About Kanerva

Kanerva is the Finnish word for heather and my name is Heather! I blog about life, work, and chaos from the unique perspective of being a Tasmanian in Helsinki.

Reviews? Anonymous or not?

Status

I’ve been undertaking market research over the past few weeks. Actually, bench marking is probably a few term for it.

Going on tours and watching the guides. Listening to their presentation and seeing the different styles of delivery. Seeing how I compare and what they do better (or if I do something better!).

I’m happy to report that I don’t fall too far behind some of my colleagues that have been doing this for a while. I’ve picked up some good tips and can’t wait to start using them.

One thing that I’ll start doing is handing out ‘How was your visit?’ cards at the end of the tour. After a little bit of trawling I found the right link to order them from TripAdvisor.

The Engineer asked if I was planning on reviewing the places we’ve visited over the last few weeks and when I answered in the affirmative, lead into a discussion about the boasting side of reviews and privacy.

This got me thinking about whether my reviews should be anonymous or not. Especially if the place and/or product is something a bit special or high-end.

So far my reviews have all been under my name, although if I am with Mr. 15 or The Engineer I always try to limit the amount of times I mention them.

So my question for you dear reader, is an anonymous review as trustworthy as one from a reviewer who stands behind their name (so to speak)?

We have a date!

Aaargh! Where to start? The good stuff or the not so good stuff? I’ll start with the latter and then head back to the former. It’s been a little ‘one step forward, two steps back’ around here lately….

So after the first meeting with the start-up counsellor, a phone call came requesting me to come in for an interview; on Friday the 13th, at 13:00 πŸ˜‰Β  This was a different counsellor and we spoke for quite a while about the application and what I was up to. It was all in Finnish and I was very happy that I understood everything she wanted. This was one step forward! The backwards steps came after the interview and the followup statement that I needed from my other counsellor over at the city entrepreneurship office. He’s on holiday until early next month and needs to see me in person before issuing the statement. So, my application is now sitting on the desk just waiting…

The second ‘setback’ is one of my competitors launching a product very similar toΒ one of mine. I’m a little bit cranky at myself for not getting started sooner, but I know that I wasn’t in the right place to launch myself any earlier than now. I’m just chalking it up to ‘that’s life’. Anyway, when you see what I’ve got planned to the travelling public, I think you’ll agree, it’s nothing like the competition.

Of course, this hold-up with the grant application means that I can’t register the business. One of the main stipulations about getting the start-up funding is that the business can not be registered until the decision on funding has been made. No business registration means no ability to invoice, which in turn means no cash coming in. Although The Engineer is footing the bills at the moment, it does mean the little extras have been trimmed back. I’m okay with that, Mr. 14 however is finding it a little more difficult to understand. He has had some interesting advice for me lately!

There are a couple of silver-lined clouds on my horizon – albeit far away still! Firstly this delay means I can really research the banks and insurance companies. School studies will be useful for the business and the business will be useful for the school studies. That is the biggest and best bonus. I’ve collected credits on half my subjects so far and my course advisor at Helmi tells me that I can collect credits on the remaining subjects and more just by documenting my business over the next six months! The only non-business part will be the practical exam, although if I wish, I can use real customers for that also πŸ™‚ Any volunteers?!

I’ve left the best until last. My webpage will be live October 16th 2013, at 12:00 (GMT+2). Today I met with the guy who’s going to be the driving force behind that. We talked about what I do need to worry about right now and the things that can wait a little while. I’m so excited – he knew exactly what I was thinking of, and has already started working on the look! That’s the power of a good business plan!

The domain name registration is in order, the Twitter account has been set up, the Facebook is there too, although I’m not releasing that on the general public just yet… Next step will be ensuring that I’ve claimed my business pages on Yelp, Trip Advisor, LinkedIn and FourSquare. Pinterest and Instagram are also on the cards! So much social media πŸ™‚

Wow, it’s tomorrow already! Sleep tight πŸ™‚

PS: Did I tell you I had lunch with the guy from Yelp today. Nice guy and had lots of interesting stories and things to share. I hope we get to do lunch again…

Have you seen my oomph?

