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Assessing the Role of MIS in Data Security and Procurement ap american history essay help: ap american history essay help

Management Information Systems

Managing Information Systems: Data Security and Procurement Updates

The areas of data security and procurement in Management Information Systems (MIS) are both in the middle of major transitions, driven by the advances in Web 2.0 technology (Snow, 34, 35) that is leading to the widespread adoption of Extensible Markup Language (XML) as a communication, connectivity and integration standard in addition to the growth of social networking-based technologies (Bernoff, Li, et.al.). Data security platforms and protocols have now integrated XML into Internet Protocol (IP)-based design and execution of entire mobile networks (Kangasharju, Lindholm, Tarkoma, 15, 16) and Web Services to (Lim, Wen, 39, 40). Procurement, one of the key process areas of supply chain management (Puschmann, Alt, 124, 125) continues to see significant gains from automation through MIS. Collaboration between suppliers and buying departments and divisions of companies require a high level of synchronization of tasks, which is the catalyst of how MIS systems and processes are automating procurement (Ordanini, Rubera, 27). The intent of this paper is to provide examples of how MIS is influencing the rapidly changing nature of data security and procurement, specifically focusing on how the highly collaborative technologies in Web 2.0 are making an impact in these areas.

Assessing the Role of MIS in Data Security and Procurement

Within the last decade, data security at the enterprise level has shifted away from purely being focused on the centralized data center, and today is more oriented towards the mobile worker, who often uses Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and secured Web Services (Kangasharju, Lindholm, Tarkoma, 2). In conjunction with this shift away from data security being purely focused on the data center to a more mobile employee population, the Internet has nurtured the development of entirely new communications architectures available. One of the more prevalently adopted approaches to communication is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), often with data streams also included. The use of merged VoIP networks is forcing an entirely new level of security into enterprise strategies to ensure both voice and data traffic, and data assets are kept safe over time (Palmieri, Fiore, 433). In conjunction with this development is the en masse adoption of secured Web Services used for completing transactions, querying customer databases, and completing online procurement transactions as well (Hondo, Nagaratnam, Nadalin, 229, 230). Across the entire value chain of companies, from the coordination via secured XML link to suppliers, through the routing of orders and their logistics tracking using secured Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) (Ozdemir, Xiao, 2022), MIS-based improvements to security are redefining the process workflows companies rely on for sourcing, manufacturing and selling products. Even in the midst of a recession, spending continues on security due to the continual rise in the numbers and sophistication of threats, and the potential risk of loss.

In procurement, the use of MIS systems and processes is being used to create greater levels of collaboration among and between suppliers, between suppliers and manufacturers, in addition to contributing to more accuracy in the product quality management and pricing workflows companies use to manage suppliers (Hernandez-Ortega, Jimenez-Martinez, Martin-DeHoyos, 7). The most critical elements of how MIS systems and processes are contributing to efficiency of enterprise-wide procurement strategies also includes cost reduction through process improvement (Bernstein, Kok, 554, 555). The distributed order management process workflow specifically that links suppliers to companies purchasing their products relies in a high degree of pricing, product availability and data synchronization to function correctly. The use of MIS systems and processes together are automating the distributed order management process globally for companies who have suppliers located around the world. These supplier networks (Bernstein, Kok, 567) are supported through XML-based connectivity and integration to ensure real-time data is available. With this data, companies can better manage their supply chains to performance levels not possible without the analytics made possible through the use of MIS systems and data.

Recommendations

The future trends in data security will continue to focus on the high level of mobility WiFi, RFID (Ozdemir, Xiao, 2022) are providing companies in expanding their businesses. As a result of this expansion Web Services (Hondo, Nagaratnam, Nadalin, 240, 241) will continue to need to be secured. Procurement will continue to benefit from the highly collaborative applications being development as part of the en masse adoption of Web 2.0 technologies (Snow, 4, 5). In conjunction with broader adoption of XML as a secured communications link, procurement will migrate away from being focused on serial, serially-based processes to center more on truly collaborative, multi-workflow environments. Procurement is in the process of evolving into private trading exchanges and networks (Bernstein, Kok, 560, 561). This migration to a more collaborative platform will continue for the next several years as cross-supplier coordination and forecasting becomes more accepted in support of larger manufacturers whose entire production operation is predicated on tight synchronization of suppliers both among themselves and with buyers as well.

References

Bernoff, J., and C. Li. “Harnessing the Power of the Oh-So-Social Web. ” MIT Sloan Management Review 49.3 (2008): 36.

Bernstein, F., and A. Kok. “Dynamic Cost Reduction Through Process Improvement in Assembly Networks. ” Management Science 55.4 (2009): 552-567.

Blanca Hernandez-Ortega, Julio Jimenez-Martinez, and M. Jose Martin-DeHoyos. “The effect of experience on web procurement: An intersectorial analysis of small firms. ” International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research 15.1 (2009): 7.

M Hondo, N Nagaratnam, and A Nadalin. “Securing Web services. ” IBM Systems Journal 41.2 (2002): 228-241.

Kangasharju, J., T. Lindholm, and S. Tarkoma. “XML Security with Binary XML for Mobile Web Services. ” International Journal of Web Services Research 5.3 (2008): 1-19.

Billy BL Lim, and H. Joseph Wen. “The impact of next generation XML. ” Information Management & Computer Security 10.1 (2002): 33-40.

Andrea Ordanini, and Gala Rubera. “Strategic capabilities and internet resources in procurement: A resource-based view of B-to-B buying process. ” International Journal of Operations & Production Management 28.1 (2008): 27.

Ozdemir, S., and Y. Xiao. “Secure data aggregation in wireless sensor networks: A comprehensive overview. ” Computer Networks 53.12 (2009): 2022.

Palmieri, F., and U. Fiore. “Providing true end-to-end security in converged voice over IP infrastructures. ” Computers & Security 28.6 (2009): 433.

Thomas Puschmann, and Rainer Alt. “Successful use of e-procurement in supply chains. ” Supply Chain Management 10.2 (2005): 122-133.

Robin Snow. “Rethinking the Web. ” Marketing Health Services 26.2 (2006): 35.

Strategic Goals and Direction Essay Term paper history homework

Intel Corporation between its revised mission and strategies on the one hand, and its implementation strategies on the other, specifically under the leadership of Paul S. Otellini, President and Chief Executive Officer of Intel Corporation. Mr. Otellini has the distinction of taking over Intel Corporation directly from the iconic Andy Grove, known for his combative and confrontational leadership style and engineering-centric view of the company and its direction. Mr. Otellini on the other hand brings a decidedly market-driven approach to Intel, complete with segmented-based market strategies for entertainment, imaging, healthcare, and many vertical markets of data visualization (Business Week, 2006), (Business Week 2007) and (Intel 2007). Central to Mr. Otellinis’ vision is defining Intel’s products as a platform instead of merely a component. The cancellation of the Pentium 4 development is a direct result of this change in direction and would previously would have never happened in the engineering-centric culture of the company previously (Business Week 2006).

Strategic Goals and Direction

Mr. Otellini sees the need for Intel to become a much more critical contributor to the evolving digital content, digital data analysis, and digital entertainment ecosystems that are expanding globally (Business Week 2007) versus aggressively moving down price/performance curves and in each product generation, further validating Moore’s Law. The alliances with digital content and digital entertainment providers, including Apple, long seen as a niche and even irrelevant PC maker by Andy Grove (Business Week 2007) are completely re-ordering the approach Intel is taking in reinventing its core marketing message and position. Intel’s branding of the latest consumer market process, the Viv, exemplifies this rejuvenation of market focus. The platform-centric approach Mr. Otellini sees the future of Intel as defined by platforms that are created through collaboration with third party content, electronics and system-wide platform technologies. As a result of this focus on 2006 Intel launched three major platforms: Intel Centrino Duo mobile technology platform, which is designed to deliver improved, more energy efficient performance compared to previous generations of Intel Centrino mobile technology; Intel vPro technology platform, the first PC platform optimized exclusively for business and it customers, offering improved security, manageability, performance, and energy efficiency; Intel Viiv technology platform, which enhances the entertainment experience breadth and depth of both consumer and commercial customers (Business Week 2007). Intel defines their development priorities using these three platforms as the foundation for investing in future growth. Mr. Otellini sees this as being highly market-focused in terms of defining future product direction and development. This strong focus on three specific platforms has lead to a major departure away from mainstream manufacturing of communications and application processor businesses, resulting in the sale of multiple production centers and a de-emphasis on processor-centric marketing to more customer-driven planning (Business Week 2006, 2007).

An example of the level of commitment the company has shown in these three platforms is the announcement that the Fab 23 facility in Colorado, used for mass production of processors, is now for sale. Otellini has often commented (Business Week 2006) that the focusing purely on platforms will save Intel as much as $2B to $3B a year starting in 2008.

Competitive Pricing Pressure and Globalization

Intel’s ability to execute the three platform strategy and gain market share as a result is highly dependent on growth into China and India, two nations the company faces entrenched, low-cost competitors. Specifically in China, Intel faces competitive threats from Lenovo, a household brand in that nation, and the compounded competitive challenge of AMD-based systems in these geographies (Einhorn 2006). One of Intel’s strategic errors was relying purely on production efficiency to gain cost advantages to compete directly with low cost rivals. Now with a market-centered platform plan, Intel can be more selective in its responses to pricing pressure and the overall product introduction strategies. In 2006, Intel launched more products ever before in the company’s history (Business Week 2007) and also specifically defined an entirely new organizational approach to responding to special pricing requests from dealers and distributors throughout their distribution channels. The result has been more design wins and use of Intel processors in each platform area, in addition to a higher level of cooperation and trust between Intel and key partners. The concentration on platforms and the creation of alliances to provide content, components and context of use has shown initial successes over the purely production- and engineering-centric view of the company under previous leadership.

Summary

In evaluating the more market-centered direction of Intel, it’s clear that the platform-based approach to product design, management and execution is working. No longer are engineering and marketing separated from one another, there is extensive use of cross-functional teams and a clear focus on the customer and their needs first, over and above purely manufacturing efficiency. There is also an appreciation for the unique and often highly specific needs of specific vertical market segments the company is pursuing, as evidenced by the medical imaging focus (Intel 2007) in addition to the wider partnerships in digital content including Sony and the new-found alliance with Apple.

References

Business Week (2006) – Inside Intel Cliff Edwards, Business Week, New York January 9, 2006, Issue 3966,-page 46. Accessed from the Internet on September 7, 2007 from location:

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_02/b3966001.htm

Business Week (2007) – the Mind-Bending New World of Work; Motion-capture technology burst out of Hollywood and into business from aerospace to advertising Ali McConnon. Business Week. New York: April 02, 2007, Issue 4028,-page 46. Accessed from the Internet on September 7, 2007 from location:

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_14/b4028001.htm

Edwards (2006) – Intel Sharpens Its offensive Cliff Edwards. Business Week. New York, July 31, 2006, Issue 3995,-page 60. Accessed from the Internet on September 7, 2007 from location:

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_31/b3995084.htm

Einhorn (2006) – in China’s Net Cafes, Intel Pours it on Bruce Einhorn; Business Week. New York: November 6, 2006, Issue 4008,-page 52. Accessed from the Internet on September 7, 2007 from location:

http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/blog/asiatech/archives/2007/03/intels_big_chin.html

Intel (2007) – Intel Corporation: ADDING MULTIMEDIA Intel Technology Allows Nurses to Spend More Time with Patients Physician Business Week: Atlanta: March 6, 2007,-page 110. Accessed from the Internet on September 7, 2007 from location:

http://www.intel.com/pressroom/archive/releases/20070220comp.htm

Legislative Process in the Upper House of Parliament us history essay help: us history essay help

Legislative Process in the Upper House of Parliament

As Bahrain searches for viable approaches to diversifying its oil-based economy, the relatively small nation, like many of its larger counterparts, is also faced with a number of engineering and logistical challenges in its parliamentary legislative process. To determine how the legislative process is being administered in Bahrain, this paper provides a review of the relevant literature to evaluate the challenges facing the legislative process in the Bahraini Upper House of Parliament known as the Consultative Council from an engineering management, a logistics of information and a knowledge management perspective. Based on this review and evaluation, a series of salient recommendations are provided, followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

Review and Analysis

Engineering Management Perspective

When applied to Bahrain’s upper house or Shura Council (Consultative), the engineering management approach can help discern what steps have been in recent years to develop a modern and efficient legislative process. For instance, according to Sun and Yam (2008), “Engineering management is the discipline that addresses making and implementing decisions for strategic and operational leadership in current and emerging technologies and their impact on interrelated systems” (p. 181). This definition includes the management of the design process as well as communications (Sun & Yam, 2008). Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Bahrain was one of just two Middle Eastern countries that designed and implemented substantive reforms which modernized the fundamental structure of their legislative systems and improved the flow of communications (Carothers & Ottaway, 2012).

Some evidence of this engineering management approach to developing a modern and efficient legislative system can also be discerned from the series of initiatives taken and royal decrees that have been issued to date. For example, in February 2002, the king issued royal decrees that implemented a process whereby the elected parliament was restored since its dissolution in late 1975 (Carothers & Ottaway, 2012) pursuant to Amiri Decree No. 13 (History of Shura Council, 2014).

Although the first Bahraini parliament lasted for just two legislative meetings during the period from December 1973 to late 1975, this first attempt at developing an upper house is highly regarded as being an important milestone for the country’s electorate that expanded participation in the legislative process for all Bahrainis (History of Shura Council, 2014). According to Diwan (2012), the first Bahraini parliament “highlighted the constitutional process that unfolded in 1972-1973 and the hopes it raised among the Bahraini people” (p. 370). These hopes were further reinforced by the framework provided by the parliament which offered a venue for the free exchange of new ideas and concepts concerning the future direction of the kingdom (Diwan, 2012).

This initial parliamentary effort and the subsequent steps that have been taken by the country’s leadership to create a modern and efficient parliament are reflective of an effective engineering management approach (Sun & Yam, 2008). For example, according to the Shura Council, “Although people felt that there were no barriers between them and their political leadership, the government believed that expanding the public participation in decision-making and freedom of expression, [and] consultations on matters of interest to the country, were important issues” (History of Shura Council, 2014, para. 4). As a result, on December 20, 1992, Amiri Order No. 9 for the year 1992 was promulgated that established the Shura Council (Consultative), or upper house of parliament, that was comprised of 30 members who were chosen based on “their social standing, expertise and influence” with terms of 4 years which could be extended further (History of Shura Council, 2014).

Further engineering management for a new legislative system took place on December 20, 1992, when Amiri Order No. 10 for the year 1992 on the Internal Regulation By-laws of the Shura Council was issued, followed by Amiri Order No. 14 (1992) that stipulated the first dates for assembly and recess for the upper house of the Bahraini parliament (i.e., January 16 and May 31, 1993, respectively) (History of Shura Council, 2014). The upper house of the Bahraini parliament therefore began its current legislative tenure on January 16, 1993 with an inaugural speech by King Khalifa (History of Shura Council, 2014).

The next engineering management step for the new Bahraini political system was the development of the Shura system which was accomplished by Order No. 12 for the year 1996 which increased the number of Council members to 40 from the original 30 members, a step that was intended to increase the representation of the larger Bahraini society as well as including membership that possessed the credentials and expertise needed to help shape the direction of the country in the future (History of Shura Council, 2014). The Bahraini lower house of parliament, known as the Council of Representatives, is also comprised of 40 members who are elected and who also serve 4-year terms (Bahrain overview, 2013). In addition, Amiri Order No. 12 of 1996 (Articles 2 & 3) assigned Council members more authority than was enjoyed by the previous Council (History of Shura Council, 2014).

The engineering management of the legislative system did not end there, but rather included the authorization of the upper house of parliament to possess complete legislative powers in consultation with a lower house (Carothers & Ottaway, 2012). As a result, Bahrain has been engineered to have a bicameral legislature comprised of an upper and lower house, with parliamentary elections for the lower house are held every 4 years but with terms that can be extended thereafter (The report: Bahrain 2008, 2009). Like in England (McLean & Peterson, 2011), the Bahraini prime minister is appointed directly by the king without any approval required from the upper house (The report: Bahrain 2008, 2009).

Logistics of Information Perspective

The logistics of information perspective includes investments in software and information systems that can facilitate the decision-making process by a legislative body (Bounfour, 2003). In addition, the logistics of information perspective also includes the extent of the free flow of information to facilitate communications between organizational divisions in a parliamentary government (Bounfour, 2003). Parliamentary procedures are defined as “an organized method for a group to accomplish their goals in an effective, fair, and efficient manner” (Archer, Dill & Weber, 1999, para. 2).

Parliamentary procedures are favored in legislative bodies because they provide “an orderly way to conduct the group’s business and make decisions” (Archer et al., 1999, para. 2). Parliamentary procedures are considered to be fair because they provide a useful framework in which decision can be made in a democratic fashion (Archer et al., 1999). Finally, parliamentary procedures are regarded as being efficient by focusing attention on a specific item of business that must be addressed prior to moving to the next (Archer et al., 1999). Most parliamentary procedures are based on Robert’s Rules of Order which outlines specific procedures that should be followed to conduct items of business in group meetings of virtually any size (Archer et al., 1999).

Parliamentary procedures, though, have a mechanism whereby delays can be introduced intentionally and formally for a wide range of reasons. For example, Archer and his associates report that, “There are times when there is a reason to delay the decision on a motion. Perhaps there is not enough information to make a decision. The procedure to do this is called ‘laying on the table.’ This delays a decision until another time” (1999, para. 3). Therefore, the legislative process in any parliamentary setting can be delayed intentionally by a laying on the table motion based on partisan differences or administrative need as well as unintentionally through communications or procedural delays.

The logistics of information perspective also includes the process by which the Bahraini lower house of parliament communicates with the upper house and the king (Morgan, 2009), a process that has become more efficient in recent years but which still experiences administrative delays from time to time (Bahrain, 2014). This is not unusual and a number of other countries have experienced a series of delays and challenges in the administration of their houses of parliament from time to time and over time (Sambrook, 2003), and constraints to the communication process between the upper and lower houses of parliament have been experienced in England since at least 1363 (Luce, 1935).

Moreover, the complex parliamentary procedures that are in place in most national parliaments are frequently hampered by procedural delays (Kay & Binnendijk, 2007). In fact, in some jurisdictions such as Canada and the United Kingdom, there are so many parliamentary committees and procedural rules in place that it frequently requires an inordinate amount of time to move bills from one legislative level to the next (Fenn, 2008). There are also a number of legislative levels in both houses of the Bahraini parliament (see organizational chart for the upper house in Figure 1 below) that can reasonably be expected to introduce some administrative delays as legislative issues are moved from one level to the next.

Figure 1. Organizational chart for the Bahraini upper house

Source: http://www.shura.bh/en/SiteCollectionImages/Strcuture/brownCut.gif

Likewise, just as in the Canadian parliament where English and French are the official languages and government documents must be prepared in both languages (Ford & Vachon, 2007), official documents for the Bahraini upper house are usually prepared in Arabic and English and the translations double-checked for accuracy, a process that introduces yet another delay in the legislative process (Karolak, 2011).

In some jurisdictions in developing nations such as Kenya, the houses of parliaments simply lack the administrative and technical resources they need to accomplish their goals effectively (Bohnstedt, 2008). In other jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, the dramatically different compositions of the upper and lower houses have introduced some communications constraints (Nicholas, 2003). Finally, an increasing number of jurisdictions are providing their lawmakers with mobile communications devices to facilitate their communications with constituents and fellow parliamentarians (Fenn, 2008).

Other steps taken in recent years to facilitate access to information by the Information Technology Directorate include the implementation of a Shura Council meeting minutes archive that is available on compact disks that includes a powerful search feature and subject indexes (Information Technology Directorate projects, 2014). In addition, the Information Technology Directorate recently launched Shura Web television that continues the ongoing development of a Web site that contains additional Shura Council information as well as new interactive services that facilitate access to what the Directorate terms “the latest news and events in a clear and attractive form to attract more visitors and those concerned with the Inter-Parliamentary in the Kingdom, and in the friendly countries as well” (Information Technology Directorate projects, 2014).

The new Shura Council Web site is presented in both Arabic and English and is intended to provide more efficient means of connecting with the Bahraini government’s e-government initiatives (Information Technology Directorate projects, 2014). According to the Information Technology Directorate, “The website has won numerous awards recently in different fields such as content and technical innovation” (Information Technology Directorate projects, 2014, para. 3). The Web site has also been made accessible by the blind using Visio Braille technologies (Information Technology Directorate projects, 2014).

Other recent initiatives taken by the Information Technology Directorate to facilitate information access by members of parliament and constituents include the following information technology initiatives:

1. Archiving and Documentation System: Archiving system and document management was launched in the Directorates of the Council in preparation for the transition from paper-based system to electronic-based system by using SharePoint technology.

2. Analytical Minutes: The system was launched to analyze and classify the minutes to bring out reports and statistics uploaded directly on the site of the Council as an output for any specialized research.

3. Electronic Drafting System: The system facilitates the processing of what is required as preparations before the meeting such as the electronic agenda, in addition to providing a tool to facilitate the process of electronically drafting minutes, resolutions and indexes.

4. Administrative and Financial Affairs System: A sophisticated human resources management system is being used with a technology supported by the latest modern methods to track the flow of work electronically.

5. Parliamentary Library System: This is a sophisticated system to manage the library, using Oracle technology and linked to directly to the Shura site to facilitate the process of research and borrowing.

6. Voting system: This is a system to manage the meeting and electronic voting during sessions where it displays the items of the agenda and organize the request to speak and vote on items, and the speaking time is calculated to save all the occurrences of the meeting. Through this system reports and accurate statistics can be drawn.

7. Direct Video Broadcasting: This is a service provided by the Directorate to facilitate the dialogue between the various legislative councils around the world, and enable users to participate in the discussion of topics with each other no matter how far the places are, in cooperation with communication operators in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

8. Sign Language: Translation service is provided with all necessary technical and technological preparations to communicate with people of special needs.

9. Voice Broadcast: A voice broadcast of the meeting is transferred directly to the Bahrain Radio and Television, as well as posted on the site of the Shura Council to facilitate communication between the Council and external bodies, as individuals or ministries and institutions.

10. Video broadcasts: The meeting is broadcasted on the internal network, as well as on the government network of other authorized entities, in addition to broadcasting outside the government network as a service especially for members staying outside the Kingdom of Bahrain on official mission.

11. Filming and editing the session: The session is edited by the multimedia section using the latest techniques for the preparation of reportage or photographed news report or others in cooperation with the Directorate of media section to cover any event in the meeting room, such as visiting students, delegations and training sessions or meetings of committees or other activities.

12. Panel E-Services: The main screen is equipped with display that shows ads and events, and important news of the Council during the meetings throughout the week.

13. Registration and unloading voice: A system is used for unloading voice that directly transfers the sound to the clerks in the minutes Directorate.

14. Wireless: WiFi service is offered to council members, visitors and journalists in the main hall and committee rooms.

15. SMS short messaging system: The use of SMS technology and e-mail as alarm and reminders for meetings and the backlog.

16. Development of Shura Council private network: The goal of this initiative is to make quality improvements in the infrastructure of computer network of the Shura Council, according to the highest international standards in the area of information networks in terms of security, and technical support systems with the development of plans to combat disasters and preventive recovered information (Information Technology Directorate projects, 2014, paras. 4-7).

Just as the engineering management and logistics of information perspectives can provide fresh insights into the development of the Bahraini legislative system, an application of the knowledge management perspective can likewise illuminate the process and these issues are discussed further below.

Knowledge Management Perspective

Implementing and administering effective knowledge management practices can provide a wide range of beneficial outcomes. For instance, Todd and Southon (2008) emphasize that, “The practical application of the concept of knowledge management is a powerful force in organisations which contributes to organizational performance, competitive advantage and positioning, economic success in the market place, and economic sustainability” (p. 313). In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates the positive outcomes that are achievable through sound knowledge management practices are balanced by the numerous negative outcomes that can result when these practices are ignored (Todd & Southon, 2008).

Effective knowledge management practices are largely based on the efficient logistics of information practices, with increased access to information providing improved knowledge management capabilities (Bounfour, 2003). Moreover, Probst and Raub (2000) point out that, “The building blocks of knowledge management contain activities which without exception are directly knowledge-related” (p. 35). Knowledge management practices also involve evaluating the effectiveness of steps that are taken to reach established goals (Probst & Raub, 2000). In this regard, Probst and Raub point out that, “We need methods for measuring normative, strategic and operational knowledge. The way in which knowledge goals are formulated determines the ways in which they can be assessed” (2000, p. 34).

The Bahraini upper house of parliament does in fact have effective knowledge management practices in place that include ensuring timely access to both foreign and domestic sources as well as the feedback from society (the term for political parties in Bahrain) and constituents (Fakhro, 2011). For instance, the Shura Council employs a media watch journalist to “monitor the news of the Chairman, Vice-Chairmen and members of the Council in general” (Information Technology Directorate projects, 2014). Implementing and sustaining these levels of knowledge management practices are highly congruent with the guidance provided by Probst and Raub (2000) who advise, “Knowledge management includes measures which mainly affect individuals and groups. It performs a bridging function among individuals, groups and organizational structures” (p. 35).

According to Probst and Raub (2000), the six main processes that are involved in knowledge management are:

1. Knowledge identification,

2. Knowledge acquisition,

3. Knowledge development,

4. Knowledge sharing and distribution,

5. Knowledge utilization, and

6. Knowledge retention.

In other words, knowledge must be identified, acquired, developed, shared and distributed and used but it must also be retained in order to develop effective knowledge management practices. In addition, Probst and Raub note that, “Knowledge management can be applied to individuals, groups, or organizational structures. It has strategic and normative aspects as well as the operational one” (2000, p. 37). Clearly, knowledge management can play and has played an important role in facilitating the decision-making process by and between the Bahraini upper and lower houses of parliament, especially given that many of the cross-cultural constraints to knowledge management that adversely affect the legislative process in other jurisdictions are not especially salient in the Bahraini parliament (Fiona, Cartwright & Edwards, 2002).

A significant knowledge management step taken by king was the sponsoring of a national dialogue in 2011 (the itinerary for the national dialogue is set forth in Figure 2 below). The results of the national dialogue organized by the king in 2011 would grant additional power to the lower house of the Bahraini parliament, including the power to approve and discharge cabinet members (Chronology — Bahrain, 2012).

Figure 2. Bahraini national dialogue itinerary

Source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-4i-1C3fReMg/TgUkH30qd1I/AAAAAAAAAQU/-ohw6nbAZgI/s1600/253785_156259131108958_139250506143154_318843_3908132_n.jpg

All told, 300 seats were provided at the national dialogue to ensure that all stakeholders were afforded a voice in the proceedings (Belcsak, 2011). Indeed, all of the participants in the national dialogue were guaranteed by the king that “all options would be on the table to discuss political, economic and social reforms” (Belscsak, 2011).

Recommendations

Complex problems require complex solutions and overcoming the various challenges facing the legislative process in Bahrain is no exception given the commonalty of the administrative and procedural delays that characterize parliamentary procedures around the world. Indeed, one of the main points that emerged from the review of the literature was just how cumbersome and bureaucratic the legislative process is in many jurisdictions, and these constraints continue to adversely affect the efficiency of many of these legislative bodies. One way that was identified that can facilitate communications within the upper and lower houses is to issue all council members with iPads or comparable mobile communications devices that would allow them to remain in constant contact with their peers and constituents. The recently implemented information technology initiatives will support this recommendation and make them even more useful. In addition, studies have shown that parliamentary ombudsmen have been effective in facilitating access to parliamentary committees in the United Kingdom (Nicholson, 1999).

It is also important to note that the changes that have been implemented in recent years in the Bahraini parliament will require some time to become even more efficient given the numerous challenges and the numbers of individuals that are involved. This was the case when a series of reforms were implemented by Japan’s parliament in an effort to make it more efficient through fundamental change. In this regard, Peren (1999) emphasizes that, “Change was necessary, but changing laws and structures, re-thinking the roles of the parliament and bureaucracy, and fashioning a new mind-set was bound to take several years” (p. 11). The aggressive implementation of the information technology initiatives outlined above, though, can reasonably be expected to facilitate this process in the future and it is recommended that these steps be built upon to continue the modernization of the legislative process in the Bahraini parliament.

Conclusion

The research showed that the Bahrain is at a critical juncture in its modern history. The introduction of a bicameral legislative system more than 2 decades ago has helped the country become more competitive in the international marketplace and have helped parliamentarians in both houses better respond to the social and economic needs of their constituents. Although it remains unclear just how much investment in information resources has been made by the Bahraini houses of parliament, it is clear that there are some effective knowledge management practices in place that have facilitated the decision-making process in recent years and collaboration between the upper and lower houses of parliament. Despite these efforts, though, the research also showed that complex parliamentary processes frequently involve both intentional and unintentional delays for a wide range of reasons. In the final analysis, it is reasonable to conclude that the Shura Council (Consultative) and Council of Representatives have engineered a viable legislative process and have made significant strides in facilitating access to important parliamentary information through knowledge management methods that take into account logistics of information considerations.

References

Archer, T.M., Dill, D. & Weber, E.M. (1999, November). Parliamentary procedure. Ohio State

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Bahrain. (2014). World factbook. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ba.html.

