The North Island

With only 7 days to see New Zealand, I elected to only visit the north island on this trip flying into Wellington and out of Auckland at the end of my week. I was joined by two fellow frisbee players from Toronto, Kat and Jess. I flew in a few days after them so they already had a car rented and picked me up from the airport upon my arrival.

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In case you are unaware the kiwis drive on the left side of the road compared to the right side I am used to at home. The setup inside the car for the driver has the turn signal and windshield wipers switched. The running joke is you see a tourist coming a mile away because they always turn the wipers on instead of the turn signals. After the first day of driving you get the hang of doing everything opposite while traveling in traffic. The tough part comes when you approach an intersection or parking lot where your natural instincts kick in trying to get you killed. Thankfully I only attempted to kill us all once when leaving a parking lot and turning into the oncoming lane at 11:30 P.M. when there was one car on the road. Whoops.

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The first night in NZ was dedicated to traveling north from Wellington to Porangahau for the Hat Tournament. As it would turn out this weekend was the last long weekend of the NZ summer but traffic was for the most part non-existent. The roads in NZ do not ever follow a straight line. Period. Fact. Every journey you take is an 50 – 70 KPM journey of winding blind corners and hills. It’s like rally car driving to get to the corner store when all you need is a lottery ticket. Don’t get me wrong, driving along the cliff edge with panoramic views was thrilling. After our multi hour journey with multiple stops we arrived at our destination, a working sheep and cattle farm, after 11 P.M. and hunkered down for the night. During our two days on the farm we were treated to some great ultimate, a great Saturday night party, and we were able to visit the longest named place in the world. On the Sunday we headed out after the final awards were handed out and everyone had showered. Our goal was to make it to Cape Kidnappers and catch a glimpse of the golf course before sun down.

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We arrived at Cape Kidnappers Golf Course with only an hour of light left. We arrived at the perimeter gate to find out that it was another 20 minute drive to the clubhouse. We finally arrived at the clubhouse to discover that the club was closed for the day. I didn’t fly all the way to NZ and drive an hour out of our way to not see the course. With no one around but the three of us, we walked to the coast line where the course and cliffs meet. This view was completely worth the trip and I doubt I would have been able to enjoy the course as much as I did had it been “open” when we arrived. Once the sun had set we all jumped back in the car and set out to find a place to stay for the night. We chose to try for the town of Rotorua as it was recommend to us based on our plans for the next couple of days. After driving until the early hours of the morning I discovered that I had just piloted us about 2 hours past our planned adventure for the Monday. I was more than a little displeased at this point because I like being accurate and sticking to the laid out plan. I requested a road map from the hotel front desk to avoid running into this type of boondoggle again.

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We woke up on the later side of things and used Monday as a recovery day. Rotorua is a volcanic town surrounded by many hot springs that were very active. We plotted some places to visit around town and along the way to our next overnight in Turangi. First was the local park which had some smelly, muddy, bubbly hot springs for us to sniff and gag at. Next up was a short ride to Waiotapu Themeral Wonderland. This place is what I expect mars will be like once colonized. There are craters, extreme colours in the water pools, barren landscapes, and a random forest in the middle of it all. All in all an interesting spot to visit and a nice leisurely paced attraction. After the thermals we headed for lake Taupo to try and catch an afternoon cruise to see the Maori Rock Carvings. We made the journey with minutes to spare and were able to book a trip on a yacht take us out on a nice cruise across rather choppy waters. A short 30 minute ride out to the carvings gave us great light to view the piece and enjoy a nice leisurely cruise back to port. We enjoyed dinner in town before heading out to Turangi and our accommodations for the evening.

