January is the month to take stock of how we fared in 2005 (pretty darn good in our Valley, according to the San Fernando Valley Research Center at CSUN and others), and to delude ourselves about how well our businesses will do in 2006. It’s also the month of New Year’s resolutions. And so, here are our five resolutions for Valley business for this year: Business Can Be Better: A lot of business leaders and writers bemoan the fact that government overregulates us, the media demonize us, unions bully us, etc. Perhaps we should acknowledge that we have our own imperfections: Enron, Bernie Ebbers, excessive perks and bonuses hidden from shareholders, denied product defects. Let’s admit our own failings and our criticisms of others will have more credence. Let’s work harder to provide exemplary customer service, to offer the best possible value for money, and to hold ourselves to a higher standard of business ethics that’s not only good for Valley consumers, it’s good for Valley business. Give, Without Expecting To Get. Winston Churchill said it best (of course, I’m prejudiced): “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.” Too many of us salve our consciences and feel we meet our commitment to our society by simply writing a check. There are so many organizations in the Valley that work to meet so many needs that it is impossible to ignore them so don’t. Read to the visually impaired; provide your organizations’ products or services at a reduced cost or fee to not-for-profits (as our firm does); give your time to a youth organization; adopt a school; or, even better, come up with your own idea. Many businesses have a single corporate philanthropy; should you? Pride Isn’t Just For Lions. Many years ago, Chicano pride became the byword of Latinos just beginning to emerge from a cloud of official and unofficial discrimination. Then came Black pride and Gay pride; now it’s time for Valley business pride. We need to demonstrate our pride in what Valley business contributes to society. We have allowed Westsiders and Downtowners to relegate the Valley to second-class citizenship. Only we can change that. Let’s make 2006 the year in which we express pride in the Valley, including our own businesses, organizations, opportunities, educational institutions, and everything else that makes up our quality of life. It’s time to knock the chips from our own shoulders. We Must Show Elected Officials We’re Not “Fowl” Balls. The business community has to do a better job this year of convincing elected officials and their staffs that business is not a sitting duck but the goose that lays the golden eggs of our economy. Everyone in City Hall mouths the words “business friendly,” but with labor union supporters predominating in City Council, and a mayor whose background is in union organizing, business has to be even more vigilant in identifying and advocating on behalf of its interests which are the interests of the community. We’re the first to congratulate the Council for its initial steps in business tax reform but there’s a lot more to do. Calvin Coolidge was on the mark when he said that, “The chief business of the American people is business.” We should expect government to support it. We Can’t Win If We Don’t Play. Business leaders must run for positions on neighborhood councils; serve on city commissions; and work harder to become a political force. We can’t win the game if we sit on the sidelines. The successes of the labor movement in Los Angeles have proven that point in the last decade. Business has to use the ballot box to its advantage. Support candidates and issues with time, money and enthusiasm. The recent failure of the governor’s business-friendly legislation shows what happens when we sit on the sidelines, or when we fail to use the same tools of communication and persuasion on the electorate that we do on our customer base. And we need to energize and galvanize our employees, as well. When businesses lose money, the workforce is reduced, and jobs are lost. Business owners and decision makers have to do a better job demonstrating to employees that supporting business issues is good for them. An editorial update: Our last column reported on the proliferation of (often not) news racks along many of the Valley’s boulevards. Our personal tally showed 26 racks at the corner of Petit Street and Ventura Boulevard in Encino. We don’t know if the bureaucracy mavens read the SFVBJ, but we’re pleased to report that 25 of the 26 racks on that corner have been removed; only USA Today remains. Oh, the power of the press!
Be Resolute in Helping Valley Business