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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Monday Morning Consultant … Jan 31st 2011

At the airport, I usually have an hour or so to kill … my usual reading will consist of the following forums

  • Mileage run forums at Flyer Talk : This is a standard for anyone in consulting. Maximizing your travel windows and getting the most miles for a future trip. This is basic training for any travel ninja!
  • Account balances at each of my airline miles accounts : Always need to keep on top of these guys
  • Checking for hotel/airline promotions on Flyer Talk : too much free stuff given away not to check.

One would ask the question, what does this have to do with consulting. Well consulting is one of the few jobs that will allow you to accumulate these types of perks without doing anything special. In fact, many consultants I know consider this part of their compensation – and who would want to max out their compensation?

Another great blog/forum to check out, if you’re new to travel hacking … would be Travel Hacking. What is travel hacking? Here is a good definition from Chris Guillebeau

  • Travel hacking refers to democratizing free and low-cost travel. Our goal is to make travel fun, affordable, and accessible.
  • Frequent Flyer Miles are a major profit center for the airlines; it’s not something they do to be nice.
  • One of the principles of travel hacking is to connect mileage earning to mileage redeeming—whatever miles or points you earn, be thinking about what you’ll do with them

Additionally, when using those consulting flex trips … I’ve even found easier ways to not pay on the road by staying for free at other people’s places – you make friends, have a better travel experience and save your hotel points for a splurge!

Here are four resources for you to find the right hospitality exchange: Copied wholesale from an article by Nora Dunn – why write it when someone wrote it better.

Couch Surfing – Couch Surfing is arguably the most well-known hospitality exchange, although not the first. Your bed for the night can take the form of a couch, extra bedroom, or chunk of the floor depending on what your host can offer. You can browse online listings, learn about and converse with your potential host online, and make arrangements to meet. Safety checks are in place to ensure no dodgy travelers/hosts ruin it for everybody, but as with all the opportunities listed in this section, please do your due diligence and go with your gut instincts to be safe.

Hospitality Club – I have used Hospitality Club to stay in a few Australian homes and meet new friends in other places in the world. The platform is similar to Couch Surfing with checks and balances, and a wide variety of members can make this site an adventure to surf.

Global Freeloaders – If the platform or profiles on Couch Surfing and Hospitality Club aren’t doing much for you, then check out what Global Freeloaders has to offer. The only stipulation to membership is that you must be able to reciprocate and offer up your home to travelers within six months of signing up. So if you are on a long trip, best to wait until you get home unless you can host travelers before you leave.

Servas – With over 50 years under its belt, Servas is considered to be a pioneer in the hospitality exchange arena, and is recognized by the United Nations. The membership application process is more grueling, and requires a personal interview before acceptance. Fees vary from country to country, and many country listings are not yet available online (instead, they are mailed to you). Although I don’t doubt the quality of candidate screening and such, I find it much easier to use the other three options above.

Adding Volcano Boarding to my bucket list … check!

Volcano boarding Nicaragua? Well, over the past day and half … I’ve been doing as much as I can to learn of things to do in a cool weekend in Nicaragua. I’ve learn’t that there are lots of volcanoes over there, as the name “Nicaragua” means the land of lakes and volcanoes.
True to its country’s nickname, the town of Leon is surrounded by a number of volcanoes, many of them still active and Cerro Negro, has recently become very popular on the backpacker trail as a place where one can climb to the top and descend on a toboggan down the pumice-y slopes on small wooden board at breakneck speed.

Now this tobogganing isn’t the gay German version shown here in CBS.

Yes, volcano tobogganing = volcano boarding = “Volcano boarding Nicaragua”. Down an active volcano = AWESOME!

