Friday, December 21, 2012

The Thanks We Owe to Winter

The qualities that allowed us to survive the ice ages of Europe are the same ones that allow us to compete and achieve in the world of business.
"The evolutionary advantage to compete and succeed in the world of business
 as in the world at large - that is the thanks we owe to the ice age winters."
No where in the annals of history, except for a few rare instances, do we find the people of the southern regions of the world marching north to attack the civilizations of the higher latitudes.  We don't see the Africans leaving their continent to rape, pillage and plunder the Europeans.  We don't see the peoples of the Mediterranean pushing northward to subjugate the civilizations of the colder climes.  What we see is just the opposite, a consistent onslaught of people from the north against people of the south.  

According to historians, Will and Ariel Durant, the raiders were inevitably "Nordic" Scandanavians, Sythians, Baltic Germans, Englishmen, and Anglo Saxons, and "one or another of these fair-haired, blue-eyed "blond beasts" swept down through Russia and the Balkans into the lazy and lethargic South in a series of conquests marking the dawn of recorded history."  Even in our own land in our own time did the industrial North go to war against the plantation South, and defeat them.

What is it about the northerly latitudes that have made us such aggressive and unilateral victors over our neighbors to the south?  Historians of less enlightened ages have argued that the matter is one of racial supremacy. But that argument is easily put to rest by the advanced Mayan, Aztec and Incan civilizations of pre-Columbian America, and other B.C. overachievers in the middle East and southern Europe. 

If not race, what then is responsible for this incredible record of domination of the northern peoples over equatorial ones?  The answer may very well be our winter clime. Winter presented a fiercely challenging environment to our early ancestors and all the civilizations that preceded industrial society.  Imagine what life must have been like for early man during the ice age, huddling in caves of northern Europe against the unyielding barrages of winter.  Here in New York and New Jersey, millions of have been living in cold dark caves once again, after being battered by Hurricane Sandy, so it's not too hard to imagine. The human species responds to challenge and adversity by adaptation - both physical and social - and winter appears to have honed our survival skills, hardened us against our most dangerous and deadly foe, namely, the environment.  If you can become master over  the forces of nature, it's easy to go an conquer your neighbors, and thus we have done.

The qualities that allowed us to survive against the European winters of the ice age are still within us.  Human beings are equipped with "instincts" to preserve the individual, the family, the group, or the species.  Some of these characteristics, such as pugnacity, greed and hoarding, are no longer necessary for physical survival, but they have made it natural for us to battle each other in the realm of business.  There is no longer any need to hoard food for the barren winter months, but how far removed from that is the desire to hoard cash.  The ferocity that enabled us to stand our ground as we were buffeted by wind, snow and rain, now allows traders to stand and outshout each other on the tumultuous floor of the New York Stock Exchange.  The spark of ingenuity within us that led to the innovation and development off new tools and weapons for survival, lead us today to develop new technologies.  The evolutionary advantage to compete and succeed in the world of business as in the world at large - that is the thanks we owe to the ice age winters.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Work and Happiness

Evidence suggests that the happiness we seek is to be found, not at the top of the ladder, but in the climb, itself.
Evidence suggests that the happiness we seek is to be found, not at the top of the ladder, but in the climb, itself.

Happiness is an elusive thing in success driven New York, which, according to common knowledge is the most neurotic state in the union.  There are many rungs on the idiomatic ladder to success, and for every one we climb, another often seems to appear at the top. Those who decry the futility of the rat race say that happiness is to be found by getting off the ladder. Perhaps that's true for some.  But for many - in fact probably most - evidence suggests that the happiness we seek is not to be found at the top of the ladder, but in the climb, itself.

Note the words of King Solomon, written over 2,000 years ago:  I applied my mind to...discern which is best for mankind to do under the heavens during the brief span of their lives.  I acted in grand style: I built houses, I planted vineyards; I made for myself gardens and orchards, and planted in them every kind of fruit tree...I acquired stewards; I also owned more possessions, both cattle and sheep, than all of my predecessors in Jerusalem; I amassed even silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and the provinces; I provided myself with various musical instruments, and with every human luxury - chests and chests of them…(here it comesIndeed, my heart drew joy from all my activities, and this was my reward for all my endeavors. 

Carlin Flora, writing in Psychology Today ("The Pursuit of Happiness," January 1, 2009) says that "getting what you want doesn't bring lasting happiness." She says that "happiness lies in the chase." She says: "Action toward goals other than happiness makes us happy.  Though there is a place for vegging out and reading trashy novels, easy pleasures will never light us up the way mastering a new skill or building something from scratch will.  And it's not crossing the finish line that is most rewarding; it is anticipating achieving your goal."
Thomas Jefferson is credited with having authored the famous words of the Declaration of Independence.  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project agrees that when it comes to the pursuit of happiness, most of the happiness is to be found in its pursuit.  She writes, "First of all, by the time you've arrived at your destination, you're expecting to reach it, so it has already been incorporated into your happiness."

If you're an investor in stocks, you're probably acquainted with the old adage, "Buy the rumor; sell the news."  The reason is found in Ms. Rubin's explanation.  Stocks usually run up in anticipation of an event, such as the introduction of a new product, and when the event occurs, the stock sells off.  The stock price of Apple, Inc., has generally followed this pattern in connection with the introduction of its Iphone and Ipad products.  Buying the rumor equates with striving to reach a goal; selling the news equates with reaching the goal. By the time you've arrived at the anticipated announcement (the goal), the value has already been incorporated into  the stock's price (happiness).  What usually follows is a sell off, which is the disappointment people often experience when reaching a goal.

Illustration by Rebecca Church

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How Albert Einstein and Virtual Offices have Changed the Way we View Time and Space

                  Einstein changed the way we look at time and space; virtual office services changed the way we look at time and space, too. 
During the course of the last two thousand years, science has dramatically changed the way we view and understand time and space.  For the better part of this period, the civilized world subscribed to the Ptolemaic, or geocentric model of the universe, which placed the earth at the center of the solar system.  In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus, stood the world on its head, with his introduction of a heliocenteric model - placing the sun at the center of the universe.

Since then, we've been shaken up a good deal more than that. Scientists now tell us that space and time were born some 13.7 billion years ago, with the big bang.  Far from being at the center at the universe, our solar system, along with everything else in the cosmos, is moving with great speed away from its original point of origin.

Albert Einstein, with his Theory of Special Relativity, helped us understand why we don't have to hold on to our chairs while we go hurtling through space.  Actually, no one in the world understands this, save for a few mathematicians of the same rank, but he made it digestible for us simple folk.

Imagine, he said, that we are standing on the ground, watching an airplane sail across the sky.  It appears to move slowly. However, if we were standing on a cloud right next to it, it would appear to rush past us at tremendous speed.  Yet, the people inside the plane hardly feel as if they are moving at all.

In the good old days, we used to think of space as something finite, measured by length, width and height.   Einstein threw in a fourth dimension - time.  Einstein perceived that space around mass was actually curved.  And that's not all.  Time, as it turns out, is not linear at all.  It actually slows down as you approach the speed of light.  

Enough about Einstein, however.  In the last twenty years, there has also been a re-conceptualization of time and space in the universe of commercial real estate.  Fortunately this revolution in is much less abstract. Once we believed that an office space could only be leased by a single entity for a prescribed period of time.  

This idea has been replaced by a virtual office model, which allows multiple tenants to coexist simultaneously in the same space.  The Queens NY office building now known as the Executive Office Center at Fresh Meadows was once home to First Choice Real Estate - a single tenant - for over twenty years. Now, the same space is the professional business address of over 150 different companies.  This doesn't have anything to do with space being curved or time being relative.  It merely allows multiple tenants to utilize the same space at different times.
A lot of business owners here in Queens New York and elsewhere - people who work out of their homes, for example - are not familiar with the concept of virtual offices.  They may associate the world virtual with ethereal or intangible.  But the space and services provided by the Executive Office Center and other office business centers are very real, and very inexpensive. They include personalized Queens telephone answering, telephone and internet service, Queens mailbox rental, access to ready to use office space and conference rooms, and much much more.  

In just two decades, the concept has spread across the globe, and can be found in every major metropolitan center in the world. It is such a practical and cost effective alternative to traditional office space, it is just a matter of time before it changes the rental marketplace forever.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Read This to Become A Millionaire

What's the best way to make a million dollars - by disciplined savings or following your heart and guts?  This blog gives you the answer.
What's the best way to make a million dollars - by disciplined savings or following your heart and guts?  
I love all the advice on the internet on how to become a millionaire. After sorting through the scores of online articles and blogs, you'll discover that they fall into two basic categories, the Disciplined Savings Approach and the Follow your Heart and Guts Approach.  Of course, you can go straight to Go by marrying into wealth, but be mindful of the Scottish proverb, "Don't marry for money, you can borrow it cheaper." 

