Transparency And Responsibility In American Life

You are blind to the truth.

I am blind.

We are all blind.

And our ears don’t seem to want to listen, nor do we seem to care that things are the way they are.

I am talking about the reality of American Life. And if it where just one thing and not pretty much everything, then you could fix that one thing, maybe. From Healthcare to What You Eat to Immigration to Wars to Startups.

I mention all those areas in this article and challenge to add a few more.

Everything we do right now needs to become transparent, where we take responsibility, because most activities and processes in America right now are not transparent, and there are forces trying to keep it this way.

So what am I talking about really?

Ok, let’s start with healthcare. What does a simple doctor’s visit really cost? Do you actually know? I am not talking about the payment YOU make as you leave the doctor. I am talking about what was really payed by insurance companies to doctors, clinics and hospitals. Ever end up in the hospital for a short stay. You may be paying $2000 in deductibles, but what was the real cost? It could easily be $100,000. What is the monthly deductible? Add that up yearly and see what you pay as a percentage of your salary. Doesn’t matter if you are liberal or conservative. This is a matter of transparency. Until we are responsible for a bill, where you say to the doctor “hey you billed me three times, now fix it!” And you personally are responsible… the price will continue to go up indefinitely. We all need to be responsible to change the system. By the way, half the time I figure out my own illness myself by doing a little research and have had doctors often be wrong. They are human. Don’t just accept a doctor’s opinion. Get another opinion and challenge that one. Find a home made remedy instead of a pharmaceutical if possible! Trust me, I have.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Chocolate. You like it right? I do. I like dark chocolate. You get it on Halloween, Christmas, Passover. I eat it at least once a week, somewhere. It is always on a desk somewhere for me. You ever wonder where it all comes from… Well apparently Americans don’t want to know. If you wanted to really know the answer, you would google where it comes from and find much of it is created from chocolate bean farms worked by dirt poor people, practically slave labor and child labor whether in Africa or China. Needs to say on the package what it really is about so we can understand what we are eating.

Sugar. Something changed in the American diet about 30 years ago when they started to use high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar in many products, especially fast food. I don’t know the science but it is something that you need to avoid. I personally think it causes moodiness, depression and obviously it will lead to being overweight. We buy things with high fructose corn syrup all the time, like pretty much any fruit drink. But do we actually look at the label carefully. It is there in plain site on products we buy. This one is transparent, but you were not looking! Better to start now. The real problem is at fast food restaurants where you get high fructose corn syrup and don’t even know you are it in your system.

Your checking account. I have not been able to reconcile it in over 15 years since online banking. Who really knows where that monthly charge comes from that I can’t seem to figure out? Having things be easier doesn’t mean you need to look at it less and less.

Illegal Immigrants. All this fuss about people who come here to the US to work. The reality, if you wanted to know the truth, is illegal immigrants are lured and invited here by all kinds of employers who get them to work for a lot less than minimum wage. Those employers make a bigger profit, save money or stay in business whether pickers, lawn service, child care or whatever they do. Illegal immigrants are part of the US economy. And somebody is benefiting from them. But what’s best for those who benefit is to not discuss what immigrants do, where they come from and why they are here (trust me some big farms and small farms really depend on the low labor rates), but next time you eat an orange think twice about the fact that oranges are hand picked by people who are willing to work for less. Make them transparent. That means give them an ID card, have them pay medical insurance fees (because we are all paying for them now) and do it the right way, out in the open!

Citizens United. This is the biggest tragedy in American life today. Now we are expected to accept the fact that a multi-billion dollar corporation has the same freedom of speech and rights as an individual. Sounds reasonable, but it is anything but reasonable. It is used as a guise to say that corporations can spend anything they want to influence the system. Now we don’t know who or what is behind buying ads during elections. Somehow that became law. wow. It’s a major problem of transparency.

Iraq war. A war in Iraq that nobody seemed to care it went on eternally. Nobody seemed to care about the cost. Nobody could explain why we were in the war in the first place. Nobody investigated all the military corporations who charged extraordinary amounts to run the war. There were trillions of dollars spent, yet nobody seems to want to go over how much was spent or how much they are spending. Of course they don’t want transparency. None of us are taking responsibility for this. It is always somebody else.

Startups. I have met with or heard over 200 startups pitch to me directly or at an event in the past 3 years. I have worked directly for 7 as a startup consultant, employee or partner. Do you really want to know how many times I have met with a startup that tells me they have already spent $100k, $300k, $600k, $1 million and still are not clear about what they are doing exactly. Can people be so focused on what they think the world needs and not be willing to go out and simply ask people if they are willing to pay for it! Just ask. Be responsible. If they say no, move on. I understand, people don’t want to look at themselves in the mirror.

And for whatever reason, it seems like the lack of transparency or responsibility has become our American way of life.

Let’s boil it down to this. Are you the guy or gal who purchases an exercise bike from a TV ad where they say for only $16.95 a month you can start the process of owning your own exercise bike? Well, they never said how many months you pay. That is not illegal. You could pay $170 or $1700. Did you find that ding on your credit card for the next 5 years? Huh. Shouldn’t it be illegal to sell something where you don’t know how much it really costs?

