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Archive for May, 2012

THE OWS PERSPECTIVE ON ECONOMICS (aka “Obamanomics”)

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 30, 2012

– How do they propose to replace capitalism?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

To observe May Day (May 1st), Sean Hannity of the Fox News Channel invited as a guest on his show Harrison Schultz of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement to explain his organization’s objectives and motives. According to his LinkedIn profile, the 29 year old Schultz is a General Co-Organizer of the OWS and self-described “Anarchist.” Needless to say, the interview with Hannity, the polar opposite of Shultz politically, was rugged. Shultz argued, “The problem here is capitalism. That’s what needs to change. That’s what is failing all of these people.”

During the interview he went on to say he believes the government and big companies should provide the citizens free education, free health care, free dental care, free day care, free housing, and free transportation. “The government and corporations should get off our backs, stop enslaving us through debt, …”

Schultz’ comments on capitalism provides some rare insight into how the OWS movement perceives business and economics in general. Let’s consider the impact of each of Shultz’ proposed freebies:

In terms of EDUCATION, the average salary for a public school teacher is approximately $50.4K, High School teachers are $54.3K, and college professors average $80K to $120K depending on their specialty. This of course does not include school administrators, bus drivers, and maintenance personnel, nor construction costs for facilities, all of which has to be paid by someone, either the taxpayer, the consumer, or private benefactors.

For HEALTH CARE, the average salary for a nurse is $71.7K, and a doctor is $174.9K. This too, does not include office staff, medical technicians, or the cost of facilities, equipment and research. Likewise, this has to be paid by someone, either the taxpayer, the consumer, private benefactors, or insurance companies. On the average, the annual health insurance premium for a single person is $2.9K and $6.3K for a family.(1)

For DENTAL CARE, the average salary for a dentist is $141.7K and $61.7K for a dental hygenist. This too does not include the costs for facilities, equipment and support staff.

DAY CARE teachers average a salary of $27.8K and, of course, need facilities and equipment. Further, the national average cost for full-time day care is $611 a month.

As to HOUSING, single apartments range from $127-$360/month on the average; $616-$823/month for family apartments. This does not include utilities ranging from $60-$190/month. Then there is the matter of the salaries of the construction workers, architects, planners, engineers, managers and inspectors required to build the facilities, not to mention the materials needed for construction.

CNN recently reported, spending on public TRANSPORTATION totals roughly $50 billion a year, and noted that 75% of those dollars find their way to private companies in the form of construction contracts, fuel purchases and other expenditures.(4)

As an aside, the average cost for a bus is $424.8K, a railroad car averages $1.9M/car, and locomotives average $2.4M each.(5) Finally, the average cost for compact automobile ranges from $10K-$17K.(3)

This is how business works. If you perform a service, you expect to be compensated accordingly. If you build a product, you have to market it. All work involves competition and risk. The person who markets and delivers a better product or service at a more cost effective price will succeed while others fail. It also means nobody is irreplaceable; if you stumble and fall, someone will surely take your place. This is capitalism and if it sounds remarkably like Darwin’s theory of evolution whereby the strong survive and the species evolves, it is.

If we did everything Shultz suggests, the country would go broke at warp speed. There is a big difference between lending a hand or providing a safety net and giving everything away. People expect to be paid for services they render. Perhaps the OWS movement would want all of the people in the professions listed herein to waive their salaries and perform their services on a gratis basis. Unfortunately, this will not support their living requirements. The OWS have many complaints but no solutions other than Socialism which would do nothing but increase our debt. I do not believe they grasp the significance of debt as a concept. You do not spend what you cannot afford, for at some point your creditors will come knocking at your door demanding payment. You tighten your belt when times are lean, and you loosen it when you can afford to do so.

We have somehow developed a generation of people who sincerely believe they are entitled to everything as opposed to earning it, which is why they do not comprehend the concept of austerity. They want it all, they want it now, and they sincerely believe they deserve it. After all, if others can have nice possessions, why shouldn’t they? Envy has turned to rage. This is why the thought of earning and paying your own way is a foreign concept, not just to OWS, but to the Socialist Europeans as well.

To illustrate the point, following the Fox interview, it was reported Hannity offered Shultz a job which he refused as he wouldn’t settle for anything less than a starting salary of $80K. I wish I could have started at $80K. Don’t we all? You have to walk before you can run. It’s called “paying your dues.” Unfortunately, we are saddled with a country of Whizz Kids who believe they should start at the top. I don’t know where they were imbued with such genius, or perhaps it is nothing more than naive stupidity.

The one harsh reality the people do not want to recognize is, you are entitled to nothing. If you want something, you are going to have to go out and earn it. An education is not a right, it is a privilege. So is health care, dental care, housing, and transportation. Nothing is free. Forget what the promotion says, people do not offer something without wanting something in return. In the United States, the only thing you are entitled to is the freedom to try and hopefully succeed, but there is also the distinct possibility you might fail, a concept that frightens the laziest of people.

There is one last thing you are not entitled to, a helping hand. But if one is extended, you should definitely thank God and the person or institution offering it, but do not be so naive as to believe it is a right or free.

Keep the Faith!

1 – About.com
2 – Salary data from Salary.com
3 – Car costs from Motor Trend
4 – CNN – March 12, 2012, “Mass transit use rises as gas prices soar”
5 – American Public Transportation Association (2007-2008 figures)

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


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VOTER IDENTITY CARDS, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? – Ever stop and consider the role identification plays in our lives?

