Archive for the ‘Business’ category

Expos for introverts

October 3, 2017

It’s been a while since attended a trade show or expo as an exhibitor, so when my company signed up for a local expo in Honolulu, I was both excited and nervous. Excited, because I sit in an office all day and it’s nice to meet new people. Nervous, because I’d have to meet new people.

I’m a shy person, and it’s hard for me to talk to new people. Sometimes it’s even hard for me to talk to people I know! I’m comfortable with quiet on my own, but in a social setting, the quiet can become loud and tense.

I did everything I was supposed to do to setup and plan our booth. I confirmed the budget, checked on furniture, wrote a press release, printed brochures, designed a poster, found a banner in storage, and organized booth shifts.

Faced with long hours of talking with people, introverts like me have to do more. So here are three tips for introverts and one idea that I wish we had done.

* Give something away. Introverts won’t usually stand in the aisle and bring people to their booth, so we need an inexpensive way to draw them in. A prize wheel was too expensive and a small game (a bean bag toss or mini golf) didn’t seem appropriate, so we chose peppermints. I even put stickers on them that said, “Take a mental health mo-mint” and our logo. Most people came just for the mints, but they smiled at me and made me feel less invisible.

* Ask a question. Someone stopped by our booth and took a mint. They don’t look particularly interested, and they’re ready to walk away. What do I say? Could I get them to stay a little while? To avoid this awkwardness, I created a poster with an easy question and brought a stack of sticky notes and pens. Since everyone is an expert in their own lives, I chose a question that anyone could answer: “How do you keep young?” People actually stopped and wrote advice, like “Exercise” and “Keep young friends” and “Stay away from toxic people.” Other people stopped to read the notes on the board. And I had a reason to talk to people.

* Meet the neighbors. Who works the same hours at the expo and is a captive audience? The staff at the nearby booths. When there are lulls in expo traffic but you can’t leave your booth, talk to your neighbors. I met a man who built a treehouse in his backyard and a woman who used to do pottery and a few people who “crossed the aisle” to meet us. “Did you come to the expo last year?” and “Do you think it’s busier than last year?” are good introductory questions, if you’re not sure what to say.

* Make a meeting. There are times when staff are alone at the booth, and the booth looked empty. At the next expo, I would ask staff and coworkers to make appointments with clients, partners, vendors, and donors – and meet them at our booth. We could have short meet-and-greets in an informal setting, and even meet their family. Longer conversations could move outdoors or to the concession area. Admission was free at this particular expo, so it wouldn’t cost anything.

Which trade shows or expos do you attend? Do you find expos exhilarating or exhausting?


A two minimum wage proposal

June 13, 2017

Minimum wage, the lowest wage that hourly employees earn, is a controversial issue. Supporters of minimum wage laws believe that it helps lift people out of poverty and reduce income inequality (the gap between higher-income and lower-income people). Opponents of minimum wage laws believe that it reduces the number of new jobs and raises prices, as businesses adjust for higher labor and payroll costs.

Rather than debating the value of the minimum wage, I would like to propose that we create two categories of wages: minimum wages and minimum living wages.

The minimum wage would be the lowest wage that entry-level, unskilled employees earn. It means that businesses could limit their up-front investment in an employee who will only be temporary.

The minimum living wage would be the lowest wage for more experienced, skilled employees who have worked part-time or full-time for an business for over one year. It would put into law the current practice of offering employees raises during annual performance reviews.

Businesses take most of the risks when hiring entry-level employees, so it makes sense to offer a lower minimum wage. Businesses must conduct interviews, offer job training, fill out employment paperwork, trust employees to show up on time and do the job.

Of course, new employees take risks as well – that the paperwork will be correct and that they will get paid – but there is less uncertainty in accepting the job, especially if a business has been around for a few years. Employees have the reassurance of visiting the business and seeing how it works before accepting the job.

After one year on the job, wages could be increased to the minimum living wage, a higher wage that is closer to what employees need to live and work in the area. The minimum living wage could also be tied to increased benefits, such as additional vacation time, family leave, retirement plans, or continuing education subsidies.

This one-year minimum living wage probation allows businesses to evaluate the employee’s skills and fit with the company. It also allows employees to decide whether they want to keep working for the company and gives them job experience if they decide to look for a new job.

A good business with sound finances will voluntarily offer raises the employees who show up and work hard, even if they can’t offer raises every year. While there is always the risk that an unscrupulous or poorly-managed business will fire employees before the one-year mark to avoid paying a higher wage, those businesses would suffer from higher job turnover, constant training, and poor reputation.

Do you think that two minimum wages would be an effective compromise between employees and businesses? What do you think of minimum wage laws?

“Presence” by Amy Cuddy

June 3, 2017

When the movie “Iron Man 3” was released in 2013, my then 6-year old son loved to imitate Iron Man’s pose: standing straight, arms loose, shoulders back, chest out to display the unibeam (the arc reactor in the center of his chest). Whether his confidence grew out of strong body language or just something he was born with, he has very little fear about public speaking and voicing his opinions. He was learning about the power of presence.

