Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BUSINESS TIPS - The New Consumer Protection Act

BUSINESS TIPS – The New Consumer Protection Act

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC - November 2010

There’s a lot being said about the New Consumer Protection Act that I am led to believe, is coming into effect at the beginning of April 2011 and like so many of the Acts that we are seeing being introduced of late, there are some good things and some potentially bad things.

I am particularly excited about the clause that deals specifically, with fixed term contracts. Finally, we Joe Public, will get a little relief from some of the wolves that abound.

I have no doubt that we have all been caught by the contract that we sign, originally for one year and then we have about a nano-second to advise them in writing, that we no longer want to continue with the contract, before it rolls over again and we are locked in for another year.

You know the ‘re-newable’ contracts, like the gym memberships or the cell phone contract or what about the newspaper or magazine subscription? Yeah – those ones.

Well apparently, come end of March 2011, not only will these clauses have very little effect but we, as consumers, will also be able to cancel any fixed term agreement prematurely! Now that’s fantastic news.

Sure there is a procedure that will need to be followed but the fact of the matter is it can be cancelled and that is what is important.

The Consumer Protection Act, will allow the consumer to cancel the fixed term contract at any time as long as the consumer gives the supplier 20 (yes twenty) business days notice.

The notice has to be in writing or alternatively “in any recorded manner” (beware of the institutions who say that they are recording you for whatever reason – rather make sure and have your own recording).

To be fair, the supplier also is not left without any recourse. The supplier ‘may impose a reasonable cancellation penalty for any goods, services or discounts that were supplied to the consumer on the assumption that the agreement would continue for the proposed fixed term” according to Roy Bregman of Bregman attorneys.

Oh – and of course, if the consumer stills owes the supplier any money up to and including the period that the contract was terminated – that still needs to be paid, so don’t be thinking that you can just cancel the contract because you are behind in your payments – you will still be liable for those .

That said, if the consumer did not receive discounts or goods or services that the supplier can claim for, the supplier would be hard pressed to find ‘reasonable’ cause to implement the penalty. I like Roy’s example of this so I am going to use it (thank you Roy). If you have signed up for two years worth of dance lessons, you are paid up to date and you did not receive any discounts and you cancel the contract 18 months into the deal, the supplier, in this case would find it very difficult to substantiate a reasonable penalty for early cancellation.

Sure a ‘rolling’ type contract would continue and not come to a dead halt. That would not be good at all if you say had that kind of contract with your internet provider and then suddenly one Sunday morning, you have no internet coverage because your contract expired on Saturday night at midnight. From what I understand, these types of contracts “would automatically continue on a month to month basis, unless the consumer expressly directs the supplier to cancel the agreement on expiry date or agrees to a renewal of the agreement for a further fixed term” writes Roy.

In the event that a contract carries this clause, the supplier would have to notify the customer about the contract that is about to expire.

The customer would need to be notified, of this during a period of between 40 and 80 business days prior to the existing contract’s expiry date and any changes to the contract should also be notified at that time. If notification does not take place the contract would automatically be renewed, but would continue on a month to month basis.

Obviously, once the contract is in the ‘month-by-month’ category, either the customer or the supplier would be able to terminate the contract by giving a months notice.

The bottom line of course, is that it is up to the consumer to READ the contract before signing it. Sure it is up supplier to be transparent and up front with what their expectations are, but consumers also need to take responsibility for their actions.

In conclusion – don’t sign anything that you haven’t read and that you don’t fully understand.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Monday, November 29, 2010

MOTIVATION - Strengths & Weaknesses

MOTIVATION – Strengths & Weaknesses

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – November 2010

Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe says “By nature we have no defect that could not become a strength, no strength that could become a defect.”

Wow! Apart from telling us exactly how it is, it certainly gives me encouragement as well.

Knowing that if I want to change or improve one of my weaknesses (and let’s face it we all have several), it’s great, but to know that I can improve one of my weaknesses to such an extent that it becomes a strength – now that’s a great incentive and quite frankly a task of mammoth proportions.

I am one of those people who would rather work on my strengths, to make them that much more effective and I am all for ‘outsourcing’ my weaknesses to someone else. You see my weaknesses are someone else’s strength so to me it makes perfectly logical sense to let someone else deal with those.

