Thursday, July 28, 2011

BUSINESS TIPS - Some More Common Mistakes - Part 1

BUSINESS TIPS – Some More Common Mistakes - Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC – July 2011

I had the opportunity to speak with one of my client’s this week, whose eyes became like saucers when I expanded on things that she could introduce and do within her business that she hadn’t even thought about. A bit sad that, because she had the idea, the basic idea – but she was so caught up in that basic idea that she couldn’t see the wood for trees – there were several different additional dimensions that she could also go to, but hadn’t. She was being restrained by herself. Don’t be scared to dream big!

One of the other things that I often see small business owners and entrepreneurs doing wrong, including myself, is the old 80:20 rule. It’s not new, it’s not difficult and it certainly is one of the most basic rules that we should all know and yet I for one, often struggle with it badly. I think that one of the reasons for this is that I am so ‘caught’ up in the moment that I don’t see it coming or that I am in the middle of it and it’s only when I am just about strangled to death by it, that I see what’s happening and then take the necessary steps to stop it and usually by that time, it has already caused the damage and I have to start again.

Let me step back for a moment and explain what I mean.

When 80% of your sales or your income, is generated from 20% of your customers – your natural instinct is to spend the greater amount of your time with those particular customers. The problem with this of course, is that because you are getting most of your income from these customers you are often coerced into giving them bigger discounts or freebies and that means that your margins are cut. The bottom line is that you may be getting the lion’s share of the turnover from them, but you are also getting the least profitability from them. There is also the very real danger that should you lose, even one of these customers, you have lost a very big piece of your income and that is never a good thing.

Balancing the 80% with the 20% is a very delicate thing and if you get it right your business with soar to incredible heights, but getting it wrong could also lead to your downfall. It is something that needs to be kept in sight at all times.

Linking to the 80%/20% spilt is customer service. If your 80% clients are running you ragged with all of their demands, and believe me some of those bigger clients can have a very lopsided view of what their money buys from you, chances are that you may very well have both little time and/or energy left for your smaller clients and their perception then is that they are not getting good customer service from you.

I don’t care if I go into a shop every single day or once a year – I want good service. If that is how I think, then surely my clients are entitled to the same. Giving consistently good service to ALL of your clients will result in loyalty. Loyalty in a client means that not only will they come back time and time again, they will also recommend you to all of their friends and word of mouth referrals are the best kind of marketing you can have. Believe me too though, when I tell you it is also the worst type of marketing you can have, if you have upset a client. Remember that ‘bad’ news also travels faster than ‘good’ news does and it has a bigger impact. So be sure to give consistently good service to your clients.

This of course, does not mean that you have to become a doormat for nasty and bad clients – those you should just get rid of anyway. Give value for money and good service and you’ll always have business coming your way.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BLOGGING TIPS - Learn Something New

BLOGGING TIPS – Learn Something New

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC July 2011

I must admit that there have been occasions when I have sat here in my office, word document in front of me, ready for me to just put something on it and nothing comes to mind. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times, that that clean white block looks back at me, mocking me, bullying me, daring me, in fact doing everything nasty and horrible that you can think of to me. The one thing that it never, ever does is inspire me! That has to come from somewhere else and that somewhere else, for me is usually something that I have seen, read or listened to, but now have an opinion about and as I have often said, I usually have an opinion about most things.

Sometimes when I am writing an article on a particular topic, it feels like a chore – something that I was really on fire about, just a few weeks ago has become a chore, a pain in the rear end! That’s when I really do procrastinate – trying to squirm myself out of writing the article with ‘I don’t feel like it or I want to xyz now, or my own particular favorite one – I’ll just go and make myself a cup of tea and I’ll write it as soon as I get back. Needless to say, when I come back or rather if I come back, there is always something else that I need to do first. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

What I have realized lately is that the reason that I am not inspired to write that particular article on that particular subject, is usually because I’ve gone off the boil. I mean how many times can you say the same thing in a different way and sometimes people just don’t get it. Now that’s not my fault, although to be honest it can be quite frustrating for me.

