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20 predictions for the real estate and technology spaces in 2011

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With the year coming to a close in less than three weeks, we’re at that point where we all finalize our 2011 goals and spend time being introspective. It’s natural this time of year. I decided to make my predictions for 2011 and you’ll see more predictions here on AG.

This list is by no means complete and I had to stop myself at only 20 predictions so you would read the entire list instead of getting A.D.D. and seeing a shiny distraction… seriously, I could make it a lot longer.

Tell us in comments which predictions you agree or disagree with (and please, let’s be civil).

  1. Mortgage rates will remain low. Analysts expect the Federal Reserve board to keep the federal funds rate below 0.25% for the entire year with 30 year fixed rate loans to remain under 5%.
  2. Housing will remain affordable. Affordability rates will remain high in most American cities given the downturn in values which is not expected to rise dramatically in 2011.
  3. 2011 might be rock bottom. With house values and sales stats in decline, we haven’t quite hit bottom, but we’re pretty close and we’ve been bouncing at the bottom for a while, so 2011 could be the year of rock bottom.
  4. Foreclosures will continue to rise. Whether you believe in shadow inventories or not, with the robo-signing scandal freezing most foreclosure activities, 2011 will see an increase in foreclosure listings when the freeze ends.
  5. Home sales will continue to suffer. With a high volume of foreclosure activity, existing home sales will have to be reasonable and competitive in order to meet their asking prices.
  6. Social networks will be a staple in all listing agents’ tool belts. With most buyers beginning their search for a home online, agents will be expected to list homes on as many websites as possible, especially those claiming to be tech savvy.
  7. Real estate blogging will become more competitive as more agents come online. Most blogs coming online in 2011 are late to the party and rather than forge new ground will likely regurgitate others in an effort to keep up.
  8. QR codes will be all the rage. Despite the rise in curiosity and use of QR codes, this technology will be short lived as technologies like Google Goggles will obsolete QR codes.
  9. Web browser use will shift. Despite most MLS systems only running on Internet Explorer (IE), most agents will follow the trend away from IE toward more stable and fast Google Chrome and Firefox.
  10. Mobile devices will be upgraded in 2011. Agents will continue to free themselves from the horrendous Palm Treo of the past in favor of iPhones and Android apps with flip phones becoming a thing of the past.
  11. Mobile web use will continue to increase. Real estate professionals will join the bandwagon of video creation and web-ready blog sites in an effort to meet consumer demand.
  12. Social awareness will rise. With the web enlightening consumers, people are becoming more aware of philanthropic causes and are mobilizing via social networks like Twitter. Green real estate will become a more common factor in buying.
  13. The number of Realtors will dip. NAR membership has dropped considerably over the last two years and we anticipate this decline will continue given a down market.
  14. The brokerage model will continue to shift. With agents looking for the next best thing, the Redfin (discount) and Goodlife (agents responsible mainly for negotiations and hand holding) models will become more mainstream.
  15. Short sales experts will increase in number. With the aforementioned rise in foreclosure activities, as a survival mechanism, more agents will become certified and focus on short sales as they take over their local markets.
  16. Key real estate search sites will merge. Real estate megasites will acquire or merge with others and make their offering more complete in 2011, much like Twitter acquires companies like Twitpic.
  17. Pocket listings will be more in demand. Because some consumers are wary to list for a variety of reasons in a normal market but even more reasons in a down market, we predict that pocket listings will rise.
  18. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be a headline stealer. With Barney Frank calling for abolishing the two and having named a new director in November, the FHFA will undergo a major makeover in 2011.
  19. “Realtor ratings” will be a phrase you’ll be sick of in 2011. We’ll cover it here so you’re aware of it, but in 2011, we promise you’ll be tired of hearing about ratings as the remaining big dogs add ratings systems to their search sites.
  20. Web ad spends and investments in real estate sites will increase. Many investors have been on the fence, as have companies willing to spend, but 2010 has primed many for finally spending what they’ve been withholding.

Is any of this surprising to you? If you’ve been reading AG, it shouldn’t be- this list is an extension of our real estate and technology coverage this year.

Tell us in comments what you think about these predictions!

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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78 Comments

78 Comments

  1. Sara Bonert

    December 14, 2010 at 6:56 am

    I’ll comment on a few of the technology related points, although I agree with just about all of your list.

