Monthly Archives: April 2014

A YEAR’S WORTH OF ARTICLES: WE CELEBRATE!! WE GIVE THANKS!! – ISSUE # 52

This is the 52nd issue of the “Business and Life Column.”  This means that this issue celebrates our first anniversary; we celebrate and give thanks!  We are thankful to Mr. Tim Durand, Managing Director of DNO for affording us the opportunity to be part of the DNO family.  We are thankful for you, the readers, those who post, email and/or call in with comments.   I thank my staff, family and some close friends who provide the support and encouragement to keep going, who step in to allow me the time to complete the articles.  I thank God for providing the opportunity and the gift to take advantage of the opportunity.  I give thanks and I am thankful.

 

In the past year, we covered topics ranging from governance to career resilience to customer service as well as paid tributes and gave recognition.   This Column does not generate many comments, however, I know that people read it based on feedback I received in person and via my personal email or phone calls.  I embraced the comments, and made changes where needed.  Some of the articles I expected to generate a lot of interests did not, and some I thought would not, were the ones, which generated the most interests.

 

The past year writing the Business and Life Column has been a wonderful one.  I cherish the opportunity to share my views and to be part of the discourse on a variety of topics.  Some weeks the topics came easily, others it is difficult to choose and a few times, a topic just would not come!  It is not that I had nothing to write about, but on a few weeks, I just could not settle on anything.  Some weeks the words came easily; other weeks, I struggled to get them to flow coherently.  However, I persevered.  I did not give up.  I am happy I did.

 

Even as I write this article, an article I thought where words would just flow, the words are difficult to come by!  And I marvel at that!  How can words fail me when I talking about my first anniversary as a columnist!  Incredible!

 

As I begin the second year as a Columnist, I think of new ways of making the column interesting and educational.  I hope to do some features in the second year of persons in various walks of life.  I also hope to look at some topics such as wedding preparations, interior decorating, choosing a contractor and what to look for when securing a mortgage.  I remain open to suggestions and welcome your suggestions on topics you would like covered or persons featured.

 

I never envisaged myself as a columnist, and this demonstrates that if we are open to the possibilities, we can be much more than we envisaged.  It also confirms that what God has in store for us is much more than we can ever envisaged.   It shows that we have to be able to step out of our comfort zone, and embrace the change that is beckoning.  It speaks to stepping out in faith, confident that where God’s fingers are pointing, He has already made the way, and that we have what it takes to succeed.  It speaks to being open to other’s advice and trusting your wisdom to make the right decisions for you.

 

As I end this week’s article, I say a Hearty Congratulations to the Dominica Association of Administrative Professionals on the success of Administrative Professionals’ Week.  Administrative Professionals are key players in all organsiations, often serving as the key gatekeepers to the CEO and other influential persons.  I urge them to continue striving for excellence, recognising that excellence is not a skill, it is an attitude, to embrace change and to possess the right attitude.  After all, “Attitude is Everything!”

 

Happy First Anniversary Business & Life Column!!  We pray God’s continued Blessings and wish you many more years of educating and enlightening the reading public, encouraging them to be their best selves!

 

 

I can be reached at info@vfinc.org or at Tel: 767 449 9649.

 

Until we meet again may God continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

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SALUTE TO THE SANITATION WORKERS OF THE DOMINICA SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT CORPORATION

Happy Easter!  I love Easter.  I have so many happy childhood memories of Easter.  The scent of cocoa tea with Bay Leaf wafting up the stairs, “Showdoe,” new dress, shoes and bag, Easter eggs and kite flying.  I remember my brothers spending long hours building their kites and on Easter Morning and later afternoon flying those kites at Teza.   If there were one day in the year I drink cocoa tea, it is Easter Sunday.  Just like I have not attended Mass on Good Friday if “Old Rugged Cross,” were not sang, it is not Easter Sunday, if my kitchen and home are not filled with the scent of cocoa and bay leaf!  I remember once in Coventry driving to four different churches on Good Friday until I came to a Church where that song was sang!