So how do I get back ‘on the boil’? How do I get my ‘mojo’ back? Well I can either look though all of my material that I have gathered over the years, and believe me there is a lot of it – but the idea of getting some 20 odd boxes of notes and cuttings down out of the top corners of the cupboards is about as exciting and spark creating as watching paint dry (yet I still collect stuff all the time). The quickest and least painful thing for me is to put the old headphones on, crank up the music (I am currently listening to Duffy singing “Distant Dreamer” as I type this) and go on an electronic journey on the subject that I am wanting to write about. I always find something that I never knew on the subject, or something that I can now look at from a completely different aspect and my spark is once again ignited, my mojo returns and the blank word page, suddenly fills up really quickly – just as it should.

Personally, I don’t think that we will ever know all that there is to know about a particular subject. I think that we often become over confident about it. That’s the danger! So when you’re stuck, learn something new about the subject that you want to write about or about anything really. Learning something new never hurt anybody and it can be a lot of fun!

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

MOTIVATION - Lack of . . . .

MOTIVATION – Lack of . . .

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – July 2011

Ken Hakuta says “Lack of money is no obstacle. Lack of an idea is an obstacle.”

Well I am not sure if “Lack of money” is not an obstacle – ask anyone who doesn’t have any (and I’m not talking about ‘having enough’ here) and I am sure that they will see it as a huge challenge! I do get what he is trying to say though – it is about not having any money and having no idea about where/how you are going to get some or make some – now that is the biggest obstacle for sure!

For me, I guess, it still is all about having the dream and making the right choices in order to turn that dream into a reality and that is the biggest obstacle. Taking something that you are really passionate about, that is fun for you to do and then turning it into a money spinner – now that is the greatest challenge for me.

You see, whilst I am doing what I love, the last thing on my mind is money. I’m just enjoying the experience, loving every single minute of it. Think for a moment about an artist – drawing and painting is something that they have to do in order to fulfill themselves – their most basic needs. I doubt very much that they can stop the flow of their artistic endeavours, no matter how hard you tried. As they work on their canvasses or drawing books, all of their senses come alive as they watch the lines on the page or the strokes of the brush, turn whatever the picture they have in their heads into something that everybody can see – the beauty of art. I guarantee you, that whilst they are reveling in the beauty of what they are busy creating, the last thing on their minds is money – it’s perhaps thinking about what to add to get that colour just right, or how to shade that section in order to highlight the focus of this limb. No, it’s got nothing to do with money at all. In fact, I would go so far as to say, that many artists are so emotionally attached to some of their paintings and drawings that it is almost physically impossible for them to sell their work – for them it is the same as selling one of their children.

Yet that is exactly that is what they have to do, in order to make the money for them to then purchase the supplies in order for them to once again use their talents, their passion and to make their ideas and their dreams into a reality and so the cycle continues.

Sometimes, I really do think that it may be easier to just work at a job that is completely mindless, but that pays a good wage, that I don’t have to be emotionally invested in – you know the one – the ‘other people’s idea/passion’ one. Fortunately it always comes to me as a fleeting thought, because then I think about it carefully and I know and understand that they days that I worked in Corporate are over. The days that I worked making other people’s ideas and dream a reality are over. The days that I worked and in so doing, fanned the flames of someone else’s passion, are over.

These days I find my own ideas, I work with my own passion, with love and the same kind of amazement that artists have when they look at the beauty of the painting or the drawing that they have just completed and they think “Wow – did I do that?”

Does money have a place in there – absolutely! I have to make the money in order to be able to indulge myself in doing the things that I love. As difficult as the lesson was, has been and continues to be, I do understand that I have to think about money and ‘sell’ the ideas.

Using my passion and love for what I do is immensely rewarding on so many different levels and one of them is being able to pay the bills too.

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

Friday, July 22, 2011

HR - Failure to Disclose - Part 2


Failure to Disclose – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC , July 2011

So now, as promised, the not so nice ending for the employer – let’s bring in the protagonists. Michelle is the owner of a busy day Spa. Men and women come to spend an entire day, or even just an hour or two, being pampered and spoilt. The Spa offers several different types of massages as well as the usual facials and what have you. Michelle has had several requests from some of her regular ladies for a male masseuse and she had decided that that would be quite a draw card. So she goes about getting the right person for the job.

