Money Management for Parents: Managing the Costs of Raising Children

While generally considered a worthwhile undertaking, having children comes with a big price, quite literally. And without proper preparation and care, managing the costs of raising children is almost impossible.

Here are some money management ideas for parents to ease the financial pinch and help ensure the family’s future.

Plan Household Budget

The best way to plan and keep track of family expenses is by planning a household budget. List the family income, expenses for essential items and extras and see if what is earned is more than what is spent and vice versa. If there is more spending than income, make the effort to cut down on expenses and pay off as many debts as possible.

These days, the practice of doing household budgets is made easier through many free and user-friendly online budgeting tools designed to help people start and stick to their budgets. Check out bank websites or try the Understanding Money Budget Planner.

Invest Wisely for Children

As kids grow older, the costs of taking care of them rise, especially if parents are planning to support them through to university. Saving for children’s education does have to start early. While opening a junior savings account is a good start, parents should also look into non-cash investments such as bank shares or managed funds for the children’s future.

Investing in quality shares for the long term actually smooths over losses that may have occurred over the years. So it’s sound investment when it comes to children’s education, which can take years to complete. Talk to a financial planner about investing for children if possible.

Choose Flexible Investments and Loans

Families with children are bound to be hit by unexpected expenses from time to time. So do choose investments and loans that offer flexibility and allow their investors or borrowers to access them during emergencies. For instance, invest in shares instead of an investment property so that the investments can be sold quickly in a financial emergency or choose a home loan with a redraw facility when there is an urgent need to access the surplus payments.

Have Right and Adequate Insurance Cover

Young families with financial commitments and dependants should always have the right and adequate insurance cover. Important insurance covers include life insurance, which gives the beneficiary a lump sum payment upon the death of the insurance policy holder, and income protection insurance, which can protect a certain amount of the policy holder’s income if he is unable to continue working due to illness or injury. Other insurance policies to consider are private health insurance and trauma insurance.

It’s a challenge managing the costs of raising children. To ease the financial stress, some basic money management skills for parents will help. These include acquiring the knowledge to plan a household budget, invest wisely for children, choose flexible investments and loans as well as have the right and adequate insurance.

Dropshipping and eBay Selling: Sell on eBay With the Help of a Dropship Company

Dropshipping is a way to sell on eBay without having to buy and store inventory. With dropshipping, many of the eBay selling duties, such as shipping, are done by someone else while the profits go to the eBay seller.

Sell on eBay With a Dropshipper

To sell on eBay, some sellers sign up with a dropship company to handle the inventory storage and shipping aspects of eBay selling. A dropship company stores a high volume of retail items in warehouses. The organization of inventory and the packaging of the sold items are the duties of the company rather than the eBay seller.

When an eBay seller signs up with a dropship company, that seller gets access to the dropshipping catalog of items. Those are the items that the seller will then sell on eBay without ever coming into contact with the actual items.

The retail items are listed on eBay by the eBay seller. The description may come from the dropship company’s description if the company allows reproductions of the product descriptions. Most companies also allow members to reproduce their product photos in eBay listings.

Dropshipping for Convenience

Using an dropshipper to sell on eBay means that a seller doesn’t need to purchase a large store of inventory to ship out to customers. Buying an inventory upfront can be prohibitively expensive for many sellers. Many dropshipping companies do, however, require a membership fee to have access to the dropshipping services.

eBay selling with a dropshipper does not require the listing to reveal that the item is being packaged and mailed by a a dropshipping company. However, if the item is backordered and will not be available for 30 days or more, that is required to be included in the listing.

Some eBay sellers choose to disclose the dropshipping situation in case there is a problem with getting the item. Some dropshippers do run out of items periodically, resulting in canceled or delayed sales. This situation can lower a seller’s feedback score because of complaints about late and missing items. For this reason, many sellers choose not to use dropshippers at all.

eBay Selling

Choosing from among the many dropshippers can be difficult because of the glut of competition on eBay. Some dropshippers have so many of their products being sold on eBay that the price competition has eliminated any profit from the sale of the items.

