Saturday, February 27, 2010

HR - Overtime - What You're In For


Overtime – What You’re In For

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

There is a huge amount of confusion about what is considered overtime and what actually is overtime and this often causes problems within an organisation – it’s that whole perception and assumption thing that very seldom actually reflects reality.

For example a normal working week is considered (by law) to be 45 hours. So if an employee works a 5 day week, 8 hour day (remember their lunch times do not constitute ‘working’ time), they have successfully worked a 40 hour week, so working an extra ½ an hour does not mean that they qualify for overtime, because they are still 4 ½ hours short on what they should be working. Many employees do not understand this and then feel that the employer is ‘cheating’ them out of overtime pay and by the same token, many employers are not aware of this and just pay! Either way, it is not a good situation and hopefully this article will put things into perspective.

Overtime and work on Public Holidays.
This is where the wording in your Letter/Contract of employment is extremely important. Unless there is a proper agreement and/or contract in place, according to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the employer is not permitted to ‘force’ the employee to work overtime (remember that this means the time that an employee works during a day or a week in excess of ordinary hours of work) on weekends or public holiday.

If you don’t have anything in place in terms of your Letter/Contract of employment and you, as the employer, require overtime work to be done over a weekend and/or public holiday, your staff would only be obliged to work if you got their agreement, in writing, to do so.

So people, it is in your own best interests to get your Letters of Appointment up to date and in compliance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

How to calculate the rates.
Let me be very clear here – there are some employees that are not ‘covered’ by the BCOA (Basic Conditions of Employment Act) – these are (but not limited to):
- Members of the National Defence Force
- (workers in) Senior Management
- Sales staff – who travel
- Workers who work less than 24 hours in a month
- Workers who earn more than an amount gazetted from time to time – clearly this pertains to specialized circumstances and would not affect most employees – if you’re not sure, please contact an HR Specialist.

Then of course there is the, no overtime work will be paid unless the overtime has been authorized by an employees Manager or is required in terms of a work roster.

Workers must receive 1.5 times their normal hourly rate of pay or time off in exchange for overtime or they can even receive a combination of the two.

Staff are not obliged to work overtime:
- Unless the overtime has been made by agreement (in your Letter/Contract of employment or by consent in writing)
- If the overtime is more than 10 hours per week (if this is a special circumstance a ‘collective agreement’ can increase this to 15 hours a week, but only for a maximum of two months in any given year.)
- Workers may not work more than 12 hours a day.

Pay for Overtime Work
Like most calculations in life, life is generally made a lot easier if you have a formula to calculate with – overtime remuneration is no exception to the rule.

5 day week overtime calculation:
Those who work a 5 day week work 21.67 days per month, this is accepted as the norm.

The working week is accepted as 45 ordinary hours (not including overtime).

The working day is accepted as a 9 hour day. The employee is paid for 8 hours and the 1 hour meal break is NOT paid for. Before every staff members starts weeping and wailing and shouting the odds, this is the law as it is gazetted in the BCOA, so don’t be having a go at your bosses!

So therefore the formula for calculating the hourly rate is:
Salary divided by 21.67 (remember these are the days worked in a month) divided 9 (those are the working hours per day) and 21.67 multiplied by 9 = total working hours per month (195.03 hours). Therefore if Tommy earns say R5 000 per month then his hourly rate is R25.64 per hour and if he has worked 48 hours in one week, then he is entitled to 3 hours over time at 1.5 times his hourly rate, which would mean that he is entitled to an additional R76.92.

The calculation for employees who work a 6 day week is as follows:
Those who work a 6 day week work 26 days per month, this is accepted as the norm.

The working week is accepted as 45 ordinary hours (not including overtime).

The working day is accepted as a 7.5 hour day. The employee is paid for 6.5 hours and the 1 hour meal break is NOT paid for. Before every staff members starts weeping and wailing and shouting the odds, this is the law as it is gazetted in the BCOA, so don’t be having a go at your bosses!

So therefore the formula for calculating the hourly rate is:
Salary divided by 26 (remember these are the days worked in a month) divided 7.5 (those are the working hours per day) and 26 multiplied by 7.5 = total working hours per month (195 hours). Therefore if Tommy earns say R5 000 per month then his hourly rate is R25.64 per hour and if he has worked 48 hours in one week, then he is entitled to 3 hours over time at 1.5 times his hourly rate, which would mean that he is entitled to an additional R76.92.

So there you have the mysteries of overtime and how to calculate it at your fingertips.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Thursday, February 25, 2010

MARKETING - Seven Steps to Starting Out - Part 3


Seven Steps to Starting Out – Part 3

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting February 2010.

Following on from the first five marketing tips out of the seven steps to starting out – let’s look at the rest now.

The sixth tip is all about the sales process and yes, it is a process. Many people fall flat round about now as they think that because they are sitting in front of someone that they consider a friend, the process is complete and done – don’t you be making that mistake. The deal still needs to be done and the sale needs to be concluded.

Make no mistake, sitting in front of someone that you consider a friend will make part of the process very easy, but part of the process will also be extremely difficult, failing to deliver to a ‘friend’ will, in most cases will result in the breakup of that friendship as well as loss of the sale and loss of a client!

Ultimately, it is definitely easier (and often safer) to have the ‘sales discussion’ with a qualified prospect who is open to whatever it is that you are selling and open to working with you. Remember that the successful conclusion of the ‘sales process’ is that the prospect is converted into a paying client.

The final point of course is the deliverables. You have to deliver and you have to deliver on time, especially to new clients as their expectation of what you have committed to is so much greater. You have to deliver whatever it is that you have promised and in fact it is in your own best interests to ‘over deliver’. The saying that goes something along the lines of ‘under promise and over deliver’ is exactly what needs to happen at this point. Believe me you will score ‘brownie’ points if you work like this and your reputation will proceed you.

Remember, exceeding someone’s expectation of you is a wonderful thing as it will usually end up to leads that are generated by ‘word-of-mouth’ referrals and these are the very best that you can get, they are more powerful than King Kong and certainly more valuable than diamonds and gold.

Take care of the deliverables and the ‘word-of-mouth’ referrals will take care of you.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Power of Networking - Part 149


PART 149

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC. February 2010

In his article entitled “Not Getting The Referrals You Want . . . Then It’s All Your Fault”, Dr Ivan Misner, puts the blame squarely at your feet and quite honestly I agree with him.

To continue where we left off last week:

Logically speaking, you need to take responsibility if your Network is not referring you. Have a look at what it is that you are doing incorrectly or not doing at all. Look at things like – are you teaching them about who you are and what it is that you do? Do you come across as passionate about what it is that you do or sell?

Whilst many individuals are often very reluctant to accept responsibility, my Life Coach Vanessa Rothquel is adamant when she says “You are responsible for creating your own reality” and I agree with her totally. I would even venture to take it one step further and say that you are also responsible for the actions that people around you, take on your behalf. After all you are the one who ‘chooses’ to have those people around you, you are the one that interacts with them and you are the one that gives them the information that they convey to others, about your business. Therefore it stands to reason that if something goes wrong or if you are not getting the referrals, it’s because of something that you yourself have overlooked.

