Category Archives: Business and Professional Practice

What Do You Have In Your House?

What do you have in your houseWhile I do not normally endorse products or service on this web-site, given the current economic climate, I feel compelled to highly recommend a little booklet that I read in less than one hour.  It is a well-written, clear and concise guide on how to develop and implement a workable plan to get out of debt.  It is titled “What do you have in your house?” and it is written by Barbadian author and chartered accountant, Donna Every.

 It is written for anyone with the desire to get out of debt, but who lacks the guidance and/or encouragement to do so. The book is not padded with extraneous information, but it is packed with wise advice and inspirational true stories that can give the reader the suggestions, tools, and hope that is necessary to start.

 If you are struggling to repay a mortgage, or wish to get out of debt, then I strongly recommend that you read this book.  If your lack of finances is creating problems in your relationship with your spouse, then this book can become the catalyst for a new beginning where you can work together towards a common financial goal.

 For the record, I have no financial interest in this book whatsoever, but I highly recommend it because it has the potential to literally change your life.  It is available from Donna Every’s web-site:  http://www.donnaevery.com/services.html

 Regards,

Grenville

Killing the Goose

 The Prime Minister has explained that wealth creation through innovation should be a normal return on the investments made in education, and other social services in Barbados.  I agree with him.  However, the seed capital that one initially uses to fund the development of these innovative products will normally come from one’s disposable income.

 The Government must be commended for doing so much to assist the “have-nots” in Barbados.  However, as long as they remain have-nots, they will continue to spend all of their disposable income on essential services, and will still require additional assistance from the haves.

 The haves are those who “have” enough to help themselves and others.  They normally have enough to give to their churches, dependents, professional and social organisations, PTA and Old Scholars associations, the various community and national appeals for assistance, the poor and needy whose income only covers basic necessities, etc.  From where do the haves give?  They give from their disposable incomes.

 There is a third group whom we can call the “have-mores”.  They “have more” than enough.  However, the principal difference between the haves and the have-mores, is that the have-mores are not vulnerable to high taxes.  The high taxes that do not affect the have-mores can easily send the haves into the ranks of the dependent have-nots.

 The have-nots are normally exempt from paying taxes on their incomes or property.  The have-mores have learnt to use the loop holes in the regulations to avoid paying what Obama calls “their fair share”.  Some haves have also learned this skill.  However, the tax burden is mostly felt by the haves, who are normally called the “middle class”, or the class between the financially dependent have-nots and the financially independent have-mores.

 Many in this middle class have learnt to maintain their position by carefully managing their disposable income.  Thus, they are able to pay a home mortgage, feed and clothe their children, and give to others.  What they have not generally done is to create wealth.  They have not considered that the investments in their education were meant for more than just maintaining a comfortable lifestyle.  They have not realized that they have something valuable within them that can benefit humanity.

 After working for some time, most people intuitively know how they can be more effective at what they are responsible for.  It is Rule No.3 for life on Earth: Only God is perfect, everything else can be improved.

 Every experienced automotive mechanic knows how to make an engine run more efficiently.  The mechanic does not get the opportunity to capitalise on this knowledge, because the car manufacturing company’s research and development department continuously improves the last year’s car model.  However, every manufactured product, service and process can be improved, and the actual innovative idea can be found in any user of the product, including users here in Barbados.

 There are three major impediments to innovation.  The first one is unbelief.  If people do not believe that they can actually innovate, then they most likely will not.  That is why it is important that Barbadians are taught the rules of this life governing human behaviour.

 The second impediment is lack of compensation.  If people believe that they can find an innovative solution, but do not believe that they will derive any benefit from it, then the innovation will likely remain an idea.  Government can assist in overcoming this obstacle by allocating $5M annually to provide development grants of $100,000 for the top 50 viable innovative products.  I believe that this will usher in a culture of innovation in Barbados.

 However, the single greatest impediment to innovation is a lack of personal disposable income, which will be used as seed capital to initially develop the innovative idea.  In this regard, the Government should seriously reconsider the high 0.45% and the unconscionable 0.75% property tax rate on single family dwellings.

Forthwith

Like his predecessors, the Hon Christopher Sinckler is encouraging Barbadian service providers to export more.  We would like to, but we need his help.  Since Government is the largest service provider in Barbados, he needs to encourage his colleagues to improve the efficiency of those government departments with which we must interact.  One example should suffice.