Michelle also has all the proper procedures in place and she is also careful to ensure that all the right questions are asked, one of them is “Do you have a criminal record” and her applicant George responds with a resounding “No, I don’t.” George is the successful applicant and he is hired and starts work immediately.

From the very beginning, George is very popular with the ladies (and even a few of Michelle’s gay male clients) and the novelty of having a male masseuse is quite a draw card. Business is great and Michelle is pleased with her decision.

A couple of months down the road, Michelle gets a new client (let’s call her Mary). Mary is a model and is clearly a difficult customer who makes a lot of demands – very loudly. Mary is also very careful to let everybody know who she is and who she knows. Mary wants everything done her way, done now and is very ‘public’ about what happens, when it happens and if it happens. Michelle stresses out every time Mary arrives as she disrupts the quiet and peaceful tranquillity of the Spa and it takes several hours, after she has left, for everybody to calm down and for peace and quiet to be restored.

On her 3rd or 4th visit Mary decides that she is going to try the male masseuse and despite the fact that George is fully booked for the day, Mary makes such a scene about it, that one of the regular clients decides to forego her scheduled and booked treatment with George and ‘give up’ her spot for the sake of peace and quiet. A very grateful Michelle promises, not only a replacement appointment, but also another at no cost.

Mary goes into George’s massage room and all hell breaks loose. Mary starts screaming as though she is being attached and a very traumatised and distraught George hastily departs the massage room. Mary comes out screaming like a banshee because ‘George is the pervert who tried to sexually abuse her’ at the previous spa that she used to go to and now he has ‘followed’ her here to Michelle’s Spa. Mary describes in great glorious detail what George is ‘allegedly’ did to her and states that she brought charges against George and that the ‘law’ has taken its course.

Michelle is obviously outraged as she did ask if George has a criminal record and George had replied that he did not. In her anger, frustration and obvious embarrassment, Michelle set about calling for a disciplinary hearing and George was dismissed for non-disclosure. George goes off the CCMA and Michelle loses the case.

Here’s the thing, in this country ‘a person is deemed innocent until proven guilty’ and since the court case, having been postponed several times because Mary’s lawyers just did not bother to pitch up, was eventually dismissed for ‘lack of evidence’, George was not charged or found guilty of anything, therefore when he stated that he did not have a ‘criminal record’ he was telling the truth. Michelle was ordered to pay all sorts of damages as well as all of George’s legal fees. Worse than that, Michelle still contends with Mary and all of her ‘loud’ snide comments about being subjected to a massage by a criminal.

As you can see from this story, if Michelle had used the services of a proper HR consultant, this probably would have been resolved without the huge legal costs incurred, because of her lack of understanding of the law.

My advice to Michelle would have been to get hold of a reputable HR specialist who had a good grounding in IR (Industrial Relations) and also to ‘fire’ Mary as a client!

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

Thursday, July 21, 2011

EARLY WARNING - Intimidation

EARLY WARNING - Intimidation

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – July 2011

Once again, I have received this mail from a colleague and once again, in my opinion it is better to be forewarned than dead!

“URGENT WARNING - JHB Roads - And other areas - New intimidation methods

Hi Ladies / Gents

Please be very careful when travelling alone. A woman had been pushed off the road on Saturday at 10:00 on Parkland drive Esther Park road. A white
taxi full of men followed her for about 5 minutes and then moved in next
to her car and slowly pushed her towards the pavement. They kept on until
a couple of other cars started to drive around her, and then left.

This morning another lady stopped at a traffic light on Jan Smuts Avenue
Kempton Park. A taxi stopped next to her and five guys jumped out of the
taxi. One banged on the roof of her car, two tried to open the front
doors, a third jumped onto the bonnet of her car and a fourth stood in
front of her car. She got such a fright that she pulled away knocking the
chap in front of her down and crossed the red robot. It seems that this is
a new type of intimidation, victimizing mainly women drivers.