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WHY I’M VOTING FOR EVERETT RICE FOR SHERIFF

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 29, 2012

There are a lot of reasons for voting for a political candidate, perhaps a person’s position on a certain issue, his qualifications for the job, or maybe because a friend or family member recommends him. As for me, I’m voting for Everett Rice for Pinellas County Sheriff for one reason only; dominoes.  Let me explain…

 The Sheriff is one of the most important jobs in the County, certainly the most visible.  In a county as densely populated as Pinellas is, and with a department consisting of over 2,700 members in five major service bureaus, it is by no means a trivial position.

 As the economy receded over the last few years, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) experienced significant cutbacks in budgets and personnel.  This has forced the curtailment of certain programs and belt-tightening, some rightfully so, but it has also caused employees to lose confidence in the department and question their leadership.  Today, morale is declining in the PCSO.  The press recently reported on PCSO officers loafing on the job and scandal in the narcotics division.  This is all indicative of a department, which at one time was considered highly professional, is losing its luster.  In the process, the community suffers.  Reversing this decline is perhaps Rice’s biggest challenge.  Instead of trying to micromanage people top-down, Rice is an ardent believer of managing from the bottom-up whereby people are charged with responsibility, trained accordingly, and empowered to accomplish the work themselves. In an organization as big as PCSO, Rice understands it is simply ridiculous to try and micromanage everybody.

Further, it tends to create an apathetic work environment whereby people become reactive and blame others when problems arise.  Treating people as professionals though, overcomes this problem and causes them to become more proactive in the business of the department.

Everett Rice served as Pinellas County Sheriff from 1988-2004 and in that time rebuilt the department, one built on integrity and respect, and where the officers had a pride in service.  His people knew him for his professionalism, management skills, and for being a “cop’s cop,” a person who understood all facets of his business as he had risen through the PCSO ranks himself.  To illustrate, fellow GOP Sheriff’s candidate, Tim Ingold, a 31 year PCSO veteran with impeccable credentials, recently withdrew from the race and threw his support behind Rice.

Another significant difference between the two candidates, Rice was elected four times by the people of Pinellas County, Gualteri was appointed by the Governor.  Bottom-line, both the department and the people of Pinellas County trusts Rice.

As to my domino theory, by electing Rice we will be returning the most qualified and competent person to run the department.  In turn, Rice’s management abilities will restore the confidence, integrity and professionalism of the PCSO which, consequently, will result in better service to the community and regain the public’s trust.  At this delicate stage in the history of the PCSO, Rice is simply the right man for the job.

Mr. Bryce is a writer and Management Consultant with over 30 years of experience.  He resides in Palm Harbor, Florida.  His blog is at:  timbryce.com

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment »

THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES-THE 2012 EDITION

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 24, 2012

– with apologies to Hans Christian Andersen.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Many years ago there was a President so exceedingly fond of hyperbole that he spent all his money on political spin. He cared nothing about preparing a balanced budget, or tending to matters of state, except to campaign for his next election. He had a catch-phrase for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, “The King is in council,” here they always said, “The President is on the campaign trail.”

In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were spin doctors, and they said they could weave the most magnificent excuses for not properly governing the country. Not only were their techniques effective, but the excuses had a wonderful way of clouding the truth about reality. So much so, that anyone challenging the excuses would be considered unfit and unusually stupid.

“Those would be just the excuses for me,” thought the President. “If I use them I would be able to discover who in my empire can separate fact from fiction and the fools who cannot. Yes, I certainly must have them work for me.” He paid the two spin doctors a large sum of money to start work at once.

They set up offices and pretended to work, though there was nothing special to do as the President himself could not differentiate between fact and fiction.

“I’d like to know how those spin doctors are getting on with the excuses,” the President thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to detect the truth. It couldn’t have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he’d rather send someone else to see how things were going.

“I’ll send my honest old Press Secretary,” the President decided. “He’ll be the best one to tell me how the excuses sound, for he’s a sensible man and no one knows spin better.”

So the honest old Press Secretary went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away. Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to read the excellent excuses they had written, all of which blamed scapegoats for the country’s problems. The poor old Press Secretary stared as hard as he dared but he couldn’t grasp the excuses. “Heaven have mercy,” he thought. “Can it be that I’m a fool? I know the President is honestly at fault, but not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the Press Secretary? It would never do to let on that I don’t know what catch phrases like ‘Hope and Change’, ‘Pay their Fair Share’ and ‘Forward’ truly mean.”

“Don’t hesitate to tell us what you think of the excuses,” said one of the spin doctors.

“Oh, it’s brilliant, quite enchanting.” The old Press Secretary peered through his spectacles. “Such a line of BS! I’ll be sure to tell the President how delighted I am with it.”

“We’re pleased to hear that,” the spin doctors said. They proceeded to name all of the scapegoats, including Bush, the GOP, the 1%, whites, capitalism, and of course evil American business. The old Press Secretary paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the President. And so he did.

The spin doctors at once asked for more money to get on with the deceptions. And it all went into their pockets.

The President presently sent another trustworthy campaign manager to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the Press Secretary. He looked and he looked, but he couldn’t tell fact from fiction.

“Aren’t these good excuses?” the swindlers asked him. But the campaign manager realized the President was to blame, not the scapegoats.

