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Archive for July, 2012

REBUILDING LOYALTY

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 30, 2012

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– “When you find someone you believe in, do not hesitate to stand by him through thick and thin.” – Bryce’s Law

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

There is a general consensus today that there is a complete breakdown in corporate loyalty, that employees no longer maintain allegiances to their companies or their bosses. Years ago people joined companies usually for life. Workers figured if they worked hard enough and kept their noses clean, the company would take care of them. This is no longer the case. Due to the corporate changes implemented over the last thirty years to remain competitive in a world economy, workers now typically live in a state of paranoia and think short-term employment as opposed to long-term, thus affecting their perspective on loyalty.

As some very visible examples of this, consider the dismantling of the studio system in Hollywood and the farm system in Major League Baseball. Instead of being groomed and nurtured from within the system, employees have been forced to become free-agents. Obviously, this encourages individualism as opposed to teamwork. I chuckle when I hear an executive become exasperated that there isn’t any loyalty in his company anymore. Why should there be if he promotes a corporate culture that doesn’t encourage loyalty?

Let’s understand this from the outset, loyalty represents trust. It means a person is confident that something will behave predictably, positively, and to their benefit. As a result, they will willingly pledge their allegiance to it. If it doesn’t behave in this manner, loyalty will be shattered.

There are three types of loyalty we commonly come in contact with: Product, Institutional, and Person:

Product Loyalty

I’m sure we all know someone who has allegiances to products. For example, I have a friend whose family has been buying Buick automobiles literally for generations. Even though the body styles have changed over the years, they have found it to be a trustworthy product and have remained loyal customers for decades. I also have a business contact who refuses to fly on anything but Boeing aircraft. Back in 1985 there was a consumer uproar when Coca-Cola changed their formula and introduced “New Coke.” Loyal customers finally forced the company to reintroduce the original formula under the name, “Coca-Cola Classic” (as we know it today).

People form attachments to products because they like it, have become familiar with it, and are confident it will perform routinely and to their benefit. They will even go so far as to adapt their lifestyle to the product and become dependent on it, just like a drug, even tolerating modest changes in price and attributes. However, if the product changes radically, becomes unreliable, or skyrockets in price, then loyalty is shattered and the consumer looks for other alternatives. To illustrate, consider the American automotive industry; for years, people loyally purchased American automobiles because they believed them to be well built and tailored to the needs of the American public. Foreign automobiles were originally considered as nothing more than a curiosity that was out of step with the public. Because of some serious missteps by Detroit though, consumer loyalty was shattered and transferred to foreign car manufacturers, particularly the Japanese and Germans who worked overtime to cultivate consumer loyalty.

Loyalty in this regard does not require a product to be best in its class. In fact, a lot of mediocre products command consumer loyalty simply because consumers perceive them as quality goods. For example, I do not consider Microsoft products to be the best of their kind, yet they command incredible consumer loyalty as people perceive them as “state of the art.”

Institutional Loyalty

We see instances of institutional loyalty in such things as political parties (Democrats, Republicans), branches of the military (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy), countries and communities, charities, sports teams, fraternal organizations, and companies. Here, people fervently believe in the institution they belong to and proudly display their loyalty through such things as lapel pins, bumper stickers, tattoos, web sites or whatever. Most people realize such institutions are not perfect. Nevertheless, they support it through thick and thin simply because they believe it to be a good and noble institution. The only time they will break with it is if the institution radically changes course and is no longer in line with their personal interests and values. For example, we have seen examples of people switching from one political party to another due to a change in policies and interests.

Quite often, the loyalty for an institution or office within it supersedes the loyalty to the person holding the office. We see numerous examples of this in the military and government alone. True, soldiers are more apt to follow certain leaders into battle they believe in, but they will also perform their duty out of a greater sense of loyalty to the institution.

Corporations tend to be a bit different though since the integrity of such institutions are being questioned today. This is probably due to corporate cultures that are failing to maintain the interests of the workers. Whereas I still have friends employed by big businesses who have long tenure with their companies, younger workers tend to lack faith in the institutions and find the company’s interests are not compatible with their own. Their only motivation is to pick up a paycheck, nothing more, nothing less. This is somewhat sad as it means their work is not aligned with their interests which does not promote a sense of craftsmanship.

Personal Loyalty

Loyalty to a particular individual is perhaps more common than the other two. This is because people are social animals and tend to identify with the interests of others (the “birds of a feather” phenomenon). In terms of superior/subordinate relationships, with rare exception, we want to believe in our leaders. We want them to worry about charting the right course of action while we worry about tending to our own particular work effort. People are more inclined to follow a leader, even through the most difficult of times, whom they are loyal to than someone they do not trust. Understand this though, loyalty at this level is a two-way street; not only does a manager require the loyalty of his workers, the workers require the loyalty of the manager. This requires effective social and communications skills (people skills). The manager must demonstrate he knows what he is doing, knows the right path to take, and maintains the interests of his subordinates. Conversely, the workers must demonstrate to the manager they are willing to put forth the necessary effort to see a job through to completion. In other words, both parties depend on each other, which brings us back to trust. And if the trust is ever broken, harmony is disrupted, and the manager and workers begin to work at odds against each other, which, of course, is counterproductive and a very unhealthy working environment.

