Author Archives: Angie Weinberger

 

Our lives have become too complex. We can hardly survive a day without our smartphones anymore and when we are offline or have low batteries it creates feelings of anxiety and fear of missing out (FOMO).

I have conducted an experiment over the last three months. I would like to summarize the learning for you and you might want to follow me in this experiment.

I intended to find ways to simplify my life. I hoped I would find topics that seem to be more complex in our shared, multifaceted lives today and that I could deconstruct them and make them simple again.

To write this blog post I started a tool list (communication tools, apps, email accounts, sharing platforms and overviews) I am regularly working with. The tool list became very long. I am not even sure I finished it yet. It’s more a toolbox now than a list.

I immediately felt stressed when I looked at my tools. Even though I had already deleted a few apps from my iPhone, I did not feel calm and relaxed. I missed my connection to the world.

To give you an example I use nine different communication tools. One of them is email. I manage about five email accounts. In addition to Facebook and Messenger, I manage four Facebook pages. Most of it is automated but I need to respond to incoming queries.

If I compare my current situation to your situation I imagine that you receive a lot more relevant and actionable emails, messages and information than I do. One of the goodies of having your own business is that no one puts pressure on you, so I only read client emails and blogs I want to read.

I notice though that it is not always easy to focus when I sit on my computer. I have to close a lot of pages and put my iPhone on silent if I want to get work done.

One of the disadvantages of having your own business, especially in certain low times is that you also cannot delegate any work to others. Maybe you will find it amusing that for me booking a ticket from Dijon to Frankfurt is worth writing a blog post about. Issues like this one can become time-consuming.

 

This is why I also wanted to write an accomplishment list of ten tasks that I did not enjoy a lot. I had to get them done in the last few weeks and I noted how much time they took, where I found support and what I learned.

In the last steps, I jotted down my simplification principles. At the end of the post, I share further observations.

Accomplishment List

So after being completely overwhelmed with my tools, I wrote the Accomplishment List of the last three months

  1. Booking a ticket on train from Zurich to Dijon to Frankfurt to Zurich. – This took forever as I worked with three different websites, made a mistake and finally sorted it out on the counter at the Dijon train station (with my rusty French skills). Cost CHF 8.60
  2. Organizing my references and homework for the Global Mobility Master class. – I went through the homework via one platform and another website, printed handbooks because I could not read them well online and downloaded Zotero to organize my bibliography and references. It seems great. I also managed to get access to the ETH Library.
  3. Finding a way to cash a 100 USD cheque from Amazon. – Not possible in Switzerland. Will have to go to Germany to do this. Task is pending.
  4. Deleting a bank account in Germany, that I didn’t even know I still had. – Ongoing since October I think. I also try to explain to them, that I have been a tax resident in Switzerland since 2009 (and that I am not trying to evade German taxes but that this is actually legal.) Very nice person on the phone, helped me a lot. She also told me not to care. Then her colleague called to say that they needed the forms anyway. Email is not possible. I had to send a letter. Received one back because I used the tax file number instead of my AHV-number. Had to send another letter.
  5. Canceling a direct debit authorization for an insurance I pay into in Germany. – Cost CHF 7.50 because the second time I did not rely on email but sent registered mail with a snarky feedback written in handwriting on their letter.
  6. Getting an important corporate contract signed via Docusign. – A few issues in the process. Luckily, I checked with my contact and found out that she never received the final signed version.
  7. Writing and editing a new workbook of about 30’000 words – Fairly straightforward so far as I have decided to let go of perfectionism and pilot the content with a few readers via Mailchimp. I also notice that once I sit down I can draft a whole chapter in one or two hours. One issue I found is that Grammarly does not work with Google Docs. So I can draft in G-Docs but have to edit in Mailchimp.
  8. Moving two Swisscom connections to the new “Glasfasernetz”. – Too long to explain, approximately 10 phone calls, one personal visit and three months to solve. Seems to save me a few bucks. Not sure if my connection is better than before. I experienced more connectivity issues in January and February than over the last nine years. I used to have electronic billing, now I get paper invoices again. Back to the Future with Swisscom.
  9. Cleaning my windows. – I procrastinated on this task because frankly I hate cleaning windows. My approach was to get it done 80% – 90%. The windows don’t look perfect but a lot better than before. Took me about an hour. I can still improve the cleaning when it is warmer outside and when I am going to enjoy the sunshine on my windows. I think, I might owe my cold to this task. I’ve had it for two weeks. In hindsight, very painful and annoying.
  10. Developing a new kind of interactive workshop for the Global Mobility Master class, holding it and following up with the participants. – The preparation took forever. I could have probably used less material but felt it was a great learning and research experience for the students and myself. The technology we used is borderline illegal but there seems to be a new book scanner which is amazing. I also cut open a textbook in the process. All for science and the team.

