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New year, new laws: a raft of changes in 2014

New year, new laws: a raft of changes in 2014

Countries around the world are ringing in the new year with a host of new regulations, appointments and legislation, Here are some of the most important and most intriguing

So what is changing? Well, if you are driving in Oregon with children in your car, do not light up. It’ll be illegal. And if you’re driving inSwitzerland, turn your headlights on. Even if it’s the middle of the day.

While we’re on the subject of lighting, if you live in Canada please remove those last incandescent lightbulbs – they won’t be allowed any more.

Other things that are no being banned: owning unregistered assault weapons in Connecticut; harassing celebrities and their children with long-lens cameras in California; hunting elephants in Botswana andinjudicious calls to the London Fire Brigade (if you’re a business you’ll be fined for false alarms). Oh, and if you’re an architect practising in Texas, you will have to get yourself fingerprinted. Don’t ask why.

On the other hand, there are moments of great liberalisation to salute. Colorado on Wednesday will become the first state in the US to allow thesale of marijuana for recreational purposes. Also in America, for the first time it will be OK to be a gay Boy Scout, while for their British counterparts, it’s OK to be an atheist. For Germans, liberalisation comes in more subtle ways, such as the new dispensation for universities and libraries, which will henceforth be allowed to upload “orphaned” works of art on to the internet without permission.

If you’re Bulgarian or Romanian, welcome. Work restrictions across the EU for citizens of two of the poorest EU countries are lifted. But despite the dire warnings from the right (er, people who are supposed to believe in free markets no less) the indications are that there will be no suddeninflux of Balkan builders.

In a less-observed border relaxation, it will become much easier for Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan as the Chinese authorities make a concerted effort to improve cross-strait ties.

And in the unlikely event that you are off to do some shopping in Latvia, leave your lats at home and take euros instead: the Baltic republic becomes the 18th country to join the single currency zone.

Indeed, institutional changes are a 1 January perennial. Russia will run the G8 for a year while Greece gets its turn to lead the EU. Democrat Bill de Blasio takes over as New York mayor. And Barack Obama’s system of healthcare coverage, known as Obamacare, is formally launched with hundreds of thousands of newly insured Americans presenting a formidable test to a system that has endured a difficult birth.

Bill de Blasio

Bill de Blasio will become New York mayor from 1 January. Photograph: Seth Wenig/APThen there are more obscure new laws that take some explaining. If you live in France, you can demand your home be checked for electromagnetic waves. If you are arrested, make sure the police address you as “vous” and not “tu”, as they are required to do from 1 January.

If you die in Hungary, fear not: from Wednesday the state will reportedly provide a free grave, coffin or urn – and even a free shovel for gravedigging – to poorer sections of society.

The other thing that 1 January signifies is the start of a year dedicated to an issue or theme. So prepare yourself, and make any necessary adjustments to your schedule, to accommodate the International Year of Family Farming, the International Year of Crystallography and the International Year of Small Island Developing States.

Happy new year.

Europe

• Work restrictions across the EU are lifted for migrants from Romania and Bulgaria.

• Greece takes over EU presidency.

• Latvia joins the eurozone.

• The European fiscal compact, which forces countries across the eurozone to deliver a balanced budget, becomes operational.

UK

 

• The amount of time migrants have to wait before claiming benefits is lengthened to three months.

• London Fire Brigade becomes the first service in the country to introduce a charging scheme for callouts to false alarms at buildings such as hospitals, airports and student accommodation.

• Regulation of undercover police – new rules come into force requiring higher level of authorisation

• Average season ticket prices are due to rise by 4.1%

• Scout Association introduces pledge that removes the promise by Scouts to do their duty to God.

• The Defamation Act 2013 is set to change libel laws. Claimants will need to show they have suffered “serious harm” before suing.

France

• Individuals allowed to import 10 (200 cigarette) boxes of cigarettes.

• Minimum hourly wage rises by 10 cents an hour to €9.53 (£8).

• “Red Bull” tax comes into effect on energy drinks – €1 a litre.

• Minimum hours to be considered “part-time” worker – 24 hours a week• Anyone can demand their home be checked for electromagnetic waves. Same applies to public spaces.

• New code of conduct for police insisting they use the more respectful and formal “vous” when addressing the public and suspects and have a number on their uniform so they can be identified.

