The Other Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing is the topic of the day in most communities and tends to focus on the homeless population, and rightly so.  I would argue that for most of this population it is not affordable housing, it is safe housing so that they can get other needs met with other services and move forward with their lives.

There are the working homeless, those in entry level positions who can’t find accommodation, or, if they find it, can’t afford it.  Over my years of employment counselling, I saw many people who were in this situation and were either living in their vehicle, if they were lucky enough to have one, or couch surfing with friends and acquaintances.

There are also those who are living on the edge, the ones who are existing, living in cheap accommodations that wouldn’t pass many standards.  These are the fragile ones who only need one thing to go wrong, and they will lose what little safety they have and find themselves on the street and not everyone can survive on the street.

Parents are finding that children are not leaving home like they used to because they can’t find or afford to go out on their own.  New apartments close to where we live are priced so that you should be making over $3000 a month in order to live there if you go by the 30% rule.

One area that is not considered when affordable housing is talked about is the baby boomers.  It definitely is not as important as the other affordable housing issues but, nonetheless, it affects lifestyle and perhaps the health of seniors.

I’m referring to the lack of 1200 square foot ranchers.  We are active seniors and we have a nice home but would like to downsize and be in a smaller house all on one floor.  We don’t want a condo as we like a vegetable garden and I like to have a small shop.  If we find this in Nanaimo, it is not located near the amenities, and we would have to take out a $100,000 mortgage to buy it!

What is causing this unrealistic situation?  Is it the stringent building codes?  Development cost charges?  Land prices?  Is it developers not reading the market?  I have talked to many seniors and they have experienced the same issues.  They want to move and remain active, but their only choice is a condo, not a single-family dwelling offering the lifestyle that they want.  The demand for this type of housing is only going to increase as we are just at the start of the boomers!

I wonder 15 – 20 years down the road, who will be buying these large, expensive homes that are being built today.  Unless wages rise at the same rate as housing prices, it won’t be the young families in our community!

Affordable housing means different things to different people, but one thing is certain, today it doesn’t exist for many!

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The Importance of Timing in Business

Timing plays a critical role in business starting with what day the door is open for clients or customers.  Some businesses are based on seasonal events; winter sports, summer, Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc.  A landscaper who does not get underway until July is going to have a lean winter, and January is going to miss most of the opportunity for a ski shop!  Good planning and research is required before the season begins so you can reap the benefits.

Inventory is another part of business driven by timing and to some degree, what competitors do.  Fall clothing starts to appear in retailers in late July, early August at the latest and the summer clothing is out in February/March.  Christmas begins very early at retailers such as Costco and Canadian Tire.  This can be a challenge for smaller retailers who rely on the sale of Christmas decorations as they have to follow suit of lose out on the opportunity to share in the market.

Large retailers can afford to invest in inventory and carry it but a small retailer does not usually have the deep pockets to carry inventory and certainly cannot afford to be left with inventory after the season has left.  This is where keeping good records of customer transactions can be huge as you plan for the next season.

Timing also plays a role in hiring staff.  A wise business person has a clear idea of where they are going and hires before they need them.  This give the opportunity of training them and having them up to speed when needed.  Too many employers hire when the need was yesterday.  This results in poor hiring decisions and employees who have not received the needed training to effectively do the work.  This can affect employee retention.

If you are a new entrepreneur, do great research, set realistic goals, and be aware of the timelines and critical date associated with your particular business.  Your business plan is your guide and a living document for you to forecast future revenue.

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employees, Entrepreneurs, self-employment, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Challenges of Employment

The times we live in are a challenge, both for employers and employees.

For employees, while it is currently an employee market on Vancouver Island with a very low unemployment rate, it is becoming impossible for those working in entry level positions to find affordable housing.  Vancouver Island is a tourism area with a lot of seasonal, part-time, lower-wage positions.  The minimum wage is supposed to reach over $15 per hour by June of 2021.  In the Nanaimo area currently, the living wage is $17.65.  By 2021, I am sure that the living wage will be much higher, and the percentage gap will remain between the two.