Rebuilding Loyalty

If our trust in someone or something is broken, it is difficult to repair, but not impossible. If Product Loyalty is broken, consumer confidence has to be rebuilt; If Institutional Loyalty is broken, the corporate culture has to be overhauled, and; If Personal Loyalty is broken, it will be the most difficult to correct due to the human dynamics involved. In any event, rebuilding loyalty will be a long and costly process. The best thing to do is not to lose it in the first place.

Loyalty is broken when expectations radically diverge from what happens in practice. People are willing to forgive errors or indiscretions to a point, primarily because as creatures of habit we are comfortable with the status quo and do not necessarily want to change, but if problems become significant without any sign of being remedied, people will lose patience and faith in the object of attention. Let’s take the 1985 Coca-Cola incident as an example; had the company made a minor change in the Coke formula, it probably would have been accepted. They didn’t. The “New Coke” formula was a radical departure from the old formula. Regardless of the considerable marketing hype of the new product, customers lost confidence in it and started a rebellion to reintroduce the old formula.

Worker loyalty is lost when they become convinced their interests are not being maintained by management, and lack confidence in the direction of the company. This typically occurs when:

* Promises are not kept by management.
* Worker jobs are in peril of being outsourced.
* The company is losing market share.
* The workers do not understand the deployment or withdrawal of certain products or services.

Whether such scenarios are real or not, worker loyalty will be lost if management’s judgment is perceived as questionable. A lot of this can be corrected simply by effective communications to clear up misunderstandings and to explain the rationale for a course of action. Even if the chips are down, workers are more likely to remain loyal if they understand and believe in the course management has plotted.

Worker loyalty in management is also based on ethics and quality. If the actions of management are perceived as unscrupulous or unsavory, workers will quickly lose faith in them. Further, if workers do not have confidence in the quality of the products or services they are producing and selling (that they know them to be based on inferior workmanship), this too will be a bad reflection of management’s integrity.

Look, its really quite simple, workers want to be treated fairly, lead a worthy and meaningful life, and have confidence in the direction of their company. This requires management to improve their people skills, refine the corporate culture, and enact effective communications. In return, management should rightfully expect loyalty from the work force.

Deeds speak louder than words. In order for management to be credible with workers, they must demonstrate they have the best interests of their employees in mind. Let me give you an example, every once and awhile in Major League Baseball you see a manager charge out to an umpire during a game to challenge a call and becomes quite vocal and animated (Earl Weaver and Billy Martin were legendary in this regards). Quite often, such challenges are done more for demonstrative purposes as opposed to actually refuting a call by the umpire. Basically, the histrionics are used by the managers to tell their own team that he believes in his players and is willing to fight to protect their interests. Now I’m not suggesting that a corporate officer or manager needs to pick a fight with someone, but some public demonstration of his sincerity is needed to express his commitment to his workers, be it a reward, a testimony, a recognition or whatever; something to demonstrate he has the best interests of his employees in mind. This includes affecting the corporate culture and establishing the proper work environment. Some managers have little sensitivity for the type of work their people have to perform. In fact, they prefer a master/slave relationship thereby elevating their ego, but if they create an environment that empowers employees and treats them like professionals, thereby giving them a sense of purpose, they tend to become more dedicated and loyal to the company.

Some people contend you can buy loyalty. I do not subscribe to this notion. In this situation, people will only be loyal as long as the cash continues to roll in. When it stops (or if someone outbids another), people move on. Do not confuse loyalty with bribery. Loyalty means you believe in something and are willing to stand by it through good times as well as bad.

Conclusion

Years ago, Les Matthies, the legendary “Dean of Systems” admonished me, “As long as someone provides you with a job, be loyal to that person; don’t gossip and ridicule him; do your job, and do it right. If you don’t like the person, then get out and do something else.” What worries me is that Les’ sentiments are lost in today’s world. Loyalty is rapidly becoming a lost virtue. Interestingly, I have met a lot of people in recent years complaining how loyalty is lost in corporate America, as well as other institutions such as nonprofit organizations. These same people all want to see loyalty become part of our core values again, but they are all waiting for someone else to take the first step in making this happen. If you believe in the necessity of loyalty, that it adds value to our lives, then it behooves all of us to take the first step.

Always remember: Loyalty = Trust

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.


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WELCOME TO BIZARRO WORLD – Where everything is the opposite of what you are used to.

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

THE BEST WORD IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 19, 2012

– And it is certainly not “please.”

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

My company has been fortunate to have conducted business all over the world. Visiting the different cultures has afforded us the opportunity to learn a lot about their perspectives on life, not to mention their humor and speech patterns. Inevitably we often compare notes about the expressions and idioms used by people. For example, in Australia, I was somewhat surprised to learn that a “rubber” referred to an eraser. I went to a restaurant and discovered they didn’t have “doggie bags” but rather “pussy boxes.” I had to bite my tongue on that one.

