It's probably a response to trends forecast by the Color Marketing Group, a prestigious international organization that meets yearly to discuss color trends and issues. As one of 1,700 members of that organization, I attended the fall conference in Dallas, where we discussed upcoming color forecasts and new business opportunities linked to color selection.
World events always influence color selection and trends, and this year is no exception. The somber nature of the attacks on Sept. 11th clearly had an impact on forecasts, but this was not the only influence.
Striking a balance between the conflicting issues facing older consumers and the impatient, demanding younger generation is also a factor in color forecasts. This translates to the older generation preferring darker greens, blues and burgundies, while the younger generation will demand special effects and brighter accents on short-term products.
Also, look for flag reds and true blues to gain in popularity, as the U.S. public becomes more patriotic.
The slowing economy heralded an interest in colors that represent a good long-term investment, like neutrals that are practical and more cautious.
As a principal in an interior architectural firm, I was assigned to work with representatives of contract industries, including office products, architecture, transportation, recreation and technology products. Color and the selection of color are big business, because companies place heavy emphasis on their ability to attract customers and sell products.
In general, colors in the red, yellow and orange families tend to energize and are good choices for lunchrooms and creative spots in the workplace. Blues, greens and purples are more soothing and relaxing. However, today's colors are not true primary colors (e.g. blue, red and yellow) and tend to be warmer, more earthy and neutral.
One color never fits all. For example, strong reds and yellows are not choices for the health care industry but work well in the hospitality area. And, while women respond well to purple and pinks, men are less enthused. A pale yellow evokes a very different response than a school bus yellow, so choose with care.
This year, the search for new color experiences will be strong as designers and manufacturers look for opportunities to use color in different combinations or for different effects. An emerging color industry called special color effects allows designers and manufacturers to create new color experiences, such as iridescence.
Another strong color trend is "flop," which is when an item viewed from one direction appears as a totally different color when it turns 90 degrees or more. Applications of flops are being used by the commercial upholstery industry in simulated leathers and by Parker ballpoint pens in a new line called Frontier.
Color is so important that a new industry is emerging to prevent color counterfeiting. There are now inks and dyes with imbedded codes -- almost like color DNA -- that prevent others from duplicating proprietary colors.
This new technology is used by the United States and more than 70 other countries to protect currency and is expected to expand to those who want protection from forgeries of their signature product lines.
The Color Marketing Group has been forecasting color trends since 1962. Today's teal wall covering is tomorrow's dated office. To keep your business looking current in everything from paint to furniture, always consider life span as you make color decisions.
Color may seem subtle, but its role in our lives and business is enormous. David F. Cooke, a Fellow of the International Interior Design Association, is a principal of Design Collective Inc. in Downtown Columbus. He can be reached at 464-2880.
In today's world, real estate is a professional, full-time chosen career that requires knowledge of business, technology, accounting, legal issues, and yes, sales. Mastering the business of real estate is a challenge. Having the right tools and support can make the difference between success and mediocrity for a sales associate.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says there are more than 1 million licensed Realtors, and more join the ranks each day. Why? It could be that most of us have bought or sold a home and the professional sales associate who worked with us made it took easy.
Yet that's far from reality.
Discipline and skills
Real estate requires a well-written business plan and the daily discipline to follow it. The basics of real estate law, contracts and financing are taught in pre-licensing classes. But truly successful Realtors have also learned how to close the sale.
NAR says more than 60 percent of licensed Realtors fail within the first year. What is the difference between success and failure in this business? Many times it comes down to the company a sales associate chooses.
As in any profession, continuous coaching and skills training are key. This includes learning, and then consistently practicing, proven scripts and dialogues. Understanding how to handle any and all objections that may arise is a must. The only way to develop new business and meet annual business goals is through this very disciplined approach.
Change is constant
Over the past 25 years, real estate has seen some dramatic changes. From contracts and disclosure to buyer agency and the Internet, real estate professionals are required to keep themselves informed as well as advise clients when to consult with an attorney on legal issues to ensure protection for the consumer.
Many colleges offer degree programs in real estate, making it a viable career choice for young professionals. In addition, corporations are eliminating middle management positions, putting these well-educated and experienced professionals in the job market. This is exciting for the real estate industry -- the "new Realtor" now has the business savvy required to follow a plan and the discipline to execute it.
What does it take to succeed?
A real estate professional is the CEO, administrative assistant and janitor for the business. There is no clock to punch or timecard to fill in. Discipline and accountability are the watchwords for a successful real estate career.
A classic schedule should include several hours each day for business development. Running a business requires customers. Where do you find the people who want to buy or sell? Co-workers -- past and current, friends, family, neighbors -- become potential customers or lead to customers. Continually talking with them and identifying real estate needs becomes a daily routine.
What about the frustrated homeowner who has a home that hasn't sold? Or the business executive who chooses to sell it himself -- known as FSBO (For Sale By Owner) in the industry? These are all prospective customers. Following up with every lead and providing a valuable service to those who want to buy or sell will bring success.
Think back to your last real estate experience. Did the sales associate keep you updated on available properties for sale, stay in tune with market trends and conditions and understand your needs? Did you turn to that sales agent because of his or her in-depth knowledge and highly developed skills? If the answer is yes, you had a positive experience and will probably call on that person again. Chances are, that Realtor will be in the 40 percent success group.
How does the process begin?
The Georgia Real Estate Commission requires that each candidate successfully complete an approved 75-hour course of study (unless real estate class transcripts from college are available). There are many terms to learn (I lost count at 650). Pricing property, financing, property rights, government regulations, agency and contracts are just a few of the topics covered. There is a course final that must be mastered before sitting for the state exam.
About halfway through the real estate pre-license course, candidates begin interviewing real estate companies. As in any career move, this is a very important decision, because they are not all alike. There are more than 8,000 firms in Georgia.
Here are some questions to ask in an interview to be sure the company you choose will be able to support your career and give you the opportunity to be successful.
* Do you offer one-on-one business coaching?
* Do you offer continuous training?
* Do you offer sales training -- scripts and dialogues?
* Do you teach new sales associates a system to develop business?
* Do you require a business plan?
* Do you provide state-of-the-art Internet marketing tools?
In today's world, the business of real estate holds many opportunities -- residential, commercial or international -- for anyone willing to rise to the challenge. Debbie Cooke is director of training and education for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, the leading residential real estate brokerage firm in metro Atlanta. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage includes 27 real estate offices and specialty divisions - The Condo Store, Builder Developer Services, Commercial and Corporate Relocation. Affiliated companies offer mortgage, title and closing services. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage is a member of the NRT family of companies. NRT, Inc., the nation's largest residential real estate brokerage company, is a subsidiary of Cendant Corporation (NYSE: CD). For more information, call (404) 705-1500 or visit www.ColdwellBankerAtlanta.com.