• The validity period for a French identity card rises from 10 to 15 years

Germany

• The points system for driving licences will be simplified. Minor offences are punished with fewer points, but Germans will only need eight instead of 18 points to lose their driving licence.

• The tax for bars of silver will jump from roughly €1 to €2 an ounce.

• From 1 January Germans will make less money from subletting their flats. Previously, citizens were able to offset the average local rent for a 60 sq metre flat against tax, in the future they will be able to claim back no more than €1,000 a month.

• Universities and libraries will be allowed to upload “orphaned” works of art – artworks, photographs or books whose creator can no longer be identified – on to the internet without getting permission.Previously, they were only able to do so with the explicit permission of a copyright holder.

Switzerland

• Competition for a new national anthem starts.

• Using car headlights in daylight hours becomes mandatory.

Russia

• Takes helm of the G8.

United States

• Minimum wage rises in 14 states.

• Oregon: no smoking in a car with children.

• Colorado becomes the first state in the US to allow the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.

• Affordable Care Act – individual mandate takes effect, requiring most Americans to buy health insurance.

• Guns that are considered assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines that have not been registered with Connecticut authorities will be considered illegal contraband.

• Photographers who harass celebrities and their children face tougher penalties under a law in California backed by actors Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner.

• Bill de Blasio becomes New York mayor.

• Texas requires all architects to be fingerprinted.

• The Boy Scouts of America lifts a ban on openly gay members after the organisation’s national council voted against the rule in late May.

US scouts

The Boy Scouts of America has lifted a ban on openly gay members. Photograph: Mychele Daniau/AFP/Getty Images

Asia

• The visa process for mainland Chinese visitors to Taiwan will be streamlined in an effort to bolster cross-strait ties

Africa

• Botswana, home to a third of the global elephant population, bans commercial hunting amid growing concerns about the decline in wildlife species.

African elephants Drinking at Dusk

African elephants drinking along a riverbank at dusk in Botswana. Photograph: Frans Lanting/ Frans Lanting/Corbis• Deadline for the controversial “indigenisation” of businesses in Zimbabwe. The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act obliges foreign-owned companies operating in the country to cede at least a 51% controlling stake to black Zimbabweans. Those who refuse face possible arrest.

• Travel for Kenyans, Rwandans and Ugandans to each other’s countries will become easier with the use of national identity cards as travel documents and an east African tourist visa

Reporting team: Dan Roberts in Washington, Kim Willsher in Paris, Alex Hern, Dan Milmo, Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing, Philip Oltermann in Berlin, and Dan Nolan in Budapest

 

 

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You can’t protect children by lying to them – the truth will hurt less

Parents try to protect children from distressing realities, such as illness, death or divorce. But if you don’t talk to them about the difficult stuff, they worry alone …

Meg Rosoff and daughter

Meg Rosoff and her daughter, Gloria. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

About a decade ago, a friend I knew and cared about deeply told me that she was having an affair with her child’s best friend’s father. “My God,” I said, swallowing hard. “That’s complicated.”

It was complicated all right. The families lived practically next door and were in and out of each other’s houses all the time. But neither marriage was good. And my friend swore that this was the real thing.

The problem was her daughter. She worshipped her mum, watched her like a hawk. And though she was only six, she was one of those strange, precocious children who gets inside adult heads and roams around, looking for stuff. Like the fact that her mother was madly in love with someone other than her dad.

“You can’t keep lying to her,” I said.

“No, no,” she assured me. “It’s not a problem. She doesn’t suspect a thing.”

I looked at her. “She knows. She doesn’t know what she knows, but she knows.”

And she did. If ever a child knew something was wrong with her family, it was Evie. She had developed a heartbreaking look of puzzlement in the company of her mother, searching her face for answers.

I notice those children now, the ones people lie to. Like all children, they are studying the world, struggling to learn the rules of engagement. Except that, for them, life doesn’t make sense because their instincts are negated. So they begin to twist in an attempt to accommodate a world full of half-truths.

An American woman visiting friends in London a few days after the school massacre in December 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut, asked the friend’s family (two adults, three teenagers) not to refer to Newtown for the duration of their visit and not to turn on the news in case her children might overhear distressing stories. “We’re going to talk to them about it when we feel they can handle it,” she said. Her children were 13 and nine.

I know about lies because at an important juncture in my own family life, my husband and I did not tell our daughter the whole truth, with difficult and enduring consequences.

