Category Archives: Business

Made in China

made-in-chinaAlas it got above freezing this afternoon which with the sun shining brightly which made the day feel almost tolerable.  I’ve been noticing some really bad driving lately by people who’ve likely forgotten that Winter is upon us, and there are, and will be more patches of ice in the future which will place reckless drivers in dangerous positions with others on our roadways who’re all the more prudent.  Seems we’ve had a rash of really bad accidents in North Iowa of late, and I’m hoping it’s over for a long while.

Most of my day was again spent working on files that are moving down the pipeline of closing, along with getting my monthly accounting wrapped up for another 30 days.  A recent hire at a bank was making me antsy by taking so long to post a few transactions for me.  The teller I normally go to was gone when I walked in, but while I was waiting for the teller to finish up, she arrived back at her station. I said to her, “I felt abandoned when finding you gone today.”  She laughed and said, “Sorry no.  I had an early lunch today.”  For sure the next time I’m there, I’ll be sharing my opinions of that “slower than a ten year itch” teller who waited on me today.  Having worked at a bank so very many years ago, I quickly learned that most customers did not like being made to wait any longer than necessary.

When I arrived back at the office, I figured it was time to make sure all statements and transactions for everything looked acceptable.  Oh Mercy!  Back on the phone I went after discovering an error that was made with another account which just happens be one from a nationwide financial institution whose name is likely a household word.  When I finally got thru to customer service,  the young man waiting on me wasn’t able to give me the reason why the error was made.  Not long after he put me on hold so to likely get his supervisor’s take on what happened, I managed to follow the chain of transactions and see what entries had triggered their accounting error.  After he finally returned and likely ready to give me some weak excuse, I walked thru the transactions with him so he would understand.  Looks like I have to wait until sometime Monday for a call back because he couldn’t explain why his institution made those entries.  Keep in mind, I wasn’t screaming or yelling like many do, I was just exceptionally firm and to the point.  Computers.  What are we going to do with them?

While out shopping for several hours today, I decided to look for a new battery driven clock to replace one that finally died on me after many years of service.  Since I’ve become all the more sensitive to buying all I can that’s made in the USA, I almost always look to see where something’s been made.  With that said, I’ll wager I looked at possibly 25 clocks in three different stores, and every single one of them said, “Made in China”.  Urgh!  So it looks like the Chinese even have control of our time!

Just before closing the office today, one of our City’s prominent businesspeople stopped by to wish me Happy Holidays.  Without my even mentioning a word about my struggles with finding a clock made in USA, he said, “You know, it’s always good to have local connections to goods and services.”  I couldn’t have agreed more because local businesses know that if their goods and services can’t be stood behind, they’re on a similar par with everything else that’s either farmed-out or shipped in from another country.

Looks like I’ll be doing a little searching online for a quality wall clock because after today, I’m done looking at multiple boxed clocks with “Made in China” stamped on areas of their cartons where most people don’t even bother noticing.

Onto the Stage

Onto the StageLikely I’m sounding redundant with once again speaking of how beautiful a day it was.  Just remember, the more days we have like this, the closer we are to Spring and the fewer cold one we’ll have to endure this Winter.  One of my friends planted some carrots later than normally this Summer and mentioned today how he hopes he’ll have carrots before the hard frost.  I did say how lucky he’ll be if they make it to a good size because late Fall carrots are my favorite.  They’re much sweeter than the Spring ones and they don’t have even the slightest bitter taste.  A way to make them even sweeter, is covering them with leaves after the hard frost and digging them up when needed.  I’ve heard of people having them in the ground even up to the first of the year because they’ve been well insulated with leaves.  The trick is to put the leaves back after digging what’s needed.  The wider the “blanket” of leaves, the less likely any of them will freeze.

Several hours were spent cleaning up the online folders of some of my current listings.  There’s always updating to do so to keep the general public well informed of changes.  I have two closings tomorrow and hopefully both of them will have soft landings.  The closing files are all finished so all I have to do is to show up for the transactions.

Earlier this week I ordered some concrete sidewalks to be replaced and to my surprise, the gentlemen arrived that day to starting working on them.  As of this afternoon, they’re completely finished and they look great.  Far too many people are getting negligent with the the upkeep of their homes.  As I’ve said a hundred times or more over the years, “If you take care of a good house, it’ll take even better care of you.”  I try my best to educate many of the young regarding home maintenance and improvements.  My belief is that most aren’t as lazy as believed, but rather ignorant to the whole process of making repairs which in turn cripples them with the fear of making some unfixable mistake.  I always tell them to start with small projects and then work into the big ones. There’s a great sense of self-worth when able to learn something well enough that you can do a better job than another who does it for a living.

