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captureChris Burand is an active consultant in the independent insurance industry specializing in financial analysis, sales, and marketing.  Chris writes a well-respected column in the “Insurance Journal,” and I find his writing to be entertaining, informative and thought provoking.  I frequently find myself quoting him to agents, or groups of agents, with whom I speak and work.

In a recent column, Chris has written one of the best defenses as well as criticisms of independent insurance agents!  Without attempting to summarize his writing here, I would just like to suggest that you read it.  If you’re not a subscriber, simply go to www.insurancejournal.com and select the April 3, 2017 issue.

I’ve been reading a lot of optimistic news about the future of the economy lately.  And, I count myself as one of those who are pretty optimistic.  One of the measures of optimism that economists track is hiring plans.  The more businesses who plan to add employees the more bullish businesses are seen about economic prospects.

As one of those bullish employers, I watch the “unemployment rate” carefully because it helps me understand how easy, or hard, it’s going to be to find help.  It also gives me insight into how much employees are going to cost.

As I’ve contemplated all of this recently, I’ve been a bit perplexed.  The “unemployment rate” both locally and nationally is improving.  That is it is falling, but I’ve noticed that we are receiving more responses to our advertising for new employees.  That’s counter to what I expected.  Why?

I think part of the answer lies in lies.  You see there are multiple “unemployment rates.”  The rate that is always published in the press and talked about by commentators is the “U-3” rate, but that statistic only counts people who have looked for a job in the last four weeks.  Currently, the national U-3 rate is about 5% (considered “full employment”).  There are other rates of unemployment, and they are a lot higher.  The “U-6” rate includes part time workers who want full time jobs, discouraged workers who have given up looking altogether.  That rate, at the end of the year, was close to 10%.

This “real rate” of unemployment is probably the one we employers looking to hire should be focusing on as it’s the rate of people who are available for full time employment.  What the current rate tells me is that there are a lot of people out there who need and want jobs.  It tells me the job market, though improving, is still pretty soft.  It squares with my current experience.  Check out the U-6 rate easily found on the internet.  I think tracking it will give you more insight into how many people are looking for work when you are hiring.  I hope you are hiring – because that means you’re growing!

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I’m reluctant to write about the topic of terminating someone’s employment involuntarily because it is fraught with emotion, misunderstanding and legal liability.  Yet I have been thinking about something I read recently on the subject and want to explore it.

In a recent blog Steve Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon, quotes well known venture capitalist Naval Ravikant as saying “the secret to business success does NOT necessarily involve hiring the right people.  We just think it does.  The real secret to success is firing the people that you discover to be the wrong fit until you END UP with the right people…. But a good leader knows which employees to fire and does it quickly and humanely.”

This is as insightful as anything I’ve read in a long time.

Anyone who has been in business very long has likely faced the necessity to fire an employee.  It is never pleasant and is one of the things that I think just about any decent person would not want to do without necessity.  After all, when you fire someone you are making a very serious, usually negative (at least temporarily) impact on their life.  And there are real risks if it isn’t done properly.

Because of this, my experience tells me that many business owners delay, avoid or deliberately refuse to dismiss employees who don’t fit in their business.  Clearly this only exacerbates whatever problems exist when you know you need to terminate someone and rarely, if ever, improves to a satisfactory point.

Since reading Ravikant’s comment I’ve been surprised how many conversations I’ve had with business leaders about their need to let someone go.  Perhaps it’s just coincidence or maybe it’s like learning a new word and I’m just seeing conversations I’ve always had in a new light.  But it’s clearly an issue that needs more discussion and thought.

As I’ve reflected on my own experience I can’t think of a single example of someone who I thought needed to go who either didn’t ultimately go on their own or that I had to fire.  And in my reflection I have realized that each time I have delayed, for whatever reason, the business (and sometimes me personally) have paid a price that wasn’t worth it.

So, I think Ravikant is right.  While it’s important to get the right people on your team it’s critical to get the wrong people off.  The sooner the better.  For everyone’s benefit.  And this last statement is important.  I think it’s part of what Ravikant means by “humane”.  Sometimes employees that need to go are troublemakers or cancerous.  But often they just aren’t cut out for the position you have them in.  When you let them go you are freeing them up to go somewhere where they will be more productive, useful and perhaps content.  Regardless, as he says, it’s the leader’s job to do what is necessary.

Are you feeling stuck?  Are you working harder and making less progress?  Tony Caldwell invites you to get unstuck, watch the video to see how.

 

OAA’s CEO Tony Caldwell explains why July is a great time to look back and reflect and begin anew.  Watch the video to see how New Year’s in July is important to your business plan.