I had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease that killed my youngest sister and for which my middle sister had just finished treatment. My daughter, Gloria, was seven. “I have cancer. But don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” we told her, failing to take into account her presence at my sister’s funeral a few years earlier. My husband and I didn’t say much more. Gloria didn’t ask any questions. To be honest, we were relieved. It was not at all definite that I would survive, and that’s not a conversation you want to have with a child. I didn’t even have it with my husband.

I went to hospital. And my daughter observed quietly when I returned, post-surgery, with a drain, stitches and bloody bandages, unable to lift my arm more than a few inches.

A week later, there was a second operation, followed by chemotherapy. I looked and felt awful.

It was about six months later that I realised two things. First, that although we’d been all jolly and casual at home about my illness, the other people in her life – her teachers and friends’ parents – were, quite innocently, showing nakedly shocked faces. “I hear your mother has cancer,” they whispered in voices that expressed to a sentient seven-year-old that something very awful indeed was going on. In addition, by not explaining the situation properly, we somehow neglected to make it clear that I was so ill because of the treatment rather than the disease. That was enormous.

Think about it. She heard I had cancer. Within days I was hospitalised. I went bald, lost weight, looked sick and exhausted, my right arm was covered with streaky bruises from the intravenous infusions. She had seen my sister in a similar condition a few months before she died.

Gloria, logically, thought that I was dying.

My husband and I didn’t set out to lie, but we certainly didn’t tell the whole truth. We didn’t tell because she didn’t ask. She didn’t ask because she sensed that it was a difficult subject.

Yet “protecting her” from what was going on turned out to be a gross underestimation of our child’s ability to measure atmosphere, to absorb pain and doubt and worry and convert it into a perfectly reasonable (but wrong) explanation.

Over the next decade, I learned that lies of omission can have consequences as devastating as “real” lies, the ones where you decide not to tell a child he’s adopted or that her sister is really her mother.

During those years, my bold, confident daughter became fearful. She began to experience night terrors, strange waking states in which she’d seem unable to connect and I’d be unable to console her. She became frightened of the dark, frightened of going to sleep, terrified of being the last person awake in the house.

Nowadays, as a writer of books for children and teenagers, I meet a lot of kids between 12 and 18 when I go into schools to talk about books. In those sessions, I started asking what frightened them. Spiders, they said, or death. Or someone close dying. “What about being the last person awake in the house?” I asked. And the reaction of the majority astonished me.

“That’s really scary,” they said.

It’s scary, I discovered, because it means you’re responsible. There’s no adult to help if a burglar comes in, or a monster; if there’s an emergency. It resonates with a bigger fear, the fear that adults won’t always be around to protect you. That your parents will die. That you, someday, will die.

I have no hard evidence that Gloria suffered so badly, and for so long, because of our failure to be more open with her about my cancer. But she remembers being very frightened when I went to hospital, not knowing if I’d come back. And she kept the terror to herself.

There are nights at the theatre you never forget, and one of them was a production of Ibsen’s Ghosts at the National with a then unknown (to me) actor called Simon Russell Beale. He played Oswald, whose father has died of syphilis after a life of alcoholism and debauchery. In the play, his mother sends Oswald away so he won’t ever know the truth about his father, and, particularly, so that he won’t ever follow the same path.

And yet he does. Ghosts always reads to me as a play about the futility of attempting to suppress difficult truths – how it does the opposite of rendering them powerless. The unsaid festers and grows until it infects everyone with poison, or in the case of Oswald and his father, syphilis.

I asked a counsellor who works at Great Ormond Street hospital with young transplant patients how he handles talking to very ill children and traumatised families.

“There are parents who can’t even bear to tell a child he’ll be operated on the next day,” he said. “And that’s really damaging. They think they’re protecting the child, but what they’re really doing is protecting themselves from their own appalling fear of loss.”

Parental fear underlies a great deal of the dishonesty perpetrated in the name of protecting children. I couldn’t survive if something happened to you so I must protect you at all costs, parents think. That’s not about the child, it’s about the parent.

I once wrote about teen suicide, and a lovely, articulate teenage girl emailed in response, saying she understood what it felt like to self harm and attempt suicide. She did both on a regular basis. “Have you talked to your parents?” I asked.

