During the primary season, candidates have been asked about their plans to have the government improve life in America. As a small business owner or executive, you shouldn’t wait. When it comes to protecting jobs, the cost of college and diversity, here are some suggestions.
When it comes to trade, you and your company should have a sourcing strategy. Understand where you would like to buy from and what countries you don’t want to support. I start with a preference for the U.S., Canada and Mexico. My rationale is that the U.S. and Canada have a pretty long tradition together and for the most part helping one is helping the other. For me, and perhaps not for all, I view Mexico as the logical next migration spot for lower cost labor. Mexico is the progression spot of this activity that has taken place over the last 2-300 years. Ownership, respect for intellectual property and even handedness, appears to be consistent between the 3 trading partners. If I need to purchase items that are typically sourced in off shore areas, I favor those countries where there is a better market for higher cost U.S. goods and a tradition of respect for ownership values. Lastly, if I am in the position of having to purchase items that all seem to be made in one location, I will select the company that appears to be based in the U.S
Here are a couple of examples. Purchasing a vehicle? Understand not only where it is made, but who designs it and manages the processes. Choosing, for example, between a Ford and a Honda? Did you know that Honda manufactured 1,862,491 Honda and Acura vehicles in North American last year? “We are extremely proud of the record-setting efforts of our associates, which was key to our ability to meet record demand from our customers in North America for Honda and Acura vehicles,” said Takuji Yamada, president of Honda North America, Inc. “Our dedicated team of associates at our eight auto plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico is committed to producing the high-quality products our customers have come to expect from the Honda and Acura brands.” Is Takuji Yamada U.S or Japan? You decide.
On the other hand, want to buy a Ford? Your vehicle may come from Chicagoland, or it may come from Mexico. I had a Ford car salesman who worked hard to convince me that Hermosillo was in Texas and not Mexico. I tend to give more credence to where the management and engineering will be located. So, for me, the choice would be Ford?
How about soft goods? Rather than China, I like to look at the Philippines, Bengladesh, or maybe Honduras. While it may not always be easy, if you work at it, you can find alternatives. For certain electronics, it seems like everything is built in China. Need a PC? Do you buy from Lenovo or HP? What choice better protects American jobs?
If your company sources components for manufacturing, be especially aware of the total cost of manufacturing. A low “off shore” price comes with costs you may not understand. The reshoring initiative offers a total cost estimator. http://www.reshorenow.org/tco-estimator/ Check out some of your components. You may be surprised.
What can your company do about the cost of college? Engage a college student! Colleges and students are looking for real world experience. Your alma matter offers options for you and company to be a resource. Participate in career fairs and networking programs. Typically, community colleges have industry advisory councils. Make a position for a college intern and stick with it. More than ever, colleges offer flexible schedules for students who want to work in real world situations. If possible, try to put the work experience within the context of a curriculum. In that situation, the student will receive both cash and credit.
The third area a small business owner can have an impact is diversity. Research has shown that the most diverse areas are the most creative. So, diversity in itself, has a payoff. But how do you attract move diversity? You can start at the college level. Try different profiles in your internship program. What kind of people fit into your company culture?
Additionally, celebrate individuality. Allow your various employees to get to know each other informally. Here is an interesting approach that one company did. The company prohibited eating lunch in your office or cube. They required employees to either go out or eat the designated break area. Lunch time is a great opportunity for your employees to get to know each other. When you hire a new employee, ask them about themselves and what makes them special.
Also, look for diversity in your community. In addition to Chamber or Association programs, look for opportunities to present to diverse functions. I have presented to the Hispanic Chamber or a meeting of business leaders from the India – Pakistan community. Allow time to get to know your attendees as people as opposed to just prospects.
What is your sourcing strategy? How have you helped make your company more diverse? What can you do better than the government?