Saturday, December 11, 2010

Has Your Cheese Moved?

These are the times that try men's souls. For the first time in many lives people are dealing with real challenges, personal, financial, and career battles. We all grew up listing to our parents or grandparents tell us we didn't know what it was like for them as they navigated through the Great Depression. We would often make fun of the conservative habits that our grand parents continued, washing and reusing "disposable" products etc.

Many folks today are now learning first hand the realities our grandparents knew, or at least a pretty good taste of it. If we gauge unemployment numbers using the same formula we use today since changed during the Clinton Administration, we would see that around 17% of Americans are now unemployed. Who knows how many would fall into underemployed as well.

One of the hardest hit industries, and the one that first took the blunt of this economic tsunami is the housing industry, specifically the new home construction industry and in its wake all of those surrounding industries that supported it, and were supported by it. Those like developers, lumber, flooring, plumbing, drywall, cabinets, lenders, advertisers, printers,and dozens of others, all have faced the same hits. With each leaving hundreds of qualified, talented, hard working employees and business owners cast out in the wake.

When things like this happen, many find it difficult to come to terms with the reality of their world. That they can send out all the resumes they can print without getting a call if their position is simply not needed today.

In 1991 I was interviewing a gentleman for a position with a company I was building. I met him at his home at Geist Reservoir, a beautiful lakes side home, with two Mercedes sitting in the driveway, each with for sale signs. We sat at his breakfast table as we talked. He told me that he was the National sales manager for a high tech company that sold their service of testing microchips. His company was falling apart around him, he had gone from 140 sales people reporting to him down to 12, with his income dropping accordingly. He had his resume out to every competitor he could trying to find an escape hatch. He blamed the economy on George H.W. Bush, I simply asked, is the industry not making the devices that use these microchips? His response will forever burn into my memory. "No, they are making more and more all the time. It is just that where they used to use 10-15 microchips on a board, now technology has increased where one can do what all of them could before, and many of these self-test." All I could think was, did he hear what he just said? He just explained why his resumes were falling on deaf ears, he worked for the very best buggy whip manufacturer in his industry, but buggy whips they were.

The problem that gentleman had, and so many of us find, is we get emotionally involved and can't see the truth that is right in front of us. The book "Who Moved Your Cheese" points this out, and the solution. We have to come to grips emotionally first, then realized we may have to reinvent ourselves to move to our next adventure.

People as a species hate change, we are creatures of habit, we want to stay in our comfort zone and when it is taken away many freeze in an emotional panic like deer in headlights.

One of my favorite economists, Paul Pilzer, speaks of the ever present and ever more rapid pace of change in our society and economy today. He points to the historic ages were named for their dominant technology of their time. The Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Manufacturing Age, and now Information Age. Until recently it moved slowly, most people were born, lived, and died in one age, under one dominant technology. However, since the 80's when Reagan gave tax incentives for companies to retool and reinvest in themselves creating the desktop computer explosion starting at work, and then as people used them at work bought them for home things have been happening at an ever faster pace. Now entire industries come and go in just a handful of years, like our friend at Geist.

Pilzer points to how in 1930 there were 30 million American farmers barely raising enough food for American. By 1980 with increased technology in agriculture sciences there were only 3 million farmers raising such a surplus they were being paid by the government not to plant crops to cut down on oversupplies. This worked because many farmers got old and retired, and their kids, seeing no future in farming, went to town to get jobs. Many of them ended up in the Rust Belt making carberators for cars where in 1980 in Indiana and Michigan 250,000 people were employed doing so. By 1985 there were none doing so because fuel injection was invented. Many of those displaced workers went to work in Indiana and Pennsylvania stamping out vinyl records. In fact 1989 was the biggest selling year in history of vinyl records, but by 1990 those jobs disappeared due to the invention of Compact Discs.

Pilzer tries to teach us that the old idea of learning to be the best, and most expert of anyone in any job or industry is not the way to succeed in today's fast pace change. Today, we must learn to be able to learn new technology and techniques quickly, it is the quick and the dead today. We must embrace change or be swallowed up by it.

With that said, I am working with Ron Weaver from Tampa, who has started a resource program for those displaced by the economic tsunami of the building industry. His program is called Real Estate Lives. They are a reaching out to those who have been damaged, whose careers have hit the rocky shore, and need help getting back in the game. It is for those who have successfully navigated through the storm but are still dealing with reduced incomes, and the frustrations that come with that. They offer support for the spouses as well. I believe that this can be a very positive group to offer all of those in Greater Indianapolis Area from all types of jobs that supported the new home industry. We want to reach out to sales people, construction workers, managers, drafting, you name it, we want you.

Please if this touches your heart, give me a call, or email, let's talk about how to get our team together to start offering support. Mr. Weaver suggested that I target retired stars from the industry who want to reach out and help, people who have been through it and have navigated to a successful new venture, those who have recently been cast aside and are going crazy at home who would love to have something to do while they are looking for something new, and those who have been out for a long time and have given up looking. Those last group he said often find having something to get excited about and working to help others creates in them a new fire that often finds them getting a job again quickly.

If you are interested, don't worry about not knowing how you can help, we can figure that out. Let's make a difference together!!!!

Call me Jim Morgan 317-574-6659 or email me at

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