I bring my TaeKwon-Do to work everyday. For the longest time, I had my 1st Degree Black Belt certificate hanging on my office wall. Then a few years later I tested and was awarded my 2nd Degree Black Belt and I thought hanging that certificate up with the other would be just a little too much, so I took the 1st Degree certificate down. We have an amazing Conversation Corps poster, incorporating a tutor's journal entry and some host family and travel photos to take it's place. GeoVisions has a lot of family involved, and so does TaeKwon-Do. My son, Christopher, heads up our west coast operation. He's a 1st Degree Black Belt. And my daughter, Alexandra, helps us with some social media and she's a Green Belt. My two youngest children take out the trash, and empty our recycling bins…both of them are 1st Degree Black Belts. Here is a photo of four of us at a recent tournament bringing home 8 medals. 18 years combined training. The reason I bring TaeKown-Do to work everyday is not because it's fun, or a great diversion…both true in their own respect. It's because we run GeoVisions by the Five Tenets of TaeKwon-Do. I have been very successful at weaving those five tenets into every aspect of my life (personal and professional) and I've been very successful at getting GeoVisions to the place where it is without effort to weave all Five Tenets into our organization. For any reader who is not familiar with the Five Tenets of TaeKwon-Do, they are Courtesy Integrity Perseverance Self-Control Indomitable Spirit What do these five tenets have to do with volunteer abroad and teach abroad? Courtesy "Enduring respect for and consideration of self and others. Politeness. Humility." We know there are many organizations offering volunteer abroad programs and others with teaching jobs abroad. We know the Internet contains websites you probably should not trust and at the very best you should approach as suspect. We can start by being courteous. We respect that you are willing to spend your hard-earned money and your precious time to go abroad on one of our programs. At every touch point we are going to define courtesy for you. Integrity "Steadfast adherence to a strict moral and ethical code. Honesty. Loyalty." Followers of this Blog know I write about some form of Integrity all the time. I get lots of Twitter comments about my rants on volunteer abroad or voluntourism. In my view, volunteer abroad has gone to the dogs. I'm embarrassed that people who really do want to make a difference when they travel would bump into some of the organizations I see offering these programs. And I don't see my counterparts writing similar posts, nor has even one of them defended the actions of our industry. I think I'm writing to the atmosphere and I also think I'm cranky because I've dedicated 37 years to this…and I look around and hang my head in shame at some of these characters masquerading as volunteer abroad organizations. Nothing in business is more important as having a STRICT moral and ethical code. At the same time, consumers also must have integrity. We'll be ethical, honest and loyal to you. We'll do what we tell you we will do and we will stand by you, even after you return to your home after your project. You must do the same. We see integrity as a two-way street. Reciprocal. After all, that's what business is. It's a reciprocal relationship, and we work hard to earn your respect. Perseverance "To persist in an endeavor or undertaking in spite of counter-influences, opposition or discouragement. Dedication." Ugh. Try running a company in this financial environment. Try tracking 7 foreign currencies each day. We have to keep track of ever-changing visa regulations (the visa you use to get into a country, not the visa you use to pay your bill) and government regulations. Our Work and Travel program is regulated by the U.S. State Department and just wading through all the new government regulations is like trying to walk in quick-sand. I mentioned in my last post that we had twice the number of competitors in 2011 as we did in 2010. We chose innovation as our way of persevering. We refuse to compete on price. We will put our heads together and innovate our way through the regs and the economy and the ones who "pile on." Just last week we found a website in Morocco and a website in France who copied our Conversation Corps program exactly word for word. The week before that an organization in China simply copied our pages…company colors, typeface and all. Self-Control "The ability of a person to exert their will over the inhibitions, impulses, emotions or desires of their body or self. Patience. Discipline." 2012 is going to be a game-changer for GeoVisions. Our new programs (no one else is offering them, but it won't take long for many to copy them) will move us forward and enable even more people to volunteer abroad in a way no one ever thought possible before. Our staff is positioned to provide stellar customer service and to spend a lot of time with our volunteers and teachers. We want to make certain you meet your goals. We have learned how to keep a vigilant eye on the voluntourism industry, and keep our heads down and move our volunteers forward all at the same time. That comes with being flexible and strong…TaeKwon-Do traits (no tenets). Indomitable Spirit "Having the right attitude and maintaining inner strength regardless of winning or losing. Not allowing one’s principles to be broken, defeated, or conquered. Bravery. Courage." Write what you will. Say what you will. These are our principles. If you have a problem, call me. I'm the guy at the top. You want to whine on the Internet? Fine. You want something fixed? Call me. My direct line is +1 (203) 453-5838. When you hear the recording (a very nice British lady) just press the 1 button on your telephone followed by the # button. That will ring at my desk. If I'm there, I'll pick it up and fix what it is that has you troubled, quickly. If I'm not there, leave a message. Unless I'm on an overnight flight to another country, I'll return your call within 24 hours. You have my direct line in this Blog Post as my word. Of course, if you want to call and tell me how great things are…I'd love to hear that too. These are the Five Tenets of TaeKwon-Do. These are the adopted Five Tenets of GeoVisions. You can bet your lungs on them.