Tuesday, December 14, 2010

BUSINESS TIPS - Managing Your Business - Part 1

BUSINESS TIPS – Managing Your Business – Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC December 2010

Most will agree that the light at the end of the tunnel is no longer an oncoming train and whilst the recession (such as it was) is now officially over, it will take the economy (read SMME’s) some time to rally, make a come-back and hopefully deposit us right back to where we were – obviously not in terms of what caused the melt down in the first place, but certainly in terms of running productive, successful businesses.

I know that I really had to ‘grit’ my teeth and bear it for a few months – you know what I mean – the uncertainty of money coming in or getting work in or making the sale and so on.

Fact of the matter is , that when you are in the dwang – that’s exactly where you are and sometimes it is just a matter of waiting it out.

There are a number of tips though, that will help and guide you through, should you find yourself in difficult and/or trying times. Actually it is not a bad thing to get yourself in the habit of doing these all the time – bad or good times.

For me, if you have lost control of your finances, then you have lost control of your business. I think that most people, when they think of business finances, what they think about are the books and whilst I agree with that on some level, I also want to make it very clear that the books are ‘reactive’. By that I mean that they are ‘in the past – what is contained in your books has already happened. Cash flow, on the other hand, governs what is happening right now.

Think about it for a moment – it doesn’t matter how many people owe you money, or who have promised to pay you – the bottom line is that when you look at your bank account, it is about what is actually there (less what needs to be paid out) that actually counts.

So it stands to reason that the cash flow needs to be properly managed and should be discussed at every management meeting. If, like me, you are on your own, it is a good idea to make time (at least weekly) to check up and see what is going on.

Make sure that the Management Accounts are monitored on a regular basis and that they are consistently checked for issues such as the key ratios, this will assist in enabling you to identify trends earlier, when you can still do something about them, rather than later, when you are already in the smelly brown stuff. Updating your cash flow forecasts on a regular basis will also assist in ensuring that you are ahead of the game – remember to watch the sensitive bits – issues like a change in the exchange rate or a price hike in fuel could have a huge effect on your margins.

Next time we will have a closer look at margins.

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, December 13, 2010

MOTIVATION - Taking Responsibility

MOTIVATION – Taking Responsibility

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – December 2010

Gita Bellin says “People fail many times, but they become failures only when they begin to blame someone else. Experience is determined by yourself – not the circumstances of your life.

Boy oh boy, does this resonate with me at the moment! Over the last few years, December and January seem to be the time when I do the most disciplinaries. For whatever reason, Companies want them done either to start the year with a clean page or to start the year sending the right message.

For the first time ever though, I’ve had to postpone a disciplinary in the middle of cross exam of a witness and the case is postponed until May next year – the reason – well the defendant is pregnant and going on maternity leave – it’s a strange situation to say the least.

What has really come out of the last few disciplinaries though, is really what I want to talk about and that is the defendants absolute inability to accept the fact that what they have done is wrong. It’s like people refuse to accept responsibility for their own actions or inactions for that matter. I’ve heard the strangest of excuses – like ‘the work was not completed correctly because I am having marital problems’ or ‘I made a mistake, but it was a long day and. . .’.

I’ve heard how an employee argued with the boss on ‘how’ he wanted something done, I suppose because she thought she knew better, only to end up not performing the task at all, because she ‘forgot’. The fact that she ‘forgot’ ended up costing the company an additional R6 000-00, but she is still indignant because he dared to question her.

I’ve heard how an employee refused to use a ‘check list’ to perform her tasks and as a result of that an invoice was raised incorrectly and because the invoice was raised incorrectly, customs impounded the goods and apart from the cost of the goods, just the cost of the courier fees (R40 000) has now had to be written off. The employee is screaming ‘victimization’ because the boss dared to call her into a meeting and chastise her.

Or what about the employee, who confirmed with her boss that the stock was in the hands of an event organizer, only for him to discover (when he arrived in the foreign country) that it had not been sent – but hey, she lodged a grievance against him because he complained!