Please be very careful when driving on your own. This is the 11th case
we've heard of since last week. A single woman travelling from Boksburg
stopped at a robot and was pulled from her car and raped repeatedly by 4
men in a taxi and another 2 at the Modderfontein intersection.

Please pass this on - not only to females - but to everyone - be alert.

Men: please forward this to all the ladies you know.

They found another way to hijack u by bumping you softly and as u get out
the car to see what had happened they hijack you.”

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

BLOGGING TIPS - Full Time Blogging

BLOGGING TIPS – Full Time Blogging

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC July 2011

Someone asked me the other day if I had ever considered writing – blogs, articles, whatever - full time. My knee jerk reaction was to burst out laughing and reply “No, not for me thank you”. That was the end of that particular discussion. Much later though, I did think about it . . . . carefully . . . and I must admit, that although I do love to write, writing full time, meeting daily deadlines and doing research on stuff that I am perhaps not that interested in, will be the quickest way to put me off writing forever! So my knee-jerk reaction was not so far off the mark after all.

Here’s the thing though – just because writing full time is not for me – doesn’t mean that it can’t be for you. There are probably a few other things that you need to think about before you make that decision though, such as (but not limited to):

Do you really love to write? I mean really, really love it! Is it something that you think about all the time? Do the stories and words just run around in your head and continuously spill out as you frantically try and get them written down? Do they make ‘little tornadoes’ in your mind until you can think of nothing else, but getting them written down and then as soon as they are written, is your mind instantaneously filled up with the next story or more words? Whenever you go somewhere, as you look around you, are the words describing the experience or what you are looking at, forming in your mind and demanding to be written? If I was asking myself these questions and I had to reply “no” to any one of them – I would seriously re-think whether I was meant to be writing full time. You have to have the passion, if you don’t, you will end up hating to write.

Are you leaving your current job? Ok, so this one is a biggie! For me this is a big question – you see, I am passionate about what I do. My business has been going since 2003 and each day put’s me that much closer to my goal – the one that the dream was started and built on. My business is how I make my bread and butter and would I be prepared to either “dump” the whole thing or put everything on hold whilst I write full time? I think not! Even if I were to decide to go the writing full time route, it would need to start slowly as it is not something that I have been trained to do – better to start off, say blogging part time and see how that goes. My advice on this one would be caution – a lot of caution!

Learning and research. Talking about not being trained to write for a living, are you prepared to learn? I know that many people pay ‘lip service’ to the whole idea of ‘learning new stuff until the day we die’, but the reality is that many folk don’t want to be ‘learning’ new stuff every day. I know that from my own experience, every time I write a new blog or an article ,that I have to do the research and in so doing, I learn something new. So, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about my opinion, it’s also about the facts and to get to the facts, you have to do the research – are you willing to spend that kind of time. If not, then I seriously suggest that you don’t go into writing full time.

Collaboration. Here’s another thing that many people pay ‘lip service’ to. Many ideas are born out of ‘brain storming’ or people discussing issues or people sharing experiences. Are you one of those kinds of people or is ‘your stuff’ exactly that – ‘Your stuff’? Often writing an article is a very personal or even intimate thing that is torn from you. It can be painful or even embarrassing – would you be able to share then? Perhaps I should also ask – COULD you part with it then? I know from my own experience that there are some stories that I had to write down, that is often how I have dealt with some of the issues from my past, but that doesn’t mean that I am willing to part with them or share them, but what about if you are being paid to write that particular story – how would you feel about parting with it then?

Endurance and patience. Just like any other enterprise, you have to endure and be patient. Chances are that you are not going to be earning huge amounts of money from stuff that you have written, five minutes after you have written it and before the ink is properly dry on the page. I have often heard journalists talking about how badly they are paid and how they write for the ‘love of it’. That writing is not a job, it’s a ‘calling’ or even a ‘responsibility’. The reality is that like any other job or business endeavor, it takes time. Again from my own experience, I have been writing my blogs now for a good 5 years and I am only now starting to reap the rewards. Has it been worth it – absolutely! Without a doubt!

