Opportunity knocks. Hard.

I made the mistake a while back of criticizing liberals (small L) as being like children: all rights with no responsibility, constant demands, fear of independence and so on. I got a bit of push-back, so I would like to make amends. Instead of criticizing liberals, I will criticize employers, since most employers of small- to medium-sized businesses are conservatives, at least in their thinking. As such, you have this coming. This is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you.

Kerry Knudsen
Kerry Knudsen

Your employees see you as their parent. For example, you have all the money. Therefore, rather than rely on something as intermittent and dirty as work, the employees need a guaranteed minimum wage, guaranteed minimum hours, special leave for obscure holidays, premium pay for “extra” hours, special time off (paid) for love and marriage, birth and death, graduations incarnations and deviations, not to mention hallucinations and altercations. Deal with it.

Insurance is a burden. What if something happens and they can’t pay? Clearly, this is your duty. They may need money for “stuff” and cannot pay for insurance. Since Canada’s greatest fear is of having a two-tier health system, it is clear extended medical is a right, not a privilege. Get your billfold. Their right is your responsibility.

As a business owner, you don’t want people to lose their jobs. You don’t want your employees (or kids) to face the ravages of unemployment, having to move, selling assets and eating Kraft Dinner. The only fact you miss in your assessment is that those are exactly the things you may have gone through, yourself, to get where you are.

I am sure a lot of us stop to reflect on which is the better system: protection from the arbitrary consequences of life, or facing reality with teeth and toenails. I am also sure most of you vote for the former, yet lived the latter. In the post-WWII era, the greatest handicap was to be “mollycoddled,” and opportunities were something you created for yourself.

Our industry, as with others, is facing a shortage of willing workers. Isn’t that a hoot? We have employers, and nobody wants to work for them. I’m not saying there has been too much mollycoddling, but if there had been, this would be the result.

Have you ever known a wino? Of course you have. Self-pity is universal among them. Self-pity is mollycoddling turned inwards. Most of them never make it. However, some do. The interesting thing is this: once they decide to do something for sure, they start being accountable for themselves. They know mollycoddling doesn’t work.

In my opinion, this is one of the greatest resources we have available in the wood industry in Canada. Not alcoholism, exactly, but folks that have been beaten into a state of reasonableness. Sure, they don’t clean up so good right at first. However, most of our shops don’t enforce a dress code.

Nobody can afford to have an active drunk running around saws and sanders. However, if you ever are walking down the street and some guy is panhandling but looks unsure about it, you might try sticking your face right into his and asking him if he is enjoying his lifestyle. If you get back an emphatic, searching refusal, tell him you are willing to give him one shot, up or down, all-or-nothing. He already knows his fantasy of engineering video games for millions won’t work. You have made yourself a turning point. He has a choice, and it’s about to walk away.

If he takes you up on it, you may have beat the odds on finding reliable workers. In fact, if he starts managing his affliction with outside help, he may find himself with friends that also have poor work records and a desire to change. You could call that a workforce.

If you try this, you have to be ready to terminate immediately on the first hint of drinking. No second chances. That works best for both parties. So does pulling the unemployment plug when people lay down. The Americans are trying to figure this one out right now.


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