When looking at the inventory that a dropship company has available, look at the eBay competition for the items before signing up with an eye toward eBay selling. If there are dozens of each of the items already on eBay, a seller can easily pay more in eBay listing fees than would be made on the sale of the item.

Balance the Art of Writing With the Business: Leading Agent Tells You How to Combine the Two

Meet the agent

Ion Trewin has viewed the world of publishing from multiple angles. He started his career as a journalist, first on local papers and then with The Times (as literary editor), then moved into book publishing some 30 years ago. He started with Hodder & Stoughton where he signed Thomas Kenneally’s Schindler’s Ark then moved to Weidenfeld & Nicolson to become publishing director. Here he added Alan Clark’s diaries to his list. Recently retired from W&N, he still assists on a consultancy basis but is otherwise preoccupied with writing Alan Clark’s biography and managing the Man Booker Prize in his role as administrator, which he adopted in 2006.

Ion’s Top Tips

This wealth of experience has left Ion in a strong position to determine what makes a book tick, but he is quick to add that there is no winning formula. “There are certain strands that help – it needs to be well written, have good characterisation and a great story, but, honestly? I think there is also an incalculable element of good fortune. I mean, dammit, if we knew what made a bestseller, we’d only publish those and we’d only write them!”

Think Like Your Reader

Ion encourages writers to think of themselves as readers. Why do you pick a book up? What makes you buy it? What makes you want to read more? And also as editors. “You are asking a company to risk their capital on something so for them to take this ‘gamble’ they need to know it will sell.”

Aspiring authors may glean some tips by calling on previous bestselling authors and genres. “Take Graham Greene and John Le Carre, for example, or the Whodunnits? written by Oxford dons,” says Ion. “All are highly intelligent books that respect the intellect of their reader and so there is enjoyment in their delivery, as well as in their content. They make your mind work a little harder and you enjoy them all the more for doing so.”

Diarise?

Ion is also attracted to the diary format. Aside from Alan Clark, he previously worked with James Lees-Milne’s diaries and John Colville’s Fringes of Power. “Diaries are a very English form and I was intrigued by the technical aspects involved in editing them. I grew a confidence in the genre so that by the time I came to bid for Alan’s memoirs I didn’t have the slightest doubt that they were going to be a success – although the level may have been greater than what I’d anticipated. They were well written, revealing, and there was an interesting character in the author. I couldn’t think of any ingredients that they failed on.”

Plus, there was that certain something. “Within publishing we are trying to take the art of writing and commerce and centrifuge them,” says Ion. “Sometimes it is oil and water but every now and then you get the emulsion you are looking for and it works – it’s like a chemical reaction.”

Diaries also offer a practical advantage in that they are based on non-fiction. “The strong factual background gives the future interviewer something to talk about,” explains Ion. “This commercial angle is always at the back of my mind.” Indeed, this marketing hook was one of strengths he also recognised in Thomas Kenneally’s novels. Before Schindler’s Ark, Thomas had written Confederates about the American civil war; Gossip from the Forest about the armistice that ended the first world war; and Blood Red ,Sister Rose a novel based loosely on the young Joan of Arc.

Think of the Marketing Plan

Once the first book is a success, the commercial path for subsequent novels is often easier. “If it is an author that wants to write popular fiction, ie, produce more of the same, then you have the basis of a brand,” Ion explains. “If it is a literary novelist they may write a totally different novel the second time round, but you may choose to read it simply because of who they are. But to succeed first time round; you need the reader to feel that excitement, to make their hairs raise on the back of your neck. That’s magical.”

Do you Really Need An Agent?

And of course you need an agent, and subsequently a publisher and sourcing these is no mean feat. Ion stresses that signing with the right agent and editor are crucial elements for a writer. “You’ve just got to get on with somebody. These are the people you will talk to when you are stuck over something. These are the people who will sell your book. Of course, relationships can break down in both directions; they are not finite, but the more you can limit this through your initial choice, the better.”

