Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Where Do I Put My Money so it's Safe?

About Investment

This question has become increasingly difficult to answer, because when you thought it was only a matter of finding someone you can trust to make your money safe, think again.  It is about how and where you invest your money.
How to Invest
It’s seems to make life a whole lot easier to work with an investment broker.  But wait, it’s your money, you need to become more involved.  You may still work with a broker whose connections and knowledge of what is going on in the market could be very useful for you.  You however should follow the leads your broker gives you and:
  • Do your own due diligence to verify the “opportunities” that exist – DON’T BE HASTY.
  • If it seems too good to be true – IT IS.
  • Learn to do what the broker does and – INVEST FOR YOURSELF. 
  • Know the difference between investing and speculating; between researching decisions and doing guess work – ALWAYS INVEST. 
  • Also, if you don’t quite understand what is happening, don’t take someone’s word for it – DO NOT INVEST.

Where to Invest

We’ve established that it is important to know the organization you are going to invest in.  But existing organizations are not the only outlets for investment.  You may also establish your own business, in which case you will need to know the industry.  Knowledge of the industry is also critical in investing in existing businesses as well.  The challenge with investing in businesses that you do not own is a reduced ability to affect outcomes.  Operating your own business affords you greater autonomy and increases your ability to influence outcomes.  But with all your best efforts life is an inescapable risk.  The good news though is that risk levels can be lowered.  Here are some tips of where to invest:

  • Invest where you can exert most influence. 
  • Invest where there are tangible assets, this usually means that manufacturing is more than likely taking place, which is critical to growing an economy.  But more critically from a safety of your investment point of view, tangible assets can be sold to recover investment funds.  Additionally, you are better able to recognize when something is going wrong.
  • When the assets are mostly intangible you want to make sure that your influence level is really high.  Influence is also necessary when the tangible asset base is heavy, but not as critical as in the other case.
  • Target procuring assets that tend to appreciate (real estate, gold, etc.).
  •  Stay away from money changing hands corporations – this is playing Russian roulette with your hard earned funds.
  • Invest in yourself. Equip yourself with skills that can be employed for your financial gain.
  • Consistently return a faithful tithe and give a liberal offering each time.  The blessings will follow, and you will enjoy maximum security (financial and otherwise). Mal. 3: 10-12; Matt 6:19, 20.
Remember, investing is a long term undertaking, be prepared to wait.  If it is happening too quickly, then you need to be scared, especially when the evidence is as it appears on paper.  The Bible warns against lending your money and charging usury (interest) on it.  Deuteronomy 23:19.  Modest interests on funds are a balancing out of inflation.  When interest rates are way high however, then an imbalance is occurring.  God’s blessings are very likely not on it.  Don’t be greedy.  Stay away.  A word to the wise….

Friday, 21 October 2011

Your Fortunes: Government's Responsibiltiy or Yours

Isn’t it the easy way out to blame the government for the failure of the economy to grow at impressive rates?  Granted, it is the role of government to facilitate the creation of an environment conducive to healthy economic activity.  But shouldn’t that creation be driven by the demand of the citizenry?  And shouldn’t that demand be more than, “we need the government to do something about the matter?”  Government is not a handout agency that distributes the donations of those who are engaged in productive activities. Taxes are to be used for the creation and maintenance of the infrastructure that allows for sustained economic activity.
The fortunes that you would enjoy in this life do not reside in the actions of government as it does in your own actions.  It is up to you to decide if you are going to be contented to rely on a 9-5 routine to provide the wherewithal to afford the lifestyle you wish to lead.  It may be that you have to think of engaging in some other kind of productive activity – either instead of, or in addition to your current 9-5 or whatever the nature of current your employment is.  These alternate or supplementary activities could range from farming to lecturing at an institution after regular work hours.  It could be through the forging of partnerships that would not leave too much pressure on you such as would affect your performance on your regular job (if this is the option you’ve chosen).  Another option could be to seek internet-based employment that would afford you the opportunity to work from home at a time convenient to you.  The options seem endless.