“I know I’m not stupid,” the man thought, “so it must be that I’m unworthy of my good office. That’s strange. I mustn’t let anyone find it out, though.” So he praised the excuses. To the President he said, “It held me spellbound.”

The President wanted to see it for himself what his two old trusted officials were excited about. Attended by a band of chosen men, he set out to see the two spin doctors. He found them writing with might and main.

“Magnificent,” said the two officials already duped. “Just look, Your Majesty, what excuses!” They pointed to the papers which contained a scapegoat for each of the President’s botched policies on economics, energy, immigration, health care, and foreign relations.

“What’s this?” thought the President. “You mean I am innocent of any wrongdoing? This is excellent! What a charade to pull on the people. Oh! They’re marvelous,” he said. “It has my highest approval.” Nothing could make him admit he had made a mistake.

His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the President in exclaiming, “Oh! These are awesome excuses,” and they advised him to tell the excuses before the country. “Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!” were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his best to seem well pleased.

Before the State of the Union address the spin doctors sat up all night prepping the teleprompters, to show how busy they were.

Then the President himself came with his noblest nobleman, the Vice President, and the spin doctors reviewed the list of excuses with him. “This is the record you should run on, your Excellency.” The President gathered up the papers and turned again for one last look in the mirror. He seemed to regard his looks with the greatest interest.

So off went the President to deliver his State of the Union address. Afterwards, he left proudly in procession through the streets of the capitol. Everyone on the sidewalks and in the windows waved and said, “Oh, how fine the President looks. His speech was so meaningful. It will send the country in the proper direction.”

“But you still haven’t solved our problems,” a little child said. “Do you think we’re all fools? That was some of the worst BS I have ever heard. Although you keep blaming others, it was YOUR fiscal policies that caused our debt to skyrocket, to lower our credit ratings, to cause unemployment to stagnate above 8%, to cause us to be more dependent on foreign energy, and scare business away from our shores. How long are you going to continue to lie to the country?”

“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said the child’s father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t solved our problems. A child says he hasn’t solved our problems.”

“But you haven’t solved our problems!” the whole town cried out in unison.

The President shivered, for he knew they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, followed by his czars and cronies with his head held high and reading from his teleprompters that it was still all Bush’s fault.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
THE OWS PERSPECTIVE ON ECONOMICS (aka “Obamanomics”) – How do they propose to replace capitalism?

Posted in humor, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

SO, WHAT ARE OUR PRESIDENTIAL CHOICES?

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 22, 2012

– How the race is shaping up for 2012.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

The presidential race is now in full swing, and we didn’t even have to wait for the party conventions which normally denote the start of the official race. Then again, I don’t think anyone is really surprised the race would be between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. Obama is the unchallenged incumbent, and Romney has been begging for this opportunity ever since he lost to John McCain in 2008. The differences between the two candidates are startling.

The president will desperately do anything to prevent voters from scrutinizing his true record which includes a broken economy and skyrocketing debt. He may be a master politician, but his management skills score badly, particularly in the area of leadership. Thus far he has offered no proposals for correcting Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, the budget deficit, protecting our borders, or providing any direction for the country to follow other than deeper into debt. He stands at the helm of a bloated bureaucratic government that is becoming more invasive in our lives and discourages business. He certainly cannot admonish the country to “Stay the course” as all of the economic indicators point to disaster. What Obama lacks in governing skills, he makes up for as a demagogue obsessed with his ideological view of America. Instead of looking for ways to negotiate a respectable budget or broker changes to the debt ceiling, he wallows in polarized politics at the country’s expense.

This election is certainly not about race or the 1% (even though the left would have you think otherwise); it’s about failed policies and leadership. Ask yourself the question, what are the priorities of the country? What is our direction? Is it space? Energy independence? Becoming fiscally responsible? Instead, he fabricates catch phrases such as “paying fair share of taxes,” an expression aimed at dividing the classes. He also wants to move towards Green energy, and allow spending and entitlements to go unabated. He is quick to accuse the Republicans of playing politics with the nation’s economy, but feigns innocence of any political wrongdoing himself. Is this being hypocritical or just an example of sleight of hand? The country is now more divided than when he was inaugurated.

I find it rather ironic that President Obama who desperately wants to be compared to Ronald Reagan is primarily responsible for transforming Mitt Romney into the next Reagan. Originally considered a moderate, Romney is being pushed to the right by Obama’s election campaign where he is being portrayed as a right-wing zealot. The vicious GOP primaries galvanized Romney and made him a more polished politician who is now more than ready to withstand the slings and arrows the president will undoubtedly throw at him. Now, as the Republican contender, he is beginning to act and sound more like Ronald Reagan. For example, consider his acceptance speech on April 24, 2012:

“We believe in America. We believe in ourselves. Our greatest days are still ahead. We are, after all, Americans!”

And now compare it to Reagan who said:

“America’s best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead.”

Both quotations are positive, uplifting and optimistic. Romney is obviously taking a page from the Reagan playbook.

Frankly, Romney was not my first choice in the GOP primaries, but I am now gravitating towards him. I have heard people complain about Romney being a Mormon, and as such, they cannot vote for him based on religious grounds. Such people have to be reminded, this election is about the economy, unemployment, energy independence, and maintaining our mantle as the leader of the free world. It is certainly not about being a Mormon, it is about our survival.