Could I do it full time – absolutely not! The question here of course actually isn’t about whether I could write full time or not – the question is, can you?
Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

BUSINESS TIPS - BEE Certificates

BUSINESS TIPS – BEE Certificates

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC – July 2011

Year before last I decided that it was time for me to get myself BBE compliant, despite the fact that in terms of the law I am ‘exempt’ as my annual turnover is less than R5 million per annum. It was one of those “practice what you preach” type moments for me. I found a small business owner who was able to issue the certificate, on receipt of a letter from my
Accountant verifying the fact that my turnover was indeed lower than the minimum requirement and the whole thing cost me R500.00, which I found to be quite reasonable at the time.

Towards the end of last year, just when my certificate was about to expire, I won a contract. One of their requirements was that I have a BEE certificate, despite the fact that they were in possession of my annual financial reports which clearly evidenced that my annual turnover was below the R5 million requirement so I contacted the company who had previously issued my certificate. I am sure that you can just imagine my horror when I was advised that the cost had gone up to R1500.00. Needless to say I did not use them to issue my new certificate and neither will I be sending them any new business in the future!

After doing some research and asking questions on the Business Master forum, I was pointed in the direction of the DTI. The web address to go to is .

The site is very easy to navigate and the response is really quick. Within 24 hours I received an e-mail confirming that I was indeed exempt. Trouble was though, that this was not sufficient for my new clients. So R285.00 and another 24 hours later, I was registered on the DTI site and since this is the equivalent to having a certificate – all was well in my business world. Remember though that the certificate needs to be re-issued on an annual basis.

I am still somewhat at a loss however, to understand the reasoning behind the fact that despite the fact that the company concerned had a copy of my year-end financial statements, (for 3 years mind you) that evidenced that I was below the required minimum and that the law states that I am a ‘preferred supplier’ because I am ‘exempt’, I still had to provide a certificate to certify that I am exempt and therefore a preferred supplier. It’s kind of stating the obvious, but making me pay for it!

Still, there you have it! Instead of paying exorbitant prices to unscrupulous money grabbing individuals, the DTI have an affordable solution to the requirement.

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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

EARLY WARNING - South African Telecoms Ripoff

EARLY WARNING – South African Telecoms Ripoff

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – July 2011

Whilst trawling on the internet the other day, I came across this article written by Charles Ash and I must admit to thinking “Finally, someone other than me thinks that we are being ripped off”. It was written some time ago, but is still valid (in my opinion) and so I have copied the complete article here for all to read.

The great South African telecommunications RIPOFF!!