 

Simplification Principles

Based on my learning I have drafted these simplification principles. It might help you to use them or create your own.

  1. People over Robots!
  2. Move from DIGITAL to ANALOGUE on purpose. My pink notebook is always with me. I use it to write my Morning Pages, Have-Done-Lists and anything else that comes to mind during the day.
  3. Reduce everything and delete unused apps from i-phone. Limit apps to two pages.
  4. My phone is off from 9 PM to 6 AM. It’s not allowed in the bedroom.
  5. Use Post-it for visualization of important stuff. The idea is: One thought, one post-it.
  6. Say “No, thank you…” or “yes, if…” to any proposal for meetings, work and tasks right away. Commit fast and decline fast.
  7. When asked for meetings give two options only.
  8. Always set a deadline by when another person should come back to you.
  9. Try to connect on three or four channels with existing clients, especially if they have booked a paid appointment with you. If they still don’t respond, assume that they have died and let them rest in peace. (#sarcasm).
  10. Reconsider the word “urgent” to mean “please respond within seven days”. (Really, I don’t understand why everyone thinks that a personalized email shall be ignored for at least 48 hours.)
  11. A message on Whatsapp does not require “dear first name” as a greeting and “kind regards angie weinberger” as an ending. Use Whatsapp on desktop only. Saves time for typing.
  12. Wear black most of the time. On Wednesdays add a color.
  13. If you don’t know what to wear because you don’t know if the occasion is formal or not, wear a black suit and say that you are a consultant by wardrobe.
  14. ALWAYS travel the day before an event and leave the day after. Plan enough time to travel but also to prepare and wind down after an event. (Note to self: Don’t think you are 29 and hang out with your fellow students until the bar closes.)
  15. I don’t have to be on Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram just because everybody else is. Facebook is shortly to be blacklisted too.

 

I will share further observation in another post.

PS: If you consider volunteering please read Nadia’s post on LinkedIn on why she volunteers for Capacity Zurich.

Some say Feng Shui is the Chinese art of arranging the furniture in your home. But I can assure you, as a certified Feng Shui consultant (FSS), it really is so much more! It’s all about your own energy and where you put it. What does this have to do with spring cleaning? It’s simple: The outer order reflects your inner order. Meaning: If I am unhappy with myself and the world, or feel tired and worn out, my home usually looks like a bomb has struck with things lying around everywhere. After I clean it all up again I always feel so much more satisfied than before. I now feel ‘clean’ inside and am ready to conquer the world again.

Winter is a time of rest and darkness. It is the last season in the lifecycle, representing stagnation or even death as everything slows down and freezes. In those days I get lazy and love to curl up in a warm blanket on the sofa and do as little as possible.

Once the days get longer and temperatures begin to rise the yearly lifecycle starts all over again. Spring is the time of birth and growth. What better time to turn new ideas into projects? But before I can start my new projects, I want to get rid of the old dirt and all the unwanted, unloved stuff. This is where my spring cleaning comes in.

Remember how my outside (the home I live in) represents what my inside looks like? I admit that during the winter I put things into drawers just to have them out of the way quick. After a while this disorder starts to irritate me. It’s now time to do something about this mess!

Then I realize there is soooooo much to do, but where do I start? When I think about it I get overwhelmed, don’t know where to start and end up doing nothing at all. I feel like I will never ever get it all done, that it will take me forever and right now I just don’t have time for this…

Here are some tips that really help me get started with my spring cleaning:

1. I start small and decide to do only one thing at a time.

If I decide to clear out only one drawer today (not the whole commode!), then I usually get it done, because the goal is reachable within a short amount of time. Usually the energy comes while cleaning and if I have time to spare I continue and do another one and another and before I know it it’s all done. If I don’t have the time I just do the next drawer the following day.

2. Throw away the things you don’t love anymore

When going through my stuff I find all sorts of things, that I had forgotten about and I ask myself:

  1. Do I still love it?
    Yes = keep it / No = on to the next question (valid for all questions below)
  2. Does it raise good/happy memories when I use it or look at it?
  3. Will I ever need it again?
  4. Will I miss it when it’s gone?

If I say YES, I find a good place to put it and go on to the next thing.

If the answer is NO to all these questions, then into the trash it goes. Sometimes the item still looks new and I am reluctant to throw it out, then I either sell it on eBay/Tutti.ch etc. or ask around if anyone can use it or who may love to have it.