As part of his program on class warfare, the President wants people to resent Romney’s success as a businessman. Under no condition should Romney apologize. After all, as we live in the land of opportunity, Romney experienced the American dream. What would be the alternative; electing a failure? I don’t think so.

After studying all the facts, I cannot imagine an intelligent person voting for Obama. They either have a distorted interpretation of reality or they have drunk his “Kool Aid.”

I’ve been thinking long and hard about Obama’s legacy when he is voted out of office in November. He will not be remembered for rebuilding the economy, Obamacare, or “hope and change” in uniting the country. Instead, I believe he will best be remembered as the element which reignited the conservative movement in this country. It wasn’t Romney who lit the fire, it was the president who ignited our passions and taught the country to ever be diligent and never take elections for granted again. For this, we should be grateful to him for teaching us this valuable lesson regardless how painful it was for us to learn. Whereas he liked to portray former President George W. Bush as the poster child for failure, Obama’s legacy will be as the worst president in our history.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES-THE 2012 EDITION – with apologies to Hans Christian Andersen

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

ARE I.T. WORKERS BLUE COLLAR?

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 21, 2012

– “How we look and act speaks volumes” – Bryce’s Law

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Are Information Technology Workers Blue Collar? Interesting question. I was recently asked this by some executives who were concerned with improving the productivity of their I.T. departments. I asked them to explain why they thought this way. They contended their I.T. people (e.g., analysts and programmers) exhibit a lot of blue collar characteristics, e.g., repetition in types of work performed, they do not dress or act like professionals, and regularly punch in and out of work with little interest in going above and beyond the call of duty.

I countered there were two other aspects to consider: first, blue collar workers tend to perform manual labor, and; second, they are nonexempt workers who are paid an hourly wage. Also, they tended to be less educated than white collar workers.

They told me I was being naive; that blue collar workers can perform technical tasks as well as manual tasks, such as those found in manufacturing and assembly; and although they are classified as exempt workers paid a salary, they tend to behave like hourly workers instead. Further, there are plenty of blue collar workers who were just as educated, if not more so, than a lot of the programmers and analysts on their staffs. One executive even went so far as to tell me about a couple of craftsman machinists he had with MBA degrees.

Frankly, I had a hard time refuting their arguments. This is actually an old concept, one which I haven’t heard in quite some time, back to the 1980’s when there was talk of unionizing programmers. Nonetheless, it should cause us to pause and think how I.T. people are regarded in the board room. To me, it suggests a credibility gap between management and I.T. and helps explain why a lot of jobs are being outsourced.

In recent years I have met a lot of people who have abandoned corporate I.T. shops and have opted to become consultants instead. Its not that they didn’t like their companies, they simply became disenchanted with how I.T. departments were being run, read the writing on the wall, and figured it was time to bail out before they were outsourced. So who is at fault here, management or I.T.? If management truly perceives I.T. workers as blue collar, than there will be a great temptation to give the work to shops overseas at greatly reduced costs.

There are those in the I.T. field who believe unionization is the route to take. As far as I’m concerned, this would be the kiss of death to corporate I.T. shops as executives would rather outsource than be held hostage to a union.

Instead, I believe I.T. workers should do some soul searching and ask themselves how they can differentiate themselves from their foreign counterparts. Technical knowledge alone will not do it any longer. Outsourcers have already demonstrated their technical skills are on a par with ours. No, the answer is they must demonstrate how the I.T. department adds more value to the company than an outsider can. This means they have to become more serious about their work and produce better I.T. solutions more quickly, correctly, and less expensively. Anyone can apply quick and dirty Band-Aid solutions. What is needed is a higher caliber of professionalism and improved skills in management. The I.T. workers have to work both harder and smarter. In other words, job assignments have to be performed in a more professional and craftsman-like manner (methodically with a quality consciousness). This requires a more disciplined, organized, and professional attitude which is the exception as opposed to the rule in a lot of I.T. shops today.

If I.T. can demonstrate they behave more like white collar professionals, executives will become dependent on them and will be less likely to outsource their jobs. Ideally, you want to hear executives say, “I can’t live without these guys (the I.T. department).” But if executives perceive you, the I.T. worker, as nothing more than a blue collar worker, than your story is told.

Think I’m kidding? Consider this, I know of a large manufacturing company in the U.S. Midwest who had a pressing I.T. project not long ago. Knowing he was short on staff, the CIO appealed to the executive board for additional funding for more personnel. Basically, the board gave the CIO carte blanche to hire as many people he wanted at generous wages, with whatever job title the workers wanted. But the CIO was explicitly told, “When the project is over, fire them.” Do you think these executives had a high regard for I.T. people?

So, are I.T. workers “Blue Collar”? Look in the mirror and you tell me.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
SO, WHAT ARE OUR PRESIDENTIAL CHOICES? – How the race is shaping up for 2012.

Posted in Social Issues, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

DANCING SHRIMP

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 18, 2012

– Just another Japanese fish story.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Sushi has been a favorite of mine since I began visiting Japan back in the 1970’s. When I first tasted it, I was somewhat surprised by the hot wasabe mustard carefully hidden between the fish and the rice cake, but as I am somewhat of an aficionado of hot and spicey food, I adapted to it quickly. For the uninitiated, sashimi is simply raw fish, but sushi consists of a small rice cake, usually the size of a pinky finger, topped with green wasabe mustard and sashimi. Sushi comes in as many varieties as there are fish in the sea, and I’ve tried just about everything from eels and fish heads to Dancing Shrimp. “Dancing Shrimp?” you might ask. Actually it’s an interesting story.

