, Building a New House – Initial Steps in Developing Plans in Florida and Other Areas, Building Wrestling

Building in Miami or any area of South Florida is completely different from building in any other area of the country. While most of the eastern seaboard of the United States, and much of the rest of the country, builds houses with wood framing and a finish of brick or wood siding, South Florida builds with concrete block and concrete.

Quality vs. price

Because of hurricane winds the structures in this area must be very strong. Where the rest of the country looks down on us because they only use concrete block in their basements, for my money, I really like concrete and block construction. Concrete blocks do not get termites and will not rot. Therefore, a concrete block structure will last for 100 years or more with almost no maintenance. Unfortunately, the vast majority of houses in Miami have wood trusses with plywood sheathing for the roof, then roofing paper and either shingles or concrete tiles on top. This type of construction is not particularly good at resisting hurricane wind conditions. Although the Florida Building Code has tried its best at improving the requirements for installing the roof sheathing and the roof finish, it cannot begin to compare to the strength that the roof would have if a concrete slab were used for the roof structure.

So why, if we know this, don’t we build with concrete slab roofs? Cost – the only reason is cost. It is much more expensive both to design and to install a concrete slab roof, especially on a slope to take a concrete tile finish.

So one of the first things the homeowner needs to establish at the beginning of the design process for a new house is how much the owner wants to spend on the construction. There is the cheap way to build a home and the expensive way. This is an issue that will come up many times during the design and construction process.

The program

But in order to determine a budget, the homeowner first needs to establish the square footage of the new house. To establish the total square footage, he will have to generate a program for the house. The program is a list of rooms with their corresponding sizes.

See the sample list as follows:

Living Room 240 square feet
Dining Room 120 square feet
Kitchen 170 square feet
Family Room 240 square feet
Master Bedroom 240 square feet
Master Bath 64 square feet
Bedroom No. 2 216 square feet
Bedroom No. 3 192 square feet
Bath No. 2 36 square feet
Laundry Room 100 square feet
Linen closet 9 square feet
A/C Closet 9 square feet

Total square feet = 1,636

Circulation and walls at 20% = 1,634 square feet = 327 square feet

Total = 1,634 + 327 = 1,961 square feet

So now we have a basic idea of the major spaces of the house and approximately how many square feet total homeowner will need for the house.

Also, this is a good time to decide whether there will be any outdoor spaces, such as covered terraces or pergolas. In Florida these are particularly good additions to the interior spaces. With wonderful temperatures during the winter there is no reason to spend all the time in air-conditioned interior spaces.

The budget

So what will a house that is just under 2000 square feet cost in South Florida? There is no magic formula to determine this. The cost of the house depends on many things that have to do with the design, such as: the type of roof, the ceiling height(s), the complexity of the design, the finishes, whether it is going to be on a septic tank or sewer, and the type of foundations. Then, there are those costs that have nothing to do with the design, like the location of the house, how busy are the contractors in the area, how well-known and reliable the contractor is, etc. Although the price of a house can vary wildly because of all the items discussed above, at this time a range of $150 to $250 per square foot could be used for a house that is not too elaborate with standard construction. So if we go back to the example. A 2,000 square foot house would cost between $300,000 and $500,000 excluding the land.

The design team

The Miami-Dade County Building Department does not require plans for a single-family residence to be signed and sealed by an architect or engineer. This is not true for all municipalities in the area. For example, Coral Gables does require all plans to be signed and sealed by an architect. But for all practical purposes the volume of information that has to be included in a set of plans in any municipality within Miami-Dade County, most of the time, there is a need to hire several professionals: an architect, an MEP engineer, and a structural engineer. MEP stands for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. The mechanical engineer designs the air-conditioning, the electrical engineer designs the electrical, including the lighting, and the plumbing engineer designs the plumbing. The structural engineer designs the structure and provides the required structural calculations for the building envelope. The architect designs the entire house and coordinates everybody’s work. The coordination of all the disciplines is probably the architect’s most important role as without coordination there could be real conflicts in the construction phase. Although it is legal to produce plans on his own in some parts of the county, it will be an insurmountable task to produce construction drawings for permitting (unless the homeowner has a background in construction with actual experience and the knowledge of the Florida Building Code and the local zoning codes).

What do these design services cost the homeowner? They also vary greatly but there is also a range among good, established professionals. This range would be from 6% to 10% of construction cost for the permit plans for all the disciplines. The services during the construction phase are usually charged separately on an hourly basis or in a separate package.

Style of the house

Another important decision to be made early on is the style of the house. There are basically three styles popular for home design in South Florida – modern, Mediterranean, and Key West.

Once the homeowner decides what styles he wants, it is important to convey the style and the details to the architect. The best way to explain to an architect what he wants is through either images from magazines or actual photographs of other houses.

Choosing an architect

Now that you have the basic items together, the next step is to pick your architect. This is very important as this is the person with whom you will work very closely during the next year.

Take the survey from the existing land from the time you closed on your mortgage. If you have lost it or it’s too old or inaccurate, the architect will arrange for you to get it updated or have a new one done.

Ask to see photos of his/her work. Ask for references. Ask questions. Ask him/her how he would approach the project. Start to sense if this is someone you could work with. Do you like the predominant style of the architect’s work? Does his/her work appeal to you? Ask about the process. Ask what you should expect in the way of his/her services. Ask him to show you the plans for a similar project.

People are individuals and everyone is unique. I remember how many people have hired me because they liked my “Mediterranean” or “Spanish” style or my modern or post-modern style. One person told me that she hired me because I returned her phone calls promptly. Chemistry between people is meaningful. Do not discount your initial impressions.

The construction documents

Normally, construction documents entail several parts: the drawings, the specifications, the instructions to bidders, and the addenda. Normally, when the architect handles the construction bid phase for the owner, he selects the type of contract the owner will have with the contractor. This document is also part of the construction documents.

The drawings are the major part of the work, which along the specifications act as a step-by-step guide for the contractor to use during the construction. Sometimes on large jobs, the specifications are placed in a separate book and called the Project Manual. On most residential projects, the specifications are normally covered as notes right in the drawings. For elaborate interiors a separate package is done by the architect and charged separately.

