Waiting For The Pop-Vancouver’s Pending Real Estate Crash

v681047_1.jpgThe Washington Post is reporting on the disaster that is the British Columbian Forest industry – that the U.S. housing crisis is about to crush what has long been considered the backbone of the British Columbian economy.

I am very happy that they decided to do a three page spread about the B.C. towns that are falling apart, because I may not have realized how grim the situation really is.  The local Vancouver media would never run a  story like this.

Why?

Because it’s bad economic news,  and we can’t have any bad economic news in our papers, people might stop buying real estate. 

I live in beautiful, Vancouver British Columbia, where for just 70% of your income, you too can live in a three bedroom bungalow.  This is a real estate market that should have cooled down before the end of 2006, but instead it roared through 2007. It roared through however, because people were bombarded with messages like “buy now or be priced out forever”, “real estate only goes up”, or my favourite “it’s different this time”.

The average single family home is now priced at $742k in a community where the average family income is $54k – things have spun completely out of control.  And that’s the problem, I’m afraid that it’s too far out of control. 

There are over 100 communities and 200,000 jobs depending on forestry.  News of their doom could have people questioning whether or not this is the best time to sign up for $4000 or $5000 a month for 40 years.  That of course could start to effect the 280 000 jobs in construction, or the 17500 real estate agents,  that all depend on the boom’s continuing booming.  

The media can’t report anything “anti real estate”, that would upset their advertisers, the ones who buy pages and pages of space to show off their shiny granite counter tops.   Bob Rennie, our local real estate guru,  has more power then the mayor.

So British Columbians have continued their trek through open houses, and have left themselves with a personal savings rate of -7.9%.  Combine that with a province that has a 17% poverty rate, and a government that has spent $1.6 billion on the 2010 Olympics, and we’re stretched real thin.   

But we’ll all keep our heads in the sand.  We’ll buy our Starbucks, and read reports telling us how fantastic we are.  The most controversial topic to cross the news in the past week was the mayor’s request to have fire trucks turn off their sirens at night,  they disturb his sleep.

That, in itself, says so much .   

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I want a woman to win

hilary.jpgI admit it,  I want Hilary to win the golden ticket, and I want her to win it because she’s a woman. 

When I say that, it’s not like I’m talking about a dimwitted imbecile, this is Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton.  I could turn this  into a wikipedia page , but suffice to say,  she would not be sitting on Super Tuesday, with 740 delegates under her belt, if she wasn’t extremely intelligent.  No woman in American history has accomplished what she has. 

I’m an avid supporter of Universal Health Care as well.  I believe that to be considered a great and benevolent society, you have to look after your fragile, your weak and your sick.  Admittedly, there are issues with free health care systems, but these issues are normally funding related.  I think we can all agree that the $3.5 trillion being spent on the Iraq war, could have bought alot of band aids.    

It’s time to answer the question, What If?  We haven’t had a woman come this close, to this kind of power, since Margaret Thatcher retired 18 years ago, (Kim Campbell was Prime Minister of Canada, but only for 4 months).  Today, women hold just 16.6% of political positions worldwide.  And not to rub it in, we have a world filled with war, poverty, housing crises, and global warming.  I’m not blaming all the world’s problems on men, I’m just blaming the people in charge — who just happen to be men. 

So, what  if an experienced, intelligent woman was in charge of the most powerful country in the world?

Would women’s wages rise toward parity?

Would daycare be accessible and affordable?

Would women entrepreneurs find more funding opportunities?

Would women owned companies find more government contract opportunities?

Would the whole country smell of daisies and roses?

I don’t know.  I do know that only a woman understands a woman, and I believe that the best opportunity to have women’s issues seriously addressed, is to have a woman in charge. 

Obviously, I’m a Hilary fan, and have been for years, but if you’re cemented in with another candidate, that’s fine with me, I just want to see everyone involved.  What I’m suggesting is this,  if you’re sitting on the fence – and you’re a woman, it’s o.k. to let the estrogen tip you over.  This could be the break that we are all looking for. 

The Recession is Coming – Now What?

main.jpg“I’ve Not Failed – I’ve Just Found 10,000 Ways That Won’t Work” – Thomas Alva Edison

I stumbled across this quote, at the bottom of a chain letter actually, and as soon as I read it all I could think was: “That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it.” 

The economic news gets worst every day,  over 2 million people are going to lose their homes to foreclosure,  and Wall Street is in full skid, with the Dow losing over 4%, the S&P dropping 5.4 % and Nasdaq dropping 4.1%, just last week. 