In deciding the direction one will go to secure ones fortunes there must be a preliminary audit of the skillsets one possesses.  Never enter into an area where you lack a working knowledge of what obtains in a chosen field of endeavour.  This may therefore mean that one may need to seek training, whether to learn or to shore up what is already known (always a necessity in a changing world) prior to launching out.  

Training can be formally or informally procured. Formally, one can register into a reputable institution and receive formal training in a discipline – you can either do a degree programme or in some instances these institutions offer short specialized courses.  Informally, you could volunteer to work for an organization where you will acquire the skills necessary for entry into the area you are interested in.  Other informal ways are to purchase books, or CDs, or DVDs, or research the internet for information on the field of your interest.

There is always a cost attached to acquiring the requisite skillsets for entering into chosen fields.  There is also a cost for actual entry into the fields as well.  Be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.  And if necessary, do not be afraid to seek a loan.  Here’s an alarming fact:  the number one reason why people get loans from a lending institution is to purchase a car.  Albeit that there is an obviously robust public transportation system in Jamaica, which might in part explain this trend, but which may also be at a stage of glut at this point, a car is an expense item.  The advice then is that unless a car is to be used directly in the operation of a business, delay purchasing and seek to invest instead.

When investing bear in mind that the idea of fortunes has both a quantitative and a qualitative side. Both sides should be considered.  Do not just go where the money seems to be; go where you can simultaneously impact your community in a positive way as well.  Try to create employment for others.  Try also to grow the economy.  There are some business activities that allow for growth of the economy more directly than others.  Those that supply exportable goods and services are the ones that have that ability to grow the economy in real ways.  There may be those too that may not be exported but can reduce the importation bill, and albeit indirectly, that’s growing the economy too.  An economy that is thriving and not debt ridden, needing only to maintain and do incremental upgrading of infrastructure can at length afford to have a relaxed tax system.  Your fortunes are your responsibility not the government’s.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Of Humility, Excellence and Quality

At the heart of Christian humility is the recognition that all that we have and are we owe to God.  Hence, we never become puffed up because of the successes with which we are associated.   All the glory belongs to God.

One pitfall that can lead individuals to grab God’s glory however is when we get so good at what we do, we conclude it’s because we’re so good.  This glory snatching will most likely occur when our undertakings fall within what it is we know we can do, based on acquired skills and experiences.  When at first we may be blown over by a success and we tend to say, “thank God”, a recurrence of a similar level of success tends to breed a contemptuous familiarity, and we begin to think that we are something special. There is an old adage that says that “familiarity breeds contempt.”  This outcome can occur within a number of instances including the matter of repeated activities.  When activities are done the same way over a period of time, and one becomes accustomed to the routine there’s always the tendency to rely on the honed ability and the comfort (familiarity) developed in accomplishing the usual tasks.  This is when it is likely to be all about self; about what “I can do.”

Nebuchadnezzar, although then not a committed servant of God, seemed to have plateaued in his accomplishments, and it was at this stage that he made the fateful declaration, “is not this great Babylon that I have built…by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” Dan.  4:30. He had conquered the world, and there seemed nothing else to do, but gloat.  This is exactly what excellence is not.
Excellence comes from the root excel.  To excel means to do better than a given standard.  A standard is the level to which a bar has been raised, and which also becomes the minimum required level of output required.  Meeting this minimum standard is how quality is then determined, because quality is the extent to which a predetermined set of criteria are satisfied.

It is important to note that a performance that may be determined excellent this year would have exceeded the bar of minimum requirements and may be used to reset what now becomes the minimum requirement.  Quality is also recalibrated.  Interestingly too what is deemed excellent this year may cannot be so adjudged if the same performance is repeated next year.  Hence, it has been said that there is no finish line to excellence.  For practical reasons the movement of the bar may not go industry wide as soon as one individual or corporation may have moved up their personal standards. This reality would then make excellence a personal thing, meaning that while by virtue of industry standards you are exceeding the bar, and more than meeting quality standards, one may not be meeting or exceeding their personal standard, and are therefore not excelling.