Belcsak, H. (2011, September/October). Bahrain. Business Credit, 113(8), 32-35.

Bohnstedt, A. (2008, February). Anatomy of the crisis. African Business, 339, 16-19.

Bounfour, A. (2003). The management of intangibles: The organization’s most valuable assets.

London: Routledge.

Carothers, T. & Ottaway, M. (2012). Uncharted journey: Promoting democracy in the Middle

East. Boston: Carnegie Endowment.

Chronology — Bahrain. (2012, Spring). The Middle East Journal, 66(2), 322-324.

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Autobiography Narratives Research Paper art history essay help

Autobiography

I have heard it said that life beings at 40, and considering that I am near 40 and embarking on a new stage in my life, I can see how people have come to that conclusion, since 40 seems to be the age where people have that combination of wisdom, experience, and energy that makes embarking on new adventures exciting, rather than intimidating. For me, however, my current life began more than 20 years ago, not with my first taste of success, which came shortly thereafter, but with my first crushing failure; I did not succeed in my first attempt at higher education. I graduated from high school in 1990 and enrolled at Illinois State University. However, I was too immature for college at that time and did not give my studies the attention that they deserved. I did not make the grades that I needed to make, and I left the University after a single year.

To some people, failing to achieve as they expected might have tempted them to resign themselves to underachieving, but I did not respond in that manner. I left the University, not because I was afraid that I would not be able to achieve success there; I knew that if I devoted the time to my studies that I should have done from the beginning, I could do very well. Instead, I left the University because I was very angry with myself. I grew up in a home with a focused work ethic, and failing to excel was oftentimes equated with failure. I was furious with myself that I had failed to excel at a goal that I set for myself, and I was determined to, not only achieve, but excel, at my next chosen venture.

In 1991, along with my brother, I founded Northwestern Communications, Inc. In Schaumburg, Illinois. The company worked similar to a vending route and consisted of payphones in a specific service area. As difficult as it is to imagine in an era when pay phones are all-but obsolete, the business filled a void at that time and provided me with my first real taste of business success. My brother and I started the company with 30 phones, and, by the time we sold the business in 2003, we had grown it to 2500 phones in a 4 state area. Founding and growing a start-up company gave me my first real experience with success, although it provided challenges for me as well. I learned, from trial and error, how to engage in corporate business plan development and execution, strategic planning, obtain financing, analyze the market, schedule operations, handle marketing, handle sales, determine acquisitions, and manage the interior workings of an office environment.

I think that, for me personally, it would be impossible to overstate the role that Northwestern Communications, Inc. played in my development as a business person. Through that experience, I learned so many aspects of business that are best-learned through experience. Furthermore, by having hands-on involvement in the day-to-day operations of the business, I was able to experience all aspects of a business. Perhaps most beneficial was the fact that I honed my skills as a negotiator while learning how to negotiate for Northwestern Communications, Inc.; I was responsible for negotiations with major established telecommunications service providers, such as AT&T, SBC, and Illinois Bell, and was able to negotiate in such a way as to maximize profit. In addition, as the company grew, I had to learn how to transition from a hands-on owner to a successful manager, learning the delicate balance between failing to utilize employee talent to its fullest and giving employees responsibility without the adequate training and decision-making authority to meet those responsibilities. Eventually, I managed a team of over 35 service technicians and two office managers.

However, as one might expect, despite our tremendous success, my brother and I were constantly watching the evolution of the market and we began to realize that the proliferation of cellular phones meant that the payphone model would not continue to provide increasing returns, as it had since the inception of the company. We made the decision to sell the company while we could maximize profit. At the time of its sale, the company was valued at $7.5 million, which, to me, established my success as a business owner.

Having seen the writing on the wall in the telecommunications industry, I decided to pursue another career. Rather than try to recreate success in the telecommunications industry, I decided that I would change industries, and I entered real estate. Given that I had financial resources from my last venture, I could have gone into real estate investing, but I felt like, in order to be a success in property acquisition, I needed to have a better understanding of the real estate market. Therefore, I decided to become a real estate broker. I began my career as a real estate broker at Starck Realtors, Inc., where I worked with both buyers and sellers on the sale and purchase of single family homes, investment properties, and commercial real estate. I found that my experience as a salesperson was invaluable to my experience as a real estate broker, and in 2002 I was named the Rookie of the year, and I was a multi-million dollar producer for two consecutive years. I feel like this experience provided me with the background I needed to transition to the next phase in my real estate career.

My practical real estate experience provided a foundation for me in real estate investing, and I did that while, at the same time acting as the general manager for NCI Holdings, LLC, a property management company. In my position at that company, I was involved in all aspects of commercial property management. I was responsible for researching and identifying properties that were available for acquisition. My position as a broker put me in an ideal position to locate distressed, foreclosed, and bank-owned properties, and also gave me a good understanding of competitive pricing for these types of acquisitions. However, my position went far beyond acquisition; once the properties were obtained, I handled renovations for the properties, and then the rental and sale of the properties. I was responsible for a portfolio of 20 properties with a combined value of approximately $15 million.

In 2003, I moved to ERA Northwestern Realty, because I saw the opportunity for upward mobility at that real estate company, which did not exist at my prior brokerage firm. I began working at the firm as a managing broker. In addition to sales, I was responsible for managing a team of real estate professionals. This involved not only locating talent, but also training and hiring that talent. I continued to engage in real estate transactions, but I also began transitioning my focus to short and distressed asset sales. While I was primarily working with asset managers with these distressed sales, it is important to keep in mind that I also focused on working with homeowners in distress. Foreclosure is rarely, if ever, the best option for a homeowner facing difficulties, and I worked with homeowners to explore all of their options, including foreclosure. In my role as a manager, it was my responsibility to help the other real estate professionals develop and meet their goals, handle monthly meetings, and handle training and feedback meetings for the staff as well. Eventually, I transitioned from a managing broker to a broker-owner.

Not all of my business ventures have been as successful as my real-estate and telecommunications ventures. For example, in 2010, I decided to add insurance professional to my resume, and began working with American Income Life Company as an insurance producer. In many ways, the position was a familiar one. I was in charge of a sales team with responsibility for enrolling union members in supplemental insurance benefits packages. I was also responsible for handling training as well as daily reports for the company. While I was successful in this position, I found that it did not hold my interest. It was not an issue of not believing in the product; I would never have taken the position if I did not believe that supplemental insurance could provide significant benefits for people. However, I did not feel a passion for the business and left after about a year. I thought about omitting this part from my autobiography, but I realized that doing so would be dishonest. After all, the failure to excel in a particular business is part of my experience, and has helped shape me into the person that I am today.

The person that I am today is a successful real estate professional who is the managing owner/broker at ERA Northwestern Realty. However, as my story suggests, I am not one to rest on past accomplishments. I am a high-energy person who has always thrived in challenging environments. Real estate no longer provides the types of challenges that I think I need in order to continue to grow. Real estate will always be a passion of mine, but I feel like, in order to continue evolving as a business person, I need to gain more knowledge about different types of businesses.

In addition, despite my successes, I feel as if I have not achieved one of the hallmarks of the successful professional in modern America: a college education. To many, a college education is a means to higher earning power. It is not for me; I have been able to achieve significant earning power without a college education, and have sufficient real-life experience in a broad variety of areas that I do not feel as if my lack of a degree would serve as a barrier in any professional ventures. Instead, the goal is a personal one. I have always considered a higher education a means of attaining a well-rounded, balanced educational experience, and I am ready to have that experience. So, perhaps those people are correct after all, and life does begin, if not at 40, at least in one’s 40’s.