    #6 – I think just listing on websites won’t be a competiting factor, but the actual size of your social networks will be. Not saying your actual klout score will be important, but the things klout measures certainly can be.
    #7 – I wonder about blogging. For those that aren’t into writing, there are a lot easier ways to broadcast/interact. For those that are, finding a niche to compete in will be key.
    #8 – Totally agree about QR codes.
    #9 – As mobile becomes more prominent, operating systems on pcs become less important. What’s keeping me on IE are all my plug ins I have installed. But Chrome is great and I hear good things about Rockmelt.
    #11 – I had to scold my dad for texting and checking sport scores in church the other day. Yup, safe to say that mobile is now mainstream if Mr. Anti-Technology himself is now doing this.
    #16 – I think you are correct here too. Managing large databases in resource intense, there are definitely synergies to be made because of this.

    With regards to 2011 and social media in general, it reminds of when NAR used to report on the ‘Traditional Buyer’ verses the ‘Internet Buyer’ – eventually they became one in the same and the report basically merged. This will happen with mobile and social too, verses the ‘Traditional Internet Buyer’.

    • Lani Rosales

      December 18, 2010 at 11:51 pm

      Sara,

      #6- I don’t think it will be a competing factor, it will be more of an expectation just as websites were in 2005. But since you bring Klout up, I think you are on to something… I think Klout and other social scores will play a bigger role in 2011 as other offerings begin integrating them into their products and services.

      #7- Most still won’t find a niche, they’ll regurgitate talking points from their competitors’ blogs and call it blogging and they will still be told in pep talks slash training classes that they have to blog to survive.

      #8- yay 🙂

      #9- I haven’t been impressed by Rockmelt (hence why we haven’t written about it) but many of the IE plugins exist in Chrome as well, it would take you *one* afternoon to switch, it’s so worth it, I promise! 🙂

      #11- my dad too. Is this one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse? lol jk

      #16- that’s a perfect word, synergies… wish I had used that word in my predictions, that’s exactly what I meant!! 🙂

      Great bonus point, thank you so much for weighing in!!

  2. Chuck Gillooley

    December 14, 2010 at 9:12 am

    I agree with Sara on point #7. Throughout 2010, I saw the number of blogs in my area actually decrease. Quite a few were started early in the year when it was fashionable to try something new, but almost every one of them were left to die after only a few months. Hey, they’re a LOT of work!!

    That leads me to believe there will be some other “big new thing” to chase in 2011, but I don’t see what that will be just yet. I don’t think it will be blogging, though…

    • Lani Rosales

      December 18, 2010 at 11:53 pm

      Hey Chuck, it will be microblogging (Twitter & Facebook) as the race heats up, but it is my firm belief that most of these efforts will be poorly executed and thus done in vain.

      Blogging is tough and time consuming, but trainers still spout the virtues of it (although niche blogging is poorly defined by many in front of the classroom).

  3. Jose Rivera

    December 14, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Lani, that is quite a list of predictions for 2011. However, let’s think about HOW, every active real estate agent in the nation can make MORE money in 2011 than they did in 2010. No, I’m not talking about having the lastest cellphone and real estate App, although I really like new cellphones and new apps too. I’m also not talking about being “certified” or being on all the good “social marketing” websites. Lastly, we shouldn’t be so worry about what the “fed” does or doesn’t do, or if the interest rates go up or down.
    What EVERY real estate agent needs to do better next year (if he or she really wants to make more money) is take better listings. They need to take more pictures (a picture is worth a thousand words). They need to help the seller “stage” the house better (including less furniture, a coat of paint in some rooms, and a “curb appeal” front lawn landscaping). They need to write about specific and unique features about each property. Each property has “something special” about it, and the agent has to find it and write about it. Just filling out the regular MLS Listing Form is NOT enough. The pictures should be in logical sequence so the buyer can get a better sense of the property when he or she is looking at them on the Internet. Some pictures are just horrible! Take the time, to take better pictures or else hire someone else to do it, especially with a high-end, my goodness! Homes will sell faster, in any marktet, if the agent does a thorough job of listing it properly. Buyers on the Internet want lots and lots of details, and especially pictures! Some of these Buyers are non-american, remember that!