The construction documents are generated in phases from the general to the detailed. I like to divide my projects into 4 phases: Preliminary design, design development, 50% construction documents, and 100% construction documents. Each phase builds on the previous phase until the architect feels that the drawings are all coordinated among the different disciplines and are ready to submit for permitting.

With careful planning and communication with your architect, his good drawings and coordination and the careful selection of a reputable contractor, your new house project should flow without major problems. Although there are often change orders due to unforeseen conditions or changes the owner wants to implement, most issues should be resolved prior to construction.

For more information on the role of the architect during construction, see my other article on the role of the architect during the construction process posted here.

, Why Basket Building Is Vital to Retail Management Success, Building Wrestling

How big is the shopping basket in your retail business? Not shopping baskets you may have for customers but the virtual basket containing what each customer purchases in a single sale.

So, how big is the average shopping basket in your store? If you do not know, you need to find out. This needs to be measured and tracked in terms of number of items and total value.

Retail managers rely on good data to make quality business decisions. Basket size and basket value, tracked over time and compared between trading periods are two vital pieces of business data which will drive better business decisions.

You can probably find out benchmark numbers for average basket size and average basket value for your particular retail niche. This information is helpful in assessing the performance of your business compared to others in your field.

Once you know your numbers and have a process in place, ideally Point of Sale software specific to the needs of your business, to track the numbers you can set about driving growth in basket size. This is the first step, understanding where you are at today and the trend for these metrics of the business.

Here are tips for growing basket size:

  1. Know what the top selling items on your shop floor are. Often you will have around ten items accounting for more than half of all of your sales.
  2. Use the space either side and around the top selling items to promote other produces which customers buying the top selling items are likely to want. Change these up sell items weekly.
  3. Use your POS software to report on what is selling with want. This can help you understand what products go with what products.
  4. De clutter your sales counter and ensure that easily selected items are placed there for customer purchase. Change these weekly. The best counter offers are those which are quickly and easily understood and which appear to be discounted.
  5. Promote upsell items inside the entrance to your store. Change these weekly.
  6. Promote items at key traffic congregation points in your store. Change these weekly.
  7. Educate your employees about basket size, where the business is at today and where you want to take it. Give them the information necessary to making good business decisions with and for you.
  8. Run regular employee incentives to encourage your team to offer upsell opportunities to customers. As burger chains found out many years ago, you can often get the add-on sail by asking for it.
  9. Talk to your suppliers, seeking out products which could work as up-sell opportunities. Again, focus on products which are easily and quickly understood.

Obsess about basket size as attracting add-on business from existing customer traffic is easier than attracting new customers. If they are in your shop they are shopping, sell them something. That is the mindset you need to bring to the basket building opportunity.

Change is key to your basket building strategy too. Regular change helps you combat store blindness from you and your customers.

Keep measuring and reporting. Respond to what your measurements tell you. Basket building is a relentless yet valuable process for any retail store.

, Leave the Games Behind – Team Building 101, Building Wrestling

Call it a bad, real-life version of The Office. The boss decides that productivity and morale are down, so there needs to be team building. So on a chilly Wednesday morning, rather than being at work, the whole staff finds themselves at the base of a high ropes course. The morning starts with some reaffirming words about trust and positive thinking and keeping an open mind from the facilitator, followed by some activities to aid in communication and trust, such as a trust fall and the human knot game. Soon, after some rudimentary safety training, the staff begins to tackle the high roped elements of the course; some are not so wild about heights, so they elect to stay on the ground and help with the safety ropes. As the sun sets that evening, the facilitators congratulate everyone on a job well done and for participating, and hope that the staff is able to take the lessons learned that day back into the office.

Come Thursday morning, with the exception of maybe some sore muscles, its back to business as usual. The boss cannot figure out why his team is not any better, and retreats back to the confines of his office to ponder what to do next.

This is actually an all-too-common scenario. Too often when a team is not performing up to expectations, the powers-that-be elect for a “team building” day, such as the one described above or something similar. And while a day scrambling up an artificial wall may be fun, there is one major caveat to engaging in the above activities: none of it is team building.

Simply put, team building is not an activity, but an ongoing process. There are certainly activities and initiatives that can be of use as tools in this process, but they are not an end unto themselves, and if used as such or not properly facilitated, they can potentially create more harm than good.

In understanding team building, it is important to determine what it is not.

Avoid the Clichés

First, there must be a distinction made between bonding and building. Bonding is merely an act of sticking two or more objects together; in terms of people, it is two or more people getting along and caring for each other at some level. This can be done very quickly, such as a child using paste to attach the eyes onto their Halloween jack ‘o lantern project in school: effective, though temporary. A more permanent bond is possible, but requires greater time and effort.

Building, on the other hand, is an organized and planned effort to construct a solid structure to serve a purpose. There are many individual activities and transactions required to achieve this goal, and once the initial structure is complete, constant maintenance is required to keep it functional. It is a continual process.

As such, team building is not building camaraderie. While in an ideal environment the team will bond and genuinely care for each other’s well-being, it is more realistic that there are people on every team who wish nothing more than to come in, do their job, and go home. Even more realistic a view is that there are people on the team who may actively despise another member. These are obstacles, to be sure, but ultimately the success of the team is not dependent on everyone liking each other, so this is not a goal of team building.

Additionally, team building is not an activity. Putting a team through team building “initiatives”, such as the aforementioned human knot and ropes courses and the like in an attempt to demonstrate examples of core team behaviors does little at building the team, as these activities 1) do not always translate well to the work environment, and 2) do nothing to secure continual support of the potential lessons learned.

Team building is an ongoing, multifaceted process encompassing several disciplines that, when done properly and given the due attention it deserves in any organization, plays an important role in an organization’s success. Ultimately, it is getting a group of people to work together towards a common goal in such a way that the results of their efforts are greater than the sum of their parts. This requires constant attention and is achieved over time, and must be maintained through continual efforts. As mentioned before, there are additional activities that can help boost or accelerate team building, but these tools are only an additional support option for what should be a daily function of the workplace and the team leader. Moreover, the activities that qualify as team building tools are very specific in scope and how they are applied; in other words, not just any activity provided by a book or facilitator can necessarily fulfill this purpose.

