Ways to protect your children and your family

For many people, the most important thing in their lives is their family. Their spouses and their children’s safety and security is their number one concern and all they work toward. But what specifically should the goals and targets of our incomes be? In what should we invest and participate to ensure a successful future for our families and children?

Be secure ourselves

Primarily, we need to be secure before we can make our children secure. During possible plane accidents, we’re told to first secure our oxygen masks before helping passengers; similarly we must reach a position of stability before creating stability for others. After all, if we can’t regularly feed, clothe, etc., ourselves then what hope do we have of raising safe kids or creating a secure home for them to flourish in.

Education

Many people, organisations and governments consider education to be the most essential aspect of people’s lives, that enables them to achieve their . And for good reason: education isn’t merely textbooks, school, reports or degrees. It’s broader: it’s about learning and testing yourself, discovering more about the world and its people, overcoming your own prejudices and assumptions, and being in a state of perpetual curiosity and admitted ignorance.

As parents, we don’t stop learning – in fact, one of the educations parents get is upon becoming parents. With every person being unique, so will our children, requiring us to learn how to manage and care for them and their needs. This means learning what sort of education is necessary for them: can they operate in ordinary schools, special schools, do they require further instruction, etc.

Add to this securing significant payment for their tertiary education – which we all know costs a great deal – and we’re left recognising the monumental importance and cost education will have on us.

However, by giving our children the best education, we also create a safer future for them that allows them to have more stability.

Keeping track of their movements and behaviour

Yet, education isn’t enough. What about physical security? Many more liberal or progressive parents might balk at the idea of monitoring your child, yet even the most lax of parents does so: for example, when going to a busy mall, you will keep track of your child’s movements. This is no different when setting up cameras, getting itemised or prepaid billing for their bank accounts or phones, etc.

We don’t need to be invasive but we do need to be careful. This is especially so with the rise of cyberbullying: since everyone has some kind of digital existence, with Facebook or other social media accounts, or even blogs and websites, this also comes with new – yet old – dangers. Here, too, we must be vigilant  as we would be if children went out at night with strangers.

Safe home

In order to aid in all of these previous endeavours, a secure home is an absolute necessity: there’s little point in investing all of our money into an education if the child is terrified of being home.

There are all sorts of ways, depending on where we live, how much we earn (remember, our view of being secure first?) , etc., that we can protect ourselves and our children: fences, proper doors and bars, safer neighbourhood, security details and so on.

While these are some of the essential ways to secure yourself and your family, they are not the only or all. Think carefully and remember the importance of what your protecting: but also don’t strangle them because you hold them too close.

Questioning team building exercises

When you start a corporate job, you often encounter some – perhaps – strange routines and ideas about how people should interact. But one that might seem the strangest is the ubiquitous notion of team-building exercises, designed to make the team work together, accomplish tasks and overcome obstacles to achieve a united goal. The reason should be obvious: those are all the same goals for a business and for you as employees. However, is this just a tired tradition or does it actually work? As with all things related to people, things are a bit complicated.

What are team building exercises

Exercises to encourage team-building can range from simple, indoor group activities to extensive, more dangerous, more strange ones. For example, the entire team can simply play inoffensive board games, like Monopoly or perform things like blind driving, where a member of the team directs another with voice commands, to enable absolute trust. (This relates to another popular exercise where you fall backwards to trust others to catch you.)

The main thing is that it must involve a team, or a many teams, all acting for a mutual goal and in an effective way. The more an exercise is dependent on genuine cooperation, the better the exercise is.

Do they work

Research is difficult to work out. For example, Cameron Klein and colleagues published an article in the scientific journal Small Group ResearchIn conclusion:

“Results (based on 60 correlations) suggest that team building has a positive moderate effect across all team outcomes. In terms of specific outcomes, team building was most strongly related to affective and process outcomes.”

Thus, there is evidence here that specific team building exercises work – but even here, they work for specific things as per “affective and process outcomes”.

However, there are reasons to be concerned, as Lindsay Olson points out:

“[S]ometimes the best efforts to connect a team fail. These tend to be the events planned by executives who don’t understand the team climate. For example, if there are personal conflicts on a team, inviting them to play paintball may only serve to increase hostility and competition rather than eliminate those feelings. It’s important to take into consideration how the team interacts currently and plan non-competitive activities that break through existing issues. If co-workers rarely speak to one another, focus on communication exercises. If trust is an issue, focus on activities designed to increase trust among team members.”

The Telegraph reports however that it might even be embarrassing. This embarrassment might carry though into how one operates. For example, if you did poorly in a fitness exercise, you might struggle to face your colleagues in the office for the shame of failing them. Similarly, that shame is unrelated to actual work, which is what you are actually trained in: not sporting activities.

