My Plan for a Flat Tax

Large scale tax reform is what is needed.  Right now taxation is a bit of a nursery rhyme.  Here a tax, there a tax, everywhere a tax tax.  The average American has no choice but to pay the tax.  Wealthier Americans can afford lawyers to find holes in the tax code to avoid the taxes, and businesses hire lobbyists to shape the tax code in their favor.  The tax friendly politicians on the left and right have no problem with this.  The left even uses it as an opportunity to bash the wealthy.  The wealthy aren’t the problem; the tax code is the problem.
Every year there are calls from and on Washington DC to raise the gas tax, or taxes on investment income. Right now there are loopholes upon loopholes for every different type of business in the USA.  The system is preferential and divisive.  It enables politicians to bash and demonize large groups of Americans while allowing some companies to get away with hardly paying any taxes at all.
Before I explain how I would do it, I want to first say that I do not like a consumption tax because it places the burden of collection on business owners, which raises their costs.  It also gives the government the power to raise the prices of all goods and services with the stroke of a pen, which is too much power in my opinion.
The first thing I will address as part of my tax plan is low income earners.  Minimum wage (and slightly above) earners, need to be protected from federal taxation.  I believe this because their money should be going elsewhere, to their families.  The federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr.  This number worked out for 40 hour weeks, over a year comes to $15,080.  I would multiply that by 2 and declare that the first $30,160 earned by every American should be tax exempt.  If you make less than that, there is no reason to file.
I would tax every dollar earned in all forms of income above $30,160 at 25%.Every American, regardless of how they earn their income, whether it is through investment, salary, or other earnings pays the same rate.  No loopholes.
Some people say the wealthy should pay more in taxes, and they will.  Someone who earns 1.5 million dollars (regardless of how they earned it) would pay $367,460 in taxes to the federal government; plus more to their state government and local city government.  Someone earning only $50,000 would pay only $4,960 to the federal government.  Once again: No loopholes, and no deductions.
Combined with this, I would lower the corporate tax rate to 25% as well, something that almost all politicians could agree on.  Even POTUS has suggested lowering it.
A system like this would be very simple, and it’s something that anyone with a high school diploma can understand.  Best of all, it wouldn’t require a CPA or tax firm!
One form that looked like this:
Your Name:
SS#:
Your Address:
Your Earnings:
Taxable Income:
Amount Due:
It would also put more money back in the hands of the average Americans that need it most.  It’s simple, and in operations management simplification and standardization is the key to efficiency and profit.

Leadership

The best way to begin discussing leadership is to start with a quote by Warren G Bennis:  “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”.
Whether you lead a logistics operation or small business, this is often the most difficult thing to overcome.  There is a big difference between leadership and management.  Most leaders cannot manage, and most managers cannot lead; it’s why they are in the role they have.  It is rare that to find someone that possesses the exceptional ability to do both.  If you have both, with the addition of a little bit of luck, with some good ideas, and good people around you; you can go far.  But what if you don’t?  What if you have a great idea, but have a hard time rallying others around you to your cause?  What if you are in charge of an operation or a manager at a small business, and want to move up, but are experiencing hardship getting people to handle their responsibilities?  This does not mean that you are destined to be stuck where you are.  Read on readers!
The development of proper leadership methods is essential to being a good manager or leader.  I would like to use the current state of the US government as an example of poor management AND leadership.  I am not surprised that we have a deficit that is ever increasing.  Law is the most common prior profession of people in congress followed by public service/politics according to the CRS (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41647.pdf). Economics and how to manage a budget is not stressed in their prior experience and course work.  That is why congress presents more laws and government as solutions to our tough economic problems, but it’s not their fault, it’s all they know!  Because government can run an infinite deficit, they can get away with this.  Business and logistics operations cannot run infinite deficits.  Our 30th president J. Calvin Coolidge also had a background in law, what he did differently was surround himself with experts in economic policy like Barnard Baruch and Andrew W Mellon.  More importantly what he did was listen to advice.  In the book Mr. Baruch, by ML Coit; it is written on page 355 that receptivity to advice was a saving grace to him.  In crafting economic policy that led to the roaring twenties, known as the Coolidge prosperity, he sought out economic advice from experts in that field, not his.
How does all of this relate to leadership, small business and logistics you ask?  A good leader or manager knows that they themselves do not know everything.  Rather than going out on a whim or using methods of trial and error, to be effective in this economic climate means that you make the right decision the first time; you only get one chance.
Going back to Coolidge, he believed we were a nation of laws.  As president he believed it was his job as chief executor to enforce the constitution as it was written, and only that.  He believed the constitution was written to keep government small and focused; that was how he governed.   As a business owner or logistical operator; you would be wise to produce a list of articles (think of it as your constitution) that you and everyone else at your operation or business are held to as a standard.  There should be no double standard; if it is good enough for you it should be good enough for everyone else and vice versa.    After you decide what should be in your operational constitution, and what should not; discuss it with advisors that are experts in their field, like myself.  Once it is ready, unveil your new standard of business to your employees.  Doing this once, the right way, will blow your colleagues away, and help set you apart, internally, from your competition.  The exception here is if your workforce is part of a union.  In that case before unveiling a standard it is wise to review the union contracts (with outside experts) and procedures that you can and cannot have or ask of labor on a jobsite.
A mentor in operations management once told me “I only have one mode, KILL; you would be wise to adopt that as well”.  It is true that a change in the way of thinking must sometimes take place to truly correct shortfalls within your management or leadership abilities.  Through operational observation, and through analysis of current written procedures, you can easily find the problems and solve them.

