Hans Hansson | April 9, 2014

As a salesperson, we are always busy working on deals that we sometimes fall behind on latest technology that can actually allow us to be more efficient and effective in our work. Below are top ten apps that every salesperson should use.

1. Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office

Microsoft just announced that they are now introducing Office for iPad. They also offer Office for iPhone and Android. This is a true game changer for the ninety-five percent of us that use MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on a daily basis. Now, we will be able to utilize these tools on our mobile devices. You can purchase Office through the Apple Store or Google Play for a single charge, or you can purchase Microsoft 365 for an annual fee of $99.00. This will not only allow you to continuously stay up to date with the latest Office product, but will also install software on up to five devices, from computers to smartphones. When you think about the cost of downloading a single copy Office and if you plan on installing it on several machines - this is truly a great deal!

2. Quickoffice

Quickoffice

This is a great (free) app developed by Google, which allows you to create and edit word documents, excel files, and PowerPoint presentations all on your smartphone or tablet. If you also use Google Drive, this will allow you to secure 15GB of free storage to keep your files. This allows you to use your files across platforms and from anywhere, on any mobile device.

3. Evernote

Evernote

This is also a free tool that allows you to manage your day-to-day activities and action items. You can create to-do lists, schedules, draft notes, organized by date, client, or subject. You can search all of your notes much like a Google search, using key words to find notes from past meetings. You can share your files via email or text message. You may also record phone meetings, directly from your phone, saved directly into your notes. Evernote also allows you to save your data in the cloud storage, freeing up memory from your desktop.

4. Battery Doctor

Battery Doctor

This app is a powerful tool for those people that struggle with a fast battery drain. The app can optimize your Android phone and stop background tasks to increase your battery backup. It also controls brightness, GPS, Wi-Fi and data connections.

5. Pocket

Pocket

You see something interesting on your phone and you have to try to email yourself the links or let tabs pile up in your mobile browser. With Pocket, you just save them to the app. Save articles, videos, webpages, and pretty much anything you can pull up on your phone and save it to your Pocket app. Save directly from your browser or from apps like Twitter, Flipboard, Pulse and Zite. It also works online or offline and is perfect for those who are always traveling, with limited Wi-Fi connection.

6. Link Bubble

Link Bubble

This is a new browser for your Android that lets you click on a link in an app, without actually leaving your webpage. It works seamlessly with Pocket. There are other mobile browsers that do similar things, however this does it more cleanly and with minimalism in comparison to other versions.

7. Hootsuite

Hootsuite

This app can be found both in a desktop as well as a mobile app. This program manages and schedules your posts to multiple social media profiles, all with one push of a button. Update your Twitter, Facebook LinkedIn and more.

8. Roambi Analytics

Roambi

Roambi re-designs the way you interact with, share, and present data from a completely mobile perspective. Take data from anywhere and transform it into a simple, engaging and intuitive experience that helps you understand, present and share numbers. This is a great app for those who work with data-rich content.

9. Daylite 4

Daylite 4

This is an Apple app that allows you to organize your projects, sales, emails, meetings, calendar contacts and notes, all in one program with a very simple interface. Track projects by viewing related contacts, activities and notes with the project- management system. Daylite 4's powerful search capabilities also allow you to perform simple or complex searches to find what you're looking for. You can even save them for future use.

10. Cisco WebEx Meetings

Cisco WebEx Meetings

This app can be found in all mobile stores. What makes WebEx different from other video conferencing services is that files can be attached to a meeting space. Which means you can pitch a presentation or discuss numbers from Excel spreadsheets, in real time, while video chatting with your contacts– all on your mobile device.


Hans Hansson | March 28, 2014

I asked a well-known architect friend of mine what he thought of San Francisco's architecture. His answer surprised me. He responded, "I don't."

He went on to say that San Francisco lost its architecture in the 1906 earthquake. He explained, "I knew of the grand downtown of our city and its wonderful displays of building architecture. In looking at old photos of the city before 1906, I never fully understood the beauty of the homes that we lost that day on April 18th."

San Francisco was the center of the west coast in 1906. It also was the home to some of the wealthiest families in the world. Many of those wealthy families built their homes in the South of Market district of our city, SoMa, as it's known. Homes on all corners of Folsom, Bryant and Harrison Streets were lined with magnificent works of art in their buildings. They were so grand, that no house today in our Pacific Heights district could come close to comparison. It was where the city's money and power lived.

