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Choosing a Killer Domain Name

Thursday, 02 April 2015 10:00

Sydney Casely-Hayford

 

CHOOSING a domain name is one of the most important decisions you will make for your business. Your domain name characterizes your business, labels your business, and will stick with your business for a long time.

In most cases, you should choose a domain name at the same time you choose your business name. When your domain name matches your business name, you have a far better chance of being remembered while at the same time keeping your branding cohesive and unified.

 

Make it memorable. The brain has remarkable powers of memory, but the domain you choose should cater to these powers.

Unique. The best domain names are not an ordinary combination of words or phrases. They stand out in the memory because they are unusual.

Visual. The more areas of the brain affected, the more memorable something is. If your domain name suggests something that can be seen or touched, this enhances its memorability.

Catchy. The easier it is to say, read, and repeat, the easier it is to remember.

Ordered. The brain likes things to be organized. Memorization is basically the process of organization. The better a domain name is organized, the more memorable it will be. For example, “SellYourPhone.com” has order. But “PhoneYourSell.com” doesn’t make any sense. 

Make it short. Your domain name needs to be short if you want people to remember it or have the patience to type it in.

There are a few ridiculous examples of insanely long domain names:

http://www.iamtheproudownerofthelongestlongestlongestdomainnameinthisworld.com

http://llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochuchaf.com

No business owner in his or her right mind would choose a domain name with that many characters. Unfortunately, some business owners do get greedy with keywords, and create domain names that are nothing more than a jumble of keywords -- lots of keywords and an agonizingly long URL. Don’t go that route. Choose instead a short and sweet name, even if it doesn’t have any keywords.

Make it relevant. A domain name should reflect some aspect of what the company is or does. Good company names are unique and attention-grabbing, without being blandly declarative

Blandly-named companies run the risk of being forgotten. Worse, they may not find an available domain name. For example, a business called “Window Washing” will probably have to pay a premium for the domain, "http://windowwashing.com/."

Here are some examples -- one positive, and one negative.

LifeLock, Lifelock.com.  LifeLock provides identity-protection services. Their business name and domain is a portmanteau of the two words “life” and “lock,” which describe exactly what they do as a business. Obviously, they could have chosen IdentityProtection.com, but as it is, their domain/business name is memorable and relevant.

Screaming Frog, Screamingfrog.co.uk. Screaming Frog is a digital marketing agency, which also provides a leading SEO spider tool. Their name, while creative, does not indicate either their service or the nature of their organization. Both the URL and business name don’t do much to advance their business’s online objectives.

If you are a little-known startup working in a crowded niche, relevancy is important. However, you don’t want to take relevancy too far. Keep in mind that some of the most valuable and dominant brands have names and domains that are totally undescriptive of their products or services -- Apple, Google, Bing, Yelp, Yahoo and Amazon, among other big-name brands.

You shouldn’t choose a business name simply on account of a keyword-dense domain name that happens to be available. Allow your business name to take precedence over keywords.

Make it simple. The most simple domains are the best. Two or three words and a dot-com extension make the most powerful domains.

Here are some things that you should always avoid in your domain name:

Dashes. Few people will remember if or when to use a dash in your domain.

Numbers. No one can remember whether they should spell “five” or use the number “5.”

Any extension other than .com. If you are doing business primarily in another country (e.g., .co.uk or .gh), then a country-specific domain is appropriate. There are plenty of creative extensions you can use including .tv, .flowers, .biz, .info and .ink. These are useless. Some extensions that provide word completion domain extensions may be acceptable. For instance, youtu.be.

Abbreviations. Abbreviations will only clutter up your domain name, making it ugly and forgettable.

Ambiguous words. Make sure your domain doesn’t have any ambiguity. For example, ExpertsExchange.com might look okay as two words, but does it reflect what the company does? This domain could also be ExpertSexChange.com.

Creative spellings. Some businesses like to tweak the common spellings of words in order to make their business name creative.

 

Domain name affects every area of branding. It could be argued that today’s domain name is one of the most significant aspect of a brand’s identity. If you follow these simple rules of domain name selection, you will come up with an effective domain name for your brand.

 

4 Branding Lessons That You Don't Want to Learn the Hard Way

Thursday, 09 April 2015 12:03

Sydney Casely-Hayford

When you’re branding your company and you’re just starting out, you obviously want everything to go smoothly.