    • Lani Rosales

      December 18, 2010 at 11:55 pm

      Jose, you’re preachin’ to the choir, buddy! 😉 We write a lot about professional improvement, but part of that is helping agents to know what’s on the horizon for their careers. Agents know they’re supposed to do what you say above, but we’re in an industry stricken by laziness as inherent in many agents (which is why so few do so many of the transactions).

      Here’s to a hearty 2011!

  4. Matthew Dollinger

    December 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Lani – this is a pretty impressive list. However I do have a couple of questions:

    #1 – there isn’t one mention in this list that agents who engage in becoming “students of the market” and use the technology or statistics that are available to become better agents (pricing things more effectively – discussing the market intelligently) – will overtake the masses. I find this kind of a big deal – and one that’s often overlooked.

    #2 – how about this… the consumer will FINALLY become more educated and realize that they are making a HUGE financial decision. Hence they will actually put more worth in the selection of their agent, not JUST go off of online reviews (or friends of friends), and really ask some intelligent questions of their agents.

    #2 – how can #3 AND #5 be true? I like to dabble in economics, but my feeling is that until supply and demand level out (stabalize) can we truly reach a “bottom”?

    * 2011 might be rock bottom. With house values and sales stats in decline, we haven’t quite hit bottom, but we’re pretty close and we’ve been bouncing at the bottom for a while, so 2011 could be the year of rock bottom.
    * Home sales will continue to suffer. With a high volume of foreclosure activity, existing home sales will have to be reasonable and competitive in order to meet their asking prices.

    • Lani Rosales

      December 19, 2010 at 12:18 am

      Hey, Matthew!

      #1- there is no mention of it because (a) it’s totally an incomplete list as mentioned above but more importantly (b) because I disagree this is a possibility. I think that stat tools have been available for years and even offered in the back end of most MLS systems and even when free and in plain sight, most agents ignore the option of use. I do think that as a sector, real estate agents will be more informed, but I don’t believe it will be to the extent you’re talking about, am I being jaded? 🙂

      #2- I agree with this point, despite my jaded nature illustrated above. I have witnessed a shift in this realm and Benn coined “co-brokering with Google” a few years ago and it’s a common behavior now that buyers rely on the internet not only as their starting point but as a mechanism to verify all information and advice they get. As a group, consumers are certainly better educated and 2011 will definitely see a rise in this given the rapid adoption of mobile technologies.

      #3,#5- perhaps I should clarify on #5 that home sales will continue to suffer meaning we’ll be bouncing around the bottom. Regarding competition to meet asking prices, I was simply painting an ideal scenario buyers will NEED, not that they’ll necessarily see.

      Thanks for your thoughtful response, Matthew, I can’t wait to read your response to my additional thoughts. 🙂

      • Matthew Dollinger

        December 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm

        Lani…

        I too share your jaded nature. However – I think that’s going to be the determining factor of agents that survive and those that sink. Let’s do the math here…

        If… in 2011…

        1. Consumers become better educated (ok… just a LITTLE!)
        2. 90% of agents focus on becoming social media gurus, marketing experts, or tech fanatics – where 10% embrace this but FOCUS on becoming Awesome market experts.

        I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the 10% will dominate the market for not only 2011 but for years to come. It’s not enough to simply HAVE or HAVE ACCESS to the data. This is not something that soundbytes will suffice. You have to know what the F*ck it is that you are talking about.

        “how’s the market?” – consumer
        “It’s a GREAT time to buy!” – agent
        “Really? I’m reading alot of mixed signals. Why do you feel that?”
        “………….silence…………….” – agent

        seriously… This is why I have literally weighted 75% of our education curriculum for 2011 to market education and awareness. I’m betting heavily on this being THE determining factor as to why an agent succeeds in the future. Your prowess on Facebook, LInkedin, Blogging, SEO, Photography, etc. will pale in comparison to someone who can talk intelligently about the market and act as a true advisor.

        Where I agree these are all great mediums for getting the message out, unless you can consider yourself knowledgeable about the material, you’re a poser in the truest sense of the word.

        In a nutshell – Agents need to figure out what the hell their job REALLY is as a real estate agent and do it.

        (Hint – social media doesn’t come into it as much as we think!)

        • Lani Rosales

          December 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm

          BRAVO, soooo well said… I couldn’t agree with you more!!!!

