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Lessons Wall Street Can Learn From Main Street

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  • Lessons Wall Street Can Learn From Main Street

    There is an awful lot of negative talk from Wall Street and government officials (from both parties) regarding President Obama's stimulus plan. Some of the reasons cited for being against the plan range from not wanting to leave debt for future generations to "fear" of Americans not spending the extra money they would receive after the proposed tax breaks in ways that would boost the economy. My question is, "Are any of these critics in a position to give advice?"

    For years Americans have been suckered into putting those who work on Wall Street on a pedestal and in order to be successful we (small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs) must heed their advice and emulate them. Well, if I am not mistaken aren't these the same "geniuses" that got us into this economic mess? Therefore, those on Wall Street and those who side with their line of thinking need not "concern" themselves regarding my well being. As a proud member of Main Street, Wall Street should pick up some cues as to how we conduct business in our neighborhood. Here are some lessons:

    1.) We play by the rules. Main Street does not have the luxury of benefiting from "back door" deals that are often made in Washington-nor would we want to do so. Main Street does not have to be "embarrassed" by the media into paying our taxes because we were paying them all along. Integrity is important to those who work on Main Street. We prefer to acquire our wealth the right way-hard work and persistence-not at the expense of someone else.

    Main Street bosses do their best to be the boss they unfortunately never had the opportunity to work for during their career-hence why they running their own companies.

    2.) We operate within our means. Unlike former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, Main Street does not go out spending $1.2 million on office furniture. We make wise decisions because we realize the value of a dollar. Armed with the knowledge that money does not grow on trees, we are extra careful in analyzing our checkbooks before we purchase anything. Main Street realizes that owning a company is a serious responsibility.

    Your employees are expecting you to make sound decisions because ultimately any course of action you take will affect them. Employees are expecting you to keep your business operating in such a way that will enable them to provide for their families. Main Street recognizes that if people are willing to work 8 hours (oftentimes more!) in order to increase the bottom line for their employer-the owner can repay the "favor" by balancing their checkbooks and purchasing products and services that the company truly needs in order to operate; thus, avoiding the need to layoff people.

    3.) Passing the buck is not allowed. When a company fails on Main Street we learn from our mistakes and move on in life. We do not have the luxury of flying to Congress on our corporate jet and begging for more money to keep our companies in operation. Perhaps companies might not need to borrow money if they made solid financial decisions in the first place. A private jet is not essential in keeping a company in business-otherwise there would not be any businesses on Main Street.

    Many times Main Street businesses that fail (regardless of the reason) continue to try their hand at entrepreneurship and oftentimes find success. A perfect example is Richelle Shaw. Shaw owns a public utility company and provides marketing to the credit challenged. She went from bankruptcy to being a millionaire. Wondering how she accomplished this feat? Hard work and persistence! If she was able to do so without government assistance-why should Wall Street be any different? Wall Street will appreciate their money more when it is earned and not given to them on a silver platter.

    4.) Results determine the size of your bonus. The majority of Main Street business owners abide by the rule of giving people bonuses based upon their results (I am well aware that there are those who do not follow this rule-as with everything in life you will always encounter a few bad apples). In fact many people are given a hard time in convincing their boss that they deserve a raise when they are actually doing their job so why on earth do CEO's of failing companies receive million dollar bonus packages?

    If a Main Streeter ever went to their boss and said. "Listen, I know I am responsible for a 23% decline in sales, my department morale is low, I'm not sure if that has anything to do with laying off half of the department, but I really feel I am due for a bonus," would be laughed at, fired, and escorted out of the building. Why? You did not perform anything worthy of praise. Main Street does not reward incompetency because we know the moment when we do it will cause us to collapse.

    5.) Humility promotes stability. You might be wondering. "Huh?" Think. When you are so full of pride you have a tendency to act like you are invincible. Wall Street played fast and loose with the money of those who trusted them to make wise decisions and investments. They did so because they thought they could get away with anything and not suffer any repercussions. However, Wall Street's reckless behavior caught up to them and now we are left with an unstable economy.

    Main Street has a different approach when it comes to repaying those who put their trust in us. We are humble and take great care that we do not do anything that would jeopardize others faith in us. Integrity and humility are the backbone of any successful business.

    It is evident by the current state of our economy that Wall Street has not followed any of the rules that have enabled Main Street to be prosperous. However, because of Wall Street's greed Main Street is left with the responsibility of cleaning up after their mess and getting this economy back on track. I hope those of us on Main Street will not continue to revere those who work on Wall Street-they wouldn't last a day in our neighborhood.

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