Archive for the ‘Business’ category

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?

Movie theaters of the future

May 17, 2016

Movie Theaters

When I was a kid, my mom and I used to go to the movies almost every weekend. Sometimes we even watched two movies! Movie theaters were comfortable and cool during warm Hawaii afternoons, and we always indulged in snacks. Today, I don’t go to the movies nearly as often. With the high price of movie tickets, I have to ration the movies I see.

My mom recently asked me what I thought about “The Premier,” a new “cinema experience” with reserved seating, a gourmet menu, and craft beer and wine at Consolidated Ward Theatres in Honolulu. I was impressed by the idea, but skeptical about the price. I couldn’t imagine paying more than I had to for movie tickets, and I don’t drink. I agreed with my mom, who emailed, “I, for one, would not be willing to spend MORE money to see a movie and eat their food, no matter how good.”

That said, I still enjoy going to the movies and I don’t want to lose neighborhood movie theaters. I really appreciate how Hawaii movie theaters are trying to innovate. Consolidated Theatres offers “Crybaby Matinees” (movies for parents and babies, with dimmed lights and softer volume) and the “Hana Hou Picture Show” (a retro film series). Regal Cinemas offer collectible tickets, movie merchandise, and more comfort (select theaters have Regal King Size Recliners with padded footrests).

It’s hard to compete with the convenience and price of streaming services and pay-per-view. To survive, movie theaters need to offer something that they can’t: a valuable and exclusive theater experience.

Here are 5 more ways that movie theaters could create a meaningful experience for movie-goers with exclusive screenings:

* Cast and crew talks. For any movie or documentary, theaters could invite cast members, writers, directors, and crew to do a panel discussion, exclusive interview, or question-and-answer before or after the movie. They could charge an additional ticket fee for an autograph or photo, as the Other Realms did when Marvel’s Stan Lee visited Honolulu.

* Multicultural gourmet experiences. For films set in other countries, theaters could invite guest chefs to introduce movie-goers to different cuisines or regional cuisines. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – theaters could partner with a local restaurant or a culinary school whose students could benefit from advertising and experience in a “Hell’s Kitchen”-like evening.

* Night of improv. For comedies and romantic comedies, theaters could invite a local improvisation group, comedy club, or school drama club to perform skits based on the movie. Again, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, especially since it gives performers and students stage experience.

* Live-action demonstrations. For action movies, theaters could invite stunt coordinators, stunt-men, fight choreographers, and even martial arts instructors to give live demonstrations. Movie-goers could how to take a punch or fall (without being knocked out by ticket prices).

* Costumed characters. For kids movies, theaters could invite costumed characters for photo ops and meet-and-greets after the movie, similar to “Breakfast with Santa” or “Brunch with the Easter Bunny.” But limit the merchandise, please.

If movie theaters continue to offer “experiences” that are exclusive, meaningful, and interactive I think theaters will do well.

How often do you go to the movies? Do you remember the first movie you saw at the theater? What would make you go to the movies more?

Entrepreneurship and a kernel of passion

November 10, 2015

Startup Weekend 2015

Today, we are all encouraged to take more initiative with our ideas – starting with school-aged children. There are many opportunities to be an entrepreneur in Hawaii, from sports teams fundraisers, Girl Scout cookie sales, and Keiki Swap Meets (through the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center) to Lemonade Alley, which teaches Hawaii children about starting a business and charitable giving.

You don’t have to be young to pursue a good idea. This week is dedicated to celebrating and encouraging entrepreneurs, innovators, and startup businesses for fun, for profit, or for giving it to a cause.

* Startup Weekend Honolulu is going on this weekend, November 13-15, where hopeful entrepreneurs can pitch business ideas in just 60 seconds, vote for the top 15 ideas, form teams, and bring a business to life. The event takes place at Agora and Boxjelly in Kaka’ako over an intense 54 hours. I’m interested to see what ideas they bring to life!

