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Opinion Editorials

Is there a fork in the economic road for 2012?

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As 2012 approaches…

As 2012 is about to enter the room, I’m beginning to get a whiff of major road forking up ahead. The good news is I don’t think we reach that fork ’til at least the first Wednesday morning of November. For now, let’s just say 2012, I’m thinkin’ cruise control on the Status Quo Highway. The country is gonna choose what ‘episode’ they wanna watch the next four years. (Love mixed metaphors.)

What does that really mean?

Sure, ‘It’s the economy, stoopid!’ still applies — big time. But during an election year, those lookin’ for votes tend to keep things the way they are, more or less. This is especially true if things aren’t all hunky dory, like now. The ones in the White House need to change the subject, or if that fails, at least blame someone else. Those not in the White House need the hunky doryless status quo to remain in place ’til they’re elected. Hence, cruise control.

  • Historically low interest rates.
  • Static, if not falling real estate values.
  • Continued foreclosures and short sales.
  • High unemployment.
  • General fear of what might be around the corner.
  • Real estate investors feasting on well located, low priced, property.
  • The Fed keepin’ interest rates about where they are.

On the first Wednesday of next November

First Wednesday next November — The new fork in the road — episode if you will — may begin to appear.

If it’s the ‘Four More Years’ episode awaiting us, the new fork might be a bit more of the same fork, though certainly not for long. The other half of that fork might be the deafening ‘OMG we’ve screwed the pooch!’ chorus from the Taker crowd, as they begin to recognize the inevitable consequences of their naiveté — or ignorant arrogance if they actually believed their own company line.

If Wednesday morning greets us with the ‘Nightmare is Finally Over’ episode, it could be a whole buncha wait ‘n see. Folks may wanna see if the new guys will indeed walk their talk. Once the rubber begins hittin’ the asphalt, the fork might begin takin’ shape. One half of it could be federal budget spending cuts, which could lead to increased confidence/optimism in what remains of the Producer crowd. That crowd though, probably won’t be convinced it’s safe to go back in the water, so to speak, ’til tax and regulation relief becomes a reality.

Where the forks lead

Happily, both roads in this fork lead to the same destination — economic recovery base upon OldSchool American economic principles. You know, work ethic, free enterprise, a sense of earning, not entitlement, and generally speaking, not goring the Producers ’til they decide to leave the country. (Oops, many already have. Maybe if this episode is playin’, they can be enticed to return — and bring back the jobs with ’em.)

The next time a government taxes, spends, and regulates its way to national economic prosperity will be the first. In my lifetime, though, it seems a large segment of us need to keep learning this lesson. The difference this time, maybe?

Wakin’ up to the ‘Four More Years’ episode may be the last fork in the road we ever see. At some point the music stops, and reality begins.

Lately that melody has had a Greek flavor to it. Their Takers STILL don’t get it. But they will when the new episode begins playin’, and the bus they’ve been on all these years is forced to take a different fork.

Jeff Brown specializes in real estate investment for retirement, has practiced real estate for over 40 years and is a veteran of over 200 tax deferred exchanges, many multi-state. Brown is a second generation broker and works daily with the third generation. With CCIM training and decades of hands on experience, Brown's expertise is highly sought after, some of which he shares on his real estate investing blog.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. real estate guy

    December 29, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    so no gov bond downgrade?no inflation with a 14 trillion defcit?
    no jobs so no upswing in real estate sales?

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Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re months into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are still fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.

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strong leaders

Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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decluttering

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer slowing you down? Does it make a simple job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment to improve your productivity.

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better equipment, better work

What is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes.

In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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