Category Archives: Business Challenge

Peru Exclusive: One of Our Ex-Staffers Reports From Darkest Peru.

Stuck in Peru

paddington bear

 

If Paddington Bear can make it out, then so can I. Well at least that is the mentality I have been attempting to channel in these weird past few days since I have been quarantined in darkest Peru.

For some perspective, I recently completed my master’s degree, and before giving in to the real world and getting a full time job, I decided to backpack, pushing off responsibility for 6 months.

I started my adventure in Chile, landing in Santiago and made my way down to the very south of South America to the city of Ushuaia, known as the end of the world. I have seen and done some insane and amazing things, from climbing up and sliding down volcanoes to seeing Pumas in Patagonia. From there, my route over the next month or so took me through Argentina, back into Chile through the Atacama desert and then onto the insane spectacle of the Bolivian Salt Flats, a real highlight of my time so far.

By the time I reached La Paz in Bolivia, in early March, the news outside my travels was becoming difficult to ignore. I was expecting a friend to join me for a couple of weeks in Cusco, Peru. I was planning on meeting him there on the 17th, so I was making my way across the continent to make it in time. Whilst in La Paz, I suffered a bout of food poisoning, something almost all travellers get at some point. I spent a day in a hotel room recovering and spending much time talking to friends and family on the world situation. At this point we thought that even with what was going on, that my friend would still be able to meet me in a few days, but my other friend coming later in April might face more difficulty getting out.

Well, things were about to change and about to change quickly.

In the morning I received a text from my friend saying there would be a slim chance of him making it, but I couldn’t discuss it with him as I was getting on a bus to Copacabana, on Lake Titicaca. Whilst on this bus the topic of Coronavirus was the main topic of discussion, with no one being really sure what to make of it. When we reached Copacabana the slightly strange discussion continued but the world around us continued as normal.

peru

When I eventually made it to my hostel, I spoke to my friend and during that phone call came the announcement that no flights from Europe would be entering Peru from the 16th, the day he was meant to be landing. This was hugely upsetting, but did not come as a great shock to either of us.

I then got a much more interesting phone call from my parents. They made it quite clear that they wanted me to leave South America as soon as possible. Comments being thrown at me about not wanting to be stuck in Bolivia or Columbia by myself. I was a bit taken aback by this, just as generally my Dad, unlike my Mum, is one of the most chill people on the planet, and if he was demanding that I leave, I really wasn’t going to put up a fight. From where I was on the planet it was difficult to understand the significance from outside my window.

I was planning on travelling to New Zealand later on in my travels but we decided that was a good place to be, as I had great family there, who were happy to house and support me for a bit. We booked flights to Auckland, leaving on the 17th from Cusco, giving me a few days to be able to get there. It was going to be at least a day long coach ride to get to an airport that would allow me to get a local flight to Cusco.  When I went back to my room in the rather empty hostel, I explained what I was doing to my roommate, who looked at me like I was completely and utterly crazy. I went to bed feeling slightly uneasy with my decision, as everything here was still continuing on as normal.

I woke up extremely early to a lot of pinging on my phone. New Zealand was introducing a 15 day quarantine to anyone entering the country, irrespective of where you were coming from. This was not welcome news. This meant my family wouldn’t be able to take me in, understandably, as they have vulnerable people in their house. 15 days isolated in a foreign country didn’t sound like fun, but my parents were still convinced it was the right decision and it’s better than being stuck in a country where I don’t speak the language and have no support system at all.

That afternoon I was crossing the border into Peru and met a few more British travellers who, like me, were also changing their travel plans drastically. This did comfort me, as I now didn’t think I was completely overreacting to this odd situation. On the bus I bumped into several people I had previously met throughout my travels and a few of them were also rushing into Peru as they felt it was a better place to be, oh how wrong we were.

I spent a single night in Puno, on Lake Titicaca and from Puno made my way on a packed bus to Cusco. I had finally made it and could rest easy, or so I thought. I made it to Puno on the 15th and had a full day there before getting a flight out. Due to the last minute travel changes I was in a simple, but nice hotel rather than a hostel for my time here. I had a nice evening to myself walking around the city and had a delicious, although quiet meal out. At dinner I spent all my time finding AirBnbs near Auckland that would take in someone who was self-quarantining. I had quite a bit of success and found this beautiful apartment in a nature reserve, around an hour out of the city near a beach which would’ve been the perfect place.

