The end of the year brings new hope amid sometimes tough decisions. Owners and managers this time of year take a hard look at the financial health of their company and I get some interesting and difficult questions. One of most painful questions from those not hitting profit numbers is, “How deeply do I cut payroll?” The answer, while not easy, is straightforward.
The choice when looking at payroll is save the company or save an employee–you can’t do both. As an owner or manager, your responsibility is to make a return on investment which means maintaining the overall health of the company.
Too many managers and owners ignore the reality that revenue is not matching outflow. They look at financial statements with rose colored glasses and unrealistic optimism. Instead of doing what is necessary, they do what is easy. Instead of cutting out payroll, they cut it down by reducing a few hours here and there and ask employees to work harder and faster. The problem is morale takes a hit and every hour the whole team works, they are painfully aware of reduced hours, they don’t work harder, no one is happy, productivity wanes, and then deeper problems arise requiring deeper changes.
A better solution is to objectively identify the jobs you need, fill them objectively with your most valuable and profitable employees, make a clear and decisive cut out of unaffordable expenses, and then work with a team which is happy with their current situation and future opportunity. Deferring a payroll cut or creating jobs around people prolongs the problem and increases the risk that the problem will not be solvable in the future.
Does this sound cold and harsh during the holiday season? A company is a for profit enterprise with the purpose of making a profit. (For an expert opinion, read Milton Friedman’s seminal 1970 article, The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits.) No company can survive without profit and our government counts on corporate taxes (including Sub-S ownership taxation) to fund growing budgets.
Is this a strange message of coldly cutting costs in what is normally a growth and expansion newsletter? Not at all. As we have seen here in the racing capital of the world, you can’t win if you aren’t running at the end. If you want to grow in the future, you have to be around. Implementing the right changes today allows the possibility of future success.
If you are unfamiliar with the laws of employment, you may be well served by contacting a good HR consultant like C&S Consulting or Resources Offered Immediately regarding laws surrounding termination. In short, Indiana is employment at will meaning you can do what is necessary to save the company without unreasonable interference.
Yes it is very unfortunate for that one employee, but your role is to save the company so it can provide for shareholders and as a result employee families in the future. Saving the company is a greater good than saving one employee today which leads to company failure tomorrow.