3. Sort out your Wardrobe

The same goes for my wardrobe. Here I ask myself the following questions:

  1. When was the last time I wore this? If it was more than 2 years ago out it goes
  2. Do I feel/look good when I wear it? If not, out it goes.

4. Treat yourself after reaching the set goal

After I finish cleaning out that one drawer or my wardrobe, I treat myself to a nice little break. This could be a cup of tea on the sofa, or 30 Minutes of reading in my favorite book or just put my feet up for a few minutes and congratulate myself.

Clearing out old stuff gives me space and energy for new things and ideas. Cleaning up is actually step 1 of my professional Feng Shui advice. Before you rearrange any furniture or paint any walls its important to clear out unloved and unwanted things.

If you are interested in learning more about Feng Shui or wish to have a professional Feng Shui consultation, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can also visit www.fengshuiprincess.ch.

Looking forward to meeting you and happy spring cleaning!

Kind regards

Jacqueline

 

Jacqueline Vicario

Jacqueline Vicario
Dipl. Feng Shui Beraterin FSS since 2013

Jacqueline was born in New York, N.Y. USA to Swiss parents, who were interested in iGing and Feng Shui.  Raised half in Switzerland and half in the USA but calling Switzerland her home for the last 30 years. Works as an Administrative Assistant and Feng Shui Consultant

FSS = Feng Shui Schule Schweiz

 

Martina has not been able to find a new job for six months. It’s not because of her qualifications. She is well qualified and has work experience. It might be her self-confidence and that she gets nervous in interviews.

She thinks one of the reasons for her lack of success at securing a job is that she is very realistic about her skills and when asked in an interview she is honest. I guess successful candidates aren’t always honest. That’s the message she got.

Successful people are better at conveying who they are and how they work.

I have made a small mistake in my earlier career. I worked away and assumed that someone would notice my great performance. Colleagues were promoted faster and earned more money. Then one day, one of my former managers pointed it out to me. She asked me how my current manager would notice that I was working hard while I was in a different country.

I got better at communicating to my manager what I was doing and how I contributed to the success of the team. Had she not told me I would probably still sit in that same office, doing the same job. I asked for weekly meetings with my new manager and  even wrote quarterly summaries of what I had achieved. This not only led to more praise and faster promotions, I also got more self-confident and daring. I was even headhunted.

Another manager showed me how to improve my self-branding. She recommended a number of great books to me. All managers who really helped me move forward were women. Maybe because they understood that we tend to be more critical towards ourselves and that we do not always sell ourselves in the best possible manner.

I am very grateful to those managers. As I care for Martina and you, I want her and you to succeed.

Recommendations:

  1. Write a weekly reflection for yourself at the end of the week. (You can use the RockMe! App for guidance).
  2. Share your three weekly achievements with your manager.
  3. In your 1:1 tell your manager what you have accomplished and where you struggle. If you don’t have a 1:1 do it in writing.
  4. Share more than you take. Share your knowledge in your internal yammer and sharepoint.
  5. Share your knowledge on LinkedIn, highlight interesting posts to colleagues and start guest blogging.

Have an inspired week ahead
Angie Weinberger

How to make friends in Switzerland
https://youtu.be/WCSQwPv6Z-k

“Why did I not learn more about Finance?” I repeatedly asked myself since I started my own business and will I ever get my head around the financial side of the business? Will I ever get better at managing cash flow?

It didn’t make sense to me. I was good with computing cost projections and balance sheets for expats. I can explain the difference between purchasing power parity and cost-of-living index. I can tell you how COLA relates to foreign exchange rates. I was excellent in Math as a student. So it’s NOT that I don’t like numbers.

My issue was more that I lacked the practical understanding of a “good housewife”. I didn’t know how much a liter of milk would normally cost in the supermarket. I didn’t know those little secrets of saving money in Switzerland such as the fact that Migros and Denner are essentially under the same corporate umbrella but you can buy twice as much food at Denner.

When I was working as Global Mobility Leader, I had a good paycheck. In Germany, I would even go grocery shopping in the “bio” shop Alnatura. My mother would say that I might as well go shopping in a pharmacy. For me, this meant “quality of life”. It meant that I would not be stressed at the cashier on Saturday because five other people were in line behind me.

There was another issue why I stopped learning more about finance, investments, saving money when I was employed: I had a bad relationship with money. Money stinks. Money doesn’t make you happy. When you have money, you don’t talk about it. I had all sorts of relationship issues with money.

This article is for you if you started out as a business owner or if you feel that you need to heal your relationship to money. And if you are not a female but you feel you need to get better with money, you may read this article as well. Let’s try to understand a few basics of finance and financial independence.

