Millions of Americans are out of work as a result of the pandemic. It’s not their fault. A growing number of small business owners have been forced to close their shops through no fault of their own.  

The combination of the virus, the ongoing social outcries, protectionism, and trade wars have rocked our great entrepreneurial nation’s very foundation. These shockwaves aren’t expected to subside anytime soon. The long-term impact of so many unemployed people creates uncertainty everywhere, from our local neighborhoods and downtowns to state and federal agencies. We’re all wondering when businesses can recover and begin hiring again. We all need hope. We need something positive to rally around and look to as we go through these monumental changes. 

Now is our opportunity for a reset — we need to change the game.  

The crisis has given us the chance to rethink how to bridge the gaps in our society that separate the haves from the have-nots. We have a unique excuse to evaluate where we stand. It’s time to rethink the status quo and explore new ideas. Now is the time to have an open and honest conversation about the pivotal role that businesses play in employing people and building wealth. To save the American Dream, which is about opportunities that create a greater quality of life for everyone, we need to teach people the basics of financial and business literacy. 

Opening up business 

We have a vast knowledge gap in our country when it comes to financial literacy. In our corporation, we’ve spent more than 40 years trying to rectify that. Every associate in our corporation is taught how to speak the language of business. We call this open-book leadership system, “The Great Game of Business.” Our end goal has always been to build a business of businesspeople who think and act like owners. They are taught the tools needed to take control of their destinies and are empowered to develop plans that create and protect their jobs and help grow the company.  

The whole idea of transparency and financial literacy teaches people how to succeed even during the worst of times. When we tell people the truth, we build a foundation of trust for the company to stand on going forward in good times and bad. To do that, we’ve tried to eliminate the fear people have that they can’t understand business. By opening the books and embracing transparency, we give our associates the information they need to make the best decisions. But that can only happen when they truly understand the financials that they have a part in creating.  

In closed-book companies, associates often assume that all of the profits go into the owners’ pockets. Meanwhile, owners don’t think their associates understand all of the liabilities or risks they’ve taken on. This leads to a lack of understanding on both sides — and results in resentments and mistrust. These are among the many tensions in business today that could quickly be resolved through transparency and financial education.  

When you teach and share the numbers with everyone in the company, three things happen: you inspire trust and confidence; people engage in creating their vision of the future, and the entire organization unites around shared goals. 

Leaders need to understand the power of trust. It’s amazing how freeing it is to trust in and share information with employees. Everyone sleeps better at night because they know they can arrive at solutions by working together.  

Developing a new language 

Changing the game by teaching people the game of business works. We’ve seen it in thousands of companies worldwide who are creating a better future for themselves and their associates. We understand that taking that step might require a giant leap of faith — and a lot of hard work. Just like we’ve seen the value of adding STEM courses to school curriculums, we need to add financial literacy. And if the academic institutions won’t do it, then businesses must become the teachers. 

Teaching financial literacy requires the same immersive approach that some schools take in teaching students a foreign language. We need to speak it all day, every day until it becomes routine and becomes the language that everyone speaks across the entire company. It crosses departments. It helps us work together and highlights where we make a difference to each other — which is something we need now more than ever.  

Building a better quality of life 

A significant aspect of teaching financial literacy to associates is that education doesn’t stop inside the business. We’ve heard time and time again of people bringing it into their homes and communities. It becomes a formula for building a better life. People have told us things like: “I’ve always had a budget, but I truly didn’t understand it. Seeing how a business is run and how small things can affect so many people shows me how to make a difference.”  

Teaching people the language of business also results in much more than financial success. Informed associates are empowered to make recommendations, fix problems, and have a say in the company’s direction. A transparent system gives them the ability to understand what they need to lead a secure and fulfilling life.  

That’s why we believe business can make a positive difference in the world. It empowers people to pursue their dreams. But to truly change the game, we need everyone working together and playing off the same song sheet. When we open up the business rules to everyone and provide the information on which to act, it empowers everyone to move forward hand in hand to achieve the American Dream.