It is said that one of the greatest strengths of a referral network is that ‘everyone becomes friends’ and on many levels this is true, but your also need to be aware of the fact that one of the biggest weaknesses of a referral network is that ‘everyone becomes friends’. Taking responsibility for what your role is in the process and being accountable for what happens is the only way to ensure the success of the process

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

BUSINESS TIPS - Creating A Successful Team - Part 1

BUSINESS TIPS – Creating a Successful Team – Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

Some of us are better team players than others – I know because I have worked in a team and I have worked on my own, and quite frankly, working on my own, works for me.

That said, there are people out there who cannot work on their own and in order to function properly they need to work as part of a team. Working in a team, or being part of a team does not necessarily mean that you are not a leader, or that you are not a self starter – in some cases it merely means that you need the camaraderie that is part of being in ‘a team’.

For me it takes a ‘special’ kind of leader to lead a successful team, and it takes a ‘special’ kind of person to be a member of a successful team. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses and it is obviously really important to have people with the right ‘mix’ of personalities to ensure the success of the team. So how do you go about getting that winning formula?

Here are some of (but not limited to) the issues that need to be covered:

- Clearly you need to ascertain what skills are required for the particular task at hand. Once those are clearly defined, you will need to source the individuals who have those skills and the only way to do that is to interact with the team. Get to know them, understand how they think. Learn about what their strengths and weaknesses are so that when you do partner them up together that they compliment one another and not clash with each other. Not only will this put you in a great position in terms of ‘who is who’ but it will evidence that you are taking a personal interest in them and the perception is then that you ‘care and have their best interests’ at heart. This is a really positive position to be in.
- In order to get the very best out of your team, it is imperative that you not only know what motivates them, but you also need to know what their individual goals are. Understanding what drives someone and then being in a position to assist them in achieving their goals, will ensure that everyone in the team pulls in the same direction.
- Whatever you do, don’t be taking anyone and/or anything for granted. As in life, people need to be challenged, constantly challenged. So if it looks like your team is functioning like a dream – don’t leave well enough alone, it will in all probability go southwards – find ways in which to challenge them. Make sure that each challenge is well within the capabilities or potential of each individual and remember that it doesn’t have to be the same challenge for each person – different things challenge different people, so make sure that each person is challenged in their own particular way. The trick is to keep everyone interested and motivated and there is nothing like a challenge to do this.
- Be sure that you have analyzed their strengths and weaknesses as once you know what it is that you are dealing with, you are then in a position to strategize and ensure that you make the most of everyone’s strengths and implement measures to ensure that the weaknesses are compensated for.
- Be a mentor. Coach your team. Guide your team – know exactly what they are doing to ensure that they are always moving towards the common goal. Capitalize on the individual strengths and ensure that as a group these strengths are utilized correctly. In the areas of weaknesses, if there are no members that are able to compensate for these, then you will have to assist the ‘team’ to overcome the weaknesses. Understand the difficulty here and motivate them to ‘do better’ or challenge them to work on their weaknesses in order to overcome this problem. Getting the best out of your team means that you have to put the best of you, into them.

Next week we will continue with some more pointers on how to get the best out of your team.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Monday, February 22, 2010

MOTIVATION - Potentials Rather Than Problems

MOTIVATION – Potentials Rather Than Problems

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – February 2010

“If human being are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.” Says Barbara Bush.

What an amazing opportunity for us to change our mindsets – to see things from a positive perspective instead of the negative. That’s all it is at the end of the day – a simple mindset, yet we as humans tend to focus on the negative, on what is our perception of what is wrong instead of what could be right.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine (let’s call her Jane) was out and about in the Company bakkie – not doing anything that she shouldn’t have you understand – just going about company business. Someone missed a stop street and missed hitting her by literally millimeters. Tires shrieking, brakes almost smoking, vehicle swinging and swaying all over the road, Jane fought to bring the ‘out of control’ vehicle back under control. Thankfully there were no other vehicles around and Jane eventually brought the bakkie to stop and when she got out of the vehicle she was so shaky she could not stand properly and fell to the ground weeping uncontrollably.

Jane was distraught! For days, she went about in a highly emotional state, telling everyone who would listen the whole story, blow by blow – second by second. She went from anger at the person who did not stop at the stop street and who sped away after the incident, to fits of weeping and then bouts of strange laughter. She ranted and raved at the bad ‘road side manner’ of many drivers and driving either with her at the wheel or her as a passenger became quite a challenge as she went from a normally relatively calm individual to someone in the throes of ‘road rage’ in seconds. It was driving me nuts I tell you! Nuts!

Eventually, one morning, whilst listening to the story for the 1000th time, I had had enough and in the middle of her tirade I turned to her and said “Jane – are you alive? Do you have any bruises? Is the bakkie okay?” She turned to me with a quizzical look on her face and replied that she was. “Well then I countered, what on earth are you on about – yes it could have happened, but the reality is that it didn’t – so can we please move forward now?” She sat quietly for a few minutes and then looked at me and said “I’ve been a bit of a pain this last week, haven’t I? I’m fine, alive and in good health – let’s go and celebrate!” And we did . . .

The point here, is that we often get fixated on the negative, on the bad, or the things that irritate instead of with a simple mind set change, focusing on the good, the positive and the potential.

Here’s my challenge to you this week (and if you are aware of it, it will be much easier), at least once a day, when you find yourself in the negative or looking at the bad – consciously move it to the positive – find the good and focus on that. You will be amazed at what it does to your mood.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Friday, February 19, 2010

HR - Sexual Harassment - Be Warned


Sexual Harassment – Be Warned

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

When we think about ‘Sexual Harassment’ most of us think about the office letch who tries to ‘cop a feel’ at every opportunity at the annual Christmas party or any office function for that matter.

Truth be told, it’s a lot more than that and it covers a vast array of indents that most of us would never even think about.

Having a look at the code of conduct I came across some startling revelations – these are (but not limited to):

Sexual Harassment charges can be brought about by the unwanted (unwelcome and not mutual) conduct of a sexual nature of Employers, Managers, Supervisors, Employees, Job Applicants, Clients, Suppliers, Contractors and in fact anyone who has dealings with a business. Here’s the thing to keep in mind if you are the Employer – an employee has the constitutional right to work in a safe environment, so you are not just responsible for your behaviour and that of your staff, but also of all the above type people who may be visiting your offices at some point or another. How scary is that?

The Code of Conduct also states that Sexual Harassment is not confined to persistent behaviour but can also be a single incident. So it is not only about the Supervisor who is constantly pinching the rear ends of the female staff but it could be the sandwich delivery chap who winks at the receptionist as he delivers the boss’s sandwich.