“I tried to tell my mother,” she said, “but she started to cry. She’s been under a lot of pressure with my depression and I don’t want to upset her more.”

 

Lies lead to more lies. The child who senses that the parent can’t cope with her vulnerability will hide the truth. Which leads to a situation in which communication shuts down altogether. Not that the pain of children can always be solved. It can’t. Any more than it can for adults. But the cases that chill me to the marrow are the “happy, well-adjusted” children who suddenly hang themselves, leaving desperate messages behind. What’s hidden will grow into a monster.

There is a theory that children’s literature should uphold the idyll of childhood, offering charming scenarios and happy endings to protect the innocent from life’s harsh realities. But children have extraordinary antennae for the things no one will explain. If a child has enough imagination to conjure dragons and monsters under the bed, he has enough imagination to figure out that something adults won’t talk about must be truly terrifying. Sex, for instance, divorce or death. And that’s where literature can help – by exploring the scary stuff with insight and, on a good day, wisdom.

Gloria’s wonderful primary school headteacher once told me that at about age seven to nine, kids start to change, emotionally. They start to separate from their parents, start thinking about death, worrying about being grown up. When I was about that age, I lay in bed, night after night, frozen with terror at the concept of eternal nothingness. I told no one, so no one told me that it’s possible to combat the fear of death with a life well-lived, that death can be a relief and a release, not just a terrifying conclusion.

If you don’t talk to kids about the difficult stuff, they worry alone.

I wish we’d talked to my daughter about my cancer. She was young, but she wasn’t stupid. It took a very long time for her to lose her fear of the dark, of being awake when all the grownups are asleep. Sixteen now, she’s wonderfully independent, funny, thoughtful and brave. Do you ever think about me having cancer? I ask her now. Does it ever worry you? “Not really,” she says. “But I worry about getting cancer myself.” That, given our family history, is perfectly reasonable.

And what about Evie and her mother? My friend came out with the truth soon after we spoke. Both couples have since divorced, both sets of children travel between the various families and everyone involved seems to have reconciled with reasonable equanimity to the change.

Give a child an unpalatable truth and she will figure out a way to process it. But “protect” her and the ghosts will whisper in her ear.

 

 

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10 Ways To Make A Creative Workspace

downton_abbey_3_300x225Research suggests that you will spend almost 12 years of your life in the workplace. Nothing could be worse than spending those long yeas chained to a boring desk in dull and bleak environment, without anything to inspire you or to inject a little enthusiasm. This is why more and more businesses are shifting towards a modern business model that creates luxurious creative workspaces, with the aim of generating a more relaxing atmosphere for their employees.

Open up your business

Many people wrongly take the view that creativity is solely for the more artistic industries, yet creativity is simply problem solving and can be applied to any business. However, it’s not just a case of making your business environments look creative, your business must also support a creative concept of being open. Open means accepting ideas no matter how ridiculous or outlandish they may seem, there is no such thing as a bad idea, just one that hasn’t had the opportunity to fully develop. Using an open culture allows you to find out what your employees are thinking and to explore ground that you may never have dared to tread. Open is also about removing barriers at all levels and not just removing tangible partitions, but also about eliminating ego’s and hierarchy to build approachable relationships with all staff regardless of their role.

Build your creative workspace

To get you underway in creating your open culture, here are 5 creative changes you can make to your physical working environment.

Theme your space

Themed workspaces are very popular and can be as simple or extravagant as you like Lenstore.co.uk have opted for a Victorian styleDownton Abbey’ theme, incorporating a Georgian fireplace and seven piece dining table.

Location

With many companies trying to push locations to the extreme, businesses are no longer fixed between four walls but extending to boats, buses and purpose built outdoor spaces.

Somewhere to get comfy

Whether its bean bags, deck chairs or hammocks, having somewhere to get comfortable and relax is very important. These comfort zones can be used to chill out and unwind or as Idea spaces to energize the creative process.

Unusual decor

No creative space would be complete without a random piece of decor. Some offices opt for strangely decorated animals such as ‘spider cow’ that resides at What if? Innovations. Others such choose to play with the concept of perspective, enlarging or shrinking objects, such as the giant Rubik’s cube that has crashed its way through the office ceiling at the BJL agency.

Bold and bright

Last but not least is the appliance of colour, and plenty of it. There is no reason why any workplace should be a cold and bland environment. You can add colour through plants, feature walls with murals, or even to the furniture. Why not have a bright red office chair or a funky green desk to brighten the place up.