How do you Get Signed?

Before presenting your work to an agent, Ion advises you to be extremely tough on yourself. Write a proposal and give it to a few people who don’t know anything about the subject. If they are not excited ask them why. “Don’t be proud,” he says. “You want the opening page to sing to you. That’s the kind of thing that matters. If it doesn’t it is probably going to fail.”

After decades of nipping and tucking, Ion has now embarked on his own writing project, namely Alan Clark’s biography. The idea grew out of Ion’s continued work on the politician’s diaries following his death in 1999. Having spent years selling and editing books, Ion is understandably tough on himself: “You don’t realise when you are tackling a life how many by-ways there are and you can’t tackle everything. There are the diaries, which cover the last 37 years of his life, and then there are 40 years before that. I needed to make decisions about how to cover both. To not only choose what to include, but – often more importantly – what to leave out. It’s fun to tell what you think will be a familiar story, then write ‘Actually, reader, it happened like this…’

Great Colleges for Business: Five Schools That Offer Outstanding Programs for BBA or BBS

A major in business will consist of multiple branches. Students will usually have the option of majoring in business with an emphasis in a specific field. Examples of fields include accounting, finance, international business, management, administration, and marketing.

This article will focus on undergraduate programs that have excellent programming in the broad perspective of business degrees.

The University of Texas at Austin-McCombs School of Business

Rated number six by U.S. News and World Report and number ten by Business Week, the McCombs School of Business excels in delivering an outstanding business program. Students have an opportunity to major with an emphasis in accounting, engineering route to business, finance, international business, management, management information systems, marketing, or supply chain management.

Besides offering excellent faculty the college also provides students with activities to heighten their college experience. Each student must complete at least one internship to graduate, which may include working with some of the largest and well-known businesses in the United States. Other activities include 33 business related student organizations, leadership program, Brass Ring Program, competitions, and study abroad programming for business specific majors.

Case Western Reserve University-Weatherhead School of Management

Considered a David among the Goliath business colleges, Weatherhead provides an intimate setting for students. Five hundred students make up the school with each studying either accounting, management or economics. Minors are available in accounting, economics, entrepreneurship, finance, and marketing.

The school has developed partnerships with companies such as GE, IBM, Intel, JPMorganChase, and Rosetta for student internships. Additionally, students can participate in competitions, conferences, student associations, and five different study abroad opportunities.

Wake Forest University-Schools of Business

Wake Forest provides students an opportunity to major in accounting, business and enterprise management, finance, and mathematical business. The school’s site boasts that 90% of the business faculty holds a PhD or doctoral degree, 35% of business faculty serves on a company board of directors, and 38% of business faculty have experience running their own company.

The school emphasizes a global perspective, so students are provide opportunities to study abroad in Beijing, Nepal, and Moscow. Around 40% of undergrads study abroad. Additionally, students who study on campus can expect a class size of 24, internship placements, and competitions like the Elevator Competition.

William & Mary-Mason School of Business

Mason appears to be just one of the top business schools for undergraduates; however, the school offers student something special. The school allows student to create an Individual Program of Study (IPS). Aspects of the program include:

  • Opportunity to study more than one business discipline
  • Combine a business degree with another type of major
  • Participation on a study abroad program
  • Inclusion of internship(s)
  • Research participation
  • Additional leadership experiences

The IPS program allow student to design a business major according to their own needs. Instead of following a pre-existing business major curriculum, the student creates their own using available classes, mentors, research, and outside opportunities.

Northeastern University-College of Business Administration

Northeastern provides students an amazing opportunity called the Co-op program. Undergraduates study in the traditional sense of the classroom. They are then given the opportunity to leave the classroom for a time and enter into employment to practice what they have learned. This occurs continuously throughout the undergraduate experience. Students switch employment to observe and learn multiple aspects of the business sector.

Overall, a business major can consist of multiple aspects. Students who wish to pursue this major should look for a college that meets the student’s expectation of what business means to them. Each college has unique programming outside of the classroom, so students can easily find a college that offers individualized or multiple opportunities to learn facets of business.