At 5:30am the next morning I got a call from my parents who had spoken to my family in Auckland to say , yes, book it, so I did. A mere 2 hours later I received word from a friend I had met a few days ago who was still in Puno that Peru was closing its borders by the end of the day.

no flights to lima

I genuinely didn’t know how to react to this information. Every-time I booked a flight or accommodation, a few hours later I was being told that my plan wouldn’t work. The world was spiralling quickly and I and almost every traveller was not able to keep up. The hotel didn’t really know what was going on and the information I had received was through friends, nothing official so it was extremely difficult to know what was really going on.

The article I had seen stated that the borders were closing at 2300hrs, therefore I should’ve had enough time to get out of Peru, to at least Santiago, which was where my flight was connecting to a further flight towards Auckland. The issue was that there were no flights leaving Cusco the whole day and to drive it takes 20hrs, so that was clearly not an option. I stressfully packed everything, even though it was futile and spoke to the family trying to work out what to do.

Late in the afternoon, after a mentally challenging day, and after accepting that I was probably staying in Cusco for a bit, I went for a walk outside. The streets were busy with lots of stressed looking tourists. I was outside during siesta hours, meaning most shops and restaurants are shut whilst everyone has a midafternoon nap. It only occurred to me a few hours after being outside, that this was no siesta closure, this was because of Corona. I went back to the hotel, still slightly in disbelief and woke up the next day to quite a different world.

The next morning I was supposed to checkout of the hotel and move into a nearby hostel which I had booked for 5 nights and then would make a decision on whether to stay or move elsewhere. When sitting at breakfast in the hotel I was speaking to others and I soon realised that we were not allowed out of the hotel. Oh dear. My friend in Arequipa told me he was locked in a day before, but after walking around the night before I didn’t think we would get the same fate as him.

I walked over to the reception and they told me that we could only leave to go to the supermarket. The Government in Peru had removed freedom of movement and wanted everyone to stay indoors. This is obviously a slight issue for me. I told them that I was checking out and they said I could walk to the hostel as it wasn’t far. I then had the dilemma of where to go for the next two weeks, because wherever it was, I would be staying there and not leaving. I was leaning towards the hostel as there would be young people backpacking, like me, and we could bond through this together. When looking at extending my time at the hostel online it was fully booked. This forced my decision to stay at the hotel. I was initially really upset about it but eventually was very happy being in this hotel, as the hostel I was planning on moving to was having problems with the police due to large gatherings of people and most of the occupants were even taken to the police station for a few hours.

At least at the hotel I have had my own private space, with a bathroom and large windows bringing in lots of light from a courtyard that I looked out over. I have really learnt to appreciate this space as it has allowed me to talk most hours of the day to friends and family back home without annoying everyone else staying here. I’m lucky as the hotel is still providing food and there are lots of friendly faces in the hotel too and we are all going through this crazy and uncertain time together. My room definitely feels bigger the more time I spend there, as I recall the first time I saw it thinking that it was rather small, but great for the two nights I was gonna be there.

I have been entertaining myself through the wonders of technology and haven’t spent too much time looking at a blank wall. My friends and family back home have been amazing in keeping me occupied, and I honestly don’t even have much time to myself. Some amazing apps have become great time wasters and FaceTime is becoming part of this routine. The people in the hotel have also been great, chatting about other things then just this madness. The hotel does lack board games and cards, so we had a look at ordering some. It would’ve taken roughly a week to arrive and cost £20 in delivery, so we passed, and who knows whether it would’ve actually arrived.

I have gone to the supermarket a few times to pass the time, and every-time was an odd experience. Firstly, it was queuing half an hour to get in on the day the border closure was announced. The next two time it was experiencing the empty streets of Cusco, excluding a lot of police around who on every corner asked you where you were going. I haven’t been for the last few days as I think you need a mask to get into the store, but apparently there are military soldiers on the streets from videos I’ve seen. I don’t have a window onto the street so I really am quite clueless on what is truly going outside these walls.

In terms of fitness, well that really has gone down the drain, I’m attempting to reach a decent step count by walking around the courtyard probably hundreds of times, but it’s difficult to mentally do it. It is quite funny watching people just walk around the courtyard endlessly, but I do find myself doing it now. I even attempted to do an exercise video in my room, but felt like everyone in the dining room below me eating lunch could hear me jumping up and down, so I might leave that until I get home.

