A Frank Letter to the Homeless Man Under The Bridge

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I see you standing here, asking for help, about once a week. You are always polite, and I respect that. I’d like to do something for you… something that would matter long-term. Giving you a few notes or coins now and then may be fine, but I’d really like to improve your situation more permanently.

In other words, I’d like to give you a job.

I used to hire people, and I especially liked hiring people who had been denied breaks. I did that whenever I could. If you and I could be transported back in time, I’d hire you. And I’d feel good about it, because I think having a job would do you a lot of good.

That fact is, however, that I can’t hire you, and I’d like you to know why.

I used to run my own contracting firm. I enjoyed the work and I liked being able to drive past a building and say, “I made that.” Having employees, however, was torture. I liked having them in some ways, of course – I liked the guys and it made me happy to see them take care of their families with paychecks that I signed. That was very gratifying. But it wasn’t enough, and there are three reasons why:

#1: Making Payroll

My first problem was simply cash flow. I was solely responsible for having enough money in the bank every week, and that could be nerve-wracking, especially when customers weren’t paying their bills on time. It’s not fun to think that a family won’t be able to buy groceries if you can’t collect your invoices.

Still, that part didn’t cause me to give up on employees. It was hard, but so long as my employees were working, we were making money, so there was always something coming in at some point. Somehow, I was able to pull it off.

#2: Being Hated

Over time, some of my employees became jerks. This seemed to grow from envy and from stupid ideas about labor versus management. These guys decided that I was getting rich off of them, and demanded I pay them more – more than they deserved and more than the company could afford.

And the really nasty part was this: It was always the guys I had done the most for who hated me most. And as soon as I sat down with them and explained why I couldn’t pay them more, they started stealing from me.

I fired the thieves, of course, but these experiences really soured me on employees. I had not only given these guys a job, but I had legitimately felt good about helping to feed their families. In return, they hated me, called me names, and stole from me.

By itself, that was almost enough to make me swear off employing people, but not quite.

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