A few years ago my wife and I decided to put our house on the market. It was an older house with lots of space and lots of memories. But, like any older house, it also had its share of maintenance and structural problems. We fretted that it wouldn't sell. That is until our real estate agent put things into perspective.
"Look," he said to us as we were putting the paperwork together. "If you list the house for $1 it'll sell tomorrow. If you list it for $1 million you might not have a buyer. We just have to find a price in between."
It's smart advice, but when you think about it, it's not exactly genius. It's just supply and demand. That's how prices are determined. This guy sells houses for a living. No one knows better about pricing than he does.
So think about that the next time you complain that you can't find any good workers. Why is that? Is it because your company isn't a good company? Sure it is. Are you not a good person to work for? Sure you are. Is that big company down the street offering better pay and benefits? Ah...now we're getting somewhere.
You are choosing to pay what you think an employee is worth. So how’s that working for you?
If you listed a warehouse job that paid $1 million a year, you would have a line of prospective job applicants snaking down the street. If you only promised to pay $1 a year then good luck finding anyone. If you want to find people in a strong economy with low unemployment you're going to have to figure out what the number is. I'll bet it's somewhere between $1 and $1 million a year.
Even with record low unemployment, wages have only been increasing less than 3 percent this year. That's not very much. Why? It’s because employers like me and you aren't paying people enough. Because of that we're missing out on good employees who are gravitating to companies that do.
You can't pay your people any more than you’re currently paying? Oh, yes you can. It just depends on two things: whether you can charge more for your products and services, or whether you're willing to give up some of your short term profits for longer term value.
If your customers are willing to pay more for what you do in order to make up for your increased wages, then of course go for it. But when you get pushback -- like I sometimes do -- you have to be creative. Your customers are telling you that they don’t see the added value that you're providing for the additional price. So what can you do to add to that value? A little more service? An upgrade on a product? A longer term commitment? Figure it out. Even if you're in a commoditized business like running a restaurant or selling coffee you can still provide an extra level of service, ambiance and perks to make it worth it to your customers.
Or you could just give up some profits. No way! Yes, way. Your business may be doing just fine -- fine enough that spending a few more dollars on a good employee won't cause you too much pain. Just remember -- you get what you pay for. If you choose correctly, you may find an employee or two who is worth 10 times the added costs because they're more motivated, loyal, productive and...yes...profitable over the longer term.
So stop complaining that you can't find people. Yes, you can. The real problem is that you're making the decision that you don't want to pay what you must to get those people. It's nobody else's choice but yours.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors