Everybody Wants What Everybody Wants

By Barbara Corcoran – TV Personality on Shark Tank

1988 was the worst real estate market in a decade, but when I turned the corner on East 80 Street there were more than 150 people waiting in line to buy my 88 unsold New York City apartments. The unwanted units had been sitting on the market for more than three years, and I had decided to price them all alike – those on high floors and low floors, front apartments and back apartments, some with views and others facing brick walls. I put them up for sale first come, first served, creating a buying frenzy. I sold them all in an hour and put a happy million dollars in commissions in my pocket! That sale saved my tiny real estate business from bankruptcy.

I’ve learned that the number one rule in sales is everybody wants what everybody wants and nobody wants what nobody wants. When you tell a buyer they can’t have something, they always want it more, but let that same customer know there’s plenty to go around and they’ll always go home to think about it.

As an investor on ABC’s hit reality show Shark Tank, I wouldn’t invest in nearly as many businesses as I do if it weren’t for the other four greedy sharks bidding on it. Whenever a hopeful entrepreneur gets one shark to bite, he can count on a feeding frenzy and a sure investment. And the feeding frenzy continues when the episode airs, because primetime TV exposure is the magic dust that makes folks at home want the product too. Tens of thousands of viewers order it online within minutes, the entrepreneur is wooed by the big box stores, and the same investors who had absolutely no interest in it the week before suddenly want in.

When Rick and Melissa Hinnant of Grace and Lace showed their trendy socks on Shark Tank, they sold a million dollars in socks within four days! When fashion designer Gayla Bentley showcased her snappy dresses “for the plus-size woman,” Stage Stores became the first national retailer to carry her line. When Tiffany Krumins demonstrated her little elephant-shaped medicine dispenser to help sick kids take their medicine, giant CVS immediately ordered fifteen thousand units. And when Kim Daisy showed her delicious home-baked Daisy Cakes on Shark Tank, her website crashed as 20,000 cakes were ordered within eight minutes.

Everybody wants what everybody wants – and nobody wants what nobody wants – is the dictum played out every week on Shark Tank, to both the viewers’ and the entrepreneurs’ delight. If you don’t have demand for your product or service, you’ve got to dream up a way to create the illusion that there is.


What Baby Boomers’ Retirement Means For The U.S. Economy

By Ben Cass of FiveThirtyEight Economics

For decades, the retirement of the baby boom generation has been a looming economic threat. Now, it’s no longer looming — it’s here. Every month, more than a quarter-million Americans turn 65. That’s a trend with profound economic consequences. Simply put, retirees don’t contribute as much to the economy as workers do. They don’t produce anything, at least directly. They don’t spend as much on average. And they’re much more likely to depend on others — the government or their own children, most often — than to support themselves.

The recession may have delayed the inevitable for a time. The financial crisis wiped away billions in retirement savings, forcing many Americans to work longer than planned. But the stock market has since rebounded, and there are signs that more Americans are at last feeling confident enough to leave the workforce. The labor force participation rate for older Americans — the share of those 55 and older who are working or actively looking for work — has fallen over the past year after rising through the recession and early years of the recovery. Roughly 17 percent of baby boomers now report that they are retired, up from 10 percent in 2010.

Now that the wave has begun, nothing is likely to stop it. The Census Bureau on Tuesday released a pair of reports that show just how dramatic an impact the graying of the population will have in coming decades.

Nearly a quarter of Americans were born between 1946 and 1964, the typical definition of the baby boom generation. That’s more than 75 million people. In their heyday, the boomers were an unprecedented economic force, pushing up rates of homeownership, consumer spending and, most important of all, employment. It’s no coincidence that the U.S. labor force participation rate — the share of the adult population that has a job or is trying to find one — hit a record high in the late 1990s, when the boomers were at the peak of their working lives.

It’s been downhill ever since. The participation rate hit a 36-year low last month, and while there are multiple reasons for the decline, the aging of the baby boom generation is a dominant factor. In 2003, 82 percent of boomers were part of the labor force; a decade later, that number has declined to 66 percent, and it will only continue to fall.