  5. Agent for Movoto

    December 14, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I’m most curious to see how #19 will go.

    • Lani Rosales

      December 19, 2010 at 12:21 am

      Well if I was in charge of it, I’d use Facebook authentication to give an added credibility of those rating agents. Zillow has a mechanism many other ratings sites don’t and that is that those rating have to provide their address (although Z doesn’t disclose this to anyone) and manually reviews all reviews (that’s redundant sounding, huh?!). I think others will follow Z’s lead and hopefully add even better transparency around their systems.

  6. Matt Thomson

    December 15, 2010 at 12:40 am

    #7 is interesting. So many people think there are better or easier ways to broadcast than blogging. True, but where is their landing page. As long as blogging continues to be misunderstood, those who have solid blogs will maintain a stronghold on their community.

    #13…sad. If you can’t afford $500 to be in business, probably shouldn’t be in business. OR, if you can’t find $500 worth of value in NAR, you should probably look a little harder or (gasp) actually get involved.

    #14 is very true, but short sighted. Discount brokerages, no-fee companies, work from home companies may be attractive while agents are trying to cut costs, but again, if you can’t afford the basic expenses, is this the right career for you? There is so much value from an office with energy, sharing of ideas, etc. I don’t buy the theory that people can get that synergy from online communities. If you don’t meet clients in person, only on line, how is that working for your business? I feel the same about brokerages. Agents are most successful, I believe, when surrounded daily by other successful agents.

    • Lani Rosales

      December 19, 2010 at 12:27 am

      #7- perfectly put.

      #13- I don’t think it’s the ability to afford dues or the value people put on NAR, it’s the inability to avoid getting a full time desk job, thus letting the real estate career go.

      #14- I don’t believe that to be true of all personalities, some actually thrive in an independent setting. It used to be a rare personality type in the industry, but I believe it to be more common. Many Realtors are former or current entrepreneurs, especially in the tech sector, so I find it to be the same mentality given to their chosen brokerage. I agree with you, however, that it is IDEAL to be surrounded by the energy of successful people!

  7. Joe Loomer

    December 15, 2010 at 6:55 am

    13.The number of Realtors will dip. NAR membership has dropped considerably over the last two years and we anticipate this decline will continue given a down market.

    There are about 1,400 member in our board/MLS (one and the same) – of them only 913 have had a sale year-to-date in 2010 (from about #800 on, the volume was less than $150K), and every agent after #231 made less than $50K GCI. Board dues of over $300 are due in January. I anticipate a significant dip in agent count for our area – while also viewing this as a huge recruiting opportunity.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • Lani Rosales

      December 19, 2010 at 12:28 am

      I love that you’ve found a positive in this negative. Here in Austin, membership is alive and well, but that’s not the case in all areas.

  8. danschuman

    December 15, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Nice list here, Lani. Here are my thoughts:

    #3 – I certainly hope we’ve hit bottom here in our market, but as they say, we will never know when we’ve actually hit bottom until 6 months afterwards.

    #7 – While there are a lot of us that blog, and as a result, keep ahead of the pack, there will no doubt be some agents who start one next year. However, since a lot of people quit blogging when they don’t get immediate results, I still don’t see a ton of saturation here, especially since such a small percentage of agents actually blog. Those that continue to provide great content and do so consistently will continue to be rewarded.

    #8 – I’m still not sold on QR codes yet, so plan to stay on the sideline to see how it goes.

    Thanks for the list.

    • Lani Rosales

      December 19, 2010 at 12:32 am

      Dan, thanks for the compliments!

      #3- that’s true, but I believe there are a handful of indicators that are helpful in current snapshots- S&P, housing starts, permits, and home sales being a few. I wish FOREsight was 20/20! 🙂

      #7- I agree that saturation is low, but Google still indexes those blogs for a specific period of time, even if the info is outdated and it caused search confusion for consumers that go to an endless sea of dead blogs forgotten by Realtors. So you’re right- bloggers who stick with it will ultimately be rewarded, but consumers will get the short end of the stick here.

      #8- stay tuned, we’ll be revealing why we aren’t investing much time or attention to QR codes (the hint is in the actual point in the story). 🙂

      Thank you for your feedback!!