These guys have written an excellent blog post on it … so time to add “Volcano boarding Nicaragua” to my bucket list … :D … now I have something to write about in addition to churches in Leon! As an update : it’s now off my list : http://www.rishiray.com/volcano-boarding-in-nicaragua-play-by-play-in-pictures/. If you want to volcano board Cerro Negro contact either Big Foot NicaraguaTierra Tours or Va Pues Tours. These three tour operators have provided boarding trips for more than 18,000 toursts to date. They offer daily trips to Cerro Negro and half day adventures start at $30 USD. Your adventure will start with a 40 minute drive from León to base of Cerro Negro. From there you will have to climb 45-60 minute to the top. Hard work for a 45 second descent but it is truly one of the more unique experiences in the world. Think about it, you can’t be a “World Boss” without doing some epic and awesome things. This is really one experience, that should rank up there in your experience inventory/bucket list.

Monday Morning Consultant … Jan 24th 2011

In consulting, we talk about work-life balance. In fact, this is a fallacious notion that consultants would love to subscribe to. Really … we would!

In recruiting sessions at Universities, e-mails from other prospective consultants and grad students, other management consulting websites … it is funny to see/hear/listen to comments like this

I know that the Management Consulting profession is both glamorous and lucrative, but the stories of extra-ordinary personal sacrifices abound. Can you please comment on the lifestyle of a management consultant, in view of personal sacrifices, and professional and monetary rewards? This would be helpful to not only my own decision-making, but also to many of my cohorts. Thank you.

My first instinct to anyone trying to get into consulting would be to run unless you have a strong sense of self yet you’re ready to supplicate and prostrate yourself to the 3am deadline.

Success in consulting has less to do with the ability to “make sick decks” and much more with

  • The ability to seek out self serving social situations
  • Socialize with “Type A” personalities, who have generally have nothing else but their work life to define them.
  • Turn a blind eye to other people’s drinking in the name of “stress relief”
  • Master the ability to make “sick decks” on a whim – there I said it
  • Be willing to create a need where there is really none … yet understand that the client who hires you to create work is also part of the cycle. They also have bosses to impress and bringing you on ensures that the perception of the problem is much greater than it is.
  • Understanding that “work-life” balance is what you make it. Senior Executives/Partners will run you to the bone, unless you are willing to push back reasonably. In fact, most of them will respect you, if you know how to push back. This is a very, very important skill not only with them but also with clients.
  • Be a smart self promoter – not a completely shameless one. For many consultants, they forget that they are self promoting to other self promoters … the aroma of bullshit can be pervasive and salient.
  • Use words like “pervasive” and “salient” in everyday conversation.

Note – I didn’t stress on “hard work”. Work by definition is hard … if work were fun, then it wouldn’t be called work. Very simple .

You’re dealing in a field where you’re liable to consider a 60-hour work week as the norm, if not a light work week. 80-100 hour work weeks during a system “Go-Live” is standard, expected and you will get dinner and lunch just to work through that time. As the joke goes, if you can remember the name of your dog/wife/dinner at the end of the week, you must not have worked hard enough or concentrated enough.

Additionally, there is an even stupider side of the equation – actually bragging about this nonsense – sort of like “the macho factor”. You will actually hear conversations where consultants will like to brag about going to sleep at 3 am and then getting back to work at 7 am and they are completely proud of this and don’t recognize how little value it truly carries. This is a job – you work and work hard, but at no point does a 2hr nap/sleep break should be glorified unless you cured cancer, saved “Private Ryan” or delivered a fetus – making “sick decks” doesn’t qualify.

So for now, work hard, collect your hotel/airline points … at some point, you will have work life balance.

A weekend in Managua … don’t mind if I do …

So only two more countries to knock off Central America, so a little weekend in Managua, Nicaragua would be a good start – March. Of course, I’ve heard and read great things about the “safest” country in Central America.

As a rule, most capital cities are never that interesting, so the first instinct is do a couple of day trips from Managua and my high level plan includes:

  • Colonial Architecture in Granada
  • Beach & Church hopping in Leon
    o Centro de Arte Fundación Ortiz Gurdián
    o Cathedral of León – biggest in Central America
    o Iglesia de San Juan Bautista de Subtiava
    o Poneloya and Penitas beaches
  • Masaya Volcano
    o http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masaya_Volcano
    o Night tour of the volcano and birds
  • Omatepe Island – this would be highly ambitious to pack this into the weekend.