The Disciplined Savings method is illustrated by the blogs about the "miracle" or "magic" of compound interest.  First, start with the foolish premise that your money can earn 10% a year, as do many of the articles on this subject. (The annualized return for U.S. large-company stocks (as represented by the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index) for the past 80 years has been about 10%, not including taxes). So, naturally, say your goal is to build a nest egg of $1 million by the time you are 55.  If you start at age, 24 and invest $5,000 a year at an annualized return of 10%, you'll reach your goal.  Of course! 

Or, similarly, take  5 bucks a day, and put the money in a stock mutual fund that gives you 10% interest on average. Easier said that done, of course, but guess what?  In 42 years, you'll have a million dollars!  

They say that Albert Einstein (allegedly) called compound interest the eighth wonder of the world.  I'm glad he was a theoretical physicist and not a financial adviser.  The problem with this approach is that the tedium is sure to kill you before you reach your goal.  Only an automaton could execute a plan like this. 

The other approach is about following your dream, pursuing your passion - ideally in the form of a business. (You can start with a virtual office at the Executive Office Center to save money). This approach sounds dangerously naive, and it has probably gotten more than one fool into a lot of trouble. The reality is that the dream has to be combined with a good deal of zealotry and fortitude.  A lofty vision is a good start. But you have to follow up on the vision with  obsessive devotion to the cause.  You have to close your ears to the naysayers, and forge ahead.  Working like a dog is very helpful.  Postponing immediate gratification is essential. Some people are held back from achievement by negative thought processes, so pop psychologists have some cliched suggestions for you like Get out of your own way and Give yourself permission to succeed.   

One thing for certain is you are not going to become a millionaire merely be reading this blog.  Knowledge may be power - but the energy in knowledge is latent, like the power inherent in an atom.  To release the power in the atom, you have to split it.  To release the money-making power in an idea, you have to execute it. Good luck.

To read a more comprehensive and wonderful blog on this sujbect, try Michael Brain's How to Make Million Dollars.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Is a Virtual Office a Real Office?


               A virtual office is something close to be being a real office.  It allows for the temporary use of office space on an as need basis.        

I like the definition of the word, "virtual" in the Merriam-Webster Learners Dictionary. It defines it as "very close to being something without actually being it." That, in essence, is the definition of a virtual office. A virtual office is something very close to being an office, without actually being one.

It's not something ethereal or intangible like the concept of virtual reality. We don't put you to sleep and plant a subliminal notion in your mind that you have an office, where you can hang out at the water cooler with gorgeous members of the opposite sex. There are things that are real and there are things belong in the realm of fantasy. We're talking about something real, functional, and utterly practical.

At the Executive Office Center at Fresh Meadows, located in Queens NY, a virtual office is an office that you can use on on as-need basis. It's not an office that you can move in to and decorate. The offices are already decorated. You can bring a picture of your family, and place it on the desk while you work, if you like. You can use one of our offices for an hour, for a day, for a week - whatever you need - and pay for it by the hour. Prospective tenants of the Executive Office Center have a range of virtual office service packages to choose from, as well. You can see them online at:

Most of our tenants use our office suites as a place to meet clients. These rooms are usually used for meetings with individuals or two to three people. If you need to meet with a larger group,  you can use the Executive Conference Room, which seats twelve around the table. We have about forty attorneys who regularly use our offices, and nearly ten psychotherapists, as well. The other tenants of the Executive Office Center are mostly small businesses and non-profit organizations. All of our tenants are featured on our consumer website:

Can you use the Executive Office Center as a regular business address? Of course. A listing of your business is placed in the lobby, along with other tenants and virtual tenants of the office building. You can use the address on your stationary, and as a reference location for Google and other search engines.

Can you use the office to receive mail? Yes. At the Executive Office Center, you get your own secure mailbox. Even better than that, we'll receive your packages, Fed Ex envelopes, and even call you if it looks like something important.

Having a virtual office (or a serviced office suite) at the Executive Office Center is better than having a regular office in a lot of ways. You don't have the burdensome fixed costs associated with a traditional office space. You also don't pay for for internet service or telephone use. At the Executive Office Center, it's on the house.

And there are other significant benefits as well. We have a receptionist who can provide you with personalized telephone answering. You have to pay for it, of course - but not much. One thing for certain is that it's much less expensive than hiring a personal receptionist. Our receptionist also courteously greets your clients when they come into the office building.

Additionally, there is a beautiful cafeteria, where you can have lunch, watch TV, grab a cup of coffee, or enjoy a snack or a can of soda from one of the vending machines.

And let me add one more thing about the aforementioned Executive Conference Room. It is equipped with a 46" wide screen HDTV, ideal for videoconferencing and/or business presentations.  

So, is a virtual office a real office? It's real, alright.  In many ways, it's better than a real office. And it's a real deal for anyone who comprehends its exceptional value.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Virtual Offices are Unfair to Commercial Building Owners

Virtual office services provide fully furnished office space.  They offer telephone service.  They give you internet service.  They pay for your gas and electric. They pay for everything!  How can traditional building owners compete?!

The Executive Office Center Discourse on Business invites blog post contributions from members of the business community.  This anonymous writer has a grievance against virtual office services.

I’m not a person who likes to complain, but I think that virtual office centers like this new company, the Executive Office Center at Fresh Meadows are unfair to commercial landlords.  I own an office building around the corner.  It’s always been full.  Now I have a 30% vacancy rate because of these guys.

Why?  What did they do to you?

It’s not what they did.  It’s what they do.

These guys give you everything.

They give you furniture.

They give you telephone service.

They give you internet service.

They pay for your gas and electric.

They pay for your cleaning.

They pay for everything!

I mean they even have a secretary who answers your phones.

Now, how can I compete with that?  I got a regular office building.

Well, it’s not their fault, really.  That’s the type of building it is.  That’s how they operate.

You think having a cafeteria in their building is fair?  You think it’s fair to have a beautiful conference room for all the tenants to use?

Do you know that you can rent Queens office space in here on a part-time basis?  You think that helps me?  I mean, you don’t even have to sign a long term lease with these guys.  They just let you use an office whenever you want one. 

Now is that fair?  I’m asking you.  That’s why I am protesting against this injustice to regular commercial building owners.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Working with Normal People

Be grateful for the normal people in your workplace, but never forget that there arev villains, maniacs, impostors and fruitcakes beneath some of those calm exteriors.

It is truly a blessing when the people for whom you work, or the people with whom you work, or those who work for you – are normal.  Most of us take reasonable behavior for granted, just as we take for granted our sight, our hearing and the use of our arms and legs. 

We shouldn’t take these good and decent souls for granted because there are lunatics amongst us.  There are villains and maniacs, impostors, fruitcakes, and thieves lurking behind the most pleasant exteriors. 

I’ve had both kinds of experiences in my thirty-five years in business.  For the most part, I’ve been very fortunate.  I’ve had a wonderful and trustworthy assistant for twenty-seven years, and the great majority of the people with whom I have worked have fallen within the broad parameters of what we would call normal.

But there are those who would lure you into a sexual harassment suit.  There are those who would attempt to steal your employees while you’re on vacation.  There are those who will kill you by stealth, others by laziness and stupidity, and others by sheer maliciousness.  There are lots of people out there who are genuinely nice, but have a faulty moral framework.  This kind of person believes that it’s okay to cheat as long as you don’t get caught.  Here’s where you have to watch your office supplies.

It isn’t always apparent that someone is a nut.  You discover the fact in increments sometimes.  That’s when you’re lucky.  They betray themselves with a comment or a minor departure from the norms with which we relate to each other.  There are others, who are truly mad, who will flare up like a supernova, in a single moment of fury, vaporizing any evidence of the normalcy that preceded it.  Consider yourselves fortunate when that happens, too – unless the person throws something at you.  But all too often, we discover the evil done to us as a fait accompli – after someone has stolen from you, whether it be cash or information or personnel, or has left you in a state of chaos by either negligence or design. 

When you think about it, it is surprising that we are able to work with each other with such a high degree of cooperation.  But never forget that anarchy lurks not too far beneath the surface.  Be grateful for the reasonableness, but bear it ever in your mind that, while you’re taking too long at the copier, the guy behind you could be fraying at the edges.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Virtual Office Business Model Becoming an Attractive Alternative to Traditional Office Space in Queens NY

The Executive Office Center at Fresh Meadows is a great place for Queens professionals to work.  It offers two economical alternatives to traditional office space, serviced office suites and virtual office services.

Virtual office services and serviced office space are quickly becoming a favored alternative to traditional office space in Queens, New York.

The Executive Office Center at Fresh Meadows , which opened in October of 2011, is the first such office center to open in the borough of Queens, and has already attracted over one hundred tenants and virtual tenants!

