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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Feb. 22, 2008 10 years ago

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Man chamber seeks menbers: Guys, this could be a chamber for you.Amscot not roiled by down economy: The slower economy hasn't stopped people from cashing checks, and that pleases Ian MacKechnieHome swap interest on the rise: When David Moskowitz created a Web site early last year to assist people looking to trade homesExercise the body, grow the profits: A Harvard MBA and management experience can be valuable to a Gulf Coast CEO. But what's just as valuable?And the coveted Stevie award goes to...: If the Oscars and the Grammys have left you with a bout of award envy, worry no moreBonita Bay Group's Hendry projects delayed: The housing bust that is gripping Southwest Florida is pushing back some of developer Bonita Bay Group's plans for residential communities in eastern Lee and Hendry counties.It's only rock n' roll, but we like it: Put away the motivational posters. Reconsider the free monthly back massages in the break room. Another team building exercise on the ropes course?CLW takes stand for heart health: The employees of CLW Real Estate Services Group in Tampa are no strangers to the danger caused by heart disease.Existing-home prices in Naples fall 29% Talk about an eye-popper.Calling Florida entrepreneurs

Coffee Talk

+ Man chamber

seeks menbers

Guys, this could be a chamber for you.

Chambers of commerce have broadened their appeal since they were clubby, men-only institutions and rightly so. Today, many chambers now have events tailored specifically for women in business.

But one group in Lee County has established Men In Business International, a chamber of commerce specifically for men. The man behind the idea is Armando Nargi, the founder of another gender-based networking group, Lee County Business Women, which now has 210 members.

Men in Business is starting in Fort Myers and the inaugural meeting of its "menbers" was held Wednesday at-where else?-Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse. Nargi plans to spread the organization to other locations including Miami, New York, St. Louis and Chicago.

Nargi says the group is likely to skew to a younger male demographic. "The younger generation, especially, is ready for progress," he says. "The older generation grew up with the social turmoil of the '60s and '70s," Nargi says, and is less likely to gather in a men-only setting.

+ Amscot not roiled

by down economy

The slower economy hasn't stopped people from cashing checks, and that pleases Ian MacKechnie, president and CEO of Amscot Financial in Tampa. The company still plans on expanding, a little more slowly, with 12 new locations this year, compared to 22 in 2007, he told Coffee Talk.

And a recent column in The Wall Street Journal by President Bill Clinton promoting bank use vs. check-cashing centers as a way to save consumers billions, hasn't ruffled MacKenchnie's feathers either.

"I read the column," MacKenchnie says. "Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. Why do we exist? Banks are all over. Because there's a need for us. Eighty percent of our customers use banks."

The economy has meant less visits from construction workers, because of the soft housing market, but MacKenchnie isn't downcast.

"Americans will work in other industries," he says. "There are jobs out there."

+ Home swap interest

on the rise

When David Moskowitz created a Web site early last year to assist people looking to trade homes, as opposed to simply buying and selling them, his interest was almost entirely selfish: He was looking to sell his home in southern Sarasota County, but like thousands of others, he wasn't finding any buyers. (See Review, 9/7/07.)

A little more than 10 months later the site, www.domuswap.com has given Moskowitz, an admitted computer geek and civil engineer by trade, his 15 minutes of media fame. On Jan. 31 he was featured in a Wall Street Journal story about a developing nationwide trend of house swapping and later that day he was interviewed live on Fox Business News for a story on the subject.

"My biggest service so far," Moskowitz tells Coffee Talk, "has been getting buyers and sellers to communicate with each other."

Domuswap's listings of homeowners seeking to trade properties has grown in correlation with the length of the market slump, to the point where the site now has more than 1,000 listings nationwide, including 600 in Florida. According to the Journal article, other home-swapping sites, such as goswap.org, daytonahometrader.com and onlinehousetrading.com have grown recently, too.

So what about Moskowitz' initial reason for starting the Web site? He has yet to find any buyers - or traders - for his house, and he recently put it back on the market after delisting it for a few months.