When people from overseas visited with us, they were enraptured by our slang and colloquialisms. The English, for example, had trouble understanding the expression “G2” which I commonly use in my presentations. The term is derived from the military and used to express the performance of research and intelligence work, e.g., “Did you do your G2?” While most Americans understood the expression, it baffled the British. The point is, I tend to believe Americans use a lot more jargon than we are cognizant of.

There is one word in our vernacular that outsiders particularly enjoy, Bulls*** (aka “BS”). In particular, the Japanese have a fondness for this word beyond description. Evidently, they have nothing comparable to it in their lexicon. They consider it the most versatile word in our language fulfilling many applications. It can be used to express intense displeasure with something, to describe a frivolous activity, to refute an argument, to cut someone off in conversation, and many other uses. It was made very clear to me by the Japanese and others, that in the business world, “BS”, is the best word in the English language.

Not surprising, I have heard it used in many settings; in Japanese companies for example, a manager may shout it out for inferior workmanship; in Brazil it is amusing to hear Portugese conversation interrupted by a booming “BS”; or even the proper English allowing it to slip inconspicuously into the conversation, “I say old boy, that truly is bulls***.” The Mexicans have, of course, adapted it to Spanish, “Caca de toro.”

I fear though, the expression is doomed to extinction as it is more identified with my Baby Boomer generation and not by others. For example, my son’s generation has no appreciation for the word and will seldom use it. It’s a pity too, as I’ve found it to be one of the best words I have ever used, both in business and personal settings. Perhaps the Japanese will maintain it for us until future generations in this country rediscover its value.

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: 
REBUILDING LOYALTY – “When you find someone you believe in, do not hesitate to stand by him through thick and thin.” – Bryce’s Law

Posted in Communications, humor, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

JOURNALISTIC MAFIA

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 18, 2012

– Who is really pulling the strings?

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

In the past you have heard me lament about the passing of journalistic integrity in this country. Regardless if it is in print form, television, radio, or the Internet, I no longer see any evidence that journalism involves the compilation of hard facts in such a manner as to allow the reader to arrive at his/her own conclusions. Instead, everything is being spun because the media no longer believes the people are smart enough to arrive at the proper conclusion. Editorials are one thing, hard facts are another. Every story, large or small, international or local, is now being spun in such a way as to manipulate the minds of the masses. I do not believe state run propaganda a la Josef Goebbels in Nazi Germany could be more effective at swaying public opinion.

“But Tim, you express your opinions all the time.” That’s right, but I am not a journalist either, nor am I paid to be.

It is becoming even more apparent there is an incestuous relationship between our politicians and the media. To illustrate, I recently attended a local forum for the purpose of watching county politicians debate key issues. This particular group is an amalgamation of politicians and members of the local media, the purpose of which is to discuss pertinent political subjects of the day. Frankly, it appeared to be an extremely cozy relationship between the two groups, perhaps too cozy. During the course of the debate, questions were asked from the floor. It didn’t take long to determine which candidate the press favored over the others. Whereas the others were given difficult questions to answer (with a little vicious sniping thrown in for good measure), the “chosen one” was given softball-like questions which he could easily knock out of the park, resulting in a round of applause from the audience denoting their approval. This wasn’t simply a matter of a partisan politics; it was the media throwing its support behind its favored candidate. It was all a setup.

Interestingly, when the candidates were asked the question, “Do you think you’ve been treated fairly by the press?” All but the “chosen one” responded with an emphatic, “NO!”

Somehow the rapport between the politicians and the press was reminiscent of that seen at the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) held in April where a comedian lampoons the President and other notable politicians. At this meeting, it is obvious who the media favors and who they are determined to take down. I don’t believe The National Press Club is much different.

It is truly remarkable how consistent and predictable these groups run. It seems to be more by design as opposed to accident. It’s easy to become paranoid and imagine clandestine meetings where the power brokers of the press determine who they will support, who should be put on a hit list, and what tactics they’ll use to get their way. It would be kind of like the Mafia boardroom meetings we saw in the movie, “The Godfather.” I just want to know who the Don Corleone of the press corp is.

It is somewhat disturbing there is no longer a place where you can get unbiased reporting of news anymore. This means American journalism has lost the public trust and, frankly, it does not seem to really bother them. Everything is done to suit a political agenda of some kind. This goes well beyond government and political reporting and now touches on all forms of writing, including scientific journals.

The reporters and newspapermen of the twentieth century would be spinning in their graves if they knew journalistic integrity was dead. In all likelihood though, they’re sleeping with the fishes.

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 BEST WORD IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE – And it is certainly not “please.

Posted in Media, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 10 Comments »

MANAGING FROM THE BOTTOM-UP

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 16, 2012

– When micromanagement finally fails you.