Tracking Business Expenses: Organizing Yourself to Survive IRS Audits

Taxpayers should claim every deduction to which they are legally entitled when they complete their tax returns every winter. As keeping up with the tax law changes can be almost a full-time job, many taxpayers rely on their tax professionals to notify them of what is and is not deductible. Sometimes, due to the timing of communications, things get lost. However, if taxpayers keep good records, isolate the way in which they pay their business expenses, and record their business income, they will not only get all their deductions, but will have written their own IRS Audit Survival Guide.

This article is designed to provide self-employed taxpayers a general structure for organizing their records. Future articles will provide examples and explanations of expenses of which self-employed taxpayers should be aware.

Tracking Business Expenses—Keep Those Receipts!

It is important to know which expenses are deductible for business purposes and/or personal purposes (such as real estate taxes—but not on the same property) and which are deductible only for business purposes, such as non-mortgage loan interest. The second part of tracking business expenses is knowing what type of documentation (receipts) the Internal Revenue Service believes supports a specific type of deduction. The first line of defense is always, practically speaking, receipts, receipts, receipts.

However, an IRS examiner may accept canceled checks or a debit card transaction as proof of a business expenditure, particularly if the taxpayer keeps the business account separate from the personal bank account. The taxpayer may have to point out to the IRS examiner that the account is used only for business, but that is a minor effort.

Keeping only the business transactions does require transferring funds to one’s personal bank account to pay the rent or mortgage and making sure neither account overdrafts. But it is a small inconvenience if it allows a taxpayer to sail through an examination with no change to the tax return. Credit cards used in the business should be treated the same as bank accounts, restricted to business use.

Smaller, easily faded receipts can be grouped by vendor and purpose, placed in date order, and then totaled. The adding machine tape should be stapled to them and should have written on it, in ink, the year, the dollars spent total and the expense category (or purpose).

Maintain a Separate Bank Account for the Business!

And keep those bank statements! The IRS also looks at the bank account for income verification and reviews deposit slips for cash back. If the deposits total more than the income reported on Schedule C, they will ask why. Well-documented deposit slips with, or detailed logs of, the source of all funds deposited work well. “Cash back” entries are added to the total deposits less loan proceeds, transfers, and cash infusions from one’s personal bank account to determine income. If everyting is well-documented or listed somewhere, the sailing should be good.

Keep a Long-Term File

Some business expenses span over more than one tax year (e.g., loans, mortgages, vehicles, office furniture). The acquisition, repayment for (if a loan is involved in the acquisition) and disposal of these items are relevant not only to the tax return prepared at the time purchased, but subsequent tax returns also.

Taxpayers should keep a separate “semi-permanent” file for vehicle, equipment and office furniture purchases, as well as loans on the business side of their finances and for home purchases and stock transactions on the personal side. This separate file should contain all the purchase agreements, bills of sales, UCC financing statements, all other loan documents, and all titles and registrations showing legal proof of ownership. Keeping a separate file for these items is an administratively effective way of having the information readily accessible for each of the years it may be needed.

Contracts with contractors often span more than one year and these also should be kept in a separate, always easily accessible, file at tax time. Home and mortgage papers, along with property tax records, and stock transactions should be kept in a personal file, again, always easily accessible at tax time.

Consider Scanning Documentation—Avoiding Faded Receipts

With today’s technology, taxpayers can scan their receipts and well-notated deposit slips—because they often fade and are also easy to lose or misplace. Scanning is wonderful! A flash drive with the entire year’s documentation can be safely stored in a safe deposit box or other place of a taxpayer’s choosing. With today’s technology, a taxpayer can organize its tax documentation easily by type: Expenses, Income, Long-Term Items.

Help Writing a Business Plan: Use Business Document Software for a Small Business Marketing Plan

Small business owners who need help writing a business plan may turn to business document software for assistance with the more complicated aspects of the planning document. A writing service can also be utilized in order to assist the business owner with these areas. One area that often poses difficulty is marketing and promotion of the products or services offered by the business.

