Over the past few decades, largely because of innovation in the technology that powers everything from agriculture to manufacturing to the Internet, the United States has become increasingly more efficient at producing just about everything. This efficiency has allowed companies to do more with fewer people, thus reducing labor needs, decreasing their costs and increasing their profits, dividends and/or spending on R&D. At the same time, the access to global labor forces has increased exponentially, further driving jobs outside of the United States and reducing need for home-grown talent.
Everyone from President Obama to the corner grocer to the typical 20-something graduating from college has one topic weighing on their minds right now – jobs. Specifically, what is the United States going to do about the jobs crisis, and the structural changes discussed above that have pushed us to potentially permanent 9%+ unemployment rates?
As the CEO of Bizo, a fast growing company in the technology industry, I have a simple solution. While simple, it will only be successful with heavy doses of that through which our country has always succeeded: hard work. Ultimately, jobs are about people. Bizo hires only great people, but we hire them just about as fast as we can find them. We are one of tens of thousands of businesses in the same position. The solution to getting America back to work will start and end with people and their skills. And therein lies the problem. Our workforce isn’t properly trained for the positions that are in high demand today let alone the jobs of the future, and many have little incentive today to get those next generation skills in most areas of the country because jobs aren’t available there.
The solution – we need to bring the jobs to people. They need to believe that if they get new skills, there will be a job available to them, so that they have the incentive to acquire the skills they need to be successful. As Obama mentioned in his American Jobs Act speech, the technology industry will be the driver of both current and the next generation of jobs. Leading a technology company in Silicon Valley, I believe we have a responsibility to do our part to create and fill jobs in this country. This isn’t just generosity, but simple economics. If the economy thrives, we will be more successful and our children will be more successful. Ultimately that’s why we all work in the first place, isn’t it? This is something that we take very seriously, and we hope that other tech leaders agree and will join us in attacking this problem head on. So I thought it would be worthwhile to capture a few notes on exactly how we are taking responsibility for job creation and how others can follow suit in a way that actively supports and grows their respective businesses. We look at the opportunity as concentric circles – inside our company, inside our community and inside our country. Here’s what we are doing:
We realized early on that we needed to hire only great people to build our company. However, hiring people only in the local San Francisco bay area was a significant limitation, and we would have to sacrifice quality or over-pay to get the right resources. This is a huge problem that all high-growth companies in technology face today. At the same time, we didn’t feel that we could build the right tight-knit culture we wanted by off-shoring to India, Belarus or other far-away lands. Our solution? Again, a simple one: use powerful and cheap existing communications technologies like Skype, Google Docs, Dropbox, instant messaging, and web conferencing to manage our company and “in-shore.” That is, hire a resource anywhere in the United States and build a culture that enables this setup to work effectively. Today our 45 person company is represented in 10 states around the country including one person in far-away Hawaii. This serves big benefits for Bizo: 1) we have built an infrastructure to hire incredible talent regardless of where they live in the country, 2) our average cost per employee is lower than our competition so we can hire more of them, 3) we have network effects to having people around the country that fuels our ability to hire more great people. In fact, we haven’t used a single recruiter to find our employees – we’ve done almost all of our hiring via networking. Finally, we have built in diversity of experience, background and location, a key benefit to making good decisions.
It is my belief that better companies are built this way, and in-shoring has the potential to alter the landscape of this country’s job market. If the laid off auto worker in Detroit, or the high school student in Little Rock, or the former textile marketer in Greensboro sees that there are jobs available to work for high growth Silicon Valley (or Silicon Alley or Boston, etc.) technology companies if they only had the right skills, they will go out and acquire those skills.
Inside our Community
My belief is that everything comes down to local government and local education. At the end of the day, federal government can help set direction and grease the skids, but policies and education are actually implemented at the state and local level. Given this, Bizo has been active in organizing San Francisco mayoral debates and organizing local technology leaders and entrepreneurs to ensure that we are all contributing to the process of building the right infrastructure and education for future success. The technology and innovation are all there, but the local and state governments of areas that have high-growth industries have a responsibility to continue to enable these companies to grow to be successful long-term businesses which will fuel further innovation. The innovation cycle is self-fulfilling, and is what will drive this country into the next decades.
Inside our Country
Finally, as a fast growing business in the technology industry, we believe that we quite literally represent the industry and type of company that will power the future job creation engine of the United States. We must compete across borders with innovation and not with labor or price wars. We have never been a follower as a nation, and our core differentiation has always been the freedom to innovate and create. This is still largely missing around the world, and no other country has more potential than does the United States to create the IBMs, Microsofts, Amazons, Apples, Googles, and Facebooks of the future. In that vein our belief is that we need to work with other technology leaders, their companies and the government to ensure that our country is set up to support innovation, education and growth. We have met with Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Ed Felten at the FTC, have been active in public and private debates, and will continue to drive this agenda as we grow our company. We believe that payroll tax cuts for hiring employees and in-shoring across the country is a great step in the right direction, but we must also provide for the right education and retraining opportunities for young and old alike. We all need to make sure that everybody has the access to learn the skills necessary for the future jobs that will drive this country to prosperity.
There will be more to come from Bizo as we endeavor to do our part to drive job growth over the next many months and years, including online education and training that I will discuss in a future post. What are you doing to drive jobs in this country? What else should we be doing? I would love to hear from you.