There were people walking about yesterday in our Historic Downtown inspecting some of the restored store fronts and lofts whom I believe were part of a Main Street Iowa tour and presentation. When I received the notice some months ago regarding their being here, I was hoping I’d have time to participate and learn a few things, but as chance would have it, my recent weeks have been filled with time sensitive chores. The day before yesterday there was a group of people being directed up and down the streets and given brief descriptions of the architecture in our Downtown. I just happened to be up at the front desk working on a file when they arrived outside my building. I could hear the leader of the group speaking about it and was delighted to hear him say something about how well the interior has been restored. Now it’s time to get the exterior finished and perhaps in a bit of the style of the Worth Brewing Company. I’m torn between the subdued color combinations I’ve chosen and the more bold and striking look. It will likely be more of the subdued earth tones because of my desire to tie in the colors of the exposed limestone on each side. One thing for sure is it will not be painted white.
While driving back to my office from an appointment, I found myself being trapped from going farther down Federal by an old duffer who was busy chatting to someone on the sidewalk. The pedestrian saw me waiting and was trying to bring their little chat to closure but the driver was oblivious. I merely honked my horn at him when believing he didn’t think anyone was behind him. A second after I honked he nearly went crazy by laying on his horn, glaring at me in his rear view mirror, and actually reaching back and giving me the finger. While he was driving off, he continued to honk his horn as he was turning the corner. People talk about road rage! We evidently had it here in the Downtown this afternoon. All I was thinking was, “Old men can be just as bad as the young ones when it comes to the “old bull” mentality.” Believe me, I’ve endured enough old bulls in my life and consider them nothing more than bulky annoyances that need to be prodded out of one’s way whether they like it our not. Unfortunately they like to make lots of noise while taking a charging stance when having to move. I know its not nice to call an older man a duffer, but he certainly was a classic example.
On the brighter side, which there always is when you look for it, I’ve been hearing of late some of the kindest words regarding one of our locally owned businesses. I’m going to try to spotlight one of them every so often in my writing so to hopefully in an honest way, help the general public to become acquainted with them. After all, locally owned businesses are the life blood of a community. I had an opportunity to visit In Home Optics for the first time several weeks ago. It’s a small shop located at the crossroads of S. Pennsylvania and 5th St. SE here in Mason City. The shop is quaint, the owner and his son are exceptionally helpful. The short time I was there I could sense they really know their business and actually put their customers first. During the following week, their name came up in conversation with other business people in the Downtown who’ve purchased glasses there and as I suspected, they all gave their own great revues. So the next time you’re in need of eyeglasses, don’t forget to shop locally and make a point to visit In Home Optics. Kevin and Kyle will be there to help you with your selections. They’re a living example of a growing local business.
First off tonight, I must mention a drastic price reduction I just received from the owner of 1029 – 12th St. NE here in Mason City. He informed me today that he’ll be taking a new job far out of town next month and is now determined to have his home sold quickly. It is now listed at $84,500 and as far as I’m concerned it should really create some renewed interest from those who haven’t yet purchased. Since I’d known the family that lived there previously for many years, any buyer can rest assured the basement has never had any ground water penetration. Whomever does purchase it will thank their lucky stars they did because it is going to work for them for many years to come. I personally like how far back the home is positioned from the street. Most homes set too close to public streets and sidewalks and then have overly deep rear yards. This one is setting pretty much in the center of its lot’s depth. And to think you can own a ranch home in Mason City with a double attached garage for under 85K! I don’t believe there’s a buyer in today’s market who can do any better than this.
Like I said before, there are days when I feel like a vending machine of trades. Today was one where I found himself looking for touch up touch up paint for a client at 6:30 am to be delivered to a painter later today, to then turned into a waterman who had to go and water some flowers for a dear one who’s away, and then to become a proof reader for someone who faxed me something for a customer to sign which didn’t make any sense until finally after the third attempt he understood. In the end I became the research librarian for a client regarding the reasons why someone made the choices they did before they left this earth some years ago. Yes, it’s amazing how many hats a Realtor can find themselves wearing during the course of a day. Unfortunately some of my colleagues flip their whine switches on in hopes someone will do their jobs for them. I can tolerate about a spoonful of whining to where I’ll just move forward and do it myself. There’s too much time wasted in listening to someone whine.
I was intrigued last evening while reading a historical account of the lives of a husband and wife who lived out in Dubuque County over 100 years ago. The author regarded them to have had quite the checkered lives of fortune and misfortune. From mine operators, to hoteliers, and finally to settling down on a fine 160 acre farm. I admire people who don’t let defeat get in the way of future successes, which brings me to the subject of the new owners of the Chinese restaurant Wok & Roll which is located across the street from Southbridge Mall’s parking lot. About a week ago I met the new owners for the first time. It’s a family operation which oft times is normal when it comes to international cuisines. The son who’s making all the arrangements is exceptionally likable yet on top of things he’s planning on doing with their new location. I was happy to hear their menu is going to be expanded to more of what the younger generation prefers. I was also glad to hear how very particular his family is about keeping things clean and presentable. I assured him that if he follows thru with his plans and serves good food, they’ll do a very good business. They’re going to be open for business on July 01. I wish the very best for Wok & Roll along with their new owners.