Excellence then is the one time experience of doing better than your last performance.  To maintain excellence therefore is to be in a constant state of improvement of one’s performance; to constantly go beyond one’s proven abilities.  It is here that reliance on God becomes the means by which one remains in a constant state of excellence.  In this zone you know it is only God, and this should keep the Christian humble.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Christian Leadership in the Organization: The Mentor vs. the Judge

It is the ploy of the Devil to provide “good reason” for us to practice unchristian deeds.  Many times these deeds occur in the name of justice, fairness, and equity.  These however, may not be pure Christian virtues, especially when they are not mixed with Grace, forgiveness, and mercy.

One of the parables Jesus told was of a debtor who owed a very large debt and when his creditor would have put him in jail until he repaid his debt, he pleaded as was pardoned.  But no sooner than he was pardoned and he went out saw someone who owed him a significantly lower debt.  When the second debtor pleaded his case, the forgiven man refused to grant him pardon but had him thrown in jail.  Word got back to the original creditor, who became furious and rescinded his original decision and had the original debtor thrown in jail.  Forgive, Jesus says, that ye be forgiven.

There is an extent to which everyone deserves a second chance, but at some point pure justice has to be served.  The way of the LORD however, is that the issuing of pure justice is always a last resort and occurs when the accused refuses to be redeemed, reconciled, or restored.

God’s preferred treatment of us is neither just, nor fair, nor equitable. Isaiah 53 tells us that the Jesus bore our grief and carried our sorrows; that He was wounded for our transgression and was bruised for our iniquities.  Jesus bore all that for us; it wasn’t fair; He didn’t deserve it.  Yet the passage tells us that it pleased God to bruise Him.  And it was as if to balance out this injustice, and preserve His untarnished repute of being perfectly just, that the merits of the suffering of Jesus Christ are offered to us who deserved what He experienced.  We call it Grace; God’s unjust, unfair, and inequitable treatment of human beings.
Further evidence of God’s inequity was borne out in the parable recorded in Matt. 20.  It is of a householder who had a vineyard in which he needed labourers to work.  It showed how at different times of the day, up to the eleventh hour, close to the end of the working day, the householder went out and hired people to work – all for the same wage.  So we see where Enoch walked with God and he did not die, neither was it recorded where he endured any severe hardship.  Job was deemed perfect and upright, but was subjected to the most severe hardship any human being, outside of Christ himself, may be called upon to bear.  Hebrews 11 gives us a litany of the hardships God’s people throughout all the ages endured, and yet not everyone was subjected to the same intensity of hardship.  In the end though, all who will be saved will have the same basic reward – eternal life.  Interestingly though, eternal life is not a reward for the hardship we endure in life, it is a gift procured by Jesus Christ through His unjust, unfair and inequitable suffering for us.  At His pleasure He extends the benefits to whomsoever He will, and He has extended it to us all.  John 3:16.
How should all this inform how a Christian leader in a Christian institution should operate?  Should Christian leaders be more apt to mentor than to judge?

Ø  Many times the people we try to mentor are those who are already performing at a high level or who show great potential for outstanding performance – much like politicians who choose causes they believe will get them the votes.  The people, however, who seem to lack vision and motivation are often ostracized and pushed aside.  It is here though that true Christian leadership is tested and manifested; not to go in front of people who are already moving in a certain direction, but to convince someone who is either going nowhere or going in the wrong direction to move in the desired direction.  This means not acting as a judge, but as a coach who understands the value of character on the field.  Character is what will determine the level of tenacity and resilience with which one strives for the goal.  A smart coach will not only work on physical fitness, which can be easily measured, but on mental toughness that makes one a winner long before the game is played.

Ø  Being a mentor or a Christian leader means not being as surprised or disappointed as one will seek to understand and meet the unique needs of a subordinate – thus freeing that individual to function appropriately and optimally.

Ø  True Christian mentors/leaders do not react but simply act with concern and care for those under their charge – understanding ministering to those who are to be won for the Kingdom.

Ø  True Christian mentors/leaders show patience even for those who should know better and may even be the ones in charge; are not position but people sensitive.

