Happy New Year 2019!

The end of another year!  Hopefully, 2018 brought beautiful memories to you and yours.

For 2019, I wish you;

  • Health
  • Happiness
  • Friends to last a lifetime, and
  • Love to fill your heart

Laurence Rumming Assessments

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Christmas on the Coast

Here on the coast we have been enjoying milder than usual weather in the late fall with only a few days of frost.  The November rains didn’t really materialize and then decided to put on a show in December with some torrential downpours!

The one thing we were not really expecting was the windstorms that accompanied the rain.  We seldom get winds in excess of 100 km/hour and when we do, there is usually a lot of damage to power lines due to falling trees.

The storm that hit on Thursday was no exception, snapping unsuspecting fir trees like twigs and uprooting others.  The lack of power throughout Vancouver Island created havoc with Christmas shoppers with many stores without power and traffic snarled with traffic lights out of commission.

Two days after the storm, 120,000 homes on Vancouver Island were still without power and for many, it will be a few days more.  Amid all of this chaos we must be grateful.  Yes, we were cold and uncomfortable, ferries and flights were cancelled or delayed causing havoc with Christmas travel but only one life was lost due to the storm.  Many houses were damaged, some beyond repair.

We had hydro crews working around the clock in anything but pleasant weather, neighbours came out to assist, offering food and shelter for those affected.  It forced us off of the electronics as internet connections were gone with the lack of power and charging the devices was an issue.  It created solitude, a time to reflect and to interact, perhaps with those with whom we seldom make the time.

I am grateful for the time with my wife, in front of the fire, laughing at ourselves, bundled up like Eskimos trying to stay warm. Also grateful to our good friends who invited us to their house, which had power, for company and a meal.  A bit of Introvert heaven.

I was not looking forward to Christmas this year.  There is nothing I want or need for myself.  This weather diversion created Christmas for me, gifting me what was important.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas.  I hope that everyone finds their Christmas, whatever its gift looks like for you.

As always, feel free to share this post giving credit to the author.

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Dependence on Technology

As I sit here staring at a computer that cannot connect remotely with my work because of a server issue, I am reminded of our dependence on technology in business and in our everyday lives.  My I-pad somewhat functions as it can connect to the office internet provider but gives me only limited access as it is a different provider.  I can receive emails, but not send.  My cell phone can connect to the outside world via LTE but, unfortunately, not to my work.

For me, not a great inconvenience, but for my clients who need to send reports to me, it is a great inconvenience and may delay some important happenings in their lives, like getting paid this week!  I can find things to do but it is frustrating.  I thought I would print some labels but, MS word is through the server, which is down.

Business is not as lucky.  When technology goes down, they suffer.  They can lose sales when the card scanners go down and they become a cash only merchant until it is up again.  Who carries cash?  If their tills go down, many are essentially out of business.  Tills may be down with their inventory tracking systems not functioning. It may just be a monitor or computer dying.

If power goes down you may lose security systems and all technology.  Even if it is light in the building, sales cannot be made effectively without technology.  In some cases, clerks are reliant on the till telling them the change and would be challenged to do so on their own.  Many of the phone switchboards only have one phone that is live when there is a loss of power.

So if you are in business, what have you put in place in case you lose the technology you have come to depend on?  If it is a monitor or computer, do you have spares you can set up?  When the big earthquake hit San Francisco a number of years ago, there were businesses that went broke because just about every monitor was broken falling off the desks and there was not an adequate supply to replace them.  Can you devise a back-up system that will give you the ability to operate without the technology?

I would like to say that things will get better, but as we get more and more reliant on the use of technology, we will be more at its mercy!

Be careful with the use of technology in business.  Use what makes life easier and is cost effective but do not employ it just because it is new and exciting.  Put in place a simple work-around for the essential functions of your business so that you are still able to operate.

As always, feel free to share this post giving credit to the author.

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Have I Become the Grinch?

I am so not into Christmas this year!  I can’t seem to get excited about it.  It has lost its meaning – a time to celebrate the birth of Christ.  It is now a time to worship the coming of Santa, and retail.

