2013-10-17 / Views

From the Braver Institute

As of this writing our government is firmly in the midst of a shutdown. I must admit that there are times when I feel that our government is shut down even when it isn’t. Perhaps brokedown might be a more adequate term. Aside from the people who are directly impacted by it, the government shutdown has had little effect on most of us (in the short term anyway). There are some people who look at the shutdown as a good thing, saying that the government can do less harm this way. I’m not so sure that I agree with that sentiment but a part of me would like to.

The way that I see it is that this whole shutdown thing could be a great learning experience. In times like these people learn what really matters and what they can live without. Sometimes we don’t know what we can live without until it is taken away from us and often we find that we don’t really miss certain things when they are gone.

Years ago my family inherited a mess of a trucking company. My parents (foolishly perhaps) had been in business with two other partners in this company and none of them trusted the others enough to allow any other partner to work in the office to oversee things, so they hired a business manager who essentially ran the company into the ground. When the dust settled from the wreckage the business manager left behind, the other partners bailed out and left my parents to do with the company as they might.

It was at this time that my dad stopped driving the trucks and started overseeing things directly. He hired me to work in the office since there was no longer a restriction against family working for the company.

So bad was the financial condition of the business that we couldn’t even sell it. We had an offer from a potential buyer but when we ran the numbers we figured we would have to pay the buyer to take the thing. We declined the offer.

We knew that we had to do two things in order to keep the company going. We had to increase revenue and reduce spending. We were limited as to how much we could increase revenue since we only had so many trucks that could only haul so much freight in so much time. We couldn’t really increase our rates since most loads paid a fixed amount of money, take it or leave it. If we didn’t haul it, someone else would.

Reducing our spending wasn’t easier to do, but it was something we could control. We moved our offices to a less expensive building. We cut out everything we were spending money on except for the absolute essentials to running the business. Even when two important staff members moved on to other jobs, we didn’t replace them. Instead the rest of us took on the additional responsibility.

A business that was once run poorly by seven people was now running efficiently by three, and slowly things turned around. We learned what we didn’t need and we never brought these things back. To do so would have brought us right back where we started from.

Eventually we were able to rethink the idea of selling the company and we contacted the party who had been previously interested. On the other side of all of our tough decisions and hard work we were able to sell the company at a good price – an idea that was laughable a few years earlier.

What may truly be the worst thing about the government shutdown is that it most likely will not be a learning experience. The powers that be will not look at things and say, “Hey, I guess we really didn’t need that.” Once the government opens again, everything will open and we will go right back to doing the very same things that got us in this mess in the first place.

Politics as usual.

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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by email at waye@braverinstitute.com. Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com.

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