I continue however, to have this little niggling voice (you know the one that sits on your shoulder and whispers all sorts of things in your ear) that keeps telling me that although I am ‘outsourcing’ my weakness, I am also ‘giving up’ my power!

Perhaps on some level that is true, but I am also very aware of the fact that ‘outsourcing’ works for me, as it enables me to get on with what I love to do and what I am good at. It certainly reduces my stress levels (and probably my blood pressure too) as I don’t have to struggle with issues that I am not comfortable with or that I don’t fully understand . . . but perhaps, one day when I am not busy with something else and the mood takes me, I will work on those particular defects and weaknesses. Yeah right!

What I really want to do is chat about the second part of Van Goethe’s statement – the one that goes “no strength that could become a weakness”. Now this is the bit that really concerns me – in fact it damn near terrifies me!

I think that many of us, particularly those of us who own our own small little businesses and who consistently work long hours as we attempt to make a decent living and perhaps even a difference – we are in particular danger of getting to the point where it is our very strength that defeats us!

Oh, I can see all the blank looks on the faces of people who have no clue about what it is that I am talking about.

This is directed at all of us who work, we say for our families, but to such an extent and with such focus that we lose sight of those that we love, so much so that we actually lose them. The result is that our flourishing business is achieved at the cost of our wives, or husbands and our children and loved ones.

It is directed at all of us who bring about our own ill health because we refuse to take time out to rest and rejuvenate.

It is directed at those of us who are so focused on what we do and what we are good at, that it takes over our lives and devours us and we forget to live and exist merely to be a slave to that particular strength.

So I guess, the point of all of this is to take note of and be aware of the fact that our weaknesses can become our saving grace and our strengths could very well be the reason for our demise.

Be careful – very careful about which one you choose to pay the most attention to.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

HR - 24 Hour's Notice


24 Hour’s Notice

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC November 2010

Let’s go back to my favourite protagonists – I haven’t used them for quite a while.

Mike is our SMME who owns a small store in a busy mall. George is his right hand man, who is basically the shop assistant and who is employed full time. George has worked for Mike for more than eight years.

George started working for Mike just after he left school and he had a basic standard 8 education and no work experience at all. George now is computer literate and is proficient at selling and he looks after the shop with the help of a casual, when Mike takes the occasional day off.

George now also has a full matric that he earned by correspondence and that Mike ultimately paid for.

George has a proper Letter of Appointment that he has signed and that states that a month’s notice should be given at termination by either party.

Over the past few months the relationship between Mike and George has been different. Not bad – just different you understand – but certainly different.

It all started when Mike did the annual increase and he gave George a 10% increase. George did not appear to feel that the increase was sufficiently big enough. Mike showed George all the increases that the business had to contend with, such as rent, utilities and so on and explained that due to the fact that sales were down and expenses were up, the store could not afford a bigger increase at that time.

Whilst George appeared to understand the predicament that Mike was in, he was not his usual self. Mike tried to find out what the problem was, but could not get any feedback from George – Mike hoped that ‘time’ would sort the problem out.

Well time certainly did sort the problem out, but not in the way that Mike would have liked. You see George came to work one day and stated that he was resigning with immediate effect and that this would be his last day and that he expected to be paid in full, including his leave pay etc., by the time he left that afternoon.

As I am sure you can understand, Mike was more than a little shocked! What now? Apart from anything else, it was coming up for Christmas – easily the busiest time for the retail sector and apart from him having to find another person to replace George, there certainly wasn’t enough time to find someone and train them. Mike was in for a very heavy two months.

Frustrated Mike stated that George had signed a contract stating that he would give a month’s notice. George shrugged his shoulders and stated “I am not coming to work here tomorrow and if you have not paid me and my money is not in my account tomorrow morning, I will go to the Department of Labour.”

Well so much for gratitude! So much for treating your staff well and fairly and for paying for their education . . . . Well, no use crying over spilt milk.

Understandably, Mike was furious, but what sort of recourse did he have?