The Myths

There are several myths that have unfortunately been tied into team building, that have created unrealistic expectations in regards to the potential outcomes. The two most prevalent relate to team building’s scope of effectiveness and which activities are most effective.

Myth #1: Team building will cure what ails ya’.

FACT: Team building is not a cure-all. There are many possible contributing factors to why an organization is not performing up to expectations, team building being but one. While some quality team building may create a short-term stopgap for overall poor performance, it cannot heal a sick corporate culture. While team building should be a constant endeavor at any organization, regardless of performance, the deeper, underlying issues need to be addressed if team building is going to have the desired impact on success.

The truth is that while a team’s lackluster performance can hurt an organization’s success, it also may be a symptom of a larger problem. It will still do well to treat the cough, but this will do little good unless the cause of the cough is treated as well.

Additionally, team building may not even be the issue at hand. For example, is there truly a team that needs to be built? High school teachers, for instance, all strive for a common goal: educating their students and playing a role in shaping them into productive citizens. However, the Spanish teacher’s job performance is not dependent on the Algebra teacher; ergo, there is no need to spend time and resources trying to “build” this team.

Another example: is the team’s goal mission critical? If the office’s Sunshine Club is not getting along and it is interfering with the plans for the end of year Christmas party, is it worth the money and lost productivity to send them on a daylong team building crash course? Is it worth spending more than an hour’s worth of conversation?

In both of these cases, there is no need for team building. If issues are arising between the parties mentioned in the examples above, other approaches would be more appropriate.

Myth #2: Activities outside of the office can help highlight key behaviors.

FACT: Stripping away all of the excess baggage and eliminating distractions are excellent ways of drilling down to core issues, but most activities do not support this end in a practical, sustainable way. While on paper, the high-ropes course or weekly “team building” initiatives at the morning meeting may seem like excellent ways of demonstrating the core values of team building, there are major reasons why they prove to be ineffective.

One-shot deal. It is the equivalent of brushing your teeth once a week. It may act as a temporary booster, but eventually decay sets in and undoes whatever few benefits gained. In addition, not everyone in the group may get the same take-away value from the activity, thus leading to uneven results at best from engaging in such activities and reducing the return on investment. For them to even begin to approach being effective, the activities need to be engaged in on a regular basis.

Lack of interest. If employees are not interested in the activities, they will not be keeping an open mind to the potential learnings. True, this may stem from a lack of proper facilitation or preparation on the team leader’s part, but it provides for a difficult obstacle: if one employee is acting indignant, the attitude can spread virally and keep more members of the team from engaging.

For instance, if someone is terrified of heights and is generally not an outdoors kind of person, they will not be willing to engage fully in a high-ropes course. Additionally, if they are not participating in the full initiative and are left on the ground working the ropes, they are not going to get the same take-away value as those who completed the course (harkening back to a previous obstacle in engaging these activities). Is it worth the time and resources to attempt to convince these one or two employees to engage fully in the initiative? If not, is it worth engaging in the initiative if the whole team will not be getting something of value out of it?

Statement of the blatantly obvious. Most initiatives will attempt to highlight the building blocks of team building. These “truths” are often patently obvious and the staff already knows and understands them.

Most productive members of an organization understand that they are part of a larger whole, and what they do can either contribute or take away from the overall success of the team. It is during this debrief, with everyone sitting in the circle and each holding a piece of string in a web that symbolizes their responsibility to the team that the facilitator begins to highlight the requirements of team work and the employees’ eyes begin to glaze over.

Same quota, less time. Most employees will see the time spent on team building initiatives better utilized in completing their work responsibilities. The perception often is that there is still the same amount of work to accomplish, but less time to accomplish it in. At a 3-day in-house team building initiative at one company, employees were told that the sessions were mandatory and would last from Wednesday through Friday. At each break, rather than using the downtime to eat something and relax, the majority of the staff were running back to their desks and answering urgent emails, completing reports and making necessary phone calls. Rather than look for the benefits of the session, most employees saw it as a waste of time that prevented them from completing their work.

No follow-through. Once the initiative has been completed, the staff are turned loose back in the office and expected to perform at a higher level with this newfound enlightenment concerning their role to the team. If there is any positive energy generated, and there very well may be, it will often fizzle out after a few days when it becomes clear that nothing has really changed. Managers do not spend the time following up with their teams properly because they become too distracted with other, more important responsibilities. Lessons are not reinforced. Staff members begin to slip into old habits. The facilitator, if an outside one is used, is nowhere to be found to check on progress.

“We do the bonding.” As mentioned at the beginning of the article, many of these activities tend to generate bonding more so than building. They act as a common challenge that people have had to face, much like pledging a fraternity. And while fun, it if bonding is the overreaching goal (and in some cases, it may be as the job requires it), it would probably show a greater return on investment to go bowling or hit the pub for a few pints after work.

Getting on the right track

So what is a leader to do? Is team building relevant, or even useful?

Yes. They key is to readjust the point of view on what team building is and how to enact the process. It boils down to assessing and addressing the team’s needs.

In the initial stage of assessment, a team leader must ask a question that may not have a clear-cut answer: is team building necessary? Prima fascia this seems an ambiguous question at best with an answer that falls somewhere in the gray scale between black and white, but the answer can be simplified by breaking the question down into its core components.

First, is there actually a team? This is a bit of a trick question. Are the people that are working in the department or office dependent on each other’s performance for their own success? Take for example the previously mentioned high school teachers. They are not dependent on each other’s performance for success within their own classroom. True, if all of the teachers are enforcing the rules equally and pushing all of the students to maintain a high standard of performance, then everyone’s job gets a little easier, but because they are not immediately dependent on each other to complete their job every day they do not qualify as a “team”.

However, if there is direct dependency there, then there is a “team”. For instance, if the staff is responsible for achieving a common goal, such as a sales target or a project objective, and each play a role in seeing this goal met, then they are a team.