Entrepreneurship

I was barely more than a kid when I began my first business venture; I believe that my youth was an asset for several reasons. First, as such a young man, I did not have the commitments and obligations that prevent many older people from starting their own businesses, because the consequences of failure are too great. For me, because the consequences of failure were not overwhelming, I did not think of failure as a possibility. Instead, I committed myself to the idea that my first business would be a success, and with that commitment, I developed a set of skills that I believe is critical to any entrepreneur: be an expert in your field, respect the company, manage the money, plan growth carefully, be customer-focused, constantly self-promote, hire the best team you can afford, be accountable for all of the business’s decisions, and protect your business’s reputation.

When my brother and I began the telecommunications company, it is fair to say that were not experts in the field. We had researched various start-up opportunities and found one where we recognized a significant potential for growth and a relatively low-barrier entry point, so, in many ways, we had made ourselves experts in available small business opportunities. However, to be successful in the industry, we had to become experts in pay-phone telecommunications, and we had to develop that expertise quickly. Both of us studied everything available about our product before making our first sales call. If a customer had a question about the product, whether it was about technology or service, we had an answer. Even more important, we had an answer about competitor’s products as well, and we gave the honest answer. We quickly became experts in the field, so that, even if someone chose to go with a competitor, we had established ourselves as honest, reliable, and knowledgeable people in the telecommunications industry.

The next thing I observed as an emerging small business owner was that many small business owners seemed embarrassed or apologetic about their businesses. Because their businesses were small, they did not respect the business. This struck me as odd at the time; how could they inspire confidence and respect in their employees if they did not have confidence and respect in the business? To me, respecting the business had several different facets. First, my brother and I committed to working the business like we would any other full-time job. When we initially began, the actual work commitment that we had was far less than the 80-120 hours that would equal to two men working full time jobs. However, we still put in those hours on sales, marketing, customer service, and educational opportunities. We respected our business and treated it like it would continue to grow and become successful, and gave it the attention that we would have given any full-time professional job at a major corporation. We also spoke respectfully about the business. Neither of us would engage in negative talk or doubts about the business, and we did not use dismissive language such as “we just have four phones.” When we had four phones, we gave those four customers the best possible customer-service, showing them respect by respecting ourselves.

Of course, one of the more difficult aspects of being an entrepreneur is money management, because most start-up companies struggle with owner-operators who are trying to survive on their proceeds and still have the money to grow the business. This links back to the idea that I began the business when I had few responsibilities. That is not to say that entrepreneurs cannot begin businesses at different life stages, but they should be realistic about their financial needs and the needs of the business, and separate the two. My brother and I established the salaries that we had to make from the business in order to survive, and we put the rest of the money back into the business. Initially, that meant that, for personal financial reasons, one or the both of us would be working side jobs in order to increase our personal finances, but we absolutely committed to not taking more from the business than our salaries. We kept the money separate, so that we could grow the business. Of course, as the business expanded, we reevaluated salary availability, but always kept the total of salaries at or below a certain percentage of revenue.

Another skill we had to master was planning for growth, appropriately. When you start a business, you think that the growth will occur in a sequential manner, building slowly. However, we quickly discovered that growth does not proceed in a sequential manner. Instead, growth opportunities can appear at unexpected times. For the beginning business owner, it may seem dangerous to avoid any opportunities for growth. However, we quickly discovered that expanding too quickly can put a business in jeopardy. Early on, we had an opportunity to double the number of phones in our business, but did not have the adequate support personnel to manage those phones. We decided to take the opportunity, and it almost ruined the business. We did not have the personnel to meet customer service expectations, so that there was a real decline in the customer-service experience. This could have proven fatal for a new business. We were able to borrow money to pay to hire an additional technician, averting a customer-service disaster, but, while borrowing to finance an emerging business can be a good idea, having to borrow in order to cover expenses that have already been incurred is a horrible idea. It made us realize that being ready for growth means having the employees, technology, and infrastructure in place to handle new clients from the first day of service.

In fact, focusing on customer needs is another significant component to being a successful entrepreneur. It may be difficult to imagine payphones as a necessity in this era of easy mobile phone access, but when we began our business, few people carried mobile phones, and even those that did often experienced service-related issues with their phones. In emergency scenarios, the payphone was an indispensable tool. Furthermore, for business owners, having a payphone available did two things: it provided an income stream to the business owners, who received a percentage of money used in the payphones, and it enabled them to provide phone service for their customers without tying up business lines. Being customer-oriented meant meeting with potential customers to assess their need for a payphone, their maintenance needs, and how many phones that they would need. For example, a gas station may have required a single payphone, while a shopping center might need a bank of multiple payphones. However, the business was also focused on end-user customers. We continually checked service at the phones, repairing or replacing broken phones within 48 hours, and responding promptly to customer complaints about telephones that had “eaten” their money without providing service with refunds. We tried to ensure that our end-user and mid-level customers were always satisfied with the service that we provided, and, when they were not, do what was in our power to make things right. The most memorable experience with customer service-related issues was linked to a gas station that was not getting the receipts it anticipated from a payphone. Because the customer was not happy with the service provided, we allowed for an early contract termination, not because it was in our financial best-interest, but because it was the best decision for customer service.

Perhaps one of the most difficult things to do as an entrepreneur is to learn how to self-promote. We are taught to be modest and downplay our achievements, but an emerging business owner who is modest will miss many business opportunities. My brother and I had a set of professional business cards printed and we carried cards with us at all times. If, in the course of a conversation, it became apparent that someone might have a need for one of our phones, we would be sure to tell them a bit about the business and give them a business card, along with an offer to buy them lunch if they were interested in learning more about the business. We did not monopolize personal events with talk about business, but did use them as a means of introducing the business to potential customers.

As the business expanded, we began to see a profit potential that, frankly, went beyond our initial projections. If we had paid technicians the industry average for our area, we would have seen even more profit. However, after experimenting with several different hiring plans, we began to realize that when one pays the industry average, one gets the industry average. We did not want average employees; we wanted exceptional employees so that we could feel confident that our customers were getting the same level of customer service from our employees that they would get from either of us. We began to pay our employees at the top of the industry average ranges, and we were able to recruit technicians that had years of experience and were the best in the field. This allowed us to continue to grow the business’s reputation, and probably saved money because we did not have high turnover rates or high training expenses.

No matter how carefully hiring decisions are made, and how top-notch the team, the reality is that there are going to be errors from time-to-time. Another skill I learned was that a business owner has to be accountable for all of a business’s decisions. It erodes customer confidence to be confronted by a business owner who fails to take personal responsibility for any failures that the company encounters. I may not have always been able to immediately provide an answer to a customer’s question, but I always made it my responsibility to find the answers and made sure that customers were aware that I was making a personal commitment to them.

All of the above skills contribute to what I think is penultimate skill for an entrepreneur: protecting the business’s reputation. When I was growing my first business, reputation was important, but was also more elusive; a business could do more to control its perceived reputation. In this day of expansive social media, a single bad review can damage a business’s reputation. As a result, I carefully guard what my business does, not only in its interactions with customers, but also in other business decisions, like charitable giving. We do not donate to any organizations unless I have personally vetted them to determine if the organization meets my standards and complies with the prevailing community standards. Furthermore, when confronted by the occasional negative review, I always offer the customers the opportunity to resolve the issue, and make the offer both publicly in whatever venue was the source of the complaint, as well as privately, but refrain from having a debate about the issue in a public forum. It never looks good for a business to go after a customer in a public forum, even if the customer is wrong. In those ways, I look after the company’s reputation, understanding that customers always have a choice.

