Utilizing Key Economic Forecasts and Indicators

The big learning experience for small business owners in this pandemic is that we cannot ignore global forces, national economic, political and social challenges. We have assumed we are safe in our small business districts and service businesses, but not anymore. We must anticipate a future with great opportunity and greater risks.

A pragmatic tool for business owners is regularly checking key economic forecasts and indicators once a quarter. In this rocky pandemic recovery period, you may want to check for important changes at least once a month.

By checking out key economic forecasts, you are able to see a window into the minds of powerful and highly influential leaders and economists. Over time, you can be as informed as top corporate executives, who use this information to adjust their business strategies and plans for potential economic or other forces that trigger ups and downs in the economy. You can use local economic data to adjust your business strategies and plans with a longer view of three, five, or ten years. Business owners whose livelihood depends on their business can improve mid-and long-term outcomes with informed planning.

Here are three forecasting sources

Start with the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank (FED), this is our central bank. Every quarter they issue a five- to ten-year economic forecast. TV news and news sources publish the key forecasts from the FED. You can also just look it up on the internet. The FED summary looks cumbersome, but just pay attention to the headings. The top line under each heading is the current forecast. GDP means Gross Domestic Product, which is the total output of the U.S.

On March 11, the FED released the latest forecast showing the change since September of 2020.

Look for the trends up and down in the numbers under the years. For Gross Domestic Product, it looks like 2021 will be a healthy growth year. But 2022 and 2023 are lower. The longer run to 2024 is down even more.

The other major sources of expert forecasts are financial institutions especially banks and investment funds. It is best to go to your bank or financial advisor who can provide the forecasts on a national and regional level. They will also explain how to interpret those numbers. They may even have specialized reports on your industry, all for free.

Finally, you can go to your local business chamber of commerce and ask for the forecasts and interpretations they are using.

The Federal Reserve Bank publishes disclaimers that forecasting in this current environment still has high levels of uncertainty. Keep yourself informed so that you spot when the FED or other major forecasters makes a shift that you need to address.

Know Your Value and Take it to Market

The recent media blitz on the stalling of gender equality and women locked out of executive levels in business are stuck on behavioral issues and ignoring the economic and financial opportunity cost to women. Achieving economic, financial and social inclusion of women of all viewpoints has a direct impact on the long-term health of the economy, return on investment in education and the quality of life of women and their families.

This article addresses the:

  1. Value our economy is losing by systemically minimizing the contribution women can make through, product innovation and business formation
  2. Incremental value of women in the workplace
  3. Opportunity cost to organization and business performance by devaluing the leadership and management styles of women
  4. Narrowly defining women with different cultural and ethnic perspectives into low compensation and advancement

A woman has to earn a Ph. D. to earn as much as a man with a Bachelor’s Degree

At all levels of educational attainment women earn on average 25% less than men

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

The cost of ignoring women’s education, experience and innovation

The minimizing of lifetime earnings of college-educated women is one way to measures the loss to the U.S. economy and innovation by women. Women are not trying to break through a glass ceiling. Women are trapped in systemic barriers to advancement and equal earnings no matter what the skill, experience and education.

Consider the impact on lifetime income for women at the Bachelors’, Master’s and Ph.D. levels as compared to men based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education the key findings on gender are:

  • A man can expect lifetime earnings of $2.6 million with a Bachelor’s Degree.
  • A woman with a Bachelor’s Degree will earn only $1.9 million over her lifetime.
  • A women has to earn a Ph.D. to earn as much as a man with a Bachelor’s Degree
  • At all levels of educational attainment women earn on average 25% less than men

In dollars the gap in lifetime earning averages $700,000 less for women than men. In addition women have invested thousands of dollars in tuition and living costs while in school and years of effort to earn their degrees. Women without degrees are further behind in lifetime earnings.

What could the U.S. economy look like if women were able to generate income at the level the average man with a Bachelor’s degree earns?

If all women with degrees at any level were able to earn as much as a man with a B.A. the economy would have added $21,490,000,000,000. Yes, that is $21.5Trillion dollars more in circulation in the U.S. economy. That is the results of multiplying the 30.7 million women with Bachelor’s Degrees and above times $700,000, the average gap in lifetime earnings.