Charles Ash, founder of and marketing manager of has had it with telecoms and SMS ripoffs. He cautions that this information could put BILLIONS of Rands back into the South African economy!
At times like these, I feel like curling up in the corner of the shower and scrubbing my skin for hours until it turns bright red. I feel dirty, used, abused, cheated...betrayed.
I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps the high crime rate in South Africa is having an adverse effect on our corporations as some of the prices we pay for telecommunication services in this country are criminal...nothing more than daylight robbery.
Much is written about South Africa's unacceptably high instance of rape and rightfully so...but what about the lesser mentioned, government sanctioned "economic rape" of our citizens? "Economic rape", the kind practised with sickening impunity by so many corporates in South Africa is showing no signs of fact, it's spreading.
The petrol price rises, prices across the board rise...the petrol price drops...prices stay fixed. Price fixing scandals abound, the poor suffer while the corporates get off with a feeble slap on the wrist.
Something is deeply wrong with the conduct and insensitivity of corporates in this country. "Economic rape" is such a harsh term, but in the context and manner in which criminally exorbitant prices are thrust on the battered, unsuspecting, undeserving South African public, the term is particularly apt.
What makes the proliferation of high prices in the telecommunications sector so disturbing is the fact that it flies in the face of government's espoused pro-poor policies. Year after year, under the auspices of the loathsome and repugnant Ivy Matsepe Casaburri (Minister of Communications) and Lyndall Shope-Mafole (Director-General Dept of Communications), government has ensured that the poor and struggling middle classes in South Africa remain thoroughly disenfranchised and excluded from the new digital economy.
While most progressive developing nations in Asia, South America and even North Africa enthusiastically embrace the emancipative potential and power of telecommunications as a social leveler, South Africans continue to labour under the burden of ridiculously high prices, governmental indifference, shoddy service and hollow gestures of pricing relief.
I've often thought about what might influence government telecommunication policy makers to conjure up such disastrous policies, then in spite of the outcry and the reliable reports which consistently highlight the abject failure of these policies, government sticks doggedly to its guns, insisting on riding roughshod over the poor rather than backtrack and make the necessary course adjustments.
When the telecommunications industry needed decisive, visionary ended up getting misguided ministerial directives. But what influences or informs government's stubborn adherence to its patently disastrous telecommunications policies? I've considered this question for some time and contrary to popular, reductionist opinion, I think it goes far deeper than government merely maintaining the status quo in order to cash-in handsomely through its equity in Telkom and Vodacom.
After witnessing the Obama election and realising how effectively Obama was able to re-engineer public sentiment through astute usage of the internet and new media, it dawned on me that lethargic governments around the world should rightfully fear the Internet.
Unlike the SABC, the internet cannot be censored, it cannot be co-opted or coerced into presenting a sanitised, one-sided view which serves your narrow interests. The Internet is a place where ideas spread like wildfire, minds get infected with idea viruses and information is shared at the speed of light.
It stands to reason then that lethargic governments would at the very least try their utmost to prevent the mass proliferation of this technological beast for as long as possible while they consolidate their stranglehold on the masses, prey on the ill-informed, mould the malleable and ingratiate themselves to the vulnerable.
Knowledge is power, so when you're denied access to the most powerful information repository in the history of mankind, it makes you a weak and easy target. You don't have the means to properly interrogate the facts or expose yourself to alternate, dissident're just what the politicians fodder. Well, that's my theory anyway.
On the issue of telecoms pricing, there are four areas of profiteering in the telecommunications sector which I would like to speak out on lest my silence on these matters make me complicit in their continuation.
1. SMS for Mobile Content aka "SMS RIPOFF to $%#&@ and get RIPPED OFF"
There's not much in this world that riles me more than seeing adverts on TV for SMS "SMS FAIL to &%*#$" and get a picture sent to your phone or even more disturbingly, SMS LOVE...or SMS TONE. The cost of these text messages are in the region of R5 each; some are R10, some are even R30 and worse still, most are subscription based. With most new phones sporting high resolution screens; gigs of storage space; sound systems like ghetto blasters from the 80's/early 90's and 3G/HSDPA connectivity capabilities, it's no surprise that service providers are lining up to put these feature to full use. What makes the mobile content industry so particularly reprehensible is that it preys on the poor and the poorly informed.

For starters, your phone needs to be WAP enabled in order to download mobile content. Now, if your phone is WAP enabled and you're still paying for mobile content, then you need to have your head checked. Simply bookmark on your phone's browser, visit Uncle Google, type "Free Mobile Content" and BOOYAKASHA!! All the free mobile content your salivating phone can eat. Alternately, you could visit a personal favourite of mine ( and access vast repositories of free mobile content from games to pictures to tunes. DISCLAIMER - I have no responsibility whatsoever...particularly if some of the content you access is copyrighted or adult in nature.
Not happy with that? Or your phone's browser is not giving you the sublime experience you'd like, simply head over to and install Opera Mini on your phone. Opera Mini is a phone browser that actively customises websites on the fly in order that they can fit on your phone's screen, effectively allowing you to visit just about any website on the Internet. This way, if you're feeling particularly amorous and romantic, save yourself the R5/love poem you're currently expected to pay and head over to Google...type "SMS love poems" and VOILA ROMEO...all the love poems your phone can ingest...FREE!!
This segment would not be complete without a simple calculation to illustrate what most average Joes' and Joelenes' might not be aware of. Considering that all network operators except Virgin (ie. Vodacom, Cell C, MTN) all charge a staggering R2/MB of data, when you SMS I-AM-A-FOOL to &%$*# and instantly shed R10 for the displeasure of gaining access to that ostensibly hilarious 4MB video clip you're after, keep in mind that @ R2/MB, the download will cost you a further R2 x 4MB = R8. The total cost of this exercise in subliminal corporate fleecing is R10 + R8 = R18...guess they hid that in the nanoscopic fine-print right? Mobile content probably only makes sense if everybody has a Blackberry as you get unlimited data access with these bad boys.
To add insult to injury, the network providers are now all in on the great social ripoff currently underway. By accessing content services from the network provider's lacklustre mobile portals, like; Juiced or Vodafonelive, the data charges (the R2/MB) are waived (something to do with walled-garden services yadda-yadda). Now, if I was a mobile content service provider, I'd be suing the pants off of the networks for such brazen anti-competitive practises...but that's another story... Anti-competitiveness IS the name of the game in South Africa.

