laws were being created, policymakers could not imagine that "tens to hundreds of million" of people would or could be working from their home via the internet using web collaboration tools, virtual organization management, and without ever having to step outside of their house.
However, that being said, this is not a valid reason or excuse to stand idly by and do nothing. The virtualization of the workplace and the workforce is causing a seismic shift in terms of efficiency, productivity, and economic opportunities. However, as we are all aware of, government, particularly at the local and state levels, and due to its very nature, will never be able to quickly respond to the dramatic changes in the business landscape that are taking place due to the rapid virtualization of the workforce and the workplace. Therefore, it's up to the federal government to step in and provide some sort of temporary solution until state and local governments are able, on their own, through the proper exercise of due diligence and the legislative process, enact the sort of permanent or quasi-permanent solutions needed to address the regional systemic fissures that are causing tremors and wreaking havoc on the economy as a whole. That, I believe, is a good example of how businesses can "partner" with government.
Current Political Climate
The third and final reason is our current political climate. The current mood in Congress seems to be "the hell with what is good for the people, only what's good for me or the party matters." Therefore, if a Republican advocates something, it must be bad and be quickly shot down; and if a Democrat advocates something, it must also be bad and be quickly shot down. It's not really because these individuals are truly idiots, brain-dead, or zombies and, therefore, unable to discern what's really good for the American people. It's just the way the cookie crumbles when one party wants to get in power or try to stay in power and individuals put their own personal and party interests above the public good. And, sadly enough, that's the way it goes and the way it's bound to remain, that is, of course, until someone can come up with a solution to this nightmare on Political Elm street.
Reclaiming America's Rightful Heritage as the Bastion of Capitalism
So how do we get out of this morass and vicious circle in order to unleash the ingenuity, hard working and go-getter spirit of the American people and proudly reclaim America's rightful heritage as the bastion of capitalism?
As Bill Gates, among many other visionaries, has taught us, brilliant ideas don't have to be complicated. In fact, what makes them brilliant is their simplicity. When faced with the prospect of how to quickly get a desktop computer in every single home and business in America and the world, his answer was to "license the operating system."
Therefore, the simple answer to getting America back on track is to focus on what Americans love to do and do best, which is "SALES." It does not matter what kind of business you are in or how big or small it is, without a Sales Team you've got absolutely NOTHING. If a business cannot hire a sales force, then it is crippled. If a business has to let go of most of its sales force, then it starts to slip into a downward spiral until it gets crippled. It is NOT the government, banks and investors that we should depend on to get things done or to turn the economy around. Only the American people can do that. For example, the sales team of the Obama Presidential Campaign, standing on the shoulders of the previous Dean Presidential Campaign's sales team, understood that, all too well, to the point where then-candidate Obama "declined to receive matching funds from the government" for his Presidential Election Campaign. The sales team was masterful at generating revenues in a "virtual environment" and very well understood the "Sales in a Virtual Environment" concept. The votes came in second.
In spite of our economic doldrums, we still have the world's richest and most lucrative business and consumer market. Every single country in the world wants to gain access to our market so they can sell us their goods. Out of approximately 350 million people living in the US, even though there are 15-20 million out of work, we still have around 145 million people who are working and can buy our goods and services. So why don't we focus our efforts on "selling" to the "richest and most lucrative market" in the world. As we generate "Sales" from our "own lucrative market", we can begin to generate the revenues needed to hire most of the "15-20 million Americans" who are currently out of work and pay them a good living wage. That doesn't mean we have to turn our attention away from the global market, because the US market and the global market are not mutually exclusive. What this means is that we shouldn't walk away from "a bird in the hand" just to get those other birds in the bushes.
Issue a Presidential Executive Order for All Virtual Salespeople
We also have the best sales and marketing geniuses that mankind has ever known. Therefore, the government needs to unleash an army of them in every corner and nook and cranny in America, as well as around the world, by granting to all VIRTUAL Salespeople, through an Executive Order, either permanently or on a temporary basis, the same status that "outside salespeople" currently enjoy, which is exemption from the minimum wage and overtime requirement. As well, all "virtual salespeople" who work strictly from their home and are not required to travel, using only and exclusively their own internet and web collaboration tools, are not required to be covered under workmen's compensation since they would never be exposed to any sort of injury on the job, or be in a potentially hazardous environment, as a result of working at home. This would be a HUGE boost and relief to small businesses.
Please note I am only advocating the removal or temporary suspension of the restrictions we currently have in place for "Salespeople", preferably those who work in a "virtual environment", and not for other occupations. The reasoning being that since salespeople are the linchpin of every single organization in the world and, without them, you will not be able to afford to hire other categories of personnel, they should, therefore, be afforded special status.