Once you have your new bright and trendy office space with an open culture, you’ll find that employee morale and productivity will take care of themselves. Simply by maintaining a fresh and clutter free environment, you can create a workspace which will benefit everyone involved with your business.

Featured images:

Adam Wray is a regular blogger and entrepreneur, when he’s away from his computer he enjoys visiting the galleries of London.

 

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Design An Office To Reflect Your Business

kimball-18So, you’ve set up your business and managed to bag your first bit of commercial space – it is a very exciting time! However, now you face the melodrama of having to decide how to decorate your office.

Do you go traditional? Do you go minimalist? Do you go quirky? Firstly, it is essential that your office reflects your business’ interests and values, in order to create a professional and exciting place to be.

Your working environment must be comfortable, but also set the tone for your brand and your work ethic – it should reflect your brand and its identity and values.

Even if you’re in a rented place, there are things that you can change or play around with to give it that personal touch, without having to change anything permanent. Especially if your budget is particularly low, you could work with the smaller accessories such as lamps and cushions to create a co-ordinated look.

Colour scheme is extremely important when it comes to reflecting your brand throughout the design of your office. The colour scheme of your office should follow the same guidelines as the colour scheme of your brand – one key colour and one accent colour.

If you have not yet developed your branding greatly, then perhaps select neutral colours that will work with any colours. If you are an edgy agency, perhaps opt for a colour that is in complete contrast to your main branding colour – this shows that you are not scared of being different, creative and quirky.

Usually pre-installed carpets and furnishings will be quite a neutral colour, as will computer hardware. Try to match all exterior and interior signs to maintain a constant sense of styling.

This constant sense of styling should match the outlook of your business:

If you want your company to feel traditional and friendly, steer clear of minimalist, clinical styles and go for warm colours and neutral furniture that’s easy on the eye.

If your business is quirky and modern, then opt for eye-catching furnishings and odd colours – push the boundaries!

Ensuring that your office reflects your business will allow staff to feel as though they are really part of an exciting, well-put-together brand when they come into work. This will then boost their morale and approach to work, which increase productivity!

Metre Squared Interiors is an office fit out company in London with a team of professionals dedicated to making whatever you require happen.

 

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How To Create An Office That Will Make You Money

money-changing-handsWhen considering redesigning your office or buying a new one completely, you may get a little overwhelmed by quite how much it’s all going to cost.

The price of hiring a professional to help you do the best job possible, as well as the materials, labour and admin costs can all add up.

However, there is not enough emphasis put on the importance of a well-designed office – the costs of redesigning or moving offices can actually create profitability in the long run…

Not only will a modern, unique office show clients and staff that you care about the environment in which you work, but it will also show that you are responsive to current trends and understand today’s market.

Having a new and modern office design will also boost staff morale and allow staff to feel as though they are part of a brand.

So, what do you need to consider when designing an office, in order to make it profitable?

Lighting

Lighting is a great way of creating an illusion of space, but can also act as decoration for your office. A bright-coloured, oversized or unique lamp is a great way of adding a quirky edge to your office design and could act as a conversation starter when you invite clients into the office for a meeting.

Window shopping

The general rule is that you should never leave your windows bare, traditionally you should have some sort of blinds or curtains up. However, a new trend of bare windows has come into fashion, creating more of an industrial look. If you are conscious about having bare windows, however, you can opt for quirky blinds or curtain, but keep them light coloured to allow natural light to easily shine through.

Art

No office is complete without a piece of art. Whether it’s a print or an original, no wall should be left bare without a piece of art. Again, art is a great conversation starter and talking point that people will always have an opinion on.

All the small things…

Indulge in the small things like beautiful vintage cups for tea and coffee (perhaps reserve these for meetings, as opposed to everyday use!), cloth napkins for lunchtimes or a quirky fruit bowl. Investing in these things will be worthwhile, because these are the things that people will remember about your company. It’s those finishing touches that might just win you the contract over your competitors.

Metre Squared Interiors specialises in office fit outs and office design in London. They’re experts in creating an office that will suit your business and boost your profit. 

