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Take It From Me

Affordable Europe

Travel tips for the budget conscious

Skip summer. Everything costs less in the iffy weather of off-season. Yet a great place is a great place year-round. An October walk on Spain’s Mediterranean beaches calls for a sweatshirt, but the sun’s still warm enough to let you linger over wine and grilled fish at al fresco cafes. Germany in December is chilly, but it’s alive with holiday lights and ornament shops. And a Scottish February’s gray sky is the perfect backdrop for ancient castle ruins.

Fly frugal. If the major airlines’ off-peak prices are too high, investigate economical carriers like Icelandair and Aer Lingus. Travel midweek. Check airlines and tour companies for air/hotel bundles, often cheaper than airfares alone. Browse discounted packages at sites like Affordabletours.com. Then be ready to combine air travel with other transportation options. Say you’ve found a cheap flight to London but are headed elsewhere. Grab the flight, then travel to your destination by train, bus, ferry, or low-cost intra-Europe airlines like Ryanair or easyJet.

Hotel hunt. Sites like Expedia and Orbitz list some budget accommodations, but a little digging can uncover many more two- and three-star hotels. Start at your destination’s official tourism site, which will likely have an expansive list of accommodations, often with links to their websites.

Make contact. Email each hotel you’re interested in. Explain that you’re looking for budget accommodation for specific dates, and ask for the best rate. If you can write a few words in your potential host’s language, do. Bypassing a booking service gives the hotel an opportunity to actively compete for your business and fill a room that might otherwise go empty. And the personal contact can yield surprise perks like a welcome gift, view, or upgrade.

Dine midday. Make luscious lunches your day’s major culinary event; for dinner, grab something quick or buy groceries and eat in. Eating your main meal in the afternoon lets you indulge inexpensively in local cuisine—and get enough sleep for sightseeing: European dinnertime is typically nine or ten.

Working with Headhunters

Search consultants can be useful colleagues. Here’s how to cultivate a relationship with them:

  • Write a solid résumé. Recruiters look for length of time at each job, depth of experience, types of management experience, and career progression. Be prepared to elaborate: a good recruiter will get details from you. Even if your profile isn’t right for a particular position, it may be perfect for one that opens up later.
  • Make referrals. Even if you’re being recruited for a position that doesn’t interest you, try to think of another possible candidate. Good recruiters are discreet; if you ask for your referral to be anonymous, they will respect that.
  • Be honest. Don’t pad your résumé, and don’t use the search process to get your foot in the recruiter’s door, to negotiate with your current employer, or to line up practice interviews.

Of course, the recruiter’s client is the employer—that’s who pays the fees. But good recruiters are like good matchmakers. Their success in identifying a candidate for a position is everyone’s success.

How to Succeed in Business—Now

If you’re an executive, look for the recession’s silver lining

Cut costs without losing sight of your strategy. Make sure you keep one eye focused three to five years out—whatever new operating and financial platform you’re constructing should allow for future growth. Meanwhile, institutionalize the kind of discipline that drives operating efficiency. Ask leaders throughout the organization to help you get rid of waste. Kill reports no one reads, meetings that just burn time.

Simplify your strategy. Economic straits mean fewer resources, a more chaotic working environment, and lower morale. So your business strategy should be accessible and explicit. Strive to get it on one or two sheets of paper. Gather your entire executive team and articulate four or five key goals. For each, list the few key initiatives to be achieved.

Focus on where you make money—your customers. By getting closer to customers when times are tough, you can increase their loyalty and build market share. Work to understand their concerns, which they may be willing to share more openly now. Remember, too, that what matters most to them could be changing. Those who used to make innovation a high priority may now put pricing, or payment terms, or flexible inventory at the top of their list.

Get employees engaged. When the papers are filled with stories of layoffs and bankruptcies, your people will naturally become insecure. But that could motivate them to help your business. Establish forums for discussing ideas. After all, organizations perform better when employees contribute meaningfully.

Upgrade your talent. Push employees to perform. They’ll try to respond—no one wants to lose their job during a recession. At the same time, recognize that high-quality people may be on the street, or ready to be recruited from competitors.

A more detailed article, “The Upside of a Downturn,” is available at www.brimstoneconsulting.com.

Raising Gifted Kids

Gifted children often experience social and emotional issues that can hinder them in school and later in life. There are many ways in which parents and teachers can help gifted kids overcome such issues. Here are a few:

Remind them to respect others. Gifted children, particularly in the primary grades, can be quick to judge peers who do not understand concepts as easily as they do. Promoting empathy and teaching self-awareness is critical.

Help them become internally motivated. Gifted children need to feel in possession of their own learning. The kids who tend to be most successful are those who find internal reasons for working and don’t rely on external rewards or punishments to do well in school.

Encourage a realistic self-concept. Gifted students often have unrealistically high standards for themselves and can become frustrated with challenges that they don’t master quickly. They need regular reminders that while they are very bright, it will take patience, hard work, and resilience for them to succeed.

Teach persistence. Many gifted students have never had to work hard to master a concept. Developing a strong work ethic and a willingness to keep at a challenge is important for them.

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