Unfortunately, there are some easy branding mistakes to make along the way. Here are some of the common mistakes that new businesses make regarding their branding. Avoid them at all costs.

You don’t have a clear understanding of what your brand stands for.

Entrepreneur Daymond John knows a thing or two about branding. The business he launched, FUBU, has been successful to the tune of $6 billion.

What John considers to be “the most common and detrimental branding mistake.” It is “not having a definitive understanding of your brand and what it stands for.”

If you strip away everything else, what is your brand about? What is your primary purpose? What do you want to be known for?

If you can’t articulate this single elemental point, then you’re off to a shaky start. If you have a vague idea of what you want to do or assert, this isn’t good enough. Your brand is your identity, and you must stand for something.

The best way to define your identity is to come up with a short phrase that defines your business. Strong brands are backed by an unmistakable commitment to something. Identify it, claim it, say it, and you’re ready to roll.

You chose a dumb domain name.

Once you choose a domain name, you’re kind of stuck with it.

Obviously, you can always pick a new one and redirect old traffic to the new domain, but this is tacky. It’s important to choose a great domain name while you’re creating your business name and identity.

A good domain name has the following features:

•It is the same as the business name, or as close as possible.

•It is memorable.

•It is short.

•It is relevant to the business’s product or service.

•It is simple, having a dot-com ending and no dashes or ambiguous elements.

 

You don’t prioritize customer service.

“The best feature of a product should really be the customer service.”

Whatever product or service you offer, there’s one you can’t neglect — customer service.

Let’s take social media as an example. Social media is the new 1-800 number and customer service center. What you say on social media is there forever. People will re-tweet it, reply to it, mock it or malign it.

Problems stemmed from an inability to address customer service preemptively.

Many companies commit the same error. What they fail to realize is that their brand lives or dies based on the quality of its customer service. The product may be impeccable. The website is awesome. The logo is stellar. But if customer service stinks, then the whole brand is deemed unworthy.

If you fail at customer service, your brand is doomed. It’s the one intangible branding feature that you should never, ever ignore.

You go dark.

As a brand, you are what you say and do.

Thus, one of the biggest branding mistakes you can make is to say nothing. The best way to form and build your brand is to produce content. This content defines who you are, your approach, your messaging, your goals, and your objectives.

In order to be truly successful, you must produce content regularly. Content marketing and branding go hand in hand. Here are the three places that you must be active.

Email. Email is still the biggest source of referrals and traffic for most businesses. If you have an email list, make sure you keep it warm with regular updates.

Blog. Don’t let a week go by without a new article of some form.

Social media. If you go quiet on social media, your brand will be forgotten. Stay active on all social media channels.

Conclusion

Branding is a big overlooked issue for many startups. With all the interest in growth hacking, content marketing, mobile dominance, and social media, the old-fashioned word “branding” has been put on the back burner.

Branding includes everything you say and do. Branding is too big to ignore, and too important to neglect. Keep your branding sharp and powerful by avoiding these four pitfalls.

 

While Poverty Persists, There is No True Freedom

Monday, 13 April 2015 15:19

A few weeks ago, Ghana commemorated her 58th Independence anniversary with a well-choreographed performance by school children and security personnel. It was a reminder of the time the former Gold Coast finally freed herself from external rule to appoint her own local leaders to inspire hope, incubate visions and change lives. Kwame Nkrumah’s famous declaration of “at long last the battle has ended and Ghana is free for ever” will forever be associated with this day. The event was truly colourful and attracted dignitaries of different professions. 

 

As to whether Ghanaians are independent and free, I think the real answer can be solicited from people living in poverty.  It is true we are politically independent, but the battle for freedom from poverty is just about beginning. Frankly, political independence may mean little if people are still in servitude to poverty and deprivation. The real collective struggle is to utterly reduce or eliminate poverty. It is only when that happens that we can maintain our dignity and natural rights without a taint of violation. 

 

The reality of poverty is biting for the average Ghanaian, but it is aggressively punishing for people living in deprived communities in our poorest regions. In female-headed households in some of our poorest regions, a typical family is poor, oversized, culture-sensitive and usually faces challenges in providing food, quality shelter and basic amenities necessary for a dignified life. For instance, some families survive on one meal a day when their farmland is not yielding enough for family consumption. People in such situations cannot feel independent and free. If you witness your Primary 1 daughter or son studying under a tree or sitting on the bare floor in a dilapidated structure for a combined class with pupils in Primary 2, you might question our independence. If you struggle for water and have to walk 3km to fetch a pot from a river in a rural community, you might find the independence commemoration worthless.