We’re all reading the news with knots in our stomach, but inevitably, what are you going to do, roll over or roll with it? Do you give up or get smart? 

The news isn’t all bad.  Reuters is reporting that 1 in 4 small/medium sized business in the U.S. have at least 1 position that they can’t fill.   That’s alot of jobs.  Yahoo Finance reminds us that there was a 6 year high of $29.4 billion in VC investment in 2007.  That’s alot of money. 

I’m not suggesting that we throw on the rose coloured glasses and pretend that the Emperor has clothes, but the sky isn’t falling either.   This is the time for preparation, not panic.  If you’re employed, figure out what you’d do if you lost your job – could happen – have a back up plan – you always have to have a back up plan. You could start a whole new career, you could start a new business, the back up plan could actually become the best thing that ever happened to you.

If you already own your own business, this is just the time to play hardball.  Find new markets for your products/services, and sell like you’ve never sold before.  Let your market know you’re the best and never back away from it.  Keep your competition in mind, but envision them as small dots behind you in the race.  Ask for help when you need it, learn to say no when you have to, and make your suppliers treat you as well as you treat your clients. 

This isn’t the first recession, it won’t be the last.  Our grandparents survived, our parents surived, we’ll survive.  But there’s no reason for this to be a time of just survival, handled properly, this can be a time of change and transformation. 

Does American Idol Still Have It?

american-idol.jpgRolling Stone interviews a rather whiny Chris Daughtry, who wonders if people will watch American Idol again this year. My vote is yes, with a disclaimer – they had better start thinking long term.

Daughtry asks if there’s anyone left to audition who’s good enough. I feel pretty confident, that in a country of 300 million people, there might be someone left who could match him in (ahem) talent.

However, he does raise an excellent point that the competition is losing credibility, but why?

I think it’s obvious that their marketers are lazy. They want to sell cds and concert tickets to 13 year olds, because that’s all anyone in the music industry wants to sell to. They have a formula, and they’re going to follow it, no matter what.

And let’s face it, part of that formula really works. Everyone watches the auditions because they’re funny. Now that you have the auditions under your belt, you might as well tune in for the semi finals, see who looks interesting, it’s Tuesday, nothing else to do anyways. Once the semi’s are over, you have time commited to this thing, you have to see it through.

Seeing it through can be alot of fun. There’s lots of big names, bright lights, and Simon, Paula and Randy have been like family since season 3. Where they go wrong, is with being lazy with their final product – they’re the fireworks show whose big bang is a dud.

To get that golden ticket to Hollywood week, you had better be pretty. I have no problem with pretty, but this is a singing competition, not a cat walk. I don’t think I need to point out all the unattractive singers who have had us all singing and air guitaring for years. Admittedly, there’s been none since boy and girl bands have been an easy way to a quick buck., but I swear, you used to have to have talent to get a record contract.

By the time we get to the final 10, they all look the same, they all sing the same, and all originality has been weasled out. American Idol fans want a winner that they can follow for years, so the five months of their life they spent watching the show, was more then just 60 hours on the couch.

People loved Taylor Hicks, just not the 13 year olds. Instead of trying to come up with a campaign that would fit Taylor, they tried to make Taylor fit the campaign – and that’s just laziness.

So yes, I just finished watching the first night of the auditions, and I’m ready for tomorrow night, but there had better be some substance to the final contestants, I gave up Barbie and Ken years ago.

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Do You Have to Be a Bitch to be Successful?

martha.jpgTHE QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you have to be a bitch to be successful? It seems that every woman who breaks through the ceiling is called a bitch.  Do you have to be a bitch to be successful?  Or, is society still draping assertive, strong women with negative stereotypes? To explore these questions we first need to distinguish between a real bitch and a strong businessperson who just happens to have breasts.  We have to acknowledge that there are “real bitches” in the business world, women who are absolutely vicious.  They don’t just step on a few heads on their way up; they ground their stilettos through the skulls.  They view everyone as expendable and do absolutely nothing to support the growth of women based industry.  Everyone has come across her.  She can make a grown woman cry and takes every opportunity to belittle her co-workers.  These women are really out there and they are creating real, identifiable havoc. 