There are quite a mix of nationalities here, with two other young Brits here which is great for me as we can relate to this weird time. We have Canadians, Americans, Mexicans, Brazilian, Polish, Germans, Israeli and I’m sure others who I haven’t spoken to.

I think it’s the fifth or sixth day of shutdown, but I’m not hugely sure. The days have very much blurred into one and when I think of my travels before it genuinely feels like a few years ago.

I’m one of the lucky ones, I’m in a relatively safe place with food and toilet roll, though don’t be too jealous. I know people stuck in less tourist-centric places who are much more concerned at getting out. Here, unlike home, the shops are fully stocked, in fact my friend brought my back several avocados which I will enjoy for lunch over the next few days.

peru

In terms with how we are getting out, it’s all been relatively confusing and frustrating. Since day one of lock-down there has been this huge group chat on Whatsapp with British tourists stuck in Cusco. This Whatsapp chat has been a huge source of information and hard work from a lot of people, definitely seeing the best and worst of humanity on it. Through this group have been interviews with news outlets around the world trying to tell our story.

I think the Brits stuck here have felt quite abandoned by our home country. We’ve seen other countries, such as Israel and France get out their citizens for free or a reasonable cost and rather quickly. Whereas we have been campaigning noisily, to only be met with completely idoitic responses. We have been offered $3500 flights, which is extortionate, especially when most Brits here are backpackers on limited budgets. We have then been offered $4500 flights to Paris, which is completely futile as how are we meant to get from Paris to London, not even mentioning the cost. We were also advised by the embassy to look at flights to Madrid, even though there is no guaranteed route from Madrid to London, and who wants to be stuck in Madrid at the moment. No one.

Only in the last few hours, after days and days have we heard some real positive news. We have received emails from the government saying there should be some flights over the next week. Still feels a bit early to start celebrating just yet as nothing is confirmed and I don’t know how they intend to get those in more difficult to reach areas as the roads are currently army-blocked. I am hopeful, although going home is really just the start of a continuation of a difficult journey for the whole planet, although I can then quarantine with the joy of all of my pets to keep me relatively sane.

 

Blogger Notes:

Jessica joined the Hold Everything virtual office team, based at 207 Regent Street, London in September 2014, after her A’Levels. Taking a year away from education, she worked with the team for 6 months then went travelling before starting her Degree in Biology.

During her 3 year degree she provided cover for other staff members during their annual breaks and worked remotely when she had time around her studies.

Completing her degree she undertook a masters in Tourism, environment & development, where during this year she worked 2 days a week for Hold Everything attending to many compliance matters.

Jessica went off travelling and naturally in time hopes to obtain regular work in her chosen field. However, the team became aware of Jessica’s situation, to keep her focused she has taken to her computer, enjoy the read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words to Avoid if You are in a Job Interview.

job interrview

job interview

If you’ve got a job interview coming up, experts have pinpointed five key words it’s wise to steer clear of.

According to Jason Walker, director at Hays recruitment agency, using phrases like ‘obviously’ and ‘workaholic’ could harm your chances of landing your dream role.

Whilst we all wish to look our best when we go to a work interview it would be wise to consider Walker’s advice, after all Hays is one of the leading recruitment consultants out there.  He sets out 5 key pitfalls that job interviewees are prone to fall into.

  • Low quality jargon.  The biggest offender here are words such as ‘obviously’.  As Walker says; ‘Interviews are usually the first time we meet a candidate, so you should not assume that anything is obvious,’  The interviewer is trying to get a feel for you and how well you might into the company.  So steer clear of suggesting that you already know what will fit.  Instead you should have worked out a list of qualities you have that might be relevant for the post.
  • Avoid the ‘we’ word.   Walker also cautions against overusing the word ‘we’ in the interview.  Don’t make your achievements as part of what your previous teams did.  Explain what role you had and the responsibilities you personally took.
  •  Workaholic is such a ‘lazy’ word. If you think you’re going to impress your interviewer by saying you’re a ‘workaholic’ when asked what your weaknesses are, think again. Instead cite a nice to have skill you could develop such as public speaking or not delegating enough.

Ian Scott, manager at Randstad Technologies adds his own thoughts to the interview mix.

  • Challenge.  Sure life is always a ‘challenge’ but please avoid saying that ‘you love a challenge’. Rarely do people follow this up with a good explanation of what challenges them or even examples of challenges they have met, their reaction to the challenge at hand and the result of their response. It also assumes that everyone finds the same things challenging.
  • Motivated by Change.  As Scott points out,  as human beings, many of us struggle with change, and prefer the comfort of normality, systems, routine.” If you love change, be sure your story is consistent throughout the interview.