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Turangi is the town closest to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We arrived at our hostel for the night and we were given advice on crossing by the owner. We agreed that we would split up for the 19.4 KM journey and complete the hike in opposite directions. The reason we split up was to ensure we would not have to pay any shuttle fees to get back to the car at the end of the hike. I would complete the hike from west to east and the ladies would stick together completing the hike east to west as recommended by the hostel owner. The most important part of this plan was the hand off of the car key and I almost forgot to pick up the car key from the ladies. Thankfully Jess was paying attention and handed over the prized key during our meeting around the 11 KM marker. I completed the journey in about 5 hours and 15 minutes with all of my up hill climbs out of the way in the first 9 KM of my hike. The reverse hike for the ladies was much more difficult as their journey was an uphill fight for a longer period of time and across tougher terrain. I met the girls with car back where I had started my day and we were all tired from our hikes. We headed into Turangi to get some wifi and plan our next day’s adventure and find a place to sleep for the night. We agreed to return to the town of Rotorua for the night and stay in a hostel there before heading out to Matamata and Auckland the next day. Our journey to our Rotorua hostel was uneventful with the hostel almost uninhabited upon our arrival with only two other cars in the parking lot.

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Our last final full day on the north island began with a short journey to the outskirts of the town of Matamata, also know as Hobbiton. The girls had signed up for a tour of the hobbit village, grounds, and working farm. I dropped them off for their tour and headed to the opposite side of town to catch a glimpse of the highest waterfall in NZ, Wairere Falls. This set of falls is 153M and a different style of waterfall than I am used. Niagara Falls is a horseshoe style falls with a high water flow crashing over the edge every minute. Wairere is a skinny cascading waterfall with the water following many different paths down to the bottom. I spent a short amount of time at the falls before returning to pick up the girls from their Hobbiton adventure. They raved about being whisked away into an alternate universe and loved the adventure. We piled into our trusty car and headed into Matamata for lunch before making the trek up to Auckland. The journey from lunch to Auckland was smooth until we hit our first bit of NZ traffic entering the Auckland city limits. It would appear that NZ does have traffic every now and then. We hacked our way into town and found our accommodation for the night. After dropping off our bags, we parked the car for the night, and headed out to the Sky Tower to catch the sunset from the 60th floor. We were treated to a lovely colourful sky and were able to see the city night lights come up before heading down to the wharf for an evening stroll that led us back to our hostel. We packed our bags for our upcoming flight before calling it a night.

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Our final morning in NZ only required us to return the rental car before checking in for our flight to Hawaii. Kat and myself were continuing on to Oahu and Jess was on her way to Thailand. What should have been an uneventful drive got way too interesting way too fast. On the way to the drop off location the car starting making a loud squealing sound whenever the wheels were turning. And to our relief the sound disappeared without warning just as it appeared. I still have no idea what that noise was and I’m glad that it stopped before we got anywhere near the drop off location because it was as loud as someone using a stone cutting saw. A short shuttle to the airport and a quick check in process left me with enough time to embrace my inner hobbit before I left with a second breakfast.

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My trip to New Zealand was great. I think I enjoy driving on the left side of the road better than the right, the terrain really dictates how fast you can make a journey between each city, the landscapes are beautiful, the ocean is cold but clean, the sun is extremely powerful, and the positives go on. The biggest downside for me was the price point of many items but that can easily be overlooked. I would like to return one day with more time and have a chance to visit the south island as I hear it is even more beautiful than the north.

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Measure Thrice, Cut Once

In my short career in the hospitality industry, I have been a part of 2 distinctly different businesses, which approach culture in 2 completely different ways.

At “Business A”, I was a part of a company that was extremely proactive in measuring their culture multiple times a year. When I was hired at the company, I was given standards training and a background presentation on the culture of Business A. I was polled on my opinion of the company culture after 1 month and every 3 months after that. This was a great measure of what all staff thought of the culture and if the established culture had any effect on the business and its staff members. With this active and constant feedback, staff members were more aware of the company culture and acted accordingly through their work . This company was pleasurable to work for as all staff members worked together as a cohesive unit and were united under a common vision and culture.