So Volcanoes, Hot Springs, Church photography and food … sounds like Costa Rica doesn’t it?

Monday Morning Consultant … Jan 17th 2011

Today is the start of the new little feature called Monday Morning Consultant. When traveling for work, there are a couple things, that consultants regardless of company, practice, etc go through. The usual script follows something like the following

  • Wake up on Monday morning between 3-6am. The world is dead asleep and you’re probably sleepwalking. Of course, the kids/wife/GF/Dog is still fully asleep. No appreciates your noise at this time.
  • Shit, Shower, Shave – Not in that order
  • Call cab (on schedule) or drive to airport – assuming that your 3 day carry on bag is prepacked from the night before or better yet … untouched from when you came home, the previous Thursday night
  • Get in the cab, try to sleep but Blackberry red light /iPhone email icon – flashing like DEFCON 1
  • Arrive at airport – walk into Super Elite, President’s Club, MM Mile line to be treated like the traveling VIP that you are … laugh at other other people and occasional tourists, who have to line up like cattle in a slaughterhouse.
  • Go through security (laptop out, shoes off, liquids in plastic bag…), get felt up by some weird dude
  • Quickly go to the executive lounge to get a coffee and newspaper
  • Get in the plane (economy for flights less than 3 hours) at 7-9am…

Now as a traveling consultant, you also become an amateur Air Traffic Controller and Meteorologist. You learn the glossary of terms from the Airtraffic Controllers  … terms which you never want to see

  • LO CIGS – Low Ceiling, Low Clouds … means #!$!$! delays!
  • CLSD – closed … no explanation required
  • GDP – Ground Delay Program … in simple terms … too many planes trying to land, you start circling your airport, more time on the plane doing nothing
  • GS – Ground Stop … means cancellations, missed connections and overall bad for you

You also learn to read weather at the airport by looking for weather vanes, checking your iPad flight tracker apps like Flight Tracker (smart name huh!), and learning how to decode satellite photos with storm fronts.

If this wasn’t enough useless knowledge to have, you also become a part time airline concierge, since you know all the airports, which have the best food, duty-free booze, and which airline lounges start serving single malt scotch at 11am in the morning.

For some more interesting reading … the following links could prove to be even more hilarious

10 reasons why I love Tobago but hate going there!!!

This is a general shout out and blogger rant to all the people in Tobago who work in the tourist industry or what purports to be a tourist industry.

I don’t live in Trinidad anymore – some days I’m sad about this, but all it takes to remind me that I’m glad to visit but not stay in Trinidad is a two week refresher in Trinidad itself. However, the frustration I feel at Trinidad, is nothing compared to the contempt I generally feel to those in the Tobagonian tourist industry.

A couple points about why tourism in Tobago cannot and will not ever grow or be significant