The sticker that enveloped my road tax certificate was coming off of my windscreen.  I therefore moved it from the left side of the windscreen to my right so that I could periodically push it back on.  Later that day, before I could get to my insurance company to get a replacement sticker envelope, I was stopped by the police.  They informed me that it was an offence to drive with the road tax not displayed on the right side of the vehicle.  I acknowledged that I was not aware of the offence and offered to pay the fine.  I was told that I would have to appear before a magistrate.

I subsequently received a letter instructing me to appear before the magistrate on a specified date.  On the stated day, I attended the magistrate’s court as instructed, and took out my laptop computer to do some work while I waited.  I was told to put it away.  I therefore took out a note pad to write some correspondence, but was told to put that away also.  I therefore took out a typed report in order to edit it, but was told that I could do no work whatsoever while in the court room.  I therefore had to sit and listen to the cases before mine.

After most of the day had been spent, my name was called, and I stood in the dock.  I pleaded guilty and was fined $300 forthwith.  I went to the accounts section as ordered and offered my credit card to pay the fine, which they bemusedly refused.  I therefore took out my cheque book and inquired to whom I should write the cheque.  They told me that I had to pay cash.  I explained that I did not have that amount of cash on me.  They told me to either call someone or transportation would be provided to me, free of cost, to the remand section of the prison, because the magistrate stated that the fine was to be paid forthwith.

Not wanting to place my life in anyone’s hands, I asked whether I could go to the bank and withdraw some funds.  They stated that if I was not back within the hour, then a warrant would be issued for my arrest.  I therefore ran as fast as I could to Broad Street, found a bank, and waited in the ATM line for what seemed like a very long time.  After withdrawing the funds, I raced back to the magistrate’s court, slowing down while passing the Central Police Station lest I be delayed unnecessarily.  I made it back with 20 minutes to spare.

What is restraining me from spending my time exporting as the Hon Sinckler would like?  The time wasted waiting to receive frustratingly inefficient government services.  I am including government’s statutory corporations as agencies that provide government’s services.  How can this be improved?  There are so many ways.  Why not start with the following 5 initiatives?

  1. Allow payments for government services to be paid by credit card and on-line.
  2. Do not allow the majority of cashiers to take lunch between 12:00 noon and 1:30 pm when persons are trying to fit in paying their bills within their lunch hour.
  3. Extend the hours that government departments can receive payments.
  4. Allow drop off facilities for those who simply cannot visit the government department during the department’s normal working hours.
  5. Allow the police to fine persons on the spot for minor traffic offences.  Those who wish to challenge the fines can spend their time in the court room.

Regards,

Grenville

Choosing A Career

Dear Readers:

I am addressing this article to students who are in their final year of secondary school and who may be feeling a little anxious about their futures at this time.  People thinking about choosing another career can also benefit.

Choosing a career can be a daunting task.  You may be in the career that you choose for the next 40 years of your life, so you should not choose carelessly.  Allow me to suggest the following selection method.

1.  Identify your Aptitudes First, I would suggest that you identify your aptitudes. They may be several things.  Identifying your aptitudes can be challenging since you must give each subject a fair chance.  Please do not judge your aptitude by the grades that you have received at school; they can be poor aptitude indicators.  A few examples may suffice here.1. You may not think that you like music if you were only taught music theory, but you may excel if you learnt to play an instrument “by ear’.

2. Similarly, you may not think that you like foreign languages, like Spanish, but you may excel if you learnt conversational Spanish.

3. You may find science subjects challenging; however, try reading your science texts from the first chapter until the end and you may be surprised at how easy the subject really is.
 

2.  Identify your Motives

After you have identified your aptitudes, identify some jobs that you think that you would find attractive.  Write them down and then ask your self, “Why do I want to do this job”. i.e. try to identify your motives. If your motive is principally to make money, then you may have identified the wrong job for you.  If your motive is principally care, then you may have identified the right job for you.  You must care about what you do rather than simply doing a good job and getting paid for your services.
 

3.  Get some Experience

It may be useful if you worked for a company (it can be a company of one) who offered the service that you found attractive. If they are not hiring, then offer to work for them for one month for free, explaining to them that you see it as an investment (and it is). If you have made that agreement, then DO NOT QUIT!  If you do quit, then that decision may follow you for the rest of your life. If you do not think that you can last one month without pay, then agree to work for one or two week without pay. Remember to explain that you are trying to choose a career, and therefore, you want to work in an environment that will help you to decide.
 