Who to include on this team can be a slippery slope. Who gets included? How involved in the process must a staff member be to be included as a team member? Does the receptionist who funnels incoming phone calls to the appropriate parties count? How about the administrative assistant who coordinates all of the filing and required meetings?

The team leader ultimately has to make a decision in this case, but to guide this decision, the leader need only ask a question: if this person vanished tomorrow, how much impact would that have on the rest of the team? The administrative assistant would more than likely sorely be missed, as their contribution allows the rest of the team to concentrate on their areas of responsibility, and having team members rotate in to do that job could prove to be counter-productive. The receptionist (as described above) provides a helpful service, but with some adjustments could have their responsibilities taken care of by the rest of the staff with little impact on productivity. The team leader has to make a decision as to who needs to be included, and what the return on that investment must be.

Once the nature and members of the team have been established, the leader can then move on to addressing the team’s needs. To answer the question posed at the beginning of this section, “Is team building necessary,” the answer is if there is a team, then unequivocally “yes”. As has been mentioned several times before, team building is a constant and ongoing process, so if there is a team, the team leader must always be taking action to keep the team moving smoothly.

Meeting their needs

Every team has the following needs that must be met to keep the team functioning smoothly:

  • A purpose or goal: a unifying reason for the team’s existence

    Communication between members and stakeholders: established channels and methods, and protocols, including who is responsible for what types of communication, timetables, contact people for key issues, etc
  • Accountability: clearly defined accountabilities; who is responsible for what, and who is responsible for control and evaluation
  • Support: backing by management at the highest appropriate level, including access to resources and information
  • Real team building lies in addressing these needs. To be effective, a team leader must constantly be assessing and evaluating how the team’s needs are being met. Where are the problem areas? Has there been a break down in communication between two members? Are the appropriate managers supporting the team’s efforts? Have the team’s actions strayed from the team’s purpose? When a team leader starts acting as an advocate in this way, they are laying the foundation for a solid team.

    This is an ongoing competency. Simply laying the groundwork is not enough; a strong leader will constantly be taking the pulse of the team in an attempt to be proactive is addressing the team’s needs and ironing out any wrinkles before they arise. This process can happen in any number of degrees of difficulty, depending on the team members, the tenure of the team, organizational climate, etc. Regardless, the process does not stop.

    The exception that proves the rule

    Now, with any rule there are exceptions. Those aforementioned “activities” that were written off as not building teams? They may still hold a useful place in the team building process, but under very specific circumstances. Even if these circumstances arise, the usefulness of these tools has not been proven, and a leader should only enter into their use under careful deliberation and using experienced facilitators who understand the true team building process and are capable of a longer commitment to working with the team,

    So when are these “booster shots” appropriate? When should a leader drag his team out into the wilderness for four days to help accelerate the process? The following scenarios may call for additional, accelerated aid outside of the ordinary practices:

  • Brand new team with a looming project deadline
  • New members on the team that must be brought up to speed quickly
  • A mission-critical team in critical condition with a project deadline
  • A team where 100% of the members are on board with the activity
  • With the exception of the last scenario, there is a common thread here: deadlines. In all but the last case, the team is threatened by a deadline that must be met. Now, just because there is a deadline does not necessarily mean that there is a need for a team booster shot; as mentioned before, the team leader must carefully consider his or her options before jumping into such an activity. Booster shots are not a cure-all, remember, but only a tool that should be used in conjunction with sound team building processes.

    For instance, a firm that produces portable MP3 players is about to begin a new marketing push to try to take a larger market share. This initiative could mean the difference between several years of strong sales and expansion, or could result in a loss of capital and market share. The senior management team has two new members within the last six months, and there are tensions between the other four tenured managers that have resulted in some communication breakdowns in the last year. In this case, with a team that not only has a looming deadline of some importance, but also has new members and issues between others, there may be a case to engage in some emergency “boosters” to get the team in synch very quickly.

    Boosters that work

    What are some of the options available? If a team leader decides that a booster is necessary, several routes could be taken. In all of the cases below, the key is constant feedback about specific, individual behaviors that are affecting the team. It is not enough to simply engage in the activity with no direction or feedback. And remember, the team leader is not trying to change anyone on the team, but attempting to change their vocabulary and understanding of each other. Focus on the behaviors, not the people, but with an eye as to why the people may be engaging in damaging behaviors.

    Do the work of the team. The easiest and most relevant would be to engage in a team-specific project that directly reflects the work that they do. This has a high level of transfer and relevance to their other work habits and could result in smoother operations.

    Retreats. Take the team out of the workplace and to somewhere new and relaxed where they can focus on the work of the team (as mentioned above). A change of venue and relaxed environment could yield some strong results, but again the work must be focused on the team’s goal. A strategic planning session, for example, would be a good reason for a retreat, but again with feedback given to members regarding how their behaviors are affecting the team.

    Outdoor facilitated initiatives. No, not a high-ropes course (with its previously mentioned built-in barriers). This can be a very powerful tool if used properly. The advantage of being outdoors is that most, if not all distractions have been removed and it lays bare people’s attitudes and behaviors. The stress of the initiatives (often strenuous hikes with little guidance, book ended with facilitator sessions) brings many emotions to the surface and can really get to the roots of the underlying problems.

    Obviously, there are some pitfalls here that, if not carefully navigated, could end up doing more damage than good. This is why it is important to have a strong facilitator present who is not only able to manage the team’s safety and act as an outside observer, but also to help the team heal itself once the inevitable verbal and emotional lashings happen.

    The Takeaway

    As mentioned before, good communication and follow-up are key to the success of any of these boosters. In any of these cases, there must be follow up over several months to ensure that any positive building is being maintained in addition to the ongoing team building that must be present. Faltering in either feedback, follow-up, or ongoing team needs’ assessment will result in a loss of any benefits gained through the boosters.

    Remember, there are three primary keys that are required for effective team building. First, it must be determined if it is even necessary by assessing the nature of the team. Second, it is an on-going effort that requires attention to specific needs that keep the team operating smoothly. Finally, with any team building, whether it is through every day efforts or through a booster, there must be follow through. If a leader keeps all of this in mind, they will be well on their way to developing strong, high-performing team.