Since the earthquake, South of Market turned into our industrial district, home to coffee roasters, manufacturers, and all sorts of service-related businesses. By the 1940's the area was transformed again into the area that supported our auto body and auto repair businesses, along with printing companies.

Then in 1996, Mayor Frank Jordan supported two very important ideas, which again transformed the district. The first was the installation of the first fiber optic line, which ran down Howard Street. The second idea was adding technology firms to a new zoning called "service light industrial" in order to avoid slowing the growth of this new industry due to previous office building restrictions.

SoMa San Francisco

Since then, through the boom and bust of the Dot.com era and now today experiencing the second wave of the technology boom, the South of Market is shining like it never has, even prior to the 1906 earthquake. Within a few years the skyline of our city will be changed forever with new highrises touching the sky at levels never built in the city before. At today's prices of $1,000 to $1,500 dollars per square foot to buy a condo, South of Market will also become the area of the city where the rich and famous will once again live. San Francisco's South of Market has truly come full circle.


Hans Hansson | March 17, 2014

Creative Space in San FranciscoSan Francisco continues to be one of the hottest office markets in the nation. As commercial real estate brokers in San Francisco, our phones are always ringing off the hook with startups requesting space for one to two year terms. Their needs are all the same. Startups are looking for a creative, collaborative workspace with an "industrial look" and an open plan. Oh, and they need to move in within the next month, or sooner.

Most of these startups have never secured office space before and have no idea what the process is like, nor realize the costs and timelines facing both the future landlord and themselves as tenants.

There are a few items on the leasing checklist that startups need to consider when looking for new space.

Firstly, they need to think about the landlord and their intentions. All over San Francisco, building owners from conventional Class A office buildings, warehouses, or office conversions are spending money to create these popular industrial spaces that technology firms are seeking. The problem is, whether they build them as "spec suites" (ready for immediate occupancy) or if they are willing to build out these spaces for future tenants, the costs to convert will be extremely expensive for the landlord. On average, a building owner can expect to pay between $60-$80 per square foot in order to remove old ceilings and lighting, and to expose the ceilings and air conditioning ducts.

Second thought to consider is from the tenants' perspective. The startup looking for space will want the popular industrial "look" in order to attract potential employees in an ever-increasing competitive tech market. To give their startup the competitive edge, they will want to have one of the coolest office spaces to win over potential candidates.

Most employees, especially in tech, will be spending late hours creating, promoting, and planning their latest tech gadget or service; anything less than "cool" for a workspace will simply not work. Startups typically desire "open plan" office space in order to maximize the amount of people they can have working productively within one space. As a new company, startups do not know their future other than that first year. According to the Wall Street Journal, three out of four startups fail. Successful companies (have received a large amount of funding or investments) then they will likely grow exponentially, hiring more employees to meet their growth demand and will therefore need more office space. Otherwise, they could potentially be bought out by a larger brand.

At $60-$80 dollars per square foot, the problem then belongs to the landlord, who will need to figure out how they will recoup their costs with such a short-term lease and such uncertain tenants. Additionally, the landlord will need to finance the renovations, either through a bank or through their investment fund. Either way, their financing is tied to a longer-term lease, where they need to amortize their costs over an appropriate time to make the investment make sense.

This is why startups should not make the mistake of thinking so short term. If they were more willing to look at five-year leases, then more options would be available to them as well as more flexibility to create their preferred style of workspace. Startups are probably thinking, "But how does that make sense since we will have no idea where the company will be in one year, let alone five years?"

By law, a tenant can sublease their space. Often times, landlords have the right to recapture a space that is being offered for sublease. Today, rents are on the rise in the Bay Area. Most industry leaders believe that rents could go up another 20% this year alone. Say as a startup, you take a five-year lease. Let's say one year later, you need to expand. You would have four years remaining on your lease. This would give a sublease tenant four years of term, which would still attract a large amount of potential tenants, particularly conventional firms. In turn, the sublease tenant will also have the rights to sublease again, if they need flexibility.

