As the partial government shutdown reaches a record 28th day, it's important to look at it from a different perspective. As entrepreneurs, we're conditioned to be laser-focused on our business, clients, and ideas. It's not that we're not aware of what's happening. But if you're not one of the 800,000 employees directly impacted, you may not be as focused on the cost.
The biggest takeaway is that everyone is connected, from the single mother to the agency that works on government contracts. Those 800,000 people are potential customers for your business. Those departments that are shut down can't pay agencies and contractors. Eventually, that impact is trickling down to you, even if you haven't seen it yet. When someone doesn't get paid, someone else doesn't get paid, and so on and so forth.
I'm not an economist. I leave that up to smarter people than myself. But I do think there are things that can be done right now both on a small and large scale.
How your business can step up during the shutdown
MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi has been telling banks that they can use the shutdown as an opportunity create positive goodwill during a time of crisis--noting specifically that people don't really trust banks anymore.
In recent weeks, he's outlined a specific roadmap for them to follow: waiving fees and penalties, withholding reports of delayed payments to credit agencies, and publicly supporting federal workers affected by the shutdown. "Taking a stand in favor of supporting people affected by the shutdown could gain a bank admirers--and customers--beyond the base of federal workers and contractors who missed paychecks," said Velshi.
Advocate for single parents, Joanna Hertzberg, added, "There is no second income to fall back on when the salary checks stop coming in, and so many single parents are living paycheck to paycheck."
"Americans continue to have a long memory about both bailing out the banks and being treated badly by them in the wake of the financial crisis. While some of that has healed, the recent Wells Fargo controversies have deepened customers distrust of banks," said Velshi.
This relates directly to your business. You're not a bank, but you can make a similar impact. If you're a lean startup, you may not have the margins to do something major but every little kindness helps and will be noticed.
Using some of your marketing budget--if you have one--on helping people during the shutdown is a kind thing to do. It's also a great business use of your marketing budget.
Making small gestures can create a lasting impact
One such effort, PayItFurloughed.com, is already getting national press--it's a website where you can buy a beer for an unpaid federal worker. And that's just well-intentioned silliness.
Imagine the impact you could create if that was something real and tangible. The justification for helping large families or single mothers or retirees isn't just altruistic--it makes good business sense.
No one wants this opportunity to exist. Minus a few select people, everyone wants to see federal workers back at work with their regular paychecks. The longer it does exist, the more impact it will have on everyone, including entrepreneurs.
Your first impulse may be to get angry or become disengaged with government or in my case-write a passive-aggressive tweet about "hamberders." None of that helps. You won't remember any of that stuff in three months.
You'll remember the people and businesses that stepped up and made these weeks of government shutdown about the people who need help the most. Everyone else will remember those people and businesses, too.
Make your business one of them.