Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wealth And The Recovery

Take a look at the chart on the right. From 2009 to 2011, part of the "recovery" from the Great Recession, the wealthiest 7% saw a 28.2% increase in household net worth compared to a 4.3% decline for the other 93% of the population.

The footnotes would indicate this is because the wealthy hold a substantial amount of their wealth in assets such as stocks and bonds that have appreciated significantly post-market collapse. In contrast, much of the wealth of the other 93% is tied up in home ownership.

So in a nutshell, the rich got richer and the less rich got more in need.

What's this have to do with the employment picture?

For one thing, it means (as if we didn't know already) there is real NEED in "I need a job or to keep my job". This type of need is a round-about indicator of supply and demand in the workforce - which is to say, there are way more in need (of a job / the job) than not. Hence, it's a buyer's market (employers buying service from employees) and double hence, another reason for stagnancy in the wages and benefits department.

Add to this scenario the ever increasing momentum of computer/digital automation and the impact on the job market is dramatic and ugly. The recovery has produced jobs but not of the type and quality needed to change the state of affairs indicated by the chart.

So how to play this, especially if you are someone in the 18 to 35 age bracket? Here are a few thoughts.

  • Expect this situation to continue - plan for and around it.
  • If you are in school or considering it, take a long hard look at what you are out to accomplish, asking - what is the end goal? what is the cost? and what options/alternatives are available that are quicker and cheaper than the track I am on now or considering?
  • Get your head around the Free Agent concept ASAP - you ARE on your own - know it, see it, breath it!
  • Prepare to move from position to position every 2 to 3 years, if not more frequently - build your plan around this fact.
  • Consider any free or low cost certification programs (at your expense) that will complement the education and training you are now receiving or considering - these targeted goodies really add to your marketability. 
  • Stay out of debt - easy to say yet hard to do, I know - nonetheless there's a direct correlation between amount of debt and options available, and if you are in this age group you WANT options.
  • And last but not least, a cliche, think outside the box - this is a sister concept to Free Agency - you MUST think and see things for yourself because the economic climate doesn't support any other way.

Travel well.
John  Jeffrey Lundell

Friday, November 22, 2013

What Is The Talent Of Talent Acquisition?

Whenever, in the context of HR or hiring, I hear or see the phrase Talent Acquisition it creates a tiny speed bump within me. I need to slow down and navigate around it because I can't get the actor/artist meaning of the word out of my head. It must have something to do with living in Las Vegas.

So why the trip-up? Because it strikes me as a marketing phrase conjured up to promote "on-boarding" HR software. Thinking back, the term human resources hit me in a similar way when I first heard it, producing a mind picture of hoards of fenced-in humans ready to be used or put into service in some way. Okay it's just me, but why not simply say employee acquisition or employee department? Why the necessity to garnish and spin it?

Setting the forgoing aside, it's clear that talent (broadly defined) will become a very big deal in the job market going forward. I get it that out-and-out workplace superstars will be easily identified and described in terms of talent but what about Everyday Joe and Jane? As Tyler Cowen points out, everything in the workplace of tomorrow will be measured, rated, and graded (computers and digits of course, ruling the day). Therefore it follows that talent (traditionally the realm of the right brainers) will be measured, rated, and graded too (the act of which is the very essence of the left brainers).


Think about this. Quantifying talent on a mass scale - it's funny and chilling at the same time. I can only imagine where this is headed given the current trajectory. But what of the "it's more of an art than a science" argument? Will talent acquisition get to the point of stultification? (Note: a flash of the sadly performing Affordable Care website raced through my head ... huh, a little talent acquisition needed there, wouldn't you say?)

Anyhoo, imagine companies of the future, hamstrung in measurement mediocrity, chucking the whole rating and grading by digits stuff and going back to hiring the old school human-to-human way?

Nah, won't happen, but the ride will be interesting.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Why Women Will Rock In Tomorrow's Workplace

Yes, well, read on please...
Okay, let's get the disclaimers out of the way right off the bat. Saying women will rock isn't to say they don't rock now - nor am I saying men will be completely left out. Rather, workplaces of the future will place high value on what seems to come built-in for women, conscientiousness.

I define a conscientious worker as one who is reliable, consistent, and intent on doing tasks correctly. This may not sufficiently describe the highly successful CEO, the high-flyer sales rep, or the brilliant IT specialist, but these characteristics will fit most mid-level workers going forward. Employers will look for them up front and measure them once someone is hired. As a practical matter this will favor women workers.

To paraphrase Tyler Cowen in Average Is Over, ...women are on average more conscientious than men...more likely to follow instructions and orders with exactness without resentment. This is especially true for middle-skills jobs, a category that will grow as the digital revolution continues it's relentless assault on our economy.

What about men? Cowen thinks of men as "higher variance" performers at work. This is to say the range (from excellent to poor) in execution of duties is greater for men than it is for women. This means males that are highly dedicated, conscientious, and capable (especially in specialized areas) will do very well. But males that are head-strong, less than completely responsible, and not accepting of authority, will do very badly. Why? Jobs of the future will rely more on smart machines and less on brute force labor. These machines will be expensive to purchase and maintain resulting in zero tolerance for irresponsible players on the work site or factory floor.

Connect the dots on this. The Marketplace of the future will reward (1) pure talent, (2) niche specialists, and (2) conscientious workers. Those lacking, especially males - and most particularly disadvantaged and poorly educated males - will be dead meat. Remember, everything will that can be measured will eventually be measured. Bad actors won't make it past the first HR step. And those showing bad actor tendencies post hire will be easy to spot (recall that measuring, grading, and rating are what digits do).They'll be placed on a very short string.

Employers will of course reach and pay for talent and niche specialists to fill key positions - but not for mid-level jobs. Worker attributes such as conformity and conscientiousness will increase in importance. In a world where brand identity rules, control and conformity (camouflaged of course) cannot be left to chance. It will be all about "the fit" with very little lenience.

I am concerned about this for the entire country and of course, right here at home. Success marginalization (to coin a phrase) begins in the home and continues at school. Our nation has essentially tossed in the towel on any societal home/family/early childhood fix in spite of mountains of evidence telling us otherwise. As for public K-12 education (the easier of the two to fix) it's not a capital "P" priority - if it were we'd fix it but we aren't. Here in Nevada the high school graduation rate is near the bottom. Lots of good people are trying to change the situation but it's not enough.