Sexual Harassment is also not only of a physical nature but it can also be verbal. Some of the examples as quoted in the Code of Conduct are listed (but not limited to) below:

1. Physical conduct.
- this pertains to any unwelcome physical contact from someone simply touching you to the more serious charges of sexual assault and rape and it can and often does include a ‘strip’ search by or in the presence of someone of the opposite sex.

2. Verbal Conduct.
- This pertains to things like unwelcome innuendoes or suggestions and hints. What one person may consider innocent flirtation may be perceived by another as a sexual advance.
- Comments with sexual overtones or sex related jokes, or insults or even graphic comments about a person’s body made in their presence or even directed towards a person, would also fall into this category.
- Inappropriate enquiries and questions about a persons sex life, their sexual orientation or even whistling at a person or a group of persons can (and does) fall into this category.

3. Non-verbal Conduct
- gestures (remember the often used zap sign that we are all so fond of using), indecent exposure (the office flasher and that includes the ‘wardrobe malfunction’ in the form of an exposed boob) and the unwelcome display of sexually explicit pictures and objects (be careful who you send porn to and who reads the jokes in your e-mails) falls into this category.

4. Quid Pr Quo Harassment
- This is when the boss or supervisor or member of management or even a co-employee tries to influence the process of employment. This is when your increase or promotion or your access to training, the manner in which or when discipline takes place or even your dismissal, or your job application or any employee benefits hang or is dependant upon sexual favours.

5. Sexual Favouritism
- this, of course is when the boss (or a person in authority) rewards only those who respond to his and/or her sexual advances and the rest of the staff are not rewarded at all.

The bottom line is that it is the responsibility of employers to ensure that they create and maintain a working environment in which the dignity of their employees is respected.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

MARKETING - Seven Steps to Starting Out - Part 1


Seven Steps to Starting Out – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting February 2010.

Following on from the first three marketing tips out of the seven steps to starting out – let’s look at the fourth one.

Well this is my favorite one for sure, but that is because I absolutely love to write – it is a passion that I found, rather late in life and as you can see from my blogs it is one that I am making the most of – catching up for all the years I lost I suspect. Thing is though that writing is one of the most powerful marketing materials. With the advent of the internet and more recently ‘social networking’ your writing skills (or if you don’t have them, your marketing guru’s) is of paramount importance. I use my blogs on as well as the posting of the blog on my own Website and on Twitter and on Facebook. Posting the blog, by means of a “url link” onto Twitter and Facebook ensures that I get visitors to my website. The blogs give out useful information for free, to anyone who cares to read them, but the primary target is Small Business Owners or Entrepreneurs and as people read what they think pertains to them, they are drawn to read more and more as my blogs cover a vast variety of subjects.

The blogs are therefore used to educate potential clients and persuade clients to not only avail themselves of the ‘free information’ but that help is but an e-mail away or a phone call away, should they need it. My website also contains the links to the various articles that I have written for newspapers and/or magazines as well as YouTube clips of my interviews on various television programs. All of this is used to promote my business and most of it cost me only the time that it took to research the material (usually for my own or a client’s needs) and then to write the article. Not a bad marketing budget, even if I say so myself. So it is worth everyone investigating it for themselves. Most small business owners are ‘specialists’ in what they do, or passionate about what it is that they do, so why not share some of that passion and some of that information – it will draw people to your product and/or service that you provide.

Then comes engagement and no I don’t mean the marriage type, I mean where you have the interest of the other person and you engage in conversation with them. Getting an appointment with someone you have met whilst Networking or someone who has been referred to you, timeously is of the utmost importance and obviously the sooner it is done the better.

Invite them for a cup of coffee and have an informal chat. Find out how you can be assistance to them and tell them they can be of assistance to you. Remember to keep it reciprocal – it’s the best and most profitable way for both parties.

That’s it for this week folks – next week we will look at the rest of the points.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Power of Networking - Part 148


PART 148

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC. February 2010

In his article entitled “Not Getting The Referrals You Want . . . Then It’s All Your Fault”, Dr Ivan Misner, puts the blame squarely at your feet and quite honestly I agree with him.

To continue where we left off last week:

Another reason that many people come up with when they don’t get the referrals that they want is “They just don’t have the contacts I need” says Dr Ivan Misner. Let’s have a look at the issue there. Many people don’t even use their own data bases effectively let alone looked at the database of the people in their own data bases. Think of the infinite possibilities . . .

Sure you have to work at it. Sure you have to follow up on every single lead that you are given. Sure you have to do something with every single business card that you are given. Sure it means getting up off your butt and doing something other than moaning about what you’re not getting. The returns though are absolutely fantastic and those of us who work at their data bases can attest to this – I know that I can.

The internet makes the world a really small place. I met an Australian chap on an International Virtual Networking group about 2 years ago now. He was looking to set up distributions all over the world for the product that he is selling. We corresponded now and then and the result was he came out to South Africa and he has set up a whole bunch of distributions both here in Gauteng and in Cape Town. I met him fact to face last week and we greeted each other as if we had known each other for years. His product is not something that I would sell or even use, but I have people in my database that would both purchase it and/or want to set up a distribution point for him. Now he knows how to Network effectively and although I haven’t had anything from him directly, I have added value to my own database and I know for sure that somewhere down the line, I will make money out of my connection with him.

His tale is even more amazing. Around the time that he met me on the internet, he had just started with this particular product and was doing it ‘sort of part time’ as he was still running his own business that has been going for in excess of 25 years. About a month ago, he handed the jewellery business to his wife and a manager and he is now working full time in the business of setting up distributers all over the world – he now has 285 distributors worldwide. So I guess you could say that his Networking skills are incredible!

Next time we will continue to look at why not getting the referrals that you want, may in fact be all your own fault.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


BUSINESS TIPS – Time is Money

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

I know that I seem to be harping on about this, but it has become a serious issue in my life. After making my decision yesterday (see yesterdays blog) I am pleased to announce that I managed to get to my x and y yesterday, but not my z. However, I have billed ‘extra’ for the client crisis that could have been avoided had the client a. listened to what I told them to do in the first place and b. had the client reacted sooner to the problem instead of waiting until the last possible moment. It felt really good to empower myself in this way. Today however, has been an altogether different story!

Today, despite being up and at it since 02.15 (I am an insomniac remember), it is now 13.23pm and I am only getting to write this article now – it is usually done by at least 08.00am! What have I done for the day – well the z of yesterday was extremely urgent so that has been done, but the a, b and c for today have not even been looked at. I have done some admin, sent out several e-mails that had to go out, looked at the e-mails that have come in and prioritized them and dealt with what needed to be dealt with, made the calls that I was supposed to and received a bunch more that I then had to deal with. So once again I have been running around – clearly intent is not enough I now have to get down and tackle the nitty gritty.

What I have realized though is that my time and focus is constantly being interrupted by phone calls, people arriving without prior appointments, urgent e-mails and the like. For many of these I am not charging and the question now is – why not!