Years ago I was in Tokyo on business. On this particular occasion, my representative and I were visiting several clients around Yokohama. One day, we made our last stop at an ink manufacturing company who had been a customer of ours for a long time and we had developed a good relationship with the director of the computer department. We invited him to dinner that evening and he recommended a small sushi restaurant nearby who had some of the freshest fish around. We got there early and secured three seats right up front at the sushi bar where they prepared the food. It was a small restaurant, probably no more than twenty feet long and twelve feet deep, which is customary for a lot of restaurants over there. I remember they had the Japanese world series on the television which was situated up in a corner of the restaurant so everyone could see it. By the way, I love Japanese baseball. I try to attend at least one game every time I go over there, provided it’s in season of course. The Japanese take their baseball very seriously and although I’m partial to the Tokyo Giants, I like all of the teams.

While we waited for the chef to prepare our sushi, the three of us downed several bottles of Sapporo beer and some sake. It had been a long day, and the libations went down nicely as we watched the game. The chef then presented us with a wide assortment of sushi which we gobbled up. I guess my customer was surprised to see a foreigner enjoy sushi as much as I did. Most Americans he knew would only try the standard tuna sushi and the tekamaki cucumber roll. He was surprised that I had no problem with the octopus, cuttlefish, and roe. He then whispered something to my rep who laughed and shook his head in agreement, then placed another order with the chef. He then turned to me with a big grin on his face and said they had a little surprise for me, something they called Dancing Shrimp.

Like you, I was puzzled by the name and didn’t know what to expect. Anyway, the chef brought out three beautiful prawns and showed them to us. I could see they were still alive by the way they were flopping around in the chef’s hands. The chef washed them off, then carefully removed the small shell off of their backs. To stop their flopping around, the chef calmed them by massaging their back with his finger. This seemed to relax them quite a bit and then he positioned them decoratively on our plates with their heads down and their tails high up in the air. At first I thought he was showing us some sort of trick before cutting up the prawns into some more sushi, but I was surprised when my friends picked up the shrimp with their chopsticks, dipped them in soy sauce, then unceremoniously popped them in their mouths. I could tell the prawns were just as surprised as I was because I could see them flopping around as they went into the mouths of my friends who quickly crunched them up and swallowed them whole.

My friends could tell their little ruse had the desired effect they had hoped for and they laughed. They then dared me to eat my prawn. I was still surprised by what I had just witnessed but I knew that I would have to eat the prawn in order to save face. I then downed the remainder of my beer before picking up my chopsticks. I figured I better get this over with as fast as possible and try to make it look like I knew what I was doing. I snatched up the prawn, dipped it in the soy sauce and popped it in my mouth. No doubt I had a surprised expression on my face. The prawn came very much to life in my mouth and I realized I better put it out of its misery as fast as possible and began to crunch it up. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The meat was actually sweet and my friends could tell I was beginning to enjoy it. I then washed it down with a sip of sake and kiddingly asked them what was for dessert. They were delighted I had enjoyed it so much, but I also noticed that some money passed from my customer to my rep. Evidently, I had been the subject of a small wager between the two.

Since then, I haven’t been able to find Dancing Shrimp in the United States, just the normal types of sushis suited to American tastes. I’m glad I tried it though. Every once and awhile you have to try something different. It’s what makes life interesting. I could have easily insisted on burgers or pizza when I’m overseas but that would limit my scope and I wouldn’t get the opportunity to truly experience the local culture which I find so fascinating. In all likelihood, I wouldn’t have been able to develop a good relation with our customers in Japan if I didn’t at least try to sample the local cuisine.

So, would I order Dancing Shrimp again? I guess it would depend on what we were drinking with dinner and the amount of the wager.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
ARE I.T. WORKERS BLUE COLLAR? – “How we look and act speaks volumes” – Bryce’s Law

Posted in Life | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

PICKING A VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 16, 2012

– How picking a VP is a lot like picking the winner of the Kentucky Derby.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

It used to be that picking a vice presidential running mate was somewhat of an inconsequential undertaking as the president basically ran everything and the vice president collected dust somewhere in Washington, DC. This all changed when Franklin Roosevelt died unexpectedly in 1945 thereby thrusting Harry Truman into the Oval Office and placing the mantle of responsibility squarely on his shoulders, including our participation in the second world war. As VP, Truman knew nothing about the atomic bomb or Roosevelt’s dealings with Churchill and Stalin. Fortunately, Truman rose to the occasion and carried on admirably. However, this forced people to rethink the importance and role of the vice president. No longer was it considered inconsequential, but potentially had huge ramifications. Since then, the role of vice president has evolved and there is now a closer working relationship with the president. In fact, the selection of vice president is indicative of the presidential nominee’s judgment and ability to make decisions.

As former Governor Mitt Romney is now the presumptive GOP candidate, attention turns to picking a suitable running mate, a task which must be handled delicately as both the people and the media will carefully scrutinize his selection. As the 2012 election may be razor close, Romney’s choice for VP may very well tip the scale one way or another, so he will not be hasty in making his decision.