All else equal, fewer workers means less economic growth. One way to measure this is a figure known as the “dependency ratio,” or the number of people outside of working age (under 18 or over 64) per 100 adults between age 18 and 64. The higher the ratio, the worse the news: If more of the population is young or old that leaves fewer working-age people to support them and contribute to the economy.
The U.S. dependency ratio has been improving in recent decades, falling from 65 in 1980 to 61 in 2000 to 59 in 2010. But now the trend is set to reverse. By 2020, the Census Bureau estimates, the U.S. dependency ratio will be back to 65; in 2030, it will be 75, the worst since the 1960s and 1970s, when the baby boomers were children.

The dependency ratio is a blunt instrument. Not everyone retires the day they turn 65; indeed, as lifespans lengthen (and pensions decline), more people are working later in life. But only up to a point: Plenty of people work past 65; few work past 85.3 It will be a while yet before baby boomers start turning 85, but more of them will get there than any previous generation. By 2050, more than 4 percent of the population will be at least 85 years old, more than double today’s figure.

As bad as the U.S. demographics look, things are worse in much of the world. The U.S. has fewer residents over 65, as a share of its population, than most developed countries, and the disparity will only grow in coming decades. In 2050, about 21 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older compared to more than 30 percent in much of Western Europe and an incredible 40 percent in Japan. China, as a result of its “one child” policy, faces its own, somewhat different, demographic crisis.

One reason the U.S. is in better shape is its comparatively high rate of immigration. Since people tend to migrate when they are younger, immigrants tend to bring down the age of the population as a whole. Moreover, at least in the U.S., immigrants tend to have a higher birth rate than the native-born population, although the gap has narrowed somewhat in recent years. The future direction of immigration, therefore, makes a big difference to the age breakdown of the U.S. population. The Census Bureau’s demographic estimates are based on a middle-of-the-road projection of future immigration, but the bureau also publishes alternative scenarios. In the “high immigration” scenario, the U.S. has nearly 22 million more working-age residents in 2050 than in the “low immigration” case.

The U.S. also has another trend working in its favor: Baby boomers are retiring just as their children — sometimes known as the “echo boomers” — are entering their prime working years. Boomers are no longer even the largest age cohort; more of today’s Americans were born in the 1980s and 1990s than in the postwar years. As today’s teens and 20-somethings enter the workforce, they will partly offset their parents’ exit. Indeed, for many young people, mom and dad can’t retire soon enough; some experts argue that boomers, by staying in the workforce longer than past generations, are essentially clogging the usual professional pathways, leaving few opportunities for people beginning their careers.

Thanks in part to the echo boomers, the dependency ratio will flatten out by about 2030. Not that long thereafter, the oldest of the echo boomers will begin entering their own retirement years, and the cycle will begin anew.


Fear Can Be a Powerful Friend

By Betty Liu of Bloomberg TV

I was on a plane recently and watched the Felix Baumgartner documentary about his mission “to the edge of space.” Just watching him dive from 24 miles up in the sky, breaking the sound barrier while I was cruising along at 39,000 feet was enough to make me queasy in my seat. (Another glass of wine, please.)

The story behind the daredevil act was engrossing; but the reason why he finally pulled the trigger and did it was even more juicy to me. Here was this young, brash, kind of crazy and fearless guy raring to make history. That’s the story you’ve been told. But the real story is that in the end, good ol’ fear is what glued his butt to the capsule that floated him up to the stratosphere.

What kind of fear? No, not the kind that prevents you from hopping on a motorbike going 100 mph down the speedway, which is likely what Felix does before breakfast every morning. I’m talking about “good fear” — the kind that drives you to do the really hard things because if you didn’t, you couldn’t live with yourself. Like many of us, Felix was fearless and fearful at the same time. At one point, he was so scared about the mission he literally fled the project for several months.

So what did the team do? They found a replacement. And what happened to Felix? He got jealous and returned to the mission. The leaders of the mission knew to tap into that one fear that drives greatness – the fear of regret. It is not a “bad fear” which is the kind that limits you; it is a “good fear” because it motivates you. Can you imagine how Felix would feel if someone else had accomplished what he set out to do?

To bring it back down to earth, literally, let me tell you about my own bout with “good fear.” It came years ago when I was about to make a career switch into television, while also feeling the tug of wanting to take a break and become a mother.

I was worried if I waited too long, the timing would not be right. But then the timing could not have been worse either. I couldn’t understand why I had two desires in my gut at the same time—to both switch into a new career and have a baby.

All these thoughts swam in my head for a while and the fear of moving on one but not the other only paralyzed me. On one weekend, we spent the day with my family in Ocean City, by the Jersey shore. We were sitting in our beach house relaxing when my father could see I was lost in my head.