  9. Fred Griffin

    December 16, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Lani, really really good “predictions” for 2011. Thanks for a great Blog.

    Some thoughts:

    3. Bottom? Not in most areas. Some areas are going to drop another 25% or more.

    7. Blogging – will become more important for SEO, and driving Traffic.

    8. QR will go the way of “Text to 12345” on Sign Riders. Separate URLs for each Listing will become the Norm.

    11. Websites that are not “Viewable” on iPad, Blackberry Playbook, Droid, etc. will be worthless.

    12. “Green” will be recognized for the BS Over-Priced Propaganda that it is. Except, more Government Agencies will mandate Green Requirements.

    13. Out of 40,000 Mortgage Brokers in Florida, 30,000 have not applied for 2011 (!) . That is of course intentional, new Fed Requirements etc. But a “Dip” in NAR? I’m thinking Crash and Burn, with various Realtor Associations and Boards calling emergency meetings for the huge dip in Membership Revenue that is heading their way.

    14. Right on. Traditional Real Estate Brokerage is DEAD. Brick and Mortar Offices, Print Media, 4-Way Splits that cost Sellers way too much – it’s over, folks. Adapt or Die.

    15. Maybe. But if by any remote chance there is a “Principal Reduction Bill” passed by Congress and signed by obama, that could change (not likely, since Investors in Mortgage Backed Securities would have an All-Out Hissy Fit).

    17. Pocket Listings are a violation of many MLS Rules. They defy the idea of Marketing to the World. I don’t see it.

    18. Fannie Freddie will undergo some cosmetic change, but the song will remain the same. Screw Barney Frank. Oh, you’re a girl – never mind.

    19. Realtor Ratings. Good timing, Zillow. With Yelp and Better Business Bureau facing Class Action Lawsuits and Criminal Investigations for Ratings Extortion.

    20. Web Ad Spending? Not on Featured Listings or Skyscraper and Banner Ads. Ain’t gonna happen.

    • Lani Rosales

      December 19, 2010 at 1:14 am

      Hi Fred, thanks for taking so much time to add your thoughts! Here’s what I’m thinking…

      3. Nationally, yes. We are about to hit the bottom, most indicators point to this, and 2011 might even see a dead cat bounce. Any national stat can be answered with “not in all parts,” pretty generically at any point in history, so it may be true that some areas will continue to decline, but the residential real estate sector in general is not in for a recovery OR a massive decline next year. We may agree to disagree on this one. 🙂

      7. Agreed. Because Google has already rolled out social reactions and Facebook is the next Google (by 2012) for search, blogging gives agents a way to point all of their social networking efforts back to their OWN property (their blog) and help their own SEO instead of simply funneling their efforts and building the SEO of social networks.

      8. Perfect.

      11. Oh I couldn’t agree more (although this being the norm in 2011 is a little ambitious, this is likely to be true in 2012 when adoption is truly mainstream).

      12. I agree with you and believe “green” to be the biggest Scam word of 2011, but I maintain that consumers’ social awareness will continue to rise and they may not know exactly what features they want, but they’ll be asking.

      13. I think our views are different because we’re in different locations. We’re headquartered in Austin where membership has fallen a bit, but lower than expected and still at a pretty high number. Many agents locally recovered in 2010 and are mostly optimistic about 2011 (we survived many bubbles that most other states didn’t and our economy is extremely diverse and strong). That said, Austin isn’t alone and there are enough people nationally doing well to keep NAR strong, but membership will dip because of areas such as you’ve described while areas like Austin prop up the National Association.

      14. I don’t think the traditional model will be completely dead in 2011, but they’ll be forced to rethink their strategy (as many already are). I hope they succeed though because the more models compete against each other, the better for consumers.

      15. Great point.

      17. The sites I’m familiar with work in conjunction to local MLS systems and are typically run by brokers and it’s simply an old concept that is being made new with the web. Pocket listings have been around forever- some sellers are famous and don’t want their home made public, others just want to test the market (pre-sale), while others don’t want to impact their days on market and want exposure but aren’t ready to be on the MLS.

      18. Easy, buddy! But yeah, you can call it what you want but it’ll still be ol’ Fannie and Freddie!

      19. As I’ve commented above, there has to be a layer of accountability for a ratings system to really be of any value. Yelp and BBB will squeak through the lawsuits, this isn’t the first round of them.

