Archive for May, 2011
It makes no sense to the team here at Your Office Agent that 98% of space taken is for 3 to 5 year leases. This is not just a US craze but one which companies subscribe to all around the world. In the UK it is even more crazy with the average lease between 5 and 10 years in length. For a 100 years the Real Estate Investment Trusts (landlords) have controlled the rules around renting office property and the advisors and brokers in the industry have been financially incentivized to follow these rules with more commission for longer leases. While every other facet of industry has been evolving at the speed of light commercial real estate has been held in the dark ages with the hand brake fully on. With the recent recession it was so obvious that the current system was broken, as most of those businesses who went under could possible have survived if they just didnt have that large real estate anchor tied around their neck. Tose who did survive has to fire staff as it was the only overhead they could actively do anything about. There was a great article in the New York times in 2002, when we had the last mini recession, which said that any company which could not turn on a dime when the economy changes is dead in this new world and never has that statement been so true. We at Your Office Agent could write all day about this but let us have your thoughts on this subject. Is there anything we can do about this monopoly of injustice or even light at the end of the tunnel. Let us know what you think.
Your Office Agent agree that Successful Negotiations begin very early!
Most people begin thinking about negotiation as the deal approaches its natural conclusion. It’s quite common that at that point they begin searching for “tips” and “techniques” to drive a successful negotiation. Before I address that tendency, I’d like to share an interesting observation.
In talking with clients about successful negotiations, they often indicate that their best negotiation experiences were free of surprises. In exploring that, what they’re saying is their negotiating partner’s behavior was consistent with their expectations. That doesn’t mean that they rolled over, quite the contrary. While these experiences often involve difficult concessions, what marked them as “best” was the feeling that they got a good deal while retaining or enhancing the quality of their relationship with their partner.
Why do we surprise our prospects during negotiation? I think the short answer is “tips” and “techniques” as these often drive a change in our behavior. For a long time, I’ve believed that you set your prospects expectations about how you’ll behave during negotiations long before an opportunity reaches the negotiation phase.
For example, when a prospect asks you to meet with someone, or they ask you to provide a document, or they ask you to perform a workshop, our typical response is “Sure!” We take this as a good sign of engagement, and it is. But “Yes” isn’t a negotiation, it’s a surrender. You’re training the prospect that you’ll do whatever they ask. So, when it comes to negotiation and you try to hold your ground, you’ll be in conflict with the expectations you’ve set in the prospect’s mind.
Your negotiating rhythm begins the day you first meet the prospect. I’m not suggesting that you constantly seek to drive a hard bargain, but I am suggesting that you start the concept of a “value-for-value exchange” early in the relationship. If they want you to provide some information, the value for value exchange might involve finding out how they will use it and negotiating for a subsequent meeting to review how the document enhanced or modified their thinking. If they want you to run a workshop, negotiate for access to all of the key players in advance (which will permit you to understand their thinking and expectations) and after (to assess the impact and value of the workshop for the participants).
It’s important to ensure that whatever you negotiate is obviously related to their request and in their best interest, but the value for value exchange sets their expectation with respect to how you’ll behave when the time comes to finalize the value of your work.
“My father said: You must never try to make all the money that’s in a deal. Let the other fellow make some money too, because if you have a reputation for always making all the money, you won’t have many deals.” J Paul Getty
Your Office Agent pleased to confirm that Business optimism up, though small firms remain cautious
By Max Clarke
A new report has revealed that business optimism stands at its highest point since October 2009, but highlights the confidence chasm between cautious small firms and more confident, larger businesses.
The Business Tracker report, published by Regus, global workplace providers, includes an updated Business Confidence Index (BCI) and is based on the opinion of over 4000 businesses in the UK.
Rising confidence, the report suggests, is being matched by real results: a net 38% of UK companies’ revenues have risen in the last year, and 31% saw their profits rise.
“That business confidence is returning is good news for the UK economy as is the fact that so many companies are reporting rising revenues and profit,” commented Celia Donne, Regional Director at Regus.
However, significantly lower proportions of small businesses chalked up profit rises compared to large firms (26% and 51% respectively). Across all size brackets, the UK lags the US and all other major world economies according to each of the Business Tracker’s indicators.
“All firms are remaining cautious in respect to departmental spend,” continued Donne. “It would seem that they are only investing where there is a clear bottom line return, such as sales and marketing, whereas spending on property will continue to decline in 2011. This is a remarkable change on just a few years ago, when the combination of economic upturn and increasing employment would have generated a boom in traditional commercial property spending.”
UK companies remain cautious in their forward projections: over a quarter (27%) expect the economy to advance strongly in the second half of 2011, yet 60% do not expect momentum to pick up until the first half of 2012. 69% of companies expect revenue growth in the next 12 months. The forward-looking indicators of the report are roughly consistent across all size brackets.