In a similar case “National Entitled Workers Union v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation & Arbitration & others (2007) 28 ILJ 1223 (LAC), the union employed a person who left them without giving notice and the labour court disagreed that this was unfair labour practice perpetrated against them.”

According to Advocate Estelle Botha, “the court confirmed that the one recourse for employers is to sue the employee under common law, for breach of contract”. Yeah right! Exactly what purpose would that serve, other than to incur more costs and waste more of the employers valuable time?

Advocate Botha agrees that employees who give 24 hours notice or who just walk out are most definitely in breach of contract and that what they are doing is totally illegal – but how does that help the average entrepreneur or employer?

Wait – help is here! Advocate Botha has a solution for us and it goes like this.

Advocate Botha says “In order to protect themselves, employers must stipulate in the employment contract that should the employee terminate the employment contract without tendering the written contractual notice period, then the employer will deduct from the final payment to the employee, an amount equal to the period of notice not given.”

You see, if you include this clause in your Letter of Appointment or contract of employment, it becomes part of the agreement between the employer and the employee and when the employee signs the letter or contract of employment, it becomes a condition of their employment.

Then if the employee does ‘gap it’ or does only give 24 hours notice, you as the employer can deduct notice pay from whatever it is that you owe them.

How cool is that !

Remember though, unless you have that clause in place you cannot deduct the money. So for those who have letters and contracts of employment in place – don’t forget to ‘re-negotiate’ – whatever you do, don’t just change it.

I off to include the clause in my contracts . . .

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Wednesday, November 24, 2010



By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC - November 2010

What a couple of months I have had. I know that my blogs have not been as consistent as they usually are and I really do need to apologize for that. Truth of the matter is that I have been really busy and for that I refuse to apologize. Actually if the truth be told, I’ve been productively busy. How cool is that?

Thing is though, every time I write a blog, I have to do the research! Contrary to popular belief, I don’t just wake up in the morning and decide ‘well today I am going to write about the inside of a ping pong ball!’ I may wake up with an idea, but it has to be researched before I can actually write the article.

Think about it for a moment – what if I write about something like perhaps VAT or HR and none of it is based on fact, all of it is just fiction that I have dreamed up or based on my personal opinion of what I think should happen. You take that information, believing that it is fact and apply that to your business, only to discover, when the brown stuff hits the fan, that it was all fiction. Going forward, how much of what I write would you believe? Not much hey! My reputation would be worth less than nothing and my credibility would be lower than shark poo!

Actually, perhaps I should ask the question – do you think that I ‘know it all’ or do you actually realize what goes into each and every article that I write? Each one has to be researched or is the direct result of something that has happened to me – personal life experience, which I guess, in itself is also research! Whichever way you look at it, a certain amount of research has to be done in order for me to arrive at the facts.

Truth be told, judging by some of the comments and requests that I get, many people are really clueless about the amount of work that goes into writing an article – it really is not a five minute job – it has to be topical, it has to make sense and it has to be researched.

Thing is though, I recently have been getting a large number of inquiries that go along the lines of “I read your article and need more information, send it to me”. HELLO! I actually got a call the other day from a woman who said “I read your article on cash flow and am interested in it” – that was the extent of the discussion. It didn’t matter what I asked – like ‘what about it interests you?’ etc. she just kept repeating that one line – I mean really!

The bottom line is that I have done the research and given you the fundamental basics. Quite frankly, if you want more – well you need to pay for it or do the research yourself.

My experience is that for many SMME’s or Entrepreneurs, the perception is that other people should do the research for them and indeed that research should be done at no cost to themselves.

Actually, whilst I am on this particular soap box . . . the baby boomers amongst you will certainly remember . . . when we went to school, we were given the topic or the heading and the book in which we would find the information and sent away to write the essay or do the work. I don’t ever remember evening having multiple type questions. We opened the book and read the required piece to get to the information that we required.

These days of course, everything done for the kids. The teachers provide copies of the information and that gets glued into the school books and the parents do the projects and the kids . . . well they work very hard on MXIT or play computer games or any other number of applications that are designed specifically for them out there. Pretty much playing adult games whilst still in their nappies.

Many start up SMME’s try to do the same thing.