I am a personal believer in the virtual office business model for small businesses.  It’s such a practical and cost-effective alternative to traditional office space, it is just a matter of time before it changes the office rental marketplace forever.

The borough of Queens, NY, is a latecomer to the virtual office concept.  It's somewhat surprising, considering the fact that the idea has been around for a while, and that it's such an important component of the marketplace for office space in Manhattan. I believe that the economy of Queens, which consists primarily of small businesses, makes the virtual office model particularly relevant.

Over 100 companies have joined the Queens Executive Office Center since it opened last year. Nearly 40% of the firms are attorneys.  They are the ideal candidates for this type of office space. A lot of them don't really need full time office space, just a place to meet an occasional client. We have quite a few social workers and accountants, as well. But the rest of the companies span the professional and entrepreneurial spectrum from environmental consultants to real estate brokers.

This past week, the Executive Office Center was joined by the Law offices of Heath Goldstein & Caitlin Donahue, Expert Elevator Corp, Best Senior Home Care, the Eilav Law Firm and Lynx Electrical Corp.

When I started out in business 35 years ago, I wish I could have opened an office in Queens for $39/month and look like the consummate professional! With the advent of virtual offices, you can make it appear as if you have already conquered the world!

Why is this man upset with the Executive Office Center at Fresh Meadows?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Predictions for 2012

Predictions from business leaders about what they can expect in 2012

The ancient Mayans believed that world would come to an end in late December, 2012.  Nostradomus also predicted the destruction of the planet in 2012, as a result of natural disasters and a collision with another planet. 

But don't worry. Antonio Vazquez, the “Great Wizard” of Mexico says the theories of doomsday in 2012 are “big fat lies.”

Blackrock, Inc. (NYSE: BLK), the world’s largest asset manager, does not foresee the end of the world in 2012, either.  In fact, Chief Equities Strategist for Blackrock, Bob Doll, predicts that U.S. equities will experience a double-digit percentage return in 2012, the European debt crisis will begin to ease, and that China and India will contribute to more than half of the world’s economic growth, despite slowing growth.

Vice Chairman of Blackstone Advisory Partners, and former senior strategist for Morgan Stanley predicts that the economy will finally take off in 2012, with GDP accelerating at 3% and unemployment falling below 8%.  He also predicts that the price of oil will drop to $85/barrel, and the S & P will surge over 1400. 
Bill Gross, manager of Pimco’s $252.2 Billion Total Return Fund, offers a much gloomier outlook for 2012, if not an end of the world scenario.  He believes that the world has too much debt, and says that investors should lower their expectations for 2012, predicting 2 to 5% returns on investments in stocks, bonds and commodities.  He is betting on tax-free municipal bonds in 2012, an asset class he calls under-valued, owing to scare headlines about municipal bankruptcies and threatened defaults.”

According to Mashable, the year of Apple, Inc. is at hand.  “Apple will release a triumvirate of products, including a super slim edge-to-edge screen iPad 3, the long awaited iPhone 5 and an Apple TV…whch will seamlessly integrate the internet.”

Brad Bannon, US News and World Report, predicts that President Barack Obama will narrowly defeat Mitt Romney in the presidential election.  

The Long-Range Forecasting Team predicts a brutally cold and snowy winter for a large part of the country.  

Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen says that 2012 is the year that conventional retailers will really begin to feel the heat from E-tailers.”Electronics and clothes are going to be the real pressure point.”

Writing on the American Express website, Small Business Speaker and Consultant, Barry Moltz, offers good news for small business owners.  He writes that, “after four years, frugality fatigue has hit consumers as demonstrated by the higher than expected holiday sales numbers…The macro economy is no longer stopping any small business owner from growing their own business.   It is time to give up that excuse.”

Will gold break $2,000 in 2012?  Maria Bartiromo says: “I would probably bet gold does break $2,000.  The fact is there is so much economic and political uncertainty in the world…people want save havens.  Jim Cramer agrees:  “Gold will exceed $2,000 in 2012 because the European Central Bank will have to print euros to bail out so many countries and raise the value of gold as a version of the world’s reserve currency.  Gold will be a terrific performer once again.”  

Jack Blumner, Executive Director of the ExecutiveOffice Center at Fresh Meadows, believes that the office center will double its current roster, and end the year with within range of 200 tenants/virtual tenants.  “Increased confidence will bring small business owners back into the market for office space, and the Executive Office Center at Fresh Meadows provides the most economical rental platform in Queens.”