What on earth has happened to the world? What has happened to self-respect? What has happened to taking pride in what it is that you do? I don’t know hey – I think this new “X” or “Y” generation (whichever one it is) has no fundamental foundation and no backbone. A few weeks ago, I was moaning about the school kids today who get everything handed to them – well I think that this inability to take responsibility for one’s actions is a direct result of this. Well you never did the work, so how can you take the responsibility? Right!

I think in ‘sparing the rod’ we have not only ‘spoilt the child’ but we have created a generation of monsters. On the one hand they have the longest umbilical cords, because of their inability to do anything for themselves and on the other hand, because they don’t know how to do things for themselves – well how can anyone (including themselves) hold them responsible for their actions.

This, for me is a really sad state of affairs – how will they grow as individuals? How will they become productive, worthwhile members of the human race? How will they cope, when all the ‘baby-boomers’ have all passed on to greener pastures and there is no-one left to do the work for them?

Can you imagine a world, where everybody did their own thing, because – well they know better, and then when the smelly brown stuff hits the fan and splatters, everyone blames everyone else. How will anything get fixed? When will the work get done (never mind how it gets done)? How will success be measured – will it be by the number of people you blame for your inability to perform a function?

Its mind boggling and I cannot see ‘how’ to fix it. Actually, if the truth be told – I am not sure that it can be fixed.

What it does do though, is make me understand how important it is for me to continue doing what it is that I am doing because if just one person sees the light and understands the lesson, then I have succeeded in what I set out to do.

So I guess, “one person at a time” will continue to be my goal. One person at a time!

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, December 06, 2010

MOTIVATION - Perseverance

MOTIVATION – Perseverance

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – December 2010

H Jackson Brown says “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength, but by perseverance.”

Ain’t that the truth!

On a personal level, I find that when I am going through a particularly rough patch or trying time, the only way to get through it is to ‘Grit’ my teeth, square my shoulders and put one foot in front of the other and just keep going – sooner or later you have to come out the other end.

I remember my favorite teacher at junior school – her name was Olga Barrett, and she was the strictest disciplinarian in the school – stricter than even the headmaster. Mrs. Barrett saw something in me that I don’t think anyone else saw. She saw my ‘heart’ and understood that I was different to the other kids. She saw that although I was by no means gifted or genius, but that my mind need to be stimulated differently.

She saw that I was determined to succeed, but that I went about things differently and instead of trying to force me into a mold as the other teachers seemed hell bent on doing, she took my tenacity and taught me how to harness that energy, that spirit, that heart . . . and then use it to my own advantage.

Olga Barrett, encouraged me to reach for the stars and not give into the challenges that would come my way. Instead of forcing me to look at the world through her eyes, she tried to see it through mine.

Her patience and perseverance with helping me to achieve and be all that I can be, certainly went far beyond the call of duty and I will be forever grateful to her.

That tenacity and perseverance has certainly allowed me to meet the challenges and heartache that I have endured in this life time and I have no doubt that it will continue to serve me to the end of my days.

So remember, if your life is challenging or if there is something that you really want, because you have dared to dream – square your shoulders, grit your teeth and put one foot in the front of the other and just keep going.

You will eventually get there.

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 - Suspending an Employee


Suspending An Employee

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC December 2010

First of all, let’s be really clear about this . . . . suspending an employee, irrespective of whether it is with pay or not, is a really serious thing to do. It is not something that should be done lightly or at the very least, done without taking all of the consequences into account. One of the questions that you should ask yourself before suspending an employee is “Did the employee do something that can be considered as “serious” misconduct?

If the answer to that question is no – don’t suspend. If however the answer is a resounding “YES”, then here are a few more issues for you to think about, carefully – before you continue.

- Are you going to suspend the employee immediately, or wait a few days and what are the consequences to either one of these actions.
- Are you required to hold a ‘pre-suspension’ hearing and if so how do you go about it – what are the requirements?
- Would there be (and what would they be) any consequences if you did not hold a ‘pre-suspension’ hearing?