Management

Becoming an effective manager has probably been the most challenging aspect of my professional life. The same skills that made me such an effective entrepreneur actually seemed to work against me as a manager, because I had a difficult time establishing the appropriate boundaries for delegation of duties and responsibilities. Initially, I was hesitant to use my employees’ full capabilities, which meant that I did not get the benefit of having additional employees. What has made it even more challenging is that I have discovered that I needed to approach management differently in my two major chosen careers: telecommunications and real-estate. Understanding the differences in the two types of businesses helped me become a better manager to the real estate professionals who currently work under me, though I would have to, once again, change my approach if I move into a different industry. That is probably the most important thing that I learned about management; some qualities in a manager are universal and cross-industries, while others are industry specific. A good manager learns what skills he or she needs to apply in a particular scenario and watches how industry trends and demands impact those necessary skills. As a result, I have identified four essentials for a good manager, and will explain how I adapted each of those essentials to either industry. The essentials include: communication, team-building, problem solving, and project management.

As a manager, I discovered that one of my biggest challenges was effective communication. For many people, experiencing communication difficulties actually refers to having a problem listening to other people. However, from my perspective, I actually had more of a problem communicating my expectations to my employees than I did listening to their feedback about the company. With my telecommunications company, I initially spoke with my technicians multiple times a day, so that I was aware of any service problems and could discuss solutions with them. However, as the business grew, we developed a reporting system that would allow me to keep abreast of developing problems without requiring personal communications. However, I found that this did not allow me to convey expectations to them. Moreover, because my brother and I were I equal positions, employees might go to either of us when a decision needed to be made. This was fine, but, as the business grew, it became increasingly difficult for us to keep each other up-to-date on developments that we had handled. I learned that we had to develop a protocol for service calls, which gave clear guidelines about our expectations without requiring the type of constant interaction that had been possible in the early days of the business.

When I began to manage real estate professionals, I realized I had to tweak my communication skills. As the owner of a company with employees, communicating involved developing standards and ensuring employee compliance with those standards. While employee feedback was necessary and useful for me as I developed those standards, at the end of the day, it was my company and my reputation. The scenario is different in a managing owner-broker scenario in a real-estate situation. My brokers are not exactly employees, but are closer to independent contractors working with me. As a result, I have had to hone my skills at listening to them and their personal goals. Some of my brokers want to be million-dollar real-estate professionals, while others of them are pursuing real estate as a means of making extra money. I cannot begin to manage them and help guide them effectively without understanding their personal goals in the real estate business. Therefore, I have had to remind myself and to revisit those goals from time to time, as people can and do frequently change their minds about what they want from their careers. To do this, I needed to focus on my communication skills.

Team building is another skill that I had to focus on as a manager. In a business that I wholly owned, with employees rather than sub-contractors, I found team building to be easier than in my current position. I have given this a significant amount of thought and believe that it is easier to select appropriate team members in such an environment. The employer/manager establishes the workplace environment, and team members are selected, in part, because of how they will fit into the existing workplace environment. Furthermore, if team members are not merging into that environment, they can be retrained or replaced. This reflects a top-down form of team building that works well in small-business environments with hands-on managers or owners.

However, in my current position, I find team-building to be more challenging. Individual brokers have greater autonomy than employees would have, and they do not work together in groups, so that team cohesiveness is not as critical to day-to-day functioning. However, this autonomy and lack of daily interaction can make it difficult to build teams. When one adds in the natural competitiveness that tends to occur in occupations where people earn commissions, it can be very difficult to build a supportive team in that environment. However, a supportive team is important because clients are put off by competitive teams, which can drive down business for the individual brokers and for the business as a whole. Therefore, I have focused a significant amount of effort on team building in my current position as a managing broker/owner. One of the ways that I have attempted to build team cohesiveness is by scheduling recreational activities for the team. In order to select the recreational activities, I choose activities that all of the employees can do, which require cooperation and communication, and I plan them at times when all team members should be available, and which will not interfere with their work schedules. As a result, many of these team building activities have occurred in early morning hours or later at night because those are not times when people are generally going to be engaged in showings or client meetings. Some of the activities that we have done have included pub quiz events, bowling, and game nights at my home. Of course, not all team building activities are recreational, and I utilize a weekly scheduled team meeting to ensure communication between all team members. At these team meetings, we share information and also clear up any disagreements between team members.

As a manager, one of the greatest challenges that I face is that I am expected to be the problem solver for the organizations. In fact, I believe that problem solving is one of the most necessary skills for a manager. Furthermore, because some problems are difficult to predict, problem solving can be a difficult skill to master. I have not seen significant differences in problem solving in different industries; while the problems may be very different, problem solving techniques remain the same. For example, one problem solving technique that I have found to be invaluable is consulting with experts when I am not sure how to solve a problem on my own. One of the problems that brokers face is that they are at risk of danger; they meet with strangers in isolated scenarios, which places them at some risk of personal violence. Moreover, these circumstances are an inevitable part of the business; a broker who refuses to go to isolated places with strange people will be unable to do any business. Knowing that this was a problem, and that the risk to my female brokers was probably greater than the risk to my male brokers, I decided to consult with personal safety experts about ways to limit risk. The safety experts suggested instituting a multi-point safety system. No brokers go to client meetings or showings without giving detailed information about the client and the meeting location to the office receptionists. Brokers text license plate numbers to the office, as well, because it is often impossible to otherwise verify identity for clients. In addition, one of the aforementioned team activities was basic self-defense training. This example of problem-solving reflects the reality of problems encountered in the business world; some problems lack full solutions, but can be mitigated and risk reduced, if not eliminated.

The final of the four skills I believe is essential for good managers is project management. Many people mistakenly believe that project management and people management are the same, but they are distinct processes. By definition, projects are temporary endeavors with set goals. Therefore, project management can and should have defined time-specific goals and ways to measure whether or not those goals have been achieved. There are many different approaches to project management, but when I owned the telecommunications company, I embraced the lean project management ideology. Now, as managing broker, each individual client is seen as a project, but a lean approach is not necessarily the best approach. Instead, a more traditional approach to project-management has proven useful.

Lean project management requires focusing on reducing waste and reducing the time required for project completion. When I owned a telecommunications company, I headed several projects that focused on the expansion of telephones into new markets, with new clientele. A lean approach was critical in those times, because reducing the time to completion would result in happier clients and hasten the time for each phone to become profitable. Therefore, I applied the lean approach, looking to avoid duplicate actions or activities, thus reducing time and expense.

I still engage in project management in my current field of real estate. In fact, as a broker, I view every client as an individual project. These projects have the standard elements of a project: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and completion. Initiation occurs when the client and the broker come into contact with one another and begin their relationship. Planning includes sitting down with the client, assessing the client’s wants, and also having realistic conversations with clients about whether their wants are possible in the surrounding economic environment. The execution phase can be seen when either looking for properties or searching for buyers for listed properties. Monitoring may seem to be an extraneous step in the real-estate context, but that is not true; project management requires watching prevailing market conditions and adjusting expectations and goals accordingly. Finally, completion involves either entering into a sales contract or reaching the termination of the exclusive-brokerage agreement.

