Aug 10, 2018

I watched a TVNZ Sunday piece with interest on my mobile last night from China. The working poor is an environment that I know so well with my much-loved charity work and one that I am constantly looking for more opportunities to bring to the people within this environment so that they can also get out of this poverty trap.

I certainly know that no permanent solution exists in anything other than a great education. But for many people caught up in this trap, this now may not be an option and as they are often trying to re pay student debt from years ago when venturing down this path with varied success and certainly don't relish the thought of a repeat journey.

As a sat watching the program I started to wonder about the “business poor”. Those of us that take risks that often don’t work (given that 80% of us fail in our first year), those of us that put our necks and money on the line to try something, that if successful, will generate employment for others and drive our economy forward. If not we also struggle and join the ranks of the “business poor “.never sure when and if we should walk away and try again. Confidence is knocked, hard earned money is lost and it is a difficult thing to get back on top of.

In NZ we have become the land of small businesses and part of an innovative entrepreneurial race that loves the independence of doing our own thing, it’s our reality that some businesses work and some don’t.

What matters is that some of us are giving it a try. Consider Gallagher and the juggernaut it is today. It all started with small beginnings of one man’s attempt to keep his horse away from his car. It’s strange to think if he had never thought to take this to another level, was too nervous of the risks involved and didn't want to put up the capital what the effect would have been. Today as an employer of 300 people, one man’s pluck has certainly paid off.

While I hear the plight of those that struggle trying to make ends meet, relying on charity and government handouts, I guess just as we have to in businesses, we must pick ourselves up when we fall and simply try again.

So must we as a community, to assist others to move forward.

Doing something different is the key as to do nothing only leaves us in the same space. It sounds logical but not something a lot of us consider or live by.

Most of us hate change, avoid risk and are challenged by the harder conversations.

These are the elements that will drive us forward, the same elements that it takes to set up a business. Whether successful or not, given only some of us take the plunge and get off the starting blocks, it will be up to them to determine what they can pay a staff member (within the legal framework) , should they get to a stage where they can afford to employ. It is then the pending employees’ role to know their worth, maximise their education and consistently up skill.

When we started our charity, RAW employees worked for no pay. They worked to get change for women that had in many cases been disadvantaged by birth right. They gave their time and skill willingly to grow the vision and it paid off, they are now all employed ,earning a wage.

Commercial business doesn't have this advantage, they must employ to grow and they must employ good people to grow well These employees are often well educated or well experienced in their relevant fields and while I hear the challenge that exists for the working poor, there are businesses out there (for want of a better phrase) that are also struggling to survive for all sorts of reasons, whether that is poor management or the digital disruption that has changed the playing field for so many of us.

It’s easy to say that maybe they shouldn't be in business, but if none of us gave it a go, there would be none of the business success stories that we celebrate today.

Ongoing and real business success is one answer for the working poor, so I guess we need to reframe our thinking and look at how we can empower more of our small businesses to survive and thrive in this very precarious trading environment so they then can go onto becoming the large employers of the future.