Where ever conscientiousness resides within each of us, I can imagine clear air for lots of these dropouts. Sure, many have something to offer if given an opportunity, but the Marketplace cares not. What's hard for these kids today will become absolutely impossible in the future when every little thing about them will be only a few keystrokes away.

Then what?

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Food Stamp Cuts - Digging Deeper

In response to the Great Recession, food stamp benefits were temporarily boosted in 2009. This increase has expired and as of last Friday recipients will be receiving on average 5% less. The rollback will save a reported $5B in fiscal '14 and close to $50B over ten years. Look for additional cuts and adjustments as Congress wrestles with a new farm bill.

And why is this? Because lawmakers have to do something about the debt and they will do all they can to nibble at the margins before engaging in the heavy lifting. Letting an increase like this expire is easy.

But dig below the surface on the food stamp issue and you will find major philosophical differences relating to the role and responsibility of government Vs that of the individual. These differences are nothing new but this time around there's the national debt. It's unavoidable and the tail that will increasingly wag the dog going forward. Expect government solutions to take a back seat as more and more is placed on the individual.

This food stamp rollback will be one of many, all driving home the concept of Free Agency not only for the American worker, but for all Americans. Some people are already there. They get it and are doing their best to take charge of their vocational and economic futures. But most are still working at it, perhaps better described as coping.

And then there are those that won't or can't get it. This group probably includes many who saw their food stamp payments fall on Friday. Even though the rules of the Marketplace don't favor them, this group, which is going to grow - this cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. The challenge facing our nation/government is simply this; try to help (which will become increasing difficult given the debt situation) or let everyone fend for themselves (risking the negatives associated with a very large and entrenched underclass). Surely there are creative ideas that work the middle ground, but will they find a voice?

In the meantime, take this as another example to wake up. Like it or not we are entering an age that will focus on the individual like never before. The irony of course is that organizations of all types grow and prosper when people work together. The play-out of these polarities - plus the increasing ability for everything to be measured, graded, and rated - will be one of the stories of the next 10-20 years.

What's required is a plan that not only takes into account what each job seeker / job up-grader needs, but also one that incorporates dynamics noted above.

I can help.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Monday, October 21, 2013

Everything's Perfect - Chapter Two

The following is a recounting of an actual situation, concerning a real person. I'll call him Bruce.

Bruce is in his early 30's and has been with his current company for about 5 years. Although experienced he started by accepting an entry level position in order to work his way into management, which he has done. Bruce knows his job and has been valuable to the company, not only by managing his own units which he is doing now but by "floating" - filling in as a temporary manager with other units when needed. 

Bruce's desire all along has been to become a district manager (DM). When his previous DM moved on, he applied internally but was passed over. This prompted him to start looking elsewhere in the same field.

There's nothing out of the ordinary so far in Bruce's story. He hung in there, moved up, and expressed interest in advancing even more - just what you'd expect from a young man making his mark.

Three weeks ago, Bruce got a call from one of the businesses that received his application when the last DM departed. He interviewed, negotiated an increase in salary and got the job. He starts next week.

Okay, good for Bruce. But, as they say, there's a bit more to the story.

As a manager, Bruce has largely been autonomous. He's far from the dullest knife in the drawer and consistently "makes his numbers."  So why didn't he get the DM job?

Editorial Note. I don't really know why. I do know the person, the business, and general situation, but I am making an educated guess as to why in order to make a point.

Bruce has a number of personality deficiencies, none huge but there are lots of them. So far when it comes to making his numbers, these limitations have not held him up. However when it comes to breaking though to the next management level, it's another matter. Here's a list of some of them. Note that as an autonomous manager, these "issues" are noticeable, irksome, and troublesome from a career standpoint ONLY when someone else in management is around or when they reach the point of a write up, which is unlikely as they are small and petty even if numerous.

  • Overly chatty and prone to drama
  • Lots of talking (gossiping) on the phone concerning company and personal business
  • Lacking professional boundaries in the form of needless and inappropriate chit chat with those not needing to know
  • Doesn't train others well (too concerned with self) 
  • Avoids conflict (afraid of being disliked)
  • Tendency to subtly pick favorites 

Bruce's idiosyncrasies have doubtlessly squeaked through to some of his employment evaluations - but probably to no great effect. It's more likely that he's rubbed a few people the wrong way during his 5 year stint, enough so, that his name doesn't appear on any promotional short lists. Furthermore, there's been weak leadership and many personnel changes over his tenure, making it unlikely any of his short-comings became any one supervisor's top priority. No 360 evaluation. No caring person in a mentor role.

But now Bruce is On His Way Out and Riding High. He's switched horses and received a raise. He's feeling good and telling everyone all about it, ad nauseam.

Bruce doesn't get it. He's asleep and seemingly oblivious to his limitations and irritating ways. To a degree, he's delusional. And if he did have reservations about some of his own issues? Well, getting the new job may be a big fat vindication - after all, they love him!

So onward he goes. If the new job is equally autonomous, what's going to change about Bruce? If there's someone watching him closely, he'll be written up in short order. Should this happen (and if he's lucky to have a strong but fair manager) he'll have a chance to make corrections. However these days, especially in his industry, strong managers / leaders, are in short supply.

Our best to Bruce.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book Review - The Great Stagnation

Actually the full title is: The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better, by Tyler Cowen and published by Dutton Adult, 2011.

For the d-n-d, read Chuck Crane's review on Amazon (no sense in restating it all here). Chuck does a more than adequate job of outlining as you'll see.

My interest in the book is self serving of course as the idea's presented sync with mine nicely. I heard Mr. Cowen interviewed on NPR and what he said not only made sense, but also added perspective to my own similar ideas. I have his most recent book Average Is Over on order.

Listed below are 5 key points from the book as outlined by Chuck Crane in his review.