With rents rising, most leases call for profits after expenses (brokerage and attorney fees) to be divided between the tenant and the landlord. Moreover, landlords are now more willing to recapture the property, rather than end up in a situation where the tenant subleases, where the tenant enjoys maximized profits. Either way, the tenant can sign a longer-term lease, which will give them more options and have the landlord more willing to build out their space and create the preferred look and feel that the tenant is looking for to meet their needs now.


Hans Hansson | February 24, 2014

How Do Current Office Rental Rates Compare to the Resurgence in Tech in our City by the Bay

San Francisco Office Market NewsI entered the commercial real estate business in 1984. My first deal was a $52.00 per square foot lease at 44 Montgomery Street. Two years later, I was doing A-Class leases at only $18.00 per square foot. San Francisco has been an up and down office market like no other city in the United States. It has cycles that include major increases in rental rates, followed by a major "bust" market which creates virtually no office market other than traders of office space that take advantage of empty A-Class space. Typically, these types of office space traders upgrade from their B and C marketplace spaces, leaving extremely high vacancy factors in smaller, older buildings.

In 1979, San Francisco had a vacancy rate of only three percent. This started a major construction boom to address our growing need for office spaces. In 1997, we experienced the start of the 'dot-com boom.' During this cycle very little A-Class development actually occurred. However, warehouses and smaller office buildings were converted into new industrial-like, "sexy-tech”" office spaces, which helped address the need for new space during this time of the market cycle.

Today, there are approximately 2 million square feet of new office space planned, but the ratio of new office space versus how much office space will actually be occupied is yet to be known. If there happens to be another "bust" after the boom, there could be a lot of wasted office space sitting on the market.

So, where are we now compared to the 'dot-com boom and the bust market?' Starting in 1997, the overall office vacancy in the city was 12 percent. This had slowly been reduced from a high of 22 percent, as a result of the "perfect storm" that hit our city starting in 1989, which included the earthquake, the lack of available credit and the major recession that hit the United States. Rental rates jumped over $90.00 on average for A-Class with an overall rental rate of over $70.00 per square foot for all sectors by the end of 2000. The overall vacancy rate crept under 2 percent.

One year later, the average rental rate dropped to $52.00 with a vacancy of 18 percent and by 2002 had hit an average rental rate of $23.00 with a vacancy rate of 24 percent. Then things started looking up. Once the U.S. economy began growing again between 2010 and 2012, San Francisco added another 20,000 residents and is now home to 825,000 people.

Today, our city is now the third-fastest growing county in California, and the only two counties growing faster lay to its immediate south, a.k.a - Silicon Valley. The average A-Class space averages $57.00 per square foot with overall rental rate average of $42.00. Our current vacancy rate is at 6.7 percent. Based on past markets, this would suggest that we still have growth in terms of rental rate gain if we see a larger drop in overall vacancy rates.

There's no question the city is booming. San Francisco has added 26,700 jobs just last year, according to the San Francisco's economic statistics. About 8,000 have been jobs in the technology field. Since the Payroll Tax Exclusion zone was created in 2011, seventeen businesses have moved into the Central Market and Tenderloin Tax Excluded areas.

This week, we learned that Charles Swab, American brokerage and banking company, has decided to move over one thousand of their employees out of San Francisco due to the overall cost to work here. With rental rates over 40 percent higher than one year ago, we may be able to clamp down rates if we start seeing our traditional base businesses leaving the city.

Already we are seeing apartment rental rates starting to settle. With numerous new units in the construction pipeline this year, potential rental rates falling could be a sign of either overbuilding, or that the overall market has finally reached stabilization.

All of this growth is of course attributed to the growth in technology. San Francisco workers in tech occupations have seen their salary average rise to $100,000 as of May last year. More and more affluent workers are able to afford the new rents that many existing residents and business owners cannot.

As long as new companies are coming into being and existing firms thrive, we will continue to see a strong office market in San Francisco. My guess is that we are in the sixth-inning of a nine-inning baseball game.


Hans Hansson | February 11, 2014

I recently read a great article that spoke about the key to sales. The article stated that sales is not about what you are selling, but about making friends and getting someone to see the world the way you do. If you can do that, everything else will take care of itself.

I've had several people over the years ask me, "What makes you tick?" and "What do you attribute your success to?" For me, it is about entertaining myself through my connection with others. I enjoy telling stories and hearing stories. I am always fascinated by what my clients have done, what they are now doing, and what they are planning to do. As a result, after now almost 40 years in sales, I can tell you that I still enjoy it as much, if not more, as I did when I first entered the field.

