Job Creation: Who, Me?
Job Creation: Who, Me?

Job Creation: Who, Me?

June 1 st 1994

Our sluggish economy, despite a modest upswing recently, has produced a lot of hand-wringing about job creation. Typically, people demand that others find solutions to the problem of high unemployment. Politicians are constantly being pressured to provide instant jobs and often respond with knee-jerk, simplistic statements about more training and educational programs. Labour unions blame free trade and heartless corporate policies focused on maximizing profits. Corporations tend to blame governments for having created massive debts that choke industries and individuals with a heavy tax load.

Obviously, some truth is found in all of these positions; however, they do little to create jobs. In fact, most of the discussions tend to discourage rather than encourage people to exploit the opportunities we still have. Can you or I make any impact at all and contribute to job creation? I suggest we can. In fact, it is our obligation to do just that.

Creativity and faith

Having moved in the entrepreneurial world for the past 30 years or so, I have been directly associated with individuals and corporations who have created well over 2,000 jobs. Personally, I had the opportunity to be the founder of a new environmental technology company, which has created over 100 professional jobs over the past several years and is still growing rapidly.

In these enterprises, the two key ingredients common to all are creativity and faith. Creative thinking is needed to identify a problem, need, or opportunity to do things better. But it takes faith to translate the creative impulse into a viable and meaningful venture.

Contrary to popular belief, creativity has as much to do with discipline and hard work as it does with inherent talent. Entrepreneurs need to be disciplined in seeking out opportunities that will allow them to become creative. This has to be a proactive function driven by a curiosity that continually questions why things have to be the way they are. We need to develop a mindset that, in a constructive way, critiques and challenges the status quo, including organizational and personal goals and objectives, which we may have clung to for many years. Witness the current dramatic restructuring in business, health, and education as an example.

In a sense, we should adopt a lifestyle that challenges us to do better than the day before. This may be threatening to many of us because of the restlessness and uncertainty that goes with it, yet it is essential for individuals and corporations if they hope to create new jobs.

To feel secure in such an environment, the individual must have faith, first of all, faith in God as the source of our existence and our trust. Secondly, we need to develop an attitude of confidence in ourselves, families, friends, communities, partners, clients, and the list goes on.

Barriers to job creation

If the assumption that creativity and faith are the keys to job creation, then we must ask what are the barriers to that process. In a secularized society, the creative drive is in danger of being smothered. Our educational institutions, which are prime examples of secularization, are constantly trying to substitute risk for a false security. The objectives of economic life are formulated in terms of human self-sufficiency and economic security. Carefully controlled economic models have become the criteria by which opportunities are analyzed. Unless we can predict the outcome with a high degree of certainty, we won't take any risks.

Society is more and more preoccupied with the avoidance of risk, from vacation trips to welfare systems to Wall and Bay Street analyst gurus. Marriages are out; noncommitted, common law relationships are in. Handshake deals are replaced by carefully worded documents that go on for pages and pages. Faith in anything other than the controllable tends to be dismissed as hopelessly naive or, at best, lacking in good judgment.

But these efforts at making our lives secure and risk-free are always counterproductive and undermine the very entrepreneurial spirit that is essential for a productive economy and a healthy society.

From early childhood, parents should encourage children to take certain risks and venture out into the unfamiliar. Educational institutions should provide an atmosphere where the creative and unusual are encouraged. Those in a position of authority must allow for failure and have the wisdom to encourage people under their leadership to try and try again.

Government policies are often counterproductive with respect to job creation. But of crucial importance is governments' role in creating the legislative framework that is conducive to risk-taking and building faith and integrity. Entrepreneurs, whether running small, one-person enterprises or large corporations employing thousands, depend on it. Governments, in many instances, increasingly rely on desperate policies of cutting back, for example, on long-term research and development funding, and instead opt for such things as sure-fire gambling casinos that have a short-term "payback," never mind the long-term consequences.

Do I have enough faith?

There are no simple solutions to job creation, and good intentions are not enough. An enterprise needs to be based on sound economic criteria, balancing immediate opportunity with long-term vision. Research and development are absolutely crucial in an increasingly complex world. In a technology-oriented business, it is important to understand the science before trying to engineer and market a solution.

The idea of making a quick buck is foreign to the vast majority of entrepreneurs. Instead, excruciatingly long days, plan upon plan, disappointments, failures, small successes, lengthy travels, technological breakthroughs, landing a major contract, attracting enthusiastic employees, cashflow crunches, and tough investors are part of the real world of the job creator.

Job creation and a healthy economy do not occur in isolation but are dependent on people who have a strong sense of responsibility, honesty, reliability, trust, and respect for others. And it is the various institutions of society, notably family, church, school, business, and labour union, acting interdependently, that nurture these personal characteristics. We are fatally mistaken if we think that the problems of the economy and joblessness can be solved solely by means of technical fixes.

It begins at home, with parents who are willing to spend time with a son or daughter to review homework, discuss vocational opportunities, and encourage their children to make meaningful choices. In business, it is the executive who on an overseas trip identifies needs in new markets and with a team comes up with cost-effective solutions. In our schools, it is the innovative teacher interacting with business, labour, and other institutions to prepare students for the job market. These create jobs!

Looks difficult? Of course it is, but the sheer joy of being creatively involved in any of these endeavours is worth it. Keeping the faith, first of all in the deepest sense of the word, that is, faith in God, but also persevering, despite setbacks, in the tasks we are given is a reward in itself. To build jobs where people can be active year in and year out, where interaction and dialogue becomes the stimulant to expand horizons even further is the stuff all of us love.

Can we create jobs; can I create jobs? Of course you can; just look around and ask yourself, "Do I have enough faith to take the risk?"

Hank Vander Laan
 
Hank Vander Laan

Hank Vander Laan is founder and President of Trojan Technologies Inc., a London, Ontario-based company providing water treatment solutions (and equipment) to some 25 countries, including several developing countries.

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