  • The economic low hanging fruit that has historically propelled growth and prosperity in the US, is drying up. Examples include: free land, technological breakthroughs (big ones - electricity, motor vehicles, radio, telephone, computers, etc.), public education, cheap fossil fuels, and so on.
  • Other countries are experiencing "catch-up growth" including India and China, where technological innovations in the West have been leveraged and leap-frogged, resulting in a sudden flattening of the playing field.
  • Median income growth has slowed since the early '70s, something I have written about frequently. I am amazed how little scrutiny this gets in the media. I guess the slow boiled frog analogy fits here.
  • The rate of technical innovation has slowed, since 1873 and most notably since 1955.
  • Recent and current innovation is geared more to private goods than to public goods, leading to an increase in economic inequality.

Books like this naturally interest other economists. But what about those noodling social issues? Furthermore, what about those in the greater workforce field, from high school guidance counselors to headhunters and WIA implementers? And yet, as big as the workforce field is, it's not big enough. What about lawmakers and real social policy movers-n-shakers?

If Tyler Cowen is correct and the US has hit a plateau (and stagnation will continue) what are we doing about it? From my perspective, next to nothing. I hate to say it as much as I hate to see it.

The current super-gridlock in Washington DC is proof in the pudding. For the time being (and it may be a very long time being at that) government is shackled. As Cowen notes, one party can't come up with a real plan to address the budget deficit (driven in no small part by Social Security and Medicare) and the other party can't stop pounding the tom tom that tax cuts (the apparent answer to everything) will increase revenue and pull us out of the muck.

Cowen's ideas add to my contention that this is the era of the Free Agent worker. And again, by worker I mean nearly everyone other than those not needing to generate income (those enjoying inheritances, the truly retired, and passive owners). That leaves 90%+ of the population as WORKERS in one form or another.

When it comes to finding a job, advancing in a job, moving to a better job, being a Free Agent means it's all about you - not I hope in a narcissistic and selfish manner, but rather in a heads-up way. In order to achieve your career and life objectives, you must see things as they actually are - that you are a Free Agent. And the younger you are, the more important the acceptance of this concept becomes.

Tyler Cowen knows this and I hope he makes it a point to pass it along to his students at George Mason.

The question is, do you know it?

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Monday, October 7, 2013

Feeling Stuck In Your Job - Part II

I realize the first post on this subject was very much the "down-n-dirty." It was meant to be. If you are stuck and seeking a way to begin crawling out - AND you read the post and thought, "okay fine, but what should I do, where should I start?"

I suggest you aren't ready to do anything. Why? Probably because you want someone else to do it for you. You want someone to explain how and why. You want someone to hold your hand and guide you through the process. THIS IS YOUR PROBLEM, not that you are stuck somewhere. Getting unstuck and out isn't nearly as hard as it's cracked up to be. What's hard is shifting something within you from the OFF to ON position.

Back to the first post. If you had flipped the switch, the simple suggestions would have appeared to you as a road map. You'd buy into the fact that you have to plot it out, deciding on your next move (read that your next job). However, if your switch remains OFF (I refer to this as being asleep, unaware, and unconscious) then you likely dismissed it as just more blather, useless and not applicable to you. Why? Because there was no guaranteed 5 easy steps to FOLLOW or better yet, no one to feed it to you, spoonful by spoonful.

Before adding more d-n-d suggestions, here's more on why you need to wake up NOW. The concept of the Free Agent Worker (which I write about frequently) is real and here to stay. Take for example jobless recoveries and stagnant real wages. Our labor pool in the US (using a longer term point of view) is declining. Given the law of supply and demand this should be a plus for workers. But no. The number of jobs paying REAL living income and above are NOT increasing. The reason is automation and computerization. Digits. How can this not continue?

Such a joy, so refreshing...
Going forward, supply and demand principles will be applied category by category and not across the board. The d-n-d on this is that you'd better be talented and/or in possession of unique skills and attributes or you'll be swimming in the shallow end of the median income pool where the supply will far outstrip demand. Those splashing around will be hard pressed to save anything, resulting in little or no wealth creation. And the shallow end will get crowded.

Look, there's no silver bullet here. Even if you wake up and get a move on, there's no assurance all will turn out well. And if you stay asleep, doing nothing while waiting for someone to do it for you? Well then be prepared to drift into the shallow end with hoards of others floundering about looking for ways to cover the nut.

Okay, add this to the first post.
  • Get training that will enhance your marketability (and don't overlook short term, free, certification courses in niche areas).
  • When networking, tell people honestly what it is you are trying to accomplish. Be straight-up and forthright. Don't let your ego take over - no blowing smoke, exaggerating, or embellishing. Just lay it out in your 30 second intro. "Hi, I'm Bob. I'm ________ and I'm looking to move to ________ in order to ________ in 4 or 5 years. I've taken ______ and I am enrolled to be certified as _________. Are you looking for someone that can get the job done?" *
  • Until your next move comes about, know that you are still working for your current employer - AND this continues until you are not. Keep doing the do because that's why you are there and anyway, it's in your best interest to keep it so until the the last minute. Again, doing this is in YOUR best interest.
So there, no rocket science just a connecting of dots.

Yah I know, what about the Kardashians, the Duck Dynasty Boys, or the Honey Boo Boo? They're raking it in. They're able to transend the hard knocks and cold reality of a shrinking middle-class and flat wage growth, right?

True. And what's that got to do with you? Anyway, examples like this make my point. I'm not sure about talent or skill sets, but I am sure about uniqueness and marketing machines.

Anyway, is anyone knocking on your door to film a reality show about you trying to keep yourself from drifting into the shallow end? Hummm, I met a guy, that knows a guy, that knows a guy doing something in reality TV...

Wake up. Take charge. It's your ONLY hope.

* Sounds old school and corny, right? No one does that anymore, right? Well, if no one else is doing it, you might just stand out - imagine that.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Feeling Stuck In Your Job?

Let's assume that you are working but not completely satisfied with what you are doing or where you are doing it. You feel undervalued and you know you are underpaid. And yet, you have a job. You are making the best of it even though, all things considered, you really aren't making ends meet.

So off to work you go - again - another day of feeling like a marginal swimmer treading water in the deep end of the pool. You are frustrated and beaten down just enough to make actual swimming seem impossible.

You HAVE TO do something - but aren't. You are stuck and really sick of feeling stuck.

What to do?

First of all, are you prepared to do something about your current situation? Sure you're frustrated and "talking" about it, but are you going to take action? If not, do yourself a favor and stop being frustrated - seriously, save the energy. Just get on with it and enjoy the ride. No sense getting in a sweat if you aren't going to take action.

