He Knows What You Are Thinking

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 10.22.41 AMIt was the end of a long day at the office. I was running late, and traffic sucked. Part of me wanted to give up and just go home. But I’m really glad I stuck to the plan to go to Direct Marketing Association of Washington’s event on Tuesday night.

It would have been a shame to miss the evening’s speaker, Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup and co-author of the book, Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder. Let me begin by saying that talking to a guy who has spent the last 30 years asking the American people what they think is VERY sobering. But it may help us understand what the heck is going on in this year’s elections.

Here are a few data points he shared about why the ‘so-called’ recovery from the Great Recession doesn’t feel like much of a recovery at all:

  • We’ve seen GDP growth of around 2%. During one of our greatest economic growth areas in history, following the recession of 1981-1982, GDP grew for six years at 4.5%.
  • There are more businesses dying than new ones being born.
  • We have the lowest full time employment rate since 1983; in other words of all adults age 18-65 only 45% have full time jobs. According to Clifton, this is a far better indicator than the unemployment rate, which leaves out millions of people who have stopped looking, given up, or those that are working three jobs when whey would love to have one steady, full time job.

Perhaps the most sobering polling data of the evening was this: “A staggering 75% of the American public believes corruption is “widespread” in the U.S. government. Not incompetence, but corruption.” In Sweden, that number is 12%.

If you want to stop reading now because this sounds really depressing, I promise Mr. Clifton did offer some good advice for navigating these difficult times. Discussing the need for business growth, he said, “We need to look for star entrepreneurs beginning in 5th and 6th grade, the same way we look for star point guards and quarterbacks.” I love this idea and would love to hear from you about any programs you know who are approaching the problem this way.

Clifton also offered some advice to business and nonprofit leaders who are working harder than ever to barely maintain, let alone grow, their businesses. He said, “You have to manage your relationships so that customers and donors can see the value you provide. Bring ideas that help them succeed. If you don’t add value, then it’s just a price relationship, and you can be replaced.” I have to say this one made me feel much better, as it’s at the core of what we try to do every day at Impact Communications.

And, finally, a Gallup blog released this week for “International Happiness Day” discussed their poll on global emotions. It found, “Despite all of the negative things we read, see, and hear in the news, more than 70% of the world said they smiled or laughed a lot the previous day.”

Thanks Mr. Clifton for your insights and kudos to DMAW for sponsoring such a great evening. To hear more from Mr. Clifton, check out his Chairman’s blog.

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