 

 

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How Important Is Support On Your Site?

keyvisual_site_support_01

In the modern era of technology, one of the things that a lot of websites will now offer is a 24-hour support service to all of their customers and potential clients. Although this seems like a good thing to have, there are a number of points that you need to take into account before you decide whether it would be something that would be worth it for you in the long term. Here, we will explore more about if having on call support regardless of the time of the day is right for your business.

What queries will you have to deal with?

The first thing that you need to consider is what kind of queries may be asked. If the usual things are quite general, then you might find that it is sufficient to simply have a page where common questions are answered, and a call line or email support that aims to respond to users within a 24-hour period. There are a number of very successful websites that choose to do this, and it can work well.

What about if there are urgent issues?

If it is likely that your customers would have urgent problems, then you might find that offering 24-hour support is worth it. A live chat feature or a phone line may be sufficient. However, it might be that you can offer a 24-hour call out service where you charge premium rates. This could be ideal if you offer a service that people require all hours of the day.

How many customers do you have?

You also need to consider the number of customers that you have who are active at night. It is likely that you would have to pay somebody a wage if you wanted an all day and all night support contact, and this means it is important that you ensure you are making the right choice. Hiring somebody is going to cost a lot of money so you would need to do some sort of feasibility study. If you are only a small company, you might find that it would not be worth it. However, if you find you are getting a number of email queries during the night that are urgent, and that would be beneficial to hire somebody this will be the right move.

Offer the customer what they want

The most important thing to think about when you have a website that aims to sell services is whether you are giving the customer everything that they need. If you are, this means that not only are they going to be happy with the service that you’re providing, but they would also be much more likely to recommend you to other people in the future. So, if you feel that it would be worth it in the long term, support would be a great idea. However, it very much depends on your company, the size of the customer base, and the nature of the queries that would likely be handled.

Kristian has plenty of experience working with those offering IT support London. He has worked with several developers, and also offers some of these services as well.

 

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Project Management, Leadership: All Skills Which Can Be Developed Whilst You Are Studying At University

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Your time at your university is spent preparing for the rest of your life once you graduate, and while most of this learning is done in the classroom, there is plenty that you can learn outside the classroom, as well. If you are going to school for business, there are a number of skills that you’re going to need in the business world which can be learned outside of class while you’re at university. Leadership skills and project management are two of the main skills which can be learned.

 

Learning Leadership Skills at University

Leadership is one of the easiest skills to develop. If you are ever given a group project, this is the perfect opportunity to step up and cement yourself as the leader of the group so that you can then delegate tasks to the other members of the group and learn those important leadership skills. In addition, you could host a study group for a big upcoming test and take the leadership role in that environment, as well. Both of these scenarios will allow you to hone your leadership skills; you can figure out how to motivate others and command them.

Learning Project Management Skills at University

University in itself is a giant project that needs to be managed. You have to balance studying, homework, class time, work, your social life and more all at once, and learning how to organize yourself to get through this alive will help you immensely once you get started in your career. In addition, you can use those project management skills in your group projects and study groups as well- any situation where you are working with multiple people, you can flex your brain and put these skills to use, so it’s good to always keep that in mind.

Other Opportunities to Hone your Skills

In addition to study groups and group projects, there are plenty of other opportunities for you to use your project management and leadership skills. Look for volunteer opportunities and ask your boss at your current job if there is any additional responsibility that you can take on for an opportunity to work on your skills. There are opportunities almost everywhere you look, the key is to know how to make them work and how to apply your leadership and project management skills so that they are developed in the best way possible.

Start Developing your Skills Today

As you’ve seen, there is definitely plenty of opportunity to build your leadership and project management skills while you’re at university. You can rest assured that this will help make you a better candidate once you start applying for jobs, and it also gives you some great answers to interview questions when you’re asked how you have shown competency in these areas in the past. Overall, just remember to look at everything as an opportunity to better yourself in some way, and you should have no problem coming out of college with a lot more than just a degree.

Richmond University are the American University in London offering Batchelor degrees in history and psychology as well as good number of postgraduate subjects.

 

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Quick Guide to Business Plan Writing

If you don’t know exactly what business planning is and you are looking for a way to understand more about the world of business, this quick guide will introduce you to the one thing most wannabe entrepreneurs don’t do right: the business plan document. There are people who think it’s just a piece of paper, others who think it’s the only important part of your business. Well, it’s not like that. A good business plan is necessary but not sufficient to guarantee success in your business. This guide will help you write a good one.