    , Warhammer Invasion the Card Game: Deck Building Strategies, Building Wrestling

    When looking through cards trying to decide what to put into your deck it is easy to be wowed by high cost cards. The trouble is without the right amount of low cost cards the big dogs will never see play.

    You need a reasonable amount of cards that cost 3 or less resources with only one loyalty symbol on the board. Our play group has dubbed these First Turn Cards(FTCs)*.

    In order to create a balanced deck you need to have a large foundation of low cost cards to allow you to start gaining cards and resources early. This is why cards like Warpstone Excavation(a zero cost neutral support card that provides 1 hammer) are on the restricted list.

    Warpstone Excavation is a free hammer that when played early can net you 5 – 7 resources or cards within the scope of a game. Low cost cards are huge in helping you develop a board presence before your opponent. Below is my Dark Elf / Undead Deck I plan on taking to Gen Con for the tournament. This deck works off sacrificing its own units for effects so it has a bit more low cost than most, but it still serves as a good example.

    Units(number x cost + loyalty, bold denotes FTCs)

    3 x 0____ Veteran Sellswords

    3 x 0 + 1L Walking Sacrifice

    3 x 1 + 1L Dark Initiate

    3 x 2____ Crypt Ghouls

    3 x 2 + 1L Dwarf Slaves

    3 x 2 + 2L Thief of Essence

    3 x 2 + 2L Vile Sorceress

    3 x 5____ Wight Lord

    3 x 6 + 3L Monster of the Deep

    21 FTC Units


    3 x 0____ Warpstone Excavation

    3 x 1____ Contested Village

    3 x 2 + 2L Slave Pen

    12 FTC Support


    3 x 0 + 3L Lash the Prisoner!

    3 x 1 + 2L Dark Visions

    3 x 1____ Warpstone Experiments

    2 x 2____ Burn it Down

    3 x 2 + 2L Sacrifice to Khaine

    As you can see, out of a 50 card deck 33 of the cards can be played on turn 1 to gain me resources and cards for future rounds. That is 66% meaning 4 – 5 cards out of my opening hand are likely to be playable not counting the mulligan. Dark Elves are an extreme example as I stated before since many of these units are sacrifice fodder. As a generic standby rule I would use the following numbers as a starting point:

    26 units — 13 FTCs

    12 Support – 9 FTCs

    This gives you 22 FTCs comprising 44% of your deck. On your first draw, 3 of your 7 cards should be playable not counting your mulligan.

    When you start thinking about the odds of drawing the cards you need the importance of a 50 card deck becomes even more important. Always keep this in mind when building your decks and be selective when choosing your cards. You can always take it out and try something else, but throwing a bunch of cards together isn’t really giving any of them a chance.


    • First Turn Cards

    , Understanding the Fire Alarm System in Your Building, Building Wrestling

    The next time you step into your building, I want you to step to the side and take a few seconds to look up at your ceiling, and next to the doors. Take note of the smoke detectors, pull stations, and the red panel that is behind the receptionists desk. Then walk down the hallway and continue scanning for anything on the ceiling that looks like a strobe, horn strobe, and more pull stations at the exits. Finally walk to your electrical room or sprinkler room and you will likely find your Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP).

    When you take the key and open the panel you will find the installation date, inspection date, and any repairs that have been performed; notated and placed on the inside of the door. This is a great place to begin your search for who to call if your system is malfunctioning. The installation companies name will be on the top of the installation sticker. They likely have an inspection and service division that can repair your system.

    Now that you have opened your panel, you should take note of a few things immediately. First, does the panel show system normal or something to that end? Second, does the panel have a sticker in it showing that it has received its annual inspection this year? Third, take note of the two batteries at the base of the FACP; these batteries should have the month and year of their installation written on them so that you will know when they should be replaced.


    1. GROUND FAULT – This means that an electrical component is making contact with something that it should not making contact with.

    2. LOW BATTERY – This means that your batteries are low, and likely need to be replaced.

    3. DIGITAL ALARM COMMUNICATOR TRANSMITTER (DACT) FAULT – These have the ability to dial out or send a digitized message to a central station who will relay the message to a fire station or notify designated personnel in regard to a trouble in your system. This being a trouble means that your fire alarm system is not communicating properly.

    4. PANEL BEEPING AND YOU DON’T CARE WHY!!! – This is where prior planning comes in very handy. Call your fire alarm inspection and service company, have them send a technician to your building as soon as possible, they will fix the system for you.

    Your fire alarm system has inputs and outputs. Smoke detectors, heat detectors, and beam detectors are common inputs. Strobes and horn strobes are common outputs. When an input detects something that will put it into alarm, such as fire, smoke, or heat, a signal is sent to the FACP. This signal will then be used to send the notification devices into alarm. Meanwhile, if your system is going into alarm, your DACT will be dialing out to the monitoring station who will then notify the appropriate personnel.

    If you want specific information about your fire alarm system you can usually download the user manual after looking at your FACP to find out what type of system you have. You can also request owner training from your fire alarm service company.

    , Eight Little Things Not to Forget When Building a New Home, Building Wrestling

    Building your own home can be exciting yet nerve racking experience. Paying attention to detail throughout the construction process will help streamline the process and increase your ultimate satisfaction with the home. Here are eight little things not to forget when building your new home.

    Ample High Performance Lighting – Be sure to install ample high output energy efficient lighting in high use areas. This rule absolutely applies to kitchens and bathrooms. If installing recessed lighting, be sure to several lights through out the kitchen or bathroom to avoid shadows. Chandeliers, track lighting, fluorescent lights or under cabinet light will all work fine. Just be sure to install plenty of them in high use areas.

    Insulate Your Garage – Most builders only install insulation within interior walls of the home that face the outside of the house. Generally, builders do not insulate the exterior walls of your garage. Forget this tip and your garage will be hotter in the summer and colder in the winter. Have your builder insulate the exterior facing walls of your garage before the drywall is installed. Better yet, do it yourself to save some money.

