Category Archives: Global Mobility
RockMe! Retreat

I mentioned in my post Simplify Your Digital Life – On Reducing Complexity” that I learned a few more principles about how I work with the companies I encounter as a small business and private individual. Maybe this helps you to improve your customer experience too.

Reduced Clutter Equals Better Choices

When you consider simplifying your life there are certain standards that you expect. One example that comes to my mind is a website for a seemingly simple transaction such as buying a ticket or sending flowers. In both cases, those websites were overly full of information and had too many options. I probably just clicked what I thought was right, did not read the fine print and made mistakes.

Treat your Costumers like Intelligent Humans

Another site annoyed me in the last part of the buying process where I had invested already about half an hour selecting and declining additional options because they did not tell me that the delivery cost would be added at the end of the transaction. You probably think that this is normal and that I should not be surprised. I understand the principle, but what I did not like was that the delivery cost about 100% of the product. That was way out of proportion and did not make sense to me. I would have expected that there is a standard service with a delivery (a bunch of flowers). Maybe it’s my inexperience with such transactions but I gave feedback. I got a reply but it did not help…but at least I did not have to speak to a robot again.

Consumers should not be treated like idiots. I am happy to spend money but I want to feel that my money is well spent and in a lot of those cases I wasted either time or money because of lame processes or lack of customer service. I often wonder then why employees take no pride in their work, why they are not trying to make their customers happy, why they are not communicating better. The only explanation I have is our corporate culture. If we want to create amazing customer experiences, we also have to create better employee experiences. I think we also need to give our employees more freedom to make decisions to support the customers, like the lady who helped me at the SNCF counter. I also think we need to hire Generation X customer service representatives into shared service centers, who do not treat a 45-year-old like their best friend or their worst enemy and who have the patience to explain a process step by step.

As a Customer Give Feedback

These days, if I come across a bad website or a bad email marketing newsletter I give feedback. I know that I have not been asked to provide feedback, but I know that most of the time it helps me a lot. There are so many misunderstandings in written communication, we all come from different places and for most of us we feel challenged to communicate in our mother tongue, let alone in a second or third language.

Customer Service of Humans Tops Everything

I was annoyed by SNCF, the Novotel, and other sites because they did not allow me easily to reverse a transaction that I made in good faith. I lost money and time. While I am writing this post I am sitting in the same hotel that had annoyed me a few months back. I did not book it. There is no better option either. However, this time I was not expecting service and I was wondering if anyone would talk to me about my 1-star review on TripAdvisor. I even did not have a functioning credit card as a guarantee for them. BUT my experience is amazing. I needed help as I am unwell. I got free medicine and a fresh lemon for tea. The kitchen staff gave me lemons. I was treated friendly and could choose the floor and have a great view now. I am almost considering to reverse the bad review…but then logging in to Tripadvisor took too long again. Maybe I leave it there for a little longer to keep them on their feet.

 

Kind regards

Angie Weinberger

 

Guest post by Jacqueline Vicario

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 a 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 nine.

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 because you tend to tailor your lifestyle around your consistent monthly income. 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 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 experiences 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

Angie Weinberger

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

HireMeExpress – From desperate to confident as a Minority Expat Partner. 

HireMeExpress is the online course that will get you from desperate to carving out an income and feeling at home in your new country. Sign up here to find out everything you need to know in order to land a job in Switzerland or another market you are not familiar with. We will send you our 19 Fresh Resume Checkpoints and further material such as videos. In case you have any questions you can email us via angela@globalpeopletransitions.com.

International Business Travelers can face many issues. As a Consultant, I would tell you about all the compliance issues and the option of being held in detention if you get caught with the wrong visa or work permit. This is my tale of trying to book a ticket that involved three countries called Switzerland, Germany and France.

Once upon a time in a land far away, locked inside a few mountains, a middle-aged lady, Mrs. W. tried to live in a more environmentally friendly way. So she sent her carriage to Africa. It was the age of mass transportation, the neo-romanticism movement had just begun and a few freaks committed to train travel as a way of life.

Our middle-aged lady, Mrs. W. did consider a horse carriage but the train was the transportation of choice. It promised to offer safety, a view, the potential for a class of wine in the restaurant carriage and most importantly, it was supposedly reliable. Our lady had a commitment in the beautiful city of mustard: Dijon, France.

After two days in this beautiful little town she planned to liaise with her old-time university friend TK and his new, soon-to-be fiancée that she had not met yet. Mrs. W. needed to take a train to Frankfurt in Germany. Then she planned to return home, too late to see off her lover who was going to go on a long adventure in the lands, formerly known as Hindustan.

Mrs. W. tried to book her tickets. Her handmaiden was off on vacation so Mrs. W. so to the task herself. She also could not send her delivery boy, because she had let all the staff go due to urgent renovations happening in her castle (or cottage or mini city apartment).