Laura Tanenbaum, author of “Catfight”, found that: Many professional women confess they prefer male rather than female supervisors. They complain that women at work refuse to share power, or withhold information, or are too concerned about receiving credit for every little thing they accomplish, or are cold toward underlings (male and female alike). In such complaints they use the word ‘bitch’ a lot,”      

 On top of that, the U.K.National Workplace Bullying Hotline reported that half of its 3000 calls were regarding a female serial bully.  That’s more then four people every day, who are so exasperated with the treatment they receive from a female co-worker ,that they seek expert advice in dealing with the situation.   

This now begs the question – why do these women behave this way?  Many experts fall back on the old excuse that women who behave in an overly aggressive manner are doing so to duplicate the behavior they see in men.  It’s as if everyone really believed the old “sugar and spice and everything nice” story.  No one seems able to admit that the women who behave like tyrants do so simply because they were born that way.   

 If you’re working for someone who fits the description of the real bitch, you have my sympathies.  Waiting for her to show her softer side probably is a waste of time.  The best advice may be to send her a link to this article and see if she can take a hint.  You should probably be prepared for a short period of unemployment immediately following your giving her this book but nonetheless, the stress just isn’t worth staying in the situation.   

The levels of anxiety and depression that arise from being in a virtual war zone can have devastating effects on your emotional, physical and mental health.  Have some faith in yourself and take the time to find what makes you truly happy in life and then find a way to make a living doing that. You will eventually find your niche, be it with a company that appreciates you, or be it out on your own. 

Then you can sit back and watch your nemesis die miserable and lonely and then you win. We mustn’t however, confuse being what has been described as a “sociopath in a skirt” with being an assertive, or even aggressive, businesswoman.  Just because a women deals openly and honestly with her business partners does not make her a bitch.  Just because she stands her ground when she knows she’s right doesn’t make her impossible to deal with.  Just because she asks for details and does her own investigation, doesn’t make her a control freak.  It makes her smart.

So no, I don’t believe that you have to be a bitch to be successful, but I don’t think it hurts once in a while either. 

 

Men And Women – Still Different

In, “The Great Divide”, Sara Stewart, of the NY Post, provides an excellent report on how the inherent differences in men and women transfer over into business life. 

She introduces us to Chris Flett, the author of, “What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business : Opening Up The Heavily Guarded Alpha Playbook”.  He runs with the theory,

“that women mentor women to deal with men; men mentor men to bring in more business”,

which translates into women wasting time; meaning that women should be more like men. 

She follows that up with a great piece from Lisa Robyn, author of “The Corporate Dominatrix: Six Roles to Play to Get Your Way at Work”, who reminds us that all business leaders should embrace their inner woman.

Can’t help but wonder why can’t we all just get along?  

The article is full of great statistics and great ideas.  We’re finally at a place where we can recognize that our differences are real, now we can spend the time examining how to get the best of both worlds. 

  

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Making The Green

15_19_1_thumb.jpgI was working with a client, expanding out his business idea, when I realized that with a slight twist, it could be promoted as an environmentally friendly.  He actually told me that he didn’t think that investors would be interested in a Green project – that they wouldn’t think it was profitable. 

I was surprised that anyone still thought that way.  Green is good – Green is beautiful – green in the project means green in the bank – and anyone who doesn’t realize this by now is completely naive.  

57% of Americans are very concerned about the environment and billions are being spent every year finding answers.  Venture capital investments in alternative energy, biofuels and clean technologies, jumped 44.4% in 2006 to $884 million[1]

Citibank has committed $50 billion to environmental projects in the next 10 years, IBM is spending $1 billion on energy efficiency, and Wal-mart has implemented a new Lifestyle section of their store to bring affordable, environmentally conscious goods to the consumer.  

The message from Wal-Mart today to the rest of the business community is there need not be any conflict between the environment and the economy. We will find the way not only to reconcile (those), but to find new profits and new opportunities as we do the right thing.”

-Al Gore

Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world, their interest in the environment signifies that eco-friendly is no longer the industry of tomorrow, tomorrow is today and today can be utilized for profit – because no matter what, Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart and they’re always focused on the bottom line.   

Now, mainstream giants in markets spanning consumer products, banking, airlines and chemicals have sweeping programs to shrink their companies’ impact on the environment – and cash in on consumers’ desire to go green”

 – Paul Davidson, USA Today

Solar power, human power, wind power, these are not dreams of the future any longer; they are available now.  I’ve worked on several exciting projects recently and when you work the long term numbers, the revenue potential is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.  


[1] Dow Jones Venture One and Ernst and Young   [1] http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2007-04-18-getting-gold-green_N.htm