They expect someone else to do the research (usually for nothing) or someone else to use their hard earned money to fund their un-researched idea and then play at being a “business owner”, when they don’t have a clue about what it is that they are doing. This, of course, is an extremely dangerous game to play!

My value add as I see it, is to supply you with enough information for you to ascertain if you need that particular information or not. If you do need the information it is up to you to then do the research to find the correct solution to your particular problem. Whether that solution is to hire an expert in that field to assist you with your problem, or for you to do the research yourself and come up with your own solution, well that’s your decision. My decision then is, if you want me to supply you with the information, understand it will be at a cost to yourself. I have already paid my dues – I have done the research.

So please, understand the dynamics – the research has to be done!

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

BUSINESS TIPS - Who is your Mentor

BUSINESS TIPS – Who is your Mentor

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC November 2010

Let’s start at the very beginning – What is a Mentor? The dictionary says “Experienced and trusted advisor. Advisor of the young.”

Who needs a mentor? Well in my opinion – everybody! Shrinks go to their own shrinks, dentists go to their own dentists (imagine trying to work on your own teeth – urgh!) and so for me, even people who are mentors themselves, need to have their own mentors. No (wo)man is an island” and that certainly is true in this instance.

So who is your mentor? Do you have one mentor, or are there different people who fulfill different needs that we as individuals have. For example, I have a mentor who looks after me in terms of my business needs and others who look after me in terms of my spiritual and personal needs.

Who shows you the ropes or acts as your sounding board? Who do you trust to give you the kind of advice that you actually need to hear, irrespective of whether we want to hear it or not?

Here’s the thing – in my experience, people who have mentors or ‘coaches’ are usually far more successful in both their personal and professional lives than those who don’t.

Some have a single mentor and some like me, have more than one. Some folk even have a whole team of mentors!

Some have an informal relationship with their mentors and some have a documented, measured, formal mentorship arrangement.

Fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter how many mentors you have, as long as you have a mentor who gives you the support you need. That is what is important.

Fact of the matter is that all the money you spend on training or workshops or self help books is nothing compared to the invaluable advice you will received from someone who has already walked on the path that you are walking. The ability to learn something new or at the very least avoid making a costly mistakes, is priceless.

Having someone there to guide you in the right direction, to teach you all that they know, without judgment, is one of the greatest gifts that anyone could receive.

Then taking that invaluable knowledge and experience and adding it to your own and then playing that forward. . . When you mentor someone else, you are leading by example – it’s part of your legacy to the world. It’s a way of giving back to humankind.

So I ask you again – who is your mentor?

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Monday, November 22, 2010

MOTIVATION - Expanding Your Mind

MOTIVATION – Expanding Your Mind

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – 22 November 2010

I don’t know about you, but I love to have my mind stretched. Especially when I am having a debate or discussion with someone whose mind works a little like mine. I must say that that doesn’t happen very often, but when it does happen, it leaves me with a profound sense of well being and a joy, deep down inside of me in that part that knows the truth. I walk around for days with a silly grin on my face and pretty much in a state of euphoric bliss.

Studies have shown that children absorb knowledge and learning at the rate of knots, in their formative years, but that doesn’t mean that adults cannot learn and absorb information or knowledge just as efficiently. Fact of the matter is that we, as adults have the ability to learn. In fact, I would go as far as to say that we, as adults (well some of us anyway and even if we remain children at heart) have a responsibility, not only to ourselves, but also to the people whose lives our lives touch, to learn and then play that learning forward by sharing the information with the people around us.

I don’t think that there is a person on the face of the planet who can honestly say that they don’t need to learn anything because they ‘know it all’. That kind of statement would probably rank right up there with arrogance beyond belief. Yet as adults we often say the words “I’m too old to learn!” or “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” What a load of absolute crap!

Childhood for me was full of wondrous discovery and challenge. I grew up on a huge farm and discovered amazing things, every day – each day was an adventure, each day I used what I had learnt the day before and to be sure, I also learnt another new thing to be used the following day. The question now becomes, do I as an adult, take what I learnt yesterday into my adventure today? If the answer is ‘no’, then I, in my own option, have a huge problem! You see, for me, not learning at least one new thing every single day, means that my mind is not being challenged and stretched and therefore I am not growing as an individual.