Maintain one spreadsheet called Cash Flow Plan

If you want to run a sustainable business, work with a cash flow plan. It can be a simple one, but you need to have your finances in order. In the early days of my business, I asked my BFF (who is a Finance guru) to review my business plan. She explained that I would just need to ensure that there is a cash flow in and that it is bigger than the cash flow out. Easier said than done, but I still use that same plan in year seven.

Moving from a monthly fixed income to a fluctuating income

When you are used to a certain lifestyle with a fixed monthly income you rely on that paycheck a lot. If you are unemployed or if you start out as a freelancer you have to get used to a fluctuating income. You probably had 100’000 CHF in your bank account as a starting capital and reserve and in my experience, you will need that in Switzerland in your first two years in business (unless your business is a hobby).

Finding finance information that you actually want to read

This is a challenge I have addressed with bankers several times already. Most financial information is written in a way that no one wants to read it. Some of it does not even make a lot of sense. I received a weird letter the other day and sent it back with edits and side comments. The main message was: We could not deduct money from your account but there was a lot of fluff around it. It took me a while to understand why this company wrote to me. I have started to read the Cashguru blog now, so at least I know what is going on at the SMI in Switzerland.

KPI’s for MNC’s might not fit for small businesses

I studied Finance in college, so you would think I get it but most of these models relate to MNCs, not small businesses. This knowledge does not really help in practical matters such as where to buy in bulk or how to maintain a cash reserve. The most important KPI I remember from uni is the relation between borrowed capital and your own capital. Now, if you start out, you might just want to use your own capital. That’s a lot smarter than lending. For the years ahead, you need to find a healthy ratio between investing and earning. That’s all. Don’t forget that in Switzerland if you have a sole proprietorship a lot of your reporting obligations change at the magic 100k CHF turnover mark.

Learn Vocabulary

If you want to appear financially competent when talking to your bank manager, financial advisors, insurance brokers, mortgage providers or lawyers, you need to know a few basics and speak their language. For example, you need to understand interest and how it works. Also negative interest, debt and how you get into debt. What is an advantage of a mortgage versus paying rent? How do open and closed investment funds actually work?

I agreed with my bank lady, that we would meet in person once a year to go through the main issues and look at my risk profile and discuss my financial planning for the year. I enjoy that I have a personal contact and someone who helps out in case I need urgent support with the online banking.

Learn about budgeting

In the early years and even before I launched GPT, I used to spend more than I earned. I applied “Reaganomics”. What works in politics, does not really work for a small business. At the time, I did not really understand that this investment could hinder my potential for getting out of the red figures in the long term.

I sometimes took bad financial decisions. For example, I started to pay myself a salary too early. I listened to an advisor and should have listened to my gut feeling. Remember that other people’s experience in the business world could be biased. They have opened their business many years before. Switzerland has also suffered from the global economic crisis.  Often the Swiss have access to networks that foreigners will not really get into. Also, men might have faster results than women because of unconscious biases of their buyers.

Depending on your type of business, you should have a current account, which balances your company and your personal investments and costs. I would advise that you separate your private and company accounts.

Dealing with a cycle of costs

My business is cyclical and once I understood the cost and earning cycle, I could prepare myself better for the downtimes. For example, I have a lot of annual invoices in January but January is often a slow month.
It’s generally better to split invoices into smaller parts. Often, when you ask the insurance provider they are willing to support you on a payment plan. If you want to be ahead of your costs, you should ask for larger invoices and pay them as soon as you possibly can.

Learn to manage cash flow

One cardinal rule I have broken a little bit in 2017 was that I try to pay all my own vendors in advance so that they would always get their money. It means that I have to budget their quarterly invoices too and it happened once or twice that I had to put a service on hold because of lack of funding.

Another principle I have developed is to check my account twice or thrice a week, sometimes even daily. I try to issue an invoice as soon as the service has been delivered or as soon as the booking has been confirmed.

Many large relocation companies and training agencies have very long payment periods. I suffered greatly from these in the early years of my business. I had delivered a service but sometimes was only paid 60 to 90 days later. In some instances, invoices got lost in cost center discussions and bad processes. Once I got paid two years later only. Now, I am more careful about the agreements in the contracts and I try to follow up on outstanding invoices faster. I use a “Small Invoices” to manage my invoicing process.

Read and study

Even though Finance is not my favorite subject I found out that if I research more about a topic, I can reduce hassle and costs for my business. For example, I clarified how the VAT-system works when working across borders. On invoices I received from service providers outside of Switzerland, I asked them to change their invoices so that my company would show as responsible for VAT. I also found a good rule for issuing invoices for service providers located out of Switzerland. In my first year claiming VAT back on a company car paid my rent and expenses for a month.