Oh, you are ready? But not sure where to start?

If so, here's the down-n-dirty -
  • Write down what you want to be doing in 5 years.
  • Add where you'd like to do it.
  • Write down what you are doing now and where you are doing it.
  • Look at what you've written and give it a reality check.
  • If unrealistic, start over, scaling back as needed.
  • If realistic, sketch out (in reverse order) a route from where you'd like to be, back to where you are now.
  • Look at what you've written.
  • What's the next most likely job that puts you on that route?
  • Write out everything you are doing on your current job that could be applicable to the (next) one you've just identified.
  • You now have the raw material from which to define your Job Search Objective, rebuild your resume, and map out a networking game plan.

It's basic but it will get you moving in the right direction if you are indeed ready make a move.

Good luck!

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Everything Measured - Jobs Of The Future

As unappealing as the situation in the picture suggests it might be preferable to what's coming according to economist and author Tyler Cowen.

Recently Mr. Cowen was interviewed on NPR concerning his latest book "Average Is Over."

Predictions are never perfectly drawn so of course there will be twists, turns, and surprises along the way. But getting it exactly right is not the point. The digit and the computer have unleashed powerful forces impacting how we are living our lives. Cowen links two themes near and dear; the plight of the middle-class and the continuing upheaval because of all things digital.

Summarized below are a few key points from the interview and Cowen's take on the future.
  • Take the concept of middle-class and come up with something else more akin to lower middle-class in terms of income and savings, but more bohemian-esque in terms of lifestyle and perhaps satisfaction
  • Everything gets measured, graded, rated, monitored, recorded, tracked, and categorized - ruthlessly
  • The HAVES will increase as a percentage of the population from 1% to maybe 15% 
  • The determining factors in who gets what will be talent and ratings - think Yelp and credit scores
  • A new meritocracy will emerge driven by undiscovered individuals suddenly getting a shot - think India
  • Inequality levels will increase - and stay there
Cowen counsels not to expect many chances to get it together. In this decidedly non-warm-n-fuzzy future, graders and raters will in turn be graded and rated. This is inevitable and underway now. As Yogi Berra said "you can see a lot just by look'n around" if only we were. Cowen's point that the old category of middle-class will give way to new categories - is right on the mark.

As for employment in the future if you have (even a few) bumps or blemishes in your background, work history, credit score, or heaven only knows how many other types of measures there will be in the years to come, you will need to find another way to get on in the world. Frankly, taken to extreme lengths, there will be lots and lots of folks in this situation which will give rise to the new categories as noted above.

So, meet the model for your new performance review, one with real sticking potential.

This paradym shift will take years to play out. In the meantime, Mr. Cowen represents another thoughtful and educated voice weighing in on Free Agency. The top tier growth he anticipates from 1% to 15% will come from free agents coming into their own. They'll possess the right mix of talent and entrepreneurial spirit to elevate themselves from the masses.

However I don't see this process in all or nothing terms and I doubt Mr. Cowen does either. What is now considered middle-class will surely evolve but not into a zero sum proposition. There will be lots of room under the Free Agent tent - however, the price of admission will be awakening.

Stay asleep and you'll have to watch the show from the outside - wake up and you'll get a ticket to go inside.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Jobs, Wages, Spending - It Doesn't Add Up

Personal Consumption Expenditures / GDP
Let me start by mentioning just how important consumer spending is to the US economy. To be specific, its 71% important. The total spent by consumers on durable goods, non durable goods, and services amounts to 71% the nation's economy. That leaves 29% for everything else - making consumer spending in the US is a really big deal.

Needless to say consumer spending dropped sharply in response to the Great Recession that began in late 2008. Suddenly people were poorer as the real estate and stock markets tanked and unemployment spiked. Those leveraged way too far, were consumed by their own consumption. Those that came through it have seen their assets re-appreciate to some extent however its fair to say many if not most remain cautious. This situation is in part evidenced by a reduction in overall consumer debt over the last 5 years.

And yet, as bad as the Recession was/is, it will likely be seen as an isolated event, similar to the dot com bust in 1999/2000 or the S&L scandal in the 80s. These greed induced train wrecks are like giant icebergs. They show up on the horizon, growing larger as they drift closer, pushing aside or sinking whatever they come into contact with. They move on, growing smaller and less significant only to be replaced by another potential crisis-berg popping up in the distance. Only 10% of each iceberg is actually visible - the damage is done by the 90% unseen below the surface.

Something similar is happening to our economy. However instead of  huge metaphoric chunks of ice causing problems the culprits in this case come in the billions. If they could be easily measured they'd be super tiny, but they are essentially intangible and invisible. They are digits, the little 0s and 1s that make up the digital revolution. Far more significant than the crisis-bergs afloat on the surface these digits are at the heart of a real paradigm shift taking place below - in a word, automation.

I write about this subject often because it is the social and economic game-changer event of our lives. Wage stagnation, unemployment, and under-employment are all tied to what's going on under the surface. According to The Tofflers this story began in earnest in the 50s. They and others have tried to place the pieces together in order to shine a light on where we are headed. But there is no single path, the route has subdivided and there are many unexpected consequences - not the least of which is what to do about the changing world of work.

Amercians' Sources of Income
Most citizens rely on work to keep their boat afloat. With stagnant wages, a shifting of benefit expenses from employers to employees, and here-to-stay higher costs in critical areas (gas, education, and out of pocket medical expenses to name a few), you tell me how consumer spending will continue to advance (other than more debt)?

So far the forces of innovation, profit, and greed have taken the day and will continue to do so until we hit the wall hard enough or often enough for the blasphemous subject of social engineering to surface. Well ... expect it to be called something different but that's exactly what it will be.

The iceberg-esque crisis events will continue. The Marketplace will be unaffected, after all it has no feelings, its just the field where the game is played. Those sharp enough will profit as will those at the top (see income chart). But these two groups account for only a fraction of the big nut of consumer spending. The consumption driven US economy needs a healthy, prosperous, and growing middle-class - but the dots aren't quite connecting on this one.