When then Governor George W. Bush was locking up the GOP nomination for President in 2001, he asked his old friend Dick Cheney to head up his search committee for Vice President. Cheney and Bush considered several candidates, but in the end Bush realized it was Cheney who possessed the credentials he wanted in a running mate. Although he initially was hesitant to accept, Cheney acquiesced to Bush’s wishes. Like others who had gone before him, Bush realized there are basically three considerations for picking a running mate:

First, there is voter appeal; the person must be electable and will support the policies and positions of the presidential candidate without eclipsing the nominee or becoming detrimental to the cause. In other words, the two must be compatible, even though the vice president takes a backseat to the president.

Second, the person must be able to competently fulfill the duties of Vice President without embarrassing the President, thereby becoming a liability as opposed to an asset. The principal duties include serving as President of the Senate (where he primarily does nothing more than cast tie-breaking votes), presides over the electoral college, and acts as emissary for the president as directed. As such, the VP attends a lot of state funerals.

Third, the person must be able to govern should the president become incapacitated, dies, or removed from office. Here, experience and good judgment are of paramount importance to the person selected. The people must feel confident in succession should disaster occur. The vice presidency is also a good stepping stone to ascend to the presidency, and fourteen people progressed in this manner, but many more did not.

Lyndon Johnson was picked as VP by John Kennedy primarily because of Johnson’s extensive Congressional experience and because he was needed to solidify the Dixie Democrats in the election. Johnson, of course, succeeded to the presidency following Kennedy’s assassination. Ronald Reagan picked George H.W. Bush because of his considerable experience in government, including Ambassador to the United Nations and Director of the CIA.

Vice presidential candidates represent either a political competitor, somebody well known, or a dark horse. Selecting a political competitor can be awkward, particularly if a disagreement arose on the primary campaign trail. It is hard to pick someone who has openly criticized you, yet sometimes it is necessary if the person is the holder of political capital, such as Lyndon Johnson. Recent examples of political adversaries include the tickets of Reagan/Bush, Kerry/Edwards, and Obama/Biden. Picking a political competitor can be difficult as the media will focus on the differences between the running mates and question their compatibility. Although it is possible to overcome moderate differences, severe incompatibilities makes it impossible to form a viable team, particularly if they are along ideological lines.

Picking a person who is well known and has no specific political aspirations other than to serve the country are few and far between. This includes people like Dick Cheney, and Sargent Shriver who was picked by George McGovern to run with him in 1972 (replacing Thomas Eagleton who dropped out of the race prematurely). Shriver, of course, was well connected to the Kennedy dynasty.

Unknown “dark horses” would include such people as Senator Andrew Johnson who served as Lincoln’s vice president, and Senator Dan Quayle who was VP under George H.W. Bush. Even though Quayle had served admirably in Congress for several years, the public didn’t generally know him, which is why his selection came as a surprise. Similarly, Senator John McCain startled everyone by announcing Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, a relative unknown at the time. Palin was primarily selected based on her record as governor of Alaska, and because it was hoped she would appeal to conservative and women voters.

In terms of Romney’s selection, he has several choices. Due to the viciousness of the GOP primary campaigns, it is unlikely he will select one of his political competitors, although picking Senator Rick Santorum may be a concession to the Right. Michele Bachmann is certainly not out of the running either as she possesses a Washington insider’s perspective which would certainly benefit Romney. In all likelihood, look for Romney’s competitors to pull together and serve in Romney’s cabinet, just as Lincoln’s political adversaries served in his.

Big name candidates being bandied about include former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. Even though he did a good job as governor in Florida, where he remains popular, it is unlikely that Bush will get the nod simply because of his name. He’s a good man, but it will be too close a race and the public does not want to be reminded of his brother. As the 2008 campaign is still fresh in the minds of the people, Palin will not be considered. Governor Christie and Senator Rubio are popular candidates, but it may be premature for their ascension to this level of politics. Ryan has excellent credentials but is embroiled in the budget battle and, as such, is a marked man by the Democrats. Huckabee is certainly a viable candidate, but it is uncertain if he would want to assume such a responsibility (some would say “headache”), particularly as he is now living comfortably in Florida where he makes his living on television and radio.

There are of course dark horses on the horizon, perhaps none better than General David Petraeus who is currently serving as Director of the CIA. His credentials and integrity may be impeccable, but it is uncertain whether he is willing to step into the fray.

So, who will Romney pick? I don’t believe it will be a dark horse as he rightfully wants to keep the attention on the race between himself and the president, not on the vice presidential selection. It will be someone the country will know and is comfortable with, a solid campaigner who will bring experience and political capital to the table. As much as I like Rubio, I don’t believe it is his time yet. True, he would be useful for attracting Latino and conservative voters, not to mention young people and women, but he is still unproven in terms of being able to play with the big boys. Then again, the vice presidency makes a great training ground for learning such things. Huckabee is perhaps the strongest contender, but my money is still on Bachmann, who would make a loyal lieutenant, solidify conservative voters, and run interference for Romney in the Congress. This is a ticket I proposed last year (click HERE) and I’m sticking with it.

