It Ain’t Your Grandpa’s World

Brad Curry
Contributing Writer
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing

I can’t be the only person to wonder why our Great Nation cares so much about actors, entertainers or athletes. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy a good movie or TV show as much as the next guy. I’m an avid sports fan. I’ve seen more live concerts than I can count. Odds are we share at least some commonality so far. Allow me to expand on these thoughts.

During a recent conversation with my wife (she was talking, probably thought I was listening, you know….), the subject turned to George Clooney and his net worth. A quick “Hey Alexa” revealed his net worth (financial, not his true worth) to be just north of $500 MILLION. With a few clicks of a mouse, I discovered that Garth Brooks is worth over $310 million, Lebron James $400 mil, and Jerry Seinfeld is worth $900 million.

Just to be clear, I don’t begrudge any of these people for making all they can, and for commanding whatever the market will bear. I’ve contributed to at least some of their earnings. However, the longer we talked (yes, I was actually engaged in the conversation now) the angrier I became; none of these “celebrities” chosen career paths really has any affect on my life, or that of my family. They don’t manufacture, deliver, grow or sell anything that any of us couldn’t live without. Not one thing. They could cease to exist tomorrow and my life would not change one iota. Don’t even get me started on politicians!

By comparison, consider a cancer research specialist earning an average of $110K annually. Here in Tennessee, the average for an Oncologist is about $275K a year. I certainly have more respect for either of those 2 professions. Saving or prolonging life is unquestionably more important than singing, dribbling or acting.

What about the real backbone that makes the United States of America great? I’m referring to the day-to-day careers we actually couldn’t live without. The truck drivers, plumbers, farmers and teachers? What about those dedicated to saving and protecting our lives such as our Military ($25-45K average annual salary) and First Responders ($35-$70K on average)? All of these are far and away more valuable, yet earn a pittance by comparison. Try to imagine life without the truckers that deliver everything you touched, ate, drank, drove or wore today? Without plumbers (avg. $50k) the average lifespan would be about 30 years of age in a disease filled, cesspool world. Farmers at $60K annually? Too obvious to even discuss. Likewise, for the others mentioned in addition to many, many more not cited.

Yet, the most important and life sustaining groups make the least amount of money. Obviously, we couldn’t afford to pay our First Responders what they’re really worth (assuming we could even place a dollar amount on their services). Does anyone want to bid on the next available fire truck as your house burns? Maybe we have an auction for the closest ambulance as your child lies lifeless after a car accident? Teachers live on an average of $50k per year, but are expected to mold the minds of our future generations.

What’s my point, beyond a rant to get this off my chest? If you are an owner or manager in a position of authority, pay your people fairly. We’ve all heard “an honest day’s wages for an honest day’s work”, but what is “an honest day’s wages”? Just because someone is “blue-collar” shouldn’t mean living existing in near poverty conditions. Yes, initially it will cost you or your business more. Long term, your company will be the winner. Happy employees work harder, are more productive and stay put longer. Don’t replace ‘em, keep ‘em!

Maybe you absolutely can’t squeeze out the funds to increase hourly pay or salaries; consider a performance-based bonus program. Also, look for non-financial ways to keep your team members happy and productive. This may involve taking the lid off of that square thing and thinking externally beside it (I hate clichés’, so you’ll have to figure that one out ).

Survey after survey reveals a considerable difference for the definition of gainfully employed, depending on the age group surveyed; ask “what do you like about your job” and the answer from someone under 30 will be significantly different than someone over 40. That doesn’t make them lazy or shiftless, just different.

Today’s generation (the work force of tomorrow) thinks and wants different from generations past. Many want more time with family; find ways to make that happen through flex time, staggered shifts, etc. Hold some type of get together, picnic, party or other outing for your people and their families; this will obviously look different for everyone, based on the size of your company. Surprise the staff with donuts. Let someone go home early on a Friday afternoon. Let Mary-Sue take a long lunch next Thursday so she can eat in the school cafeteria with her 2nd grade son. Here’s a novel idea- actually tell your employees you appreciate them!

Of course, your people need to take responsibility and accountability for their own financial situation. Nobody making $17 an hour should be eating dinner out 5 days a week. The constitution doesn’t guarantee a new car every 4 years, a 4-bedroom brick home with a pool, or even 320 channels on a 60” HDTV. Certainly, no one ever actually promised “work 40 hours a week and get rich”. Maybe this is an opportunity where employers and managers could help their people; offer financial budgeting guidance. The internet is loaded with simple, easy to use budget forms, plans, etc. Teach your team members how to manage their money so that what they do earn goes further. Sadly, many of todays adults have never been taught the basics of creating a budget, so they just “wing it” when payday rolls around.

To come full circle, somewhere along the line our value system got seriously distorted. Maybe you can’t change the world, but perhaps you can alter your little piece of it. Give it a shot, you have much more to gain than you have to lose.

If just for a day, make someone on your team feel like an Academy Award winner, World Champion or Country Music’s biggest star! After all, they are FAR more important to the success of your business than someone “famous” you’ll never meet.

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