    Electrical Outlets Under Eaves – If you like to install lights during the holiday season on your roof line, be sure to install electrical outlets under the eaves to simplify installing the lights. Also be sure to install a switch to turn the lights on or off from inside your home near the front entrance. When you are up on that ladder on a blustery winter day, you will be thankful you can just plug the lights in with minimal extension cords and flip the lights on or off with a switch from inside your home. Speaking of holiday lights, install an outlet near the mantel of your fireplace too.

    Double Coaxial Connections in Wall Jacks – Given the popularity of high definition televisions and digital video recorders, be sure to run two coaxial cables into each wall jack where you may want a TIVO or DVR unit. This will allow you to record one show and watch another simultaneously. Forget and you will need to drop that second coaxial line later which can be very tricky after drywall is installed.

    Gas Line In Utility Room – Even if you plan to use an electric clothes dryer, it may be prudent to install a gas line into your utility room to allow for a gas clothes dryer in the future. Although gas prices are on the rise, if you have a large family and do many loads of laundry each week it may be cheaper in the long run to use gas. If you do not add a gas line in the utility room, an electric clothes dryer will be your only option.

    Seal Your Garage Floor – Consider sealing your garage floor before moving into the home. Concrete sealer is available in do-it-yourself kits that will protects your garage floor from deterioration caused by road salts and prevent stains due to oil and other fluids. It also adds to the aesthetics of the garage and may make your home more marketable when you sell in the future. You might also consider a drain in the floor of your garage.

    Ample Height for Shower Heads – This may seem like a no brainer. However, if you forget to raise your shower head to a comfortable height during construction, you will have to squat or bend over while you should be relaxing under a nice warm shower.

    Automatic Pool Water Filler – When installing a pool or spa, remember to hook the pool fill line into your sprinkling system so you can automate adding water to your pool. This is especially convenient in the south where water evaporation rates are high in the summer. This will allow you to set one zone of your sprinkling system to add water to your pool. You then simply tell it to run 10 or 15 minutes once a week.

    The character of your home will often shine through in the details. Paying attention to the details, such as those noted above, will help increase your satisfaction with your new home and should help simplify your lifestyle.

    , The Importance of Building Insurance, Building Wrestling

    All lenders insist on Buildings Insurance if any property is secured against a loan. If anything adverse happens to the property (like it being burnt down), the same property can be rebuilt from the proceeds of the insurance claim. And if your property is mortgage free and a similar devastation occurs to it, you will still be protected by the insurance policy and will be able to rebuild your property from the proceeds of your claim.

    All Buildings Insurances are taken out so as to have a peace of mind against misfortunes that you hope will never occur. This kind of insurance offers protection against structural damages e.g. roofs, walls, floors, ceilings, windows and doors. The causes of structural damages specified in policies are usually by fire, detonation, burglary or attempted burglary, malicious damage /vandalism, natural calamities like lightning, flooding, storms, earthquakes, subsidence and falling trees etc. Also included in the policies are damages on outdoor properties such as gates, fences and railings.

    But do be aware that not all policies cover all the above mentioned potential damages and each insurer will have its own exclusion peculiar to that particular policy. Should you require any specific cover which has not been detailed in the policy then you can obtain one by paying an additional premium.

    In the unfortunate event of you not being able to reside in your property until it has been deemed safe and secure for you to live in, you will need to ensure that your Buildings Insurance policy covers you for a suitable alternative accommodation while works are being carried out on your property. Also make sure that your policy covers you for any associated architects’ or surveyor’s fees.

    , The 5 Most Effective Herbs and Spices for Building Muscle, Building Wrestling

    Certain herbs and spices promote the growth of muscles through increasing the body’s testosterone levels and improving the body’s stress response. Including these healthy flavorants to your daily diet not only helps you maintain a fitter body, but also contributes to achieving other health goals such as prevention of diseases, faster recovery, increased stamina, improved bodily functions and many more!

    If you’re looking to increase your muscle mass, here are 5 herbs and spices you should consume:


    The herb ginseng is very ideal for gym buffs and body builders because it helps the body adapt to physical stress through supporting muscle synthesis. Like all adaptogen herbs, ginseng helps the body cope with the strain of regular exercise without affecting appetite, mood and sleep. According to the National Institutes of Health, ginseng helps boost energy levels, promote heart health and improve one’s sense of well-being.

    Flax Seed

    Flax seed is another herb that greatly contributes to building muscle. It is an excellent source of protein, containing approximately 25 to 30 grams of protein per 100 grams. Flax seed is also packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients including the essential fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid which is known to increase insulin sensitivity in muscles. Regular consumption of flax seed will give body builders improved oxygen utilization, enhanced energy levels and faster body recovery.


    Also referred to as golden root or rose root, this powerful herb is known for stimulating anabolic activity as well as muscle protein synthesis. It is an ideal herb to take for post-workout routines because it contains enzymes and proteins that are essential to muscle recovery.

    Black Pepper

    This super spice is known for providing the body with a long list of health benefits. It contains the compound piperine which has been used since the ancient times to relieve joint and muscle pain as well as fatigue. Aside from its powerful healing properties, black pepper also improves the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients from the food we consume.


    Another notable spice when it comes to building muscle is ginger. This common household ingredient is packed with gingerols which has been found to effectively soothe aching muscles and to increase its recovery by up to 25 percent after a workout session. Ginger is very ideal for athletes and body builders because it greatly contributes to the body’s ability to supply oxygen and nutrients to the muscles when needed most.

    Whether you’re a gym buff or not, regular intake of these 5 muscle-building herbs and spices are a surefire way to a healthier and fitter body!

    , Building Wrestling

    Room escape games are not just for fun and entertainment. Several businesses use room escape activities for team building to break communication barriers that exist within the workplace.

    The objective of team building is to encourage employees and prepare them to solve business problems collectively and effectively. Let’s take a look at different escape room’s activities that are fun and educating at the same time.

    A Thrilling Escape Room Game That Helps in Team Building

    The most exciting game in escape room is hungry zombie. Your team is locked in a room with a hungry zombie who is tied with a chain. After every five minutes, the chain gets released by one foot and the hungry zombie is able to move further to catch you.

