About Me

About Me

Hi I’m Marilda…

 

Let’s Talk Tourism – You are not your business.

 

Tourism Folk are unique. It takes a special kind of person to operate within the relatively informal Industry that is a small Tourism business.  We are stubborn, independent and often don’t want people telling us what to do. At the same time, we are deeply passionate about our guests, our staff and more often than not go the extra mile for little or no reward, never mind a good review.

In the corporate world there are structures and fancy words that make big organisations tick over. In a small business, where you are often the person who makes the reservations, cooks the eggs while still doing your own Marketing there is very little time for fancy words.  You need understanding and solutions while also being reminded that you are not your business.

I am ready to help.

 

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

For many years you’ve been in a different Industry earning a living. You might have studied and have a solid education behind you in a specific field.  Now, for whatever reason, you’ve decided that you want to come into Tourism.  Maybe it’s been brewing in your heart of hearts for a long time or maybe you’ve reached retirement age and you think that a little Bed and Breakfast in a beautiful area sounds like to perfect retirement job. After all you can’t just sit around doing nothing until you die, can you?

Although you have life skills, and have already made a success of your “previous life” you are now starting in an industry that, although you understand the bigger picture, you’ve never had to deal with the actual nuts and bolts of what it takes to run a Tourism Business. 

You don’t have the time or inclination to study Tourism or Hospitality, and you’ve done some research and think you’ve got a pretty good understanding of what is needed to run a successful business.

And you take the leap!

Then you start running into snags.  You and your staff are not understanding each other.  The guests are not what you expected or require more than what you thought. You’re struggling with suppliers while still trying to get bums in beds by yourself. You’re getting pressure from friends and family as you are spending many weird hours at your business. Weekends, Public Holidays, birthdays don’t exist as that is when your business are at its busiest.

Your business is doing ok or even great. You come up with plans that sort of work, but you can’t seem to get it running seamlessly. It feels like your attention is constantly needed to not have things go to pieces.

As you keep fighting on you don’t even think that there might be someone out there who can give you a hand. Besides you don’t have the money to pay a fancy corporate Consultant to help you out.

I’m hearing you.

 I know how you need someone you could talk to about your challenges, your frustrations. Someone who could help you see the wood for the trees. Someone who can hold space for you while you work through your own thoughts. Someone who can help guide you with a deep understand of the toll that the Tourism Industry takes on you as a person, you as family member, you as a business owner and you as a boss. 

You don’t need a course; you need help with very specific issues.

Transitioning from your “previous life” to what is now demanded of you (and what you are demanding from yourself) is often more of a challenge than you realise. 

Whether you are advanced in years and experience or just starting out, some of the above will undoubtably resonate with you.

You are not alone.

That’s where I come in, I hold space.  Sometime more, sometimes less but always with honesty and support for where you are right now. We can all learn from each other; we just need to feel safe enough to share ourselves.

And I help you find that space.

It’s not a destination. It’s about navigating wherever you are in your journey right now. It’s about working through the muck.

How can I help you right now?

It starts with a flower

It starts with a flower

Here in the Lowveld in South Africa, October is known as the “dustbowl” of the year. 1 September is officially our Spring day, but we normally have very little rain then.  In October the temperatures are climbing into the high 30’ Degrees Celsius and often into the low 40’s.  

It’s hot, dry, dusty, not comfortable and not pretty either.  Almost all the trees have lost their leaves, the grasses (if there are any) are dried out with animals losing condition quickly.  It’s a sad thing to see the impala ewes with their skinny yet pregnant bodies trying to survive until the rain comes in November and they normally drop their babies.

And then, out of the blue came the rain.  We’ve had 112mm since the beginning of October. And within a week the Bush has completely turned around. There are green shoots everywhere. Grass, plants and trees are making full use of this unexpected gift. Insects are out and about, and the birds are going crazy.

Marius and I took a little drive around the reserve. It’s always interesting to drive around with him.  As a professional safari Guide he has a ton of information in his head, but he also truly loves spending time in the bush.  A lot of that is quiet time without talking. Just observing, watching and being aware of what is going on around you. It’s a lot like meditation but with fun subjects!

While we are driving around, he is constantly stopping, getting out of the vehicle and taking pictures of things I don’t even notice.  He has a completely different way of looking at things and his situational awareness is something that always amazes me.

At one of these stops he got out to take a picture of a flower of a marula tree.  I was surprised by this as in all honestly, I’ve never really thought about what a Marula flower looks like.  The trees are normally big, and you don’t notice the tiny little flowers at the very tips of the tree tops.

This made me feel a little guilty. In Phalaborwa, where we live, Marulas are a really big deal.  Most of Limpopo Province and further up towards Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique all have Marula trees but here in the Valley of the Olifants the Marula tree has enormous cultural and economic value.

In February when the fruit start falling from the trees, the older ladies in the community start walking around collecting the fruit in big bags carted around with shopping trolleys

These bags are then collected at a designated spot and either sold to a local factory that make a world-famous liqueur or taken to their homes. 

At Home the fruit is sorted.  The good quality fruit are turned into anything from Juice to beer or Jam and Atchar. The not so great ones are left to rot and dry out after which the nuts are taken out to either be used in cooking or turned into a Nut butter or sold to another factory that makes essential oils from the Marula Nuts.