Operational Visibility

Operational Visibility is the ability to see what is going on, both in a routine report, and as it happens.
Visibility is probably the most important way to detect issues within your operation.   Most operations practice this in certain ways, but seriously lack in others.  This occurs for two reasons, firstly because visibility adds cost; however these costs are entirely justified in the long run.  The second is because people are increasingly busy and unable to take advantage of such tools; especially on the small business end of things.  When referencing business operations and visibility, there is one key truth:  If you cannot see the problem, you cannot solve the problem.  One unhappy client or customer will tell one hundred potential customers, this bad publicity could be stopped ahead of time with proper visibility.
On the logistical side of things, security and loss prevention are very important.  Large global logistics corporations have millions of dollars dedicated to visibility at all times.  Having served as a logistics operations supervisor and manager, as well as having consulted with global logistics firms, seriousness of security; It is absolutely necessary.   Beyond security, operations management teams in logistics need to have their own visibility over the people they supervise.  Whether it applies to direct observation (no sitting in the office getting fat), or through other methods it is most definitely necessary.  I have been a part of logistics companies that did not have these controls; I instituted them immediately upon my arrival.
Small businesses however, rarely have the capital or labor necessary to be able to hire and purchase the necessary equipment to have high levels of security and visibility.  The owners and operators of these businesses, also usually do not have the ability to be watching everything, everywhere, all the time.  The owners and operators of these businesses are then more secure and have information when and where they need it.
The last part of visibility references back to another post.  A business that has ownership that practices internal visibility will have higher quality in its products and services.  We teach our clients how to see their business from their clients’ point of view.  Doing this, owners and operators get a view of their business that is very important, but also a view that they rarely see.

A Place for Everyone, and Everyone in the Right Place… Proper Personnel Management