Business Plan Writing Services

A business plan writing service allows the business owner to provide necessary information as needed to an individual or group with experience writing this type of strategic document. For a business plan service, writing the plan is typically a function of applying the information specific to the business to an existing template. Business owners that prefer to save the expense of hiring a writing service can Download Free Business Plan Templates.

Business Planning Software

There is an alternative to hiring an outside agency for help writing a business plan, or writing it in-house using a template. Business planning software is available for purchase or download which offers not only a template for the document, but also sample entries for each section of the planning document. The presence of sample entries is extremely valuable for business owners with little experience in the area of planning and documentation.

Marketing for Small Business

The marketing section of Small Business’ Business Plan should contain, at the least, an evaluation of the competition, the positioning of the business, and it’s competitive advantage. Understanding the competition helps business owners identify the strengths and weaknesses of their positioning, and whether their competitive advantage is enough to sustain the business. At times, evaluating the information contained in a small business marketing plan helps a business owner identify changes that need to take place in order to result in an increase in profitability.

Small Business Promotion

Promoting a small business can be challenging for many business owners. While using business plan writing services, or business document software may help with the paperwork, actual promotion activities can take a back-seat to daily functions. In this area, an experienced business mentor can be of great assistance to a small business owner. The Small Business Administration provides great information on the process of finding a mentor, as well as offering resources to assist in the search.

Help Planning for Business Needs

There are many resources available for businesses that need help writing a business plan, or any part of the planning document. Business planning software provides templates and examples for each section of the document, including the marketing plan. Writing services provide assistance with every step of the creation of this vital business document. Examples and free sample templates are available for download from the Internet, and experienced mentors are available to help as well.

Start a Business, Run a Franchise: Simple Self Employment?

Lots of professionals have dreamed of owning their own businesses, but everyone doesn’t have a ready-made business idea. Entrepreneurs can still find success by running their own franchises. Is this the key to simple self employment?

What is Franchising?

Who hasn’t heard of Subway? Haagen-Dazs? Starbucks? Each one is a well-known brand offering well-liked products, and each one is a different franchising opportunity for business-minded professionals with the will and means to take advantage. Entrepreneurs can choose to invest money to purchase a franchise in many different industries, receiving a business model, products and even guidelines to help them make their business a success.

Why Franchising?

Entrepreneurs who purchase franchises will have a few distinct business advantages. In many ways, running a franchise is different from starting brand-new businesses from the ground floor. Why franchising? Find out how this business model is a little different:

  • A brand name. By opting for a franchise, business owners can take advantage of having a well-known, liked brand name. In some cases, it may be easier to gain a customer base with a brand name than to establish a brand-new, completely unknown name.
  • Proven business model. Often, franchises come with a business model for owners to follow and take advice from. Having well-established, proven practices to follow can be a big help when creating a new business.
  • Proven products and/or services. Franchises also offer something very else very useful: proven products and services. A great number of patrons have heard of and enjoy Starbucks coffee, for instance.

Simple Self Employment?

There are dozens upon dozens of potential franchise models out there- everything from consulting services to chain restaurants. This means that business-oriented professionals interested in most any field could find opportunities among franchising, proven names and business models that will help them establish a potentially highly successful company. It’s hard to create any kind of business, but having a proven name can make the road seem a little smoother.

However, there isn’t any really simple way to become self employed. Starting and running a business, whether it’s a popular and proven name or not, is a massive undertaking. It takes a lot of hard work, promotion and sheer sweat to make any company become a success- and even then, sometimes luck can be a huge factor as well. There’s no surefire route to success or self employment, and no business will be guaranteed. Franchising can be a good choice for many entrepreneurs, but any business takes a lot of time and hard work to have a chance for success.

Best Business Practices – Closure

For instance, a punch line is closure for a joke, a sum is a closure for a math problem, a summary sentence closes a paragraph, and a curtain call closes a performance. Closure processes are found everywhere even in meetings.