The Marula tree is a cultural symbol of fertility and good fortune to the local Ba-Pedi and Tsonga tribes and in the old days couples would get married under it to help bless their marriage.  Even to this day the Marula trees are protected by the Tribal Authorities and it is illegal to cut them down or damage them.

Every year, Phalaborwa has the annual Marula Festival. When thousands of people flock to town to taste the traditional beer and take part in the festivities. 

And it all starts with a little flower.

That tiny little flower that for thousands of years have been quietly growing, season after season has sparked an entire culture.

Sitting there quietly in the Vehicle looking up at this tree, for the first time I saw the entire picture.  The Bees and insects buzzing around these tiny little flowers, pollinating and making sure that the flower turn into a fruit that supports so many people.

During the last few months I’ve felt frustrated, heartbroken and helpless. I’ve wanted to help but didn’t know how when things are so completely out of your hands.  I settled on helping stranded Tourists where we could and sharing verified information to those in our local Industries.  I still felt like it wasn’t enough. I was seeing others doing so much more and I wished I could help more, while also trying to cope with the devastating impact of the Pandemic on our own lives. Both Marius and I had lost all our bookings and contracts until next year, with no chance of anything changing before then.

And then we started getting help from unexpected places.  Friends, family, previous guests all helping a little here and there. Marius had the time to get his own website up and running and managed to sell a few of his pictures and somehow, we are surviving.

Last week I heard a quote by Ronald Reagan: “You can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”

Sitting there looking at that tiny flower I realised that even something as seemingly insignificant as a bee is helping someone.  That small bee, going about his normal business without doing anything extraordinary, makes all the difference to that flower.  And that flower turns into a fruit, which by itself doesn’t mean much but as a collective have supplied generations of people and animals with sustenance and entertainment and income.

No matter what you do, know that you are a piece in a bigger picture and that we, as a collective, have the power to change the world, by just helping someone else.

In this personal journey of discovery, I’ve had these last few months and with this new awareness, it has given me the clarity that I don’t need to take over the world.

I just need to help someone.

I just need to start with a little flower.  

Marilda Wiegand

Opportunity lost … but Lessons learnt

Opportunity lost … but Lessons learnt

I thought long and hard before I decided to share this experience. Ironically, I’ve recently uncovered that Integrity, Insight and Fairness are some of my most important values, the exact things that was brought into question during this incident.  I’m therefore sharing this experience with the sole intent that someone might learn from my journey. 

Sometimes lessons are learnt from the mistakes you make, sometimes it’s not your own mistakes that you learn from.

While communicating with a potential client via email things went very wrong.

I’ve truly never been so completely misunderstood while actually agreeing with a person.

I work with people from all walks of life, from various countries, cultures and languages and have in the past adapted to each one’s personal need and requirements on a one to one basis. Being asked for a quote by a person from a corporate environment I replied in a language with vocabulary that I thought would be professional and clear.

Apparently not.

 Apparently, my detailed reply was understood in a way that made the person feel as if I’m now seeing the big bucks and this made that person feel that I was taking advantage.

Many years ago, I worked with a Boss who used to say: “Assumption is the Mother of all f*%#$! Ups” This was never truer than in this situation. I assumed a professional response was what was expected. The person assumed because I gave such a response I was after a bigger contract and not prepared to understand exactly what the need was.

It took me a while to unpack all this and that in itself was a journey.

At first, I was shocked.

I couldn’t believe the violent response. I thought I must have misread the reply, so I read it again. Nope, the person definitely blew up.

Then I got scared.

 Adrenalin pumped, fight or flight mode kicked in while I was sitting safely in front of my computer. My heart pounding in my chest, palms sweating, short panic breaths. Just like when you’ve got a guest screaming at you about something that is completely out of your control.  I really don’t like that kind of conflict!

I carefully read through all the correspondence again and realised that if I’d just changed 1 sentence slightly the person would have seen without any doubt that I was actually agreeing with everything being said. 

Then I got angry. 

Having my integrity pulled into question was completely unfair – Two things that instantly make me furious. I would like to think that if I saw that a person was misunderstanding me through a clinical medium like an email, I would make personal contact to see if we could understand each other better.

Then I got sad.

We all need money and to have this blow up because of a misunderstanding nearly broke my heart.

So, here are the lessons I learnt:

  1. Listen very carefully and acknowledge what they are saying. We all want to be heard and understood.
  2. Answer questions in the simplest terms so that there cannot be confusion as to your intent. If they want more details, you can chat in person or ask specific questions.
  3. Be true to yourself. Keep your reply as professional as possible but don’t hesitate to let your personality shine through.
  4. Don’t fly off the handle unless you are very sure of the situation. Assumptions can cause so much heartache and not only for the people directly involved.
  5. In such a situation, take a step back and look honestly and objectively at your own response. If you can’t, ask someone to help do that while you work through your own emotions.
  6. Learn from your actions and their consequences. Don’t let it cripple you with doubt or a sense of incompetence in the future. Easier said than done but an important step in your own personal growth.
  7. Sometimes people might just be having a crappy day … and nothing you say or do can or will make a difference.

I lost this opportunity. But I’ve learnt and realised that these are the next steps in my journey. I’m working through being hurt, sad, cross, disappointment but it’s been a good reminder not to make assumptions…

 …and for me to be my authentic self.