Are you better off?

Friday, October 12, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 41

Many people are currently asking the question, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” More often than not, the people asking this question have some sort of political agenda in mind.

In view of that, let me quickly and freely admit that I am absolutely a political flip-flopper. I think of myself neither as a Republican nor a Democrat; I don’t really even think of myself as an independent. Politically, I’m just a voter. I try my best to ignore political affiliations and vote for the person I think will do the best job considering the circumstances at the time of the election. I have, in fact, in my lifetime voted for Republicans, Democrats and independent candidates. So, when I ask if you are better off than you were four years ago, it’s just an interesting question, not a politically motivated one.

Now, with all that explanation out of the way, if your response to my question is no, then I’m not sure pointing fingers at politicians and their political agendas is the best strategy for you. Let the politicians and pundits do that for you and then get about the business of making sure you can answer yes to that question four years from now – regardless of who wins the current election.

Certainly I’m not advocating that you ignore politics or refuse to do your part in terms of promoting the welfare of our nation; however, I think that you should also look very closely at specifically what you could have done over the last four years to increase the odds that you would be better off. Yes, unexpected and unfortunate situations will at times cause good people, some very talented and hard-working people, to fail. But if at all possible, don’t attach too much of your potential to succeed or fail to what any particular politician does or the prevailing political environment. As they say, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Here’s a bit of cold hard reality for employees. In one sense, employers (job creators) buy your talents at wholesale prices thinking they can sell your talents at retail prices – and a 100 percent markup between wholesale and retail prices is not unusual for many products.

So, if you want to make $100,000 a year, a potential employer would need to clearly see how hiring you would result in a decrease in expenses, increase in revenues (or some combination of the two) that would increase his or her bottom line by at least $200,000.

If you want to increase the odds that you will be better off in one year, two years, three years, or four years – you must do something that specifically increases your value over the same time period.

How would you respond if your employer walked up to you and asked for a straightforward answer to the question: “What can you do now that you could not do a year ago?”

Let’s chat about all this again in four years.

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through