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

“If we lived in a perfect world, there would not be a need for managers.”– Bryce’s Law

When the American colonies were forming a government in the 18th century, there was a fleeting notion that George Washington should become King with absolute power. Instead, our founding fathers opted for a democratic society where officials were elected by the people. The intent was to give the individual citizen a means to participate in the running of the government. This was a wise decision and has served America well for over 225 years. By being included in the process, people align their loyalties to the government and country, and are quick to come to its defense in times of national emergency. Involving the individual is a simple gesture that has had long range positive effects on our country.

It is an interesting dichotomy that whereas our country involves the individual, most of our other institutions do not. I have been fortunate to have traveled the world and have seen many different types of companies, from large to small, and in just about every field of endeavor imaginable. Most are run top-down with a benevolent (or maybe not so benevolent) dictator at the helm. Assignments, estimates and schedules are pushed down the corporate chain with little regard for the individual employee.

Over the years there has been a lot of discussion about Theories X, Y, and Z in management; whereas “X” is autocratic, “Y” is more of a “carrot and stick” mentality and “Z” promotes individual participation. Remarkably, despite the many years of promoting the rights of the worker, today we primarily live in a Theory X world. Employees are told what to do and when to do it, without any interest in their input. Today, this is commonly referred to as “micromanagement.” Under this approach, although the work will eventually get done, there is no loyalty to the company by the employee, mistakes are made and quality suffers, and productivity declines since there is no personal sense of urgency by the employee. In other words, the company works, but not like a well-oiled machine.

More recently, I have noticed this same phenomenon occurring in nonprofit volunteer organizations, such as homeowner associations, clubs, school organizations, sports associations, even church groups. The people that run these groups may have the best intentions, but rarely do they know how to actually manage. Sadly, some people get involved with such organizations to satisfy a petty power trip they are on. Consequently, they have little regard for organization and adherence to policies and rules. Instead, they try to micromanage everything. People, particularly volunteers, have a natural aversion to micromanagement and quickly lose interest in their work.

Let us always remember that the word “management” begins with “man” for a purpose: it refers to how we interact with people and, as such, it is not a clerical or administrative function, but, rather, a people function; how to work with the human being, a very challenging task considering you are dealing with human beings who can be emotional, irrational, and just plain “thick.” There is a countless number of books on the subject of “management” alone. But for our purposes, perhaps the best way to think of “management” is simply “getting people to do what you want, when you want it, and how you want it.” If we lived in a perfect world, there would not be a need for managers; people would know what to do, and projects would be executed on time and within cost. However, as we all know, we live in an imperfect world. People do make mistakes and problems arise, hence, the need for “managers”, people charged with assigning and directing the work of others. Managers are in the business of solving problems; people problems!

Some of the most productive organizations are those where management succeeded in getting the individual workers involved with the running of the company. Sure, management is still in control, but they have stimulated employee interests by encouraging their participation and feedback. Management still has some top-down responsibilities, including:

1. Delegate – prioritize and assign tasks to qualified employees.

2. Control work environment – minimize staff interferences and provide a suitable workplace to operate with the proper tools to perform the work.

3. Review progress – study employee reports and take corrective action where necessary.

Individual employees have bottom-up responsibilities to management:

1. Participate in the planning process – review work specifications and give feedback; estimate amount of time to perform an assignment, assist in the calculation of work schedules with management.

2. Perform work within time and costs constraints.

3. Report activities to management – including the use of time, interferences, and possible delays.

In this bottom-up approach, employees are treated as professionals and are expected to act as such in return. This results in far less supervision as found in micromanagement. Employees are delegated responsibility, supervise their own activities, and report to management on progress. This approach will work in any business, be it a corporation or non-profit volunteer organization. There is only one catch to this approach: some people resist assuming responsibility for their actions and prefer to have someone else tell them what to do; thereby when something goes awry, they can blame the other person for the snafu. This type of person is more suited for a dictator type of organization where they can continue to grouse about management, yet do nothing to help correct the problem. Aside from this, the benefits of the bottom-up approach far outweigh the negatives. It is simple and it works.

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere.” – Ronald Reagan (1986)

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: 
JOURNALISTIC MAFIA – Who is really pulling the strings?

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

FRIDAY THE 13TH

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 13, 2012

– Why some people are afraid of it, while others love it.

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

I never did quite understand why people are so superstitious regarding Friday the 13th. There are many ancient myths and legends regarding it, but nothing of any substance. My personal favorite is the day it represents in 1307 when the Knights Templar of France were to be arrested on charges of heresy, which led to the demise of their order. However, this is still nothing but a legend and not rooted in fact. I tend to believe the reason Friday the 13th is unpopular is simply because it is based on a number and day, both of which are considered unlucky independent of each other, and putting them together means double the trouble. I truly believe it’s as simple as that. At least it makes more sense than what anyone else can offer, pro or con.

People are particularly leery of the number 13. For example, it is quite common not to have a floor in a building labeled “13th”, even though there certainly is a 13th floor. I guess that makes the 14th floor “13th” in disguise and we certainly shouldn’t set foot there, right?