 

People do not feel safe unless they know they are winning the war against poverty. Nelson Mandela was spot-on when he likened poverty to slavery and apartheid. He said: “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings."

 

Not only did his simple statement describe and indicate the cause of poverty; Mandela also gave the prescription to defeat it – through human actions. He explained why it is urgent for society to defeat poverty: “overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom."Touché!

 

Poverty may be endemic in some parts of the country but it can only remain if we choose to do nothing. Baruch Spinazo, a 17th century Jewish Dutch philosopher and rationalist, said that “care for the poor is incumbent on society as a whole.” A conscious sustainable effort by a group of optimists to support the development of communities can be all that is needed to catalyse the process of eradicating poverty. And in the fight against poverty, no effort is little. Good old Charles Dickens, considered as the spokesman for the poor, notes that, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

 

This is why ActionAid is providing a unique platform – dubbed Local Community Sponsorship – to give Ghanaians the opportunity to make a monthly donation towards the development of poor and deprived communities. At ActionAid, we believe Ghanaians themselves can make a difference in the lives of people living in poverty, by supporting them to meet their basic needs. By our cultural and social orientation, the Ghanaian has a natural commitment to help others in need, and would usually make important sacrifices to advance individual and community development. 

 

The Local Community Sponsorship is a vehicle to mobilise voluntary monthly donations to make a sustained difference in the lives of people living in poverty. Community development is the endgame of the means. In a detailed process, community meetings will be held where members will be facilitated to prioritise their developmental gaps. Then with community and other stakeholder involvement, regular monthly donations from well-meaning change makers will be applied to respond to their expressed needs. Addressing immediate needs give the community a sense of fellow-feeling. It also emboldens them to make associated demands from the local government structure as well as galvanise the power within them to push ahead and chart a new course of growth and development.

 

ActionAid will also provide three-month interval report on the status of the community project. To further strengthen the link between communities and their financial supporters, an annual visit will be organised for sponsors to go to their sponsored community and interact with the people who receive from their generous donations. This partnership will give sponsors and contributors the opportunity to assess the impact of their interventions on the lives of people living in poverty and how they are shaping the lives of Ghanaians living in Ghana. As Ghanaians, we have always helped one another.

 

Your generous contributions will be used to provide day-care centres and classrooms conducive for learning for many poor children. The donations will deliver boreholes for whole communities of people who have never seen water flow through a pipe in their places of abode. You will be part of a movement that will be laying a solid and tested foundation of breaking cyclical poverty through the introduction of livelihood activities and social enterprises in rural and deprived Ghana.

 

If there is a time to exhibit that spirit of communalism among us, it is now. We do not need to have the world to ourselves to stretch out a hand of support to the less privileged. By committing to a life-changing donation towards a community, you will not only be making a difference, you will be the difference to somebody.

 

Prince Osei-Agyekum

Sponsorship and Supporter Care Manager 

ActionAid Ghana

 

In the face of crime, the rule of law can protect development

Tuesday, 14 April 2015 12:55

By Yury Fedotov - Executive Director of the UN Office on

Drugs and Crime (UN Under-Secretary-General)

 

The 13th Crime Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Doha next week will set the tone over the next five years for the way the world confronts crime.

Back in October 2013, rescuers came across a grisly scene in the Sahara Desert close to the border between Niger and Algeria.

Spread out across a 12-mile radius were the bodies of 92 people, most of them women and children. 

All of them had died of thirst as they sought to escape the punishing sun. The migrant group had been travelling in two trucks, but the first one broke down and the second left for repairs.

The migrants were stranded. After waiting five days, the group struck out to look for water.

Only 21 people survived when they managed to reach towns on the Algerian side of the border.

These migrant deaths illustrate a terrible fact about our world. Crime is leeching the life force out of vulnerable and fragile countries, and by doing so, undermining our global efforts to lift billions out of poverty.

Below the Sahara, the territories are infested with criminals who prey on migrants seeking to move to Europe. 

Women, children and men whose desire to go to another country is so fierce they are prepared to cross a vast desert with some of the highest daily temperatures on record.