So if you ever see your boss looking for exercises, nature, or even bike parts online, be sure to consider what kind of exercise he might be seeking and wanting – it might not be too bad, though you do have reason to be suspicious if it for an activity you feel too ashamed to perform, for whatever reason.

3 must-haves for a small business

The business of being in business is no easy feat. There are so many factors to take into consideration to ensure the profitability of an offering. From attracting customers, retaining them, converting them to purchase goods, to having them return for additional purchases are all the functions a business owner needs to tend to. Not forgetting the all-important after sales service.

When businesses are run alone, business owners often find themselves struggling to tend to these essential business functions optimally. The introduction of business convenience mechanisms is thus vital to the survival of small businesses. These mechanisms, largely electronic based, help business owners to effectively manage and grow their businesses.

Business software

Back in the day, businesses manually recorded all sales and other important business related information. Today, this is no longer necessary and in fact, it is deemed very burdensome to do so. With the introduction of software packages to see to these tasks, business owners are provided with convenient accounting software to record transactions and manage the finances of their businesses easily. In addition, businesses can easily pull reports to gauge the growth of the business.

The core of a business is its customers, and managing customer information is thus vital to the success of a business. Customer relationship software is a must-have for businesses to retain their customer base as it can track customer purchase behavior, the profiling of clientele and also assists in regular engagements with them. There are a number of different software packages available for businesses, but the use of these packages is essential for businesses to run efficiently.

Security

Theft is rife within businesses and proper precautions need to be taken to ensure that no financial losses are sustained as a result. One surefire way to curb theft is the presence of closed circuit cameras. As much as it can help identify perpetrators in the event of theft, it can also act as a deterrent for burglars who are looking to pocket merchandise or equipment. Other deterrents such as alarm systems, security gates and window protection also add to the overall security of a business.

If a business sees a large amount of foot traffic, the installation of turnstiles also adds an element of safety as it gives customers one way to enter and exit. This limits the chances of someone entering and exiting the store without paying as they will need to exit at a designated point. Moreover, intelligent turnstiles can assist the business owner with important customer information through tracking the amount of people who enter the business. For example, if a business sees a certain amount of traffic into the business, but this traffic doesn’t convert into sales, there is likely to be a problem with the price of goods or how appealing the merchandise is to customers. By knowing this information, a business owner can easily adapt his or her strategy to convert these mere feet into once-off or repeat customers.

A website

A website for a small business is essential. However, the development of a website alone is not enough – it needs to be found by those who are looking for it. For this reason, content on the website needs to be optimized for search engines and also be free from any vagueness.  By its very nature, a website exposes a business to prospective customers like no other channel or platform would. It gives visitors an indication of what the business offers and where to find the business. This mechanism, if used properly, can be a major driver for sales and can serve as a means for growth too.

The mistake most small business owners make is to create a website and leave it unchanged forever. A website needs to be updated regularly so that it can be more appealing to its viewers, but more importantly, so that it can rank better when searched for in Google. Lastly, a website should be seen as the windows to a business, if it is covered and the contents of the store is not visible, people are less likely to enter and make a purchase. Should it be clear, with the contents of the store visible, it is more appealing to passersby and would probably result in a sale of some kind.

There’s more to business than just profit

All businesses exist to make a profit by providing a certain product or service. However, there is more to a business than just profit generation. According to the King 3 report on good corporate governance, a business has three fundamental areas of focus.  These are; Profit, Planet and People.

The profit area of focus is self-explanatory and has to do with the business’s ability to remain liquid. The planet area of focus deals with the environment and the responsibility of a business to preserve it. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, is the focus area on people. This area of focus deals with a company’s responsibility to its immediate environment, particularly the people who reside in it. It has to do with uplifting the community through giving back in any way or form.

There has been a strong focus by big corporates over the past decade on social responsibility which may have left smaller businesses wondering whether they are required to give back too. There is no requirement, it is a voluntary service provided and is not limited to opt-in based on business size. Businesses of all sizes are able to give back to a charitable cause and thereby uplift their immediate community.

How does one go about it? Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is more than just throwing money at a charitable initiative randomly. It is a committed long-term relationship built around the mission of the business. The first step is to evaluate the business and identify its vision. Once established, align this vision to a suitable charitable organisation. This is followed by appointing a team or individual who will be responsible for fostering a good relationship. Most importantly, the business needs to identify its commitments and make sure that these are realistic and time-bound. Lastly, once implemented, businesses should constantly evaluate the progress of their CSR initiatives and seek to improve on the performance thereof.