However, that being said, in order to prevent unscrupulous large employers from laying off or firing their well-compensated salaried, or salary-and-performance-based, salespeople and replacing them with commissions-only salespeople, this Executive Order could apply only to small businesses which employ "100% VIRTUAL salespeople." As well, since small businesses are the primary engine of economic activity in the US, particular emphasis should be placed on them since they are the ones who are most in need and do not have easy access to investment capital, loans or lines of credit.
Imagine this, with one bold stroke of the pen, the President of the United States could, literally, OVERNIGHT and without a bunch of polls and the bickering and childish behavior of politicians in Congress, change our attitude and thinking, as well as the general business and economic climate; and set the entire country on a path of optimism, economic revival, widespread use of the Internet for business, and the beginning of a Great American Renaissance :: all without having to deal with lobbyists, demagogues, right-wing or centrist or left-wing liberals and conservatives, Blue Dogs, Green Birds or Yellow Mackerels, or asking $1 of stimulus funds from the federal government or Congress.
Ramifications of Executive Order
Let's now Imagine some of the ramifications of this bold and simple move:
1. Instead of Tea Party fever, the entire nation will be caught up in "Sales" fever. Instead of saying "It's The Economy Stupid", people from all over the world and in the media and the blogosphere will start saying "It's All About Sales Stupid." I can visualize Chris Matthews of MSNBC News calling all these politicians and business executives to task by telling or reminding them in his direct, brazen, and rapid fire style and smile that "It's All About Sales Stupid." I can even imagine Sean Hannity of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh willing to get in on the action because this is a simple message that is 100% pro-America, has no political affiliation; something that every single American can rally behind and take credit for. They will all start saying and thinking what they've known all along: without sales, there is no economy; without an economy, there is no jobs; without jobs, there is no prosperity; and without any prosperity, you have political and social turmoil and chaos - in other words, Tea Party fever.
2. People who have been unemployed for a long time would be willing to cross-train into what could become future, high-paying, commission-based, VIRTUAL Sales jobs. Colleges would get a significant boost in sales career enrollment, etc. A burgeoning crop of Virtual Sales Trainers would pop up to offer virtual sales training to people who want to get into sales, etc.
3. This would be a big boost to GREEN JOBS and the ENVIRONMENT, irrespective of industry. No need to pollute the air, deal with traffic congestion and road rage, or get gouged by oil companies at the gas pump. The money saved from gasoline would result in an "indirect" but real raise in wages. As well, this would provide a Better Quality of Life to this new class of workers.
4. Working "VIRTUAL" would become the "IN" thing and most talked about subject in America and around the world for a good period of time, having received such strong backing from the POTUS (President of the United States) himself. After all, the president's election success is directly related to his previous campaign's "VIRTUAL sales" success.
5. This could cause a ton of small businesses to rush on the internet and begin the process of "virtualizing their entire operations."
6. The Virtual Organization Management discipline would spread to every city, hamlet, and village in every corner of the globe because once small to big businesses begin to virtualize their salespeople, they will want to expand on the concept throughout their entire organization and learn how to manage others as well in a virtual environment.
7. Employers would be in competition to get the best commission-based salespeople by luring them with lucrative, high-paying, sales-commission jobs. You would not have to worry about employee exploitation because the salesperson would be in the driver's seat and could shop around to find the employer who is willing to offer the "extra benefits and perks" that come with the sales job. Instead of frozen, stagnating or declining wages, you would generate competitive, lucrative, middle-class jobs.
8. The Sales profession would be re-energized, as well as get a big psychological boost, from practically all angles. Being a VIRTUAL Sales Executive in a small business would make an employee a "de facto" informal partner of that business, which success would be directly tied to the success of the sales executive. After all, that is what every owner of every small business is, among a number of other hats they carry: a Sales Executive. As well, the success of the business is directly tied to the success of the business owner. For those who think there is some sort of stigma attached to working on a commissions-only basis, then that would make over 27-30 million small business owners who risk it all, toil day and night for long hours and sleepless nights, and who are the lifeblood of our economy, second-class citizens. But we all know that is not the case.
9. Small businesses would get a big and much-needed injection of "Intellectual Capital" instead of tweedling their thumbs and worrying about when the banks and investors are going to start to lend money to, or invest in, businesses again before they can start hiring salespeople. No need to go to Congress for stimulus funds and repeat this sorry spectacle that the American people has been forced to endure over the past 2 years.
10. Need I say more?
I strongly believe that the challenge of 10 Million Jobs in 10 Months represents a real test of America's resolve, and the sort of challenge that the entire country can rally around NOW. Therefore, I want to end this article with the same question I started with at the very beginning. Is the American spirit still alive and can we do it? Or should we admit that our time has come and gone, we've lost our spine, backbone, fearless and pioneering spirit and determination, and it is now China's turn for spectacular achievements?
on The New Virtual Organization World Consortium