HOME WORKING CHALLENGES FROM YOUR OFFICE AGENT
“If I do my invoicing, I’ll be able to reach my monthly cash flow goals, but I can’t concentrate with all the traffic noise!”, “I’d love to work on that proposal, but my neighbor’s dog just won’t stop barking!”, “Is that baby STILL screaming? I need to get this project off my desk!” If any of these sound familiar, then you’ve run into one of the unique challenges of working from home – dealing with residential noise pollution.
Home office workers face a variety of challenges related to distraction, but noise is one that is typically overlooked. Most large offices and workspaces have a symphony of office chatter, the hum of copiers and other office machines, and even the low rumble of the A/C, all of which generally become a type of “white noise” – which we can usually tune out and stop hearing. At home, however, there typically isn’t any background noise – it’s usually just you and your trusty computer – and any outside noise can be especially jarring and make it challenging for us to focus.
In order to get our work done, we home office types need to find strategies to help us manage the noise pollution that can encroach on our productivity. Here’s a few tactics that I’ve found successful with my organizing clients:
The hills are alive… Well, maybe not the hills, but your home office can be alive with the sound of music. For many people, having the right music as background noise can help to get us “into a groove” and make our tasks go faster and seem more enjoyable. I emphasize having the right music, because background music while working is not a one-genre-fits-all affair.
Some people find music with lyrics can be distracting while doing verbally-related tasks such as writing, reading, and editing. For these task types, you might want to choose instrumental or electronic music, or even nature sounds. Other tasks, such as organizing your office, might be perfect for that Top 40 song you just can’t seem to get out of your head. Match the music to the task at hand, and you’ll focus less on outside-world noise distractions.
The tech. As with most things, technology is there to help us deal with noise pollution. Noise-cancelling headphones can silence all but the most piercing of outside noises, and can create a quiet zone for us to work in. Sometimes, just having “white noise” can help us ignore the more unpleasant background noises. White noise generators, which create a static-like tone, have been used in therapy offices for many years, and help to drown out or mask things we don’t want to hear. You can find both noise-cancelling headphones and white noise generators online.
Shift your space. Recognize when it might be helpful to just get out of your chair, leave your office, and go someplace else to work. A change of scenery can shift our energy and allow us to focus in a different way than when we’re at our usual workspace. This can be an especially helpful tactic when you need or want to work on a specific task. Let’s say that you need to write an article for your newsletter, but it’s simply too noisy at your home office. Try taking a trip to your local coffee shop, library or park and do your writing from there – you might just find that you write a lot better in that environment. Sometimes, tying a specific type of task to a physical location can help reduce our distraction level and help us focus on the task at hand.
Directors in the ‘Twilight Zone’
By Paul Wood, Associate Director, Restructuring and Recovery at Smith & Williamson
Many entrepreneurs and company directors feel like they’re in a commercial battlefield at present. They’re being battered from all sides and can only see the position generally worsening as austerity measures implemented by the Government start to bite.
Unsure what the next set of challenges will be, or how their companies will survive them, some directors are taking risks that perhaps they should not be taking.
Unusual economic conditions
Official statistics show that up to December last year 395,400 time-to-pay (TTP) arrangements had been granted, involving tax totalling £6.83bn. This exceptional amount of support from the Government over the past two years has helped companies survive.
However, times are changing and we’re seeing evidence of HM Revenue & Customs hardening its stance on companies renegotiating TTP plans and the leniency shown previously is starting to disappear.
Interest rates have been at an all-time low of 0.5% for two years. Losses that some companies would be making had they still been at pre-recession levels are therefore being masked.
The majority of economists believe that interest rates will rise this year and by the middle of next year could be somewhere near 2% in order to curb inflationary pressures. This increase will cause companies that cannot afford the repayments to either look at further cost cutting (where they’ve probably been dramatically slashed already) or face defaulting on their loans.
The banks’ position
Banks have had no option but to be supportive of businesses during the recession because their security, primarily on property, was dramatically affected when the property market collapsed at the beginning of 2008.
Many banks are allowing businesses to pay only the interest they owe and freezing capital repayments to help them survive. As interest rates increase this may become impossible for many companies and it will then be down to the banks to decide whether to change strategy and perhaps consider enforcement.
Challenges for directors
UK business is clearly going through a challenging period. Many companies are just about surviving day-to-day, with their balance sheets exhausted and all means of finance having been utilised.
Many have survived one of the longest and deepest recessions in living memory by implementing stringent controls on costs, making redundancies and holding back on capital investment. These companies cannot reduce their cost base further and are unlikely to be able to deal with the pressures that may be coming, especially if they all come at the same time.
