Friday, January 23, 2009

These Days

Walking the streets of New York you might think it’s just a typical January with stores running sales like they do each year. But it’s not. Manhattan looks more like an outlet center than a retailing Mecca. Signs offering 10-80% off and there are few shops that don’t at least have a “Sale” sign in them. The “Anti-Starbucks” movement continues to be evident with more and more Dunkin’ Donuts visible. Taxi drivers who have their finger on the pulse better than most tell me that business is way down. “People are frightened. They don’t know what will happen next; whether they’ll lose their jobs. They are being very, very careful with their money. But, it’s going to get better. The things that President Obama has promised will take time but things will get better.”

With most Wall Street firms getting close to issuing their bonuses another chapter will be closed..we just don’t know the ending yet. It was many years before I learned that investment bankers generally get paid a modest base and ‘bank’ on their bonuses (which as we know from what we read have been humongous over the past so many years). And, as banks continue to show their contempt for both the government bailout money and the public, more and more people are losing their jobs. But, having lost my job several times in my career, there are different ways employers can handle what I believe is the most difficult thing for a manager to do: fire someone. Sadly, I’ve heard too many stories of companies ‘letting people go’ in unconscionable ways-showing no compassion but simply reacting to needing to protect and perhaps increase the bottom line (NOW) by one of only to ways: generate more revenue or cut expenses (and generating revenue is not so easy right now). It’s a shame that our work culture has come to this and while it is understandable from a corporate standpoint it isn’t, to me anyway, from a human standpoint.

America, the land of opportunity, has also become a land where we don’t look out for each other like some other places in the world; countries where there is a respect for the individual, both as a worker and as a person ages. There will be more firings and more bankruptcies (I was involved in making the first Circuit City Superstore deal in Hampton, VA in the mid-80’s and now they’re going out of business, closing more than 500 stores, as will more and more retailers in February). These are difficult times. Oh, btw, have you heard or seen the Hyundai commercial where they say that if you buy a car now and lose your income they’ll take the car back? I know there are probably oodles of legal language in the purchase agreement but even the concept of this is….well, amazing.

Don't forget to vote: The Global PERE Awards
is near the deadline. Some of the nominated firms and individuals are neck and neck. Your vote counts! P.S. There's a great feature piece on their website. If you haven't subscribed you can for free.

I offer you the following ‘management tip’ from the blog written my friend in the UK, Trevor Gay, who is a consultant and author on ‘Simplicity.’
“I am often asked to give practical tips that managers can follow to implement Simplicity. It's a brilliant question that challenges me because I guess anyone can say ‘lets simplify things’ but busy managers are looking for practical tips about what they can do personally to simplify the workplace.

Based on my own management experience there are numerous things managers can do and here are 9 for starters.

1. When you have written your next report ask two people who are paid significantly less than you to tell you if they understood it.

2. Make time in your diary every week to ask a customer to tell you in their own words about their recent experience with your company

3. At your team meeting every week or every month depending on the frequency of meetings, ask someone to do a five minute presentation called “My big simplicity idea for our team is …..” (PowerPoint not allowed)

4. Invite a customer to read three e-mails or letters you have sent in the previous week and ask them to give you feedback about the language you used

5. Invite two 16-year old students to attend your team meeting and ask them to give the team members honest feedback at the end of the meeting about the language used

6. Find a report about absolutely anything of two sides of 8.5 x 11 paper. Send the report to a colleague and ask him/her to return it to you reduced to one side of 8.5x11. Judge for yourself whether one side is adequate to get the message across

7 Ask one of your team members to write a story on one side of 8.5x11 about a complicated problem in your department/team. The language must be aimed at an audience of secondary school students (11-16 year olds). Send the story to a local schoolteacher and ask for feedback from the students at his/her school

8. In your next written report of more than 200 words do not use any acronyms

9. Send a report you have written to 2 cleaners and 2 junior Clerical staff. Ask the four of them to rate your report on a scale of 0 to 10.

0=I didn't understand it at all
10=I understood it completely

Think about how you can improve your score in your next report. By the way, if you score 40 points congratulations you are a Simplicity guru."

Happy Birthday Jay and Deb.


Restaurant of the week: Hill Country BBQ, 30 W. 26th Street, New York. A fun place with live music. Best to go with a group of 6-10.

Where I'll be:

Jan. 26: Chicago, IL
Jan. 27: Madison, WI
Jan. 28: Washington, DC
Jan. 29: San Francisco, CA
Jan. 30: Sacramento, CA
Feb. 2: Portland, OR
Feb. 17: Atlanta, GA
Feb. 18: Raleigh, NC
Feb. 19: Chapel Hill, NC to attend the Kennan-Flagler Center for Real Estate Development’s Annual Conference and Real Estate Challenge Case Competition.
Feb. 22-29: Vacation in Mexico….totally offline!
Mar. 10-13: Cannes to attend MIPIM, host the second annual MIPIM Summit TV show (March 12-Invitation Only) and attend the INREV seminar.
Mar.24: New York to moderate a panel at the IGlobal Forum Real Estate Private Equity Summit
Mar. 25-26: Washington DC to attend PREA's Spring Conference
April 1: Champaign-Urbana, IL to attend my son’s DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) recital.
April 23-25: Athens, Greece (not Georgia) for INREV’s Annual General Meeting and Conference

Photo: Downtown Cleveland, Ohio

These are my personal views and not that of my employer.

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