Well, I do think people care about all these things that are not transparent, but say to themselves “what can I do about it?”

But you can do something about it. At least talking about it is a start.

Well, at some point I started to track down those extra charges on my credit cards. I even turned off most of my credit cards to eliminate whatever it was.

As far as the lack of transparency. You have to start by looking at everything with a different point of view. Ask your doctor as you checkout next time what was the actual real final charge to the insurance company plus what you are spending? When people say to you, get rid of all the immigrants, ask them do you know what immigrants actually do here in the US? Does your community use labor that is illegal? Hmm, well you may be personally benefiting. Take responsibility for that. When you grab your favorite RedBull, coke or fruit juice check the label carefully for high fructose syrup. Don’t buy it! Change your credit cards periodically to get any crazy monthly charges off of it. I am probably missing a dozen other things where people don’t really know what is really happening behind the scenes. Be vigilant and ask questions and don’t just accept fluff answers.

If you live in South Florida, on April 20th at 5:30 there will be a tech startup pitch event with networking in Deerfield Beach at Seedtronic (yet another startup). Up to 10 companies will be pitching to a panel of investors and experts at this event. If you register through Meetup before April 12th, the event is FREE. After April 12th the event will be $15. Click Here for more information.

Have a great day and go to my Linkedin Page here, if you want to comment on this subject:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/transparency-responsibility-american-life-dan-gudema?published=t

Skill-Based Economy Vs. Startup Economy

While there has been a lot of interest in startups, we still see more and more of the IT Tech workforce focus on what I describe as a skill-based economy.

This means that most jobs now revolve around a particular application skill or specialized knowledge, a programming language knowledge or hardware knowledge.  This is different than a startup based economy, where workers learn a variety of business skills. There is also a management economy, where broad knowledge is paid for and engineers and graduates are expected to be able to handle any language or system under any situation and skills are softer running corporations.

The US is about to undergo a major shift towards a startup economy and I think that it will never look back.  A major factor is crowd-funding, but out-sourcing is also a factor.  There are just not going to be that many jobs in the future, because it is so much cheaper to outsource work and things will eventually get very automated to the point where programming is needed less or is worth less!

Most funded startups are in Silicon Valley and NYC. But startups are coming to every town in America if they are not there already.  The 99% of America that is not in Silicon Valley and NYC has to rely on starting up by bootstrapping with our own hands and own funds most of the time.  In fact, from my perspective most startups never get funding till the deal is so good that you don’t need the capital.

There is a big difference preparing for a career in a startup economy vs. a skills based economy.  For one, you need broad knowledge to be a startup vs. you need specialized knowledge to be skilled.  You need to open up your mind to the possibilities to be a startup.

In the traditional skills based economy you need to focus in even deeper and study even harder to be niche and more specialized at what you do.  The problem is skills based training, while amazingly pays the bills, does not lead you ultimately to leading or being in a startup, if that is your personal goal!  This is the lament of many tech people who ask me how to transition from tech guy to startup guy.  Trust me it is not easy and very painful and it is a doorway you can not often go back through.  Though some of you reading this have gone back and forth like me.  That is even more painful. Either way you need to start one day if that is your passion and quite often today is that day…  Sometimes when you get severance and are laid-off you get the chance.  But you needed to have trained your mind years prior!

About a year ago I noticed that a very focused MySQL expert, highly skilled at just this area was able to command as much as $200,000 in yearly salary in South Florida.  That sounds great for an MySQL expert if that is your background, because that is a ton of pay for MySQL, as high or higher than some CIOs and CEOs. We have seen this happen with a dozen other IT areas from SAP to Cold Fusion to Oracle to Java at one time.  I remember a developer who worked at $400 an hour 25 years ago at the phone company.  These high salaries are based on supply and demand.

So, what does this mean?

The emphasis on becoming an expert at these specific skill sets has caused a ton of code schools and DevOp training schools to crop up to train people.  Still doesn’t seem like a bad thing, right?  It creates a new crop of IT pros who just know one specialized area. And that is great and they get jobs. The problem is what happens when that specific tech skill is not needed anymore or once again the engineer wants to be an entrepreneur!

So What’s The Problem With Skill-Based Economies?

Well, if 90% of these people entering these skill areas are just trained in the one discipline, they are facing certain obsolescence and can’t really change their career within the current job.  They need to constantly go for training.  And what happens on the next tech era/iteration is they are often in the pool of applicants who just got trained on the new skill-set.

So what I am saying is in a skill-set driven economy eventually as you get older, you end up retraining over and over and are right along side of people with only 5 years experience when you have 25. You are starting your career from scratch every couple years!

And often the newly skilled professionals jumped into the skill without finishing their undergrad degrees.