+ Exercise the body,

grow the profits

A Harvard MBA and management experience can be valuable to a Gulf Coast CEO. But what's just as valuable? Exercise and diet which can sharpen thinking and analysis and help chief executives make the right decisions the first time.

That was the message at a meeting of the CEO Council of Tampa Bay, which hosted local physician and author Steven Masley, founder of the Masley Optimal Health Center, which sees several chief executives.

Since mental speed and reaction time can decline with age, Masley told the council that aerobic exercise and strength training can not only keep weight off, but it can enhance mental performance. Also important for a healthy lifestyle is managing stress, eating the right foods (i.e. vegetables, fruit, beans, spices and herbs are important) and taking a daily supplement.

+ And the coveted

Stevie award goes to...

If the Oscars and the Grammys have left you with a bout of award envy, worry no more: The 6th annual American Business Awards are currently accepting nominations for the best business performances, from top executives and organizations to sales teams and support staffs.

The awards, sponsored by companies including Dow Jones, are an independent program honoring organizations of all types and sizes, including public, private and nonprofits. The awards, known as the Stevies, for the Greek word crowned, will be presented during a nationally broadcast gala and ceremony in New York City June 12.

Entries may be submitted in dozens of categories, from Best Executive to Most Innovative Company. New categories for 2008 include Best Management Team, Best PR or Communications Campaign and Best PR Agency. For a full list of categories and to fill out a nomination form go to www.stevieawards.com or call (703) 547-8389. The entry deadline is March 31, although late entries will be accepted for a fee through April 30.

+ Bonita Bay Group's

Hendry projects delayed

The housing bust that is gripping Southwest Florida is pushing back some of developer Bonita Bay Group's plans for residential communities in eastern Lee and Hendry counties. A few years ago, these areas were widely considered the new frontier for residential development as speculators swarmed the area.

One of the projects on hold is Murphy's Landing, a 187-acre community that's being planned along the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. "That's waiting on the market," Dennis Church, vice president of planning and development for Bonita Bay Group, told a group of politically active business people recently.

Church says that development will likely have to wait another two to three years. A much larger, 5,200-acre development in LaBelle will also be pushed back until the market recovers in 2010.

+ It's only rock n' roll,

but we like it

Put away the motivational posters. Reconsider the free monthly back massages in the break room. Another team building exercise on the ropes course?

Instead, use something that research shows is a better motivator and better at improving retention of information.

That something? Music.

"We know that music is a great vehicle to deliver training because it helps with retention," says Russ Riendeau, a PhD in psychology and senior partner with East Wing Search Group, who has done executive search work in Florida and nationwide for 23 years. "Music enhances memory, recall and attention. Music can be a very powerful tool for companies to improve morale and productivity."

Riendeau's message: Mix music into presentations to increase retention and attention among employees. His other message: You don't need gimmicks to attract and keep good employees. You need to find people who are passionate about your company's mission. That will keep them coming to work every day, not a free lunch once a month.

"You don't need goofy stuff to make employees happy," Riendeau says.

To attract the best talent, companies need to do the following, he says:

• Have a distinct competitive advantage in their industry

• Have clearly defined job descriptions with key initiatives for each job.

• Write down what skills are needed for the job.

• Use a personality measurement tool, like the Myers-Briggs, to see if the person's personality meets the impression he gives.

• Survey employees to see where they came from to determine fertile recruiting areas.

• Hold interview training classes for managers.

Riendeau teaches these things with a shirt and tie on. And sometimes with an electric guitar strapped to his back.

+ CLW takes stand

for heart health

The employees of CLW Real Estate Services Group in Tampa are no strangers to the danger caused by heart disease. 

Bruce Lauer, founding principal of CLW Real Estate Services Group and quadruple by-pass surgery patient, can attest to the importance of committing to a heart-healthy lifestyle. After two heart attacks (one in 1985 and again in 2002), a minor stroke and heart surgery, Lauer realized he had to make some profound changes in his lifestyle, which included adding a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and an increased commitment to exercise.

