Thursday, September 05, 2013

Handling parents' expectations in our schools

I want to share my views on how to manage issues involving parents in our schools. These issues are similar to customer complaints in businesses.

When a parent contacts the teacher or the school, the type of interaction should be identified as follows:

a) seek clarification, i.e. to get facts
b) lodge a complaint

The type of issue would probably falls into the following:
a) alleged mistreatment by the teacher
b) alleged mistreatment by classmates
c) alleged poor performance by teacher, e.g. not teaching the child properly.
d) school facilities or environment

If the parent is in "seeking clarification" mode, the teacher or school staff can cooperate in giving the relevant information. The parent should avoid the type of questions that amount to interrogation or allegation misconduct during this phase.

If the parent wishes to file a complaint, after getting the relevant facts, the process should be done in a formal manner, i.e. a written and signed statement should be obtained, and relevant facts should be provided.

The handling of the complaint by the school can go through two stages:
a) the first stage is to seek an amicable solution without going through too much trouble for all parties. Often, an apology or acknowledgement may suffice. The case can be closed easily.
b) If the matter is more serious, a more formal process may be carried out, e.g. a disciplinary inquiry. This should be quite rare.

We have to accept that in our daily lives, mistakes can be made and they are not serious. Often, these mistakes are unintended and unexpected, and should be excused. We should not expect perfection.

Most of our schools, with the long experience, probably handle the issues from parents well. Perhaps, it is a matter of making better communication with parents and the public.

I hope that these ideas are helpful to the schools, parents and the public.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Finding the first job

A young man recently graduated with an accounting degree from Singapore Institute of Management. His preference is to work for one of the Big 4 accounting firms as they give good training and salary. He did not mind the long working hours.
So far, he has been unsuccessful as these firms prefer to hire graduates from the other three local universities.
He asked for my advice. 

Here are my views:
1. Look for a job that needs you more than you need the job, e.g. a small company that has messy accounts and administration.
2. Do not worry about the lack of training. You have already spend 4 years in full time university and do not need further training. It is time to learn by applying your knowledge to the job.
3. When you encounter a problem, differentiate between what is important and what is not. Discuss with you boss or colleagues on the important matters. They will appreciate being consulted.
4. Do not bother them with the unimportant matters. Take your own decision, even if it turns out to be wrong. The consequence is small, and you can learn from experience.
5. Do not worry about making mistakes. You won't get sacked. Remember, your boss needs you more than you need the job.

I hope that this approach works for the young man.

A truly mobile website

1.       Introduction

A recent survey showed that 89% of users access the Web using a mobile device. Most of them use a mobile phone with a small screen.
Is your corporate website designed to be easily read by these users? Do you want to reach out to these consumers and tell them about your products and services?

2.       Mobile friendly website

Many businesses are now converting their traditional website (designed to be read by a desktop) to be mobile friendly, but this is a wrong approach. Why?
It is better to design your new website to be truly mobile friendly, and to design every page from scratch.
Remember – many users read your webpages using a 3G connection or shared Wi-Fi in a public place, and the connection can be quite show.
You should design each page to be small, so that it can be loaded quickly.
You should also want to make it easy for them to get the desired information easily – and that means an easy search and fast navigation.

3.       Integration with Social Media

You will also want each page of your website to be easily accessed from the social media – Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Wordpress and other platforms. This requires each page or each tag (i.e. collection of pages) to be numbered for easy access.

4.       Fast to develop

Your new website, which can be truly mobile friendly and comprise of a hundred pages, can be developed quickly in just a few days using the Onyx template (developed by Tan Kin Lian & Associates).
As an example, I want to refer you to my website, was created in just three days. Currently, it contains more than 70 newly designed pages.
I will be transferring a few hundred pages from my traditional website ( to the mobile website soon. After that, I will take down my traditional website.
You can create a trial website on the Onyx platform ( to see how easy it can be done, and to view how the pages look like on a mobile phone or a desktop.
If you keep you website on this platform you can use a redirection to this website. For example, visitors to be mobile website can type and will be redirected to

5.       Your own domain

If you like the Onyx website, you can transfer it to your own domain.
For example, the Onyx website can sit on or

6.       Enquiry

If you are interested to have a trial of the Onyx website, send an email to

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The heavy cost of neglect

By allowing scams to continue unchecked, the Government is causing more harm than just financial loss to the investors - families can be broken up.

I want to share the cases of two women who were cheated by scams. They dared not tell their husband, as it would lead to a breakup of their marriage. They had to suffer the anguish on their own and keep the secret from their husbands.

It is likely that if the cheated person is the husband, many would not dare to tell their wives.

It is easy for the Government leaders to say - you have to be more careful, but they have to realize that the ordinary folks are easy prey to the crooks. It has happened over the decades.

