Business in the United States at this time is a difficult thing. By business, I mean all that we think of when we hear the word except for those that are too big to fail.
By the same token, when I talk about business owners, I am talking about the millions who need to shepherd their concerns along — not those who are so wealthy they spend their time skewing politics, buying politicians and/or fancying themselves as the harbingers of a new world order.
Most of those folks came out of business and, by hook or crook, went over the top to become independent of everything except their wealth.
For all the rest of the working owners and managers, the world of business is their turf. Today that “turf” really is a dangerous place. I liken it to the Titanic sailing into a giant field of icebergs. For the moment we might or might not be so confident about our ship.
There are a few things that have changed business. One of those is the administrative change in the White House. Another is the continuing impact of the pandemic. Yet another is the very real and terribly complex aspect of trade relations with China.
Under each of these three dangers there are probably hundreds of subset problems and conditions that various businesses and groups of businesses are aware of. In total, it is real to say that business as we have known it for 50 or 75 years is not the same.
The pandemic has pushed hundreds of thousands of businesses to closure. Thousands more are on the razor’s edge of bankruptcy. Many of those are concerns with reasonable markets but without sufficient capital to meet the near demands of survival. They are alone and they know it. They do not have to worry about China or national bailouts; they are not going to be around long enough for any of it to matter.
Government assistance to struggling businesses is just too late for many. Additionally, many of those who need financial help would not be ideal risks for a handout — there is such a thing as being too far in the hole to be worth a loan because markets sense weaknesses and tend to move to better providers, leaving the most desperate to their fate.
The same is true to employee retention. Employees might be very loyal and try to hang in there with a failing business but, in the end, they, too, must look after their needs. They legitimately must climb into available lifeboats and look on.
Perhaps the longer term but biggest danger is the threat of doing business with China. Technology has shrunk the world and the effect of that is once-distant countries like China have become doorstep competitors, and this is just something that has come about too fast for the world to really sort out.
China wants to rule, has a plan to do so and has a spirit and strength that both rises above and goes below what our so-called leaders describe as business competition.
Perhaps the biggest problem in this is that our leaders are all over the place in their language about who China is, what China is and how best our country must view it and behave for the safety, security proper polity of both countries.
I believe at this moment we do not have to go to war (of any kind) with China. I also believe our leaders are not up to the task of managing things forward for a best eventual outcome. We have an unknown passage of ice we must get through. I believe someone has to wake the skipper and he must find the right stuff among his officers to make both China and America willing and able to survive each others’ plans, goals, wishes and needs.
I just keep thinking of President Harry Truman. He had the mixture we need now. He had the temperament and common sense to drive the agenda. He could delegate but he knew where the buck stopped and he stood on that spot courageously and unapologetically.
Sometimes people who are afraid of the moment are quick to call out that the sky is not falling. All right but for the sake of all of our futures, we had better wake our leaders up and find out if they are up to the task of making sure it doesn’t.
We owe the children of the world something, don’t we?