  1. Tobago needs the tourism but the tourists do not necessarily need Tobago yet the powers that be that control tourism cannot see that the problem is the people themselves.
  2. Customer feedback is a waste of time. Abject, absolute waste of time. Tourist “people” in Tobago ask for an exit survey when you leave. You can make the most wonderful suggestions – do not bother – it is a colossal “make work” project, so a politician can say that they are trying to improve things.
  3. Tourists need efficiency and facilities. The airport is neither efficient or has facilities. Until some money is spent to upgrade Crown Point – it will just be the same unconcerned staff with their nonchalant attitude about you, your time or your business. I always fly to Tobago from Trinidad, either very early or very late – since I don’t want to have a problem with these people – they couldn’t shit in a swimming pool.
  4. Have you all heard that computers have revolutionized the world – “we can use them to make things go faster”. Customs and immigration use a considerable amount of time going through papers and documents and using stamps but never seem concerned about getting the people through as soon as possible.
  5. Smiles are free, even if your people seem to be broke all the time.  When I have to beg for a coffee or almost slap someone in a grocery to give me a bottle of rum, while she dusts the aforementioned bottle of rum and people are behind cussing, will make tourists homicidal.
  6. I’ve never had to pay a bill or use a bank, but I have heard of waits of two hours at a bank for service. Which tourist in their god damn mind would come back?
  7. Hustlers made people hate Jamaica, and unless you’re a German woman looking for a black Tobagonian penis (Germans are especially unwelcome in Tobago for the way they behave); hustlers are not welcome. I hate people grabbing at me and trying to hustle me for anything.
  8. Why should Sugarlips, Tight Chest, Dimples  (actual names on the beach… seriously) be hustling to rent  chairs and umbrellas on the beaches (at Store Bay for example). Having these hustlers is just terrible and gives tourists the impression that Trinis and Tobagonians are some hungry, starving people who can’t find jobs. These guys can’t hustle me, since I’m hard with them and don’t even talk to them until I am ready …
  9. Everything is so expensive. Food is brutally expensive, when compared to other islands. I have no issue with being charged US prices, but then give me US or Canadian service with the same portion size.

    You all claim it is expensive to import things into Tobago … what about other islands, don’t they have the same issues? Tobago still has a long way to go in order to meet the standards of the other islands and tourists are having to pay too much for what they get in return. When the tourists go to other islands, they realise this and never return to Tobago.

  10. Spend money on “Tourist” police, like other tourist destinations. Police who specially trained to deal with tourist and civilian matters.  Spend money on presence also – as a Trini, I can handle myself in Tobago, but other people have issues with this.  Trinis like value for their money, don’t you think that tourists also like get value for their money.

Fix all of this and maybe then one old British couple won’t be able to wreak havoc on perception of Tobago and then they will want to come and spend money in Tobago.

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PR professional for Tobago tourism

Originally printed at http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/PR_professional_for_Tobago_tourism-112841024.html By Abby Brathwaite [email protected]
January 4, 2010

The advice of a crisis communication expert will be sought for help in dealing with the damage to this country’s tourism industry as a result of a cutlass attack against a British couple in Tobago last year.Minister of Tourism Rupert Griffith made the announcement yesterday after a meeting with tourism stakeholders at the Ministry of Tourism head office.The meeting was in response to record low tourist arrivals in Tobago and also came on the heels of a public campaign by British couple Peter and Murium Green, who were hacked across their faces in August 2009, to warn tourists about the crime situation.The Greens have complained that their promised compensation was not forthcoming.
 “Among some of the decisions we took here today was on the Greens issue is that we see the need for an intensive PR (public relations) campaign for damage control because of the effect it is having on the tourist situation not only in Tobago but Trinidad and Tobago,” Griffith said. “We want to engage a crisis communication PR agency whereby we will seek to get all the facts surrounding the Green issue and we will set up a marketing strategy to do some damage control.”

Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Orville London, who was also at the meeting, said hiring this expert should not be seen as an admission by the THA that they did not handle the situation properly.”From the perspective of what was already done I do not think that the Tobago House of Assembly can be faulted we got to accept the reality and that is according to international standards we would have treated with this situation in an exemplary manner,” London said.

“But the perception out there is something that must be treated with and that is one of the areas that we may need some expert advice. But the fact that we are doing it does not indicate that we are dissatisfied with the way that we treated with the issue.” He added that additional compensation for the couple was not discussed at the meeting and said that they (Greens) could still access compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act. Cabinet is yet to appoint a board to administer compensation to victims of crime.
Tourism stakeholders will meet again tomorrow in Tobago where it is expected a decision regarding the hiring of the public relations expert will be made. London also noted that a major cruise ship company, Royal Caribbean, will not visit this country for the 2011-2012 season, until an outstanding sum of $6 million which was stolen in Grenada, but ended up in Trinidad, was returned.