When it comes to Friday the 13th, I have seen people who I had previously thought to be rather rational cancel all appointments, refuse to work, and not make any business deals in fear such actions will be jinxed. Some take the day off completely in fear something catastrophic will happen that day. Nonsense. It’s all a self-fulfilling prophecy where people will likely run into trouble if they are predisposed for such a negative event. They could easily make it a lucky day if they were more inclined to think positively.

Then there are those who take the superstition to the sublime and believe such preposterous things as:

* If you cut your hair on Friday the 13th, someone in your family will die.

* A child born on Friday the 13th will be unlucky for life.

* If a funeral procession passes you on Friday the 13th, you will be the next to die.

I don’t think Granny from the “Beverly Hillbillies” could explain it any better.

Hollywood perpetuates the myth as it is good business for them to do so. Not only have they created a movie bearing the name “Friday the 13th,” the producers of slasher films are inclined to release their trash on that day thereby capitalizing on the mood of the people.

The date is also good for authors and publishers specializing in books and articles pertaining to the paranormal. Let’s face it, Friday the 13th is just good business.

As for me, regardless of the number of cracks in the sidewalk I step on, or the number of black cats that cross my path that day, Friday the 13th has always been a lucky day for me. I started to notice this when I was in grade school. Whereas some kids were intimidated by the superstition, I somehow managed to have a very fortuitous day, either getting straight A’s in my classes or perhaps hitting a home run in Little League. It seems I can do no wrong. If anything, I seem to have a problem with the rest of the days in the year, but I definitely do not have a problem with Friday the 13th. In fact, I welcome it.

Originally published: May 13, 2011

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: 
MANAGING FROM THE BOTTOM-UP – When micromanagement finally fails on you.

Posted in Life | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

REBUILDING THE MIDDLE CLASS

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 11, 2012

– Two distinctly different approaches for putting the country back to work.

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

There is a tendency in this country to label people in accordance with their political beliefs. Although we still say “Democrat” and “Republican,” we’re more inclined to say “Left” and “Right,” or “Liberal” and “Conservative.” Not too many people proudly proclaim themselves as a “moderate” or “independent” anymore. I have found those who call themselves such are actually closet liberals. And “progressives” fool nobody but themselves as “arch-liberals.” Nonetheless, I find such labels distasteful and only clouds the issue at hand. In the end though, we use such monikers to express how fervently we believe in our principles. I’ve often been accused of being a conservative in such a way as to malign my character; that being a conservative is a bad thing. Actually, I tend to identify myself more as a Capitalist as opposed to anything else, and, as such, possess a deep distrust of Socialism and Communism. To my way of thinking, the individual has the freedom to try and better his/her station in life. Hopefully they will succeed but there are no guarantees and the risks can be great, but I have seen Capitalism succeed more times than it has failed and has proven itself to be the lynchpin of American growth throughout our history.

Regardless of your classification, everyone is cognizant this next election cycle is about rebuilding the economy and getting the country back to work. Ultimately, it is about rebuilding the middle class and there are two distinctly different visions being offered as to how this should be accomplished. First, understand that the American middle class is the economic engine not only for the United States but most of the world. Until a few years ago, it enjoyed a high standard of living not simply because it could spend more, but because it could earn more than most of the world. Outsourcing jobs overseas and the recession though changed all of this. According to a recent study by the Fed, the median family net worth dropped a staggering 40%(1). Suddenly, the middle class realized they couldn’t earn as much as before and, consequently, couldn’t spend as much, thereby affecting their standard of living. Life as they knew it changed; they could no longer afford to send their offspring off to college, retirement plans had to be put on hold, and in general they had to make do with less. Most learned to tread water for the first time, lucky to have a job and a roof over their heads, surviving paycheck-to-paycheck. Others were not as fortunate and home foreclosures and bankruptcies soared.

To solve the problem, the left wants to offer the middle class more stimulus money, and more unemployment benefits such as food stamps, all of which requires more massive government programs and control. To pay for this, taxes are to be raised and regulations tightened on business. In reality, American business is already paying the highest tax rate in the world (in excess of 39%) and increased regulations are still scaring jobs offshore. This approach may give the middle class money to spend but does nothing in terms of enhancing the earnings of workers. Entitlements also have the tendency of creating dependencies and discourages the incentive to work. In a nutshell, entitlements are supplanting the concept of earnings which is a dangerous development, both psychologically and economically.

On the other hand, the right wants to solve the problem by expanding the middle class’s earning potential by putting them back to work, not on unemployment. By having more money, they will be able to resume the standard of living they are familiar with and spend accordingly. It will also have psychological benefits as opposed to creating a society of government dependents. To do so, they propose lifting the government regulations that stifle business and encourages the deportation of jobs overseas. They also wish to lower the tax rate thereby stimulating job growth by allowing companies to invest at home. This, of course, will result in a smaller government.

