There are ten federal holidays in the U.S. and this one is the dud. New Year's Day has no story or compelling national interest behind its status as a legal holiday. New Year's Day, like the Christmas federal holiday, recognizes the "cultural" significance of the day, but, unlike Christmas, it lacks constitutional tension for interest. There is no separation of football and state, despite its religious fervor. The practice of making, but not keeping, resolutions may be punishing, but it is not cruel and unusual. Prohibition was repealed in 1933.
The need to celebrate a new trip around the sun is a compelling, ancient human tradition, with the only disagreements being which calendar and where a circle begins. My tradition of blogging our legal holidays, for one year at least, is no less compelling to me. So, in the spirit of the culture honored by the legal holiday, I am proposing two resolutions, one for each of my main audiences: human-owned businesses and folks who care about Colorado; only one resolution per group because I'm hoping for some progress on both fronts.
For anyone who owns a business, the internet overflows with suggestions for improving it, but in my law practice there is one idea that resonates with virtually all our clients. In 2010, resolve to make yourself less important to your business. "Entrepreneurs" who brag about how hard they work, how little vacation they take, and how they carry the weight of the business on their backs have created nothing more than high-paying jobs; they certainly aren't building businesses.
Not only are these people risking their health, marriages, families, etc., they are missing the opportunity to create more personal wealth by building a sustainable business with the potential to spin-off more income to them while they own it, and much, much more value in purchase price when it is eventually sold or passed on to new owners.
Resolving to be less important to your business requires you to develop key people and systems to do the company's critical work. Your development work could be challenging and frustrating, but the pay-off, a business doesn't rise or fall, live or die with you, is huge, huge to you, your family, your employees, and, I think, your state.
For Colorado, there are many things we to do better in 2010. I'm still very concerned about our state's budgeting issues and the report of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation on our declining competitiveness, but there too many moving parts and too many chances to disagree to make for a good resolution that could garner broad support.
There is one opportunity for improvement, however, that demands our collective attention, even if we differ on its causes or solutions. Childhood poverty in Colorado increased by at least 72% from 2000 to 2008, the worst rate change, by a large margin, in the nation. The Denver Post's recent series on childhood poverty contains anecdotes and a map that vividly illustrates this fact. The reports of the Colorado Children's Campaign, which dig deeper into the data of childhood poverty, put the figure at an even more sobering 85% increase, and that number predates the worst of the current economic crisis.
Regardless of political stripe, I think everyone can find at least one long-term consequences of that trend, whether in human suffering, crime, health care, work force development, or impact on our state budget, that is unacceptable. So, can we resolve, as a state, to not just diminish the rate at which poverty increases, but to actually turn the rate around and start bringing our children out of poverty?
The Post article connects concerned readers to a partial listing of agencies that aid children in poverty, but our resolution is bigger. To treat the causes of poverty and not merely alleviate the symptoms, however, we need to do more than provide aid, we need jobs and education, but jobs must come first. More and better paying jobs will provide both tax base to tackle education and paths out of poverty.
Colorado is a small business state. The jobs needed to turn around our rate of childhood poverty will come, for the most part, from small businesses. More and more successful small businesses are therefore part of the answer and where my two resolutions merge. If our government and business development leadership can do more to grow small business in 2010, then New Year's won't have been such a dud after all.