 

Easter is a time of renewal and rebirth.  A time to commemorate our Risen Lord and give thanks; for his rising signifies victory over death and our opportunity for eternal life.  I take this opportunity to wish you, my readers, an Easter Season marked by an openness and willingness to chart new paths and pray the Lord grants you Peace, Wisdom, Prosperity and he shines His Light on you and the paths you have chosen.

 

Today, I want to stop and salute the Sanitation Workers of the Dominica Solid Waste Management Corporation, especially the ones who service the Castle Comfort area.   These workers are out in the sun or rain, holidays, Good Friday, Independence Day and even Christmas Day.  We often take them for granted and lament the many times, they have failed, however, today, I want to say a ”Special Thank You” to them.

 

I have over the years been impressed that these men come out, holiday or not on their scheduled day of collection.  I think of the sacrifices they make, leaving their families early in the morning and on holidays.  Last year, on November 5, Community Day of Service, they were there, December 25th, Christmas morning and the day after the heavy rains and flooding in the area, they were out.  This year on Good Friday, they were also out.  This is what prompted this salute.  These men, who selflessly serve, deserve to be recognized for their service.

 

This work is not easy nor is it one that many of us aspire to, yet without them, we could not live peacefully, comfortably and with good health.  They ensure that we can enjoy our homes, sit on our lawns or verandahs and enjoy the view, spend quality time with family and friends and rest easy that our homes are not breeding grounds for rats, mosquitos and other disease bearing animals or insects.  The rising cases of Chikungunya, past high incidence of dengue and a few cases of leptospirosis underscores the importance and value of the sanitation workers.

 

The men who service the Castle Comfort area clearly enjoy their work and take pride in what they do.  You may be asking how I came to this conclusion, especially when I speak of the latter.  I will tell you on what I have based my conclusions.  There is an easy y camaraderie among them, they work well as a team; it is almost like a dance: one goes ahead and places the bins close to the roadside or collects the garbage and gathers them in one area, the truck comes along and together with the others throw the garbage into the truck; they may issue an instruction to the driver, and then they happily go along.  They will wait on you if you call to say you have some additional garbage.

 

When I see these men at work, I am reminded of the Martin Luther King’s Quote, “Whatever your life work is, do it so well that no one else could do it better.   If it falls your lot to sweep streets, sweep streets as Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music.  Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper.”

 

Sanitation Workers of the Dominica Solid Waste Association, particularly those servicing the Castle Comfort area, the management , supervisors and staff of the Dominica Solid Waste Association, I salute you.  Take a Bow!  I pray God’s richest blessings on you and your families and this Easter Season may it also be one of rebirth and renewal.

 

Happy Easter All!!

 

I can be contacted at info@vfinc.org or Tel # 767 449 9649.

 

Until we meet again, May the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

GROW YOUR BUSINESS SEMINAR

There are now seven certified Grow Your Business facilitators in the Caribbean: three Trinidadians, two Barbadians, one St. Lucian and one Dominican.  The certification process took place during the period March 30 – April 11, 2014, following a Train the Trainers “Grow Your Business” Seminar in September 2013.  I was in the last group from April 7 – 11, 2014 and this week felt like a year!  It was intense with long days ranging from 7:30am to 10pm, and that excludes your personal time for preparation. Unlike, my recent trip to Montserrat where I was able to engage in some extracurricular activities imbedded in the programme, I did not get a chance to leave the hotel, much less to be able to visit friends, until it was all over! However, at the end of the exercise, like Cece Winans sings, “it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.”

 

The Grow Your Business Seminar is a project of InfoDev, a department of World Bank in partnership with the Government of Canada Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), undertaken through the Women Innovators Network in the Caribbean (WINC) as part of the “Entrepreneurship Programme for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC).