Both sides, left and right, understand the need for a middle class, but they cannot agree on how to cultivate it and herein lies the ideological rift polarizing the country. Whereas the left wants to enslave it through massive government and more regulations on business, the right wants to free it through less government and less regulations. So far, history is on the right’s side. Only by freeing business can you rebuild the middle class. Somehow, I am reminded of the old expression, “The business of America is business.” Government does not create business (or jobs for that matter). Instead, it should plow the way to allow business to flourish. By encouraging business, the government helps its citizens earn more, thereby causing the middle class to grow.

As I said, it’s not really about Democrats versus Republicans, left versus right, or liberals versus conservatives. In reality, it is about socialism versus capitalism. And as any confirmed capitalist will tell you, don’t give the middle class more entitlements, give them jobs, and the economy will take care of itself. Give them a purpose in life, not an addiction.

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.


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FRIDAY THE 13TH – Why some people are afraid of it, while others love it.

Posted in Economics, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

PRODUCING NEWSLETTERS: BEWARE OF THE BIRDCAGE

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 9, 2012

– Writing newsletters that will be read as opposed to discarded.

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

As I have been involved with a variety of nonprofit organizations over the years, I am often saddled with the task of producing the group’s newsletter. Maybe it’s because I know how to string a few words together and have worked with computers for more years than I care to remember. Nonetheless, I have probably produced over a thousand newsletters over the years for management groups, technology associations, homeowner groups, and fraternal organizations. Because of this, I like to believe I have learned a thing or two over the years about these publications, the first being they should never be taken for granted. Too often I see newsletters prepared frivolously where the same verbiage is spewed out month after month thereby become very predictable and quite boring. I know of newsletters where the same copy is used year after year and nothing changes except the names of the club’s officers. Surprisingly nobody notices. There is nothing wrong with devising a standard format, which readers tend to adapt to, but if there is no “news” in the newsletter, in all likelihood it will only be used to line the bottom of a birdcage. However, if they are meaningful, not only will they be read, they’ll also be kept for future reference.

When writing copy for the newsletter, keep it simple and to the point. Do not ramble as most readers of newsletters have the attention span of a gnat and become easily bored. You have less than thirty seconds to grab a person’s attention with a newsletter, after which they will decide to either read it or discard it. I tend to see the newsletter as a working tool which is why people should discuss more about what is on the horizon and less about what happened in the past. Your column should be positive and upbeat, not negative and depressing. In other words, keep the glass half full as opposed to half empty. We write to communicate, not to put people to sleep. People will likely follow you if you are more optimistic. If you’ve got bad news though, do not try to sugarcoat it, give it to your members straight so you get their attention and encourage participation if necessary.

Other than news, a schedule of upcoming events should be included, along with a listing of club officers and their contact information (e.g., telephone, e-mail). These two items are what most people are looking for, everything else is secondary. In terms of “filler,” there is a lot you can add, but do not overdo it as you should be mindful of the birdcage liner phenomenon. I have seen a variety of things used, such as a welcome of new members, a listing of past presidents, this day in history, cartoons, some useful tips and techniques, educational trivia, and a listing of sponsors.

As I begin editing the newsletter, I collect all of the notes and columns from contributors and place them into a plain text file (ASCII) suitable for use with any text processor, e.g., MS Notepad. People always wonder why I do this. The answer is simple, in this format I can migrate it to any other computer file format, be it a word processor, desktop publishing, HTML (web page), E-Mail, PDF, etc. Whereas these other formats are limited in terms of migrating to other file formats, plain ASCII text can go anywhere. In one association I am involved with, I produce multiple versions of the same newsletter: using desktop publishing, I produce a paper copy to be printed and mailed and a PDF version to be e-mailed; I also produce an HTML version for our web page. This is all simple to do, but not possible without first preparing the plain ASCII text version. As an aside, I am a big proponent of Adobe’s PDF file format as it is more universally applicable than word processors like MS Word.

Since your files are now on the computer, be sure to run spell checkers and grammar checkers on the text. In this day and age, there is no excuse for not doing so.

I tend to name computer files in a specific manner so I can easily sort through them and find what I want, as well as to easily backup files. For example, I put the publication date into the name; to illustrate:

NEWS0612.TXT – Representing the June 2012 edition (MMYY) – my personal preference
NEWS1206.TXT – the same thing backwards (YYMM)
NEWS200612.TXT – Representing the June 20th, 2012 edition (DDMMYY) if so inclined

I have seen other people name them based on Volume and Edition number; for example:

Vol06Ed10.TXT – Volume 06, Edition 10

How you name your files is your business but I encourage you to devise a standard format thereby simplifying the storage and maintenance of the files. This is also useful for setting up a new edition of the newsletter. Instead of inventing an entirely new edition of each newsletter, I copy and rename a past issue and use it as a template to build the next edition, thereby saving considerable time.

In terms of layout, devise a clean and simple approach that you can standardize on, thereby inviting readership as opposed to discouraging people. Most desktop publishing tools have standard templates for such purposes. Always be cognizant of your readership and try to accommodate people. For example, do not use a tiny font or strange type style that nobody can read. Break your text into multiple columns on a page, two or three, and leave a sufficient amount of white space between columns, thereby making it easy to read. Underline or highlight key words you want to draw attention to but do not do so excessively as people will start to ignore it.