The tangible cost to the U.S. economy from not tapping women is massive. Advanced education women are attaining is a gift to all industries and the public.

Imagine the 21st Century Experience of Women in Society and the Economy

Women choose to pursue the greatest value they can earn in their lifetime. This does require that women want to achieve the financial benefits of their talents, education, experience. Women have to believe they already have the education and professional experience to produce financial and economic improvement. With financial resources comes freedom and authority to create more equitable companies and supportive workplace cultures.

Take Charge of Your Career as an Employee

Seek out jobs that meet your goals for lifetime earnings. Given that women live longer than men, setting targets for lifetime earnings should be more than the $700,000 gap with men holding a B.A. Women need additional savings to support lifetimes 5 – 7 years or more beyond men. It is imperative to start career and employment planning before women have graduated from college in the following areas:

  • Industries and companies that utilize talent and education
  • Job titles that build performance and expertise
  • Sequencing of jobs that lead to higher levels of pay and authority
  • Opportunities to obtain patents
  • Bonus incentives
  • Team of advisors and sponsors for life

Leap into Leadership through Business Ownership

If you are a high performer delivering results but finding yourself stuck and frustrated then consider if you are a reasonable risk taker born to be a business owner or entrepreneur. Complete a thorough examination of readiness for business from a personal and business perspective. The big question to ask is do you have a strong ambition to:

  • Build a customer base
  • Develop products and services for sale
  • Seize market opportunities
  • Generate profits and equity based on customer demand
  • Commit to a long-term effort to grow a business

Ownership allows you to derive the benefits of the work to grow the business and a leader as far as you are willing to stretch. Recognize business ownership is not an easy path. Using the wisdom you have developed through the challenges of business growth you can direct financial and other resources to greater business efforts and to personal missions.

As a business owner you can also build a culture within the company. You can influence the economy by consciously growing a high performing culture that respects and develops the viewpoints of all staff.

Ultimately, women of all cultures and experience can connect to new markets and seize opportunities to generate lifetime earnings well beyond a job. 

Women Can Act Now to Increase Their Value and Lifetime Earnings

It is time to move beyond discussion about how women are not ambitious, hold back or fail to be assertive enough. The important discussion is how much value women can and do bring to the economy, industries, and markets. If women describe and better yet quantify the value of our contributions then we can make decisions and take the steps to achieve equitable lifetime earnings. Let us as women stop leaving money on the table and shape our economy.

Actions you can take today:

  1. View your education as an investment in future earnings
  2. Intend to use your degrees, accept accountability, develop expertise
  3. Choose the industries you work in carefully. Identify leading companies where women are in senior positions and recognized for contributing to industry
  4. Know the market rate for your skills and experience from placement professionals.
  5. Ask for market rate compensation in jobs that develop your ambition, expertise and leadership
  6. Recognize that your ideas and contributions are valuable and record them regularly
  7. If you choose to develop your ideas create a vision of the greatest level of success and let the greater vision pull you through manageable action steps to results
  8. Ask for advancement and compensation based on facts and contributions
  9. Look for opportunities to become an owner, partner or founder of a company. Earnings from a successful company are much greater than employment compensation.
  10. Pursue your deepest ambitions and clarify the purpose for building the companies, and a more equitable culture for all
  11. Women of color and all ethnicities need to seize the growth opportunity from increasing diversity. Demand for products and services from your point of view will grow. Start with delivering unique products and services to target niche markets and be the market leader.

Ambition in women is the perceived threat to men because it creates a picture of women competing with men for power and wealth. Replace these outdated views with your own definition of value from a women’s point of view. Women can honor their ambition with a compelling and valuable purpose. Ambition clarified with purpose and meaningful intent such as a passion to eliminate cancer, build a safer car or be the next great architect opens up opportunities. Find your purpose in business that engages you with people and customers. When your ambition mobilizes you to make your greatest contribution to your field then own it and take it to market.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________Sources and Notes:

Brian Burnsed, August 5, 2011, How Higher Education Affects Lifetime Salary, (US News). Women and minorities are paying a high price to get into the workplace let alone advance.