Executive Summary

Simply put, the first section is an overview of the most important parts of your business. This part of the business plan is like the incipit of a book and needs to “hook” the reader and make him/her want to know more. A good b.p. in fact is not only informative but also appealing.

Company Description

This is the section where you talk about the company statement, legal issues and the industry you are going to work in. Information and “sale” mix also in this part of the business plan.

Products & Services

Without them, you are not an entrepreneur and you do not have a company. What are you offering the world? It could be something you can touch or “package”, like a product, or something you do directly or through your employees for your customers, i.e. a service. In the Products & Services section of your business plan you also describe pricing strategy, delivery, research & development, production.

Marketing & Sales

You provide value, but how do people know about it? Your business plan must state clearly who you are going to market to (who’s your ideal customer?), who are your competitors and how you will beat them, daily/monthly promotion activities and everything related to the sales process.

Operations & Management

In this part of the plan you will deal with the operations which are part of your business (the most common are risk assessment, milestones, location) and also define the exact management structures: the team, the organizational chart, key job descriptions and so on.

Financials

The game of business needs money. The most important part of your business plan is the one where you convince that it is financially sustainable in the long-term. What will the cashflow be? What about break-even analysis and financing? Be detailed and honest and understand the whole financial picture of your wannabe company.

Extras

Sometimes, additional features are included, for example:

  • SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the competitors’ landscape
  • Glossary: Help non experts speak the industry jargon
  • Graphic elements: Make your presentation stand out!

What is the section you find the most difficult to deal with?

Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned

Target Accounting provides expert London business accountants.

 

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Why Big Leaders need to have Small Egos

christLeaders are very important to the success of a business, as they are the ones who inspire others, drive movement forward and provide the company with a goal. However, a leader with a larger than life ego can actually be a detriment to a company, holding it back and causing problems rather than encouraging success.

There is a huge difference between ego and confidence. Self-confidence is an essential trait in a strong leader as they need to be able to believe in themselves and confidently stride towards their dreams. Rather than the calm self-assuredness that confidence brings, a big ego manifests itself in pride, boastfulness, self-centeredness and an inability to admit when one is wrong.

Here are a few reasons why having a big ego is not a very good trait in a successful leader.

Leaders Need to Be Able to Admit When they are Wrong

Even though they might be put in charge because they have the most education or experience, leaders are not always right. In fact, sometimes they can make big mistakes, totally misjudge situations or get things completely wrong. This is nothing to be ashamed about, after all everyone is human and will make a mistake once in a while.

However, sometimes big leaders are afraid to admit that they have got it wrong. They are so unwilling to show any weaknesses that they will follow through with things even though all signs are indicating that they have got it wrong. They will lead their company towards disaster while pretending that they are doing the right thing, rather than admitting their blunder and asking for help.

A good leader should never let their own ego get in the way of realising when they are making a mistake. A confident leader is never afraid of confessing to a mistake and taking a new approach and if this is done with grace it will make your employees respect you even more.

Leaders Need to Be Able To Let the Achievements of Others Shine

Another trait of someone with a big ego is that they are quick to snap up all the credit when it comes to the group’s accomplishments. You’ve probably seen it before, the team leader whose team puts in plenty of effort to achieve something and then when it comes time to receive accolades, he speaks like he did all of the work himself. These are also the types of people who are likely to choose team members who are less competent than themselves because their primary motivation is making themselves look good. In the thinking of an egotistical person, another person’s success means that they have failed so they will feel better about themselves when others achieve and earn less.

A great leader needs to be able to step out of the spotlight and be gratified by the achievements of others. They must realise that they cannot accomplish or control everything, so they need to invest in fantastic team members and value their contribution to the organisation. Good leaders will know how to let another employee shine.

Leaders Need to Be Able to Unite Rather Than Divide

One of the most important roles of a leader is to be able to make each and every person working with them feel like they are valued and appreciated. They need to create a positive and optimistic working environment which makes employees feel engaged and motivated.

Unfortunately, a leader with a big ego will be too focused on themselves to make this happen. The people working with them will become increasingly fed up with their egotistical behaviour and will not be inspired to do their best. They might even cause conflict in the workplace, which further distracts people from doing a good job at work.

Instead of a big leader with an even bigger ego, it is better to have someone who does not deny reality even when it is negative and is able to admit their own mistakes. They will be able to help people get through difficult times, let the achievements of others shine and encourage everyone that they work with to put their best performance in.  You will be amazed at the different that a calm and confident leader without a big ego can make on your organisation.