Again, I warn publishers of newsletters, regardless of how graphically appealing your publication looks, it it doesn’t say anything of substance it will inevitably end up in the birdcage. Before you release it though, try to get a second set of eyes to review the publication. Another person might be able to spot something you have overlooked.

Although most publications today are distributed via e-mail and web pages, there are still people who do not have access to a computer, particularly elderly members who prefer printed copies instead. This means you need an address book that can produce both mailing labels as well as a listing of e-mail addresses. Electronic versions of the newsletter have no restrictions in terms of number of pages. However, printed versions do, as dictated by postage costs. I have seen many organizations struggle with the issue of discontinuing the printed version of the newsletter. Electronic versions are cheaper to produce, and you can do more with them, but if a sizeable portion of your membership cannot access it, you will inevitably alienate them. Then again, this may become a moot point if the economics of the group cannot justify the continuation of a printed version.

The question remains though, can a simple newsletter truly impact a nonprofit organization? You betcha. First, it reflects the personality of the group (tired versus stimulating; lethargic versus ambitious). Second, it gets the word out as to the plans and activities of the group. I would wager you this: those groups without a newsletter or offer nothing more than a “birdcage liner” are probably the same groups suffering from apathy, lack of attendance, and a decline in membership.

All that is needed is someone who can string a few words together and feels comfortable around computers. Oh oh, now I know how I get trapped into doing this.

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: 
REBUILDING THE MIDDLE CLASS – Two distinctly approaches for putting the country back to work.

Posted in Communications, Management, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

LOSING IT

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 6, 2012

– And the private hell you go through “finding it.”

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

I do not believe there are too many things more aggravating than misplacing something of value, be it keys, jewelry, a wallet or whatever. It’s maddening. When you first become aware something is missing, you initially believe you know its location which, of course, you do not. Terror sets in when you realize it is not there. Your disposition goes from calm concern to desperate panic in a few scant seconds depending on the value of the object and where you believe you lost it, such as in a public venue like a restaurant. In addition to the object of your concern, you also lose your personality in the process.

Losing a wallet or a purse can unnerve the best of us as I believe we are all mindful of the dangers of identity theft. This inevitably results in frantic calls to credit card companies to stop and change accounts, and frankly, I am not too keen on talking to “Bob” in Bombay when havoc strikes. Wallets and money clips are one thing, keys are another as you become obsessed with the security of your home, office, or automobile. Believe me, changing credit card accounts is a lot easier than replacing keys which is why I rarely treat them with a carefree attitude, even in places where I feel safe and secure. Plain and simply, I do not want to go through the trouble of replacing them.

Women tend to get upset when they’ve misplaced an article of jewelry, even if it is relatively inexpensive, such as a matching earring or a bauble with sentimental value. This unnerves the best of them as they search frantically for it. Drawers are emptied, closets turned upside-down, rugs turned over, laundry hampers rummaged through. The last desperate act is to look in sink drains, washing machines and dryers where the person fears the worst. It can get rather ugly.

It is difficult to deal with people when they are in a state of panic. They tend to be irrational. Don’t ask them to do anything else as they are obsessed with the object and will not stop until they find it, which could be a long time. One tip I can suggest for small items is to search the cracks of sofas and chairs. You will be surprised what you find down there, a veritable treasure trove. Also check jackets you haven’t worn in awhile, or suit pockets.

Over the years, my family has lost keys, jewelry, lighters, sunglasses, garage door openers, wallets, and purses. And every time we do, we vow to turn over a new leaf and take better care of such possessions. Unfortunately, one never does. Something always slips through the cracks if you are not careful. To illustrate, I was leaving the office late one night and planned on going to a friend’s house to relax. I turned on the office security, closed the door, and lit up a cigar on our front porch. I then got in my car and took a leisurely ride over to my friend’s house. As I arrived, I parked in his driveway, exited the car, and headed towards the front door. It was then that an alarm went off in my head. Something was wrong. I stopped and started to go down a mental checklist…wallet (check), money (check), cell phone (check), car keys (check), office keys…Oh, oh! I then frantically scoured my car looking for the keys, but couldn’t find them. The only thing to do was to retrace my steps. I got in my car and drove back to my office. As I went up the steps, there they were in the front door lock. In the process of lighting my cigar, I had somehow forgotten them in the keyhole. Although I was irritated to go back to my office, I was glad I remembered them as quickly as I did and felt fortunate that nobody had stopped by the front door of the office and taken them. I narrowly dodged the bullet on this one. Yes, misplacing an object is one thing, forgetting to lock a door or close a window is another. I found it interesting that some sort of mental warning system had flashed telling me something was wrong.

As maddening as it is to believe you have lost or forgotten something, there is nothing quite as comforting as finding it. It is like a fog suddenly lifting and the sun shining through again. Rather euphoric I think, but I can certainly do without the histrionics leading up to it.