But this story is not unique to North Africa. Across the world, in the biggest migration since the Second World War, people are in motion. 

These individuals are undertaking perilous journeys in boats across roaring seas, via treacherous land routes or by air. And they are dying in large numbers.

Many reasons exist for this tragedy. Some people are desperately trying to take families away from brutal conflict and insecurity; others are driven by economic necessity. 

Migrants then fall into the hands of criminal networks and are cruelly exploited.

Rampant corruption fuels these and other crimes, but it also diverts funds from the public sector preventing children receiving invaluable education and much-needed healthcare. 

It is estimated that public money amounting to between US$20 to $40 billion leaves developing countries in the form of corruption.

Opportunistic links between criminals and terrorists, although not new, are also being formed to traffic drugs and other illicit goods.

Forest crime represents up to 30% of the global timber trade. The trade in illegal timber from South-East Asia to the European Union and other parts of Asia was worth an estimated US$3.5 billion in 2010. 

Unregulated trade in charcoal also results in lost revenue of around US$1.9 billion from African countries.

Wildlife crime has a huge cost for humans and is worth as much as US$2.5 billion in East Asia and the Pacific alone. 

The destruction of wildlife, causing many species to teeter on the edge of extinction, damages tourism. Trafficking in resources is an ongoing theft from developing nations.

Transnational organised crime is worth an estimated US$870 billion annually and comes in many forms. 

Its violence destroys communities. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) counted 437,000 homicides globally in 2012. 

Many of these deaths occur in developing nations where the loss of an income earner can have an irreparable impact on a family’s future.

Views on crime are thankfully changing. The links between crime and development are recognised in ways they were not before. Countries also accept that development can be protected by the rule of law, fundamental human rights, strong but fair criminal justice systems and zero tolerance for corruption.

But to turn back the criminal tide, more needs to be done. If the rule of law is to wrestle development out of crime’s clutches, law enforcement must focus on anti-money laundering activities. 

Greater co-operation also needs to take place to ensure that information on crime is shared and that joint operations across borders takes place.

The international community is currently facing tremendous challenges in the areas of conflict, security and peace. 

It is also seeking to agree on the new development agenda that will transform the lives of billions.

In all this welcome action, I see a tremendous opportunity to promote criminal justice reform and to strengthen the rule of law—particularly in the areas of fairness, dignity and equality.

It is a chance for the world to take the rule of law and its cousins, crime prevention and criminal justice, out from the wings where it has been waiting and place it in the vanguard of the UN’s work.

If this is done, sustainable development will receive the protection it needs from crime’s ravages. 

Next week sees the start of the 13th Crime Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Doha from April 12-19, the largest and most diverse gathering of policymakers and practitioners in the area of crime prevention and criminal justice. 

It comes ahead of the Summit on Sustainable Development in September when the world will agree on the new development agenda.

Crime causes misery and death. It cannot be allowed to hamper our plans for sustainable development. 

Along with UNODC, I am committed to using the 13th Crime Congress as the first step not just to improve criminal justice responses, but towards a better quality of life for everyone.

 

Corporate Governance among Ghanaian NGOs

Monday, 20 April 2015 12:26

As a concept, corporate governance involves a set of relationships between a company’s management, its board, its shareholders and other stakeholders. Corporate governance also provides the structure through which the objectives of the company are set, the means of attaining those objectives and the system for monitoring performance. It also ensures that the board of directors is accountable for the pursuit of corporate objectives and that the company itself conforms to the law and regulations.

 

Corporations and companies are created as legal persons by the laws and regulations of a particular jurisdiction. These may vary in many respects between countries, but a corporation's legal person status is fundamental to all jurisdictions and is conferred by statute. This allows the entity to own property in its own right without reference to any particular real person. It also results in the perpetual existence that characterises the modern corporation.

Regulation

Corporate governance in Ghana exists within the framework of laws, regulations, rules, guidelines, and local government byelaws. The basic framework for corporate governance in Ghana is provided for mainly under the Companies Code, Act 179 of 1963. This spells out the role and duties of directors, shareholders, creditors, auditors, regulators, and other stakeholders and procedures for making decisions in the organisation. 