The first part of the trip, from Zurich to Dijon went fine. The second part seemed more complicated. She first consulted with the train company in Switzerland. It seemed to be difficult for them to issue a ticket where none of the train station was in their territory. Then the train company in Germany told her it would take several days to process a ticket.

She hoped for a faster solution and asked locals in France for help. One of her assigned supporters from the university, gave her the hint to work with the French train company. When she finally managed to obtain a ticket, the confirmation letter told her that the ticket would arrive in four days with the mail. This was the day she would already be gone. Despite the potential of using the telephone, Mrs. W. was not sure if her French was up to the standard for such a complicated conversation.

So Mrs. W tried to contact the French train company again via the common mail exchange.

Support via Facebook Chat

How innovative she thought. She first received an answer from a machine.

Bonjour Angie ! Tu l’as sans doute remarqué, j’ai changé … Désormais, je m’appelle OUIbot pour que la seule réponse à tes envies de voyage soit « OUI » !

T’aider à réserver des voyages en train, c’est ma spécialité ! Mais ce n’est pas la seule corde à mon arc… NOUVEAU Maintenant réserve avec moi des trains TGVmax en ajoutant “en TGVmax” à ta recherche !

Mrs. W responded: I don’t speak French

The Machine said:

Désolé, je ne suis pas encore polyglotte… Mais je travaille dur pour y arriver!

The machine told her that he is not “polyglotte” but was working hard to get there. He tried to be funny. Even used emoticons to express his feelings. Mrs. W. was not amused.

She pressed the button “Talk to a Human”. Then she left the scene for a walk in the cold and icy city. She ended up in a bar where she met a friend and was at ease when she returned home. After dinner, she returned to her desk. A human seemed to take of her matter.

Un conseiller va prendre le relais. Pour qu’il soit le plus efficace possible, peux-tu me préciser ta demande ?

Mrs. W. tried to explain the issue in French and English.

Oui, je voudrais changer le ticket pour un ticket en ligne, pas de papier. (I don’t speak French so well but I need to have an online ticket, not a ticket sent by mail. I did not see that the ticket would be sent by mail. I assumed it was always a pdf or online ticket). Can you help me please?

Several hours passed. Nothing happened.

She got the same response. She would have to get a new ticket on the counter and claim the cost back via registered mail.

Mrs. W. gave in. She went to the counter and explained the issue. The lady at SNCF was efficient and helpful and showed her how to claim the ticket costs back. She typed a letter in French. The registered mail cost her CHF 8.60 and she had to go to the post office in person, because her handmaid and the butler had taken the day off again.

The SNCF tickets came a week after she had ordered them. In good time and they looked perfectly like back in the last century. “Handwritten tickets, that’s what’s missing” she thought to herself. The nostalgia that overcame her when she held the tickets in her hand was priceless. Yes, another adventure in the digital age. So Downton Abbey.

Angie

PS: Here is more on International Business Travelers (IBT) and if you need a more serious discussion about the topic please make an appointment with me.

Here are my tips on security measures for international business travelers and expats.

We are more sensitive to security issues after a terrorist attack. The precautions you can take are limited but will be helpful in an emergency situation be it a health issue, the death of one of your close relatives, a natural disaster or a terror attack.

  • Only travel when it is a necessity. Check if meetings can be held via video conferencing technology instead.
  • Update your personal information on Social Media.
  • Log in and register on the website of the security provider your company works with. If you don’t know the security provider ask your travel manager, HR manager, and Global Mobility Team. If none of them knows, ask Risk Management or Corporate Security. This information should be published on your company intranet site. Many companies work with International SOS ISOS and my experience with their support for expats is excellent.
  • Have a business card size overview of emergency numbers in your wallet AND your phone. Carry this card with you at all times. Have your passport, ID, work, and residence permit on you.
  • Carry a card with your blood type and allergies or other medical conditions in your wallet.
  • Stay connected to your spouse/life partner and agree regular times for calls when you are traveling.
  • Read the emergency travel alerts provided by ISOS and your Embassy.
  • In an emergency stay connected to other families in the host location. Contact International SOS ISOS or your security provider immediately when you feel you need to leave the country for health or safety reasons.
  • Have an emergency medical kit with you when you go on a business trip. Most company doctors provide such a kit when you go there to get necessary vaccinations and travel advice. Watch out for health issues after your journey.
  • If you have been in a traumatic situation seek psychological support for yourself and your family members. Your company will provide a contact.
  • As a single female business traveler prioritize safety and request safety rooms in hotels. Travel with recognized taxis and keep away from bars. In male-dominated cultures hire a driver or ask your host to ensure your personal safety.
  • Learn emergency phone numbers in the host country by heart.
  • If you manage a global team establish a call tree in your team and devise a backup structure for emergencies. Have an emergency data system for a day where you all have to work from home.

We all don’t want to think about emergencies but when we are in such a situation it is important that we can fall back on a program we have learned. It is important that we know already whom to call and where to find the number. If this is helpful for you please share.

Read more:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/question-judgement-personal-reflection-nicolas-stramilos