Another issue in raising the minimum wage is the effect on employers, especially small business.  If they have a staff, raising the bottom rate dominoes into raising the rate for those in higher positions.  There needs to be clarity of remuneration for levels of responsibility.  This translates to higher costs for consumers, which, in the end, raises the living wage.

The worker shortage has been focusing on the trades but in reality, it is happening in all sectors of employment.  For the trades it is about to get worse with the LNG announcement for Kitimat.  The high paying construction jobs will entice workers from other areas of BC, creating a further shortage of skilled labour, especially on Vancouver Island where wages have traditionally been lower than the rest of British Columbia.

All of this is further hampered with the housing affordability skyrocketing in the past few years.  Demand, changes to building code, and the building of higher-end homes to maximize the land and building costs have put home ownership out of the range for many.  This, is combined with Vancouver Island being more appealing cost-wise that the inflated housing market in the lower mainland and elsewhere, has increased the pressure on the real estate supply on the island.

For those of us who endured the crash of 1982, we know there will be an adjustment.  What it will look like is uncertain, but something will have to give.  The average house price in Nanaimo is around $550,000.  If things keep going the way they are, who will be able to buy our homes in the future?

Interesting times requiring creative solutions!

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Economy, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employees, Employment, Entrepreneurs, self-employment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Success!

What is success?  Not a simple question.  Success means different things to different folk.  It can be finding a convenient parking spaces on Saturday at Costco.  To others it is reaching a financial goal in business.  Some may attribute success to solving a particularly difficult puzzle.

Whatever it looks like to you, there were likely failures along the path to success.  You probably saw good parking spaces in the next row at Costco, but by the time you got there they were gone.  In business there likely were unexpected expenditures that delayed reaching the financial goal.  Puzzles sometimes require one to take breaks, walk away, and return with a clear mindset.

Those seeking a goal need to sometimes temper their enthusiasm in reaching the target and look for plateaus along the way.  These plateaus are mini-successes or levels in the assent to the goal.  There should be a reward at each to maintain the confidence in the journey.

In general, we like acknowledgement for the good things we do.  Why not do that for ourselves?  Why do we wait for others to recognize the things we do?  It can be anything from your favourite ice-cream sundae to a weekend away with your favourite squeeze.  Make it a reward for reaching a step in your goal.

As I mentioned, success means different things to different people and is not necessarily linked to what you have done or are doing.  It can be the feeling you have over raising a family, or your children graduating high school, getting a degree, or the birth of a grandchild.  Or it might be your landing your dream job or being granted the master’s degree you worked hard for.

Whatever it is, remember to pause and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

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Posted in Life coaching, Believe and Succeed Life Coaching, Empowering people, Managing stress, Business Coaching, Coaching, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Business Planning | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How do you keep informed?

Whether you are in business, a community volunteer, or just an interested community participant, you need to know what is going on.  The challenge is finding out what works for you.  Extroverts will belong to organizations, attend all of the pertinent community events, and connect face-to-face with those in the know.  Introverts usually take a more subtle approach, reading newspapers, following social media and other online blogs and posts.

The bottom line is, if you are in business or engaged in the community, you need current information in order to make informed decisions.  You can join service clubs to do projects with community leaders.  If social media minded, there are a host of community sites you can like and follow to gather a variety of opinions on what it happening near you.

The City of Nanaimo posts their building and development permits weekly and you can subscribe to keep informed on what is happening in your neck of the woods and around the city.  Publications such as Nanaimo Magazine and The Bulletin have in-depth articles on community events, organizations and business activity.

For catching up on the business community, the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce holds a Business Expo each year in October where you can rent a booth to promote your business or you can cruise the more than 100 booths for free!  The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) has several ongoing projects and has their annual 2-day Economic Summit at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo on October 24th and 25th . The Summit features keynote speakers and 16 sessions on topics of interest to the economy of Vancouver Island communities.