Presence is “the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values, and potential,” according to “Presence: Bringing Your BOLDEST SELF to Your BIGGEST CHALLENGES” (2016) by Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy. It is letting go of fear and being comfortable in your own skin.

The foundation of presence is personal power, which Cuddy discusses through anecdotes and research summaries. She declares that exhibit presence when we feel relaxed and powerful. Powerlessness makes us avoid; it impairs thought and makes us self-absorbed. In contrast, power makes us approach; it gives us confidence, lets us trust ourselves, protects us from negative emotions, and helps us connect to others.

We can all gain confidence through small self-nudges, small tweaks in our body language and mind-set. “Expanding your body language, through posture, movement, and speech makes you feel more confident and powerful, less anxious and self-absorbed, and generally more positive,” Cuddy writes.

The book offers encouraging and practical advice to follow before tests, meetings, negotiations, performances, or events. Here are some power nudges that work in Western cultures:

  • Empower your mindset: Take a few minutes to remember and reflect on a time when you felt personally powerful.
  • Straighten your posture: Adopt an open, comfortable posture. Take up your fair share of space. Imagine yourself standing like Wonder Woman or Superman.
  • Change your stride: Walk confidently, with longer strides and more arm movement.
  • Take your time while speaking: Speak slowly without rushing and make eye contact.
  • Be aware of your breathing: Breathe slowly and regularly through your nose.
  • Reframe anxiety as excitement: When you feel anxious, tell yourself to “get excited.”

My son is growing his personal power. He has run for class representative and participated in the speech club. He even did an “Iron Man” monologue for an audition piece. One morning before a performance, when he was feeling a little anxious, I gave him a “Presence” nudge: I told him that the fluttery feeling in his stomach was excitement. I wish I could tell that to myself and believe it, but I’m working on it.

For more stories about presence, visit Amy Cuddy’s website at

Do you have innate presence, or do you have to practice it? In your life, who has a commanding or compelling presence?

Benefits of joining a nonprofit board

May 16, 2017

There are so many ways to give back to the community, from fundraisers and clean-ups to volunteering, walking for charity, and cash donations. But few of us consider volunteering for as a board member. Maybe it seems like too much responsibility. Maybe we’re afraid to ask other people for donations. Maybe we think that we need to be wealthy or have a network of wealthy friends.

Nonprofit boards need more than just money to be successful. They need people with passion, commitment, and a vision for how the nonprofit can continue.

I’ve seen first-hand that if you can find a cause that you are passionate about and nonprofit board that is right for you, it’s a worthwhile commitment – not just for the nonprofit, but for you as well. I’ve been privileged to be part of small Hawaii nonprofit boards, as a member and as support staff, and I think that I am more confident in myself and feel more connected with the community.

Here are four benefits to joining a nonprofit board with a cause you truly believe in:

  1. Build relationships with people who share your passion. Joining a board helps you meet new people from different backgrounds who you might never have met before, and work together on a common cause. You could get to know your neighbors, meeting other community advocates, and form lasting friendships with other board members.
  2. Gain leadership experience. By participating in board meetings and committees, you can help make decisions that will affect the organization. Your “day job” may not give you many opportunities to be a leader and shape the future of an organization. The decisions you make on a board can lead to increased confidence at work and during business negotiations.
  3. Learn more about a cause or industry that you are already passionate about. As a board member, you will have opportunities to learn about running efficient meetings, creating effective programs, dealing with legal issues, and approving budgets, as well as gaining inside-information about statistics, trends, challenges, and opportunities about your chosen cause. Your expertise can make you an even stronger and more convincing advocate for your cause.
  4. Share your skills. You may have “hidden strengths” that are unrelated to your current job or may have big ideas that don’t fit with your current job position, boss, or company. By volunteering for committees and programs, you have more opportunities to share your skills or explore new talents. Board experience can make a difference to the community and your career too.

What causes are you passionate about? Have you ever volunteered as a board member? If yes, what has been your experience? If no, what would make you volunteer?

Organized desk, organized life

September 13, 2016

Organized Desk

Recently I started a new job. On my first day, I walked into the office and found a desk covered in stacks of paper and an inches-thick inbox. Some stacks had sticky notes. Some stacks contained folders. Others contained loose papers. I felt overwhelmed.

I appreciated that these stacks of paper were things that I needed to do immediately – urgent tasks were not hidden away or filed. But they made me feel stressed when I came into work. In those first few days, my main goal was to clear the desk.

It took me a few weeks to work through those stacks and organize the office to where I knew where things went. I set up a desk calendar where I could write daily reminders. I got caught up in filing, and then vowed not to let the filing pile up again. I try to set aside 10 minutes to file papers every day.

I’ve read a lot of organizing advice, and it all boils down to these 3 tips that really work:

Handle each item only once – follow up, file it, or discard it. I’ve come across this advice many times, and it works for cleaning your home, your office, and your email. In practice, it’s really difficult to do, because not everything can be done right away, and we need to prioritize tasks. But I do file things in “pending” folders so that I can get to them later.

