Picture Perfect

Research takes a snapshot of consumers’ perceptions.

January 14, 2013

My grandparents were married in 1924. Their wedding picture beautifully captures an era, a sentiment, and an event.

Petite Grandma looks like a little pink-cheeked doll as she holds her large bouquet, and dapper, confident Grandpa looks a bit mischievous. They don’t know what lies ahead as their moment in time is recorded.

What further strikes me is this lovely portrait brings different meanings to different viewers. It means something different to my mother than it does to me—and it means something different to the photo restoration man than it does to an interior design lady who suggests where to place it for best effect in the living room. The moment itself is long gone but the results of it are still felt by others in varying degrees.

Any event in time, even in the work-a-day world, can be appreciated both at that moment and again later as we reflect on its significance. Participants, organizers, and observers are affected in very different ways and, even long after the event, impressions may vary depending on one’s involvement.

Consider a marketing campaign—all important to the marketing department as it plans and implements strategies and subsequently measures success. It may involve a significant amount of time, money, and energy. The member who will ultimately determine critical outcomes for the marketer may invest but a moment in deciding to act on or ignore a message.

How do you make plans and view various events? What is your role in a process? Do you know the parts others play and appreciate their significance? Are you aware of the efforts others may impart in a project and realize their importance to the big picture?

Small business paparazzi

Small businesses create big impact in our economy. Research this week illuminates their important role.

Be sure you know the “7 Hot Trends for Small Business in 2013”  according to Open Forum. Some of the risks and opportunities for small business owners include:

Do your members know “The Best and Worst Small Businesses to Start in 2013”?  Among the fastest-growing sectors are management consulting services, gas stations, and grain farming. Slow-growing areas include the recreation industry, real estate ventures, and stationery and gift stores.

What about retirement prospects for entrepreneurs? See “Financial Viability and Retirement Assets: A Look at Small Business Owners and Private Sector Workers.” Here, “Business owners are significantly less likely…to hold retirement assets...” and, “Financially vulnerable small business owners…are less likely to hold retirement assets than owners who are not net worth vulnerable.”

This analysis by the Small Business Administration is thought provoking not only for business owners but for those who assist them with their retirement planning.

Some proprietors hope selling the business will bankroll retirement, but this is a dangerous assumption according to Bloomberg in “Risking Retirement on Selling the Business.” “There’s a double-whammy if something happens to that company because you’ll lose your income and your retirement assets.”

Federal rules and policies to “help boost retirement savings for entrepreneurs” could help, one of which would institute “a program of automatic IRAs for approximately 75 million Americans who are not covered under employer-sponsored retirement plans.”

Finally, “Small business owner confidence did not rebound in December, according to the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index.”  This report notes, “December’s poor report resulted largely from a deterioration of labor market components, and the surprising percentage of owners who still expect business conditions to worsen in the next six months.”

Consumer snapshot

Where is the consumer today regarding realities and perceptions of personal finance and the economy at large?

Housing Wealth and Wage Borrowing”  by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta shows “people with an underwater mortgage command a significantly lower wage than other homeowners” and “negative equity matters because default is unpleasant or costly, not because it precludes an out-of-state job search.”

This is an interesting study on the connections between housing wealth and earnings.

Women who find themselves as full time workers in “management, business, and financial operations jobs had the highest median weekly earnings of any major occupational category” for women as reported in “Women’s Earnings by Occupation 2011” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women in service occupations such as maids and waitresses had the “lowest median weekly earnings at $443.”

However, a job is better than no job. “Afraid of Unemployment, Americans Cling to Their Jobs,” says Bloomberg. Census data reveals “median job tenure in 2012 was the highest since at least the early 1980s.”

Further, “…the quit rate in October” was just 1.5%, “a third lower than the rate in December 2007, the peak of the last business cycle.” Implications for public policy with regard to pensions and other issues are examined in this article.

Americans Unsure if Best Times for U.S. Are Past or to Come,” says Gallup. “Americans believe by almost a 2-1 margin that 2013 will be a year of economic difficulty rather than a year of prosperity. At the same time, they tilt toward the belief that 2013 will be a year of full or increasing employment rather than a year of rising unemployment.”

Americans further expect price increases to occur “at a reasonable rate” during 2013.

My grandparents’ photo is emotionally powerful to some, perhaps historically interesting to others, and to still others, of no or little consequence.

So it goes with a business endeavor. We all bring unique perspectives to what we see and do over the course of our workday, but implications of projects and impacts felt are not consistent.

It would seem that the best we can do is realize and appreciate our varied perspectives as we go along and respect one another’s functions and experiences.

And, of course, remember to smile for the camera.






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.