Once again I'm back on the subject of Free Agency. If you are NOT at the top (take another look at the chart) you ARE a Free Agent - regardless of how and to whom you sell your services.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Friday, August 23, 2013

Spousal Demerit - A Free Agent Watch Footnote

Growing health care affordability gap 
If you were responsible for the cost of employee health care benefits at UPS (either the 4th or 5th largest employer in the US depending on the source) won't you HAVE BEEN in favor of the single payer national health care model? I realize its a moot point. We're past that. Obama Care is here and its a hybrid something between the single payer model and the every-man-for-himself model which we've always had.

I am not singling out UPS however they were in the news this week because they are eliminating employee spousal benefits when there's coverage available elsewhere. Other large companies and organizations are doing the same - and the list will grow. The company quote, limiting plan eligibility is one way to manage ongoing health care costs, which are expected to increase between 2 and 4 % in 2014.

Back to the first paragraph. Given the nature of our free enterprise, capitalistic, Marketplace economic system, it seems perfectly logical for large institutions like UPS to WANT to eliminate not only spousal coverage but ALL employee health care coverage. Its a huge expense. So why weren't more businesses in favor of the single payer model? I mean they could have conceivably dumped this expense and overnight become more profitable and/or more competitive?

Perhaps its like the article I read in USA Today (August 10th weekend addition I think) reporting on Obama Care and what the state of Colorado was doing in response. The article profiled a bar owner that was COMPLETELY AGAINST Obama Care in principle and the big-government-tell-me-what-to-do philosophy it represents - - - - however, he was looking forward to shopping for insurance when the Colorado Exchange opened because he HAD NO HEALTH INSURANCE due to preexisting conditions.        ? - ! - # - ! - ?        Really?

But I can't imagine big business overlooking profitability and competitiveness. Nope. There must have been many a closet supporter in boardrooms across America during previous attempts to create a national single payer system. But it wasn't to be so they remained tucked away. But now? Look for more moves to offload health care costs. It makes perfect sense. If the spousal reduction isn't enough to convince you then stay tuned. In the meantime, note that the employer implementation provision of Obama Care was pushed back one year to give businesses and related vested interests time to plan it all out (such as spousal benefit reductions).

I believe in the Marketplace. Business (buyers of employee services) can be expected to act in their own best interests. Offloading health care expenses seems absolutely to be in their best interest. But its not a straight line issue. For all sorts of complicating reasons fast, drastic, harsh moves have never been in the cards. Therefore look for businesses to chip away at it - the UPS story is in my opinion a perfect example.

And for workers, especially those in the ever squeezed middle-class? Well, they're not completely asleep but certainly not awake. Drowsy maybe.

Nibble, nibble, chip, chip - benefits decline but wages are not keeping up - look at the chart one more time.

The Free Agentizing of the average US worker. It's a fact growing more evident each day.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How Digits Kill Jobs

An up close view of digits doing the do
While reading an article about Trader Joe's in an older copy of Fortune Magazine I came across the one-pager to the right.

It tells/shows the cost of a start up company using technology and social media in 2010 compared to what it would have been in 2000.

I don't have any way of verifying the numbers so lets assume they are close enough to make the point - specifically, that the digit is the culprit in the demise of many a job in the US. This is not a new theme here. I'm always on the lookout for examples to highlight and this is a good one.

The cost as shown in the picture is $40,000 Vs a comparable cost of $1,063,500. In other words, the total outlay in 2010 to start this business was 1/4 of what it would have been in 2000.

In each of the five highlighted categories, incorporating, branding, marketing, employees, and rent, the difference is significant. Clearly, the employee category stands out but there are dramatic reductions in all of them. Looked at from the point of view of the supplying businesses (and here's where the lost jobs come in) there was 75% LESS revenue with which to provide jobs.

In examples like this, the digit and the Internet have pushed upward and outward the "bang" from each buck invested. Add to this the Great Recession's acceleration of an already rapid move to even more automation as businesses searched for ways to increase efficiency - just to stay alive.

Should workers displaced by digits and technology have seen this coming? Maybe. But there's no time to waste NOW in getting right with the Marketplace - and the fact that we are all Free Agents.

To kick start your getting right with the Marketplace thinking, here's a few questions to ask yourself today:
  • will my job even exist in 5 years?
  • if so, what are the (honest) chances there will be an increase in salary or wages?
  • if so, will technology add to or reduce the amount of work I am doing now?
  • if not, how and why will the job go away?
  • if not, what can I do NOW to prepare?
Those dared digits ...

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Not Getting It

The Proverbial Fork In The Road
Imagine coming to the proverbial fork in the road. If you go one way, you continue to struggle, facing one hurdle after another. If you go the other way, the struggle subsides. There's still work to do and in the process there are good days and bad, but the endless grind of fighting it fades. Energy that would otherwise go to the struggle is now used to get on with the actual search.

In a way this is what happens when job seekers awaken to the fact that they are Free Agents selling their services in the Marketplace - the struggle stops. In its place is clarity which allows one to actually see the route forward. Not being awake on the other hand ensures a reactive approach. The seeker continues as a participant in the Marketplace but does so without knowing the rules. Put another way, they're clueless but don't know it.

But what's new, people can and do perform in this mode while fast asleep. Take a good look around you. The problem? It doesn't last. Eventually something happens. It could be a big something, such as a personal implosion or a train wreck blowout - or less dramatic, like a series of never ending sideswipes and scrapes.

Of course being awake doesn't eliminate life-bumps and sideswipes; after all, people are people. However when one is aware in this way there will be understanding (mindfulness) concerning what is actually happening. When awake and aware, motivations originate from within and not from without (the catalyst for reaction). A positive byproduct of this is acceptance. Being able to accept things as they really are is the great diffuser of harmful negativity that so easily builds up as part of the not getting it cycle.

For those that know and live by it, the Serenity Prayer instructs, "accept the things I cannot change ...". Yes and to that I add "for now". Accept until you can appropriately and effectively do something about it Vs loading up to the point where there's a destructive blow up or melt down.

For example, take rejection. Job seekers experience rejection continuously. It comes about overtly in the form of rudeness and obliquely when one is simply ignored. Regardless, if the seeker is unaware, asleep, and clueless, the situation is easily (and usually) taken personally. To them, the "Me" in me, has received a blow. Its been nicked and bruised. And so it goes, happening again and again. To the frustrated seeker it's one put down after another. The pressure builds. Before they know it, they're once again at the fork in the road.

