02 Jan

Get Strong In a Soft Market

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Think about your own life and the services you find most convenient. Do you like to do business Monday through Friday from 9 to 5, or do you prefer doing business online 24/7/365? You need to think of the internet as an opportunity for your properties, facilities and companies to be open 24/7/365 as well. It is our job and our duty to our clients to capture as much traffic or service inquiries as humanly possible. It is called customer service. While your office may have the door closed and locked, the internet and your website should be open and ready for business. In essence your operation is open and available 24/7/365.  The cost is so miniscule compared to staffing, that it makes no sense to ignore the internet as a vital tool in your business.

The tools available are endless. The automation you can enable is endless. During these tough economic market conditions it is the time for PM and FM folks to take advantage of what they can do to get strong, even though the market is soft. 

In our effort to understand the dynamics of the Property and Facility Management industry, we at ManagerLabs.com have to look at the core of what our business is about. Our business is about helping your business grow, thrive and make money. If we cannot do that, we might as well go home. It is the same for you as a PM or FM as well. If you ask yourself that question about your property or facility, it is the same business model. If you can grow your property occupancy or improve the communication at your facility, you are then helping your building owner thrive which in turn is doing your job.

Why is it so difficult for us as PM and FM professionals to convince building owners of the basic tools they need to embrace to keep their buildings in top condition? Is it not the PM or FM job to attract tenants and keep the building customers happy?  Then why do we keep hearing that technology is so hard to sell? It is a puzzling dilemna.  Even the greatest minds are scratching their heads today asking why the industry leaders do not see it, nor do they want to see it. It is truly a paradox.

For instance there are a multitude of issues that you need to make your building owner/client aware of in today’s world of 24/7/365.  People do not just look for office space or apartments or industrial space or whatever their real estate needs are between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. People are on the internet while drinking their coffee in the morning, while riding the train to work,  and when they get home from work or after they put their kids to bed at night. How about on the weekend? People use the web to find almost everything today. So why not advise your client that they must have a website for their property or mandate that meetings be held online to save money or manage all of the data and information you handle via the internet. Why do we stop cold when it comes to letting go and embracing what is faster, cheaper and quite frankly, easier?

Google just announced FREE phone calling through the entire year of 2011? What would happen if you instructed a few of your folks to start making their phone calls via their computers? Would the internet service you subscribe to support this bandwidth demand? Are you using the right-sized connectivity for today’s needs? That may be the first place you need to look. If your ‘utility’ is inadequate, using the internet is not feasible. Think these steps through. Painful technology is worse than no technology; IMHO.

If you own or manage a property you should have your building address or your building name reserved as the domain name for that property, (check it out at NameCheckList)at a minimum, in addition to being a Google Place.  Names, numbers, phrases are truly a commodity as far as domain names go.  As a PM or FM you must have it in your budget to insure your name or location or whatever it is you refer to your facility as is reserved. Crazy as it sounds, there are only so many names left to reserve with the “.com” domain extension.  You need to do this immediately.  Once you have the domain name reserved, that domain should be part of the permanent file for that property. If and when the building is sold, that website should be considered part of the property. After the domain name has been secured, for a small investment, you can have some basic components on your website that can be a tremendous asset to the marketing and leasing of your property, in addition to a time saving tool for so many clever things you can automate today.

The basic items that should be on a property website include:

Name, address, contact information for both management and leasing.
After hours emergency information.
Description of property location/maps.
Neighborhood information so customers can relate to the area.
Demographic information.
Detailed description of the property.
Photographs.
Product information: if office – space available; if apartment – vacant unit information. Links can be obtained from sites like: www.catylist.com They can give your agents a portal for all of the listings you have to feed to your website.
Property or Facility newsletter should be online.
Information for existing property customers can be separate from a public area and should replace your paper tenant or resident handbook.
Frequently requested forms for vendors, tenants, general public should also be included.

When the phone rings, the automated phone system, receptionist or adminsitrator should be able to direct people to your website to save time and make things more efficient for the customers as well. Eventually people will become accustomed to this, but it must be reinforced to all personnel. It takes time, yes, but it is worth the effort upfront to save so much time into the future. The time to start is now. We are in slow times as far as market conditions go. There are so many folks out of work and available for less than you could hire them in prior years. It is time to take advantage of those things now, not later.