Actually, picking a vice presidential candidate is a lot like placing a bet for the winner of the Kentucky Derby. There are lots of variables to wade through, but the horses are almost at the post and decision time is near.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:  
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
DANCING SHRIMP – Just another Japanese fish story.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

A CORPORATE POLICY FOR PERSONAL ELECTRONIC DEVICES

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 14, 2012

– Is it necessary to write a formal policy for use of electronic devices in the workplace?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

A couple of years ago I created somewhat of a ruckus when I wrote an article on “Music in the Workplace.” In it, I suggested there should be restrictions on using personal audio devices in the workplace. This created a bit of a stir particularly with I.T. personnel who staunchly defended the use of their iPods and MP3 players while programming. In the course of the ensuing dialog, I asked what companies, if any, had developed a formal corporate policy regarding the use of such devices. Remarkably, nobody seemed to have one, or if they did, they didn’t want to come forward with it. However, recently I received one from an HR Administrator, perhaps the first of its kind. As this is considered somewhat of a trailblazing effort, the company asked to remain anonymous. All I can tell you is that they represent the North American unit of a global manufacturing company. Nonetheless, here is what they came up with:

“It is critical that employees working in the manufacturing areas remain focused on the tasks at hand and do not have any unnecessary distractions. It is for this reason that our policy on portable personal electronic devices such as cell phones, blackberries, computers, I-pods, CD players, MP3 players, radios, video games and pagers are prohibited in the manufacturing areas.

Company issued cell phones, computers, blackberries and pagers are acceptable as long as they do not create a hazard for the environment.

In non-production areas such as an office, the use of personal portable electronic devices are at the discretion of the manager.

Disciplinary Action

Disciplinary action may be taken against any employee who does not adhere to this policy.”

Frankly, I thought this was well written and quite practical; on the one hand, the company highlights the safety issues involved, and on the other they recognize it might be acceptable in other areas of the business where safety is not an issue. As for me, I might have taken it a step further and added some verbiage whereby such devices should be prohibited from customer service situations where it is necessary to pay attention to the customer. It might also make sense to ban such devices from meeting and training situations. Come to think of it, situations where these devices can be used in the workplace without having an adverse effect on business is becoming rare.

A “BusinessWeek” article (6/23/2008) reported that the amount of time the average U.S. worker loses to interruptions is 28%. This figure pretty much jives with the 70% effectiveness rate figure we have reported over the years (whereby in the average eight hour work day in an office setting, 5.6 hours are spent on direct work, and 2.4 hours are spent on interferences). Frankly, interferences are a natural part of office life (nobody can be 100% effective), but now with these personal electronic devices in play while employees are working, one has to wonder what effect it is having on worker concentration. Some people, particularly programmers (who tend to be somewhat introverted), thrive on such devices. However, these devices can be very distracting to other job functions requiring more extroverted personalities, such as Sales and Customer Service.

So, is a corporate policy on personal electronic devices really necessary? Frankly, I think it would be very irresponsible on management’s part not to have such a policy. It must be remembered that the distraction resulting from these devices can impact three areas:

1. Worker safety.
2. Product/service defects and errors (workmanship).
3. Worker productivity.

If it’s between entertaining the workers and putting the company at risk, I think it’s a no-brainer; the employees can wait until break time to enjoy such devices.

I would like to thank the individual for sharing the above policy with us. It may not be perfect but it’s a good start.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
PICKING A VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE – How picking a VP is a lot like picking the winner of the Kentucky Derby.

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

SOME MONOTONOUS WORK: JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 10, 2012

– The therapeutic effects of collating and punching paper.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, click HERE.

The original purpose of our company was to develop and market a methodology to walk people step-by-step through the design and development of information systems, from soup-to-nuts. We implemented this as a series of manuals and forms for people to reference during the process. Actually, there were three manuals in the set which were housed in 22-ring binders: a manual to explain the methodology, another to show examples, and a third with training materials and an installation guide. This was done at a time before there were quick copy shops. Based on our artwork, a printer would produce copies of the manuals and forms on an offset press which was returned to us for collating, punching, and insertion into the binders. This was certainly not a glamorous job, but it had to be done regardless. To implement it, we setup long tables and organized the pages around them. We then began the arduous task of collating and inserting the paper by encircling those tables for hours. On a good day, we could assemble forty manuals which was considered a respectable pace. Inevitably, we began to experience the effects of monotony and boredom. You couldn’t go on autopilot completely during this assembly as you didn’t want to make a mistake, but it certainly wasn’t complicated either. We did this for several years until we were able to automate our manuals for access via the computer. I cannot honestly say I miss those days, but I appreciate the necessity of the work.

We’ve probably all performed some form of monotonous activity, be it collating and punching paper, stapling, folding, photocopying, applying adhesive labels, or some other task that doesn’t require a lot of brain power, but still has to be done nevertheless. Every now and then, I find such work to be a welcome departure from the trials and tribulations of the day, where you can “zone-out” for a while and yet do something productive in the process. Some might call this “idiot work” but that does a disservice to the necessity of the task and those performing it. Actually, it is rather remarkable how people can become somewhat robotic in performing repetitive tasks over and over again without frequently making mistakes. Occasional breaks help clear the head and allows the worker to re-focus.

Some “professionals” consider it beneath their dignity to perform such work. Actually, it can be rather therapeutic. Not only is it a good distraction to clear the mind, it should also be a reminder of the dignity of work in general. It may not be rocket science, but it is still necessary. For those who suffer from an inflated ego, there is nothing better than a little “idiot work” to bring them back down to earth.

Monotonous work may not be glamorous and seem somewhat boring, but we must be mindful of the fact that just about every business or nonprofit has some form of repetitive task to be performed. I, for one, am cognizant of the need for it and certainly do not demean anyone having to perform such work. My company would certainly not be here today without it. Whenever someone asks for some help in this regard I am glad to assist if time permits. As I said, I see it as a great stress reliever and do some of my best thinking under such conditions. It’s just what the doctor ordered.