Now which way? The left fork, leading to a Pity Party, the Poor Me, a Whine Buddy session? If so struggle, angst, and agitation are sure to remain. Carried forward, the seeker paints himself into a corner, taking anything in order to put a stop to the pain (or so he thinks).

Selecting the right fork however leads to acceptance, adjustment, and re-engagement. Heading down this path doesn't t mean rejection is overlooked or downplayed, hardly. Instead rejection is taken seriously and is analyzing - but then quickly digested. Something is learned and this leads to a recalibration followed by re-entry back into the game.

Look, I realize approaching job search from this perspective may seem a bit much. After all, the job seeker is being pushed, judged, and kept on edge throughout. It's inherently a supercharged situation and the last thing most want is to get cerebral about it. But I believe this makes the point. When one is unaware and sound asleep, its impossible to take control of your search. It's easier to sink deeper into unconsciousness, pressing forward with one reactive move after another.

There's a far more effective and satisfying way to go about searching for a job. A way aimed at achieving the short term objective while keeping longer term goals in mind. However this approach requires awakening, something many people are not yet ready to do.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Monday, August 5, 2013

Everything's Perfect - Chapter One

The Perfect Day
IF ...
  • you can't wait for Monday morning
  • you feel valued by your employer
  • your hours haven't been reduced
  • your pay has increased a lot
  • you're being paid what you're worth
  • your job is stable and indefinite
  • you're making $8, $10, $14, $16, $18, $20, $22, $26 ... an hour, and it's just right
  • there's been no downsizing at work in the last few years
  • your job description and duties haven't changed for the worse
  • your benefits have increased at no additional cost to you
  • you're only working one job and its enough
  • your vision matches exactly with your supervisor's
  • you're unafraid (and encouraged wholeheartedly) to speak up
  • HR is truly your friend
  • you just love your job
  • those around you just love their jobs too
  • there's no conflict at work
  • inexperienced and under-educated are NOT being promoted to management
If, at work, you've just never had so much fun IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE ...

Well okay, no need to contact me.

Otherwise click here.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Fast Food Wars - Round Two

Although the pot's been on the burner for a number of months, the water hasn't reached the boiling point. We're still in the early rounds of the Fast Food Wars.

Round One was the lead-up to the tipping point. You could argue this has been building for years. However without catalysts, the status quo remains. But it looks like this movement has some legs and could go many rounds. The fight could last for years. It could get ugly.

We'll see.

I've listed some of the important factors leading to these protests, quickly gaining momentum around the country.

  • The Great Recession - all in, the Big Dog Catalyst
  • Wall Street, Big Banks, et al - after ALL THAT - its pretty much back to business as usual
  • A new mix of fast food workers - people that otherwise would be working elsewhere ...
  • Systemic wage and benefit stagnation - ongoing for 30+ years, like a tightening coil
  • Organized labor's need for a cause - this could be THE rallying cry

Round One brought about the initial action. Round Two is characterized by growth as the movement spreads geographically and awakening as the various stakeholders perk up and coalesce along traditional labor/management lines. We're at this point right now.

So what does all this have to do with Job Search?

In a nutshell, Free Agency - actually, anti-Free Agency.

The concept which I embrace and use daily states that all American workers (including management) are in fact Free Agents independently operating in the Marketplace. Every single fast food worker is, at the end of the shift, still a Free Agent. There's danger for those asleep to this idea. Getting caught up in what's happening and yet to come on the ground, can result in continued and ever deeper unconsciousness regarding their own personal situation.

This movement is built around two key labor demands, 1) the ability to organize 2) an increase in wages (asking amount = $15/hr). Incredibly powerful and invested players are circling just under the surface. There are complicating issues that will have an impact on how this plays out (such as the Affordable Care Act). Make no mistake, this has the potential of becoming a really big and protracted story.

Nonetheless, the question for most workers is the same - how will this impact me in the near term? Whatever the outcome, it won't come about quickly. Therefore, what's going to happen in the short run?

Who's to say, however things might get worse.

I find the current state of affairs deplorable on many levels. I am concerned for the future of the Middle Class as I am for those trying to get there. I know that continued (and growing) wage and standard of living inequality are not sustainable. And yet, in the near term, I hope that each worker impacted sees themselves for what they really are, Independent Free Agents. I hope they get what the Marketplace (if it had opinions and feelings) would instruct, that the process of collectivization does not or should not replace the requirement for each individual to think, plan, and act for themselves.  

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Friday, July 26, 2013

Job Search Alignment

I receive all kinds of questions about what I do. People know what resume services do, (hopefully) create a resume that will help in their quest. They know what headhunters do, they find people to fill existing slots usually getting paid by the hiring party. But what do you do, they ask? And why would I need someone to help me with finding a job?

Fair questions and I plan to address them here in the blog from time as they come up.

First of all, I believe every job seeker can benefit from what I call Job Search Alignment. In a nutshell this means getting you, your resume, and your overall approach in sync with your Job Search Objective. And in order to do this, there in fact needs to be an Objective.

So (and back to the what do you do question) one of the most important things I do is help seekers discover their Objective. Once accomplished, we move together to alignment. Its not a one shot deal however. This is where coaching comes in. You could say its an ongoing process of alignment retention, to coin a phrase. For many people this is really really hard. They may see the need and get their head around the initial syncing, only to abandon it when they encounter the least bit of resistance (sometimes only taking place in their head). The result is a scramble of sorts, hopefully no more than a blip on the screen, but sometimes its way worse, requiring monumental effort to get back on track. But we'll get there.

Here's an example. Let's say that you do see the merits of taking on job search as if it were an actual job (a job search 101 concept). You go hard at it Monday through Friday, taking time on the weekends to regroup (sorting through the week just finished and planning for the one coming up).

Monday comes. You get up, check your phone (no business related messages) and email (nothing new there) then you look at your usual job posting sites (again, not much new). Its quiet. You sit there starring at the screen. So you decide to nibble around a bit. Sure enough you spot something, its not really in alignment with your Objective but not too far afield, so you have at it. Hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? You then modify your resume to more closely fit the posting and fire it off. Once done, you look for other similar jobs where the newly tweaked resume can also be used.