“What’s wrong? What’s bothering you?”

I told him I was just confused. Starting a family is a huge commitment. And then to try to do that while also looking to switch careers is another big commitment. Not to mention worrying about finding a job and your finances. My then-husband at the time was just starting out in his career, too, so there was no option for me to just sit back and live on his income.

I’m not sure exactly what my father said, but he helped crystallize it for me. I think it was more the fact that he said it rather than the exact words that hit me. Here was my father, a man who wanted me to always go the safe route in my career, telling me to take a risk. Just go for it, he advised, and let the future work itself out.

“Do both and see what happens.”

In that moment, what had been a set of bad fears turned into good fear—I began to fear the consequences of not going for it more than doing it. I thought to myself, if in five years, I was in the same spot as I was now, would I be happy? And the answer was an unequivocal no. There was no turning back.

Last time I checked, we only have one life. Whether your goals are setting world records or plunging ahead to juggle a career and parenthood, your job is to get rid of the bad fear and turn the less-bad fear into good fear that motivates you to strive for the bigger.


America’s Employees Don’t Trust Their Employers

Trust plays an important role in the workplace and affects employees’ well-being and job performance. At least that’s what organizational experts say. And the American Psychological Association’s 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey released this week says employee distrust is pervasive in the U.S. Workforce today, despite an improving job market.

One in four workers say they don’t trust their employer and only about half believe their employers are open and upfront with them.

This lack of trust should serve as a wake-up call for employers,” says David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, head of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “The layoffs, benefit cuts and job insecurity that accompanied the recession put a strain on the employee-employer relationship and people aren’t quick to forget.”

One in four workers say they don’t trust their employer and only about half believe their employers are open and upfront with them.

Workers reported having more trust in their company when the organization recognizes employees for their contributions, provides opportunities for advancement and involvement and communicates to the workers effectively.

Although a majority of workers report being satisfied with their job overall, less than half said that they are satisfied with the growth and development opportunities (49%) and employee recognition practices (47%) where they work.

More than a quarter (27%) of U.S. workers said they intend to seek new employment this year.

The survey also found that workers who feel valued by their employer are more likely to be engaged in their work. Employees who feel valued were significantly more likely to report having high levels of energy, being strongly involved in their work and feeling happily engrossed in what they do.

Additionally, those who felt valued by their employer were more likely to report being satisfied with their job (92% of those who felt valued vs. 29% of those who do not) and to say they are motivated to do their best (91% vs. 37%) and to recommend their employer to others (85% vs. 15%).

Employees who felt valued were also less likely to say they feel stressed out during the work day (25% vs. 56% of those who do not feel valued) and more likely to report being in good psychological health (89% vs. 69% of those who do not feel valued).

While more than six in 10 employed adults say they can effectively manage the work stress they experience, almost one-third report typically feeling tense or stressed out during the workday.

The most commonly cited sources of work stress:
• Low salaries
• Lack of opportunity for growth and advancement
• Unclear job expectations
• Job insecurity
• Long hours

“The emphasis in recent years on employee wellness is a step in the right direction, but the psychological factors are often overlooked,” says Ballard. “It’s clear that an organizational culture that promotes and supports openness, honesty, transparency and trust is key to a healthy, high-performing workplace.”

“It’s clear that an organizational culture that promotes and supports openness, honesty, transparency and trust is key to a healthy, high-performing workplace.”

An acquaintance of mine works as a mid-level manager at a vendor whose largest customer is currently experiencing significant pressure on their business. After seeing headcount in his office get reduced by half during the past 12 months, he went in to see the general manager, and found out…nothing. Here is what he said about the meeting.
“While I don’t believe that senior managers at most organizations intend necessarily to be ‘secretive’ or ‘sneaky,’ it’s all about perception. So when my boss is not able to look me in the eye and give me a straight answer to an important – and direct – question, the perception is that there are secrets within the organization and the result is going to be a lack of trust. I know company leaders can’t tell you everything, but I do believe that all employees have a right to know certain basic things, like whether your job is in immediate jeopardy.”

A lack of trust in the workplace is bad for business, and can impact the bottom line. The APA says when a sense of trust is missing, workers may put in less effort or otherwise subvert their employers’ goals.

“Employees want to know that there are fair processes in place and a sense of equity” in the exchange between their efforts and the compensation (monetary and otherwise) they receive in return, said Ballard.