Management skills are learned, not inherent, and being placed in a management position is not sufficient to make someone a good manager. Instead, I found that some of the skills that made me an effective entrepreneur hampered me as a manager. Moreover, some of the management skills I learned in my first management position did not translate well into later positions. However, by developing the above four management skills, I have developed my skills as a manager, and feel confident that I will be able to adapt them in future positions.

Real Estate

I began my real estate career in 2001, when real estate was still doing very well, housing prices were on the rise nation-wide, and it was easy, in fact too easy, for people to get mortgages to buy properties. Then the real estate bubble burst, and a growth industry retracted. I do not have to explain the consequences of the fall in the real estate market and the ripples that the housing crash sent through the rest of the economy; those are well-understood. However, I have to say that my experience during this time helped me learn two critical factors about the real estate market. The first is that a real estate professional has earning opportunities regardless of the prevailing economic climate. The second is that, I believe, real estate professionals have a moral duty, if not a professional ethical duty, to discuss the financial impact of potential purchases and sales with their clients. Because I have learned and embrace the second principle, I do not feel guilty about being able to make profits even when the real estate market is in distress.

When I entered the real estate market, the economy was booming and real estate property values were not only high, they were actually rising. Moreover, I entered real estate in two distinct areas: as a broker and as the manager of a property investment group. My approach to earning money was distinct in each area, but I was able to capitalize on market conditions in both capacities. The first thing that I realized was that property values could not continue to climb like they were. Although my area did not see the meteoric rise in property values that was evident in other areas, the rise we did experience was not precedented by resent real estate market trends. To me, this was indicative of a bubble, which suggested caution, not only in my personal investments, but also in my advice to clients.

Even before the housing market bubble officially burst, people in the industry were beginning to see some of the impact of the bad lending practices. People were beginning to experience foreclosures and be threatened with home loss. This provided me with opportunities in one of my roles, which was to purchase distressed real estate, with the intention of either flipping the real estate or using it as rental property. However, I had to watch the market carefully in order to evaluate whether property would be improved and resold (flipped) or used for rental property. When the market was thriving, buying a distressed property for the purposes of resale was still a very profitable venture, especially if the distressed property was in a desired area. Flipping such real estate could result in significant profit opportunities, and, furthermore, was relatively low risk because a brisk market ensured that the property owner would be able to find a buyer within a reasonable time period. However, as the market began to slow, the earlier assurances of a buyer for every improved property no longer existed. Instead, it was not uncommon for properties to sit vacant for extended periods of time, which had the potential of eating up profits from any flipping project.

The slowing of the market in terms of sales was not necessarily a bad thing for real estate in general. Regardless of the conditions of the housing market, people need to have a place to live. Therefore, when home sales are down, it can be expected that rental properties will be in higher demand. Transitioning assets away from a resale focused orientation and examining the idea of rental property was an adaptive position in my role as property manager. In addition, as the market continued to decline, the opportunities to maximize profits when purchasing distressed properties increased, as long as there was no impetus to find immediate resale opportunities. Not only did this benefit me as a property manager with a rental portfolio, but also as a broker assisting buyers looking for the distressed properties.

Furthermore, it helped me as a broker selling property for buyers. Many people found that they were in mortgage scenarios that were simply untenable and some of those people realized that they needed to sell before becoming overwhelmed by their debt responsibilities. For some people, these realizations came as the economy contracted and a home and house payment that had previously been comfortably within their budget was no longer affordable. However, for many buyers, these homes were never affordable. They may have managed to get homes with favorable loan-to-value ratios because of schemes that permitted borrowing of down-payments and lax income proof requirements, but they did not have the income necessary to support those loans.

In some ways, people may find it morally difficult to profit off of the misfortune of others and a naive view of distressed property sales may see it as something predatory. However, that point-of-view is very naive and does not reflect an understanding of mortgages, liens, and the foreclosure process. If a buyer can purchase a distressed property from a seller prior to the foreclosure process, the buyer can often arrange for the seller to salvage some value from the home, or, if that is not possible, at least help the seller retain some creditworthiness. Both of these factors are substantial when considering the long-term impact of a forced sale on creditworthiness of the property owners. Even when that is not the case and a property is subjected to foreclosure, buyers who are willing to pay substantial value for a property make it more likely that the buyer might salvage value from the sale, since the bank’s lien on the property is for the value of the loan and associated costs; surplus, when it occurs, goes to the property owner.

Of course, it is impossible to discuss the recent housing crash without examining the impact that it had on many property owners. Repeatedly, I witnessed property owners who had taken adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) with the belief that they would continue to be able to get low-interest-rate financing after the terms of their ARMs expired. In fact, many of them seemed as if they did not understand that the ARM was not a fixed-rate mortgage. Some of the people I worked with had multiple mortgages on the same property, all obtained at the time they received their original loans on the property. One of the common refrains that I heard was that they did not believe that they were over-leveraging themselves because of a belief that the banks would not make loans that they did not think could be covered. Few of them seemed to consider that, absent the dramatic type of burst seen on both of the coasts, most banks would be able to recover the losses they found in the home market in the event of default by a borrower. Instead, they seemed to believe that banks would only lend them money if they seemed as if they could repay it. They also failed to understand that they might not be receiving the best interest rates available.

In fact, prior to becoming a real-estate broker, I also failed to truly understand that people applying for mortgages might not receive the best interest rate. I naively assumed that a mortgage broker would work with applicants to find the best loan with the lowest rates available for the borrowers. I did not understand the concept of the yield spread premium, and the notion that lenders actually provided financial rewards to brokers who sell their borrowers loans with higher interest rates. While mortgage brokers are required to disclose those premiums to borrowers, the fact is that many borrowers were not sophisticated and did not understand what that meant. They went into purchases ill-informed, and some of those decisions helped contribute to the housing market crash.

As a result, in my practice, I determined that I would not engage in any activities I deemed morally unacceptable, even if those activities did not violate ethical norms. When working with potential buyers, I would discuss their financial situation with them and see if they numbers they had in mind were feasible for their personal financial situations. I determined that I would rather sell more homes at a lower profit on each home, then help move someone into a property that he or she ultimately could not afford. I urged the buyers with whom I worked to go to banks directly or recommended that they work with a select group of mortgage brokers, whom I knew did not engage in practices I found ethically troubling. When a client did work with a mortgage broker, I would help them go through paperwork and point out the broker rebates in the proposed contracts. I would not provide them with legal advice, but I would ask them if they understood what those terms meant and what type of impact it would have on their obligation under the loan, both short-term and long-term. Likewise, I would refer them to information about points and how they impacted mortgages, closing costs, and tax obligations, to be sure that they understood exactly what they were getting with the mortgages. In this way, I ensured that I was not helping create a future financial crisis for my clients, but truly helping people find their homes.

Being a real estate professional during the tumultuous first decade of the 21st century has been an important learning experience for me. As a businessman, I learned that a negative surrounding economy does not eliminate the possibility of profits in a particular segment; instead, I was not only able to make substantial personal profits during a crashing housing market, but also able to make profits as a result of the economic crash. While not all segments of the economy would provide the same opportunities for profit in contracting economies, it did serve as a reminder that the surrounding economic climate may inform, but does not dictate, individual profits or success. However, I also learned many negatives about human behavior during this time period, as I repeatedly witnessed people who had been victimized by predatory lenders or mortgage brokers. I not only found that I could make a profit without engaging in those predatory behaviors, but that, actually, by being not only ethical, but also moral, I increased the number of referrals that I received from customers. They understood that I did my job in order to get a profit, but they also understood that it was not my goal to profit at their expense.