Here’s the thing – studies have shown that an adult’s brain goes into a decline at a certain age. We all know that ‘older’ or more mature people sometimes have memory lapses. Think about it for a moment – have you ever heard of a child with Alzheimer’s? I haven’t. That should tell you its own story – the minute, as an adult, you give up on learning, your brain will start going in reverse. The message of course is quite simple – keep the mind learning – note, I did not say “keep the mind busy”.

Going about your life on auto pilot is really not doing yourself any favours (or anyone else for that matter). You stop dreaming, you stop trying new things, you stop reaching for the stars – how sad is that?

Set yourselves a target – to learn at least one new thing a day. Read, research, debate and discuss – ensure that your mind is active and constantly being challenged.

So I wonder – like me, do you love having your mind challenged?

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Friday, November 19, 2010

HR - When You Want to Hire Staff - Part 4


When You Want to Hire Staff – Part 4

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC November 2010

I have this serious allergy! I, personally, am allergic to staff. Yes it’s true – there was a time, while working in the Corporate World, where I did manage staff. In fact, at one point I commanded a work force of in excess of 250 people and the one thing that I did learn from that experience is that I don’t like or want or need to have a staff compliment.

So, how do I get around this little allergy that I have – simple really, I outsource everything that I cannot do or that I don’t want to do.

I have a virtual PA as well as my own accounting department and an IT department not to mention a really brilliant legal team, a design team a . . . . well I could go on and on, but it would in all probability bore you to tears.

Bottom line is that I don’t have to have someone constantly in my space. I don’t have to think about deadlines and staff being late or being off sick or doing disciplinaries because staff have been caught stealing my Company assets or stealing Company time or in fact just staff getting up my left nostril. Point is that in the long run I am saving a fortune on salaries because I am not paying staff for the time that they spend chatting around the water cooler or regaling tales of what happened over the weekend. I pay for the actual time it takes for someone to do what needs to be done or the price that I have been quoted for the job. How cool is that?

Outsourcing is not the only option out there for individuals who would prefer not to have staff working for them. There are obviously Companies who have no alternative but to employ staff and quite frankly, having them as clients gives me quite a good income as I help them to deal with their staff issues.

There are many small business owners or independent contractors out there, who would be open to partnerships or joint ventures or strategic alliances or even value trade exchanges. There is also nothing to stop you from having a mix of all the options – whatever works for you is right.

The trick though is to make sure that both parties have their expectations met. That both parties do their part to the best of their ability and consistently, particularly if what you are doing is a value trade exchange. The minute one person feels that they are not ‘getting their fair share’ or that they are doing more than the other, is the minute that things start to go pear shaped.

Whatever your choice is – to employ staff or not to employ staff, make sure that you deal with people fairly and with integrity. Be open, be honest and above all, stick to you word and keep to the bargain.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Thursday, November 18, 2010

EARLY WARNING - Social Networking Sites


Social Networking Sites

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting November 2010.

I am of the opinion that there are many people out there who don’t have enough to do and the old saying that “idle hands are the devils playground” certainly does apply to some of these individuals.

To have nothing better to do with their lives and their time, than to trawl the social Networking sites in order to ‘steal’ peoples details for their own twisted self indulgent reasons, just highlights to me how far from “civilized” the human race actually is. How sad is that?

I watched one of the crime shows the other day – I rather do enjoy watching a good ‘who done it’ and the whole story revolved around this guy who was a serial killer, who he got his victims off the various social Networking sites.

Everybody on the crime team appeared to be gobsmacked at the amount of information his four (almost five) victims posted on the site. Most of it was inane chatter like “I’m going to curl up on the sofa with a good book tonight” or “going shopping at ABC mall for shoes” and so on. The kind of stuff that would, and indeed does, make me wonder about the lives of these women – I mean, who has the time to do this? I mean at one point his newest to be victim, that he was currently stalking, posted that she was going to this coffee shop for a snack and of course, that is all that he needed to know to make sure that is where he would be.