* Global Entrepreneurship Week starts next week, November 16-22, as a way to inspire more people become entrepreneurs and create more jobs. Through local and national events, it helps people explore their potential as entrepreneurs, connect innovators and mentors, and encourage business opportunities. I don’t think there are any Global Entrepreneurship Week partners or events in Hawaii yet – Pennsylvania and Texas seem to be the most active.

As 20-somethings, my husband and I started a small business. We went to work during the day, and came home to our second job in the evening and on weekends. We didn’t expect to make a lot of money, just enough to add to our savings. We were young, with a lot of energy and no kids. We didn’t pay ourselves, but we saved up enough to help with the down-payment on our first home. A side benefit of working two jobs was that we had less time to spend the extra money we made.

Here are three mindsets that helped us take the first step to starting and running a small business:

  1. Don’t hesitate because it’s not your passion. You can grow a business from a kernel of passion or support someone else’s passion. Just be sure that it’s something you believe in, something you’re excited about, or something you’re good at. After all, you’ll be committing a lot of time to your business.
  2. Focus on “fringe benefits” – the people you meet (customers, partners, and vendors), the knowledge you gain, and the experience you earn. Don’t expect a big payoff in money, customers, or media attention.
  3. It’s okay to dream small. You don’t need to quit your job, use your life’s savings, or constantly pitch your business to family and friends. Keep your “day job” and set modest goals, such as breaking even (a hobby that pays for itself), earning enough for a weekend getaway, or setting aside some of your profits for a charity. Remember to plan for success anyway!

Most of us can’t or shouldn’t make a leap of faith into entrepreneurship. A small business doesn’t have to be your life – it can be something we do on the side for extra income. It can be an excuse to pursue a hobby. It can just be something to keep us busy and out of trouble. Sometimes that kernel of passion bursts into popcorn; sometimes it’s a dud.

Have you ever wanted to start your own business? What kind of business would you dream up?

Where did our interisland ferry go?

September 8, 2015

Interisland Travel

In the 1930s, residents and visitors could travel between Hawaii’s islands by boat. “Travel to the outside islands by boat was $9 to Kaua‘i, $5.50 to Moloka‘i and Lana‘i, $14.50 one way to Hilo, and only $11.50 to Mahukona, Kawaihae, and Kailua on the Big Island,” wrote Maile Yardley in her book “Hawaii’s Glamour Days” (1996).

I don’t know when we lost our interisland ferry service, but we currently have just two ferries that connect Maui and Lanai and Maui and Molokai. The Hawaii Super Ferry, which transported passengers, cargo, and vehicles, closed down in 2009 after just 15 months of service.

To be honest, I expected the next governor to step up and revive the project. I expected another Hawaii company to try to find a way to run a ferry service efficiently and affordably. I expected more public support for an interisland ferry to connect all of the islands. I missed my chance to ride the Super Ferry, and I don’t understand why we can’t bring it back.

Most island nations have a ferry service. In Indonesia, there are passenger liners that do weekly and monthly circuits among the islands, as well as ASDP fast ferries. In Japan, there is a ferry service between the main Japanese islands as well as other islands in the Japan Sea, China, and South Korea, with shared or private berths. In the Bahamas, there are slow boats to the Out Islands and Fast Ferries that run twice daily between Nassau and Harbor Island and North Eleuthera, and twice weekly between Nassau and Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera. In Australia, there is passenger and vehicle ferry service between Melbourne and Tasmania; a SeaLink ferry between South Australia and Kangaroo Island; and ferries connecting suburbs in capital cities.

True, those island nations have a much larger population than Hawaii’s 1.4 million people. But consider Fiji, with around 900,000 people on 106 inhabited islands, which is connected by fast passenger catamarans, passenger ferries, and cargo boats. Consider the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, with around 1.3 million people, which are connected by a daily ferry service between Port Spain and Scarborough for passengers, cargo, and vehicles; as well as the Water Taxi service between Port Spain and San Fernando. Yet Hawaii relies on airplanes for interisland travel.