Directors and business owners need to be very careful that, as these pressures start to mount, they avoid trading while insolvent and take advice at an early stage if they become aware that these or other issues will adversely affect their businesses.
Early discussions with banks, the tax authorities and other major stakeholders are vital to the survival of a company that is experiencing financial difficulty
The age of austerity is making us more environmentally conscious at work, a national survey for Green Office Week has revealed.
The YouGov poll, commissioned by office products manufacturer Avery, found that nearly half the UK’s office workers said their offices have actively become greener as a result of the economic downturn as staff put more effort into recycling, turning off unused lights and saving on the heating bill.
Fifty per cent of office workers say they have personally become more green and 24% say they could be even greener at work with more encouragement from managers.
Nearly six out of ten believe a greener workplace has more chance to save money.
Nicky Amos, an expert in Corporate Social Responsibility, said: “It’s clear that the current economic situation is forcing many workplaces to become greener. More and more office workers are behaving in an environmentally sound and more efficient manner. This survey reinforces what many companies are finding – that a greener office can help the bottom line.”
The survey found the most common practical ways that office workers were personally greener in the last year included recycling paper (69%), turning off computer equipment and machinery when not in use (67%), switching off unnecessary lighting (61%) and choosing double-sided printing (48%).
Other green actions included re-using cardboard boxes (42%), choosing more environmentally friendly office products such as recycled stationery (20%), turning down the heating or air conditioning (22%) and finding uses for shredded paper (14%).
However, despite this, only 17% of respondents said their office was ‘very or completely green’. Only two per cent said their office was ‘as green as possible’ and more than a quarter said their office was ‘not very green’ or not at all green.
The Happiest U.S. Cities to Work
by Meghan Casserly
A new survey reveals where the happiest workers are.
If commuting through sleet, slush and snow in the Northeast or Midwest isn’t enough to make you want to pack up and move south, maybe this will: With the exception of the Bay Area and Washington, D.C., the top 10 happiest cities to work are all in sun-drenched, snow-free locales, according to online career site CareerBliss.com, which just released its first annual listing of the nation’s top 50 cities.
San Jose, Calif., headlines at No. 1, closely followed by neighboring San Francisco. Both cities have tech-centric economies and are regions where employees are more than satisfied with their compensation, benefits packages and work-life balance.
Matt Miller, CTO at CareerBliss, says that cities with bigger tech presences, particularly growing IT industries, are markedly happier than other cities — and so landed high on the list. “Cities that are tech strongholds tend to have populations with strong educational backgrounds who are pulling in high salaries,” Miller says.
After San Jose and San Francisco, he points to Los Angeles (No. 8), which is benefitting from a boom in post-MySpace social networking companies, and Washington, D.C. (No. 5), where IT is a growing presence necessary to bolster and maintain government security.
To evaluate the data, CareerBliss.com, an online community for career advancement, conducted independent company reviews from employees all over the country to collect 200,000 data points on eight specific factors of workplace happiness. These are growth opportunities, compensation, benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, senior management, job security and whether the employee would recommend the company to others.
Each factor was followed by a ranking from one to five of how important that element was in the employee’s overall happiness. These numbers were combined to find an average rating of overall workplace happiness for each city.
The Sunshine State’s Jacksonville and Miami follow at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively. These are surprises, tending to scale low on other quality-of-work-and-life surveys, such as No. 114 of 200 on the Best Cities for Business and Careers and No. 44 of 50 on the Best Cities For Working Mothers lists. Miller was similarly surprised to see Jacksonville in the top three.
“We actually found a trend that resounded through a few surprising cities that included Jacksonville and El Paso (No. 7). These cities tended to rank high in terms of job growth opportunities — people likely to recommend their company to others — and work-life balance.” Jacksonville especially is a city that is experiencing a lot of growth, he says. Employees at Bank of America (NYSE: BAC – News), which has a stronghold in the Florida city, are pleased with their company’s growth, as it plans to expand in the city in the coming year.
Miller says military bases also play a part in the overall happiness of a city, as cities like El Paso, home to Fort Bliss and Biggs Air Force Base, tend to be happier in terms of job security. And in addition to its job security as a result of an increase in information technology jobs, Washington, D.C., employees are quite pleased with their stable, government-backed jobs, which also afford them some of the highest salaries in the country.
Rounding out the top 10 are Memphis, Tenn. (No. 6), San Diego, Calif. (No. 9) and Birmingham, Ala. (No. 10).
Another shocker? New York City, home of high Wall Street salaries and not a few corporate headquarters, sits at No. 14. Says Miller: “As far as the quality of the work or opportunity to grow, [New York City] ranked low. Compensation and benefits ranked higher than many other cities, but how [employees] feel about their jobs kept it from landing in the top 10.”