Review your Pricing

I review my pricing every year and check if my services are still at the price level where I feel I should get paid. It is not always possible for me to insist on a certain rate or price but I got a lot better asking for it. I see a lot of women who undersell themselves or do not even consider that they could earn more. In my RockMe! program we define a financial goal for every client.

Buy local where you need service

I buy local where I need service. Everything else I try to order online. You might be wondering why I need to have human interaction to buy a mundane product like toner, paper or pens. The reason is that for me these shopping trips are a pleasure. I like to go to the “Papeterie” and browse what they have on offer. It’s not just a transaction.

Invest in yourself the most

Over the years as a company owner and Managing Director of www.globalpeopletransitions.com I allowed most of my investments to be investments in myself. I enjoy having a beautiful working space I can go to and hang out in all day. I love to go to seminars and invest in my skills and knowledge. I know that I have to be better than average in order to stay competitive and that requires that I keep up to date with technology, knowledge in my field and update my skills constantly. Maybe it’s time to go to a Finance course.

Money and Food

I noticed with a friend recently that money and food have a lot in common too. If you tend to overeat you might also have a tendency to overspend. I am currently fasting from certain foods and from money. It means that I try to reduce my spending to the bare essentials. It helps once in a while to have an empty fridge, to buy only what you really need and drop the coffee at Starbucks or the wines at Bohemia.

Happy international women’s day!

Angie Weinberger

PS: Are you struggling with how to set your price tag?
Check out these PRICING articles on my blog.

 

Hiking and writing

Hiking and writing are similar. You start with a regular writing practice and move on to more elaborate content afterward. One of the challenges of the writing process is that we are not always in the mood. Well, I’d like to compare it to hiking. Maybe you are not always in the mood for hiking either, but when you have been outside even for just half an hour and you moved your body, breathed fresh air you will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after your hike, your muscles are warm, your brain works better and you can handle more stress.

With writing it is similar. Once I completed my early morning writing I feel a lot more accomplished and ready to tackle the day. Mostly those pages are random. They are not worth reading again. They sometimes just list lose ideas and connect the associations in my head. Often I express a wish or two for the next day.

I stood on the Uetliberg (that’s the house mountain of Zurich) when I noticed that sometimes we walk up a mountain without knowing where the top is. We have no clarity how far the top is and what the top will look like.

We are not sure, what we will find there. For example, I expected there to be a restaurant but I did not expect it to be so full that I would walk out again right away without even considering a bio-break. Or I did not expect a water fountain up there where I could fill my water bottle, which was helpful.

If you consider your first year on an international assignment to be an uphill hike which takes your breath away and makes your heart pound faster than a “Geigerzaehler”, then you probably cannot wait to reach the top.

From the top you expect to have a view and your pace will be easier. You expect to walk along the top plain or you could just hike down. During my last hike I noted a few concepts that helped when I hiked up. I would like to share them with you for your support. Your current challenge could be that you don’t have a job in market you don’t understand or you have started a new role or you don’t know what 2018 will bring to your current role.

Stand at a safe space and look back down

We tend to forget what we have already managed, been through and survived when we only focus on the mountain top. Once in a while allow yourself a break and look back how far you have come already. What helps here is the weekly reflection exercise I recommend in the RockMe! App. You could also just take an A4 sized paper and write down “What is better than one year ago?”. 

You still need to hike at the top

Even when you are at the highest point of the mountain and would like to walk along the plains you still need to keep moving. As a manager you will still need to deal with people’s issues, as a Global Mobility Leader you will still manage special VIP cases, as an Expat Spouse you still have to take care of your partner and children.

You might expect too much of others

Expectations and disappointments are a normal part of human nature. If you want to move away from other people’s expectations and pressures, then you could try to write down and speak out wishes instead. Because with a wish you never know if it will be granted to you. And it’s ok to make a wish related to another person but it’s not okay that you expect anything of another person.

Hiking makes your muscles sore

If you are not a fitness-freak you might feel your muscles for a few days after you hiked the mountain. I also think it is the same when we have achieved an important aim. We often feel the after effects a few months later. Sometimes it is necessary that you remind yourself what you have achieved and you could allow yourself a small celebration too.

I recommend to celebrate with a Bratwurst at the top but that’s just a small instant wish. For your new team management, new project or first year on the international assignment you could celebrate. Invite your spouse, partner or best friend to a weekend treat.

Hike on!

Angie

PS: If you feel you need time out to reflect your experience and work on your next career or life steps in a safe environment, I recommend you enroll in our RockMe! Retreat.