I am not religious, but respect the celebration by the Christian faith.  I was raised with the story of Christ, but many, who celebrate Christmas by putting up a tree and spending money they don’t have for gifts they don’t need, know nothing of the story.  Some are not even of the Christian faith!

We are three weeks from Christmas and the stores are packed with shoppers and the mall lots are jammed with cars.  This is certainly good for retail as this is a time that either makes them or breaks them.

But back to me.  I have reached the stage in my life when I don’t need anything and, if I do, I go and get it.  I don’t need more things!  I realize that makes it difficult for those giving me gifts as I don’t have a list for them.  It also colours my gift-giving this year as I am having difficult seeing what others really need that I am supposed to buy for.

My focus has been shifting in the last few years to those who are truly in need, not of the trivial gifts, but of the necessities of life.  I would sooner see food on the table of a family in need than receive a gift I don’t need.

Maybe volunteering to make up hampers on Boxing Day will restore my Christmas Spirit.

As always, feel free to share this post giving credit to the author.

 

 

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Can I Help You?

This sounds simple enough, but it is annoying how many times it is missing in retail establishments.  It should not be harassment or a clerk following you around the store, but a clerk should be able to recognize when a customer is having difficulty finding something and offer assistance.

I was in one store and could not find what I was after.  I was the only person in the store and in full view of three clerk having a good conversation.  I went to the till to ask for some assistance and the three ignored me and continued their conversation, which was not work related.  I left without a purchase and have not gone back.

Yesterday I was in a liquor outlet to look for a different craft beer to give a friend as a gift.  Again, I was the only customer and there was a clerk behind the till at the front of the store.  After about 10 minutes of looking at their beer selection, I could not see what I was after so was about to leave.  As I went by the till I said I was looking for a different craft beer.  His response was, “Oh, they’re on the other side of the store.”

I thanked him and did find a product that was different and took it to the till.  There was not even a hint of customer engagement with this clerk.  No smile, no ‘have a nice day’, or ‘can I help you find something’, he looked like he would sooner be anywhere except behind the till.

Now it is easy to blame the clerk, but the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the manager or owner.  They have either failed in their hiring or in their training, or both.  In both of the businesses I mentioned, they rely on repeat business.  In order to encourage repeat business you have to engage with your customers, know their wants and needs.  You have to at least appear friendly!  If not, unless you have a very unique product, they will be going to your competitor.

Take care of the customer, and they will take care of you.

As always, feel free to share this post giving credit to the author.

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Black Friday, Cash Flow, and Stress

What originated as a sale day following the American Thanksgiving has spread considerably since its inception.  In Canada there was concern with the retailers as the across the border shopping increased dramatically with Canadians going south for the bargains.  The result, Canada now has joined the US with their own version of Black Friday.  I just saw a Facebook post from England and, you guessed it, they also celebrated Black Friday this past week.

And, guess what, we are only a month away from Santa’s arrival!  According to a Gallup poll on the US, the average family spends $855 US on Christmas gifts.  This holiday for many retailers is what’s makes their business profitable.  Without it, they would not be in business.  Look at television advertising immediately following Halloween.  There is a focus on children’s toys and electronics.  You will see an increase in jewelry ads.

The real big day however, comes a month later when the credit card bills arrive.  Unfortunately, many people do not keep track of their spending so when the bill comes, they are forced to pay it off over time, which, in most cases wipes out any sale savings because of the high interest rates on credit cards.

In business we always talk about having a positive cash flow.  Households are no different.  You should always plan so that you have money set aside for your day-to-day expenses.  This includes a contingency for unplanned expenses so that you are not compromising necessities.  In Canada there are many families who are one pay cheque away from living open the street.  Managing the cash flow in the household is essential for them.

Stress, in many cases, is the result when overspending takes place, whether it is Black Friday, Christmas, or any other occasion.  Stress is a killer!  This is the time of year for depression, heart attacks, and yes, even suicides.  A rich person is one who lives within his or her means.  Remind yourself that when you buy the $1000 item for $250 off the regular price, you haven’t saved $250, you’ve spent $750.

Do yourself a favour this season and pay attention to your ‘cash flow’.  Your health will thank you!

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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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