The first thing that I have to ascertain is – how much is my time actually worth and clearly this cannot be a ‘thumb suck’ type of question.

Now the ‘how to’ go about this needs a little more attention – firstly, from tomorrow I am going to write down every little thing that I do and the time that it takes me to do it (oh dear, this is going to be interesting). Not only do I have to write this down, but it also needs to be allocated to one of four different headings which will show me exactly how much time I spend on doing client work, how much is spent on Networking and building relationships, how much is spent on administration and how much is spent as personal time (again this is going to be really interesting). I am going to do this for a period of at least a month, so that I have monitored every single aspect of the kind of work that I do. Once this is established I will be able to work out exactly what my time is worth and can start charging appropriately.

In this way I will be able to start charging people appropriately for the work that I do for them and I am also quite sure that it will enable me to get rid of the people who waste my time, because of course they will also be charged.

In all probability I am going to get the shock of my life when I see just how much time I spend on others without charging them – like I said, this is going to be an interesting exercise!

Now, where did I put my note book – actually there is no better time to start than the present because after all, my time is one of my most precious commodities, simply because it is so scarce.

Yip – an interesting time indeed!

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Monday, February 15, 2010

MOTIVATION - Everywhere & Nowhere

MOTIVATION – Everywhere & Nowhere

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – February 2010

Michael Korda says “If your position is everywhere, your momentum is zero.”

Hahaha – man this is priceless! How many times have you heard the words “I am running round like a blue *&^%ed fly” or “Running around like a headless chicken”? I would probably be quite wealthy by now if I got a rand for every time I have not only heard this, but said it myself. How about, when some one asks “how are you doing?” or “how’s business?” and our standard reply (well mine is anyway) “Busy!”

Here’s the thing – ‘busy’ with what? I am also one of those people who start the day, very early I might add, with the best intentions – I am going to do x, y and hopefully even z by the end of the day. Yet when the end of the day arrives I haven’t stopped running around, I am pooped, worn out, bone weary and more often than not, x, y and z still haven’t been done! So what is it that I have been doing? Make no mistake, I am working – the admin gets done everyday, clients get called, articles get written, not only for the blog, but also for the newspaper and the Business Women’s magazine. I am interviewed telephonically or end up on TV, when I thought it was a radio interview. I have attended to the crisis of clients with unruly staff, met with potentially new clients, done the mentoring thing, done the committee work for Women In Finance (, done everything except what it is that I set out to do and although it’s only 07h00 in the morning here as I write this, I have already attended to two client calls and my x, y and z of today have already been pushed out.

The problem of course, is that x, y, and z are also going to make me money and even though I will be charging the clients that called this morning in a state of panic, the work that ‘their panic call’ generates is far less than what the x, y and z will generate – yet somehow they always seem to get pushed to the side to accommodate the rest. What’s with that?

Make no mistake everything always does get done, I am very fastidious about my deliverables but the point is that I find it very difficult to ‘stick’ to my day planner and often it comes at a huge cost to myself, like working through the night to get done, or working over weekends when I should be grabbing a little time to rest for myself. I have no problem with putting the plan in place or deciding upon the priorities for the day. I have no problem with focusing on what needs to be done and I certainly do not have any problem with working – hard. What I seem to have a problem with is saying “No” to clients who expect me to drop everything to accommodate them because they are having a crisis and therein lies my own particular challenge.

The result of all of this is of course, that I end up running around like a blue &^%ed fly or a headless chicken (depending on which video you like to see in your own head) and I don’t get what I have planned to get done, done.

So the challenge to myself today (and of course any of you who are experiencing the same issues that I am), is to stick to my plan for today and slot the ‘Crisis’ into the planner for tomorrow or even the next day. After all, if the client only woke up to the problem as it is about to implode on them, it is really their problem and it should not be made mine or alternatively (and the thought has just occurred to me) that the ‘Crisis’ will be dealt with today – at an additional cost of course.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Friday, February 12, 2010

HR - Avoid Using Hearsay


Avoid Using Hearsay

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

I am sure we have all watched the legal type movies on TV where whoever is in the witness box being questioned, says something along the lines of ‘Joe told me . . . .’ and then the oppositions lawyer stands up and says “objection – hearsay”! Well that’s the way the law says – you cannot give evidences about what someone else said!

I have, of late, been the chair of several disciplinaries and in most cases, the employees have, in an attempt to gather sufficient evidence to be able to get a verdict of dismissal, relied on their verbal evidence. Now that is all fine as long as the person being disciplined actually agrees that the complainant’s (usually the employees) evidence is correct. The minute they disagree with what is being said, a problem occurs as it becomes a ‘he said/she said’ type of situation.

Having documentary evidence is of vital importance and is also a legal requirement. So for example, it would be important to have the written procedure in place as well as the documented evidence that the procedure has not been followed. That said, it is equally important to have the correct person present the evidence at the disciplinary hearing. Having someone for example, who is not well versed in the policies and procedures in the company or totally unaware of what actually happened will result in more harm than help to the case, as the manner in which the evidence is presented is almost as important as the evidence.

The document that is presented should also be in the original form and the fact that the document is authentic would also need to be established. This is to ensure that documentation is not suddenly produced ‘after the fact’ and also to ensure that the information in the documentation is relevant and admissible to the case.

The usual procedure is for the complainant to give oral evidence at the hearing and the oral evidence would then be backed up by the documents as and when they are entered into evidence. Witnesses would then be brought forward to corroborate the evidence both verbally and with the relevant documentation. Showing or evidencing that the accused employee is aware of the contents of the documentation could then also be necessary.

Let me be clear on something though – if the document cannot be proved to be authentic then the document and/or its contents cannot be admitted into evidence. The party (being the complainant or the accused) who enters the document into evidence, holds the burden of proof.

There is only one type of evidence that the chairperson of a disciplinary hearing can accept as the truth without the burden of proof and that is called ‘A judicial notice’. This pertains to certain facts that would be commonly known and it means that it is not necessary for any evidence to prove these facts. An example of this, is an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) nurse is charged with smoking in a dangerous and non-smoking area whilst she is attending to patient who is on oxygen.

Usually the complainant would have to prove that the accused actually smoked in the ICU and also that the ICU is actually a non-smoking area and that smoking near someone who is on oxygen is dangerous. In this instance the chairperson could rule that the complainant need only prove that the accused was indeed smoking, as it is a judicial notice (an acceptable fact) that it is dangerous to smoke in an ICU area.

Basing a hearing on ‘knowing’ that the accused is guilty or only documentary evidence or only witness testimony is not a good idea. You have to have sufficient ‘admissible’ evidence both oral and documentary, to prove the guilt of the accused.

Remember too though, that no matter how much you have proved the accused guilty to yourself, it also has to be proved in the perspective of the chairperson/arbitrator or Labour Court judge.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Thursday, February 11, 2010

MARKETING - Seven Steps to Starting Out


Seven Steps to Starting Out – Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting February 2010.

I know that when I started out I had no clue about ‘how to’ or even ‘where to’ market my service. Coming out of a Corporate environment, where the accounts department was down the corridor and to the left and the marketing department was up the corridor and to the right and the art department was somewhere in between, and starting your own business is not that easy as you may think.

Having spent, up to that point, most of my working life, just getting on with in, in a Corporate environment, where the assistance that I needed, was on tap so to speak, and then having the disciplines that the Company required me to meet, very clearly defined, meant that it was a huge ‘wake up to reality’ check when I finally ventured out on my own. I learnt though – very quickly. Sure if you are working from home like I do, it’s great to be able to work in comfortable clothes, which for me in summer is shorts and a t-shirt and in winter, my favorite tracksuit. The reality though, is that irrespective of how you dress, the work still has to be done and you learn very quickly that you have to put proper structures in place in order to remain focused and disciplined.

The biggest thing of course is that, on your own you do not have the resources at your fingertips that you perhaps had at the office. Let’s face it, in your Corporate world you were plugged into everything, but remained only responsible for your particular job/position/field of expertise. On your own, you are in fact the whole shebang! There’s no-one else to do the marketing/finance/design etc and then you will still also have to make the tea! The reality is that you are everything to your business all rolled up in one.

Here’s the thing though. As frightening and as daunting as it may seem, with a little bit of research, a bit of planning (and yes you do have to do it) the whole thing may not be as scary and frightening as you think.

Remember though – no planning and no research will undoubtedly result in a big disaster!

One of the first issues that needs research is the target market. Let’s face it, pitching your product/service to the wrong target marked will result in disaster or more specifically – no sales. So it is imperative that you know exactly who you will be offering your services to. Once you get to the point that you can picture them in your mind as clearly as you can, your own family and close friends, then you know that you are going in the right direction.

It is of vital importance that you have a very clear picture of your product or service. It you are vague about what it is that you are selling, chances are that your communication about the product/service will also be somewhat vaguer and your passion about what it is that you want will also come across somewhat diluted.

The third issue that you need to deal with is your Marketing Message. Remember that this is how you will be engaging with and communicating with your target market. This, in essence is how you explain, in words (or sometimes pictures), what your product/service is. This is where you get them interested and hungering for more information. So your message must be very clear, exciting and engaging. There is nothing worse than trying to tell people what it is that you do or sell and they are struggling to stay awake from absolute boredom. So make sure that your message is informative but also exciting and interesting.

That’s it for this week folks – next week we will look at the rest of the points.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Power of Networking - Part 147


PART 147

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC. February 2010

In his article entitled “Not Getting The Referrals You Want . . . Then It’s All Your Fault”, Dr Ivan Misner, puts the blame squarely at your feet and quite honestly I agree with him.

One of the first and most important things that you have to do when expecting people to refer you is . . . . to ask them, and not just once either, keep on asking or make sure that people remember you or that you are the first person who comes to mind when they encounter or engage with someone who needs suppliers of your particular product and/or service. Do this by meeting with them at any other Networking meeting that you may end up both attending, or keep in contact by means of a newsletter, or phone them, or refer someone to them, or meet them for coffee to catch up. Doesn’t matter what you do, just ensure that they are reminded frequently, that you are still around and that you are ready to do business or add value to their ‘circle of influence’.

Make sure that people in your Network know that you take in an interest in their wellbeing and that you are not just interested in them for supplying referrals for your well being. Pass on snippets of useful information or idea or introduce them to people who may be able to assist them or do business with them,

Secondly, it’s no good asking people to refer business to you if they are not sure about what it is that you do. They need to know what your business is all about, they need to understand, at the very least, the fundamentals of what you sell, be it product and/or service. They need to understand how your business can make a difference in the lives of others. Be careful not to give them too much ‘technical’ information at once but rather give out ‘bite’ sized bits of information that is easy to understand. Don’t forget to let them know about any new or additional products and/or services that you add to your business, as you add them. This will also help you to ‘keep in touch’ with them and keep them excited about what it is that you do.

Horror of horrors, if the person that has been referred to you has only used you once and then you have never heard from them again . . . . perhaps it is not because they are fickle, perhaps you should be looking inwards at yourself. Did you close the sale properly? Did you deliver and also important, did you deliver on time?

Next time we will continue to look at why not getting the referrals that you want, may in fact be all your own fault.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

BUSINESS TIPS - Disclosure Documents

BUSINESS TIPS – Disclosure Documents

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

Last week we looked at the ‘how to’ of researching, for the purpose of purchasing, a Franchise and one of the suggested requirements was getting a disclosure document and ensuring that this is updated on an annual basis.

Starting at the beginning – what is a disclosure documents? As its name suggests it is a document that discloses certain information about the company – in this case the company that you are wanting to purchase a franchise from. The Code of Ethics and Business Practices of the Franchise Association of Southern Africa (FASA) lays down the minimum amount of information that a Disclose document should provide. This is (but not limited to):

• Full and traceable information about the franchisor company, including contact details and details of professional affiliations. This information can be checked on the internet, with the FASA, with their auditors (whose information should also be included with the finances). In fact if you want go and visit them at their head offices and ask for a copy of their published financials – most medium to large companies will have this information at reception.
• Details of qualifications and business experience of the franchisor and their officers in the type of business being offered as a franchise. Don’t forget to have a look at their BBBEE requirements and collaborations – the last thing that you need is that their BBBEE alliances are purely ‘window dressing’ as this could have serious implications down the road.
• Details of criminal or civil action against the franchisor or his officers, either taken during the past three years or pending. Be sure to look at the things that matter. If the CEO has several traffic fines and/or offences pending that’s one thing, and in my opinion not really of a serious nature. That said however, if he has any hint of white/blue collar crime or anything to do with fraud or money laundering – that’s serious stuff.
• Full details of the franchise offer and the underlying business. This should include things like the royalties, cost of the actual business, cost of the fixtures & fittings (if they are in a retail or food chain type environment), cost of stock etc.
• Full details of the obligations of the franchisor vis-à-vis the franchisee. This should encompass all the expectations that the franchisor has in terms of what has to be met. Things like the franchisee needs to be VAT registered (even if they do not meet the minimum VAT requirements at this time). Minimum turnovers, keeping the branding uniform, procedures with placing and receiving of orders and so on.
• Full details of the obligations of the franchisee vis-a vis the franchisor. This should include things like policies and procedures, product training, supplying of stock, head office support and back up and so on.
• An explanation of the most important clauses of the franchise agreement, including restrictions placed on the franchisee. This would include issues that were ‘out of the norm’ in terms of a franchise agreement and the restrictions would include things like stock only being purchased from the franchisor and so on.
• Financial projections for at least two years and an explanation of the basis on which these projections were calculated. Remember though, that if this is a new Franchise the financial projections would be based on expectations of the market place as opposed to what the market place has delivered previously. It would also be quite a good idea to get these actual figures of what some of the other franchisees are actually achieving currently. That will give you a more realistic idea of what is happening.
• Full details of all payments, initial and ongoing, the franchisee will be expected to make, and what they can expect to receive in return for these payments. This should include all the start up costs as well as ‘start up costs’ for new products or new line items or new products.
• A list of existing franchisees and their contact details. Don’t be afraid to contact some of these people to hear what they have to say about the franchisor and the manner in which their business is run.
• An auditor’s certificate certifying that the franchisor’s business is a going concern and able to meet its obligations as they fall due. Be sure to ensure that the auditor is registered to the SA Institute of Accountants (or a similar body), their registration or membership number should appear on their paperwork.
• A statement by the franchisor to the effect that to their best knowledge and belief, the financial situation of the franchise company has not deteriorated since the day the auditor’s certificate was purchased. This statement should be signed by one of the directors of the company – certainly by someone who is an authorized signatory of the company.

These points are the minimum of what should be in the disclosure document. That said, there is nothing to stop you for requesting additional information, in writing, if you feel the need to.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Monday, February 08, 2010



By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – February 2010

We’ve all heard these words at some point in our lives – hell, I’m sure that on occasion we have uttered them ourselves. I know I have – in my youth when I entered some or other competition (usually sport for me) and I was up against someone who was really, really good, I would usually give myself a ‘pep’ talk of sorts that had the words ‘come on Viljoen – you know you can do it!’

So why am I telling you all of this? Simple really – for your own good! Ok, I’ll stop teasing and get down to it.

Somehow, when we are business owners, these words seem to fly out the window and we are left to our own devices - little puddles on the floor. Scared witless, petrified that we will fail, that we will fall down, that we will embarrass ourselves and in doing so embarrass friends and family. We take all the crap that the rest of society hands out like we are second class citizens in our own lives.

I don’t think that there is a day that goes by that we don’t have it thrown in our faces that businesses fail, the percentages of failed new start ups, the numbers flaunted in our faces and yet in the very next breath we are put under tremendously serious pressure when we are told that the economy is dependent on upon our success. I mean what’s with that? Why would you do that to somebody? Why would you put the weight of the world upon their shoulders and then just as they are about to take their first wobbly step out into the unknown you chop them off at the knees!

Oh and let’s not forget the big corporate companies, banks and even government who, stand on their soap boxes and pontificate to the world (and/or anyone who wants to listen) on how they are assisting the SMME (small, medium, micro enterprise) and/or the entrepreneur. All the stuff that they give away such as money, training, freebies and what have you and yet, behind the scenes they are actually crippling and even killing small businesses, when they don’t pay invoices on time and pay 60 or 90 or 120 days and even worse in some situations, which means in reality that the small business owner is ‘carrying’ the cash flow of the large corporate, on their shoulders.

What about the various banks who want to be ‘seen’ as doing everything for the SMME in terms of loans and guidance and whatever other words that they can sugar coat to get us to believe what they are saying, only to make it so difficult to qualify for anything that it’s easier to just, ‘go for it’ on your own because it’s a lot less hard on the nerves (not to mention the wallet) in the long run – oh yes, I’m sure they forgot to mention just how much you are going to pay for that ‘help’ that they so lovingly gave.

Often we are so bullied by our colleagues, our so called friends and family, who are just ‘looking out for’ us, that we begin to believe all the BS that get sprouted out of their ‘well intentioned’ mouths that we forget that we actually ‘can’ do it!

Yes of course we can – actually we have been doing it from the moment we were born. We have survived, we have grown (usually in length as well as in width *Sigh* as we have grown older). We have learnt to crawl and learnt to walk and then to run, we have passed exams and played sport and learnt how to read and write and ride bicycles and ridden horses and learnt to drive a motor car, found ourselves a job and met and married the person of our dreams (or not) and had children of our own (or not) and gotten divorced and started our own businesses, which have succeeded or not and yet we have survived – often against all odds.

Let’s put it into a bit of perspective shall we. There is this child, let’s call her Suzie – she is almost a year old and she is starting to walk. Her family and their friends all clap when she takes a step or two, they all reach out to steady her if she looks like she is going to wobble or fall over. They cheer and encourage her when looks like she is hesitating and they even praise her and tell her what a good job she is doing, even when she is actually falling flat on her face. Here’s the important part – when she does fall flat on her face, they all encourage her to get back up and try again.

You don’t hear anyone saying things like ‘hey Suzie, this walking thing is overrated, most people never learn how to do it, why don’t you just give it a miss and let someone else carry you around for the rest of your life” or “hey Suzie, I don’t think this walking thing is for you, perhaps you should stick to crawling,” or “don’t you think you’re a bit young/inexperienced/wet behind the ears (insert your own issue here) to be doing this – perhaps you should wait a bit and learn from your peers or mentors” or my personal favorite “haven’t you learnt yet that you are going to get hurt – why do you continue to try?”

The worst of it is that by choice, we as SMME’s seem to take pleasure in surrounding ourselves with the very people who, in the name of ‘looking out for us’ are constantly putting us down. We socialize with those, who have never owned their own businesses themselves and are therefore in no position to give any advice, and yet who constantly tell us how stupid, naïve, idiotic we are for trying to do this thing. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why, Why, Why?

The reality is that “YES WE CAN” do it. We can be successful, we have more often than not been successful in the past, and you know what, even if we do fall over, make a silly decision, trust someone that we perhaps shouldn’t, we are survivors. We can overcome any obstacle, we can get up again and go forward and the best of all, we can surround ourselves with positive people. People who will encourage us, who will reach out and steady us when we wobble. People who will praise us, even when we fall flat on our faces and who will reach out to help us up again. People who will be telling us why we can succeed not people telling us why we cannot.

More importantly, people who genuinely care, instead of corporates and governments and people, with hidden agendas, who care only about how they are ‘seen ’ and what they are ‘seen to be doing’.

I, for one am going to be making a whole bunch of changes in my life this year. I will be getting rid of whomever and whatever causes chaos in my life. I am going to surround myself with people who are trying to make positive changes in their own lives and in the lives of others. I am going to be walking away from friends, relatives and colleagues who don’t add any value to my life and concentrate on those who do and who I can add value to.

I am going to hang about with those who encourage me and who I can encourage. Who will you be hanging out with?

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Friday, February 05, 2010

HR - Labour Broker Employees - Part 3


Labour Broker Employees – Part 3

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

Following on from last week, this week we will look at some of the other requirements pertaining to Labour Brokers, particularly with regards to the CCMA.

To put it bluntly, the CCMA does not want to see employees employed by labour brokers. It has recognised these employees as ‘defined’, which pretty much means that their rights are the same as other employees and as such the labour broker as well as whomever the employee works for also have obligations towards the employer. If you have any doubts about where you stand, have a look at the articles on ‘What is an Employee’ in this blog series.

You see the cost of hiring staff and staff benefits is ever rising. Dealing with Trade Unions is time consuming and often a pain in the rear end and then having to deal with the CCMA, well quite frankly, the less said about that the better. Enter the Labour Broker and herein lies the problem.

Originally the Labour Broker was referred to as “temporary employment services (TES). As you can see this is where the whole thing has gone pear shaped as clearly this has fallen by the wayside and many companies no longer use Labour Brokers or employment agencies for the supply of their ‘temporary’ requirements and now many companies use the services of Labour Brokers for their entire permanent work force. So now who owns the employee problem in terms of the law – the labour broker or the company who uses the labour broker.

Often the line becomes badly blurred, the client will perhaps dismiss a staff member (although strictly speaking the staff member does not work for them but works for the labour broker) and then the labour broker carries the responsibility.

Then there are situations where the client no longer requires the services of an employee and the broker dismisses the staff member based on that. This then is in direct contravention of the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Clients themselves, are often unaware of how they blur the lines as well. I have a client who uses the services of a Labour Broker, but who asked me how they should ‘measure’ the performance of the staff in order for them to calculate end of year bonuses. I was confused and asked them why they are paying bonuses for staff who are someone else’s employees. These same clients perform their own disciplinaries as well. In my opinion the transgression should be reported to the labour broker who then is responsible for all disciplinary action that takes place.

My advice to companies who need to invest in employees – unless you are 100% sure of the definition of a labour broker and equally sure of what an employee is and 100% sure of your requirements and/or responsibilities in terms of those employees, don’t use a Labour Broker as engaging their services may end up far more costly and aggravating than you actually managing the staff yourselves.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Thursday, February 04, 2010

EARLY WARNING - Dangerous Roads In South Africa

EARLY WARNING – Dangerous Roads In South Africa

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting February 2010.

I don’t think that there is a single person in South Africa that has not been affected in some way by the road construction that is taking place all over.

I know that one of my greatest frustrations and no doubt, one of the most consistent time wasters, is going down a road that I haven’t been on for some time, only to discover that there is a detour or worse still, that the road works brings the traffic to a dead stop.

These are contributing factors that add to ‘road rage’ which sees normal human beings degenerate into monsters. The result is absolute carnage on the roads and thousands of lives are lost annual on South African roads. As in most things, some things are worse than others. Here is a list of the most dangerous 4 roads in South Africa.

• The 388km stretch between King Williamstown and Kokstad. Average incident rate is 7.65 per 10kms.
• The 35km stretch between Sandton in Gauteng and Pretoria (past Centurion and Midrand). Average incident rate is 48.29 per 10kms.
• The 54km stretch between Kingsburg and Tongaat in KwaZulu-Natal.
• The 102km stretch between Durban and Howick on the N3 is KwaZulu-Natal.

The above represents the worst of the worst in the country with the first two tying for the worst spot.

Please find listed below the worst five areas in the various provinces throughout the country as per an extract from the comprehensive table on the Arrive Alive website.


From To Road Distance Fatal Crashes Crashes per Km
Sandton Pretoria N1 35 169 48.29
Lenasia Germiston N12 48 122 25.42
Boksburg Daveyton N12 18 38 21.11
Heidelberg Bedfordview N3 51 107 20.98
Bedfordview Sandton N3 25 52 20.80


From To Road Distance Fatal Crashes Crashes per Km
Kingsburg Tongaat N2 59 162 27.46
Durban Howick N3 102 178 17.45
Harding Winkelspruit N2 166 186 11.20
Stanger Hluhluwe N2 125 119 9.52
Pietermartizburg Richmond R56 30 23 7.67

Western Cape

From To Road Distance Fatal Crashes Crashes per Km
Cape Town Worcester N1 91 156 17.36
Knysna Plettenburg Bay N2 27 39 14.44
Cape Town Somerset West N2 42 55 13.10
Somerset West Rivier-sonderend N2 71 69 9.72
Cape Town Citrusdal N7 161 101 6.27

Eastern Cape

From To Road Distance Fatal Crashes Crashes per Km
King Williamstown Kokstad N2 388 279 7.65
Umtata Port St Johns R61 89 54 6.07
Plettenburg Bay King Williamstown N2 329 156 4.74
Fort Beaufort King Williamstown R63 88 39 4.43
Port St Johns Port Edward R61 201 87 4.33

Free State

From To Road Distance Fatal Crashes Crashes per Km
Harrismith Villiers N3 145 129 8.90
Heilbron Sasolburg R57 55 27 4.91
Bloemfontein Ladybrand N8 125 50 4.00
Bloemfontein Vaal River N1 352 111 3.15


From To Road Distance Fatal Crashes Crashes per Km
Witbank Waterval Boven N4 98 109 11.12
Waterval Boven Hectorspruit N4 162 105 6.48
Springs Witbank N12 98 59 6.02
Volksrust Greylingstad R23 139 83 5.97
Barberton Hazyview R40 88 47 5.34

North West Province

From To Road Distance Fatal Crashes Crashes per Km
Stilfontein Lenasia N12 57 11 19.47
Rustenburg Magaliesburg R24 46 47 10.22
Lobatse Hartebeesport N4 175 146 8.34
Nnbatho Zeerust R49 68 42 6.18
Bloemhof Stilfontein N12 169 62 3.67

From To Road Distance Fatal Crashes Crashes per Km
Maubane Polokwane N1 210 138 6.57
Polokwane Namanmakgale R71 144 138 6.57
Polokwane Nusina N1 263 97 3.69
Polokwane Burgersfort R37 149 43 2.89
Origstad Tzaneen R36 138 201.45

Northern Cape

From To Road Distance Fatal Crashes Crashes per Km
Kimberley Warrenton N12 47 30 6.38
Barkley West Kimberley R31 32 10 3.13
Groblershoop Upington N10 102 20 1.96
Three Sisters Colesberg N1 305 54 1.77
Springbok Vioolsdrift N7 118 18 1.53

The bottom line – it’s not always about how we drive, but also how others drive and how we interact with those others.

Take care out there people.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Power of Networking - Part 146


PART 146

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC. February 2010

I have one particular friend (let’s call her Jane) who consistently refers me to people. Quite honestly, in the last two months alone she has sent 3 entrepreneurs to me. Strangely enough, she only has a slight inkling of what it is that I do, but she has read some of my articles in the newspaper and the result of that is the minute she comes into contact with someone who owns a business, she insists that they have to meet me and we need to ‘talk’! Now that’s the kind of friends we all want, I am sure you would agree.

Here’s the thing though, the people who we are most familiar with, and I am talking about family and friends, are often the ones that very seldom give us referrals. Apparently this is because with family and friends the relationships that we have with them is of a more personal nature and because of this it often does not even occur to them to refer business to you, unless you specifically make a point of asking for it or reminding them.

On of the biggest problems, I am led to believe, is that although your friends and family love you and think the world of you, they have also seen you at your absolute worst and they may not be comfortable with referring you to one of their friends ‘in case’ you embarrass them. In some cases, no matter how much they respect, admire and even trust you, they do not want to mix business with personal relationships. Even worse, many may not understand how to refer you.

This ‘non-understanding’ may not be confined to family and friends either – many of our colleagues and indeed, people who we see at Networking meetings all the time, may not have the slightest idea of how to ‘refer’ business to you.

Networking individuals who are inexperienced, often don’t think about looking for referrals except through their existing customers and whilst getting those referrals is not a bad thing, it does mean that the number of referrals that they get and/or give is seriously limited. On the other hand there are some very experienced Networkers who go to Networking meetings on a regular basis and they think that the only referrals they are going to get will come from the people and/or members that they encounter at the meetings. That’s also limiting yourself badly.

In order to get the most out of Networking, you have to put the most in and that means that you have to lead by example. You have to refer business to your colleagues, your friends, your family and also strangers that you have just met. By doing this you demonstrate a ‘willingness’ to share information and add value to their lives and pretty soon they will start sharing with you too.

You also need to remind people on a constant basis, that you are always looking for business and there are many ways to do this. Keeping in touch by means of say a Newsletter, reminds people that you are out and about. Asking for testimonials is also a good way to not only remind the person giving you the testimonial, what a good job you did for them, but letting others see those testimonial shows people that you can be trusted too.

So get busy today, remind people who you are and don’t forget to ‘ask’ people to refer you. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

BUSINESS TIPS - So You Want To Buy A Franchise

BUSINESS TIPS – So You Want To Buy A Franchise?

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

So many times I’ve heard people say “My dream is to open a little coffee shop/restaurant/take away/pizza place (insert your own dream/idea here), when I retire. Sadly, more often than not they sink their hard earned life savings into a Franchise something, only to discover somewhere down the road, that it is not what they expected or even worse, the business is not able to sustain them and they end up losing everything.

Research people! Research!

You really need to know exactly what it is that you are getting yourself into. Your need to understand, in graphic detail exactly what the business entails, especially if you have never worked in that particular arena before (cooking dinner for family and friends once a week is very different to running a kitchen in a busy fast food outlet).

Here are some of the issues that you need to look at, familiarize yourself with and indeed, understand at some level.

1. As I mentioned before – research is vital and just to be clear on this, the research that needs to be done, needs to be done by you! You are the one that needs to understand all the pros and cons. You are the one who needs to be interested in the whole process – therefore you are the one that needs to develop as much first had knowledge as possible. Attend as many franchise expos as possible, surf the internet, find something that matches your passion and once you have decided which franchise you are interested in, you can move to the next step.
2. Now the real research begins! Firstly, look at the industry that your choice of franchise is in. find out all the information that is available for that particular industry. Have a look at all the other franchises that are in the same sector. What makes the franchise that you have chosen ‘stand out’? Is the sector a growing one (this means that you have to look at lots of statistics and even know how to read them properly)? Have a look at all of the trade magazines (or on the internet), what do they say about the industry, the sector, the competition and the franchise that you have chosen?
3. Next you need to look at the brand of the franchise that you have chosen. What makes it unique? Why would customers/clients use this brand and not something similar around the corner? Look at the physical branding – things like signage, logos, staff uniforms, shop fittings – does the branding run through all the stores so that they all look and have the same ‘feel’, or are some of the stores different and if so why? In other words, is the brand, colours, logos easily identifiable and recognizable?
4. The next thing to research thoroughly is the actual franchise organization. What are the rights and obligations of the franchisor, and what are the rights and the obligations of the franchisee? What are your expectations and will they be met. What are the expectations of the franchisor and will you be able to meet them. What is the support structure in terms of procedures, policies, templates, IT, staff training, product training and so on? Will the franchisor give you all the investment and financial information that you need? Will the franchisor give you their ‘disclosure documents’? Are their disclosure documents updated annually as prescribed by the FASA (Franchise Association of South Africa)? Make sure that you not only read, but also understand all of these documents. Ask questions. Get your lawyer and/or accountant to also look at the documents and ask questions. Make sure that the answers that you get satisfy the question that was asked and don’t be afraid to ask more questions.
5. If, after all of this you still want to purchase the franchise talk to the professionals, take the documents to a franchise consultant or a business broker (preferably one that works in the franchise arena) and get their opinion. Get them to look at the questions you asked and the answers you got. Make sure that they are comfortable with every single point in the contract. Let them explain it all to you again, point by point and in a language that you understand.

Next week we will look at the information that should be contained in a disclosure document.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Monday, February 01, 2010

MOTIVATION - Going Where Your Thoughts Take You

MOTIVATION – Going Where Your Thoughts Take You

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – February 2010

James Allen says “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”

I love these kind of messages – when I ‘get’ them they becomes a real ‘Ah-ha’ moment for me. Like most things in life it’s all about the choices we make (or don’t for that matter).

I know for sure that at the moment, my thoughts are very focused and I have noticed how many of the projects or opportunities that I am currently working on, in and with seem to just flow – as easy as a leaf floating downstream. I am not hitting any snags along the way and that in itself tells me that I am doing things correctly.

You see, I have learnt (and believe me it was learnt the hard way) that the minute something becomes difficult or I find that no matter which way I turn, I hit a brick wall or a delay or something goes wrong, that the fault lies with me. I have stepped off my path somewhere or the timing is wrong. Usually it’s I have stepped off my path somewhere.

“Stepping off my path” has its own consequences and usually my thoughts control what those consequences are. If my thoughts are positive and logical, chances are that I will step back onto the right path and life will begin to magically flow again. As and when I need things to happen, so they do. As and when I need an opportunity to present itself, magically it does – I get a phone call from someone wanting something or I meet someone wanting something. If my thoughts are negative or filled with too much emotion, well then that’s where it goes ‘pear-shaped’ and the problem with ‘pear-shaped’ is that if I am not careful, it can spiral downwards and then that becomes a real issue.

Now I am in a very fortunate position, in that I have a Life Coach who is a gifted intuitive, so when this happens, she is able to get me to a place where I am able to stop drowning in my own pool of misery and get me back on track. That said I know that there are millions of people out there, who don’t have a Life Coach to assist them and I know what it feels like. It is probably the most terrifying feeling in the world – you feel like you have come to the end and there is no-one out there to even throw you a life line.

The upside of this, now, is that I am very aware of what my thoughts and choices are doing to me right now and the minute I even think of going to something that is negative, I stop – take a step backwards, take a deep breath and turn the negative into a positive. The minute I can’t turn my thoughts positive, I give my Life Coach a call for assistance – there is no way that I want to go back to the ‘dark place’ again that is for sure.

My challenge to you therefore today, is that you monitor your thoughts – be aware of what they do to you, be aware that as much as they can be responsible for the great joys in your life they also have the power to destruct – that is of course if you give them that power!

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or