Much better than using out overused buzz-words,  and slang is to give a structured reply using the STAR method. STAR stands for SituationTaskActionResults.

A STAR answer is one where you answer succinctly, but directly by outlining the Situation, identifying the Task that you set out to achieve, describing your own personal Actions, and recounting the Results. It’s a way of telling your story in a way that will impress your interviewer.

Practice telling STAR stories about your past experiences that demonstrate the skills needed in the key criteria. A STAR story is far better than simply saying I’ve got this or that quality or skill.

If you are, however feeling tired of going through yet another job interview and want to set up your own business you might like to know that here. at Hold Everything we can offer you a wonderful virtual office framework to base your new business enterprise.

 

How to Create a Powerful Business Strategy for 2020

business strategy

business strategist in virtual office

Evaluating Your Business Strategy

A new year, a new business quarter. This is a great time to look forward and develop your business strategy for the months ahead.  Management thinking suggests that you start by examining your key strengths.  Obviously, these are basic factors that have got you safely through to 2020 so spend a moment examine them critically.   Perhaps you are great at customer relationships and that you outgun your competitors in responding to customer queries and complaints.  Perhaps your key strength is market awareness or keen prices.  A successful key strategy is something that is reliant on you and your resources and not on something that you depend on elsewhere.  This is often the case in internet marketing where your strength depends on your affiliate relationship to another company entirely.  It might make you money but the key strength does not ultimately lie in your hands.

Grab Your Opportunities

Second, the best strategies seize one of your biggest opportunities and play into it.  Seizing a key opportunity is the attack strategy that lets you score points and win the game.  This may be investing heavily into a specific product or a market niche.  This is the idea of feeding your winners and starving your lowers. The secret is that any winning strategy must help you seize a key opportunity that has genuine potential to yield significant results and help you scale up..   For example, if you are exporting to a region like Italy, perhaps you should look at the opportunity to set up your own distribution on the ground in that marketplace rather than us an agent.  It night cost money in the short term but if a realistic opportunity arises then maybe you should grab it and run with it.

Lessen Your Business Threats

Third, the finest strategies reduce or make irrelevant  one’s  gravest business threats. For instance, if you sense a threat in that 65% of your turnover is with just one client, then by following the first 2 strategies I mention, it will help you grow other customer fulfilling relationships so that you have some safety net from the loss or diminishment of this giant customer. Certainly this is one of the hardest areas for many business owners to look at, since we don’t wish to acknowledge our flaws or shortcomings, but by identifying our achilles heels.  However, by doing this, we can then develop a path  to overcome them or lessen their impact on our future development .

So as you plan out the year ahead take a  look at your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities and try sketch out a careful plan to achieve your goals and reach the next goal within your business plan. Remember our team of experts are here to help you grow your business.

 

Use Your Empathy to Help Lead a Successful Team

There is something very ominous about the word ‘boss’.  It evokes the concept of bullying and hassling staff.  When we say ‘he bosses you around’ you think of an executive who has poor man-management skills and relies on brute management force to move his team onwards.   A recent article I read by John Monarch on ‘Entrepreneur ‘ and a similar article by Brent Barnhart very clearly set out some interesting thoughts on the best way to manage a team thoughtfully.  I will mention some of their excellent ideas.

Avoid ‘hustling’ 24/7 and be more chilled. Constantly working long hours without a break, he says, isn’t a recipe for success. It’s a recipe for burnout. Motivational and Youtube videos constantly advise young entrepreneurs and executives to work 14 hours a day and “hustle” every minute of every hour. That’s probably the worst possible advice to give someone in a leadership position.

Treat the team as you would like to be treated.  this makes sense and has a biblical ring to it.  Basically the suggestion is by nice to your team ands they will respond in a positive way.  the reasoning being  that a tough job always presents its own issues for workers. Why would you compound those issues by spreading negativity and treating people poorly?

Choose your management wisely.  This makes good sense.  Just being in a job a certain amount of time doesn’t mean you should automatically be promoted. You might have already have reached your personal level of competence. The truth is, some people are really great at specific roles, but their ceiling is lower because they aren’t great leaders.

Keep your expectations realistic.  To be a good leader and manager, you also need to understand the work your team is doing. If you don’t think you have a solid grasp on what your employees do, then start learning. Part of being an effective leader is always looking for new subjects or concepts to learn about.