Having a big ego can really get in the way of providing excellent leadership and here are some of the reasons why. To find out more about our leadership programs, visit Cirrus today.

 

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Building Strong Teams in the Workplace

49ersIn a team-oriented environment, workers contribute to the overall success of the organization. They work with fellow members of the organization to produce these results. Even though they have a specific job function and belong to a specific department, people on a team are unified with other organization members to accomplish big picture objectives.

There are a lot of people in business who want their employees to work wholeheartedly together as a team, but struggle with team building execution. Trying to have people come together as a group with a common goal and strive to achieve it can be very challenging. Team building is not as easy as you think, and the workers we manage are sometime not as apt to join and collaborate with a team as we would hope.

Benefits of Teamwork

We all inherently understand the benefits of teamwork. A group of skilled individuals putting all their brainpower together to work for an innovative and quick solution to a problem is excellent. The sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.

When the workload is shared throughout the group, dealing with pressure and stress is much easier for everyone, usually making the final product much better than if if was done individually. I’ve learned in business that if you want to get something done on time put together a crack team of motivated people to take it down.

Teamwork is not always easy

Teamwork is not always easy to implement. Sure the benefits of teamwork can easily be explained, but actually making it work within a group is much different. From an early age we were set on the path of individualism. Think about going to school, you did not go through school as a group. You participated in school with peers, however you worked individually to achieve your test scores.

Of course many of us participated in team sports or group projects in classes, but the majority of our social experience through our childhood and young adulthood was all centered around being an individual. When we shift from school into the workplace, and employers want to implement a strong culture of teamwork and collaboration in the workplace, it’s hard for people to adjust to the new collaborative style.

Japan‘s Stark Teamwork Contrast

Japan is an example of a culture which socializes it’s individuals to be more of a cohesive team rather than a lone individual. There are many metaphors which explain the Japanese mindset of community and teamwork but one that sticks out is the weak link in the chain metaphor. I had a Japanese Businessmen explain this to me some time ago.

He told me that his company, and more specifically the group within his company that he was a part of, was like a chain. Together they were strong and could weather any storm, but if there was a defect in the chain then the whole apparatus became worthless. Everyone worked hard to not be that weak link.

Upon completion of college, when the Japanese worker is introduced to a company, they are completely indoctrinated as a member of the company. They actually go to an extended boot camp to learn everything about the company and officially become a member. This process further builds on the teamwork mindset that is so special in Japan.

The only western groups that I can associate the same mentality with is the military. The military goes to boot camp together and is completely engrossed and indoctrinated as a member of a larger whole. Japanese workers also go to a quasi Boot Camp to endure the same type of mental and physical indoctrination for the sake of their prospective company.

In the west, we don’t do anything of the sort. When is the last time you sent your new hires to a four-week intensive boot camp to learn the ins and outs of your company? Sure we may send our employees to a weekend team building seminar, but that’s nothing like the team building training courses for joining a Japanese corporation.

I’m trying to illustrate, with this example, that teamwork is not an inherently God given trade. It’s a learned behavior that we can teach employees of the company to exemplify. We may not go to the extent of military or Japanese-style boot camp, but we can take away some strategies to make our teams better.

Teamwork Success

Regardless of how individualistic and nonconformist our mentality is we can still build great teams in our companies. Every team needs a leader. The duties and expectations of the team also need to be clearly defined. Everyone’s going to have different and unique talents, and they should be utilized to the fullest extent for the betterment of the team. Communication must be open and honest.

The most important aspect of achieving great teamwork success in my humble opinion, is withholding judgment of the teams performance until after the project is completed. If a team wins the NBA championships with a buzzer beater shot they still win right? It’s not right to write them off as losers 10 seconds before the game is over just because they are a few points down. On the same token, don’t write your team off before the buzzer ends just because everything isn’t going perfectly.

Team members deserve regular and honest positive reinforcement. When they achieve success they deserve rewards. Rewarding team members for effectively managing their tasks and going above and beyond what’s expected is a good habit to practice. It also cultivates a culture of teamwork within the organization.

About the Author: Robert Cordray is a freelance writer and expert in business and finances. He has received many accolades for his work in teaching methods of reducing employee turnover.

 

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