Source: The College Payoff, Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings, 2011
Anthony P. Carnevale, Stephen J. Rose and Ban Cheah
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
All data in this report are the authors’ analysis of the 2007-2009 American Community Survey

Notes of Graduate Degrees: Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2012)
• Average cost of college a four year college degree – $88,400
• Average cost of a Master’s degree, 2 or more year effort – $60,000
• Average cost of a Ph.D., 5 or more year effort $250,000 – $300,000
Calculation of Opportunity Cost of Lack of Fair Pay for Women with College and Graduate Degrees

20.1 million women have bachelor’s degrees, 20.1 x $700,000 = 1,470,000,000,000 of lower wages in the economy just because of gender

10.6 million U.S. women have master’s degrees or higher

• Estimated 9.0 million women earn Master’s for a cost of 9,000,000 x $60,000 = $540,000,000,000 or $540B spent to earn less than men

• Estimated 1.6 million women earn a Ph.D. for cost of 1,600,000 X $275,000 = $440,000,000,000 to earn $416,000,000,000 more than men

Ask for the Right Business Resources

There is a chicken and egg challenge about finding business resources. You cannot really find the best resources at the price you can afford unless you know what that resource or service is named and the benefits will help address your need. Here are three steps to finding resources to get to a better future.

  • Figure out what kind of resources you need
  • Ask for services that meet specific need/needs
  • Select a service provider you trust to generate results and outcomes

Figure out what kind of resources you need

This is actually the hardest step because our egos as owners gets in the way. We start worrying about failure rather than the path to results and outcomes. Focus on what your business needs are and put the ego aside.

In these times, all businesses in hospitality need more sales and revenue. Then you may have gaps or out of date strategies for product offerings, marketing plans, and consistent promotions.

Other needs related to the pandemic are:

  • Securing enough inventory due to backed up supply chains
  • Managing stressed employees

Once you know the top one or two you need. Now you can identify the appropriate services you need. Then you can go to chamber of commerce, economic development depart of your city, industry groups or colleagues to get referrals to marketing, operations management, or human resources specialists. Many of these professionals are volunteering to help small businesses now.

Ask for the services that meet your specific needs.
Select at least three service providers to interview and prepare for the interview by:

  • Writing down a brief description of your business and the needs you have identified. Identify your specific needs when you contact the service provider and ask:
    • Do you work with small business owners with needs like mine?

Asking that question saves a lot of time for you and the service provider. You can also ask:

  • If you do not deal with my business needs, can you refer me to a professional who does?

If they are an experienced and ethical consultant, they should refer you to a professional, who can meet your needs.

When you find the right specialist, then create a few interview questions to ask potential services providers:

  • What is your specialty within your profession?
  • How would you work with me to address my needs?
  • Do you work with business owners on payment plans in these challenging times?
  • Can you provide referrals to prior clients?

By comparing the answers to the same questions, you should be able to decide on the best fit resource for you and your needs.

Contract with a service provider you trust to generate results and outcomes

Use the contracting process to establish the foundation for a professional relationship focused on business results and outcomes. Ask for a proposal with a cost estimate and payment plan. Read the full proposal and ask a lot of questions. Make sure you and the service provider are clear about the purpose, steps, and work effort to achieve an improvement in the condition of your business.

Adjust the agreement to describe clear steps that focus on your needs. Work with the service provider on how to make changes as conditions change over the contracting period. Work through creative ideas and suggestions to improve on the work plan and activities to achieve your results. It is important to share your work style and confirm that it works with the service provider.

If you are uncomfortable in the contracting discussions, courteously end the discussions. Improving company performance is based on trust and confidence in the owner’s relationship with the service provider. If that trust and confidence is not there, you cannot force a project to be successful.

When the contract captures the results of all these discussions, then you have increased the potential for a successful engagement. More importantly, improvements should be visible in customer behavior, operations or financial position of your company in the future.

Using these three steps should lead you to the formation of your trusted team to call on for success in the short- and long-term to make a better future.