Driving The Conversation

The Bernie Moreno Companies and Smart Business have partnered to bring critical conversations that matter to the business community of Northeast Ohio. I had the pleasure of attending the first of these discussions on March 19, 2015. The premise is that there are crucial topics that require honest, open, nonthreatening conversation with a goal of finding solutions to some of the community’s challenges.

The topic that was tackled was The Impact of Raising Minimum Wages and the panelists were Steve Millard, Executive Director of COSE and John Corlett, President and Executive Director of The Center for Community Solutions. Dustin Klein, the publisher of Smart Business was the moderator.

I arrived with a belief that allowing the government to dictate  minimum wage rates can have a negative impact on small business. My belief was that there are many small businesses that don’t have the margins to pay anything more than what they do currently.

As I listened to the discussion a couple of things dawned on me.
1.    Nothing happens in a vacuum. So to talk about minimum wage alone fails to address all of the issues that impact it. For example, part of the discussion was around the importance of education when dealing with wages. We should be talking about these issues together, not separately.
2.    All business owners should want to be paying ALL of their employees as much as possible because it would mean that they are succeeding while positively impacting their community. Wages, prices, expenses, margins – all of these things should be considered when growing a business. I realize that if we look at our businesses from a different angle we could actually pay a premium for premium talent and our businesses would benefit. It possibly means turning our viewpoint around and not seeing employees as an expense.
3.  We owe it to our companies, our employees, our clients, and our communities to work on the disease while considering the symptoms. Low wages and income inequality are symptoms of other problems - like poor education and inadequate training for today's jobs.

I think it’s a great idea to engage in these discussions and then to take action. As the saying goes – talk is cheap. Employees need the tools to be successful, and employers need the resources to be able to grow their businesses in a way that everyone wins. And we can talk all we want. But until we start taking action, nothing will change.

It’s all in how we look at it, and talk about it. If we can eliminate the vitriol and speak openly we can put solutions in motion. If we approach these subjects with an eye toward first understanding where the other person is coming from instead of deciding they are just plain wrong, we can affect great change.

I’m looking forward to future discussions and the changes that will come. I hope you’ll join me!

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