C-Level Business Leaders: Find Your Voice in This Economic Crisis




Typically I use this column to write about the management skills and experiences necessary to successfully execute a C-level job. On any given day in business, being a C-level executive is about leadership, vision and an astute ability to execute a strategy.

And then there are the other days. Days when the leader needs to step outside of the business and lead from a different platform. CEOs, CFOs, COOs, Chief Human Capital Officers, CIOs, etc. are often called on to be advocates. Many times they advocate their specific industry, a strategic initiative, their clients industries and offerings for their employees and shareholders. In this economic crisis, I believe, we as C-level executives are required to let our voices be heard loud and clear for the survival of business in general.

In the midst of this economic crisis, I believe it is time for C-level executives to stand up and be heard. We are being far too quiet and letting a few "villainized" spokesmen do our bidding for us. I don’t want to appear alarmist, but I sense that if C-level business leaders remain silent we will quickly find ourselves in a more difficult, if not untenable, situation.

Governments around the globe, and most dramatically here in the United States, are heading down a path that will not only not solve the economic crisis but will in fact likely exacerbate and protract the issues for years, maybe generations to come. This issue can be addressed, but not with silence from C-level business leaders.

This is not a partisan argument. Throughout the course of history, successful business leaders have been Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Green party advocates and anarchists. The box one checks on the ballot is not the issue. What is the issue is that we, as C-level business and C-level human resources leaders, understand business, and we understand that business is the engine of our economy. It affords our citizenry the ability to maintain independence and self-determination. Without business there is no freedom and there is no democracy. As the saying goes, "Capitalism can exist without democracy, but democracy cannot exist without capitalism." Think about it.

As C-level business leaders we know the burden of over-regulation and its associated expense. Seemingly innocuous programs like the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, the Bank Services Modernization Act of 1999, Sarbanes-Oxley and Gramm-Leach-Bliley are prime examples. They have done precious little to foster job creation or business growth, stimulate investment in new technology and new markets or anything so productive (with admitted deference to the lawyers who have made a fortune due to these little windfalls and the ubiquitous expansion of bureaucrats who now have permanent job security).

So, my readers, it is time to fulfill your complete C-level responsibility. It is time to advocate for business to the powers that be—those whom you elect and whose salaries you pay with your hard-earned tax dollars. Be heard and make it known that C-level business leaders don’t need more government to help us run our businesses, we need less. That we won’t create more jobs because of a stimulus check, we will create more jobs when we are allowed to make a profit, invest in our business, conduct research and development and compete with other worthy business operators and business leaders.

Our new president recently said, "There is a time to make a profit but now is not that time." Au contraire, Mr. President, now is exactly the time to make a business profit. The equation is simple: Business profit equals ability to reinvest in business and grow. Growth equals job creation for more people, and less layoffs and unemployment. Growing businesses are good credit risks and stimulate money lending. Both jobs and profitable companies create tax revenue. We need profits because, my friends, we are going to have a huge bill to pay when this economic crisis is all said and done.

C-level business leaders, advocate and defend your business, your employees, your community and our country. It is time to be heard. Remain silent, accept what is being foisted upon us, and we shall in fact actualize Ayn Rand’s prophecy about the virtue of selfishness a short 52 years after publication.

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