At “Company B”, I was a part of a company that was absent in measuring their culture within their staff members. This business trained new staff loosely and with little consistency. This made it difficult to ensure that all staff members were trained the same way and each staff member was educated properly on the company culture. While working at Company B, there were no measurement tools in place at all for staff members and the company culture. The only form of measurement was related to the yearly business report on earnings. From this report the management determined if the company culture was effect within its staff members. This was a difficult company to work for because it felt like staff members were working in different directions and pulling for different end goals with no united vision.

An effective company actively measures it culture across all departments. It is important for companies to value this information, as it is honest feedback on how the company culture is working from the staff members who act on it. If a company doesn’t measure their culture actively, they might as well not even bother developing it in the first place.

Autonomy in the Service Industry

Autonomy is a risky part of any business. It has been a part of many successful businesses throughout the last 20 years, notably IBM. IBM has had tremendous success with allowing their staff complete autonomy. Staff are only required to report into the office once a month for a team meeting. As long as assigned projects are completed on time and up to standard the company, employees are free to complete their projects whenever and wherever they please. The almost limitless autonomy has been really well received with the millennial generation as they thrive on creativity and working on their own terms. IBM has seen consistently strong productivity numbers from staff members and continues to ‘lengthen the leash’.

The concept of completing a task on your time whenever you feel like only works in specific industries. One industry that it does not work well in is the service industry. Staff members need to show up to work everyday, on time, and ready to serve. Business hours are set in stone and customers expect service during those hours. The idea of serving customers at 3 a.m. because you just crushed a Vodka Redbull and cannot sleep does not fly. This may work in a development firm where you can work at any hour as long as you are done your work by the project deadline but not in the service industry.

The service industry has room for creativity within the marketing side of the business but little room to play with in the front line service position. Being creative within a customer service position will likely get you fired for not following company standards and set policies. Staff with a customer service title need a creative outlet to keep them motivated in their repetitive job. This is an opportunity for service companies to maximize productivity within their staff. Companies need to offer creativity sessions, which allow staff members to brainstorm and share ideas on how to operate the business more effectively on a day-to-day business. A single afternoon every couple of months, where staff can step back from their daily service jobs and evaluate what could be done better on an ongoing basis.

Give it a try; what’s the worst that can happen? Your company will increase productivity and staff members will feel valued because they got to contribute to the business’ success.

International Flair with a Local Touch

As a world traveler I have experienced a wide variety of cultures and norms. I have enjoyed Parisian baguettes in the gardens of the Louvre to dining on cottage pie in the north of Scotland whilst sipping on 20-year scotch in a rickety old pub. I am open to trying new cuisines from the around the world and trying new traditions from foreign countries abroad. I have long considered the idea of working abroad and spending a fair amount of time away from the Canadian tundra. Many people share this ambition to travel and work abroad to gather new stories, adventures, and knowledge.

Globalization is the increasing connection of business and cultures the world around through many different forms of communication. Globalization is a common factor in international businesses that are successful. Our need for foreign resources and investment has never been higher. The importance of dealing with our foreign neighbours in a respectful manner is a prominent part of modern business and necessary for success.

A form of globalization can be found in most local golf clubs. As professionals in the golf industry, we are always trying to offer the best product at our club for the members and guests. It is commonplace for golf clubs to search similar golf clubs the world over and hand-pick the best attributes from these clubs and bring them together at their location. The intent is to create the ultimate experience, best product and service all at one location.

Member retention is a constant challenge for every club across the country and around the world. By offering globally tested product of a high level of standard, quality, and service, each club will be able to keep the members spending their disposable income at the club for many years to come. The opportunity to offer international flair with a local touch at your club could bring in new customers and keep long-standing customers with your club. An example of this is theme nights at the club. Throughout the golf season the food and beverage department would put on various culture nights offering the corresponding cuisine and entertainment for the members. This helped to keep members spending their money at the club whilst educating them on various cultures from around the world.

There are many different ways to be a part of globalization but the most important aspect of globalization is to be a part of it.