And so it goes. All quiet on the original front, so let's open a new one. And when that quiets down, well then, do it again, all the time staying busy (yah!) working at it. Really.

Here's the theory.

Your best opportunities for finding and staying with a job come when you work within the channel created by your Job Search Objective. And the farther you drift from the Objective the worse your odds of success. Come on, this is Las Vegas for crying out loud, play the odds!!! Sure, fine this seems reasonable but staying the course requires - what, discipline? - I guess so, and lets face it, not all of us have it or better said, we don't have it at all times and in all situations.

Here's the wrap.

I want you to stay focused and within the channel. I will help you to do this and will encourage you not to do things contrary to it. I know that a well executed search plan requires all your attention and any energy expended (lost) jumping channels without exceptionally good reason, will hurt you.

Its my business that you succeed. Period. I want you to get what you are out to get. And, I know that the road leading there is much straighter if you stay in alignment with your Job Search Objective.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Are You The Perfect Candidate?

Of course not. Get serious. Yes I know you have to be positive, projecting that you are in fact just the perfect fit for the job - that you are indeed what the prospective employer is looking for.

This is true if done for the right reason. But starting off there puts you on the wrong track from the get go.

First of all, what are you looking for? What is it that you are out to accomplish? If your answer is (just) to get a job you are most certainly running in the wrong lane.


First of all, you are looking for a job to get what you want or need. Which is to say, there is something motivating you to search for a job. Unless you are independently wealthy and searching for something to occupy your time, you are motivated (induced) by something other than fulfillment.

Otherwise you wouldn't be doing any of this. Right? Right? So what's your want or need?

Secondly, it's all temporary. The median (the middle, 50% above 50% below the total) employment tenure of all workers 25 and older is 4.7 years. If government workers and all those over 55 are excluded, the median plummets to around 2.6 years. If you are under 25 and in an industry such as hospitality, drop it way more. Statistics, gotta million of um. Fine. The point is 


So, you need to know...

  • What you are out to accomplish
  • Why you need it
  • And that it (your next position) is in all likelihood, temporary

And if its the wrong fit? Plan for it. Deal with it. Make encountering the wrong fit part of your plan - the plan that takes into account that you won't be providing services to any particular employer for more than 3 or 4 years anyway.

And if you do remain longer? If everything is progressing well and according to your game plan, fine. But be heads up about it. Know why you remain there and how its meeting your needs.

The bottom line is this: don't be impulsive about your job search. Make the effort to align your search to your goals. But I get it. I know for many the mere thought of searching is a big negative, one to be put off and avoided until the last minute.

So what to do?

Give me a call and I'll walk you through it.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dealing With The Status Quo

Last week I pulled a few sales books off the shelf. As readers of this blog know, I believe that job searching is another form of selling (well, marketing and selling). The job seeker's objective is to eventually make a sale (of their service) to a buyer of that service (the employer).

Going back and refreshing periodically is helpful. There are lots of sales books in my bookcase, however those by Stephan Schiffman are favorites. I started reading one of his and to no surprise the material pulled me right in.

The subject at hand? The status quo. Specifically, that a sales person must first of all recognize that the competition is what the prospect is currently doing. Furthermore, they must get it that this existing state of affairs will continue unless there is a compelling reason for the prospect to make a change.

Make a change ... that's at the heart of job searching and job upgrading. Saying that change is desired or needed is one thing, getting on with it is quite another. Even though people are not happy or comfortable where they are, many are just content enough to be reluctant (resistant?) to change. So they stick with what they have going, the status quo. They have settled in.

Change itself now becomes an obstacle. The status quo is familiar, patterns develop, things are built around the same old same old. The longer this continues, the harder change becomes. Like the man that hasn't kept up on dental hygiene, who ends up with a bad toothache. He's forced to go to the doc, not to make a course correction, but rather to relieve the pain. The tooth is pulled, the pain goes away, but nothing has changed in the stauts quo. He goes right back to the same habits that led to the pain and visit in the first place.

I believe one's employment status quo and personality are intertwined. Whereas behavior may be learned, I subscribe to the notion that personality is largely innate. People end up in career and employment situations that conform to basic personality sets. This works for those that know exactly what they want or are able to find it, a situation that is enhanced when there are lots of opportunities to pick from and try out.

However, what happens in the current economic climate if you are displaced or for some other reason have had to drop out, and then find that you must re-enter the workforce? What happens when labor supply and demand is way out of whack? Or when settling in has led to thinking the status quo will go on indefinitely?


Free Agency suddenly confronts. To be sure, it was there all along (the individual is and has always been a Free Agent operating in the Marketplace) but they didn't see it. In extreme cases, this realization completely overwhelms, causing panic and life crisis. We know this. Furthermore we know that it can be especially acute for men, the traditional family breadwinner - hardly not as it once was but still, it can take generations before roles of this type fully evolve.

Shephan Schiffman's instruction that we first get a handle on the existing state of affairs, applies to so many facets of life. In this case it's good advice for those of us doing the helping as well as for those being helped.

These days the status quo in the work world is that THERE IS NO status quo. Ask someone 18-30 years old. The concept of settling in, is foreign. Not only because this is the traditional wild-oats time of life but because as an aspiration, the flame is barely flickering.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fitting The Pieces Together

Although I did take a welcomed 4th of July holiday break the majority of my time has been spent working on a new and affiliated business, Success Partners. The website is still a work in progress but it's up so please check it out.

Success Partners is an important puzzle part. As with Success Finding A Job the goal of the new venture is to build a business by helping others better their economic situation. Success Finding A Job as the name implies assists people in securing and improving on their employment. Success Partners' mission is to build a team of entrepreneurial minded Free Agents desiring to own their own businesses.

The concept of being a Free Agent is shared by both. In fact, it is the cement that binds them. In a nutshell, being a Free Agent means that you have awakened to the fact that you are out there on your own, making your way in the Marketplace. If you are still a bit sleepy on the subject (read this: feeling secure if not insulated in your current position) consider that you may be one layoff away from a forced realization.

In any case, there are three ways to transcend the job/work/economic situation that confronts most Americans.