Having found I was lacking a few supplies today, I ran over to Fareway and picked up what I needed.  While there, I noticed something I’ve never seen to such a degree before.  Since there were more people there than usual, the check-outs were getting backed up to where I was just standing there watching and waiting my turn.  Believe it or not, I noticed between three aisles, four ladies likely in their 80′s paying with either debit or credit cards.  Now that was a surprise, as well as a confirmation that even our elderly are now up to speed with the methods of electronic payment.

So what is that telling us?  I’d say we’re moving all the faster away from cash transactions and perhaps in a dark way, approaching the time when there’ll be micro-chips implanted in everyone with all our information contained to where there’ll be no paper or plastic–everything will be controlled by that chip and some sort of hand-held device.  Sounds scary doesn’t it?  As I said before, the rapid evolution of computers is pushing us, kicking and screaming onto the stage of a brave new world.  Are you ready for it?

Stacked Decks

Stacked DecksThis is certainly going to be a September to remember with these endless days of heat.  Hopefully we will get the rain that’s been forecasted.  North Iowa is exceptionally dry to where I’m sure the reason our trees are shedding their leaves so early is because of the lack of moisture.  The oak trees around town appear to be in very sad shape.  I did take about three hours off this morning to get some menial outside labor done ahead of the projected rain along with me being booked solid with appointments tomorrow.

I was out in the countryside showing an acreage late this afternoon, and while driving there I could see how quickly the corn and bean plants are drying.  The acreage was a possibility for the buyers, but there’s going to be some necessary updates they’ll be making more sooner than later if they should purchase it.  When looking at the overall square footage, I knew it was going to be tight.  It sort of reminded me of something you’d find on a river or lake which was originally built as a weekend get-away.

Speaking of acreages, I’m having 305 N. 1st Street in Fertile open to the public tomorrow afternoon from 1:00 – 3:00 pm.  Now that the price is so low, any ambitious young person would be crazy not to jump on it.  I’ve been on many acreages over the years, but this one’s setting is about as good as it gets.  The 5 acres of timber protecting the building site from the north is a real plus most don’t consider.  By just painting the exterior cedar siding would make a world of difference.  The home has great bones and will work for the new buyer for many years to come.  I only hope whomever purchases it will bring it back to its original glory.

The public open house I’m having tomorrow morning from 10:00 a.m. till Noon is located at 2831 – 4th St. NW here in Mason City which is now reduced to $295,500.  This is yet another home that’s way under priced for the amount of dollars that have been recently spent on it.  I don’t even want to mention how many thousands were invested.  It’s just like walking into a brand new home.  And don’t forget, the garage is so big, it’ll easily hold four cars.  This is another home that whose new buyers will be ever thankful in time for purchasing it.

Since most of the general public in Mason City know that Philip Chodur is my brother and being the one our “powers that be” decided to dismiss in favor of this new proposed plan being overly-promoted by a group of our “special interest” citizens.  I’ve held my tongue for a very long time concerning what’s been reported by the media to the general public, as well as truths that’ve not been shared which have created skewed impressions by our Citizenry from the very beginning.  Irregardless Philip being my brother or not, anyone knowing the rest of the story would walk away like I did and say, “This changing of horses in the middle of the stream is craziness especially when his loan for the hotel did get approved!”

The reason I’m speaking now, is that there’ve been four different times this past week where people from the general public have stepped forward and asked for my opinion on this business.  I said to each one of them, “If you want to hear the rest of the story, I’ll tell you, but keep in mind, I have nothing to loose or gain by telling the facts.”  I told each one of them, and they all said something to the effect, “Why wasn’t that in the newspaper?”  I quickly replied, “Because we have reporters who are bias in their reporting which is why I rarely ever read articles written my one person in particular.”

In the game of life, how can we ever make sound decisions for ourselves and our community when we’re playing with stacked decks in favor of our special interest groups?  I’m growing all the more tired of half truths and skewed impressions put forward by people who’ve never owned their own businesses where they had to be on the front lines every day of the week.  Ignorance is not bliss.  Everyone wonders what’s wrong with Mason City to where they can’t get it right.  My take on it is there’ve always been a handful of special interest people who think they’re the power brokers in our City along with knowing they can feed spoonfuls of questionable information to our uneducated public and make them run with the hook in belief.  “Shame on them!” I say.

Growing Local Business

Growing Local BusinessThere 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.

New Owners

New OwnersFirst 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.

Conducive Productivity

suit-1Off 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.

Open Minded

Open-MindedThe 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.