Below are ten tips from New York Times article that I personally live by.

  1. You can sell only if you yourself are convinced: If you are not sold on the product or service, it will be an uphill battle to sell someone else. Your lack of conviction will scream through.
  2. Be clear and direct: When pitching, do not use complicated diction. Pride yourself instead on being able to explain the concept as quickly, clearly and simply as possible. This is important because the biggest problem in sales is client confusion. Confusion does not lead to a "Yes."
  3. Pressure is an art: Creating FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) in your client's mind can be a good thing because it will lead to serious consideration of your concept. In the TerraCycle world, we award brand exclusivity by country and by category. Often, I need to tell potential clients that their competition is also speaking with us. The trick is to mention this once and to NOT rub it in, which is likely to anger them. No one is angered into saying, "Yes."
  4. Know your client: Make sure to research your potential clients, know their challenges and their needs. One size hardly ever fits all, and you look much stronger than your competition if you show that you care about the business enough to invest in the research. I can't tell you how many times I get cold calls from sales people who don't even know what TerraCycle does.
  5. It's all about the presentation: Building an amazing deck is critical to the sales process. Practice it, memorize it, and be prepared to shift your emphasis based on how the energy changes when you present. Internally, we always ask ourselves, "Is the flow of this deck right? Is the presentation convincing?"
  6. Be passionate and exciting: Most presentations are BORING! So create a show and make it exciting. Excitement is contagious - just like a yawn.
  7. If you don't know the answer, do not guess: People will ask you tough questions, and you may not always know the answer. The person asking you may be testing you, knowing the answer full well. And if you fumble, it's very hard to rebuild credibility. Do not guess.
  8. Answer questions directly and clearly: If you are asked a question and you give a "politician's answer" - in other words, if you don't answer the question - your credibility will decline, and you will hurt your chances of making the sale.
  9. Humor is a great conversation starter: Funny stories always break the ice. For example, our employees use stamps (see right) to leave our contact info. It's eco-friendly, it never runs out and it makes for a nice icebreaker at the beginning of every meeting.
  10. You can always be better: Sales is an art, not a science. Which means it's never perfect and can always improve. TerraCycle has a standard sales deck most of our associates use. We've gone through 94 versions in the last three years and version 95 is around the corner.

Bottom line: Sales is a critical function that is more art than science, so hone your art. Lastly, sharing is caring, so please be sure to share any of your own sales tips with your peers.

Tom Szaky is the chief executive of TerraCycle, which is based in Trenton.


Hans Hansson | January 30, 2014

I was visiting an old client of mine, an angel investor who had just invested in another company who would eventually need help with their office space. We were discussing various options when his business partner throws out the famous line, "You can't bring a horse to water." I found that very interesting since this techie was less than 30 years old and old adages like this were rarely used by anyone these days. What was more interesting was the response from my client who argued, "Yes, you can if you feed him salt."

Old adages are great because they are based upon an understanding of human faults over generations. I don't know when this adage was created, but can only guess it was a time when horses were part of our daily lives.

So what does it mean and how does it relate to salespeople? In my opinion, it is related to procrastination, the ultimate challenge to any salesperson. However, my client's response could mean something different. No one will change unless they feel pain.

Procrastination and pain do in fact cross each other. Procrastination is the unwilliness to tackle a project or do list item. It's to delay the inevitable.

WikipediaWikipedia's definition of procrastination is:

The practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the "last minute".

Wikipedia's definition of pain:

An unpleasant feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli. Pain motivates the individual to withdraw from damaging situations.

In other words, you could procrastinate to avoid a painful experience. As we start a new year, the biggest drawback to our success will be procrastination. We typically get excited about the prospects of the New Year. If we had a bad year previously, or a "so so" year, we want to change things to do better. We create business plans and goals and enter the New Year optimistically, believing that we will follow our plan. Until, procrastination settles in and we decide to take the easy route during our busy day. We may choose to work on the easy deals rather than sort out the complicated ones. Some of us may not reach out for the bigger deals in fear of rejection.