At some point, as more and more outsourcing occurs, the job market could become a dog-eat-dog world driving salaries down, not up! While you have created this amazingly specialized skill set, you realize, that you have not developed the startup skills that you will need to create a business in your near future.  We met a bunch of tech people like this at our StartupPOP tech startup pitch event yesterday, Feb 2nd, 2016 at 6pm at The Greenhouse in Boca Raton, Florida: http://www.meetup.com/Boca-Raton-Tech-Start-ups-Meetup/events/227700750/

Tons of people and experts are telling interested techies to just quit school which is expensive and get a job programming.  In fact, they often find themselves making good money early and later on find out that they probably should have finished their degree or started their own tech firm or startup early on.

I hear people in Silicon Valley complaining that they don’t have enough of these highly skilled people.  What they are really saying is we prefer more and more single skill, highly focused people, not people who can run a business or manage people.

Businesses more and more just need specialized workers. Why? Because they don’t need people who can migrate to management, product or other areas of the business.  And they don’t need people who are skilled at Startups… Actually I think they do. but that is another blog post.  Businesses say they need programmers who can deliver exactly what they want today.  Once again that is ok and a great entry point for people. Employers want workers they can plug and play, and they don’t care how they got the skill as well.  They just want that skill.  This is how I got my first job, plugging together PCs and writing C programs to download telecom switch data.  So good entry point for us all.

And more than ever, they don’t want or need these skill based workers on a permanent basis. Eventually you move on or employers let you go when they need new skills.

They are calling this the part-time economy, where every job is a  part-time job and skill-sets that are bought and sold literally on a part-time contract basis.

Not all IT professionals want to be an expert at one thing or can handle being a one language developer for years and years.  I have done it.  You can do it for a couple years, even a decade or two, but eventually you wind up having to completely relearn an entire programming skill set or new tech paradigm and at least I had to move on to other areas like marketing, business dev (sales), architecture, project management, e-commerce and of course executive management.  Besides everything gets old and boring and humans need variety in what we do for a living or we go insane!

And most important, these skill set driven jobs often hit a financial ceiling.  I have had many programmers tell me that they can’t seem to make over a certain amount without some type of career change, whether its management or product.  So that is where you end up, stuck in a rut, not being able to climb up the ladder and not having enough broad skill knowledge to change.  So having an undergrad, MS, MBA or PHD at that point is great!  You can do other jobs!

I use the words Startup Economy or Management skills loosely.  They are two different directions.  Managers are quite skilled at project management, meetings and working with and managing large teams and organizations.  Startups tend to require all kinds of skills from low level tech skills and high level thinking and everything in between.

Building up a skill-set in one discipline does not require skills like being a serial entrepreneur/tech startup person or being able to write a pitch deck or business plan.  Those skills are not part of working in a skills-based economy. To be a startup guy or gal it requires studying everything you can get your hands on about startups, going back to school, working a startup as their second job, reading 100 startup books by Guy Kawasaki or learning the hard way or on the job.

Either way, it is a tough road.  There never seems to be enough to know in order to make a startup work, so you are often winging it.  But to leave the skill based economy and join the startup economy you need to start today!

Please join our email list on http://startuppop.com and identify if you are an entrepreneur, investors or other type in this new startup economy. Also, by joining our email list, you will find out about my next two books when they are published.  They are called “Names” and “Roadmap”… Both will be published as print and ebooks/Kindle in 2016.  Have a great day and keep on thinking of your own startup… Never give that up.

Finally, we are looking for startup entrepreneurs, mentors and event planners who want to run our pitch event in your city.  You would be part of a global group of people running pitch events under one single company.  We are open-minded to running this pitch event in Europe, Asia, South America and Australia in addition to 120 US and Canadian cities.  (Think like Avon!) StartupPOP is recruiting people to run local startup pitch events and we supply the tech, promotion tools. You secure the venue and run the event. Please contact me at dan@startuppop.com if you would like more information about running this event!

Have a great day!

LuckyCharms18.com #Jewelry #ecommerce #website Goes Live

The website LuckyCharms18.com has gone live and is now lets the thousands of satisfied customers of the in store brand located at Sawgrass Mills at Sunrise, The Shops at Midtown Mall, Miami and Boca Raton based Town Center Mall to now be able to buy jewelry directly at the Lucky Charms 18 website.

StartupPOP.com, a startup digital agency, has created and built the e-commerce website Lucky Charms 18 for a gracious and satisfied client. Lucky Charms 18 specializes in evil eye jewelry, hamsa jewelry, kabbalah jewelry, red cord bracelets.

Lucky Charms 18 is a very successful South Florida based jewelry company with kiosks at 3 malls including Town Center Mall in Boca Raton, Florida.  StartupPOP.com, a digital startup agency and consulting company created this e-commerce site for our client at a reasonable price and within a reasonable time frame. Lucky Charms 18 was developed and implemented using Shopify, a cloud based e-commerce solution that many e-commerce companies are turning to.

What makers Shopify a great platform to build on is ease of setup, ease of use for the customer to manage the site going forward, has high end features out of the box, no hosting required. What you will need to build a Shopify site is an expert in both graphic design skills or e-commerce skills.  Contact us if you are considering building out a Shopify site, since we have the skills necessary to make it happen.

If you are looking to build or rebuild your e-commerce site and need expertise, then you should definitely consider contacting us.  You can reach us at dan@startupop.com.

Please follow us on Twitter at @dgudema

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