There are many times when I evaluate a small business or logistics operation that I see people who are misplaced at work.  Not that they are lost, but that they are put in a position that renders them useless or a hazard to themselves or the operation as a whole.  This applies not only to the labor at the lowest level; it also applies to people throughout the ranks of management.  This does not mean that they are bad employees, or that they should be fired.  Just that they were put into the wrong position from the start.  It makes operations less efficient and increases costs by having tasks take longer to accomplish.  It also could have a negative impact on quality.
At one of my previous posts in operations supervision, I was forced to deal first hand with a business manager that was guilty of producing a situation of the type that I describe in the above paragraph.  The supervision team under him, that I was a part of, was put together in a fashion that lead to team infighting.  Beyond that, the regular union labor staff was able to observe this and exploit it when they sensed weakness.  The failure to properly delegate to a supervisor tasks based on their strength led to divisiveness.  Often times we would say… “Why am I doing this…Aren’t these employees in someone else’s group?”  When leadership at the top goes down this unfortunate path; efficiency, quality, and cost go out the window.  Lower supervisors are forced to manage on the fly more than necessary as well; this is because in a situation like this, good planning is worthless when it is not adhered to from the top.
Another often observed problem is seeing labor run the hen house.  There is a reason there is always 1 rooster.  Unfortunately, due to a lack of proper management this is a more common problem most would expect.  Too often we see people who are trying to be ‘the nice guy’, these nice guy managers often have a vision but do not do what is necessary to enforce rules which are integral to the realization of their vision.  Luckily, for someone experiences like myself, this is an easily detectable and fixable problem.  Upon fixing this, you will see how labor costs can be controlled, and how much easier it becomes to realize your vision.  If you want to see the impact of labor acting in its own best interest instead of the good of the company, their employers, I encourage readers to check the costs of labor for any 2 similar companies when 1 has a union labor force and one does not.  I am not saying all unions are bad, but it is the opinion of this author that some are past their time, and some have no place getting the labor wage and benefit deals that they do.
A second example of people being in the wrong places exists within the halls and the walls of congress.  I will reference just one of the many examples of this that exist within congress.  Lamar Smith, a congressional representative from Texas is Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee (http://lamarsmith.house.gov/biography/).  Would the committee be better served if headed by a person with education in science, space, and technology.  This representative, like many has a degree in law, with an undergrad in American studies.  He did once work for the Christian Science Monitor, but as a financial writer.  I am not criticizing Rep. Smith or his politics, there is no place for that on this blog.  What I am saying is that this occurs this all throughout the US Congress.  I find it welcoming to see Rep. Paul Ryan talking budgets as economics was a large component of his education.
Managing any operation, we must always be mindful to have people in the right place.  While it is true that sometimes we can see someone excel in a tough situation out of their element, in the long run using the same repeated practice would be detrimental to the operation; just like playing a catcher in centerfield.   Most would argue that businesses and other operations would be best served if led by people with relevant education in the field.  We provide these services to our clients because we know that it is important to leave every customer satisfied the first time.  Having the right people in the right place is a great first step to ensuring that happens every time.

Risk and Liability Management Improves Efficiency and Lowers Costs

In order to accomplish anything, whether we notice it or not, we go through a step by step process that accomplishes our task.  Whether we accomplish this on our own, or delegate it to our subordinates; every step in the process introduces risk and liability.  This is true from the most nominal of tasks, to the most complex.  Taking this into consideration prior to delegating any task or setting out into a new direction is the best and most proactive way to increase efficiency and decrease cost.  To best handle operational risk and liability, keep efficiency and cost paramount.
The word efficiency as defined by dictionary.com means:
 “accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort”
Naturally when people think efficiency, they think of the time it takes to do a job, the assembly line was a revolution in efficiency.  Beyond time, there is a second word in this definition, EFFORT.  Effort is key, because we pay for effort over time; this shows us that efficiency is tied to cost.  If machines and robotics do the work, we must pay to electrify them, and pay specialists to keep them within calibration.  If we will have humans do the work, we will be paying a manual labor force.  A mechanized labor force on the other hand, costs less in the long run, and is more efficient. Also, with Plant Equipment (PE) that falls into a state of disrepair; making small fixes to continue the operation as planned is never the right thing to do especially when there is no immediate deadline.  Instead of a temporary patch, replace the component.  In the event that there was a deadline and you experienced a failure with machinery, most of the time the cause would be a failure of proper inspection, and thus poor management.  Would you not check your car out prior to a road-trip?  Much like a vehicle, proper routine inspection and maintenance is key to the reliability of the machinery of your operation.  When it comes time to work, things will be more efficient; and routine maintenance and inspection is ALWAYS more cost efficient than replacing entire pieces of machinery.
Unfortunately the majority of jobs in logistics and small business operations still must be handled by humans.  Robots and the facilities with which to best use them are far too costly to small businesses and most logistics ops.  Unloading inventory, checking for damage, sorting the inventory, and then stocking that inventory and preparing it for use, are all human jobs.  Unfortunately for humanity, we come with risk and liability attached.  As humans, we get: injured, sick, distracted, and discouraged among other things.  All of these things bring increased chances of risk and liability.  Too often, operators and business owners will tell their employees to “just get it done”; without regard for risk and liability.  The problem is that one at risk or liability causing action by labor can compound into another, and then another.  Once the problem comes to light, it will cost more money and time to correct.
I often hear  “well there might be unforeseen liabilities, why should we address them if they have not come to pass so far”?  The problem is that once they do, they strain the already limited operations budgets most businesses and operations have, do not let something like that drag you down too.  Efficiency and cost are tied together, but if the client or consumers see any of these problems, you now have a quality issue, don’t let it get that far.

