Categories
Business

Don’t buy a house on the beach in Greece after the 20th of August

If you think Greece has made progress in the past three years, you really should tell me how you get informed.  I need that sort of optimism and selective perception.  I live in Greece and I breathe with Greek businesses of all sizes, shapes and forms.  Things are much much worse than they were when we started these bailouts.

Corruption is not only endemic but in our face.  That is something not measured in the international lists of corrupt countries but it matters.  The rule of law is a joke when you combine corruption with delays in decisions.  Greek courts can ruin any business endeavor.  They do.  Every day.  The so called “ease of doing business” indicator hasn’t moved much.  But companies have!  Bulgaria, Cyprus or even Brexiting UK are preferred by Greeks starting a new business.  Tax regulations change all the time.  They even applied additional taxes retrospectively which is possibly a world first.  Greece has signed up to surpluses so ridiculous that taxing anything that moves, anything that doesn’t move and anyone even looking at the scene, is the only way to conform to the demands.

The population of Greece has been babyfed government handouts for many decades.   They pay those ridiculous taxes because they still have money stashed in various guides.  The young people that don’t leave the country are the ones hoping for a job in the public sector.   So we are left with the worse kind of employee.  Unless you are a tech start up that can get by with a few bright minds, you are likely to come out of job interviews wondering what the hell these kids are thinking; demanding high salaries but not willing to put in the effort or show any kind of flexibility.  Don’t be harsh on them.  They grew up in houses with two parents living comfortably from the public sector, essentially not working.  Whatever you offer them can never be as good as that!

We have one of the worse governments on the planet.  Pretty sweeping statement but I can back it up.  They sign laws to appease our debtors but these laws are not enforced.  Worse still, and the reason I claim the world title so easily, is the amazing way they use a pseudo ideological way to dismantle anything good, decent or productive in Greece.  You can’t call them “common thieves” because thieves are not so ignorant, nor so bold.  They haven’t even managed to proceed with obvious and easy privatizations, partly because of these schizophrenic pseudo ideological concerns.  You know this is investment hell when they can’t even sell off prime beach real estate (Asteras Vouliagmenis) or develop an ideal part of the city.  (Ellinikon)

Our infrastructure is pathetic.  Yes I know the roads are better than they are in Nigeria and we have a fairly stable electricity supply.  But as has been proved time and time again by our current government, they cannot reach agreements on major issues like privatizing the grid.  They can’t control labor unions which strike because they demand the right to continue destroying the environment with lignite abuse.  So our infrastructure was OK but whether it will be able to ever get to any next phase of development is doubtful.

Probably the best place to witness all the above problems together is tourism. That great hope. Probably what you thought of when you read the title. “Invest in Greece: get a house on the beach”. Sure, after you deal with the corruption, the spoilt locals, the crazy government and the lack of infrastructure.  All sorts of people will be asking for bribes or giving bribes on your behalf to speed up proceedings. Then you will discover that the neighbor built something right in front of your house, or cut off your way to the beach and there is nothing you can do about it. Then the government will impose yet another tax on your property, a tax you have to pay every year on top of the tax you paid when you bought it. Then you will wait for a decent internet connection, sort of get it, then it will be down again.

 

I don’t think you would spend even a small amount on buying a house on the beach if you looked carefully enough.  So who the hell is stupid enough to make a real investment in Greece?

 

 

Categories
Communication

We need more opinion, not political correctness: tomatoes rule!

I write. I write a lot. I write without second thought and press “publish” before I even review my text most of the time. And so should you. Here’s why.

Opinion pieces are not like other journalism or business communication. In your mind, that is something dangerous or risky. Because you are focused on objectively informing. You are clearly not out to influence the reader. News, or a business report simply array the facts. Like this quarter’s sales break down. Sure, the way you present facts makes a difference but you pretend to avoid opinion. And what good is that? You are essentially saying “I don’t know what this all means, please someone else tell me.”

No, no, I want you to do two things much more important than just look at sales figures. First of all I want you to rethink something we all had as a fixed idea. Fresh eyes on something. Have you ever considered that tomatoes are incredibly clever? Within a few hundred years they went from a relatively unknown species, limited to a small part of the planet, to conquering the entire globe all year round. If my analogy is good and you stop reading and think for a minute, you might see the world in an entirely different light. You might think of something interesting and useful for your task in hand in fact.

Masterful communicators don’t stop there.  They add the second element which propels good writing or business communication.  Fire.  Emotion.  Passion.  For the love of tomatoes, let’s stop eating bland varieties!  See how that doesn’t work?  Lack of flavor in tomatoes surely is not that important.  I set it up well and then lost it.  Why?

Passion doesn’t appear magically from the sky.  Good presentation skills or fancy writing can’t conjure it up either.  Passion is about the flow of ideas between two states.  Like a liquid moving between two bowls of differing altitude.  There needs to be a problem for there to be passion, a difference.  So if you want to communicate your opinion effectively, you need to set up that difference.  What difference?

This is a very scientific way to explain it but we are living in the age of algorithms.  What we need to do is to set up our model of how the world works first.  In business this is often our current practices.   On a personal level it is “how I think the world works”.    Political correctness crashes and burns even at this, very basic, phase.  If you can’t clearly show your model, there is no chance you will evoke emotion.   If I talk about “the liberal world view” most of you will passionately position yourself in relation to whatever you think that is and whatever else I am discussing.  Same if you say “this is how we have been doing business until now” before you make your case for change within your organization.

If you think back to an opinion piece that touched you it often started with an individual.  Poor Ahmed on a boat from Syria, here is his story and how he ended up in a prison in Sweden.  Or an amazing old man that still works the old print machine for a small local newspaper in Iceland that is supporting a community.  They start from one person and connect all the model of the world view which is in friction with that one, indicative and symbolic human.

Don’t hide behind the mask of a politically correct, bland and “safe” way of communicating.  Find that person.  Tell us the story.  Be that person.

Categories
Book

A mediocre book which you absolutely have to read

I only just learnt that Hans Rosling died.  But he left an amazing legacy.  Forget GAPminder and his speeches all over the world, just this book, Factfulness, is more than enough.

There are two levels on which the book is a must-read.  First of all because for pretty important basic facts about the world you live in, you are wrong.  Extremely wrong.  The higher your level of education, the more wrong you are in fact.  And it is influencing your psychology, your politics and your decisions.  On the most primitive, essential level, the planet is not as you think it is.  You are pessimistic for the wrong reasons.  You are basing your business decisions on false assumptions.

For anyone in communication, whether marketing or management, this book is a battle cry in terms of “how the hell can you persuade someone when they aren’t willing to listen?”  Whether you want to change behavior to sell more or to save a species, if your corporate social responsibility doesn’t feel true, the answer might be in this wise man’s book.

The man was not an author.  He is not a craftsman on the written word.  It is like a long TED talk, like a long walk on a very long beach with a wonderful man that really wanted to make this world better for each and everyone of us.