Open early and stay open later Dr Offices

Sometimes it just seems too obvious to ever work.

My wife a few years ago went to work for a family physicians office that wasn’t affiliated with a hospital. In the medical world that makes it much more difficult to make it. They were in business for about two years. Early on, and revisited again near the end, they debated on opening early and closing later. So their office hours would be something like 7:00 to 11:00 and 3:00 to 6:00. This way they get the people that don’t want to take time of the work schedule to come in. It also differentiates their office from others. At the time we didn’t have kids so this working arrangement would have been fine for my wife. The Doctor’s who owned the practice decided against the idea and I’m still bewildered as to why? I would try going down in flames; exhausting all options. Has anyone else seen this idea work? And if so, where? Under what circumstances?

Definition of Recession

Over the last few days you’ve probably seen the emphasis on the job numbers. I posted them on Friday. I was very tempted to write an entry with my thoughts on them, but then I saw everyone else was doing that. The bottom line is that everyone thinks we are headed for a recession. The job market was the last pillar holding up the roof (pun intended).

I believe a recession is coming too. I started expressing that opinion in October ’07 with the Peanut Butter and Pasta entry. But I also think a recession might not happen… technically.

For the lower and middle class in America, the next six months will offer few economic opportunities.  What usually correlates with a recession, job losses, paying debt, buying generics rather than names brands, will happen. The US lower and middle class will not improve their quality of life in 2008.

But the upper class might prevent it from being a recession by definition since a recession is technically a contraction of GDP rather than a growth of it. The upper class is still benefiting from tax cuts, corporate earning windfalls, and foreign investments. Wealth isn’t being shared. I’m not advocating for it to be either.

I’m advocating for the upper class to take some risks with their fortunes. If they hold onto their fortunes then surely recessionary symptoms will engulf the lower classes. If they put their money to work then it will benefit everyone and recession symptoms will be short lived.

Finally, if GDP is used for judging a recession then I think it needs a parallel measure that determines each individual tier – lower, middle, and upper class prosperity. 

Update (1-19-08): Thanks for Floyd Norris of the NY Times, here is the real definition of a Recession: “a recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread
across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in
real G.D.P., real income, employment, industrial production, and
wholesale-retail sales.”

Update – (12/1/08): The National Bureau of Economic Research is a group that declares such things as recessions, based on the items listed above.

December 2007 Job Report Statistics

Here are the job market and compensation numbers for December of 2007:

Net gain of 18,000 jobs in the month (Revised in the January report to a gain of 82,000 jobs)

  • 52,000 less than expected by Economists
  • November was revised up from 94,000 to 115,000

Unemployment rate moved to 5.0%

  • Forecasters thought unemployment would rise to 4.8%
  • 5.0% is a two year high
  • That increase is the highest since August of 2001 (the US was in a recession then)

Wages were up 0.4% for December

  • Wages were up 3.7% for the year
  • 2006 saw an increase in wage of 4.3%
  • Inflation for most of the year has been at 4.2%
  • Inflation grew faster than wages in December, meaning power buying power decreased

$17.71 is the average hourly wage

Specific Segment Job numbers:

Construction lost 49,000 workers

Manufacturers lost 31,000 jobs

Financial services lost 7,000

  • Banks saw employment stay basically unchanged which indicates that the job losses due to sub prime missteps are level

Retailers showed a 24,000 loss

Health care added 28,000 jobs in December, and 381,000 for the year

Food services generated 27,000 new jobs in December.

Government jobs increased by 31,000

Other information:

The writers strike has also effected the unemployment number since they have lost about 12,000 jobs.

The separate household survey came back with a job loss of 436,000 in December, the worst number in five years.

Are Experts Cursed?

“The curse of knowledge”

Not much sounds better than that. It is so grandiose.

“The curse of knowledge”

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist taking it in. This term was
originally coined by Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein, and Martin Weber in a
paper called The
Curse of Knowledge in Economic Settings: An Experimental Analysis.
The idea
is that once you become an expert your perception changes from awe to unremarkable.
Why? Because you know the ins and outs of the topic. The mysteries are solved.
You know the ending to the story.