If you desire or have experience the Grace of God then your leadership is hard pressed to show evidence of this marvelous Grace of God.  It must be a leadership that is reconciliatory, redemptive, and restorative.  Christian leadership must be audacious enough to break the conventions of justice, fairness, and equity and to act with the Grace of God that has been extended to all unworthy sinners.  The day will come when God will pour out judgment, unmixed with mercy.  Rev. 14:10.  He will not have been impressed with our “impressive” numbers; He will have noted the lives we touched and the bridges we created for others to connect with God.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

On Getting Academics to be the Driver of a University's Operations: Random Ponderings

Thoughts of making a university more strategically poised for success invariably draw attention to issues of structure, roles and responsibilities of the players within the university community.  The following questions randomly probe the functions of presidents, deans, academic deans/vice presidents, and academic department chairs. The purpose of the questions is to stimulate the assessment of what obtains in a current situation and what might otherwise happen is the same situation.

What is the role of a university president?  Is it to craft a vision for the constituencies served and to thereafter create a macro environment that would allow the fulfillment of that vision?  Should the major part of a president’s role be more ambassadorial (externally focused) than managerial (internally focused)? Should the role of the president include lobbying for the establishment of national policies that would create the highway on which the university can deliver on it promises?  Should the role of the president also include giving publicity to the vision, capabilities, achievements, and needs of the university?  Should not a dominant characteristic or qualification of a president be the ability to communicate effectively; having great powers of persuasion?

The Office of the University President, NCU - File Photo

What if a college dean had a job description that mimics that of a president of a university, but only that the jurisdiction extends only to the college presided over, but still externally focused?  What if the vision created by the president represents the combination of the individual visions crafted by deans?  Should not the function of deans as heads of colleges and schools be the nuclei of around which all other functions of the university, including that of the president, revolve?  Should not deans wield great clout on a university campus, not excluding financial freedom, internal policy creation, and marketing and recruitment initiatives?  Should not a major part of what deans do be to recruit ideal faculty and students, and to be engaged in accessing funds for the execution of programmes and projects (including building new facilities)?  Should they not lead the charge to adjusting curricula and programme offerings to be more market responsive?  Should not deans be most aggressive in maintaining links with alumni from their colleges/schools/faculties?  Should not deans, like presidents be excellent communicators?

Should the role of the department chair or vice president of academic administration be primarily internally focused - ensuring that internal operational outcomes are achieved in accordance with plans, policies, procedures.  Wouldn't that mean that college deans and department chairs are accountable to the academic dean in terms of their meeting their respective external and internal targets?  Should chairs be charged with responsibility of monitoring the daily operations of the department including scheduling of classes, student related matters, faculty evaluation and other related matters, leaving interface with the dean as per routine college meetings and assemblies? 

Should there be a provost who oversees all non-academic internal functions? And in terms of rank or organizational structure, should it not be the president, the vice president or dean of academic administration, the Provost, college deans, departmental chairs, and then everybody else would make up the support system?

A deliberate effort should be made to provide ongoing training to ensure that everyone performs optimally.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Steve Jobs: What's Next?

Every now and then someone comes along who looms as a larger than life figure.  Given the waves that have been created by Steve Jobs before and still after his death, he was such a figure.  But not really, because he’s no longer around, albeit that his legacy will live on.  But not really, because expected lifespan in the computer world is not very long, and it may not be far hence before his innovations will become obsolete.


Under a decade ago Jobs expressed a desire to live on for a few decades yet.  With his multiple medical operations he certainly tried to, but alas he lost the battle.  We all lose that battle at some stage.  Is that it?  Is that all that life consists of; you come on stage for an undetermined, unguaranteed period, and by the time you figure out the secret to leading a fruitful life, puff – you’re out?  Is that it?  Is that really it?

If that is it, then it’s not enough.  Because even if there is a legacy left behind, those who inherit it, will die too, and those after them, and those after them, and….  And where does it stop, where does it begin to make sense, this thing called life?

