Initial Skepticism Turns to Frustration
That skepticism soon turned to frustration. We kept hearing and reading about the "bailout plan" with increasing frequency -- and urgency. Big screen TVs are great for all sorts of things, and one thing they show with alarming granularity is fear in the eyes of financial executives and regulators. Yes, the fear was coming through. Unfortunately, the public was getting few details about the solution.
The mere fact that it initially was called a "bailout plan" made it suspect. It sounded like we -- small business owners like me and the people on my small team -- would be the ones paying for take-your-breath-away bonus packages for overpaid Wall Street executives laughing all the way to the Caymans.
This has to be one of the worst jobs explaining to the American people why we need a $700 Billion package that I've ever lived through. Being in the final throws of a presidential election has not helped -- it degenerated into partisan football.
But I am not interested in hearing about partisan politics right now -- it's a pointless exercise. We need decisive action, not blame. Leaders, are you listening?
Frustration Gives Way to Urgency
After 2 weeks of seeing historic events on Wall Street (Lehman Brothers going bankrupt and the end of investment banks) and seeing it spread across the world (the London Interbank, or LIBOR, rate hitting an all time high), I have concluded we need this intervention.
We need a rescue plan as fast as we can get it. Like .... what are we waiting for?
Markets, the Economy and our Businesses are Interrelated
Here's the bottom line: our financial system and our markets and our businesses are interrelated. No man (or woman) is an island.
We need the economy as a whole operating well, if we expect our businesses to do well.
Markets and economies are funny things. We may not feel the effects right now, but market forces and fallout tend to trickle down. It takes a while to trickle. Most small businesses haven't felt the effects or are just beginning to feel the effects of this crisis situation unfolding. Here are 3 ways this can hurt us unless decisive action is taken:
1. Frozen credit -- Frozen credit at banks does not help my small business in any way. If credit dries up among banks and other financial institutions, there won't be credit extended to small businesses like mine. I don't know about you, but I use credit cards as a line of credit, and I need those open lines of credit to keep the cash flowing. It's as simple as that. Startups especially, that haven't gotten their sea legs yet, are at risk. If your revenue sources are not solid because you're still in the startup stage (it's not that long since my business was in that stage), you know what I'm talking about.
2. Risk of losing investments and savings -- Look we are not anywhere close to a major panic setting in, but spooked investors can set in motion forces that reduce the value of our savings and investments. FDIC and SPIC insurance will protect us to a huge degree, so I am not worried about bank runs or institutional failures (I used to work in a bank, so none of that scares me). But government insurance aside, I don't want to see the value of my retirement investments shrivel and take 5 years to rebound, because the stock markets tank. I also don't want to see it happen for anyone on my team.
3. Unhealthy markets create customers unwilling or unable to buy -- In the final analysis we need healthy customers. Our businesses are nothing without customers, and if our customers are not fiscally healthy and able to buy from us, our own businesses suffer. As this situation spreads worldwide, it is beginning to be clear that it will touch people and businesses all over the world. It's not just a Wall Street crisis hitting a few arrogant institutions pushing electronic signals around. This has the potential to spread and touch all of us directly in ways that are not always apparent, because economic forces and financial systems are so interrelated. Whether your customers are consumers or businesses, you need them fiscally healthy.
I don't mean to sound like Chicken Little shouting, "The Sky is Falling." But, I don't take it lightly when smart experienced people come out in droves and impress upon us the urgency of the situation. Too many voices are saying we need a rescue plan to get and stay on track, for us to ignore it.
And if we watch networks like CNBC, which has some of the best coverage on this crisis (despite an obvious Wall Street bias), the signs of what can happen unless decisive action is taken, are becoming clear with each passing day.
Just because it isn't some startling event like planes flying into tall buildings, doesn't mean it is any less of a crisis.
We need this credit rescue plan. Let's do it now. And get our markets back on track, so we can keep growing our businesses.