    The total duration of game play is around one hour and by the end of time, the hungry zombie is able to reach every corner of the room. The room is full with clues and you are required to solve puzzles/riddles to find the key to the locked door and escape from the room with your team members.

    To escape the room and save themselves from hungry zombie, participants need to do the following:


    Communication is the key to finding hidden clues quickly. The participants have to work in groups of 2-3 to find hidden clues in the rooms. They need to keep the team informed at all times so that they can use the information and the hidden clues to unlock the secret of the hidden key.

    Escape room games foster communication between the employees (participants) and encourages them to work collectively to win the game and escape the room. The activity also teaches them the importance of cooperation without which the whole team will fail.

    Think out of the Box

    The team building games require you to think out of the box as it is something you have never experienced. The time is right to unleash your thought potential and look for clues that will help you solve puzzles and riddles.

    Escape room games have a totally different setup. Besides, taking away from the routine office work, these activities put you in a situation where you have to utilize the information available, seek suggestions, ideas from other members and see what works.

    Take Lead or Follow

    The escape room games give all a level playing field where your manager would be just a player like you. The team building unleashes your leadership potential and you might be required to take leadership in certain situations to steer your team out of the room.

    During the game, you can also come across a situation when there will be one or more leaders. In such situations, the team members have to consult and decide who should lead without creating a conflict. Thus, these room escape activities teach the team to work together without creating a fuss over leadership issues.

    Room escape games focus on increasing cooperation and building a team spirit where the individual does not limit his duties to individual performance. If used in the right manner, escape room games can help you build a team that work as a cohesive force and solve any business problem in a rational manner.

    , It’s Time To Rethink Leadership Development: Building Momentum For A Leadership Culture, Building Wrestling

    Leadership excellence is fundamental to the health and performance of an organisation. Leadership development, however, in most cases is a costly affair. It therefore warrants careful consideration of what organisations hope to achieve when they invest in leadership development. If the point of departure is to help people excel as highly competent individuals, then the criteria for a development programme would be different from one where the goal is to grow people in order to achieve more with and through others – in other words true leadership and teamwork.

    Changing perceptions and expectations of leadership

    Times change and so do the perceptions and expectations of leadership. If we lived in ancient times when progress meant territorial dominance and hard, hand-fought victories on the battlefield, we would be looking for strong, brave and imposing men with some ability to out-think the enemy. If we lived in the industrial age we would be looking for superior scientific minds. As the world became more ordered, specialised and hierarchically structured in governments, institutions, business and many others types of organisations; technical or functional ability and political astuteness (skilful in tactics and power play) allowed many to rise to the top and thus be recognised as leaders. In this scenario, leadership is typically exercised through command and control complimented by concomitant tactics of intimidation and manipulation. Unfortunately, there are far too many examples with this type of leadership and organisations may be stuck in this old mindset.

    Instruments of power

    Where command and control still delivers results, the people have resigned themselves to the idea that they are fundamentally either stronger or weaker instruments of power – in some cases they paint themselves powerless for life, in others they believe they are untouchable and as a result often ruin their personal relationships. They fear or respect power for the sake of power. Where those at the top embrace the culture — and why would they not if they were successful in and beneficiaries of it — they will more likely than not, consciously or unconsciously, further entrench this culture through the choices they make on training and development. It does not bode well for the future in a world where optimum learning, flexibility and responsiveness are such important factors for success.

    The cost

    The cost for organisations, and more specifically, when the leadership are poorly aligned with societal changes is immeasurably high. Today’s knowledge worker commits themselves when they experience the freedom to be creative and enterprising. In a command and control environment they feel inhibited and frustrated; the result being untapped potential. Moreover, people in such an environment often withhold critical information which ultimately comes at a cost to the organisation.

    Another cost factor is that employees who are not intrinsically motivated but prepared to submissively and passively ‘sit out’ their careers for the sake of a salary cheque, are nowadays difficult and expensive to get rid of. The longer we have command and control environments (as it is experienced by the common worker, since it is seldom acknowledged by the leadership), the more disengaged people will become. Progressive organisations, understand what is required of a modern-day leader, and are quickly pulling away from their counterparts who continue to practice the archaic command and control tactics.

    The key shift

    Who do we regard as good leaders? Who is climbing the ladder to higher positions of authority and power? Who gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to filling leadership positions? Is it not those with a strong knowledge base as reflected in their academic qualifications and other certificates? Is it not those with technical know-how and management experience? And is it not those who have demonstrated the ability to use their positional power to get quick results? We believe these are the three criteria most people have in mind when they consider candidates for leadership positions. Whoever fits the bill, can be forgiven if he or she feels superior to the rest. The combination of high intellect, know-how, tactical skill and a robust ego is a powerful one. It is almost inevitable that the leadership challenge ends up to be no more than a battle of wits and ego’s in budget, planning and strategy sessions. Teamwork, the key to success, suffers as a result.

    How would leadership development programmes be of any use for the above? If it means another qualification to go on the manager’s CV, more ideas, theories, models and arguments for the meeting room, and perhaps some insights that could improve personal effectiveness, then it will fit the requirement well. But the question that needs to be asked above all is: what is the value for the organisation as a whole? What is the positive influence on those who work with the leader, their morale, energy, focus, productivity, willingness to take responsibility, innovativeness, and own leadership development? Furthermore, what are the ethical and governance values being driven by the organisation and its leaders, and do management support these? And then, what are the positive changes that others see in terms of the manager’s willingness to sacrifice for the cause, openness to feedback, team-orientation, his/her courage to name the real issues that prevent growth in the organisation, and work towards much needed transformation?

    i. Culture eats strategy for lunch

    The observation is widespread that in spite of various leadership development initiatives, the change that matters most, invariably does not take place. In others words, a change of leadership culture is required and is not being done. More sophisticated strategies, better designs, and the latest performance management tools or tactics to out-maneuver the opposition, can never achieve what a strong leadership culture can. What most people in ‘unhealthy organisations’ secretly or openly hope to see, is a change of heart in their leadership.

    The reason for poor or inadequate performance in organisations very seldom is lack of knowledge, skills or experience. Rather, it is to be found in the leader’s lack of attention to behavioural aspects, the general climate, and the alignment in the organisation. When leaders really concern themselves with the character of their organisation, they forget about their ego concerns and personal agendas. To use an analogy from the sports world, we know that when we are in agreement that the team showed character it also means they gave their hearts for the team and the greater cause. Poor character is when a team member puts his own interests before those of the team.

    Leadership development for our times need to be in the areas of awareness, ‘inner work’ (self-mastery) and context-sensitive leadership responses.

    ii. Awareness

    It is to state the obvious that heightened levels of awareness is needed for real change in mindset, attitude and behaviour. As the emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman points out, self-awareness forms the cornerstone for awareness of others, self-regulation and regulation of inter-personal relationships. As obvious and simple as it seems, it is not a given. As a starting point it requires openness, vulnerability and humility to grow in self-awareness. With the ‘chips’ of knowledge, experience and positional power on one’s shoulder, the tendency is very high to filter out signals that might be damaging to the ego.

    The three main areas for awareness are personal disposition and discipline, adaption to and need for change, and relationships. The defining, breakthrough moment that leads to heightened awareness and sets ‘inner work’ in motion, often is the understanding that the use of outside help — typically from family members to friends, colleagues, books, coaches and mentors — is not a sign of weakness, but of becoming more authentic and mature.

    iii. Inner work (self-mastery)

    Awareness is one thing, but challenging conversations with oneself is another. As all exemplary leaders will testify, the ‘make or break’ in their growth as leaders were the challenges they put to themselves in response to the challenges they experienced from the outside; be they tragedies, major disappointments, lack of results, personal attacks on them, honest but hurtful feedback or overwhelming responsibility. Sometimes ‘inner work’ demands nothing short of a deep and painful ‘inner journey’ – going back to unresolved issues and unhealed pain of the past. But most of the time it is nothing as dramatic as that, but being intentional and committed to grow as a person and a leader in all the many wonderful facets of being human.

    iv. Context-sensitive leadership responses (use of inner wisdom)

    Key to leadership and leadership development is the ability to respond appropriately and more wisely to all kinds of situations. That is why awareness and inner work is so important. To think that reading textbooks will help the leader to do the right thing or minimise damage is shortsighted. Leadership in its proper sense is authentic, spontaneous and from within. Whatever knowledge the leader comes across, it needs to be internalised to make any real and meaningful difference. A leader that has grown out of the command and control style learns the critical importance of adjustment. For instance, to be forceful, courageous and bold is important in leadership. But the context determines when it is appropriate and most effective. Bright ideas at the wrong time or with an insensitive presentation in a particular context can be totally counter-productive. The key to becoming wiser is to consciously and intentionally keep all channels of feedback and learning op en. When we are open and receptive to our environment and to others, our eyes ‘open’ to the wisdom that we have within but never allowed to guide us. It is at the point where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, not all- knowing and self-important, that we rise to new levels of understanding and insight.

    From a leadership development perspective, it is much more effective to explore leadership responses in conversation with others who share the same context (facing their ‘real world’) than listening to leadership theory in a lecture room. It is a common complaint that the good and lofty ideas in the lecture room come to nothing the moment a person is back at the office facing ‘the real world’. It is different when leaders in a development programme support each other by sharing their leadership thoughts and questions as they face the challenges before them.

    For healthy workplace and social structures to thrive, leadership development should facilitate growth in the areas of awareness, ‘inner work’ and context-sensitive leadership responses. As illustrated below, in many cases a shift in thinking about leadership development from an outdated paradigm needs to take place.

    Old Criteria And Development Focus



    Strategic and tactical skills

    Strategy before culture

    Change of processes and tools


    Good for transactional environment

    Development Focus For Organisational Health


    Inner work (reflection and self-challenge)

    Context-sensitive leadership responses (use of inner wisdom)

    Culture before strategy

    Change of heart and attitude

    Questioning and shared learning

    Needed for transformational environment

    Less is more

    The best way to grow a leadership culture is to further develop those who already have a positive influence in the organisation. The questions to ask in order to identify them are the following:

    – Is the person clearly passionate about the cause and values of the organisation?

    – Is it evident that he does not need and does not have to rely on the power of his position to be able to have

    significant influence?

    – Does he genuinely want to become a better leader?

    – Would he be keen to play a part in building a strong leadership culture in the organisation?

    – Is he loyal to the organisation, and will he be part of the organisation for at least for the next two to three years?

    Such a group of leaders will have an enormous impact if they purposefully support each other and grow their leadership according to the above-stated development principles for organisational health. A wholesale approach where everyone at a certain level is included in a development programme can at times disappoint in terms of its impact for the organisation. Half-motivated people who participate under some form of internal or external pressure dilute the value. As a strategy to grow a leadership culture, a focused approach with a core of motivated people delivers far better and more sustainable results for the organisation..

    The example of Nelson Mandela

    Late last year, the world appeared to stand still and reflect on the remarkable life and example of Nelson Mandela. One of the most striking and powerful illustrations of his leadership influence is that so many people recalled that nobody could turn down his requests – a manager’s dream! It is the best possible illustration of the truth of John Maxwell’s axiom: a leader first gives his heart then asks for a hand. The belief that, particularly business leaders, need to hide their hearts from others (and themselves) in order to take hard, calculated decisions and remain resolute in negotiation, is wrong and in truth undermining of their leadership. Passion for and dedication to the cause, is a matter of the heart. And so respect for others, the will to serve — humility — the willingness to ask forgiveness, care, trust, compassion, moral conviction, resilience and perseverance are indeed matters of the heart.

    Surely, if we recognise leadership excellence in the person of Nelson Mandela, we should endeavour to look for and grow the qualities he lived and demonstrated. For organisations it is not a call to become more ‘touchy or feely’, but to responsibly address the context within which business decisions are taken and to ensure that these decisions accurately reflect the organisation’s heart, mind and soul, be this in its strategy, finance, marketing, technology and corporate social values.