      20. Web ad spending isn’t just featured listings- what will rise is banner ads on niche sites, Facebook ads, PPC campaigns, etc. in an effort to effectively compete. I don’t believe featured listings will decline, I believe it might actually increase as agents stress to compete.

      I look forward to bantering more with you, Fred!

    • joy siegel

      December 19, 2010 at 11:28 am

      I like your comments to the predictions of 2011; good thoughts.

      • Lani Rosales

        December 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm

        Thanks, Joy! May your 2011 be the best!

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Opinion Editorials

Starting a new remote job? Here’s how to impress your team

(EDITORIAL) New world. New normal. New remote job? Here are three steps to help you navigate your new job and make a lasting first impression.

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new home office

My past gig selling ergonomic furniture seems so much more meaningful these days. That’s a real aluminum foil lining on a horrible, deadly, terrifying situation, but I’ll take it.

For those of us who can keep up the grind for that daily bread (sourdough apparently) from home, we’re in da house like it’s a late 90s video. Or a much much much lamer early 2000s video aping late 90s videos.

It’s been weird. Intellectually, I know taking breaks to roast Brussels sprouts, hang my delicates, or weep uncontrollably into the living room carpet is NOT what I’m being paid for but…I’m doing it. And I can because I know my coworkers, superiors included, are doing the exact same.

We’ve already built up the kind of rapport that says ‘So long as XYZ gets done, organizing your spice rack between calls is fine, because we are all going NUCKING FUTS, and whatever keeps us from starting fires without driving up company costs is all gravy. Also here’s a picture of my dog’.

Maddie

BUT, for those of us cranking the money mill in a whole NEW work situation… it’s gonna be… well. Not necessarily like that.

If my first off-color joke to my manager was over G-Chat instead of face-to-face, I can’t even IMAGINE what horror shows would go through my head if she say… went to go check her mail right as I hit send and just kinda left whatever it was I said about bras hanging there.

So what can you do to improve your new-person status when you can’t meet your team and cozy up face-to-face?

Make introductions

Imagine you’re taking a pre-covid19 bus. Some stranger taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey, you wanna approve this invoice right quick?”

Not the worst thing you could hear on public transport by a long shot, but it’s still a little presumptuous, no?

That’s why you need to introduce yourself.

Not just in the general group chats or Zoom meetings. No one’s going to remember those (and there’s a 75% chance you don’t have your video on anyway).

Introduce yourself every time you ask someone new for something. Like this: “Hi colleague! I’m April, the new girl in 2nd shift goth ops, how are you? I had a quick question about our joy division, do you have a moment?”

I get that I’m an 87 year old biddy when it comes to matters of courtesy, but when you can’t actually see someone or offer to grab something from the communal fridge for someone, this stuff goes a LONG way. Bonus, you might get some extra positivity back! And we ALL need that.

Scroll back

Put that mouse wheel in reverse, what we’re gon’ do right here is go back. The cool thing about work chat-ware is that most versions will have a history you can scroll through! Your mission now is to creep through public, multi-person channels and see how your new peeps cheep.

You’ll get a great sense of who’s who, the general vibe, and even see frequent pain points and questions that come up before you have to ask about them (which you WILL).

Is this the kind of workplace where you can leave an ‘It’s Twerkin Tuesday!’ GIF, and get a whole bootylicious thread going to lift everyone’s spirits? Or do you work with more of an “Here’s an interesting article about twerking for spine health” kind of crowd?

This is how you find out.

Keep your own records.

Art Markman over at the Harvard Business Review mentioned a super fun and also true fact: “ Your memory for what happens each day is strongest around things that are compatible with your general script about how work is supposed to go. That means that you are least likely to remember the novel aspects of your new workplace” .

Ergo, it makes sense to keep a diary of everything that happens at work so you can get help with what you need most… because those ‘novel aspects’ are EVERYTHING, experience or no.

I personally suck at making my hands write as quickly as I think, so I suggest a diary in the form of Google docs, or even a private Tumblr/Twitter, etc, where you can hashtag what you need to look back at, and search your logs at your leisure later.

Make sense?