Firstly – employees should not be suspended unless you are reasonably concerned that they would interfere with your internal investigation. In other words if you thought that they may destroy documents or say delete e-mails etc., that would really strengthen your case. If you were concerned about them intimidating colleagues, who you may want to use as witnesses or if they may, in any way do damage to your reputation or jeopardise your income in any way, then you have grounds to suspend.

If you are at all concerned about any of these and I mean justifiably concerned, then by all means suspend.

Remember though, that a ‘pre-suspension’ hearing should take place ‘before’ suspending the employee as failure to do this could result in the CCMA awarding a financial penalty (which always goes into the employees pocket to add insult to your injury) as procedures were not correctly followed.

The length of time that the employee is suspended should also be taken into consideration. Keeping an employee suspended for too long, even if they are suspended on full pay, could also result in a financial penalty being levied against the employer.

Bottom line – don’t just have a knee jerk reaction. Think about what it is that you are doing and why, because the CCMA and the Labour Courts are very strict about unfair suspension.

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, December 02, 2010



419 Scam

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting, December 2010.

“Dear John Smith

I am your partner in Christ and I need your confidential assistance. I know that we have never met but when I saw your profile on the internet, I knew immediately that you are the right person and that we could do some business together.

My name is Jane Doe and my late father, Dr. Sam Doe was ruthlessly murdered by a group of armed dissidents, here on the Ivory Coast. I was severely beaten and left for dead, but managed to escape and am now living under court protection, in my ivory tower here at the palace. I speak to and see no-one other than the servant who brings me my meals.

My late father, may God rest his soul, left me with a large inheritance – US$29.4 million to be precise, and I would very much like this to be used to not only secure my release, but also to start my life in a new country and in a well established business. I would like you to assist me with investing this money in the right kind of business for me.

I would of course need to introduce your name to the bank as a matter of urgency, as my late father’s foreign business partner wants to take the money and invest it in his country and then I will be left with absolutely nothing.

The bank will contact you and transfer the money to your bank account. As soon as the money is in your account, you will need to assist me to come over to your country, where we will run the business together. Please let me know how much you will take as your percentage to assist me in this regard.”

Sound familiar? I am sure it does!

Here’s the thing though – I took bits and pieces out of several of these e-mails which means that whilst they are never exactly the same they are all based on the same kind of theme.

That said, they all have the same consequence – you will lose not only your money, but also the shirt off your back, if you take this discussion any further!

So don’t think about what could be or should be. Turn your desperation key off and blow out the candle on your greed. This is one fight you will not win. Hit the delete button and get on with your life.

This is really one statistic that you do not want to contribute to or become a part of.

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, December 01, 2010

BLOGGING TIPS - The Monday Blues

BLOGGING TIPS – The Monday Blues

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC - December 2010

Sadly for many, Monday mornings are a challenge! They symbolize the return to the drudge that is their working life. For many the stress of starting a new week can seem overwhelming. Some just can’t get going and like my staff in my corporate days, need a good swift virtual kick up the rear end to get them going.

With this in mind, your blog needs to pack a punch to make a statement, to stand out from the rest.

Remember, like most of us – people get to work and usually the first thing that they do is look at their mail boxes and discover . . . . 27 million e-mails in their inboxes (me, exaggerate – don’t be ridiculous). By the time they have waded through the first 20 or so, the delete button become the favorite new toy of the day, so believe me when I tell you that the title of your Monday blog needs to jump off the screen creaming READ ME!

Oh – and when they drop everything to open up and read your blog, best it be worth the time and trouble they took to click onto your article, or believe me (again) that the little delete button will be working overtime!

For me, the “Motivation” series that I have going, works really well, although in all honesty they are more of a challenge or a ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ kind of well . . . motivation (usually meant for me specifically), and as such I believe that it sort of ‘set you up’ for the coming week.

Hopefully, they inspire, motivate and even challenge you to get done whatever it is that needs to be done.

The point though is that you have to be different, innovative and clearly unique. Make your message so exciting or profound that the reader is left, excitedly looking forward to reading your next article.

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