By the way, for those asking, “Why did you use 22-ring binders?” Actually, this was done by design. Most binders only have two or three rings, which means it would be easy to insert additional pages into them. We didn’t want that. In fact, we wanted to make it as difficult as possible to insert more pages, hence the 22-ring binders. You see, there is a method to our madness.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
A CORPORATE POLICY FOR PERSONAL ELECTRONIC DEVICES – Is it necessary to write a formal policy for use of electronic devices in the workplace?

Posted in Business, Life, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

IS AMERICA STILL GREAT?

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 8, 2012

– Or are we on the verge of becoming irrelevant?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, click HERE.

Last month I had mixed emotions as I watched the flight of the “Discovery” space shuttle orbiter on television as it was being retired to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.; on the one hand I was proud of our achievements in space, but on the other, I was sad to realize the shuttle’s mothballing represented an end of an era, that our space program for all intents and purposes has stalled and we are now dependent on others to get us into space, a service we used to perform with great regularity. This icon from our past made me think how our country has changed over the years. Whereas not too long ago America was considered the premier engine for business, the model for democracy, and a beacon for hope and freedom in the world. Now, I am not so sure.

In terms of business, America used to be considered a manufacturing dynamo with a “can do” attitude for tackling any assignment, large or small. Now we have slipped to the #3 exporter in the world, our GDP remains in decline, and the “Made in USA” label has lost its luster. Whereas other countries are building massive bridges, dams, buildings, and harvesting their natural resources, America’s infrastructure is crumbling and we get excited about electronic trinkets and social networking.

Another indication of change quietly occurred in 2008 when, for the first time, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued more patents to foreign entities as opposed to here at home. This indicates a shift in balance regarding inventiveness, from here at home to companies overseas.

There was a time when we dictated the pace of technological developments in the world, thanks in large part to the space race. The United States was the envy of the world. Not only did our technology put us ahead of others, it vastly improved our standard of living, enhanced our educational system, and created numerous jobs and new industries. Today, NASA scientists are seeking employment elsewhere, which probably involves learning the Russian or Chinese languages. It seems odd to me that space, a field we at one time dominated, has been commandeered away from us.

The only industry we seem to be doing well in is entertainment, but then again, “So what?” It’s a pretty sad day when we are more concerned with computer animation, Botox injections, liposuction, and breast implants, than being leaders in space, energy, or anything of substance. This makes me believe that American business is doing nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

America’s military is still well respected and we are often called upon to act as the traffic cop of the world, but thanks to economic cutbacks, we can no longer afford to fight two wars, only one, which is a significant downshift in strategy. This means we now lack the means to fight in two arenas simultaneously as we did in World War II (Europe and the Pacific).

Our government, which was once regarded as a model of efficiency and leadership, is in gridlock and can no longer be depended on to live within its means. Budgets cannot be developed and passed, and our national debt continues to soar out of control. Polls clearly show the American public no longer has faith in their politicians who are widely regarded as people who can no longer competently tend to the business of the nation.

Years ago, we were proud to pay our fair share of taxes to help the country, but we now have a convoluted tax system which nobody trusts, and criticizes it as unfair. It is so twisted that 49% of the people do not pay any taxes whatsoever. A flat tax would simplify everything and force “everyone” to pay their fair share.

Overseas, countries no longer respect us. They quietly grumble and undermine us as they cheerfully take our economic subsidies. While we swing our gates wide open for business, they carefully guard theirs. Instead of being regarded as trusted leaders of the free world, we’re now being portrayed as suckers and saps.

In terms of our people, we’ve gone from being good and patriotic citizens who cared about their neighbor to a litigious society where everything must be settled in a court of law. No wonder our judicial system is overwhelmed at all levels. Our morality and sense of volunteerism is in retreat as indicated by the decline of people attending organized religion and participating in nonprofit organizations. More than just the politicians, the citizens are divided over ideological differences. It’s like two distinctly different countries somehow living together under the same roof, each deeply distrusting the other. Our perspectives have changed, our values have changed, even our sense of humor is different. Whereas we used to be admired for our ability to unify under difficult circumstances, such as a disaster, today we are more polarized than ever before, and it might even get worse as we approach the 2012 elections.

So, is America still great? I guess it depends on who you talk to. The left says America is structured unfairly, that the rich should pay for the poor; the right says America has lost sight of the founding principles as expressed in the US Constitution and our sense of morality is in decay. Frankly, neither side is happy. Americans used to be proud of our history, our national anthem, our monuments, and the pledge of allegiance, but all of that is just symbolic. Frankly, we have an identity crisis; we no longer know who we are or what direction we should be headed. As long as the country remains ideologically divided, and we remain content to do nothing more than rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, our glory days will be over, just like the “Discovery” which is now nothing more than a relic of the past.

“I do not believe the greatest threat to our future is from bombs or guided missiles. I don’t think our civilization will die that way. I think it will die when we no longer care. Arnold Toynbee has pointed out that 19 of 21 civilizations have died from within and not from without. There were no bands playing and flags waving when these civilizations decayed. It happened slowly, in the quiet and the dark when no one was aware.”

– Laurence M. Gould
President Emeritus
Carleton College

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
SOME MONOTONOUS WORK: JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED – The therapeutic effects of collating and punching paper.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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