4.  Ask God to Guide You

Our national anthem states: “The Lord has been the people’s guide …”.  You are one of those people and therefore have the right to ask God for guidance.  However, while God provides the direction, you must provide the thrust and momentum.  The thrust, or the initial movement, is accomplished in the first three steps until you can secure any type of job.  The momentum is provided by you working with conscientious dedication to achieve the highest standards of competence at that job, even if it is one that you do not like.

When you are ready, God will guide you into the responsibilities that He has for you.  Therefore do not hold on too tightly to any one position of responsibility.  If someone else wants your job, then let them have it.  God will take care of you if you let Him.

Best regards,

Grenville

Giving Professional Advice

Dear Readers:

The recent issue with the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) poll and Cave Hill Associates Polling Organisation (CHAPO) poll is instructive for professionals and their Clients.  The CHAPO poll was popular, supportive of the then ruling political party, apparently backed by the University of the West Indies, and wrong.  The CADRES poll was unpopular among the then ruling political party, the pollster vilified, but the poll was accurate.

The CHAPO poll was wrong because it was based on a critical assumption which was not verified before the advice was given.  Rather than seek to subsequently verify this assumption, especially with knowledge of the CADRES poll’s stated assumptions, the CHAPO pollsters spent the time defending their poll.

All professional advice is based upon the interpretation of evidence.  Each professional is trained to examine evidence related to their professional discipline.  When interpreting evidence, professionals make various assumptions, which may or may not be correct.  Conscientious professionals normally take the time necessary to identify and verify each of their assumptions.

Sometimes a client may request that advice be provided urgently, before the professional has verified the assumptions made.  In such cases, preliminary advice is normally given, and the assumptions are subsequently checked.  If the assumptions are found to be incorrect, then the advice is withdrawn.  If the Client has acted upon the poor advice, then new advice is given in order to, inter alia, mitigate any consequential damage.

Pride should never prevent a professional from withdrawing and revising previous advice when it is found to be unsupported by the evidence.  Since professionals are liable for any quantifiable damage arising out of the advice that they give, it is imperative that all professionals be conscientious.

Regards,

Grenville

Commercial Pressures

Dear Readers:

History has shown that the world has not always been well served by scientific research that has been driven by commercial pressures. These pressures can tempt research scientists to compromise the integrity of their work in order to provide results that are favourable to the sources of the research funds. Rather than submit their research to an unbiased review by their peers, such scientists publish their opinions in the popular press, typically speculating outside of the boundaries of their research experiments.

Publishing research seems to have degenerated into a game with each group of scientists vying for the attention of the popular press with speculative opinions of what “may” be a new link to cancer or some other disease, in order to encourage behavioural change to avoid ill or attain better health. Regrettably, their actions can cause persons to think less of scientific research.

Commercial pressures can cause scientists to reject acceptable scientific research methods and become embroiled in their client’s commercial battles, which can lead to bad science. Bad science typically starts with unfounded assumptions. However, bad science can become popular if an attractive argument is built upon this bad foundation. The old adage about truth being the first casualty of war is also true in commercial battles. Scientists funded by one company can selectively present findings that support their client’s products and that identify potential deficiencies in competing products.

Scientists can resolve many commercial battles if they were more responsible rather than choosing to market deficient products or services based on the source of the research funds. In this way, science is poorly represented and mankind can be severely affected. If the marketing strategy is successful, it can take generations before the product or service becomes morally offensive enough to exert sufficient negative commercial pressure to cause a change. It will then be another lesson in history where our grand children will wonder why we were so irresponsible.

The commercial battle within the tobacco industry provides a good example where scientists representing the tobacco industry refuse to acknowledge the clear link between smoking and heart disease and lung cancer despite the mounting evidence. When scientists debate, it provides a level of comfort or acceptable risk for those most affected to justify not taking action thereby inducing a state of apathy.

Such is the case with the commercial battle being waged within the agricultural industry. There is a clear link between pesticide use and cancer, allergies and disease. Farmers acknowledge the harmful effects of pesticides on humans, yet they feel compelled to use them due to the commercial pressures. The community feels that the risk is acceptable once the scientists working for the pesticide manufacturers and those working for the health industry continue to debate safe levels. Even after pesticides were banned in Europe and North America, scientists working for the pesticide industry continue to justify their use in less developed countries.