Have you seen my oomph? It’s not the first time this year it’s gone astray. I’ve also lost my travel card, although I’m fairly sure I know where I’ve misplaced that particular piece of plastic. THAT shouldn’t be too difficult to locate. No, the oomph or lack thereof is causing me large amounts of distress at the present. The business plan is languishing, still unfinished and awaiting submission. That is the cloud that is covering my oomph. I believe so anyway.

So, I’m taking a break from all social media until the business plan is lodged with the appropriate authority. I’m hoping that this simple act will ease the great lump of ‘aaargh’ that is lodged in the cavity where my vital organs should be.

Hiding…

This is a little like my current feeling. I ran into this little fellow while out walking Perry a few weeks ago. Like all good hedgehogs, he tucked himself into a ball and puffed up. Perry didn’t get the hint πŸ™‚ Perhaps I should be like Perry and not the hedgehog in this situation!

PS: I hope the photo shows up alright when you read this, I’ve had a few difficulties this evening.

I’m certified!

My studies and extra-curricular activities over the past few months have added a heap of cards and titles to my arsenal of important things to have!

First up was the Amadeus training. Many of my class mates found it difficult to get to grips with, fortunately for me it was pretty straightforward. I’m not sure if it was the fact that a lot of the terms were ones that I was familiar with or that it just made sense. Either way, in the words of my teacher I was the ‘miracle child’ of the class. We were a test class also, in that usually the training is given on the job rather than in the classroom.

At the end of the course came an optional exam.The exam was a timed multiple choice on-line session and some of the questions were quite tricky. I went right to the end of the time, and was lucky enough to be one of the few that passed. It’s not something that I believe I have to know for my own business, although if I do any work placement in a travel agency it will definitely be put to use again.

The next course that came along was the MATUPA (Matkailualan Turvallisuus Passi)Β or Travel Industry Safety Passport *.Β  It was a really informative course, although the delivery was a little bit dry. Most of the more interesting stories came from the other students πŸ™‚ We spent class time following case studies, learning about risk analysis and then designing our own analysis for a fictional happening. Our group based our happening for May Day, which is always hectic and slightly risky to the uninitiated! Again there was an exam at the end, this time based on true or false questions.

MATUPA

MATUPA / Travel Industry Safety Passport

The exam was on a Wednesday and we were told it would take a week or two for the results to be in. You can imagine my surprise and happiness to receive an email the next Friday confirming that I’d passed and the card would be delivered when school resumes in the autumn. I just have to make sure that I keep it updated! Next test will be in five years time…

The last certification was my first aid. It is as least 20 years since I’ve attended any formal first aid training. Safety training on-board was continuous, unfortunately not certified by the Red Cross or any other body. I elected to do a course in English rather than Finnish, more because the common language with my customers will be English and I would feel more comfortable learning the terms in English rather than Finnish.

I turned up to the allotted space desperately trying to recall any of my previous training. ABC was the best that I could recall. I needn’t have worried, the first thing our instructor did was ask us to tell about previous training and if we’d ever used our training. I wasn’t alone in being tardy in updating my first aid skills. The group was varied, most appeared to be there as it was compulsory for their work position, while a few of us were just interested in bring ourselves up to speed.

In a happy coincidence the trainer was a friend of mine. I knew she did work with the Red Cross, as well as pulling shifts as a midwife and a paramedic, so I really should not have been so surprised. As a teacher / instructor she was quite on the ball and kept us on track. The information flowed free and fast and we all enjoyed the two-day course. So now I know what to do if you are bleeding profusely, bump your head, show signs of suffering heart attack or stroke or even need CPR administered.

Our test involved working through 15 different scenarios in small groups. At each ‘station’ one of us would be the ‘actor’ and pretend to be one in need of care. The exception was the CPR station where we presented with the practice dummies and set to work! The most interesting scenario was the car crash, where first we were presented with a ‘crashed car’ and had to work out who needed what. It felt chaotic even in the pretend situation. Then we has to be the crash victims and the cared for by the next group. Interesting, fun and education all at once!

This certificate is valid for use in Finland / EU only and will be valid until 2016. Unfortunately the training isn’t recognised anywhere else – the same applies no matter where you do the training. This situation will remain unchanged as long as every country follows their own first aid rules.

Another post will follow shortly and I’ll share what’s been happening on the work front. Very exciting news on that front!

Thanks for reading this far! So much has happened and I didn’t want to leave you thinking that nothing was going on!

