By John Tucker
1st Capital Loans LLC
From networking with industry professionals (newcomers and vets), it appears a significant amount of the action in our industry occurs in or around New York City, especially in the financial district of Manhattan. It's in this lower slice of Manhattan where Wall Street resides.
Since January 2007, I have operated a one-man-show sales office predominately from my business and home offices in Michigan. I reside in a suburban area called Clinton Township, which is located right next to Sterling Heights. I'm often approached to work directly for larger ISOs and other industry players, but they usually want me to move to or around New York, which in most cases, includes working in the lower slice of Manhattan. Is this a good opportunity or not?
With that question in mind, I think it's time to discuss cost of living, purchasing power and recommendations for new office structuring here in the 21st century.
"The cost of living is going up and the chance of living is going down," said the late Flip Wilson, former host of The Flip Wilson Show. One thing that isn't discussed in our industry is the very high cost of living merchant level salespeople (MLSs) contend with when living and working in an area such as lower Manhattan. An income level that provides a solidly middle class lifestyle just about anywhere else in America, would fall far short in Manhattan.
An individual making $80,000 a year in Sterling Heights is considered to be upper middle class, and in the top 8 percent of all individual income earners nationwide, based on various economic reports, including U.S. Census statistics.
The U.S. individual income earner measurements (based on individual, not household income) for the top 20 percent are as follows:
Individual income earner measurements for the bottom 80 percent are as follows:
Despite standard labels, earning $80,000 annually in Manhattan would not support a middle class lifestyle. To rent a one-bedroom apartment alone might cost $4,000 a month ($48,000 a year) in Manhattan, which is over half of your annual compensation before taxes. CNN Money has an excellent tool for comparing the type of compensation you would have to make in another locale to sustain the lifestyle you enjoy in the city where you currently reside. You can find it at http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/.
Using this tool, I entered Detroit, the listing closest to where I reside. Then I entered Manhattan. I set the compensation in Detroit at $80,000 and found I would need to make $188,954 in Manhattan to maintain the same standard of living I could enjoy on $80,000 in the Detroit metropolitan area.
I believe globalization and technology will continue to fundamentally change our industry, so much so that many lower level MLSs might eventually be displaced by technology and cheap global labor. Through the Internet, we can communicate with workers across the globe using numerous communication tools – from web-based predictive dialers, to virtual chat rooms, to live web cams. Given this, why not do away with the traditional brick-and-mortar sales office and implement virtual teams across the board?
What does an inside sales agent need to perform his or her job? I believe they just need the following:
All of these can be provided virtually today, so why does an inside sales agent need to be at a traditional office location? Of course, this doesn't just go for the inside sales agents; it goes for just about the entire team, including underwriters, merchant support team members and more.
In terms of tracking team members to ensure they remain productive, why not use the various tracking devices, live web cam technology, and mechanisms available to document activities, record all calls, etc.? This would allow your agents the luxury to move to lower cost of living areas across the country and not be subjected to living in areas where the cost of living is out of control.
Implementing a virtual team comes with a number of operational benefits and perks. Among them are:
They could earn $65,000 a year and live solidly in the middle class, instead of living paycheck to paycheck on the same amount in New York. Agents would reduce their costs on gas, childcare, clothing and more, which would also help increase loyalty, boost morale and reduce turnover.
We can do just about everything online today, including but not limited to: banking, dating, completing college degrees and providing small business financing to merchants in rapid time. So why are so many ISOs operating like we are still in the 1980s and 1990s?
It's time to step into the 21st century and convert all or a significant portion of your team into virtual teams. It's time to stop subjecting people to extreme costs of living by forcing them to move to places like lower Manhattan, when they could perform the same duties somewhere cheaper and on a virtual basis. Such a conversion would be a win for all sides.
John Tucker has over 10 years of professional experience in commercial finance and business development. He is also an M.B.A. graduate and holder of three bachelor's degrees in accounting, business management and journalism. To connect with John, please send him a connection invite via LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/johntucker99 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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