The Department of Social Welfare and the various district assemblies also exercise a regulating influence on the operations of corporate organisations. Other laws such as the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651), the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1994 (Act 490) and the Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999 (L.I.1652) impact the company’s dealings with employees and management of the environment respectively. 

 

Every limited liability company is governed by a memorandum of incorporation and memorandum of association. This serves as its constitution, spelling out what the company does and how it relates to the various stakeholders, both internally and the external world. Under the Companies Code, which is the Ghana law, this is referred to as the Company Regulation.

Profit-making organisations are concerned with maximizing profits or increasing shareholder value. This situation is different with NGOs which are non-profit making. They are usually aimed at meeting their mission objectives, which may include addressing particular challenges in their working communities. 

Stakeholder interests

All parties to corporate governance have an interest, whether direct or indirect, in the financial performance of the corporation. Directors, management and staff receive salaries, benefits and reputation, while investors expect to receive financial returns, (in case of a profit making company), and for NGOs, the provision of social services. Customers and beneficiary communities are concerned with the certainty of the provision of goods and services of an appropriate quality; suppliers are concerned with compensation for their goods or services, and the possible continued trading relationships. Regulators and donors are usually concerned with compliance with the laws that govern the operations of the company.

A key factor in a stakeholder decision to participate in or engage with a company is their confidence that the company will deliver the expected outcomes. When categories of stakeholders do not have sufficient confidence that a company is being controlled and directed in a manner consistent with their desired outcomes, they are less likely to engage with the company. 

Ghana has not been attractive in the donor community and three main factors account for that. These include the rebasing of the GDP and the subsequent classification of Ghana as a middle income country, which does not make us attractive on the donor market. Another factor is Ghana’s classification as an oil producing country following our discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities. Most of the world producers of crude oil are among nations in the middle income category. The third is the increasing and sometimes exaggerated reports of corruption in Ghana. In an age of technology, these reports are easy to access.

Role of Board of Directors

The Companies Code defines a director as someone who directs and administers the affairs of a company. Every company must have a minimum of two directors who operate as the Board of Directors, with one of them appointed as the Chair. Due to the legal responsibilities that are placed on the shoulders of directors, they are expected to meet some criteria to qualify for appointment. They are not to be an infant or a person of unsound mind, a fraudulent person nor an undischarged bankrupt.

The Institute of Directors lists the following as some of the responsibilities of Directors:

•They should not  engage in any activity that will dent the image or reputation of the company. They make statutory and voluntary disclosures about the company’s affairs for the sake of stakeholders.

•They have a duty to institute internal controls of checks and balances to avoid internal process failures. 

•They have oversight functions of supervising all the functional areas and monitoring activities. 

•They prepare the annual reports to the Annual General Meeting and submit themselves to periodic appraisal and upgrade their knowledge and skills.

• They act as boundary spanners by integrating the internal and external environments of the company to avoid strategic drift. Directors should be rotated every three years and they may offer themselves to be re-elected.

Challenges

Corporate governance practices are affected by attempts to align the interests of stakeholders. Interest in the corporate governance practices of modern corporations, particularly in relation to accountability, increased following the collapse of a number of large corporations between 2001 and 2002, most of which involved accounting fraud. Corporate scandals of various forms have maintained public and political interest in the regulation of corporate governance. In the U.S., these include Enron and MCI Inc. (formerly WorldCom). Their demise is associated with the U.S. Federal government passing the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, which intended to restore public confidence in corporate governance. 

In Ghana, the operations of some NGOs paint a disturbing picture of philanthropy and charity work. The recent reports of mismanagement at the Osu Children’s Home and the Bawjiase Orphanage go to tarnish the hard-earned reputation and good work being done by NGOs. There is an urgent need for regulatory agencies to tighten supervision.

There is the need for the Registrar General’s Department to be more active in performing its statutory mandate. This would include weeding out unregistered organisations whose accounts are not audited annually. Members of the public can minimise the risk of being defrauded by fraudulent NGOs if they conduct background searches from the Registrar General’s Department. 

The Ghanaian economy is growing and needs the support of external inflows to facilitate this growth. Just as the economy requires an inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to support the national budget, the supervisory role played by the regulators in the NGO sector needs to be strengthened to sustain donor confidence.

Fundraising within Ghana is possible from corporate sponsorship, as most profit-making organisations normally allocate a portion of their profits to meet their corporate social responsibilities. Internal corporate governance controls need to be strengthened to ensure that the company’s activities are monitored and operate efficiently to accomplish organisational goals. This would ensure the sustainability of the efficient NGOs whilst minimising the dependence on foreign donors.