Write daily lists. Take 5 minutes at the start of the day to write down the things you need to accomplish. If you’re in the middle of a big project, you may want to take 5 minutes at the end of the day to write your task list for tomorrow.

This is easy for me to follow, because I’m a list-maker – I make lists for practically everything, from tasks to appointments to shopping to books I want to read. I’m addicted to the sense of accomplishment I feel when I cross something off the list.

Surround yourself with things that make you happy. I added a small ceramics piece that I use as a candy dish. I added a photo of my family to remind myself of why I work.

Once I organized my desk, I decided that I needed to organize my home office desk too. It was cluttered with binders, folders, office supplies, and other miscellany. I set out to clear off my desk and organize. I even cleared off a space so that my son can sit at my desk and do his homework.

Now I feel more relaxed. I can focus on my work, instead of being overwhelmed by work. An organized desk has helped me feel more in control of my life.

What does your desk look like? Is it a struggle to keep it organized?

Job+housing ideas for Hawaii

August 2, 2016

Job+housing Ideas

In Hawaii, we don’t only have a housing problem. We have a jobs-and-housing problem. It’s not enough to find people affordable housing. People need jobs so that they can afford their affordable housing.

Unfortunately, most of our public assistance programs address either job training or homelessness, but not both. The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has over 1500 job training programs from 42 “eligible training providers” (ETPs). The Hawaii Department of Human Services coordinates 22 agencies, 13 emergency shelters, and 32 traditional shelters across the state. We have rent subsidies, public housing, and weekly “cleanups” to clear public sidewalks.

I believe that we need more programs to assist with housing and employment. I thought about Hawaii’s current job market (tourism), Hawaii’s recent history (plantations), and Hawaii’s isolated geography. Here are 3 off-the-cuff ideas that combine jobs and housing.

Hotel room and board program. In Hawaii, tourism is one of our largest industries, employing over 150,000 people in 2010, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. We could create new property tax categories to allow hotels and resorts to set aside a limited number of rooms for employees. Hotels could pay a lower wage in return for providing a room, or receive a small tax credit by offering rooms to employees at subsidized rates. Hotels could even set aside an entire floor for employees, who could apply for a room by showing financial hardship.

Public parks caretakers. In Honolulu alone, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) manages 290 named parks on 5,200 acres of land, employing over 1,800 people. To help maintain the parks and deter vandalism, the DPR could create a “Park Caretaker” program for larger staffed parks. Similar to a plantation community, one or two families could live in caretaker cabins, as long as at least one member of the household is employed by the park.

Job relocation program. Hawaii is an expensive place to live and the job market is limited. Sometimes we have to make the hard decision to move to cities where there are jobs and companies are desperate for qualified workers. A job relation program could help people find jobs in other states with larger job markets and more affordable housing. We could help individuals with resume writing, job applications, interviews, business attire, moving expenses, finding a first apartment, and even enrolling in schools. Teams of 2-5 individuals or families could even go through the job relocation program together, moving to the same city at the same time, perhaps initially living as roommates. They would become a built-in support network for advice, friendship, and even emergency babysitting.

What housing programs you consider successful in Hawaii? Do you think that Hawaii is doing a good job of addressing the affordable housing issue? Is it government’s responsibility to find homes for everyone?

Changing job expectations

July 19, 2016

Job Search

Recently, I started looking for a new job. As I updated my resume, I reflected that job hunting is very different from when I first looked for a job.

More and more, we are not satisfied with just having a job to pay our bills. We want more than a career – we want a calling. We want to work for ourselves instead of someone else, to have more control over our time and projects. We want our job to mean something so that we feel the satisfaction of not just a job well done, but a job with purpose.

In college, my job search criteria were convenience and opportunity. Without a car, my choices were limited. Is it close to where I live? Will they hire me? Without work experience, I expected to get an entry-level, minimum wage job. I expected that I probably wouldn’t like it. I expected it to be temporary.

Right out of college, my job focus was on value – the highest salary I could get for my skills, even if I had to commute farther or work longer hours. I was willing to put in the time to gain experience. Will I enjoy my job most of the time? Can I work with my boss and my co-workers? Do I trust the company and believe in its products or services? I expected to have to prove myself. I expected a minimum level of benefits. I expected some opportunity for a promotion.

In later jobs, my goal was challenge. It was about taking on more responsibility and planning as well as doing. It wasn’t necessarily about a promotion or pay increase (thought it helps). What can I learn from the job? How can I contribute to the company? I expected to work longer hours. I expected to have some fun and room for creativity. I expected that my efforts would be acknowledged, if not rewarded.

Now my perspective has changed again and service is a higher priority. I know we often take the jobs we can get, but a big part of finding a job is where we start looking for a job. How does the company help the community? What does the company value? I expect the company to have local ties. I expect a corporate philosophy of giving back in some way.

Many college students and recent graduates seen to have jumped to a realization that took me years to reach: people are more important than a career.

What values are important to you when looking for a new job? What values are important to your business?