Here are 7 reminders about why Hawaii needs an interisland passenger ferry service:

* Convenience. A ferry would allow passengers to take their pets, vehicles, surfboards, canoes, bicycles, mopeds, and more to other islands. Luggage could be stored in cars, and you could be ready to go just after arriving at a port.

* Affordability. A ferry service might take longer, but it could also be more affordable for families and large groups, like a family that wants to go camping, a high school band, or a theatre group.

* Choice. A ferry service is a good alternative for people who don’t like to travel by air; who want room to move around or fresh air instead of recycled cabin air; or who have large valuables that they don’t want to trust to baggage handling. It could offer amenities with fine dining and entertainment for those who want a more luxurious way to travel.

* Business transport. A ferry service could help small businesses transport products to neighbor islands more quickly and affordably, letting them load up their own vehicles and deliver to their customers.

* Kamaaina tourism. We could promote neighbor island staycations, strengthening our economy and helping Hawaii businesses. Passengers could even cruise around the islands.

* Emergency response. A ferry could carry foods, supplies, medicine, and aid workers to affected areas during and after a hurricane, tsunami, or other natural disaster.

* Evacuation. A ferry could carry wounded or displaced persons to a more safe or well-stocked area, or could reunite families on different islands after a disaster.

I think it’s again time to plan for a ferry service to give residents and visitors more options for interisland travel. We are an island state and we need to be more connected to each other. What do you think?

Cash not accepted

September 1, 2015

Cash not accepted

Swap meets used to be treasure hunts. We could find the old, the odd, the broken, and the discarded; and we could even “swap” our junk for someone else’s. Today’s swap meets, like the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet and eBay, are really bazaars, where we can buy new and used, hand-made and mass-produced items.

The closest thing to a “swap meet” – an exchange of goods and services – is Craigslist, which has a small category called “barter” tucked away under “for sale.” Recently, under Hawaii listings, I saw a 20-gallon Contractor shop vac (new hose needed) being offered in exchange for a Mobi phone; an Xbox 360 being offered in exchange for a 64-oz Hydroflask; and a Safari van being offered in exchange for a motorcycle.

I really like the idea of a barter service – one that helps us save money, trade goods that might otherwise sit in the closet, and prevent more stuff from ending up in a landfill.

Maybe someone has already come up with a plan. If not, I’d like to see Hawaii set up a demonstration project – a barter service that matches people who need products or services and have something of equal value to offer in exchange. It would be a website more local than eBay and more bona fide than Craigslist.

Here are 7 guidelines to starting a barter matching service:

1. Barterers would have to confirm their identity through the service, while keeping their name and contact information anonymous until there’s a “match.”

2. Barterers could only offer legal products that they own, free and clear – no offering on behalf of someone else. Pick-up or delivery would be negotiable.

4. Barterers could only offer lawful services of their own time and effort, not someone else’s; though the offer could include help from one or more other people. The use of tools, equipment, and electricity would be negotiable.

4. Barterers would list what they need and what they have to offer in trade, no cash accepted.

* I need or I have products… valued under $100 (textbooks, an electric drill, a blender); valued over $100 (a bicycle, a handmade quilt, a washing machine); and recurring products (weekly seasonal vegetables, monthly flower arrangements).

* I need or I have services… valued under 4 hours (manicure, dog walking, lawn mowing); valued over 4 hours (home cleaning, home remodeling help, business consulting); and recurring services (weekly lawn mowing, weekly tutoring or coaching, monthly haircuts).

5. Barterers could set a geographic area for the exchange of products and services. In addition, safe and well-lit public libraries and shopping malls could act as exchange locations.

6. Barterers would be able to rate each other on communication, courtesy, and trustworthiness.

7. The barter service would be free to use and exempt from the general excise tax. No paperwork or tax returns.

We already do informal trades between family, friends, and neighbors. I think we need the opportunity to expand the “network” of people we trust and share the things we need.

Could a barter service succeed in Hawaii? Would you be willing to try it out?