Pain can help change and force us to more forward. It can be our "salt" or it can be the reason for our postponement. As we start the New Year, my message to salespeople is to think of yourself as the horse that needs water. Are you going to drink or are you going to wait to make things happen? Or, perhaps you need a little salt to get yourself to advance.


Starboard TCN Worldwide Commercial Real Estate | January 6, 2014

Written by: Malcolm E.A. Kaufman
E-mail: mkaufman@pulsefactors.com
Date: 01.06.14

Most of us know that our residential real estate market was on fire in 2013: the second year in a row. Average home prices were up 17%, while condominiums were up 16%. This was on top of 2012 increases of 16% and 11% respectively.

Bay Area real estate is on fire

Is it Any Wonder?

San Francisco's 5.2% unemployment rate is one of the lowest in California (8.5%), and is quite a bit lower than the 8.1% in Chicago, 8.5% in Los Angeles, and 8.5% in New York City.

San Francisco residents are getting back to work across every major job sector—from hospitality and tourism to construction to technology to manufacturing to our neighborhood small businesses, so said Mayor Ed Lee recently.

At the risk of repeating what you already know, San Francisco is the recognized “innovation hub” of the world. This plays no small part in our increasing residential prices. Every young person and virtually every company in the world wants a presence in the City. It's a very big world and a very small city.

Every time one of the tech companies goes public, whether it is Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, more than 1,000 millionaires are newly minted. In 2013, about 2,600 single family homes and 2,900 condominiums traded hands. Do the math.

Millionaires

What's a Buyer to Do?

Compete! However, come with a 7 to 10-year time horizon and make sure not to overpay; details upon request. Yes, I know it is easier to rent, but at the end of the day, a renter is paying the property owner's mortgage, which in my book is not a very good long-term strategy.

What's A Seller to Do?

Figure out where you are going to live before you put your home on the market and the buyer hordes descend. The key for sellers in this wild market is to maximize gains and leave no money on the table. I counsel my sellers: don't ask - what is my property worth? Rather, ask - what can I get for my property? If you have five different listing agents, you will get five different results. Results depend on selling strategy, marketing, presentation, initial pricing, and about 10 other factors all determined by the agent.

What to expect in 2014

No single-family homes are being built, and while we may be seeing many new (small) condominium projects springing up throughout the city from Hayes Valley, to Potrero, Inner Mission, Noe, the Van Ness corridor, and Russian Hill, they don't make a dent in supply. Nor will the new Lumina with 650 units in SOMA make a dent. No one seems to have a long-term answer for increasing supply; average prices keep escalating.

The pace of the current up-cycle will eventually exhaust itself. It always does. I think average prices will continue to increase again in 2014 and likely more than 10%. This happened in the 1998-2000 era when there were three back-to-back years of increases of more than 15%. Check in with me next January to see how we did. In the meantime, Contact me if you should need some help.

Starboard TCN is posting this article on its website and blog with Malcolm E.A. Kaufman's approval.

Malcolm E.A. Kaufman is Founder of PulseFactors™ LLC. He refers you to his website, pulsefactors.com, where you can see recent issues of Pulse of the Market© and learn more about him. He invites your comments, suggestions, and questions.

Starboard TCN Worldwide Commercial Real Estate | January 1, 2014


To offer truly effective service to customers, companies need to complement the information they gather with powerful narratives that give it meaning.

As a CEO, I have the good fortune of hearing lots of amazing stories from our consumer communities. There's one story in particular that holds a special place in my heart.

One of our clients, a well-known pharmaceutical company, collaborated with a private online community of patients who were suffering the debilitating effects of a disease. To get to know these community members more intimately and understand the particular challenges they were facing, our internal team of community managers assigned members the task of writing a letter addressed to their disease.

The patient community was overwhelmingly receptive, and the letters poured in. One of them was so heartfelt, so honest, so descriptive of what it's like to live with a serious disease, that our client felt compelled to share it with her colleagues across her organization, all the way up to the CEO. With copies tacked to their walls, employees viewed the letter as a touching reminder of why they came into work every day and a moving expression of whom their business is meant to help.

I often hear from our clients that what they really want from us are more stories. For businesses, transforming complex consumer data and experiences into powerful narratives can resonate across the entire organization. Storytelling is a synthesis of all sources of customer information, not just one person's account, however inspiring. High-impact stories pique the interest of decision makers and alter our perceptions and assumptions, revealing the real meaning behind the information we have learned. And by allowing businesses' decision makers to better understand their customers, stories provide needed insight to help move business confidently in the right direction.