It’s not always easy to navigate a new position, even if you’re the naturally charming, adaptable type. Adapting to several major things at once is a lot for anyone! But hey, you’re doing the right thing by reading this as it is. Gold star!

Congrats on the new gig. Keep your head up, or whatever direction medical doctors recommend – you got the job. You’ve got this!

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Opinion Editorials

5 ways to grow your business without shaming the competition

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) We all need support as business owners. Let’s talk ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur that do not include shaming your competition.

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Entrepreneur women all talking around a meeting table.

The year 2020 has forced everyone to re-assess their priorities and given us the most uncertain set of circumstances we have lived through. For businesses and entrepreneurs, they were faced with having to confront new business scenarios quickly.

Perhaps you were forced to add virtual components or find new revenue streams – immediately. Regardless, this has been tough for everyone.

Every single person is having a hard time with the adjustments and at very different stages from others. We’re currently at the 6-month mark, and each of our timelines are going to look different. Our emotions have greeted us differently too, whether we have felt relief, grief, excitement, fear, hope, determination, or just plain exhaustion.

Now that we are participating in life a bit more virtually than in 2019, this is a good time to re-visit the pros and cons of the influence of technology and online marketing outreach. It’s also a great time to throw old entrepreneur rules out the window and create a better sense of community where you can.

Here’s an alluring article, “Now Is Not the Time for ‘Mom Shaming’”, that offers an example from about a decade ago of how the popularity of mommy bloggers grew by women sharing their parenting “hacks”, tips, or even recipes, and crafting ideas via online posts and blogs. As the blog entries grew, so did other moms comparing themselves and/or feeling inadequate.

Some of the responses were natural and some may have been coming from a place of defensiveness. Moms are not alone in looking for resources, articles, materials, and friends to tell us we’re doing OK. We just need to be told “You are doing fine.”

Luckily, some moms in Connecticut decided to declare an end to “Mom Wars” and created a photo shoot that shared examples of how each mom had a right to their choices in parenting. It seemed to reinforce the message of, “You are doing fine.”

I don’t know about you, but my recent google searches of “Is it ok to have my 3-year old go to bed with the iPad” are pretty much destined to get me in trouble with her pediatrician. I’m hoping that during a global pandemic, “I am doing fine.”

Now, comparing this scenario to the entrepreneur world, often times your business is your baby. You have worn many hats to keep it alive. You have built the concept and ideas, nurtured the products and services with sweat, tears, and maybe some laughs. You have spent countless hours researching, experimenting, and trying processes and marketing tactics that work for you. You have been asked to “pivot” this year like so many others (Sick of that word? Me too).

Here are some ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur (or at least, ideas worth considering if you haven’t already):

  1. It’s about the questions you ask yourself. How does your product or service help or serve others (vs. solely asking how do I get more customers?) This may lead to new ideas or income streams.
  2. Consider a collaboration or a partnership – even if they seem like the competition. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb
  3. Stop inadvertently shaming the competition by critiquing what they do. It’s really obvious on your Instagram. Try changing the narrative to how you help others.
  4. Revisit the poem All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and re-visit it often. “And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”
  5. Join a community, celebrate others’ success, and try to share some positivity without being asked to do so. Ideas include: Likes/endorsements, recommendations on LinkedIn for your vendor contacts, positive Google or Yelp reviews for fellow small business owners.

It seems like we really could use more kindness and empathy right now. So what if we look for the help and support of others in our entrepreneurial universe versus comparing and defending our different ways of doing things?

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Opinion Editorials

Popular opinion: Unemployment in a pandemic sucks [EDITORIAL]

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) I got laid off during the pandemic, and I think I can speak for all of us to say that unemployment – especially now – really, really sucks.

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Stressed man thinking over laptop about unemployment.

Despite not being in an office for what feels like an eternity, losing my job stung. Holding onto work during The Worst Timeline was rough, considering Rome was burning all around. My job was the boat of sanity I could sit in while the waves of bullshit crashed all around. Pre-pandemic, I had just separated from my wife, so my emotional health wasn’t in tip-top shape. But then millions of people go and get sick, the economy took a nosedive, and well, the world changed. When everything around you sucks, and people are on the news crying about unemployment and potential homelessness, you’re thankful as hell that you’re not with them – until you are.

