I like to look at most areas of life as a game. If I didn't think it were fun to navigate the challenges of the game called "business," I wouldn't have taken the career path I have. As the president of a company, it's my job to win when it comes to the balance sheet, doing what I can to increase revenues and profits in any kind of economic conditions, and generating happy customers and employees while I'm at it.
I believe that most business owners feel the same, as they've chosen to be responsible for the results of their game, to take on the game's risks and happily reap the rewards.
Over the last few years, it's been easy to forget that we're playing a game. Winning, or even getting ahead, has been tougher than it's been in a long time for small business owners, as the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard reveals once again in August. Hiring continues to slide downward each month (August hiring numbers show we're down 2.6% year to date), and we're not able to pay the wages that make the game as fun for all employees (small business pay is down 0.3% year to date). Not adding more players to our team or being able to provide substantial rewards can be the toughest type of defeat to swallow.
At this time, only half our business owners report feeling optimistic about the economy. I feel confident translating that statistic to "only half are enjoying the game." What I find interesting is that whether business owners are optimistic or pessimistic, the affects of the government's actions on the game do not go unnoticed.
As you can see from a few of the reasons given by small business owners who checked the “I am pessimistic about the economy” box, many feel the government has a heavy hand in determining the outcome of their game.
"The federal government and federal reserve are out of options to stimulate the fledgling economy because of the deficit. Individuals aren't spending as much because they aren't confident about the government’s ability to handle this problem, and more importantly how they will be impacted by taxes and further regulation. This affects small business owners the most since they won't be getting any handouts or bailouts like the big banks or big business."
"The government is incapable of making the changes needed to drive consumer spending and job growth."
“Uncertainty! While nothing is certain, our current outlook must be one of caution. The uncertainty is directly related to poor performance of all of our leadership in Washington D.C.”
And those who are optimistic seem to feel they have more control in the game than the government.
"...Congress may be out of touch, but small businesses aren't."
"I believe individuals & small business will overcome politics & wall street blunders."
" I am pessimistic about our government's ability to communicate and implement fairness and ethics but I feel optimistic because small businesses will be the only way to employ the jobless. I think that people will realize that they need to take what they know and open new businesses, and create competition and income to get our economy rolling again."
There's no doubt that the actions of our government will affect our economy, one way or another. And right at this moment, we can't change the actions of our government. But we can choose how we play the game.
I like what one survey respondent who is optimistic about the economy wrote: “I choose to remain optimistic, but not clueless, in all areas of my life.”
Like with all games, the game of business will be won or lost based on your actions. Your actions will certainly be guided by outside influences. Do you want to take the realities of our current economic conditions and see them as a very challenging component that you’re determined to beat, or do you want to allow someone else to win the game while you sit at the sidelines, defeated by circumstances.
As the captain of the team, it’s up to you. How do you want to play the game?
MICHAEL ALTER is president of SurePayroll, America’s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University. @michaelalter