Here are four ingredients essential to creating consumer stories that truly inspire businesses to action.

1. Get personal and build relationships.

Some of the most memorable stories are those shared among close friends and family, because we feel comfortable enough with each other to genuinely open up. The same can hold true for a business and its relationship with consumers. Trust, honesty, and, above all, sincerity are essential to fostering strong consumer relationships. It's amazing the rich perspectives consumers are willing to reveal--their hopes, dreams, secrets, unmet needs--if you earn their trust and provide a safe way for them to share.

2. Plan deliberately and explore from different angles.

When crafting a consumer story, you need to plan for it early in the game and explore the challenge you're trying to solve from different angles. Employ techniques that get under the surface and encourage consumers to express themselves and their feelings about brands in ways they may not have done otherwise.

For example, rather than asking customers simply for their opinion on a new candy bar, we might ask them instead to create a recipe for their ideal candy bar (mine would have lots of peanuts in it), or we might have parents use their mobile phones to film their child's reaction to the candy bar in the grocery store. Using a variety of methods to build the story narrative reveals new truths, unmet needs, and ultimately business opportunities.

3. Use human intuition to find the story that matters.

Once we've sorted through all the data and gained a full understanding of the consumer's world, it's time to begin the distillation process. This is something that can only be done through our unique human capacity for reasoning. We can approach finding the story deductively, pulling out the key themes and trends emerging from all the information at our fingertips, or inductively, sorting through the information to discover if our original hypothesis is accurate.

Once distilled, the story that emerges is truly relevant to the business. We use our human intuition and expertise as a compass, guiding us past the clutter and noise toward only what is relevant to business strategy.

For example, U.K. telecom Everything Everywhere (EE) already knew that customers loved their mobile phones. But only after hearing consumers share personal stories of those dreadful "uh-oh" moments when they dropped their phone in a toilet or lost it in a taxicab did EE truly understand that it wasn't the physical phones that people cared about, it was everything inside them: pictures, funny videos, personal contact lists, important meetings, and amusing text exchanges with friends.

EE execs intuitively related to that sinking feeling of losing precious memories and information in an instant of human error. Out of this understanding was born the Clone Phone, EE's service solution to data backup, storage, and even phone replacement guaranteed within 24 hours. The new service was an instant hit; more than 250,000 Clone Phone subscribers signed up in the first six months.

4. Evoke emotions that inspire action.

A story must be felt, not just heard, if it is to be remembered. We humans are empathetic creatures. We have a shared understanding of interpreting stories, and we can revel in the feelings they elicit as a result, together.

In a business setting, a story may be delivered in many different formats, depending on its complexity and the information available to craft it. But the goal is always the same: evoke emotion and connect with your audience on a human level. Once internalized, consumer stories can reach across organizations and empower executives and employees alike to take action and move businesses forward, which in turn better serves the very consumers by whom they are inspired.

Written by: Diane Hessan (https://twitter.com/CommunispaceCEO)

via 4 Essential Ingredients in Consumer Storytelling

Hans Hansson | December 28, 2013

I run a commercial real estate company and I am also an independent contractor as a commercial real estate broker. I currently have insurance through a small business plan with my wife. Based on my initial understanding of OBAMACARE, I thought that my real estate company would be unaffected, since we have less than fifty employees. I also believed my health plan with my wife would be unaffected since my policy provided me with all the necessary services required under OBAMACARE. I was wrong.

Two weeks ago, my nightmare began. I received what looked like a formal letter in an envelope from Kaiser Permanente, marked with a tag that read, "See if healthcare reforms will affect you." I almost did not open the letter, thinking it was probably junk mail. I was wrong.

The letter in fact canceled my small business plan policy, stating that under federal and state law, small business plans that do not include at least one employee, was no longer legal. It identified ways in which I could now either switch to an individual plan or go onto the OBAMACARE website to seek insurance options. The letter further stated that if my insurance was expiring by November 30th, that I needed to secure new insurance no later than November 15th, which was six days after I actually received my notice. Frankly, I had no idea when my policy was set to expire, so the nightmare unraveled as I made my call that day to Kaiser.