 

The aims of WINC are to:

 

  1. Assist existing Caribbean women-led businesses which have the capacity to grow substantially via the adoption of innovative practices and products;
  2. Grow the pipeline of women-led, innovative, technology businesses, specifically in the areas of climate and mobile;
  3. Strengthen networks of innovative women entrepreneurs who can support each other, share knowledge and ideas, and inspire others by showcasing their success stories

 

The Grow Your Business Seminar targets two specific groups of women:

 

  1. Women who are already managing/operating existing businesses but who want to move ahead
  2. Entrepreneurs who want to start new technology businesses especially with a mobile or environmental focus.

 

WINC conducted one “Train the Trainers” workshop in September 2013, bringing participants from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Belize, Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Dominica.  Two certification workshops were conducted in March and April 2014 and seven persons from the countries identified earlier were certified to conduct the “Grow Your Business” Seminars in the Caribbean.

 

Four “Grow Your Business” seminars were conducted in the Caribbean, two in September 2013 (Barbados and Jamaica) and two in March-April 2014 (Antigua & Barbuda and St. Lucia).    The Trainers and Assessors, Dr. Jill Sawers from South Africa and Dr. Mullika Sungsant from Thailand, who developed the training material, conducted the workshops in 2013.  Participants of the Train the Trainers workshop from Barbados and Jamaica assisted them.

 

The trainers selected for certification conducted the seminars in 2014.  Ms. Cheryl Gittens of Barbados, Ms. Alicia Charles, Ms. Nadia Ramiksson and Ms. Felicity Richards of Trinidad and Tobago conducted the seminar in Antigua and Barbuda.  Ms. Finola Prescott of St. Lucia, Dr. Wendy Hollingsworth of Barbados and I conducted the seminar in St. Lucia.   There were 22 participants at the workshop in Antigua with 4 of them coming from Dominica and 27 participants in St. Lucia with one coming from Dominica.  There were 2 participants from Dominica at the workshop held in Barbados in 2013.  This demonstrates that our small businesses are competitive for the process is highly competitive and the fact that we were able to command such high representation speaks to the potential for growth of our small businesses.

 

The feedback from the participants of the “Grow Your Business” seminar has been highly positive with many stating that it provided for them validation that they are on the right track, yet demonstrating areas of growth and critical areas where enhancement is needed.  The opportunity to network, share and learn was highly valued and the excitement and eagerness of the women to begin their connection saw the group from St. Lucia establishing the Facebook and other platforms within a day of the completion of the training.  Some of the participants from both the St. Lucia and Antiguan seminars have already posted their comments on the WINC Facebook.

 

It was for me, as well as the other facilitators, a wonderful experience working with the dynamic, innovative and brilliant group of women entrepreneurs across the Region.  It was also deeply fulfilling to be part of the process witnessing the “Aha Moments,” and listening to how the participants intended to apply the learning.  Some of the presentations were awesome and witnessing the impact on some participants brought tears of joy and pride.

 

The Grow Your Business Seminar already has some tangible success stories with one of the key stories being Ruth Spencer, Manger of Spencer’s Apartments in Antigua.  Following her attendance at the workshop in Barbados in 2013, she established a new business aimed at providing low cost solar energy to households.  In the coming months a series of “Grow Your Business “ seminars are planned, so I encourage you to follow the WINC’ Facebook page for early notification.   Notification will also be carried out on VF Inc.’s website and Facebook page as well as those of the other certified trainers.  Advertisements will also be placed using local media wherever possible.

 

For further information, please feel free to contact me at info@vfinc.org or Tel: 767 449 9649.

 

Until we meet again, may the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

 

ANOTHER SIDE TO TRAVELLING THE CARIBBEAN: ACCOMMODATION

Whenever we think or talk about travelling in the Caribbean, LIAT invariably comes up, and often it is not with positive words. We ignore the times LIAT is on time, when our luggage has arrived with us and we take for granted the safety of LIAT.  Instead we lament the many times they are late, our luggage missing and sometimes it takes weeks to resurface.  I am not making excuses for LIAT; this is one organisation I would love to get an opportunity to restructure; however I appreciate the safety of LIAT and maybe its apathy but I have learnt to manage the disruptions caused by LIAT.