To kickstart this seemingly daunting process, a few Cape-based initiatives have been identified below:

BEN (Bicycle Empowerment Network South Africa)

The Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN) South Africa was established in Cape Town in 2002. In simple terms, the core mission of BEN is to address poverty and mobility through the promotion of the bicycle in all its forms. The initiative imports used bicycles and distributes it among previously disadvantaged areas along with proper training on bicycle safety and maintenance. Donations to the organisation goes towards the cost of purchasing a bicycle and the related items such as shipping, helmets, tool sets etc. Assistance does not only need to come in the form of monetary donations, it can also be the donation of relevant general cycle items such as used bicycles, helmets and other safety equipment, mountain bike wheelsets as well as bicycle trailers and attachments among others. Should your company have offices across the country, BEN has 17 Bicycling Empowerment Centres around South Africa. Since its inception, the organisation was able to distribute over 12 000 new and used bikes to those who needed it. Moreover, the organisation is able to help address job creation and the access to it.

Ikamva Labantu

Around 30 years ago, Helen Lieberman began a tiny program to help mothers and children after she was exposed to the effects of poverty in her surroundings. The program grew into an organisation and is known as Ikamva Labuntu. The organisation helps thousands of people in need in South Africa through support, information and resources. The main aim of the organisation is to make communities in South Africa self-reliant. To this end, it builds and supports crèches, schools, senior and youth centres, programs for the disabled, skills training and building initiatives. In addition, Ikamva Labantu makes use of the services provided by social workers, occupational therapists, community fieldworkers, nurses and teams of volunteers. In order to continue providing support and upliftment to those who need it, Ikamva Labantu relies on donations received from individuals and organisations. Should the broad and vital cause of this organisation align to yours, you can assist with donations as well as by spreading the word on its existence and initiatives.

Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust

The Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust was founded in 1994 after the Red Cross War Memorial, located in Rondebosch, was near to closing its doors due to a lack of funding. The Trust provides the hospital with funding in order to carry out its various projects ranging from capital, equipment, research and training to funding paediatric healthcare projects outside of the hospital. All of these projects have a major impact on the lives of children in need of care across Southern Africa. There are many ways in which businesses can help the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust. One of the most common, and possibly the most valuable, is the donation of funds – whether it be in their own capacity or through the hosting of a fundraising event. In addition, businesses can also volunteer their time with projects by becoming a Friend of the Children’s Hospital Association.

By actively undertaking CSR initiatives, businesses are not only able to easily build its brand by positively influencing its reputation and raise its public profile, but also attract and retain valuable staff members seeking to make a difference to society. Furthermore, customers and investors are naturally attracted to companies who have a degree of social responsibility and gives them a good reason to support you and your business.

How is Your Hotel’s Conference Room Doing?

If you started reading this article, there is a high probability that people aren’t falling over themselves to make bookings. You’re looking for answers as to why not. Could it be that the croissants aren’t soft enough? Is the room too cold? It could be something this simple…

Or could it be because you’re not marketing the venue properly?

If potential clients don’t know that the hotel has a conference room or meeting venue, it won’t matter how great the food or perfect the conditions are – because they won’t come.

Here is how to get more bookings, more often:

Go to where the clients are

The first order of business is to find potential clients. The most logical place to start would be businesses in the area. Then find out which magazines they read and where they spend their lunch hours. Your advertising efforts should be concentrated around these three areas.

Secondly, approach events planners known for organising conferences and speak to PA’s. Offer to take them on a tour of the venue. This will establish a relationship and give them the opportunity to see the facilities for themselves. Nothing else will give them a better feel for the venue.

Harness the power of the internet

Create a page on your website dedicated to the conference and meeting venue. It should be easy to find and ideally it should be possible to reach it with one click from the homepage.

Once the page is up and running, get a professional to write a short article about the venue to submit to other websites. These could be industry specific or related to tourism (to snag international clientele).

Lastly, get the venue listed on local conference venue directories. This is an extremely cost-effective way to create awareness of your hotel and its conference and meeting rooms.

Please take note that you should include all available and appropriate information in the advertising. This would be the hotel’s address, the rates, the facilities on offer and the room’s capacity. Provide contact details as well so that people can easily get hold of you if they have questions.

It is of course not enough to get delegates to your hotel, it’s even more important that they return. You can achieve this with the following strategies:

  • Competent staff: Conference attendees should want for nothing on the day, from arrival to departure. By making only your best staff available, expectations can be met and exceeded.
  • Testimonials: Request testimonials from clientele and publish them on your website. In doing so, anyone that visits the hotel’s website would be able to see that others have had great experiences. This would make anyone more likely to make a booking.
  • Discounts: Offer discounts for big groups or for booking another conference within a specified timeframe. Referral discounts work well too and will get the hotel’s name out there.

Business should pick up with all of these marketing and retention strategies put in place. But if it doesn’t, perhaps the problem is the croissants after all.