The recent executive summit of the NAW Executive Summit in Washington, DC included a presentation by NAW and Winsupply (No. 14 on ID's Big 50 List) chairman Richard Schwartz, who is calling for a “reinvention” of the free enterprise system. He drew an ethusiastic response from NAW attendees when he encouraged them to participate in the re-invention.
"The last time we re-invented free enterprise capitalism was right after World War II, in the ’50s and ’60s, when the golden age of American capitalism became the golden age of economic growth,” Schwartz noted. "Now that there is a new administration in the White House and a new Congress, there “has never been a better time” for the economic system to re-invent itself, despite the calls by some for the country to become less capitalistic."
Schwartz pointed to studies by Gallup and others that found many Americans believe the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer in a capitalistic system.
“In spite of everything American capitalism has done to make our lives better, some people are no longer inspired by it. In fact, some Americans have lost faith in it,” Schwartz said. “It’s being blamed for our economic problems, our weakening middle class, our distrust of businesses and the people who run them.”
The distrust is particularly acute among young workers, many of whom have rejected capitalism. But, Schwartz added, when you look at the world through their eyes, you could see why young employees might have that impression.
“Since the Great Recession, young people have seen their parents lose jobs, homes foreclosed upon and their college debt skyrocket. Too many are underemployed and living on low wages, even though they’re college educated,” Schwartz said.
Last month, for example, a new study showed that millennials earn 20 percent less than their boomer parents did at the same stage of life.
Schwartz advised business owner to tell young people about the good that the economic system has done in the U.S. and around the world, to become good role models and re-educate young people by creating jobs and opportunity.
“Share your own success stories,” Schwartz advised. At Winsupply, so many times we’ve hired people who were barely getting by — people who were flipping burgers, painting houses or pouring concrete — and gave them what we call the Spirit of Opportunity: the chance to drive a truck or work in the warehouse for a while, get promoted and earn their success as president of their own wholesaling location."
In 2009 Winsupply started a program to recruit and train junior military officers: millennials who left active duty to become entrepreneurs. Schwartz said their leadership experience, energy and drive to achieve made them the perfect candidates for owning and operating their own Winsupply location. Since then, Winsupply has hired 60 junior military officers; among them was Jeff Walker, who took over a Winsupply location in Georgia in 2010, and in three years he doubled his business. It grew 38 percent last year.
“Jeff maximized his opportunity and earned his own success. What are you doing to create jobs and opportunity in your organization?” Schwartz challenged NAW attendees.