Off times people speak about their inability to get things done in a timely manner which of course many times creates cogs in the wheels of transactions where there are more people contributing their portion of duties. Projects requiring fragments of the whole being performed by others, subsequently become stuck waiting for someone else to complete their phase. It’s much like an assembly line in a car factory. The skeleton of the car moves slowly down the line while workers take their turns in adding to the chassis in a required order while following pre-outlined build-out specifications. Should an intervening circumstance happen down the line, then everyone upstream has to wait until the problem is corrected. Real estate transactions are much the same when looking at the whole process from the time a home is listed to the time the sellers receive their checks and the buyers are handed the keys.
Today was my gripe day in finding that several transactions were being stalled by others who should have learned by now the process of creating seamless transactions without discovering man-made clogs in the pipeline. Sometimes I receive calls from agents asking about something regarding a transaction that is so far down the assembly line that answering the question seems meaningless simply because the transaction has not moved far enough along to give a true and more precise answer. Other times, I find people being thoughtless or even careless in not performing their duties in a timely manner which then causes the process to slow in having to wait for their critical contributions. From about 8:30 this morning until somewhere around 11:00, I found myself on the phone and in my car chasing down and correcting the slowdowns of closings in the pipeline. Yes, we all have days like this and I’m thankful everything is back on track, but I do wish more people would become a bit more proficient in getting their jobs done in timely manners. Whenever a buyer or seller becomes frustrated with something that another has done to create a dust storm, yours truly is always the first called and bears the brunt of not so delightful phone calls. If I’ve said this once, I’ve likely said it a hundred times, “Irregardless of who’s to blame for an oversight, the first person that gets blamed is the messenger.” Of course the messenger is oft times myself making the call.
Standards of practice is the key to anyone doing a noticeably good job in whatever profession. Adhering to timetables, telling people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear, performing tasks in a professional manner, promptly returning calls, and doing what one says they’re going to do without variation, and setting aside time to rise above and look at the whole process of a given project, are all key mindsets to have when serving the general public. Racing about trying to get as many chickens in the pot creates chaos for those involved and gives anyone’s profession a bad mark. No matter what anyone thinks, doing a good job for another is being fully aware of all the facets of a given task and knowing through likely years of standardization, their tasks will be completed in a timely manner and all involved will experience soft landings.
This best describes what I refer to as conducive productivity and I do hope many in our work world will form under this banner for which they will provide their best services.
The roller-coaster day I had today will be remembered for years to come. What I’m finding to be more the norm rather than the exception, are people who first of all, don’t listen, and others who wait until something absolutely HAS TO be done before they complete a task.
I think part of this growing problem is the interferences of social media and multi-tasking. We do indeed live in the age where we are surrounded by cell phones ringing, smart phones bleeping, and all the other music and noise we have allowed to enter our workspaces. It seems no matter where I go, or what I do, there is someone plugged into an IPod, playing with their smart phone, or surfing the internet. It is no wonder, why the productivity levels are dropping in workplaces that allow workers access to media. I’ve asked many people in the past, “How can you concentrate when you are being distracted?” The answer is normally cryptic and highly debatable. I don’t even attempt to “go there” upon hearing such ridiculous answers. Another by-product of this new form of work, is that the self-starting mechanism in the brain is being suppressed by what it believes is already work, when in fact it’s busy with outside interference. We are then left with workers who are turning themselves into kick starters. The numbers are growing of those who have to have someone else encouraging them to get their jobs completed in a timely manner.
Time management is something most middle management employees use to justify their positions within their respective corporations. What I see as the problem with this, is they are setting themselves up as taskmasters and not teachers. Employees must be taught to take ownership of their times on the job. Long ago, I worked for a corporation where time was a critical element in performing the workload well. I found in time, it was best to set strict rules about wasting time as well as giving them small rewards and big thanks whenever the work was completed and the group as a whole worked seamlessly together. In time, the group created their own high standards with little outside supervision.
I’m convinced our workplaces can change for the better as long as we have managers who are not afraid of reprimanding those who give their jobs only their half best, and reward those who truly show effort by giving their 100% in their job functions.
All I can say, is for us all to remain open minded and work at fixing the problems in the workplace.