There are a multitude of additional tools that can be added to a property website, but the minimum should be done for every property you manage. The domain name should appear on all literature, signage, business cards and notices in and around the property. Most people prefer using the internet or email so it is not a hard sell.

If having a website is overwhelming to you, no problem, get a Facebook page, a twitter site or even a Squidoo page. How about a LinkedIn Company page, Yahoo Group or Google Groups page. There is no excuse why your property or company cannot be found online today. The best part is that most of these opportunities are either FREE or very low cost.

Questions, just call us at Manager Labs for a 1/2 hour discussion on taking baby-steps into today’s world of making yourself strong, while the conditions are soft. You will be glad you did!

 

08 Jul

LinkedIn.com Impact of New UI (User Interface)

We have been very fortunate to be able to meet each other as a result of LinkedIn and our group, PFMI. I personally thank LinkedIn for the wonderful job it has done with their website to date. I am writing this post as there is a chance things may “CHANGE”.

That is such a dirty word and nobody wants to hear of that!! CHANGE that hurts the group closeness is my only concern. With that being said, I am concerned that we may lose touch with our group members if what I am hearing is true. This is a plea to all of our PFMI members to please add your contact information to our PFMI beta Directory now. Why? Because if LinkedIn changes their entire system, we will all lose touch with each other! Simple, add your name so we can keep in touch should LinkedIn really change and push some of us away. Here is my reason for writing this and please comment if you have other information. Why?…….

Many LinkedIn Groups have had CHANGES made to their UI (User Interface) that have negatively impacted their connection to their group members and their discussions. The changes will just suddenly appear for PFMI one day and we will not know when it will happen! There is no warning. It can happen today or maybe not happen at all.
The CHANGES make the LinkedIn, we all know and love today, a different product all together. Discussions and News are now combined. The issue is that it combines the personal content from each of us with the RSS Feed articles and hyperlinks. To me it is like oil and water as far as what you see. The RSS Feeds are basically all of the News related to our industry flowing into what we all have perceived as powerful personal communication, or a safe harbor from that exact content. Our PFMI content is solid, personal, real words written by all of us. It is not hyperlinks to blogs and outside websites or media content site feeds. When the change happens we can test things and try to eliminate all News feeds if need be.

Yes, we do like to see News as well, but on our own terms. Right now it feels like we are being tricked a little bit by the RSS Feeds, which look like Discussion Posts. That is the total opposite of what LinkedIn really is. LinkedIn is a direct connect to each other. Clean and clear of clutter and sound bites. In fact, the most aggravating part of LinkedIn has always been the spam, ironically. It was like an angry crowd throwing tomatoes at you when you would try to clutter up discussions. Group managers went to painstaking lengths to fight off the clutter and sound bites or hyperlinks. Now it has literally been mixed in with our precious conversations and valuable knowledge sharing. Real-life people and content is mixed in with Business Week, Feedburner, et al.

It is akin to a bowl of mixed nuts. There are those nuts you just want a big bowl of, but you leave the peanuts behind as all you want are pistachios and cashews. Yes, there are times you will eat a peanut, but you just want a bowl of cashews! To me LinkedIn was a bowl of cashews and now it is trying to be a bowl of mixed nuts.

The other change is that when you go to enter a discussion, it gives you the same 2 box Discussion area, plus a hyperlink area and a “Twitter” share button which lets you simultaneously blast your title of your Discussion through Twitter. Some of us use Twitter, yes, but not all of us!! I have heard that LinkedIn and Twitter may be doing a joint venture on this or maybe the two companies are now owned by the same people now, hence the push for Twitter in more components of LinkedIn. That is a huge change for many of us, but one you do not mind.

I have the new UI in one of my other groups now. There is definitely a new feel and look that is not as easy on the eyes nor is it as enjoyable to visit. Also, since many of us are time strapped business people, we just do not have enough time to try to maneuver through the difference between our awesome content and the RSS feeds. Today there is currently a nice and tranquil calm to LinkedIn. It is slow and easy on the eyes and the list format of the discussion is easy to follow and does not have that frenetic feel. The new UI is like an MSN browser page but less user-friendly and the current LinkedIn is like the Google Search page, clean and easy to navigate.