Lauer is not the only employee at CLW to be touched by the effects of heart disease. Several of his colleagues had been affected too:

• Lou Varsames, principal, recently underwent open heart surgery for a genetic heart defect;

• The father of broker K.C. Tenukas passed away due to an aortic aneurism;

• The mother of Mike Lawson, director of operations, recently had a major stroke;

• The father of Melissa Fitzgerald, assistant project manager, died due to congenital heart failure and an enlarged heart.

CLW decided to commit to a cause that had effected many of its employees, so the company is promoting heart-health by hosting awareness activities throughout the year and raising funds for the American Heart Association.

Existing-home prices in Naples fall 29%

Talk about an eye-popper.

When the Naples Area Board of Realtors released January sales figures last week, the data showed the median sale price of an existing single-family home in the Naples area tumbled from $610,000 in January 2007 to $432,000 in January 2008, a 29% decline.

Arlene Carozza, president of the Realtors group in Naples, says the overall picture may be distorted, however. The median-price decline for single-family homes may be magnified by the fact that the number of homes sold in the under-$300,000 category nearly doubled in January compared with the same month a year ago. The median price in that category fell 31% to $185,000, likely spurring those sales. Meanwhile, the number of sales of homes above $300,000 dropped in every price category while median prices generally rose.

"If you look at the whole, maybe it looks worse than it is," Carozza says. January data for other parts of the state was not available by press time.

Naples existing single-family

median sold price

($ in thousands)

Price Range Jan. 2007 Jan. 2008 %Change

$0-$300 $270 $185 ‑31%

$300-$500 $370 $397 7%

$500-$1M $682 $762 12%

$1M-$2M $1,481 $1,365 ‑8%

$2M+ $3,100 $4,050 31%

Overall $610 $432 ‑29%

Calling Florida

entrepreneurs

It has begun. Ernst & Young has begun the process of taking nominations for its annual Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

The Florida competition will pick an overall state winner, which will then go on to national and potentially international competition.

What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur in a challenging economy?

"A majority of entrepreneurs talk about perseverance and the team they built," says Ernst & Young's Micheal Brennan, Florida host of the Florida Entrepreneur of the Year program told Coffee Talk. "The judges like the best story, one about a company that's really had to scratch and claw."

The Florida competition will be held in Orlando June 5. The national event will be in Palm Springs, Calif. in November. Former Gulf Coast winners include Outback Steakhouse and Breed Technologies.

For more information and nomination forms contact Beverly Eha, program manager, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Florida Awards, at 813.225.4893 or at [email protected]. Information is also available at www.ey.com/us/eoy.

Nondurable sales

What the data shows: The category of consumer-nondurable taxable sales include food and convenience stores, department and clothing stores, drug stores, antique dealers, book stores, florists, pet dealers and suppliers, social organizations, storage, communications firms, print shops, nurseries, vending machines and utilities.

What it means: Consumer nondurable sales have held up well despite a slowing economy. They stand in stark contrast to consumer-durable sales of items such as cars and washing machines, which have declined by double-digit percentage rates on the Gulf Coast. Tampa matches the state's growth in sales of consumer nondurable items and the only area that fell slightly was Punta Gorda.

Forecast: As long as the unemployment rate doesn't spike up further, consumer-nondurable sales should hold up reasonably well. The unemployment rate in Charlotte County was the highest on the Gulf Coast in November at 5.9%, which may indicate why sales of consumer nondurable items declined.

Gulf Coast nondurable sales in November

($ in millions)

Area Taxable sales Annual chg.

Fort Myers $309.3 2.3%

Naples $172.6 3%

Punta Gorda $65.4 ‑1.5%

Sarasota $295.4 2.4%

Tampa $1,120 5.1%

Florida $8,699 5.1%

Source: Florida Legislature Office of Economic & Demographic Research

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