Conclusion

Corporate governance is most often viewed as both the structure and the relationships which determine corporate direction and performance. The corporate governance framework also depends on the legal, regulatory, institutional and ethical environment of the community. Whereas the 20th century might be viewed as the age of management, the early 21st century appears to focus more on corporate governance. There are enormous opportunities for Ghanaians to enrich our governance culture. 

 

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Want to Be Successful? Stick to a Schedule.

Thursday, 07 May 2015 15:24

Sydney Casely-Hayford

There will always be fellow entrepreneurs with more funding, better connections or years of experience. One thing, however, that puts us all on a level playing field: the number of hours in a day. Figuring out how to effectively spend the 24 hours in each day is one of the most challenging parts of being a business owner.

When I first started out, I thought the main perk of working on my own as a consultant would be being able to do things, according to my own schedule. I didn’t have a daily routine. My schedule would just depend on my mood.

After about a year of functioning in this way, I realized that I needed to work during more normal business hours if I really wanted to grow my company. I decided to create a schedule and I still stick to one today. Not only did this make me feel significantly less stressed, I was getting more done in fewer hours!

On top of the duties and pressures that come along with being a business owner, there is always people needing your immediate attention. A skill that is helpful is prioritizing your tasks and keeping a list of everything that needs to get accomplished.”

If you don’t create a plan on a daily or weekly basis, becoming disorganized is easy. Even if you have all the resources in the world, not using your time wisely can cost you.

Here are some ways to set up a routine and get more done:

1. Embrace mornings, nights or weekends. Pick one of these times, when other people aren’t working, to focus on projects that require a lot of concentration. Mornings from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. is my uninterrupted time to write articles, answer emails and work on research projects.

If I tried to get these projects done in the middle of the day, it would take me twice as long because I would be constantly distracted by phone calls, emails and meetings. Those two hours in the morning are my most productive. I probably get about 75 percent of my work done then.

2. Schedule everything in one spot or organizational device. This may seem like it's taking out all the fun in life. Wrong! It makes life more fun because you aren’t constantly worrying about how to fit everything in.

It's crucial to make sure you record all your meetings and appointments in one place instead of having them scattered throughout different calendars, notebooks, and apps.  Not only will it save time to only have to check one calendar but it will also help ensure that you are not double booking or missing any meetings.

When I first began media outreach and advocay work, I often canceled plans with friends because projects would take longer than I expected. I didn't feel I was getting anything done. Then I started scheduling both my professional and personal commitments in one place and assigning equal importance to both. This way I can really see how much time I have for each.

3. Find a method that works for you. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method for scheduling. Try a few different things and see what works. If your calendar or to-do list isn’t easy to use, you will never keep your schedule organized.

I schedule EVERYTHING on my calendar and every little thing I need to do.  I love an organizational app because I can create a to-do list each week and access it from my phone or computer.

I can also assign my team tasks and check in to see what [different individuals] have on their plates for the week. It's such a great way to stay organized and on schedule.

Alternatively, create a long, to-do list containing everything that needs to be completed, then mark the most urgent tasks and the things that you are able to get done later in the day and the things that need to be done during business hours. The tasks that need to get done that same day is a kind of  SOS list.

4. Don’t panic when things don’t go according to the plan. No need to become anxious when meetings run late, conference calls go over the budgeted time or projects take longer than anticipated. The reality is this type of thing happens on a daily basis, and you can’t get too stressed out about it. Figuring out how to deal with the unexpected is just part of being an entrepreneur.

When you have set up a structure, and the things arise at the last minute, it's a lot easier to deal with them. There is no point in worrying. That will just cut into your schedule even more.

 

IF I WERE A SECURITY GUARD

Friday, 29 May 2015 09:35

My office is on the top floor of one of the tall buildings in Accra. It provides a good view of Accra day and night and I love it.  One of the other reasons why I love my office is that it gives me an opportunity to exercise my legs especially after a long day of sitting and I love to go down the staircase whilst reflecting on the events of the day.