*Unfortunately I can’t find anything in English. It’s a collaborative effort originating in Lapland and aims at ensuring that all employers, employees and entrepreneurs in the Finnish travel industry operate with customer safety in mind. While it’s not compulsory, it’s definitely recommended and I can only hope that in time it becomes compulsory.

Aha! I had an “aha” moment!

I’ve been struggling lately. The pieces haven’t been falling into place. Not like I imagined they might or even into any sort of order.

Bear with me for a paragraph or two, by the end of this post I think all will be clear πŸ™‚

My struggle has been a loss of faith in myself and what I want to do. Well, not actually what I want to do, rather are there enough people out there like me who want to do what I want to do. Now, that does sound very confusing I know.

The whole business idea is built around showing my Helsinki, not necessarily the same as the official Helsinki version or any of the myriad of other tour operators about.

I think I am as close to rock bottom as I can get in this planning / pre-opening stage.

My aha moment came when I realised that I only need one person to believe in me. ME. While this is painfully self-evident now, last week this concept was clouded in a heap of doubts and negative thoughts. I was doubting the name, the idea, the source of customers. Everything just felt wrong.

I contemplated dumping the study, even though I enjoy it immensely. In the long run there will be benefits.

I contemplated dumping the volunteering, even though I enjoy it immensely. It pays to broaden ones’ horizons on occasion.

I contemplated dumping the book club, even though I enjoy it immensely. Despite the fact that I’ve been unable to read any of the books for the past few months, that one night of good food, good wine, good company does much to restore my spirit.

I contemplated dumping the cycling, even though I enjoy it immensely. Physical exercise and pushing the pain barrier can’t be beaten for getting those cogs turning in new directions. Some of my best ideas have come after a stint in the saddle. Followed by walking the dog πŸ˜‰

Now that I’ve said aha out loud a few times, even in the shower (which resulted in a mouthful of soapy water – bleugh) I’m set to move forward. I’ve cleared the table (literally and metaphorically) and all of those positive thoughts are about to become actions.

More soon, just watch!

Computers and a competition

Hah! (I’ve been waiting for such a long time to open a blog post like so :)) What a couple of days I’ve just been through…

Firstly my sound card has given up the ghost. This happened some time last week, though I thought if I restored to the last pre-update status and restarted two or three times that the problem would miraculously repair itself. Not so. That brought me to Monday afternoon hanging on the line for customer service. The helpful gentleman on the other end of the line didn’t really want to speak English with me, which left me struggling for such technical terms as speakers (kaiuttimet) and headsets (kuulokkeet) etc. These are not words that fill my daily vocabulary anyway!

Luckily we crossed that barrier and traversed the sticky ground of serial numbers. Thank goodness for the universally recognised Alpha, Romeo, Sierra etc. There are Finnish equivalents (Aarne, Risto, Sakari) although they don’t spring to mind readily. This is definitely one list that I need to learn. Back to the service call and after a few seconds I’m instructed to write down a warranty return code and head to an special site dedicated for returns… Too easy.

Yes, too easy. It took me a long half an hour to work out that I should have used “http” instead of “www”. Then once that hurdle had been overcome I was faced with a page of text. Including a statement in bold red saying “read first”. It was far too much for my frazzled brain to deal with at the time, so this morning I picked up where I left off.

It turns out that the original packing that I tossed about a month ago is required for return. Humph. Oh well, I’m sure I can find some bubble wrap and cardboard. Reading further the power source has to go back as well. Hmm, odd shaped package then! Reading to the bottom of the page it appeared that every second statement seemed to absolve everybody of responsibility if something went wrong…

Eventually all fields are filled and appropriate boxes checked. An email has arrived with information about scheduling a pickup. I’m tempted to arrange pickup for after Easter. There’s some things I want to work on that don’t need sound… Wordt case scenario I could use the ‘house’computer. Upside it has sound, downside I’m last in line for access after The Engineer and Mr. 13. Very thankful for the “cloud” though. No last minute panic to back everything up πŸ™‚

Now for the competition part! I’m contemplating holding a contest over on Heather’s Helsinki. I have some prizes. I have the “subject”. What do you think faithful follower? Do blog competitions work? Have you ever taken part in a competition that had prizes – real things that is? Was it properly run? Would it better on Facebook or Twitter? Serious questions that need answers! πŸ˜‰