This woman actually took a photo of the muffin she was about to eat, with her cell phone, and then posted that onto her ‘wall’ on the site that she frequented, with some more inane comments about the coffee shop she was in – really – I mean who in their right mind actually does this kind of thing? The mind boggles!

Sadder still are the kinds of people who deliberately look out for this type of information in order to make mischief to satisfy their sick cravings!

This serial killer stalked his victims using the information that they had posted on their social Networking sites, gained entry into their homes by posing as the Internet guy who was giving them ‘free’ whatever and then distracting them by asking for a glass of water (or something equally as innocent) and then putting up miniature cameras which he then used to watch their every move and familiarize himself with their daily routines. Just as well I am a grumpy old thing that never allows strangers into my home and growls at anyone who even thinks that they can!

As in all good ‘who done its’ he was eventually caught, along with all the drama and suspense that goes with it, whilst he was actually trying to strangle his latest victim. Sadly he had kept all of his previous victims and their bodies hung on meat hooks in his ‘walk in’ refrigeration unit, in various stages of decay.

The message is abundantly clear though. Information that we may only want to impart to close friends and relatives, and certainly never to strangers, we happily put onto our profiles or post onto the walls and share with everyone on our social Networks.

We accept ‘friends’ from all over the world, without ever meeting them, without any thought of consequence. We post pictures of ourselves, our families and even our children and animals and then we wonder how complete strangers get hold of our personal and private information.

Think about what you are doing before you share that juicy titbit!

Sure the social Networks are great for marketing purposes and I certainly use them on a regular basis, with great success, for work purposes. But my private life is exactly that . . . private and any detail about that, that gets shared, is with the people that I know, love and trust and it is done personally, not on a site.

Remember that not everyone is like you and I, many come from the dark side and their only intent is to create hurt and harm.

So, stop and think before you post!

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

BLOGGING TIPS - The First Bloggers

BLOGGING TIPS – The First Bloggers

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC November 2010

I read an article (not sure who the author is) the other day, that had me rolling around in stitches – actually, if the truth be told it was one of those from the gut, belly laughter. The kind that makes tears roll down your cheeks!

Ok, so I really need to share right now – not so?

The first couple of lines went “Preachers of the middle ages were faced with the same problem as modern day bloggers. Every week they had to write a sermon and present it to the congregation – they were the first bloggers, in a sense.”

Sure, I fell about with laughter – what a ridiculous idea! I mean think about if for a moment. Preachers = Bloggers – come on now – can you just see the picture? No, not the one of me falling about with laughter – but rather at the preacher, full of pomp and ceremony, jumping around on his spindly little legs, ranting and raving or prancing about like a little Mussolini, full of fire and brimstone – his blog!

So yeah, I laughed and then I laughed some more and then the serious side of life kicked in and I looked at the reality of things.

In those days there was no internet, no computers and in fact many people could not even read (not that that has changed at all). So, how did people get to hear about things, events, politics, the law and of course – don’t forget about religion. Well through there local parish priest during the course of his weekly sermon!

Every week the priests had to write their sermon, which was partly about religion (and the wrath of God or the fate of the sinner) and partly about what was happening in the community (births, deaths, weddings and funerals) and partly about the new laws that were being passed (new taxes that were due and payable or the next hanging or burning at the stake) and if he could tie it all up and be entertaining at the same time – well that naturally was a bonus for his congregation.

Can you just imagine how much more difficult it must have been for him to find material, than it is for you? Think about it for a moment – he was confined by his religion (not to mention his own religious beliefs), bound by modesty and piousness (hell I can just see that particular video in my head) and then tied up and gagged by the laws of the land!

No freedom of press here and there were even those that were considered heretics and heathens or witches or who knows what, for having a truly unique thought of their own. They were branded enemies of the state/King/church/people if they so much as blinked in the wrong direction! Don’t think I would have lasted very long under these circumstances!

Point that I am trying to make though, is constrained as they were, these preachers were able to ‘perform’ on a weekly basis. Week after week, they had to come up with something that would hold their audience captive and the only place that they could do any real kind of research was the Bible.

In order to do this successfully, they would have to, not only be inspired but also have some sort of structure or theme, to what they wrote or as my good old English teacher always used to say “It must have a beginning, a middle and an end.”