For instance, a friend of mine uses his computer to write
great songs. I’m always his naïve bystander. He plays a song for me and I hear
this beautifully arranged piece of art. He asks me what I think and I usually
just enjoy the ride the music takes me on. But he doesn’t go on the ride. He
hears every flawed little blurp and blip that to me are part of the fabric. For
him the music slows down and becomes specific. For me it has its own pace and
collective. He can’t hear the same song I do. He is cursed with knowledge.

So after that long example, I get to what prompted me to write
my thoughts on this subject:  Janet Rae-Dupree. She wrote an
article for the NY Times titled Innovative
Minds Don’t Think Alike
. This article highlights the problems experts have
with creativity and innovation in their fields – “… they barrel along the
well-worn path.”

What is rare is an expert that can communicate what is in
their head. This isn’t something inconsequential either. The expert must be
aware of their personal knowledge base, their audience’s knowledge base, and an
effective means to meet in the middle. Teachers tend to be the best at this,
but in reality very few teachers are experts in their teaching field. They are experts at teaching.

One great example of poor communication is the television
remote. The engineer, or expert, is communicating to the end user the
functionality of the remote. Unfortunately, it is usually every function of the
remote. This is overkill. CBS just aired a 60
Minutes episode about the people, or geeks, that resolve this problem for
people.  It is called Get
Me The Geeks
.

So what is the upshot? Get very good at your job, but don’t stay
long enough in it to become an expert. Bounce around to other jobs where people
are fairly static and introduce your new ideas. Ruffle some feathers and
prevent getting cursed with knowledge.

Who Pays Skyrocketing College Costs?

There is a normal business tenet that as costs increase so
does the price of the product or service to the consumer. Very seldom does that
cost get absorbed by efficiencies or carve into profit. Anyone who gets monthly
bills knows what I mean.

This leads me to an article sent to me by a friend of mine
Chuck Lomax. The article is by Anthony Balderrama of careerbuilder.com called
Generation Y: Too demanding at work? So what is the correlation? This segment –

Alison
Bailin, 27, also believes her generation wants to see a significant return on
years of education. “College expenses have skyrocketed, leaving many of us
in debt,” says the account executive. “Many career fields require one
year or more of a [usually] unpaid internship, so we are joining the work force
with a year or more experience than many previous generations.”

This might be the first time that college graduates have
tried to overtly pass the cost of college on to their employer. And the final
sentence justifies it. But here is the kicker; is the return on investment
greater than before? According to the article it is.

“Companies
desperately want to be a part of the Web 2.0/user-generated content, MySpace,
YouTube phenomenon. Who better to guide that shift than Gen Y?” asks Matt
Dornic, 26, president of the public relations firm 3 Dog Communications.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that college costs have
increased because of the emphasis on Web 2.0. If anything, the second quote
implies that the skills would have been obtained regardless of the college
education. So who is benefitting from the college cost increase? Most likely,
the colleges themselves and maybe that is a good thing. Optimistically, maybe
colleges have the long term in mind and the programs they are establishing are
the foundation for something even greater than what we see now. But as I said
in another post titled Does College Have a Future?, I think there are plenty of
options out there for students and even more for business.

Working Thoughts in 2008

Happy New Year to everyone.

This post is a summary of Working Thoughts thus far.

1st Blog Entry (originally posted on 6/26/07)

My name is Ben Leeson. I currently work for a large financial company
in IT. I went to school at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. I
graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration concentrating in HR.
Professor William Brown taught me and I enjoyed his classes; even
acquiring an appreciation for just about all things HR. I didn’t pursue
a job in that field after college but I’ve kept up with it. This blog
will further my fascination with all things HR. I hope to grow my
knowledge of the area through thoughtful writings and spirited
feedback. I will attempt to have a fairly routine style so anyone
reading can come to expect certain segments. Please excuse my incorrect
grammar and occasional misspelling.

This post is number 82. Here are some of the themes:

For 2008 I plan on continuing to provide job report numbers with analysis, post about risk, focus more on entrepreneurship, and continue to observe the work market with timely posts.