Shoe Repairs And Several Other Things When I Was 7

Shoe Repairs And Several Other Things When I Was 7
My Dad repaired most of our shoes believe it or not, I can hardly believe it myself now. With 7 pairs of shoes always needing repairs I think he was quite clever to learn how to “Keep us in shoe Leather” to coin a phrase!

He bought several different sizes of cast iron cobbler’s “lasts”. Last, the old English “Laest” meaning footprint. Lasts were holding devices shaped like a human foot. I have no idea where he would have bought the shoe leather. Only that it was a beautiful creamy, shiny colour and the smell was lovely.

But I do remember our shoes turned upside down on and fitted into these lasts, my Dad cutting the leather around the shape of the shoe, and then hammering nails, into the leather shape. Sometimes we’d feel one or 2 of those nails poking through the insides of our shoes, but our dad always fixed it.

Hiking and Swimming Galas
Dad was a very outdoorsy type, unlike my mother, who was probably too busy indoors. She also enjoyed the peace and quiet when he took us off for the day!

Anyway, he often took us hiking in the mountains where we’d have a picnic of sandwiches and flasks of tea. And more often than not we went by steam train.

We loved poking our heads out of the window until our eyes hurt like mad from a blast of soot blowing back from the engine. But sore, bloodshot eyes never dampened our enthusiasm.

Dad was an avid swimmer and water polo player, and he used to take us to swimming galas, as they were called back then. He often took part in these galas. And again we always travelled by steam train.

Rowing Over To Ireland’s Eye
That’s what we did back then, we had to go by rowboat, the only way to get to Ireland’s eye, which is 15 minutes from mainland Howth. From there we could see Malahide, Lambay Island and Howth Head of course. These days you can take a Round Trip Cruise on a small cruise ship!

But we thoroughly enjoyed rowing and once there we couldn’t wait to climb the rocks, and have a swim. We picnicked and watched the friendly seals doing their thing and showing off.

Not to mention all kinds of birdlife including the Puffin.The Martello Tower was also interesting but a bit dangerous to attempt entering. I’m getting lost in the past as I write, and have to drag myself back to the present.

Fun Outings with The camera Club
Dad was also a very keen amateur photographer, and was a member of a camera Club. There were many Sunday photography outings and along with us came other kids of the members of the club.

And we always had great fun while the adults busied themselves taking photos of everything and anything, it seemed to us. Dad was so serious about his photography that he set up a dark room where he developed and printed his photographs.

All black and white at the time. He and his camera club entered many of their favourites in exhibitions throughout Europe. I’m quite proud to say that many cups and medals were won by Dad. They have been shared amongst all his grandchildren which I find quite special.

He liked taking portraits of us kids too, mostly when we were in a state of untidiness, usually during play. Dad always preferred the natural look of messy hair and clothes in the photos of his children.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.

Marketing Your E-commerce Business Through Social Media Networks

The goal with social network marketing is twofold:1. You are trying to enhance your site’s community by establishing outposts on social networking sites so people who share your interests, or are interested in your products and services, find you and your site.2. Getting involved in social networking multiplies the number of places that your site and your products can be found by search engines, which is critically important to the success of your e-commerce business.How To Leverage Social Media Networks To Our Advantage?Simply, we are trying to spread the word about your e-commerce business. You can take your product reviews or blog posts and spread them as far as possible online enlisting the help of these sites. It’s important to make sure the content you’re promoting is interesting and helpful to the audience you’re trying to reach. Remember, people like to do business with their friends if they’ve never met you offline. By being reasonable and participating in social networking, you’ll expand your credibility and potential customer base in many important and helpful ways.It’s also important to recognize that these social media outlets were designed to serve as conversation platforms, and not as overt marketing channels. Sending messages that are overly promotional or commercial is often compared to shouting at a party where everyone else is chatting quietly, and the backlash can overwhelm the benefits of participation. As an ecommerce business owner I recommend taking a couple of weeks to monitor the various sites to get a sense of the patterns and informal rules before posting anything.Which Sites Do You Need To Target?Here’s a brief overview of the important sites you need to target:Digg.com: Digg is a popular social news website in which community members vote articles up and down, with the most popular articles appearing on the front page. Users submit articles on topics including technology, world & business, science, gaming, lifestyle, entertainment, sports and offbeat. Having an article reach the home page can generate a tremendous amount of traffic to your e-commerce venture very quickly, but a Digg link can be helpful even if you don’t make the front page. Your link will be archived and available to search engines, as well as being available to users who search within the Digg archives directly.Twitter.com: Twitter is generating a ton of online buzz, and for good reason. The short messaging service is evolving into a communication and news platform that e-commerce ventures can’t afford to ignore anymore. Twitter allows users to exchange short messages that are limited to 140 characters, which is roughly about 25 words or so. Many sites have found good success posting (“tweeting,” in Twitter lingo) short summaries of new blog posts or product reviews, highlighting interesting articles or trends in their area of expertise, or just reaching out and seeing who might be interested in the same things they are.Twitter’s ‘hashtag’ (#) function, for instance, makes it very easy for users to search on specific events or topics other users have marked with hashtag function. Many attendees at popular conferences, for instance, use hashtag searches to find and meet each other. Check Twitter’s search page (search.twitter.com) to see popular topics generating user interest.Facebook.com: Facebook has long been popular with college-aged students, but since it opened its doors to a general audience, the site has been growing rapidly, with most new users coming from an adult audience that’s over 30. To reach this growing audience, e-commerce venture owners can create positive marketing relationships on Facebook in two ways. The first and most obvious way is to invite customers to “friend” you on the site. You may not want customers to share the same details or photos you’re sharing with friends and family members, but you can create limited profiles that allow people to get a bit of a behind-the-scenes look into your business without revealing too many personal details.In addition, while Facebook is best known for its personal “profiles,” it does let organizations create pages that allow Facebook members to become fans of your e-commerce venture. While they may be more likely to become fans of a football team or a Bollywood star, Facebook fan pages give your venture another opportunity to highlight interesting content related to your business and, almost more importantly, provide search engines with another place to discover content about, and related to, your e-commerce venture and your market niche.If you do not have a personal Facebook account, you can create a specific account for your business. According to Facebook, a business account can add information, photos or videos just as a personal account can, but can’t see information about visitors and can’t explore other areas of Facebook, so this might not be the best option for your e-commerce venture.MySpace.com: Similarly, MySpace is a popular site especially with younger consumers, that’s becoming an important marketing tool for e-commerce businesses (and a critical outlet for bands to reach their audience). As with Facebook, you can reach this growing audience by forming relationships with customers and other people. In addition to setting up a profile, MySpace lets users join and create groups that attract people who share your interests or hobbies. If you’re trying to sell guitar accessories online, joining groups that serve guitar players would give you great insights into their interests and equipment needs, and allows you to share content and create relationships with other members of the guitar-playing community.Does Social Media Networks Really Help?If you want your e-commerce business to stand out amongst the crowd it’s becoming necessary to have these tools on your website. Your business will not survive over the long term if you are not connected with the audiences within these networks. Furthermore you can achieve great success simply by offering something of value and your e-commerce business can go viral very quickly.Take the time to understand how these social media outlets fit into your e-commerce business and over time you will start to see the benefits.
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