Since safety must always be first, QUALITY must always be next

In a recent post, we discussed how efficiency and cost were tied together.  This is absolutely true, and the same goes for Quality and Safety.
Larger corporations have entire divisions and departments dedicated to safety.  Operational safety awareness and safety hazards are some of the most important elements of an operation.  Any safety issue not addressed could lead to extremely high costs in lawsuits, replacing unsafe plant equipment with new PE, and also with accidents and injuries on the job.   It is clear that safety issues directly relate to liability.  Without proper safety procedures enforced from management to bottom level employment, we leave the door open for risk as well.
I firmly understand the desire to overlook safety in terms of efficiency and costs.  The thought process of an effective operator is usually “by any means necessary”.  Never do this, as 99.9% of the time it is guaranteed to come back to bite you in the long run.  In business there are both good and bad bets, but a bet where you lose 99.9% of the time is never a good one.   Be sure to instill this value into all of your employees as well.
While logistics operations have become good at handling safety issues, small business operations usually fall short.  While there is food safety here in NYC, with its associated health grades, most small businesses do not have their own dedicated books of safety procedures (unless required by city, state, or federal law).  Safety procedures are necessary, but with this good practice of establishing procedural rule guides, the small business owner should also carry that over to every other aspect of their operation.  Procedural guides and action plans are key to efficiency, and following them lowers cost.  They should not only be developed by people of high management rank, they must also gain the input of the people that will have to use them daily.  What is most important is that a customer or client that sees these methods in action, thinks one thing; QUALITY.
Whether you are for or not for profit, logistics or small business, it should go without saying that quality is paramount.  At the time of this writing, I was serving as business operations advisor to a not for profit music outreach program.  Perfect quality is like the lost golden city of El Dorado, impossible to find; so we set up a system where the bar is constantly increased.  Systems and procedures must be in place to constantly achieve as close to perfect quality as possible.  At this not for profit, we have implemented a system where quality can be measured both internally and externally, both are equally important.

Your Operation or Small Business Must be a Leader, Not a Follower

Leaders and followers, these are traits that come from within, if you are person that is either or both; there is nothing that is necessarily wrong with that.  In business, both at the small business level and concerning logistical operations, we must always remain leaders of our operations over our colleagues and competing small businesses.  In business there is a fundamental truth.  When competing businesses become preoccupied about what each other are doing, they wind up producing almost the same product at a similar price.  The consumers lose.  Also in logistics, as the leader of your operation; you do have numbers you do need to keep in terms of efficiency.  However, your colleagues will also have their operations; you must strive to differentiate yours from theirs as much as possible.  It will give you the best chance to be noticed, putting your career on the fast track.  Let’s face it, in a logistics operation you and your colleagues are on the same team, but only 1 team member will get moved up while the remainder waits for their turn, which do you want to be?
As always, I will cover the logistics of things first.  In my days as an operations supervisor and manager, I always made sure I had a way about myself that differentiated me from my colleagues; you must do the same.  This means a lot more than trying to think outside the box at staff meetings; let your performance do the talking.  A mentor in operations once told me, always keep swinging, never let your gloves down either.  In small business, to become a leader of all whom you compete against, the onus falls more on the owner than the employees.  The owner ultimately decides what goods the business will sell and/or what services they will provide, and for how much.