Old School Rant: Choices, Teenagers & Parents

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Alexa always gives me some interesting factoids.  Today’s report on the plummeting teenager labor force participation caused me to stop and look it up.  Here’s the article, and below the stat.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fewer-teens-working-summer-jobs/

“The teen labor force participation rate reached a peak of almost 58 percent in 1979. By 2015, the most recent year of data provided by the BLS, that rate had declined to about 34 percent, which is lower than the Great Recession’s 40 percent rate.”

So What?

We can give plenty of reasons for WHY this is going on and I’m sure there are good ones.  No doubt more kids are going to summer school as they prepare for college and are likely putting a higher value on that over the long term than a minimum wage job.  I get it.

But it’s awfully hard to imagine our country in a better position with massively fewer teens participating in WORK

This is not to make a value judgment on education vs experience, it’s to ponder CHOICES that our future producers seem to be making.

Seems like you really only have 3 types of CHOICES Teenagers make.  Work.  Study.  Play.  3 distinct teens making 3 different choices.  

  • 1)  Teen Timmy makes the choice to pass up on the minimum wage job to attend “summer school” or pre-college prep.  Timmy has his sights on a scholarship at a prestigious university.  Timmy is clearly trying to hone those classroom “muscles” and I can envision his first year in college perhaps even being more successful in college as a result of this choice.  Timmy is on his way.
  • 2)  Teen Tara, an “average” high school student scores a job at the local Starbucks.  So much for sleeping in, store opens at 5am and she needs to open at least 3 days a week, and Tara isn’t a morning person so this doesn’t feel fun.  But slightly better than school for Tara, she just can’t seem to get motivated by the classroom.
  • 3)  Teen Tiffany.  She’s doing neither.  By golly it’s the summer and she’s going “Down the shore” DTS (NJ saying for hanging out on the beach) to work on her tan.  School and jobs will always be there and her bestie is joining her, it will be a blast.

I suppose there are all kinds of cross-overs between Tiffany, Tara and Tim.  Who’s to say you can’t do a little DTS, hold a job, and take a course or 2.  Our society seems to be obsessed with “balance” so one could argue this approach would kind of feel pretty darn smart?

Regardless, all could be massive successes, and all could be grade A loafers in life too.

There’s also a VERY powerful force in a Teenager’s Life:  Their Parents

One thing is hard not to notice about Parents and business leaders?  People are AWFULLY proud of their alma matter.  Their college experience shaped them, who their friends are and there is usually a tremendous sense of pride in their college.  I have a healthy degree for my college experience too.

Do yo think this rubs off on Junior?  You betcha.  Do you think Junior’s Parents vision may be a tad biased in their own hiring decisions when trying to get talent for their companies?  How can it not?

When student loan debt crosses the trillion dollar mark in the USA and countless young adults are graduating without “experience” and consider themselves “under-employed,” maybe, just maybe parents and leaders need to step back and ask themselves if we live in a different day?

Again, I’m not advocating education vs NO education.  But it’s hard not to at least challenge the underlying assumptions and recognize that the world we live in now is not our Grandparents world.  Everything should be questioned.  There are multiple paths to a fulfilled life, but listening to many of them talk about plans for junior, there only seems to be one.

Employers still want the sheepskin.  Some won’t even interview the non-degreed applicant.  That means there’s tremendous talent not even being considered in the market for talent, and that spells opportunity.

You know what employers really want MORE than the sheepskin?  Results.  Difference makers.  

For the record, I had a HELL of a teenage life.  I helped run a liquor store, and is there any cooler job for a teenager than that?  I had tons of fun, but I also remember plenty of weekends my friends going DTS while I worked at the store and locked it up at night.  The pride of being entrusted with a key to that store and locking it up, in great shape to start the next day was a responsibility I wouldn’t screw up for anything.  I think of my Uncle and Cousin often with a tremendous amount of gratitude for their trust.

Sometimes in life, success isn’t a matter of distinct choices, to work or to study or to play.  Success sometimes means, who are you trying to please?  Your parents?  Your buddies?  Or……yourself?  Coming of age usually means you get this clearly, and sometimes people take a lifetime with this struggle….

For teenagers, these are awfully tough choices.  I just hope it’s the teenager that makes the call, not their parents.   

BTW, don’t miss the video on Raven Osborne, got here college degree BEFORE her high school degree.  For free.  That’s HUSTLE, and I’d love to hire her.

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What does YOUR Year End Review Look Like?

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The year end brings a perfect time to take a clear look back to see what worked and what didn’t in your business.  Too many times, senior leaders look at “did we hit our number?” as the all consuming barometer.  That is absolutely critical.  It’s also dangerous if that’s the only thing that’s reviewed with a magnifying glass. 

Start at the basics to ground you in the brutal economic truth.

  • Are your sales & profits up or down?  How close to your budget?

  • Are you getting better at what you do?  Usually your margin %’s are an indicator here, all things being equal (input costs, pricing), margins moving north indicate productivity improvements and/or favorable mix.  Sometimes businesses plan them up or down based on op ex investments, so margins relative to expectations are the critical view.

  • In almost all cases, up beats down…….but in my experience, businesses that can not grow margin rates over time are forced to grow the topline at accelerated rates, and that can be expensive for shareholders if it’s not done organically (ie via acquisition).  Growing margin rates and top-line revenue are obviously not mutually exclusive, doing both is where it’s at.

 

Investment & Focus areas

  • People/Team?  (new hires, promotions, existing employees), how have you done? 

    • Are key individuals getting significantly better, or are they treading water?
    • How much did you spend on training?  Did you see an impact?  If not, why?
  • Culture? 

    • Overall workforce engagement (morale) and ownership of outcomes and common definition of a great future.  What have you spent against this?  What was your ROI, or if too difficult to measure, would you repeat it?
    • What’s your turnover rate and is it better or worse?
    • What’s your safety record?
    • What are your quality defects?
    • Are you happy with the results orientation of the business among your people?  Or do they have just a cursory view of business performance and their respective role in improving it?
    • Is recruiting becoming easier because your existing workforce is turning into the company’s best advocates?
  • What does your business pipeline look like going into the new year? (Customers)

    • How strong are you with your existing customers?  Are they growing as a group, flat or declining?  What are their intentions going forward?
    • Strong enough to recover from key customer losses and still grow?
    • How does your innovation stack up?  Are the new products/services in development likely to pull margins up or down, or are you doing more of the same?
    • Are you telling your story (marketing) effectively and attracting people to YOU?  Have you embraced the world of digital or still part of the masses that think it doesn’t apply to you?
  • Process Improvements?  All areas of business have a process, whether well defined or not. 

    • Have you analyzed your key business processes to look for improvement?
    • What’s your key business process where the management team comes together?  How strong?
  • Equipment?  Better, more efficient, safe equipment, or more total capacity….

  • Technology? 

    • Still stuck in a world of cocktail napkins or contemplating a real company system?  Or are you stuck in a world of spreadsheets where power users get it, others struggle?
  • Last, is your company stronger financially at the end of 2016 vs. the start of it?  Multiple metrics for this, but your balance sheet ratios of liquidity, debt coverage, shareholder equity and cash are all good indicators.  NOTE:  All of these metrics are the outcomes of everything above

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