The Search capability of the Discussions has changed or they have deleted our old content. For now, I am not sure what has happened with our old Discussions. For instance, if you are in the “air filter” business or the “LED lighting” business you currently can search those keywords to see the discussions that appeal to you, etc.

For instance, I know for a fact that Mack Barnhardt has been active in my RoofTop Gardening Group and I thought he had discussed roof vents, air filters and odors in the group. When I search that, I get nothing. All of Mack’s awesome discussions are gone. Now this is new to me, so I may be wrong.

The discussion lists are mainly the RSS feeds from our News Feed and not just Discussions as we were accustomed to. When you click on a Discussion it can take you out of LinkedIn. It can be slow at times, as it opens a new window which may be confusing for many people. Many people feel like they know they are inside LinkedIn, but now you may not know you are leaving LinkedIn when you click on a Discussion. That is a direct result of combining the News Feeds with the Discussions. I am hopeful that will be phased out.

I think the “human condition” appeal of the current LinkedIn is the high tech/high touch feel that you get by having personal written word communication with rock solid, credible content and less graphics and distractions. Your eye keeps you on the words. With the new LinkedIn UI it is a bit distracting as there are a series of boxes for every single Discussion and you change pages quite frequently. Again, that may also change as this is a beta test, we hope. With the current LinkedIn UI, you feel close to those you are communicating with and there is an intimacy and feeling that nothing is between you and those conversations or sources of content. They are honest and real.

Many of all of our discussions are meaty and have great content as they are like mini-blogs from people. Now the new feel is shorter bursts and boxes, like a Twitter/Facebook hybrid. I can see what they want to do, but it needs more work. It is just too much real estate for one single Discussion.

Because each Discussion takes up too much real estate (no pun intended) you get anxious and want to move on and out. There is just too much face to each Discussion, ie. tons of redundant pictures of everyone. The Discussion is broken up in 3 sections. Title, Shortened content, extract of shortened content, more pictures, Facebook/Twitter menu bar, large menu box with your face on it (not needed) and less white space overall, per each Discussion! The current LinkedIn does not show the pictures as much and surround each Discussion with pictures. The current pictures are off to the side and not in the middle of the content, which is distracting. Most people do not want to see their face that much!
As a group owner, the last thing you want to see is your picture a million times. You want to see content from the members! When you comment it should just be a button not another picture of your face reminding yourself how hard you work to keep your conversations going (smaller groups).

If they just go back to Start a Discussion and not bring up “Your Face” and a box, remove the carousel thing or make it optional, remove the News and Discussion combination concept, remove the 3rd “excerpt” box, remove all of the pictures of those who responded under each Discussion, remove the extra set of boxes under the Discussion comment list which again, shows “Your Face”, maybe that will be a new and improved LinkedIn.

I am writing this insanely long piece as a plea to all of you to add your contact information to our PFMI beta Directory. I am doing it here because once they switch our group over to the “New LinkedIn” I am afraid we may lose touch or connection with each other. If that is ok, with you, great, please do it now. I guess I feel so many of you are like friends now and I personally would like to keep in touch, even if LinkedIn changes.

If time permits, please list your information at PFMI beta Directory so we can regroup and follow each other after LinkedIn changes. I really want you to give me your honest feedback after LinkedIn changes so I know how you really feel about it. I am hoping I am wrong here and that you all love the new look and feel and will continue to keep in touch. We all really love the LinkedIn we are using now and I am hoping and praying that by my long post here and other feedback, that LinkedIn may give PFMI a reprieve and not upgrade our group yet. It may be possible for LinkedIn to give us an optional UI format per group. In other words, have a high tech group and a low tech group, for instance. So many of our users have been pressured into using LinkedIn in the first place, we do not want to scare them away. Many are other business generations that do not take kindly to portals like LinkedIn. If you throw this new UI at them, I am afraid they will tire of it quickly and do an “I told you so” and bail out. If that occurs LinkedIn may just be another website or portal that had its day in the sun, but has gone by way of the Netscapes of the world.