 

This week I want to focus on another side of travelling the Caribbean, that often stays under the radar, but in some instances are worse than LIAT: Accommodation.   I take it for granted when I travel, especially when I am travelling on business and my accommodation arrangements are made by someone else, that the accommodation will be of a high quality; that the place is clean, linen and towels are of good quality, food is excellent and I can feel happy and content that I am safe not just from attack but from illnesses arising from the poor condition of the accommodation.   These are actually standards I set for hotel accommodations.  The majority of times, those standards are met and sometimes exceeded, however occasionally, I find that the accommodation fails to meet the standards and I am left feeling annoyed and dismayed.  Most times when I find myself in this untenable situation it is because the hotel stock on the island is limited and so with little options I have to “grin and bear it.”

 

In recent times, in two different countries, I have had the misfortune of having to stay at accommodation that fall way below minimum acceptable standards, and I found myself thinking after the most recent instance, “We complain and complain about LIAT, but where are the complaints against these accommodation entities that fall way beyond even the minimum standards established?”  The comparison is even starker when upon leaving that establishment one moves on to a high quality establishment.

 

Small hotel establishments and guesthouses often complain about low occupancy and sometimes as happened in Dominica last year, accuse higher-end establishments of underpricing.  These establishments, instead of looking inwards for the problems misguidedly look and blame external factors.  From my recent experiences, while service was okay (not excellent), I will not be returning to either establishment if ever I were to have a choice.   The following are some of the reasons for my position:

  1. Mismatched bed linen
  2. Threadbare bed linen
  3. Threadbare towels
  4. Rooms not properly cleaned
  5. Non-functioning equipment, including air conditions
  6. No ironing board or iron in one’s bedroom
  7. Soaps that cling on to wrapper suggesting it was wet or
  8. Management instead of apologizing and trying to make amends, engages you with one excuse after the next
  9. Establishment has no eating establishment and where it does, the food does not appear or in some cases, taste freshly made.

 

In my last encounter with one of these sub-standard accommodation establishments I finally found myself in the hotel laundry room when after three attempts by Housekeeping, I could not find a sheet to meet my specifications.  The sheets were so threadbare they looked dirty. Upon arrival in the Laundry Room, and examining sheet after sheet, I could find no suitable sheet and towel, that led me to conclude that in future, anytime I know I am going to be staying at one of these establishments, I will ensure I have my own sheets and towels.  I couldn’t believe that I was the first person who complained about the establishment but everyone from Manager/owner to Housekeeper were looking at me with such exasperation, that it appeared that I was the first complainant.  Well, if this were so, I did not mind for it was about time they got a wake up call.

 

I told the owner she needed to reinvest in her business and told the organisers who had booked me there, that if they wanted to enhance tourism and service delivery, they needed to start with the accommodation establishments, especially the one chosen to house its people.  This is the key advice I have for these establishments; the reinvestment in the business is critical. It is the starting point.  You cannot expect to attract customers and repeat business, if you do not take care of the basics: proper linen and towels.  Other recommendations include:

  1. Invest in training for owners, managers and employees
  2. Ensure quality control by having persons check that rooms are clean and everything is in order before a guests check –in
  3. Prepare a Check List which will serve as a prompt
  4. Marketing and promotion, however only after the establishment has been remodeled, restocked and service levels enhanced.
  5. Regular maintenance to ensure working equipment

 

 

Many of our Caribbean countries see tourism as the “savior of the economy,” however without enough quality accommodation stock, this will remain a dream and not a reality.  This means that the tourism related agencies, like our DiscoverDominica Authority, Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association and other related local organisations need to proactively manage this sector.  I am committed to work with these organisations in establishing and monitoring the standards for the accommodation establishments.  I tell you, I am sure I can be an assessor for rating these hotels for I have a test, which I apply every time I check in at a hotel, anywhere in the world.