I know our times have changed and we have to deal with it, but I still can’t get my mind wrapped around the way in which people can flip-flop with their intentions of doing something or not doing something. We all have been around those who are always in the state of using others. I’ll never forget a client/customer of years ago who was buying and selling homes only on his terms. There were many times when I found myself doing far more than what was normally expected of me in my profession. By getting me to do something more, he would always say, “I’ll make it up to you on the next one.” The next one became the next, and the next. He walked into my office months after the last transaction wanting me to show him a property. I simply said, “I think you’d better find someone else to work with you because we don’t seem to have a good working relationship.” He knew exactly what I meant and after a few words, walked out of my office never to darken my doorway again.
I received a call today from a landlord whom I’ve been helping rent a property he owns. I showed the prospective tenant the property and he agreed to rent it. I told him he would have to work out the details with the owner. I called the owner and told him to expect a call from the new tenant. Days passed and no call so I called the prospective tenant. He again said he wanted the property but was too busy to call the owner but assured me he would. Again, no call to the owner. A third call was placed by me and again there was the assurance by him that he wanted it as of May 1st. I finally told the landlord to call him and make the arrangements. Well, I found out today that the tenant told the owner he didn’t want the property due to some obscure reasons. Wasted time for both the landlord and myself.
It comes as no surprise when I hear horror stories from business owners about customers changing their minds on purchases or expecting far more than what was bargained for in the beginning. I’m beginning to understand more and more why many of the elderly are overly cautious about having someone they don’t know do work for them. It’s a gamble at times thinking we’ve hired someone who can be trusted to do a good job, and find in the end, a person who is far less than noble. Word of mouth is the best revenge.
Some days ago I had to do some personal business downtown so I thought I would quickly attend to it during part of my lunch hour. I must preface this by saying I was having a relatively busy day but not a bad day. I went into the establishment and discovered that one of my favorite customer service people was gone for the day. I personally know the manager so I asked for him and he was out to lunch. I was just on my way out of the building and someone hollered, “Can I help you?” Oh how I really do hate being hollered at with that line. Some day when I’m in a bit of an acid mood I will likely respond, “I really don’t know if you are either physically or mentally capable of helping me.” I’m sorry but when I was in grade school I was taught the difference between may and can. I told this person that I was there to make some changes in an investment account. The person ushered me to a cubicle and asked me my name and I gave it, then asked for my driver’s license, and then asked for another form of identification. In a non-nonchalant fashion I said something like, “Seems it’s getting worse and worse with this identification business.” This person’s response was, “I don’t know you and it’s for security purposes.” Oh Mercy! It’s a good thing that I was having a good day before I entered the building. While this person was punching information on a computer via the “index finger”, I asked when the manager would return. Moments later this person got up, and walked away leaving me seated for at least five to seven minutes. Customers absolutely MUST be treated like customers and not like a person who has interrupted their day of likely texting and playing on their computers. I merely closed my folder, got up and walked out. Enough was enough. I was visiting with a client today about that scenario who continues to work very hard in her occupation and was of a similar mind regarding the way customers are being treated these days. Believe it or not, nearly all of my years in the work world have been service in one form or another. So many corporations attempt to fill key positions with naïve candy wrapper employees and they don’t realize most people don’t care how attractive someone is as long as they present themselves in a professional manner, know their job, and have the ability to treat each and every person they attend to with dignity and respect. I used to tease an aging businessman prior to his retirement when I discovered he was taken by several of the “eye candy” employees. I would say to him, “Candy is nothing but sugar in a fancy wrapper and you know what happens sooner or later to the wrappers.” I would always get a chuckle out of him.
Over the years in doing business in North Iowa, I have found that people who have done very little traveling as well as little in-depth reading, are more dismissive about changes in their lives as well as their communities. They seem to have the mindset of, “This is how it’s been, this is how it is, and this is how it will be.” Scary isn’t it? The world continues to change along with countries, states and communities. When we even have people who have done business in our communities being dismissive about change, it causes me to consider them nothing more than opportunist in wanting it all. There appears to be no sense of wanting the best for everyone beyond themselves.
I was fortunate in having the opportunity to spend some time today with a visitor from out of state who understands much about growing business. The comments from that person about the appearance of downtown Mason City and the possibilities for future growth were well received. I spoke about how far we have already come in just three years. I remember too well the condition of my office building as well as the condition of North Federal Avenue. Time and time again during these past three years I have continued to be a proponent of what good things the future of our historic district will offer as long as we continue on the upper path of growth. I will never forget the day several years ago when a person whom I will not name, who is well known in this city coming up to me and saying, “I don’t know why you are wasting your time trying to get business back downtown. This downtown will never get better. It will continue to get worse and worse.” I was deeply hurt by those words coming from a man who lived here nearly all his life. Just one example of the negative back wash that we must continue to overcome.
The meeting with a person who is an outsider looking in, gave me a real boost in my belief that downtown Mason City will blossom.