On one of such walks I nearly disrupted an “elaborate” dinner of one of the security guards employed to watch one of the offices on the building. When I say “elaborate” I hope you are not thinking of a three course meal with assorted dishes, drinks, condiments etc.  I call it elaborate because of its spread on the staircase-turned-dining table. As I squeezed my way pasthim, I begun to think about how prepared this security man was for any unforeseen eventuality.

A few floors away from the first one was another security man busily sleeping.It was not the fact that he was asleep that I found strange but what amazed me was his style of sleeping. With his head facing the ceiling, the back of his head firmly leaning against the wall and his hands well placed on the desk I knew he was an expert in sleeping on the job.

I stood for a few minutes hoping he would be shaken by the sound of my squeaky shoes or the sudden silence as I stopped to do a quick validation of the picture I was seeing. My immediate thought was to take a picture of him and put on social media but then I quickly changed my mind because I knew that by the time I found my phone whichwas buried in my bagwith a 101 otheritems,he would have opened his eyes. 

These two brief scenes of the two private security guards (one old and seemingly feeble and the other a middle aged man) within a few minutes of each other got me thinking about the role of security guards. What is the real reason why people employ security guards? Is it to show the physical presence of a security officer or are they are employed to provide security services.

The main reason why someone would hire a security officers is for him to protect life and property from criminal activities such as vandalism and theft. Whilst a security guard's duties usually varies depending on the requirements of the employer, they aretypically expected to monitor specific areas/locations and report on incidents that they consider important to the maintenance of a safe and secureenvironment fortheir clients. 

Security officers are also expected torecognize public safety hazards; enforcing laws and regulations and applying appropriate physical restraint when necessary. A security guard is also responsible for preventing or reportingtheft or any unusual occurrences,reporting property or equipment damage andescorting clients or officers who need protection. 

Beyond that,I think that one of the critical roles of security guards are that they must be able to think about the area they are responsible for and develop a security plan for them. They need to consider trends, occurrences and advice on what is further needed to protect the people/property they are expected to protect.

How can a security man who sleeps on the job be able to notice any potential incidences?

Another area of concern that needs to be considered is the physical fitness of a security officer. A security officer is employed to restrain, resist and over power his attackers. Ifhe is not physically fit,how can he protect the lives and properties of hisclients?

A good security guard must receive up to date training on the latest security techniques, policies and procedures in accordance with best practices.In other countries, security personnel function almost as an extension of the regular police force because of the level of collaboration.

A good security guard maintains professional integrity. We have heard of numerous situations where security officers connive with other criminals to steal property belonging to their clients.A good security officer must be professional.

Today’s society and business environmentrequires strong security officers to protect critical facilities, equipment, assets, and people, but not all two security guards are the same and the need for well-rounded security guards is essential. Employers need security guards who are sharp, focused and who can combine their technical capabilities with digital sophistication and common sense.The days of “Watch men” are over. Modern day security work requires intelligencesince criminals are very intelligent people and their modus operandi is getting more sophisticated.

Having said all these, we all know that how much a person earns for the work he or she does has a direct effect on how committed and motivated they would be. It is disheartening to hear that some security companies are paying their personnel as little as GH₵150.00 a month. Clients of these security companies need to knowwhat kind of remuneration they receive before they engage them otherwise they cannot expect them to deliver excellent results. 

All said and done if I were a Security guard I will improve my knowledge in the industry and work with passion. 

 

Fruits from Our Past Haunting Us

Monday, 01 June 2015 13:12

It has been proven that it is not only the soil that helps to produce good yields; the quality of seeds also contributes a lot. 

If you sow poor quality seeds, you either get nothing or, if you are lucky, your harvest will be poor. 

That is what is happening to most of our farmers because the seeds that they continue to sow are not of the best quality and so their yields are low, and the unfortunate ones among them get nothing.

Along the years too, over-farming has also contributed to reducing the quality of soil for our farmers. So, together with poor seeds, it is no wonder that our yields continue to fall. 

This is what is happening in our national situation. We have sown poor seeds in the way we go about life - social relations - and have come to harvest the bad yields. 

Instead of improving the situation, which is the soil, we continued to sow the same bad character and it is showing in every sphere of our national life.

One area that has destroyed out national life has been the People's and Workers' Defence Committees (P/WDCs). 

When these committees were introduced in the country, they were received with glee. 

Unfortunately, it helped to create a general breakdown of order. Some of those who championed the idea are now at the top and are suffering from the breakdown of authority that they fought for. 