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: 
PRODUCING NEWSLETTERS: BEWARE OF THE BIRDCAGE – Writing newsletters that will be read as opposed to discarded.

Posted in humor, Life | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 4, 2012

– When was the last time you read the Declaration?

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

We’re celebrating Independence Day again and to commemorate the event, I went back and reread the Declaration of Independence.

I first read it when I was in elementary school in Connecticut, along with the U.S. Constitution. However, due to the convoluted political times we now live in, I thought it might be wise to revisit this important American landmark.

A lot of the verbiage in the Declaration always seemed rather prosaic to me: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In other words, I was always impressed with the choice of words, sentence structure and the overall organization of the document. Simply beautiful.

Even though war had broken out one year earlier, the Declaration is still a bold document in that it was an attempt to publicly rationalize the necessity of independence not only to the people of our fledgling country but the world as well. To draft the document, Congress appointed a “Committee of Five,” consisting of the best minds of the day including John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. Jefferson, of course, is best remembered as the principal author.

To justify independence, the authors built a strong case against the King of England and enumerated the various offenses he allegedly committed against the colonies and why such acts were intolerable. The document is truly “revolutionary” as it totally dismissed the current form of government as provided by the English; that something better was needed than an aristocracy based on a monarchy. The specific charges brought against the King also paints a grim picture and gives an interesting historical perspective of life during this period of time. If you read it carefully, you will doubtless conclude that England left us no other alternative but to revolt against the current system.

After you have read and digested its contents, you come to the realization that the signers of the Declaration were men of true resolve and determination for if independence failed, they most certainly would have lost everything, including their lives. This aspect alone is inspirational to me; to be among such men of character would be priceless.

Interesting, one of the charges brought against the King read:

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle over this one as I’m sure someone could use it to describe our own government today.

Happy Birthday America; 236 years young!

(Originally Published: July 2, 2010)

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: 
LOSING IT – And the private hell you go through “finding it.”

Posted in Government, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

WHY IS CONNIE MACK AFRAID OF THIS WOMAN?

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 3, 2012

– A dark horse enters the Florida Senate race for GOP nominee.

In the U.S. Senate race in Florida, GOP front-runner Connie Mack believes he has the nomination sewn up. Surprisingly, he doesn’t. A dark horse has entered the race and is breathing fire down his back, namely Marielena Stuart of Naples. Actually, Stuart has been in the race for nine months but is a relative unknown primarily because of Mack’s name recognition and Stuart’s limited campaign budget. Things are changing though, as her grass roots campaign is catching on and Stuart is finally being allowed to speak at events hosted by the GOP establishment where she is faring quite well.

Stuart is an unapologetic conservative whose oratory is forthright and to the point. She makes no bones she is against Socialism and no fan of President Obama. Born in Cuba, she immigrated to the United States at age 11 where her family settled in Los Angeles. As an adult, she moved to the Naples area in 2007. During her speeches, she touts traditional American values, particularly the sanctity of marriage and the family unit. She is well versed in history and possesses an impressive understanding of the various cultures of the world. Frankly, she is not happy with the direction the country has taken in recent years which compelled her to become active in public affairs. Although she has not held office, she has a persuasive personality for arguing her case, be it the dismantling of the Department of Education and EPA, revoking Obamacare, overturning Roe vs Wade, and the dangers of the U.N’s Agenda 21. Her oratory is not just catch phrases either, but compelling arguments which demonstrates she knows what she is talking about. What she describes is nothing less than a cultural and economic crisis caused by socialism creeping into the fabric of our society.

Marielena’s oratory captivates audiences but scares moderates as she speaks forcefully and from the heart. Following the recent Supreme Court decisions regarding Obamacare and Arizona immigration, Stuart is very much in demand for her opinions. Although she was initially avoided, she has recently been invited to speak at GOP events and is creating a head of steam heading into the party primaries in August. Recently, she debated other candidates at the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee meeting where she won the straw pole in a landslide, thereby forcing former Sen. George LeMieux to bow out of the race. Since then, her audiences are getting larger and political support is growing. So far, Rep. Connie Mack IV, who is also vying for the Republican nomination, has avoided debating her and, instead, concentrating on endorsements from such GOP heavyweights as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, presumptive Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Mack’s name recognition is such that he probably believes he does not have to fight for the nomination and instead is already focusing his sights on incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D). He avoided the Pinellas debate and, so far, has no intention of debating Stuart. This leaves Florida Republicans scratching their heads as they are wondering how Mack would do in a debate with Stuart. Mack likely will take no chance and avoid any such confrontation, preferring the safety of the GOP establishment instead. It’s a pity too, as such a debate between Mack and Stuart would be very informative, particularly between the four-term moderate Congressman and Stuart, the conservative newbie. Avoiding Stuart though is causing Mack to lose points with the party faithful who wonder what he is afraid of, particularly since he is a seasoned Congressman. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll never get to know.

For more information on Marielena Stuart, visit her web site at: http://www.stuart2012.com/

CLICK FOR MARIELENA’S VIDEO

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.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

 
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