Life is hard.  The Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”  Even Christians who enjoy a good relationship with Christ are subjected to so much hardship that if there were no prospect of life after their stint is completed here it would be hardly be worth it – in the grand scheme of things.  Death is an enemy to life, to achievements, to learning, to innovations, to growth, to development, to us all.  It makes a mockery of our dreams and aspirations.  It teases with the prospect of beating it, but alas it strikes with a benumbing finality – just when you were getting it right.
Ah, but there is good news: Paul wasn’t saying that he was miserable, he was rather glorying in the confidence he eloquently articulates in 2 Tim. 4:7, 8 “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:  Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

Every time a bright spark like a Steve Jobs goes out, I’m reminded that death is a cheat, a major anticlimax, a common enemy for all of us to beat.  Thank God for Jesus Christ who came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.  Amazingly, through His death for us He is able, once again, to share His life with us.  He tells us that He is the resurrection and life and that anyone who believes in Him will live after death.  What is your after-death plan?  There’s room aplenty at the foot of the cross.

Friday, 7 October 2011

University - a Community Business

Traditionally, universities mean a lot more than dissertations, diplomas and degrees.  They have always, in very direct and indirect ways, been a partnership with the community in which they operate.  One evidence of this partnership is the economic activity that a university generates.

When the young scholar leaves home and takes up residence on campus or in the immediate environs of the university campus, there are significant implications for the economic activity that will be generated within that region where the university does its business.  The young sage needs somewhere to live (and that place needs to be maintained), food to eat, entertainment, school supplies, transportation, medical treatment, security, hairdressing, and the list goes on.  Now, multiply that by… you supply the desired number.

Things are changing however with the growing popularity of online programme offerings, along with the establishment of satellite campuses, the proliferation of competing universities.  Movements will be curtailed or swayed, and the traditional ratio between the level of business activity within the university and the community will be distorted.  It is going to be entirely up to the private citizen who has an extra room or two to rent, or board out, business enterprises, local governments, members of parliament, and the full spectrum of the affected community to collaborate to keep traditional universities alive and viable.  They must find ways to incentivize persons choosing to physically attend universities, outside of those imperatives that would require face to face contact, team work, and lab work.  Whether the university is privately owned or government operated, a university is a community business – everyone has a vested interest which they should protect.  Whatever you do to support your university redounds to your advantage in the long run.

There is no exact science to achieving this target but there are some things that can likely boost physical attendance of a university: lucrative scholarships that require physical attendance among other criteria, assistance in the facilities development (academic, sporting, recreational, administrative) of the university, the retention of suitably qualified staff (attractive communities, lucrative memberships, appropriate entertainment), and active support for and participation in the marketing and recruiting initiatives of the university.  The amenities within the communities (food, housing, entertainment, transportation, security, jobs [part-time and full-time] that are reserved for university students that would allow them to work and study) can be a major draw card for students desiring tertiary education.  It will be up to the communities to help create the kind of environment that will attract the prospecting high school leaver.

Another evidence of this partnership and therefore a reason to support a university, although this may counter the geoeconomic argument, is the conviction that the value-added quality of the academic and extracurricular offerings is good for the nation.  That though is another essay.
The vision that drives an appreciation for quality graduates who are rounded, polished, and of stern integrity; for quality outreach programmes that positively impact the community in their most relevant areas of need; for quality leadership to buffer the wave of moral degradation that would overflow the nation, is a vision born of a desire for a nation that is civilized, cultured, progressive and truly 21st century.

File Photo

Northern Caribbean University, owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands, and Jamaica, offers itself as the centre of wholistic higher education.  It stands ready to formalize partnerships with all persons (individual or corporate) within the confines of law and its moral convictions.

Glad you Joined US

We are heartened at the prospect of interfacing with you in this forum.  Northern Caribbean University is here to serve you, we want hear from you, we want to share with.  Shoot us a line on any matter related to who we are, and the services we offer.  We'll do our best to respond in ways consistent with our Christian ethos.

Our postings will be intended to feed you with practical ideas you can use.  They will hopefully stimulate divergent and expansive thinking on everyday matters.  And yes, we will throw in the occasional strange subject.  But rest assured we propose to build you in all that we do