Some people also attribute the disorderliness to the digital age, which has exposed younger people to new ways of asserting themselves. 

This may be considered a lie, because asserting oneself and asking probing questions does not amount to leading a chaotic life. It does not mean showing disrespect to recognised authority.

Some of the disregard for authority we see today is just the kind of life found on the housing estates in Europe, where there is pure breakdown of social relations. 

It is a far cry from what you find in the middle-class communities where traditional ways of life still continue and there is respect for authority.  

It is for this reason that in the UK, for instance, former Prime Minister John Major tried to campaign for the “Back To Basics” to curb the yobbish behaviour that was taking over the housing estates. 

Asking probing questions can be done in a decent way which would not amount to showing disrespect.

I have been around for a long time and gone round a bit, so l can tell the difference. 

No private security firm will have the guts to take over party headquarters without anyone asking questions in these countries. 

In our case, it is becoming the norm because we have come to associate aggression with being smart and tough.

We might have had some politics of aggression in the days of Nkrumah that resulted in the throwing of bombs, but it did not break down our social values, especially the respect for recognised authority. After Nkrumah, when democracy was restored, things didn’t go the way we see it today.

In later years, when the late Imoru Egala was chairman of the People’s National Party (PNP), he was in control. 

When the late Victor Owusu was leading the Popular Front Party (PFP) and William Ofori-Atta was in charge of the United National Convention (UNC), we saw discipline. 

Of course, there were dissenting views on issues, but these were done in the right way. No one took clubs and machetes to settle differences.

So, what happened? Much of the indecency in our politics today started from the 1980s when fear and disrespect for authority became part of our social fabric. 

The fear turned us into cowards because those who dared went to prison. Some had to flee the country. 

The fear turned to unbridled boldness when we returned to democratic rule. Those who thought they had become fearless were mostly those who had been part of the P/WDC generation and used the intimidation of authority they had learnt to rule their lives. It soon became part of our national lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the love of money was also introduced. It turned the country into a place where no one cared about what exactly made one the 'true Ghanaian' that we used to know in the past. 

Consequently, recognised authorities lost their respect, and those who could throw money around became the masters. That is why within our political parties, we do not have any central authority in charge. Everybody, depending on what he brings to the table, or in this case the party, becomes a master overnight. 

Those who can organise restless young people to either fight or destroy become the main people to respect. Then those who bring the money also have their share of control. 

Together, we now have different forms of controllers. There are instances where even those who have the money are cowed by the “fighters”.

We saw signs of lack of control in the New Patriotic Party (NPP) during their recent crisis when the money bags started spewing all kinds of venom and the “fighters” also used threats. 

Sadly, no one could control any of these people. We have the same situation in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and we saw these in the past where party officials supervised the intimidation of their colleagues and turned a blind eye to all such incidents.

That is why groups of young people can dare a President to change a regional minister or an MCE and they are not punished because those who are behind these 'thugs' are, sometimes, powerful characters in the parties. Unfortunately, some of our elder statesmen who should lead the way have become bankrupt themselves and speak without any sense of decorum. They forget that those they are leading are learning from their examples. So, every older statesman is not spared the 'acid' tongues.

Outside the political arena, the churches are also suffering because some of them have been taken over by the rich people who control the pastors. Some of the men of God complain silently about the behaviour of some of their people but dare not voice out their concerns because the money would stop coming. 

In our schools, we have seen students who have taken over administration blocks and have gone unpunished. 

It was not so in the past because even though there were some student trouble-makers, they were duly punished. 

These days, parents would raise hell because their erring children had been punished, and one wonders what kind of society we are building for the future?

If we do not find a way of correcting the kind of society we have built, we should not be surprised if things go from bad to worse. 

The situation may suit some of the people who are benefiting from the breakdown of authority, but they must know that the country is being destroyed.

It is good to have money; however, we must not allow money bags to take control of everything we do. 

In the developed countries where there are several millionaires, the system does not allow the rich to run the lives of people the way we have allowed it. We either find a way of looking back to correct the mistakes that have changed the way our society used to be or simply allow things to go the way till we are all consumed by our mistakes!

 

Where is our sense of urgency?

Tuesday, 09 June 2015 11:47

Last Wednesday’s floods and fire at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra that claimed over 130 lives has provoked angry reactions from Ghanaians.