Of course, I went through the various transfer stations, which are common today anytime you call customer service from most organizations. The days of the five-minute customer service calls to learn how to solve your problem and get off the phone is all gone when they eliminated true decision makers on the other end of the phone. I wanted to accomplish three basic things with this call. Firstly, I wanted to confirm that my policy was in fact canceled. Secondly, I wanted to learn my options and thirdly I needed to know when my policy actually expires. Two and a half hours later, I finally got the answers I needed and ended my call.

There are several reasons why the call took so long. The first issue was with Kaiser. If you have a small business plan, then your records will not show up in the individual plan service department. They simply have no record of you. That posed the first major problem, because without knowing when my small business plan was to be canceled, I had no idea when I needed to pull the trigger on my new insurance options. If they had transferred me to the small business department, then my efforts would have had to start again with the individual policy department. This would have meant another ten minutes trying to connect with a real person, let alone connect with someone who had knowledge about what little I was already able to learn from my first counselor.

After almost three hours, what I learned was that my policy actually expires on March 1st of 2014. I will not be able to buy another small business type policy. My choices now are to either buy an individual policy that will cost me about $250.00 per month more than I am paying now for the same services, or I can join my company plan at a cost of $900.00 more per month.

Within one week, I received a half-inch package from Kaiser called the "small business renewal information package" which must have cost Kaiser at least five dollars a piece to send out. I'm not even eligible to apply because I do not have enough employees.

Interestingly enough, the main story capturing the nation is the millions of individual policies that are being cancelled. I have not seen one story about the small business plans that are also receiving notices. If you take into consideration the number of "mom and pop" businesses there are in the United States, it would be interesting to see just how many plans are also being canceled and how much more we are all going to have to pay for this Affordable Healthcare Act. So far, this law does not seem to be at all more affordable to the majority of Americans.

Whether you are a self-employed business owner or an employer, you will need to be insured by 2014 to meet the individual mandate of the Affordable Healthcare Act, according to the NFIB. This is regardless of whether your business falls under employer mandate going into effect in 2015 or not. The lesson I've learned is, don't wait until the last minute to get information on requirements and how to proceed.

Hans Hansson | December 18, 2013

The SEIU union has embarked on a national fight to increase the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15.00 an hour. From McDonalds to Burger King, workers have had walkouts and protests causing facility shutdowns across the country.

On one hand, this is a classic union organization effort to tap into a large non-union represented workforce as well as the blight of poor workers who live on minimum wages, which no longer is able to support the 4.1 million workers in the industry.

On the other hand, you have jobs that are providing young adults and middle-aged employees with part- time and full time work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in four of fast food employees are working to support their family of at least one child or more. These jobs also provide employment opportunities for one third of their workers who are in the process of earning their college degree. Lastly, the fast food industry provides products that service a large population of economically deprived Americans.

Currently, the federal government minimum wage is $7.25 an hour with cities and states across the country offering higher wages including San Francisco, which pays $10.55 an hour for minimum wage.

So what are the potential consequences of having fast food operators paid $15.00 an hour? Payment for fast food operators will certainly go up. At $15.00 an hour, operators will likely see the next higher level of employees now willing to work for them. This could lead to a large round of layoffs, affecting the younger or currently underemployed workers, which will greatly affect their livelihood.

If unions are successful in organizing the fast food workers into unions, employees may gain better protection under the union negotiations. However, these union negotiations will come at a cost of paying union dues and competing for jobs with those currently uninterested in working for the fast food industry and who might be better qualified for the positions. Younger people could be the most negatively affected, as they currently make up thirty percent of the fast food employees in the United States.

So how do we solve this dilemma? Very simply, we could allow tips to be earned by fast food workers. For years, full service restaurant workers have made minimum wage. However, they make the majority of their income on tips. This model is also extended to food delivery employees, who receive minimum wages, but also earn tips upon deliveries. Fast food operators, however have never been offered tips to employees.

There is no doubt that fast food personnel work extremely hard. Food service in general, is not easy. Patrons are accustomed and understand that tips are required as an added cost when dining at restaurants. If fast food operators begin to promote tipping, then workers will enjoy the benefit of an increased income without having to unionize and risk changing the system, where losing their jobs could be a greater possibility.



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