 

I can be reached at info@vfinc.org or Tel: 449 9694

 

 

Until we meet again, May the Lord Continue to Keep Us in the Palm of your hands.

PROCRASTINATION

Procrastination! Putting off for tomorrow what we can do today.  We reason that we have time; that we can do it later; this is easy, we have this under control.   And as we reason, the work is undone, the visit and phone call does not happen.  The urgent matter remains undone and then we find ourselves working under pressure to complete.  Some of us claim that we work best under pressure, but do we really?

 

Procrastination affects all persons and Lay in his research in 1986 concluded that procrastination was independent of the need to achieve, energy and self esteem, thus one can be self confident, energetic go-getter and still procrastinate (Mind Tools).

 

 

How do we know that we are procrastinating?  Is it just because we have left a task for another day or completed a less urgent task before an urgent task?  Completing easy less urgent tasks first as a plan of getting them out of the way quickly to be able to have more time to complete the more urgent or important tasks may be a good strategy just as taking a break when physically or mentally tired.

 

Signs of procrastination include:

  1. Inability to focus on the tasks at hand, starting the task but stopping often so the tasks drags on
  2. Taking a break shortly after commencing the tasks and taking frequent breaks to either eat or walk about
  3. Spending too much idle time, example, spending hours on Facebook, watching TV or other tasks not aligned to completing the work to be completed
  4. Excessive daydreaming or spending long hours before the work but not working
  5. Engaging in long conversations or focusing on less urgent things knowing that time is of the essence

 

Why do we procrastinate?  Why do we leave things to the last minute and then scramble to finish? Some of the reasons include:

  1. An unpleasant task – something that has to be done but we do not like doing it
  2. Difficult task – sometimes we have a task that is complex and we have not figured out how to tackle it
  3. Depression – we may be depressed or anxious about something or where we are in our lives and in some cases, we are even unaware that we are depressed
  4. Overwhelmed by many tasks to complete – multitasking is often seen as a virtue however we can get overwhelmed when we have too many things to complete and procrastinate.
  5. Indecision – the inability to make a decision, to decide on the priorities
  6. Perfectionism – the strong desire to get the job done perfectly, we may procrastinate if we think we don’t have the skills or resources to get the job done perfectly
  7. Disorganisation – we lack organisation in our approach to work or our surroundings

 

Procrastination can be costly and the impact include:

  1. Compromised quality of work
  2. Loss of an opportunity
  3. Penalties for lateness
  4. Compromised health as we work long hours to complete or under tremendous stress, we do not exercise adequately and eat properly
  5. Imbalance in work-life – working long hours to complete a task may mean that we miss out on family events and spending quality time with our loved ones

 

What are some strategies to overcome procrastination?

 

  1. Set deadlines, including multiple deadlines for an assignment.  This means breaking up the project into several milestones and setting a deadline for each.  It is like celebrating small wins and each win serves as a motivator
  2. Set time-bound deadlines.  Be as specific as possible, e.g. this is to be completed by Monday April 7, rather than saying this will be completed in April
  3. Ask for help – If we are overwhelmed or feel we don’t have the competence or resources to complete a task, we should ask for help
  4. Change how you view a particular task – if we dislike doing a task, we need to begin to tell ourselves we love it.  We need to change our frame.
  5. Music can affect our moods so we should choose music to energise or motivate us to begin and complete the tasks
  6. Prepare a “To Do List” and regularly monitor it
  7. Organise work in smaller tasks to make them more manageable
  8. Learn to say “No” to unimportant things when we know we have an important deadline or a series of deadlines to meet

 

 

Procrastination is a habit developed over time and we need to break the cycle by recognosing when we are procrastinating and employing a strategy to break it.  We must consistently do so.  This week, if you find yourself procrastinating, call it and employ a strategy to get you back on track!

 

I can be contacted at info@vfinc.org or 767 449 9649

 

Until we meet again, May the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.