Open channels for cross-company communication. Whether it’s among one team or between groups, you have to provide people with channels for strong communication if you want your business to operate efficiently.Exercising empathy for coworkers means not only being a good listener but also asking the right questions to get to the root of your colleagues’ problems.When you ask thoughtful questions of your coworkers, you’re basically saying, “Okay, I hear you. What can I do to help? How are we going to take care of this?”Questions asked of your employees should be specific rather a blanket, one-size-fits-all response. Workers deserve to have their concerns heard and understood.That said, sometimes the wants of our workers aren’t always clear. In the case that someone sends you a vague or otherwise confusing query, here’s a quick script you can use to help get to the core of their problem ASAP

 Give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt before passing judgment on their behaviour in the office.Let’s say a new hire is having trouble adhering to a particular policy. You could assume that they’re being negligent or otherwise aloof, but chances are they’re simply adjusting to a new way of thinking. Both adopting and breaking away from workplace rituals takes time and you should respect that.This goes without saying, but don’t automatically assume the worst of people. Maybe that coworker who’s become increasingly needy is having a tough time at home.Workplace stress comes in all shapes and sizes. Practicing patience with your coworkers is key to demonstrating empathy in the workplace.

This is the essence of the empathy argument and  I think it open some interesting points for consideration.  If you are scaling a startup it is very important to engender some sort of corporate spirit and that is best done by treating staff wisely and communicating effectively.  This style of management is particularly important when you are dealing ‘at distance’ from your team and maybe working out from a virtual office environment. I any case the maxim ‘do unto others…’ makes sense in business as it does in life.

5 Helpful Rules for Budding Entrepreneurs

When you come into contact with aspiring entrepreneurs every day of your working life as we do running a virtual office in Central London we notice that certain qualities mark out business success.   My own thoughts and observations are well reflected in a recent article by Cheryl Snapp Conner who writes regularly on business development.  She identifies 6 important qualities to develop when you are building your business.

1. Add value first — and always.

Regardless of the obstacles in consulting and business, this rule is akin to the laws of gravity and physics. Be as interested and devoted to your client’s successes as you are to your own. When this is the case, there’s no need to talk about your hero stories or the ego numbers you’ve reached. Every contact should begin and ends with the thought, “What kind of massively important difference can I make for my clients today?” There’s no need to hard sell.

2. Put Your Brain in Gear Before You Speak.

And then think again. This is interesting in that some entrepreneurs, leaders and even elected officials (think Trump or Boris Johnson) suffer from the chronic impulse to fill the air with words before their brains have fully engaged.  whoSome are living by the motto that “if you’re brazen enough when you say it, it’s true.”

3. Creative Thinking is Essential.

In business and life, beware of the parties who declare “this is how it has to be done.” There are myriad paths to success. What can you add, subtract or tweak to get a situation to work? What would turn it into magic? If option A and option B are both untenable, don’t settle. Continue to think and strategize on ideas about what will work instead of bemoaning what can’t — or what didn’t.

4. Be Clear and to the Point.

Brevity is a virtue in our harried business and personal worlds. We all know the person we unconsciously flee or avoid calling because we know the conversation will never be short. In selling, planning, and every aspect of a business, distill your message to its essence. When you can tell it in a single breath or while standing on one foot, you are probably there. Make the details of your proposal easy to find and verify, but don’t feel the need to overwhelm your listeners. Think about whetting their appetites enough that they come to you, asking for more. This is where you succeed.

5. Gratitude is a Powerful Ingredient.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed about everything that goes wrong in the world of business. Taxes rise, systems fail and rush hour traffic is worse by the day. Health concerns and stress put us all to the test. But imagine the power of stopping at least twice a day to consider at least three things you are intensely grateful for. Family relationships. Seasonal colors or scents or the clothes you love wearing, Your company’s strategy and the customers and clients you serve. Imagine the power you’d instill if you showed gratitude to your employees every day.

We would also add some guiding principles of our own.  The fact that every budding entrepreneur needs expert support in their office to free their minds from the mundane so that they can pursue loftier business ideals.  Having someone answer your phone and pass on messages correctly can be crucially important.  Knowing that business mail is attended to in a timely and secure manner is vital even in our ‘paperless age’.  This is why so many of our clients at Hold Everything build and maintain successful businesses in a rapidly changing business landscape.