So nothing really has changed has it – it is all in the telling of the story!

The fact of the matter is that writing can be extremely difficult if you don’t have any inspiration or even with inspiration, if you don’t have any structure.

Actually if the truth be told, like life, like business, like projects, like relationships – pretty much everything works a whole lot better if you have inspiration and structure in place.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

VAT - Some of the Requirements - Part 3

VAT – Some of the Requirements – Part 3

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC November 2010

It would seem that I am still on my “VAT Soapbox”, so here are a few more instances and situations that many folk don’t know about, where you can claim VAT back if the product/service has been used for business purposes.

Many Companies, that are sales driven and who employ a large number of sales representatives, have a situation where the staff either own their own vehicles or the Company has a large fleet of vehicles for the employees to use. Improvements that are made to these vehicles (including the vehicles that are owned by the staff themselves), that are used for business purposes can claim the VAT back. Some examples of these improvements are (but not limited to):
- Tow Bar
- Air Conditioning
- Cruise control
- Radio/CD player
- Gear Lock
- Hands free phone kit
- Tracker (or similar tracking type device)
- Smash and grab window tinting etc.

Toll fees that are incurred during the course of the business travelling of staff can have the VAT portion claimed for. Obviously the whole transaction should go through the Company books, which would then have an impact on Company Tax.

Subscriptions to magazines, trade journals and associations that relates to your business can also be claimed for in terms of VAT. Flower arrangements for the reception rooms and offices can have the VAT portion claimed for. Of course the flowers must be present on the premises if you are unlucky enough to have a SARS site inspection.

Should you own a fixed property in your personal capacity, that you now start using for business purposes, the VAT portion of the transfer duties can be claimed for.

VAT on airplane tickets that were purchased for local business travel and please note the “local” in the business travel, as well as the accommodation and other expenses (such as food and drink) can all be claimed. Remember though, if you are travelling for pleasure and claim everything as a business expense and SARS finds out about this – you will end up in the smelly brown stuff and in fact you may have charges of tax evasion and fraud levied against you and that is definitely not something that you want to go through.

My relationship with the VAT man is a great one because it is quite simply this – find out what you can claim for and claim for it, find out what you cannot claim for and don’t claim for it!

For me it is easier to remain within the letter of the law – that way I will not spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder or waiting for someone to tap me on the back.

Great friend the VAT man and I make the most out of using him – do you?

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Monday, November 15, 2010

MOTIVATION - Living An Inspired Life

MOTIVATION – Living An Inspired Life

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – November 2010

A while ago, I received a mail that included “26 Quick Tips for Living an Inspired Life”, by Carol James.

Here they are:

“Ask for what you want.
Be who you say you are.
Care about others.
Dare to live your dreams.
Ease through the day.
Find the best fit.
Give to another.
Hug a friend.
Inspire someone to greatness.
Jump over a boundary
Kick a bad habit.
Leap across a fear.
Mention something uplifting.
Never, say never.
Open your mind and heart.
Pursue your innermost passions.
Quit complaining
Restore your smile.
Set your sights high.
Trust yourself.
Use all the day.
Value everything
Wait until it feels right.
Xpress yourself
Yank weeds from your mental garden.
Zoom into the now.”

Many of them resonated with me, many of them brought a huge big smile to my face as I know that I am not only aware of them but am also practicing them and even on occasion actually achieving them. Sadly though, many I am not, and of course, where “I am not”, I am falling short. Many made me delve into the inner me and the child in me, to check and see if I am ‘there’ or even part of the way there.

But most of all, most importantly of all – they made me think. They made me think of the person that I am and the person that I want to be and the difference between the two. It made me think about the ‘how to’ to correct or even address the short comings. It made me realize just how far I have come in the last 12 years and more importantly, how much I have actually achieved in the last 11 months.

It made me remember to pat myself on the back for a job well done and it reminded me not to be so hard on myself and that I am a child of this universe and that this journey, this life that I am living is of my own choosing and that it will always be exactly as I want it or how I make it and that if it is not to my liking, then all I have to do is change it.

It made me remember who I am and why I am here.

What did it do for you?

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za