Closure in a meeting can be used as a strategic tool to keep meeting participants engaged and on track. Closure can help participants assess if the desired outcomes and actions have been achieved or completed, if all loose ends have been addressed, and recognize the importance of relationships. It can also help free up participants so that they can move onto the next step in a process or new project. Finally closure can be used to help improve follow-up activities such as the completion of assignments or tasks assigned in a meeting.

Sample Closing Activities

Closing activities can take time in a meeting which needs to be accounted for in the agenda. Some examples of closing activities include:

  • Recapping key points, assignments, and agreements for a segment of a meeting. Closure can occur on a small scale of a single presentation, or a broader meeting scale. This summarizing activity might be used to fill in the blanks (such as the ‘who, what, and when’ information).
  • Recapping accomplishments; celebrating how far the group has come. This is a great way to celebrate successes, identify next steps, and tasks to be done.
  • Reviewing all agreements, assignments, and tasks for the meeting as a wholeBe careful not to rehash or debate these items. Clarification questions may be allowed. This time can be used to not only remind participants of their assignments but to also get verbal confirmation that the tasks will actually get done.
  • Closing Remarks, which are frequently provided by a manager or decision maker, are an excellent way to bolster the group. Topics might include summarizing progress made during the meeting, next steps, goals, time line, priorities, etc. Sometimes just saying ‘THANK YOU’ in a heartfelt way is a great way to recognize the work that a group is doing and keep them motivated and engaged.
  • Group members may also want to provide some closing remarks. To get this discussion started, just ask “Does anyone have any closing thoughts for today’s meeting?”
  • Reviewing loose ends. Lists of loose ends (sometimes called a ‘parking lot’ or ‘bin’ list) reference a compilation of topics that were not addressed during a meeting. Frequently there is not enough time to discuss the topics so it is important to include the list in the meeting notes. These ideas may be a good source of discussion items for a future meeting.
  • Reviewing logistics. This discussion gives participants an idea of what is coming next, what they need to do, where they to travel to, etc. This might include directions on what they can leave in the room (equipment, trash, etc.), when the next meeting will begin, where to get refreshments, etc. It could also include the next steps in a particular project such as defining goals and objectives, alternatives, recommendations, etc.
  • Celebrations! Scheduling a celebration at the end of a meeting can minimize the potential disruptions to a meeting but it can also allow participants some time to stay longer, enjoy a slice of that birthday cake, and build relationships.

People often remember the last bits of information that they hear at an event the best. Statements made in the last 10-15 minutes of a meeting can be used strategically to keep a group engaged, get things done outside of a meeting, and build key relationships.

Morgan’s Wonderland is Open for Business: Will it Top the List of Best Amusement Parks for Special Needs Kids?

Morgan’s Wonderland, located in San Antonio Texas, is very unique. It is the first accessible fun park designed especially for special needs kids of all ages. The 25 acre amusement facility allows families to learn and play together in a safe environment … where everyone can have fun, regardless of his or her disability!

It all started with Gordon Hartman as he observed his special needs daughter attempting to interact with other children at a hotel swimming pool. Unfortunately, Morgan and the other kids were unsuccessful that day. But, it was that interaction that gave Hartman the idea to build a 100% accessible family fun park. Today, his dream is a reality.

Morgan’s Wonderland – Packed With Things for Kids to Do

Morgan’s Wonderland is unlike any other fun park, on the planet. Activities are varied and include the following:

  • Catch and release fishing on an 8 acre lake (with fishing pier)
  • Carousel
  • Race track with adaptive go-carts
  • Music garden
  • 17,000 square foot gymnasium (for volleyball, basketball and tennis)
  • Remote controlled boats
  • Themed sensory village
  • Water play area … and much more

Every attraction at Morgan’s Wonderland is completely accessible. For example, the Sand Circle™ features a huge raised sand table and sand diggers that make it easy for everyone to join the fun. Multiple playscapes have ramps, interactive equipment and custom designed swings.