1) Luck and Miracles (which is to say, not having to worry much about it)
A winning lotto ticket, a windfall inheritance you had no idea was coming, or finding Black Beard's treasure chest buried, of all places, right in you backyard! Failing these...

2) Becoming a Heads Up Free Agent Seller of Service
This is what Success Finding A Job is all about. Waking up and making an effort to take control of how and where you sell your services. Most people spend their entire working lives as employees. For some it works out fine - for others, not really. For those wanting more control (through ownership) of their respective futures...

3) Building Your Own Business as Part of the Success Partners Team
If you have a strong desire to succeed and the work ethic to match, Success Partners has the vehicle for you to build your own business, at your own pace. The Success Partners business model eliminates the restrictions of a large investment, taking on inventory, hiring and managing employees, selling, and delivering products. Visit to find out more.

All this sounds quite commercial which I guess it is. However I know that one size does not fit all. Some of us are interested in owning and doing our own thing and others are not. What's more, I know that life in general provides no constants. The Great Recession, still very much with us, is a reminder of this fact. What seemed solid a year ago may be far from it today.

Consequently I see the merits of both businesses. Each offers something different while working toward the same end goal.

I believe in the concept of Free Agency as it applies to most Americans - AND - I'm positively jazzed about having the tools to help people do something about it.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Monday, July 1, 2013

Assault On (traditional) Retail Jobs

Those of us that came of age before PCs, cell phones, and social media, have experienced first hand the trends described in Death of the Salesman, an article by Derek Thompson in the June issue of Atlantic Monthly. Thompson describes the situation facing brick and mortar retail and the resulting plight of associated sales jobs. Compared to the pre-digital era, most retail workers today hold down J-O-B positions (just over broke). It's becoming the land of the part time and temporary worker. A near pure play in Free Agent-ism.

According to the article the two biggest factors are Walmart and eCommerce, with the latter posing the biggest challenge over time.

Walmart's impact on traditional retail is hardly a new story. As Thompson points out, its all about price.

Shoppers can save up to 30% over competitors, even after other retailers have adjusted to Walmart's presence. The counter balance to lower prices shows up in customer survey results, which are consistently lousy. This has created a Reverse Walmart Effect in a way. Consumers desiring a more satisfying shopping experience go elsewhere, for example to Costco, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Nordstrom. On balance, workers at these businesses are paid better and are more productive in terms of sales.

Nonetheless there's no ignoring the incredible tear that Walmart has been on since the 60's. Their business model has been formidable. And yet, as predatory and efficient as Walmart can be, they too have had to make adjustments. Since 2008 their workforce has decreased by 20,000 in spite of opening 455 new stores according to Thompson's research. The Great Recession has pinched all retailers.

But this is far from the whole story. Even the mighty Walmart can't ignore the growing threat from eCommerce. The challenge has been 20 years in the making and now its front and center. The paradigm shift is real and unavoidable. Estimates have it that the Web will capture 8% of all retail sales by the end of 2013.

The big dog in this category is Amazon which takes in 25% of all online sales. They're recent endeavour involves selling groceries in selected California markets after extensive testing in Seattle. Webvan couldn't do it 12 years ago but betting against Amazon, considering their online experience and warehouse network, doesn't seem very bright. Run this out another 10 years and Free Agency could be rampant throughout the ranks of brick and mortar retail.

Cetainly Walmart is efficient. But when it comes to sales per full time employee, Amazon's $600k per, is chilling. That's 3 times the retail average. Twenty years ago when the Web and eCommerce were just getting started, people went to the store to shop. Now they can do it from the beach using their smart phones.

To survive over the next 20 years, all types of retailers will have to adapt and adjust. Coming out of it will be employment opportunities in IT, customer service, and logistics. But efficiency will rule the day and old-school retail positions will be trimmed to the bone.

If you are there now, look to re-tool and get out. If you are thinking about working in retail, take a hard look at the category and find a niche within it - or move on to something else.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lowe's and Jobs

Home improvement giant Lowe’s is struggling at least compared to others in the same category, especially Home Depot.

Recently the company announced it was buying 60 of bankrupt Orchard Supply Hardware’s 90 stores. If all comes together on the deal Lowe’s will increase it’s presence in California. This will happen by adding stores that are much smaller than the company now operates. The average Lowe's store is 113,000 square feet vs Orchard’s stores that are around 36,000 square feet.

So what does this have to do with job search and workforce issues?

For starters it shows that Lowe’s is looking for change, which in turn might mean fewer hands needed.  Shareholders aren't interested in seeing their company play second fiddle as the tide in home improvement continues to rise. But is the tide rising, really?

Going forward, the big box model in this business segment may not support more than Home Depot, the largest fish in this pond. Things are much better for them these days however their positive sales and profitability numbers could be coming at the expense of Lowe’s. Both companies grew and expanded as the housing market inflated. There's a lot of "old business" that must return before existing assets are full utilized. Even a robust recovery may not bring this about.  

Look for free agency for some of Lowe's 160,000+ employees. The Orchard buy indicates transition is under way. So far it's slow giving workers a chance to consider where they stand. Nonetheless we're all free agents. Lowe's employees should be picking up on this and taking stock of their current situation.   

In the short term, Lowe’s move to buy the Orchard assets should save jobs in the stores it acquires. In the long run if the small footprint model proves successful it could become a real alternative to Lowe's big box format. The Orchard buy is important because it is a big departure from what used to work for Lowe's. But even if successful, Orchard-izing alone may not be enough to prevent store closures, overall organizational shrinkage, and fewer jobs at Lowe's.

But it’s too early to tell. Home building forecasters predict a 24+% increase in business this year and nearly 29% in 2014. Will Lowe’s as we know it be able to hang in there? Will Home Depot continue to nibble at Lowe’s lunch?

Nonetheless an improving housing market does not a bubble make (thank goodness). Lowe's and Home Depot were hit hard by the recession in part because they grew as the bubble grew. But the pop hurt. It's hardly a stretch to imagine Home Deport actually buying some Lowe's stores. This would result in Lowe's becoming a combo big box / mid box operator. Who knows, it may be Lowe's that comes out ahead. Keep a sharp eye peeled Ace Hardware.

In the meantime, I'm ready to assist any Lowe's folks looking to make a preemptive move. Just give me a call.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell