When someone asks me what I do for a living, I tell them I work in an office and travel a lot. Telling people I am a CEO, is a conversation killer.
Speaking of high systemic unemployment and killing - I am in the business of killing jobs. I kill jobs in three ways. I kill jobs when I sell, I kill jobs by killing competitors and I kill jobs by focusing on internal productivity.
All of the companies, I have been a CEO of, through best-in-practice services and software, eliminate jobs. They eliminate jobs by automation, outsourcing and efficiencies of process. The marketing is clear - less workers, more consistent output.
I reckon in the last decade I have eliminated over 100,000 jobs in the world-wide economy from the software and services my companies sell. I know the number, because in order to sell, my revenues (the return on investment from the client in labor savings is a small fraction of what they pay me) are based on the number of jobs I kill.
I have killed many competitors. Again, I reckon I have eliminated over 100,000 jobs in the last decade. I know the number, because I know I have been in large markets, and have ended up being one of two company's left standing, where there were many more when I took over.
Finally I have killed many internal employees. When I acquire a company, some of the "synergies", are eliminating duplicate jobs. When I buy productivity software or outsource for lower labor costs, I kill internal jobs. Finally companies that grow, demand internal people to grow. They attract better job candidates. Growing companies kill internal jobs by economic darwinism.
So there, I have said it, I am a serial job killer.
Why I am writing about this is in such a straight forward way? First, because, even though I know what I have to do for a living, it does not mean it sits well with me. Second, there are a lot of people like me, that have been killing jobs, for the last two decades.
The latter point is relevant here. We have high systemic employment. The most optimistic projections, don't point to full employment, until 2020. I think that is generous and unrealistic.
You see, any job that can be eliminated though technology or cheaper labor is by definition not coming back. The worker can come back. They most often come back by being underemployed. Others upgrade their skills and return to previous levels of compensation. But as a whole, the productivity gains over the last twenty years, have changed the landscape of what is a sustainable job.
What is a sustainable job? The best way I can articulate, what is a sustainable job, is to tell you, as a job killer, jobs I can't kill. I can't kill creative people. There is no productivity solution or outsourcing that I can sell, to eliminate a creative person. I can't kill unique value creators. A unique value creator is, well, unique. They might be someone with a relationship with a client. They might be someone who is a great salesmen. They might be someone who has spent so much time mastering a market, that they are subject matter experts, and I know technology or outsourcing can't be built profitably to eliminate a single unique job.
Which brings us back to high systemic unemployment. Some of the high unemployment is due to the endless cycle of lack of faith in consumer demand. I have proposed solutions to help break this endless cycle. But these solutions are psychological and lead to underemployment as a substitute for unemployment. The largest factor in high systemic unemployment, is a failure in our schools and workforce to recognize, we have entered into a "free-agent" era of labor.
Everyone is now a free agent. The days people worked for one company have been gone for a long time. But the days where people could assume if they worked hard, and the company they worked for was successful, made them "safe", is now over. They are over, because job killers like me are lurking everywhere.
Every child in school, or any young adult, needs to understand, that there will only be a "free agent" market for labor going forward. Free agency means, by definition, every day there is an implied contract. The free agent decides whether the job, pay and working conditions match up to other opportunities. The company decides whether the job, the pay and the same individual free agent matches up to other options.
How many children are taught this "free agent" era in school? Or more preciously, do schools emphasize individuality or do they emphasize conformity? The latter sadly is the answer.
In college, how much time is spent on concepts that are universal? And how much time is spent on creative application? The answer is based on economics. What costs less to teach, universal concepts or creative application?
Where does the before-gainfully employed professional learn how to compete for jobs? Monster dot com? LinkedIn? The unemployment office? What infrastructure exists to retrain professionals to compete in a free agent job market, where only creative unique value contributors thrive?
Until our children are taught to be individuals, until our colleges spend more time on creative application and until we provide training and mentoring for before-gainfully employed professionals; high systemic unemployment is never going away.
In the meantime, the fully employed herd, without creative unique value contribution skills, will continue to be prey to serial job killers like me.
June 11, 2011