Readers: What makes you happy at work? If asked to rank growth opportunity, compensation, benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, senior management and job security, what element would play the biggest part in keeping you content?
MUMBAI: Indian business is exuding confidence and this rising optimism is increasing business spend in India, a survey said.
Departmental spending is on the rise, specifically sales and marketing costs, the latest edition of the Regus Business Confidence Index said.
CHICAGO — Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workplaces, today announced the opening of a new full service business center at 5250 Old Orchard Road in Skokie, a high-growth Chicago suburb. Regus’ first center in Skokie supports the steady rise of flexible working among U.S. businesses.
“Market conditions in greater Chicago are quite favorable for our business right now as inquiries are surging,” said Jeff Doughman, Regus’ Central Region Vice President. “According to our study, confidence is returning to Chicago and businesses are expecting more flexibility from their work environment so they can take advantage of new opportunities. We needed a presence in Skokie to satisfy rising demand for our services.”
Skokie’s convenient location provides direct access to suppliers, new business opportunities as well as an experienced and highly-skilled labor pool. The area’s economy includes a diversified manufacturing base along with professional services and financial firms. In addition, the village of Skokie features some of the country’s finest educational institutions and renowned cultural attractions.
“There are more than 2,200 businesses in Skokie and we are delighted to welcome Regus to our expanding business community,” said Howard Meyer, Executive Director, Skokie Chamber of Commerce. “Regus offers businesses a wide range of solutions that can enhance their productivity. Businesses looking to establish a presence or expand in Skokie will benefit from having Regus in town.”
Regus’ Business Confidence Index polled 17,000 companies worldwide. Globally, the index showed business confidence has climbed since 2010. This positive outlook is being matched with real results as 42 percent of Chicago companies reported a rise in revenue. This uptick in profits has enabled businesses to increase their business spend as well, according to the report.
“With locations in 14 cities throughout the state and more to come this year, Regus is well-positioned to meet the increased demand for flexible working in Illinois and across the country,” stated Doughman.
One of the biggest problems facing poor leadership, and possibly the most significant reason we are stuck with it, is that so many of us are prepared to tolerate – or even support – those who are not fit to lead. “The reason we do so”, says Peter Drucker, “is that it is easier to toe the line than to make trouble”. Another reason that many of us are happy to follow people for whom we may hold little respect is that we tend to crave the kind of simplicity and stability that does not go with the responsibilities of leadership.
When management tends to focus so much on one management area, e.g., sales, and has no time to manage the internal organization challenges, dysfunction creeps in and takes hold. Here is a great checklist of warning signs:
- No 360 Degree Feedback. There is limited or no leadership performance feedback.
■ Personal Agendas. Recruitments, selections and promotions are based on internal political agenda, for example hiring friends to guarantee personal loyalty at the expense of other highly performing and more-qualified employees.
■ Inefficient Use of Resources. Budgets are allocated between business units or departments based on favoritism and power centers rather than actual business needs.
■Empire-building Practices. Managers believe that the more people they manage and the bigger the budget, the higher the chance that they will be promoted. This results in raging battles around budgets, strategies and operations.
■Unequal Workload Distribution. You’ll find some departments are underutilized while other departments are overloaded.
■Too Much Management. There are many management layers in the organization, thus, hindering communication and resulting in slower execution.
■Fragmented Organation Efforts. Interdepartmental competition and turf wars between rival managers lead to the emergence of silos, which results in communication gaps. Management silos almost always result in fragmented and duplicated budgets and projects, thus wasting valuable company investments.
■Too Much Talk. Plans are heavy on talk but light on action. In a political corporate culture, image management becomes far more important than actions.
■Ineffective Meetings. Argumentative and heated cross-divisions meetings with discussion and language focusing on point scoring and buck-passing rather than sharing responsibility and collaborating to solve the problem.
■Lack of Collaboration. Every person for himself/herself. Low sense of unity or camaraderie on the team. The key criterion for decision-making is What is in it for me?
■Low Productivity. Management wastes more time and energy on internal attack and defense strategies instead of executing the work, innovating and overcoming challenges. Critical projects fall behind on deadlines, budgets and performance targets (e.g. sales, market share, quality and other operational targets).
■Constant Crisis Mode. Management team spends most of their time on fire fighting instead of proactive planning for next-generation products and services.
■Morale Deterioration. Muted level of commitment and enthusiasm by other teams. Even successful results cannot be shared and celebrated due to animosity and internal negative competition.
■ Backbiting among the executives and managers becomes common and public.
■ Highly Stressful Workplace. There is a high rate of absenteeism and a high employee turnover rate.
■Dictorial Leadership. Management that does not allow disagreements out of insecurity or arrogance and sometimes leaves the room.