Safety Features at Morgan’s Wonderland – Child Safety Gates and More

Safety is paramount at Morgan’s Wonderland. The park uses controlled access at all entry and exit points. Think of this technology as series of large child safety gates. There is also security fencing around the entire perimeter of the park and the lake, as well.

Another excellent safety feature is the park’s utilization of RFID (radio frequency identification) wristbands and touch screen monitors. These locator bands track the whereabouts of special needs guests at all times. This helps to ensure that other family members enjoy their day to the fullest.

There are 18 restrooms, located throughout the park. This includes several family restrooms and a restroom equipped with a shower and clean-up area. All are ADA compliant and designed with privacy and convenience in mind.

There are also 2 first aid stations located within Morgan’s Wonderland.

Free Admission for All Special Needs Kids (ages 1 to 101)

All special needs kids receive free admission into Morgan’s Wonderland. Other guests pay a nominal fee, for the price of their tickets.

Reservations are required to gain entrance into the park. This “limited attendance policy”, of sorts, has been put into place to ensure that everyone has the safest, most enjoyable, day possible.

Parking is free. Service animals are allowed into the park. Guests are permitted to bring coolers into the park, as well.

Because of Morgan and her Wonderland, kids with special needs now have a unique place to call their own… a place to learn and play without fear of being different. What could be better than that?

Best Business Practices – Ice breaker? NO WAY!

Some people hate icebreakers; others love them…with good reason. Ice breakers are usually short activities done during a meeting to help build relationships, teamwork, or to just have fun. At times, ice breakers can be non-starters, and then again they can be the best part of a meeting. Ice breakers that are designed appropriately for the right group can renew relationships, improve group communications, improve decision making processes and outcomes, and create momentum towards accomplishing specific goals or end products. Who knew that having fun could be so useful?

Example Ice Breakers

Some ice breakers are fun, physical exercises such as introducing yourself to someone new in the room. Other exercises may focus on having the group think about a particular issue, memory, or challenge. Some ice breakers are simple, like introducing yourself. Others can be quite involved, and the worst ones are embarrassing, non-starters that waste time and group resources.

One low risk ice breaker for a newly formed group is to have each person in the room introduce themselves (such as name, job, and where they work). This simple introduction could be leveraged by having participants not only share their basic ‘stats’ but also share more strategic information such as what their vision of the future might be, or something else that could be used to support the meeting’s goals and objectives. Having participants share information about their first car might be fun and help the group build relationships, but it may not help solve a crisis.

Some People Hate Ice Breakers!!!

Many managers shy away from ice breakers. Why? They may be concerned about being embarrassed in front of their staff. Because of this a peer group will be much more likely to get involved and benefit from an ice breaker than a group of mixed managers and staff. To use an ice breaker in a mixed meeting, brief the manager before the meeting and make sure that they understand the goal of the ice breaker and how that relates to the overall meeting goal or desired outcome.

When to Use Them… and When to Lose Them

Use ice breakers as a ‘mixer’ to help energize the group and help them get to know each other.

Lose the volume -Just because there are a million different types of ice breakers doesn’t mean that all of them need to be used in a single meeting.

Use ice breakers that help set the stage for the meeting or solving an issue. Look for exercises that are new and avoid old (and sometimes boring) standbys that everyone has done a million times.

Lose ice breakers that are isolated events (i.e., they do not support the group, the meeting goals or objectives, or desired outcomes).

Use ice breakers to enhance group trust. Groups with a high level of trust will be more willing to try a wider variety of activities, speak their minds, and make decisions faster.

Lose ice breakers that require high risk activities such as divulging personal information. Keep the group focused on the meeting and avoid personal or sensitive disclosures.

Use ice breakers to build a common group vision. For instance, each member of the group could use an ice breaker to build a common future vision by sharing their thoughts on what the company might look like in 5-years. Look for areas of common agreements, innovative ideas, and opportunities.

Lose ice breakers that take too much time. An ice breaker should be something that can be done relatively quickly (like within 10 minutes). Check with the meeting manager or some of the key participants before dedicating precious meeting time to an ice breaker.