This is why any decent Government has to take responsibility to make the laws, to investigate and to enforce the law. By doing nothing, the Government is neglecting its primary duty.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Learn to identify the scams

When I post a story about a potential scam, I do not show the name of the company or product. Instead, I give details that explain the circumstances, so that the public will be able to identify the scam, or similar products that may be offered to them. 

I often get requests to disclose the name, so that the public can avoid the company or the product. This request usually comes from a person who is lazy to think, and only wants to be spoon-fed.

It is better to learn how to identify similar scams and avoid all of them. It requires you to spend some time to read, to understand, rather than be given the name of the company. Remember - other companies may be offering similar products to trap you, and you can fall into their trap.

Apart from this reason, I cannot tell you the name of the company - because they will get a lawyer to sue me for defamation. It will be difficult for me to prove my "facts".

To avoid being cheated, it is better for the public to spend some time and money to learn about the scams, and how they work, so that the public can identify similar scams based on the scope of operation.

Learn by doing; trust your common sense

I want to share a story to illustrate an important point - by adopting a different approach, based on common sense, it is possible to get significantly improved results.

In the early 1980s, my company installed a new computer system. It is an in-house online system. Remember, this was long before the advent of the Internet.

I was in charge of computer strategy. I transferred a few internal staff to the computer services department and gave them training in software development.

There were tasked to develop the most common functions required for an insurance company, i.e. the data entry of computer applications, issue of policies, sending out of premium notices, updating of premium payment and payment of commission to agents.

These were the familiar and most common functions, which do not require much analysis. The computer system was ready in less than 6 months and put into operation.

We left out the complicated tasks such as underwriting engine, handling of complicated products and administration of claims. These continued to be handled "outside the system" using manual decision making. They were implemented in the system gradually, at the later stages.

The common approach at that time was to carry out a full system study and discussion with the users and get approval before developing the system. This typically took 3 to 5 years and required a large budget. We did not adopt the common approach.

A computer expert later described the approach used by us as "prototyping".

I like to share these points in our approach:
1. We did what we know
2. What we did not know (i.e. in putting into the computer system) continued to be handled outside the system, by the experts
3. When we had time later, we implemented the additional tasks, one at a time
4. We learned by doing. After implementation, we encountered the real problems and fixed the important ones.

I want to share this story, so that more people will be bold to adopt the prototyping approach, and to implement changes more quickly and achieve better outcomes.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Cost of living and minimum wage

The minimum wage in Jakarta was 1.5 million rupiah per month (about SGD 200) last year. It was raised to 2.2 million rupiah this year by Governor Jokowi.

Even 2.2 million is not enough, as the cost of living in Jakarta is quite high. Some experts have calculated that the minimum wage should be raised to 3.5 or even 4 million rupiah. 

Recently, the Jakarta administration set an example to employsome people at a salary of 4 million rupiah - just to show the point.

While businesses want wages to be as low as possible, they have to realize that the wages should be sufficient to meet the cost of living and give people a decent life, and have some savings for the future.

Singapore should also address the issue of the cost of living and the minimum wage. We cannot just pretend that the problem does not exist, or can be left to be sorted out by the market.

If rentals, government charges, top management salaries and excessive profits can be kept under control, the increase in consumer prices due to higher wages can be moderated.

This will lead to a better balance in our society, and a smaller gap between the top and low income brackets.

Keep in touch with your classmates for a lifetime!

I want to introduce the concept of the Facecard, especially to young people who are still studying in secondary and tertiary institutions.

Facecard is a personal card that you can create and store in the Cloud. You can put in your name, telephone numbers and e-mail and exchange them with your classmates.

The exchanged cards are stored in your virtual contact box that is also kept in the Cloud.

You may want to keep the contacts, especially your closed friends, in your mobile phone, but the Facecard in the Cloud is a useful backup, in case you lose your mobile phone or it get spoilt.

More importantly, you may lose contact with your friend when they change their phone numbers or e-mail addresses and don't tell you, or their message went into your spam box.

Even if you tell your friends about your changed contacts, they may overlook to update their record, so you will lose touch with many of them quite quickly.

These troublesome updating is not required when you use Facecard. When you update your Facecard, all of your friends are notified immediately, without any need for them to do any updating.

When your friends update their Facecard, the updated details appear in your contact box instantly. No need for you to do any updating.

You can also keep in touch with old classmates and friend when they change jobs. You will know their latest title and company, when they update their Facecard.

It is easy to exchange Facecard at a meeting. Go to "Nearly" and see the Facecard of people at the same event and ask to exchange cards. It is better than collecting the physical cards (especially, if you don't have any, or have forgotten to bring them).

You can create your Facecard at Go to "Register" to create the card and click on the "How to use Faceard" link to read the instructions.

Create your Facecard now, and keep in touch with your friends for a lifetime!

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