For volunteering, there are many opportunities.  Salvation Army, United Way, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Immigrant Welcome Centre, Loaves and Fishes, are examples of organizations that are always appreciative of helping hands.  There are many more in the community and you will likely be able to find one that reflects your values.  Volunteering is an excellent way to contribute to your community and connect with like-minded individuals.

While it is possible to rely on print and social media, the best interaction is face-to-face.  Choose what works best for you, but get out into the community to learn about the community.

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Posted in Business Coaching, Career development, Communication, Community Futures, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Leadership, Lifestyle, Networking, Social Media, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Politics and Business

We are at that time in our British Columbia communities where we need to choose our leaders, whether it be municipal, regional district or School District.   My frustration is in hearing many of our local business owners/operators say they can’t be bothered, it makes no difference who gets in.

In most cases, what got them to this attitude was the candidates who got in because they didn’t take the time to learn who they are and what their thoughts are on the development and administration of the city and vote for their choice.

The way a local government runs has a huge impact on the local business environment through their bylaws, their focus on economic development and tourism(or lack of), and the hidden things such as building permit approvals, taxation, etc.  With the wrong people in charge it is no different than hiring the wrong people in your business.

The attitude of ‘why bother’ extends also to the school board candidates.  I hear, “It doesn’t matter, my kids aren’t in school.”  The students in the school district, however, may be your future employees and most certainly at some point be contributing to the tax base that pays your pension, so the decisions made by the school board on behalf of the students may be important.

It is important that everyone take the time to know who the candidates are, what they bring to the table in the way of knowledge and experience, and how that matches your beliefs.

Once you have done this, get out and VOTE!

Make use of your elected officials.  Don’t say, “Oh well, I guess I have to wait four years to make change.”  The elected officials are there for you in the community.  They can’t do their job without input from the community.  Engage them, share your views!

It is IMPORTANT!

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Service, or Lack Thereof

I recently had the opportunity to deal with two competing utility companies.  The first approached me to upgrade our equipment.  We agreed on the day for the service and I was advised they would be there between 9 and 11 a.m. that day.  A week before the appointment I received an email confirming it.  Then, the day before the appointment I received a text message as well as a phone message re-stating the information.

On the morning of the appointment I received a call at 8:55 a.m. saying the installer would be delayed as there was an emergency.  At 9:05 a.m. I received a call from a different installer saying he was coming in place of the scheduled one and would be there by 9:15 a.m.  When he arrived, he gave me his personal card and apologized for the delay.  He was efficient and before leaving advised us that we were eligible for more upgrades and said if there were any questions to call him directly.

The other encounter was to set up a piece of equipment.  I tried to get help over the phone, but the tech could not provide assistance and said a tech would have to come and we set up an appointment for between 8 and 10 a.m.  There was no contact up until 8:30 on the morning of the appointment when the tech phoned and left a message that they were delayed and would not be there until around 10 a.m.  At 10:30 there had been no further contact and no technician.

When I tried to phone the number he had called on, it went to a call centre and I had to wait for a human.  When I did get someone, I told them that I had been given a time of 10 a.m. by the tech.  They then told me that all times are just estimates and he would be there by 10.  I reminded them that it was already 10:30 and I had heard nothing from the tech since 8:30.  They then assured me that he would be there soon and, was there anything else?  The tech showed up at 11:50 a.m. and complained about the scheduling as he said he had been double-booked.

It was a vivid reminder of how to, and how not to, deliver customer service to your customers and clients.  In the larger businesses and especially those with little competition, they can get away with this, at least for a while.  If you are a small business, lack of customer service is the death knell!

If you are in business, always pay attention to where the money comes from to pay the bills!

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Posted in Business Coaching, Clients, Communication, Customers, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Sales, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment