Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BLOGGING TIPS - What Makes A Blog Well Written - Part 1

BLOGGING TIPS – What Makes a Blog Well Written?

Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC 2010

So now we have a great title and . . . now what?

It feels like a hundred years ago since I was at school, but I do remember the
English teacher always drilling into us the basics of a good composition – it, the story that is, has to have a beginning, a middle and an ending. Let’s be honest here, what is a blog – if not a story about your business, or about who you are or what it is that you are doing and why you are doing it? The reality is, that it is a story and it is in the telling of the story, that you have the power.

A story is no good, if the beginning makes you want to fall asleep. Most people will stop right there and not continue reading. So too is having a fantastic and strong ending, without a great beginning. That is just a hopeless exercise. Conversely having a fantastic beginning, that grips the imagination or curiosity of the reader and then having an ending that makes them feel like they have just lit the soggy end of a wet squib, will also make them reluctant to read any of your future offerings.

So you’ve got a fabulous beginning and an ending that will make the reader bang down the door for the next installment, but what about the middle? How do you tell the story? Does it follow the twists and turns, does it have a surprise somewhere along the way, does it make the reader engage with the characters or feel that they want to buy your product or service? Does it conjure up pictures or colours or smells or memories that reach down into the very core of a being? How does it make them feel inside? For example, what are you ‘feeling’ right now as you read these words. Are you nodding your head furiously because you understand exactly how you feel when you are reading something that bores you to tears or the excitement that creeps up from within as you read something that gives you an ‘ah-ha’ moment or that challenges you or that makes you think, I mean really think – or are you sadly shaking your head from side to side, because you don’t have a clue about what it is that I am going on about (and yes, there will always be those who remain utterly clueless – no matter what the topic)!

For me, the beginning must grab my attention from the getgo – I must think, I have to just read this page before I . . . . (insert what you will here). The ending must make me sigh with pleasure, sad that I have come to the end and eager to start reading the next article or the next book by the same author and the middle, well the middle must keep me engrossed, it must feed my imagination and satisfy my curiosity, it must stretch my mind and leave me with an internal sense of well being. It must make me willing to follow without question, not make me feel like I am being dragged along, resisting all of the way. Reading the kind of articles that make me feel like I am being forced to read, irritate and annoy and sap all the pleasure out of reading the written word.

Step back from your page for a moment and ponder – what is the picture that you want your reader to have? What is the experience that you wish for them to have? Is it a pleasurable one? Now sit down and write the story with all of those images that run around and swirl about in your head – they will see them, they will feel them and I have no doubt that they will enjoy them.

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

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

VAT - Some of the Requirements - Part 2

VAT – Some of the Requirements – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC October 2010

Last week we looked at a number of expenses that most people think they cannot claim on. Here are some more.

If you hire a car for business purposes, then you are entitled to claim the VAT on the insurance that you are required to take out on the vehicle. Be sure to get an invoice that lists the insurance, or itemizes it separately, this will make it much easier for record keeping purposes.

Should one of your staff fall ill at work or get hurt in an accident whilst they are at work and the medical expenses are paid by the company, the VAT on these medical bills can also be claimed back.

Parking fees – now here is one of my favorites. Do you know how much we spend on parking in the malls and in office park complexes – it’s frightening! Parking fees, particularly fees that are paid, while working, that have VAT charged on them (in other words Tax Invoice should appear, somewhere on the receipt, and yes you have to have a receipt to claim the VAT back), can be claimed back. Most malls that have those ‘pay machines’ actually give out receipts – be sure to request and submit those receipts. Obviously monies that are paid out to the ‘car guards’ cannot have the VAT claimed for, but you can of course, claim them as a business expense as long as they are “reasonable” and it is always better to be able to substantiate them. I use my diary as a guide to when I paid the car guards.

When you send wreaths and/or flowers to staff and/or customers who have had a death or bereavement in their families, you can claim the VAT back.

In terms of postage stamps and postage, this too, the VAT portion can be claimed back provided of course that the postage is being used for business purposes.

Artwork, in the form of carpets or paintings and pictures or even plants, can have the VAT claimed for, provided of course that they were actually purchased for the office. Here’s the thing though – they have to physically be in the office. Understand that if they are not in the office and the VAT man comes to visit, you could be in the deep brown smelly stuff.

Next week we will have a look at some additional expenses that you can claim the VAT back on – I must say, there were a whole bunch that I was not aware of, so this exercise has been of great value to myself as well!

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

Monday, October 04, 2010

MOTIVATION - Making Opportunities

MOTIVATION – Making Opportunities

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – October 2010

I have no doubt that the average South African who owns a TV, will remember the advertisement about the guy who moves into his new office, all bright eyed an bushy tailed, at the beginning of the day. As the day progresses, he continues to watch the phone, that is clearly not ringing and eventually in frustration, he picks it up to check whether there is a dial tone or not. The look of absolute disappointment on his face says it all, when there is obviously nothing wrong with the phone. His expectation certainly did not align with his reality!

Sadly, for many South African SMME’s and Entrepreneurs – this is their reality – the silent phone – and it has nothing to do with the phone being out of order. In my opinion, it has everything to do with their mindset being ‘out of order’.

I know that I have said this before and I have no doubt that I will say it again, many times over – I am seriously confused as well as really exasperated by the sense of entitlement that some (actually make that many) people have.

Like the chap in the TV advertisement, many people think that because they have made the decision in life to open their own business/office/shop (insert what you like here), that Joe Public, who has never met them before and in all truth, has no idea of their very existence, will suddenly be overcome by some mysterious malady, that is air/water/thought borne and they will now miraculously flood though their doors or ensure that their phone rings off the hook as they try frantically to purchase their particular product/service.

Please people – get a grip! And I would suggest that it is a very large and ‘real’ grip on reality.

For someone to walk through your door, or phone you – you yourself will have to do something! There has to be an action of some sort on your part!

Absolutely, categorically and without a doubt, there are opportunities out there – in fact, again in my opinion – there are probably more opportunities than there are people on the plant, but there has to be some sort of action on your part, to make or turn that opportunity into a successful, viable reality. Oh and . . . opening and office and staring at a phone, willing it to ring just doesn’t cut it!

You have to go out there and ‘create’ your opportunity. You have to take your idea or your product and do something about it.

You have to use your talent, your strengths and go knocking on doors, attend Networking meetings, write blogs or articles for newspapers or magazines. Get yourself interviewed on radio or TV. Create a stir so that people will sit up and take notice!

Obviously as an SMME, you do not have access to a huge budget for marketing, so you have to innovative and creative in finding different ways to get your name, your brand, your product, your service out to the people you want to sell it to.

Not only that, but if you are really smart and wide awake, you will ensure that whatever it is that you are peddling – product or service – it will be something that Joe Public actually wants as opposed to what you think Joe Public wants.

Whatever it is that you decide though – you can be sure, your actions will determine how successful you are.

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

Friday, October 01, 2010

HR - When You Want to Hire Staff - Part 2


When You Want to Hire Staff – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC October 2010

Last time we had a look at how to screen the applicants using the Job Description and today we will progress onto the actual interview.

So there I was left with 3 applicants for the job. How to choose which one would be the most suitable for the position.

At this point it is not always about the qualifications and the number of years experience – what happens, as in my particular situation where you had 3 individuals who met all the requirements in the job description? Well at least that is what they said.

It is extremely important, when you interview someone to have a list of what it is that you want to ask – be sure to ask everyone the same question and have a ‘reason’ why you are asking that question. For example, when you ask a candidate if they are married and have children – the question is not so that you can ask them out on a date, it is usually asked so that you can ascertain if they have other commitments (outside of the working environment) that will take up their time or asking them what sport they enjoy is not because I want to come and watch them playing their next game, its because I want to know if they play for the Provincial/National team, as that would take them ‘out of the office’ when they go away on tours and the like.

Remember questions like “Are you pregnant?” or “Do you have HIV/Aids?” should not be asked. Actually, if the truth be told, you can ask any question you like, but if the applicant is of the opinion that they didn’t get the position because of their answer to that particular question, then you could be in trouble with the Department of Labour as you cannot discriminate against someone because they are pregnant and you cannot discriminate against someone because they are HIV/Aids positive. So why bother asking those particular questions unless the position that they are applying for will adversely affect those in that particular position. For me, awarding a score to each answer that is positive for the Company, means that I can reduce their answers to numbers and then the applicant with the highest score would be the winner. Don’t forget to take into account things like, whether they are able to work as part of a team, your first impression, how they presented themselves, how they spoke or articulated what they wanted to say – these are all very important factors that should also be scored upon. What do you think of the individual and as a person? Let’s be honest – if the hair on the back of your neck rises each time you look at them or talk to them, it is not a good idea to hire them, especially if you are going to be working closely with them. Don’t ever disregard your ‘gut feel’ or your intuition – it may save you many a grey hair in the long run.

Then get them to do a little test – something that they would be expected to do as a matter of course. If for example you are employing someone who will assist in putting together and running an event - give them the brief on an event that you have run in the past (take out the clients name and any other confidential information or change the names etc) and get them to give you a list of what they need to do. Someone who has actually done this before will have no trouble giving you something that makes sense, but someone who is taking a chance will in all probability leave out many of the most fundamental and basic steps. Getting them to do a little test is one of the quickest ways to ensure that you actually have someone who knows what it is that they are doing as opposed to someone who thinks they know it all.

Finally, once you have made you choice, don’t forget to check those references. Don’t just call the cell phone number of the person that they say they worked for – look up the Company’s phone number and ask to speak to that person – at least that way you know that they actually work there. Another tip is to ask to speak to that person’s supervisor/manager. Do you know how many people give the name and contact details of the person who sat at the desk next to them and not their supervisor and/or manager? Remember that if you cannot get hold of one or more of their references, there is usually a reason and I promise you it will not be in your favour. I personally would not employ someone whose references I could not verify.

If you are needing certificates and/or diplomas – check with the university or learning establishment to make sure that they did in fact get that qualification – this always reminds me of the surgeon who is performing complicated operations who was thrown out of medical school before he qualified. Don’t believe anything they tell you – check it out and make sure yourself.

Next week we will have a look at the alternatives to hiring staff.

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