I was writing for a startup, one that came with a litany of headaches thanks to fluctuating budgets and constant directional pivots, but it was steady work. When the Coronavirus hit, it was a scenario of “we’re going to get through this,” but as we switched gears again and again, I started to get an unsettling feeling: I’ve seen this story before. When you live in Austin and are in the creative field, you’ve worked with startups. And there are always trappings on when something lingers in the air – hierarchy shuffles, people aren’t as optimistic, and senior folks start quietly bailing out. Those are the obvious moves that make your unemployment-related Spidey sense tingle, but with COVID, everything is remote. There aren’t the office vibes, the shortened conversations that make you, “I know what’s happening here.” Instead, you’re checking Slack or email and surviving like everyone else.

We were happy to be working, to see the direct deposit hit every two weeks and sigh, knowing you were still in the fight, that you might see this thing through.

We saw our entire business change overnight. Leadership rose to meet the challenges of an old model rooted in hospitality, restaurants, and events, which died with a viral disease shotgun blast. Because the infrastructure was there, we managed to help out workers, and grocery stores work together to keep people fed across the nation. It was legitimately a point of pride. Like all things, though, the market settled. We bought time.

In July, I had a full-blown depressive episode. The weight of the divorce, the lack of human interaction, my work having less value, my career stalled felt like a Terminator robot foot on my skull. I couldn’t get out of bed, and everything I wrote were the smatterings of a broken man. And to my ex-bosses’ credit, my breakdown was NOT my best work, I could barely look at a computer, let alone forge thoughts on an entirely new industry with any authority, or even a fake it till you make it scenario.

When the CEO put time on my calendar, I knew it was a wrap. Startup CEOs don’t make house calls; they swing the ax. When you’re the lone creative in a company trying to survive a nearly company-killing event, you’re the head on the block. Creatives are expensive, and we’re expendable. Site copy, content, media placements, all that can kick rocks when developers need to keep the business moving, even if it’s at a glacial pace. When I was given my walking papers, it was an exhale, on one hand, I’d been professionally empty, but at the same time, I needed consistent money. My personal life was a minefield and I’ve got kids.

I got severance. Unemployment took forever to hit. The state of Texas authorized amount makes me cringe. Punishing Americans for losing their jobs during a crisis is appalling. Millions are without safety nets, and it’s totally ok with elected leaders.

There are deferments available. I had to get them on my credit cards, which I jacked up thanks to spending $8,500 on an amicable divorce, along with a new MacBook Pro that was the price of a used Nissan. I got a deferment on my car note, too.

I’ve applied to over 100 jobs, both remote and local. I’ve applied for jobs I’m overqualified for in hopes they’ll hire me as a freelancer. There are lots of rejection letters. I get to round two interviews. References or the round three interviews haven’t happened yet. I get told I’m too experienced or too expensive. Sometimes, recruiters won’t even show up. And then there are the Zoom meetings. Can we all agree we’re over Zoom? Sometimes, you don’t want to comb your hair.

I’ll get promised the much needed “next steps” and then a rejection email, “thanks but no thanks.” Could you at least tell me what the X-Factor for this decision was? Was there a typo? Did you check my Facebook? The ambiguity kills me. Being a broke senior creative person kills me. I interviewed President Obama and have written for Apple, but ask myself: Can I afford that falafel wrap for lunch? Do you think springing for the fries is worth that extra $3? You’ve got soup at home, you know.

I’m not unique. This is the American Experience. We’re stuck in this self-perpetuating hell. We keep looking for jobs. We want to work. There are only so many gigs to fill when there’s constant rollercoaster news on unemployment recovery. And as long as unemployment sucks, there’s going to be a lot of people bracing for impact come Christmas. Hopefully, the brass in Washington can pass a few bills and get us back to work. At least get Americans out of the breadline by pumping up what we’re surviving off of – across the board. Working people shouldn’t have to face getting sick to bring in an income, while casualties of the Corona War should be able to look at their bills and not feel like the assistant on the knife throwers wheel.

I’m about to be a line cook to make extra cash till an intrepid manager hires me. Who doesn’t want a writer working the grill who reads French existentialist essays for enjoyment? I’d rather sit on park benches and day dream, but that ain’t reality. I’ve got bills to pay in a broken America. Who wants a burger? Deep thoughts come free but an extra slice of cheese is extra.

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