The apparent strategy of facilitating scientific debate in order to induce apathy so that persons will not negatively affect the commercial enterprise is common and very effective. It can actually take centuries before change occurs. The scientists’ unfounded assertion that non-European people were savages helped to justify the Europeans’ general apathetic response towards slavery, and the treatment of slaves. Despite the persistent efforts of many responsible persons, it took approximately 400 years for slavery to become morally offensive enough to affect a change in the commercial enterprise.

Perhaps the most senseless commercial battle where this strategy is used is within the abortion industry. The abortion industry is build upon the assertion by scientists that the aborted material is merely tissue while it is clearly a baby. The last 25 years have seen a merciless slaughter of unimaginable proportions that makes slavery seem comparably tolerable – over 1 billion babies have been killed. Yet we sit comfortably in the mist of the horrific torture and death, much as the Europeans did during slavery. The Europeans justified their apathy with the scientists’ conclusions – they are only savages, our response is similar – it is only tissue.

Our current Minister of Health has inherited Barbados’ contribution to this carnage. He has also inherited the responsibility to stop it.

Regards,

Grenville Phillips II

Professional Practice and Evolving Standards

Dear Readers:

The information age appears to have had three phases thus far. The first phase started with the invention of the printing press where documents could be mass-produced. The second phase occurred with the establishment of public libraries that made information available to the public. The third and current phase started with the Internet. The Internet has made it possible for laypersons with access to a computer to conduct research on many topics without being a specialist in that area.

There are computer programs that are written for laypersons, which allow them to diagnose themselves and prescribe a form of treatment. There are also computer programs that can provide laypersons with limited accounting, legal, and architectural services. Following the introduction of such programs, some futurists suggested that this trend would lead to a significant reduction in the number of professional persons required. Approximately twenty years later, this prediction has not yet come to pass.

Access to information can allow laypersons to communicate sensibly with practising professionals. However, it does not adequately prepare laypersons to accept the liabilities that are associated with making professional decisions. Professionals are prepared through their experience. Their main asset is their practical knowledge of, and confidence in the industry’s international standards.

Industry standards are sometimes determined from the results of academic research work carried out at universities where various materials and methods are tested. Researchers gain confidence in their research when repeated experiments can give results that they can predict.

Once the researcher’s confidence is sufficiently high due to consistent predictable results, field trials are typically performed outside of the relatively sheltered confines of the university. The risks to human health, property, and the environment from field trials can be acceptable if a sufficient number of predictable academic laboratory tests were carried out. The results of both the academic tests and field trials are published and reviewed by qualified persons. If they pass this scrutiny, and if the results are of sufficient value to the industry, then they can be incorporated into the industry’s standards.

Industry standards are essentially principles of materials and methods that should generally be followed by practitioners. Persons who offer professional services to the public are practitioners. If a practitioner’s compliance with an industry standard does not provide the expected results, then that information is relayed to the publisher of the standard, and that standard may be changed.

Research work on new materials and methods within each professional discipline is ongoing, which leads to changes to industry standards. It is therefore necessary that practising professionals continue to develop professionally by understanding and using current industry standards. This is important since previous industry standards may have been found to be substandard, or not applicable to a particular environment.

One of a professional’s major objectives is to ensure the safety of the public and the environment, and thus reduce their own personal risk. While practising a professional discipline, mistakes can very easily be made. Therefore, new university graduates are not allowed to practise independently until after they have received up to, and sometimes in excess of 4 years of supervised training. This helps to significantly reduce the risks to the public of receiving substandard professional services. However, even after persons have become qualified to practise independently, it is always prudent for them to have their work reviewed by senior professionals in their field.

Given the legal and technical risks involved in professional practises, and the laypersons’ unpreparedness to manage any liability if their decisions result in damage, unqualified persons should not be allowed to offer their services to the public. However, with knowledge of various industry standards becoming more readily available to the public, the public has a right to comment on or query any aspect of a professional’s work that does not appear to comply with the industry standards.

Some professionals feel threatened when laypersons seek additional information about the service for which they are paying, and can be dismissive as they try to avoid answering pertinent questions that can reveal their unpreparedness. The queries and challenges posed by the public should prompt professionals to continue their professional development.

Regards,

Grenville