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

Friday, July 08, 2011

HR - Failure to Disclose - Part 1


Failure to Disclose – Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC , July 2011

I certainly have had a few clients that have been on the receiving end of this particular situation and all for the wrong reasons – however this topic, like most connected to HR, is a double sided coin and I will endeavour to illustrate this by means of two stories – one will be a happy ending for the employer and one won’t.

Let’s deal with the happy ending first and bring out my favourite protagonists.

Mike owns a high end jewellery store in a popular very busy mall. He is well situation in the mall and his store is internationally known and respected. His hand crafted, individually designed jewellery is highly sought after and prized.

Mike’s mother used to do his books and she was also the cashier in the store, but now in her 80’s she has decided to finally retire. Mike is looking for someone to replace his mother – someone who, is not only competent with accounting but also someone he can trust.

Mike puts the word out and starts the whole interview process. Mike, being an ‘attention to detail’ kind of guy is very clear about what his requirements are and as part of his interview process he is clear about what qualifications the applicant must have, that references will be checked and what documents the successful applicant must be able to provide in terms of legislation and compliance. Mike does not want to have any problems with the Department of Labour down the line. Part of Mike’s interview questionnaire is the question “Do you have criminal record”? Sarah smiled when she answered this question with a very resounding No.

After several gruelling weeks of interviewing, Mike finally settles on a young Nigerian woman by the name of Sarah. Sarah is well groomed, erudite, has all the correct qualifications and she assures Mike that she is able to work here in South Africa as she has the required documentation.

Sarah is employed on the proviso that her references check out and that she provides the relevant documentation. Sarah starts work the following day and Mike is pleased with his choice of candidate as Sarah fits right in from the very beginning.

Mike starts checking references and cannot get through to any of the numbers provided. Mike understands that the references are for Companies and people who live in Nigeria and with the time difference there could be some difficulty, but he is mindful of the fact that these references have to be checked and he persists. In the meantime, every time he asks Sarah for her documentation there is some sort of reason or another as to why she has not brought them along. Mike keeps reminding her that he needs the documents and Sarah keeps promising to bring the documents to work. Somehow she never does.

Mike continues to struggle to get through to the numbers that Sarah has provided and eventually Mike decides to contact the Nigerian Embassy to see if they can provide him with the correct telephone numbers for the Company that he is trying to contact. The Embassy gives him the correct number and he eventually (some 5 weeks after Sarah has started work) gets through to the Company that she worked for in Nigeria. Mikes speaks to the Company CEO and he is absolutely horrified at what he discovers. Sarah was caught selling ‘blood diamonds’ and had served time for this crime.

Mike calls Sarah in and confronts her with his findings. Sarah breaks down and admits that this information is correct but that when Mike asked her if she had a criminal record, she assumed that he meant in South Africa. The reason that she did not give him her documentation is because this information appears on one of the documents and of course she did not want him to see it. Mike is understandably furious and a disciplinary hearing is held and Sarah is dismissed for non-disclosure.

Of course Sarah goes to the CCMA and lays a claim of ‘unfair’ dismissal because according to her she had been asked this question purely because she was Nigerian.

The Chairman ruled in favour of Mike because the question that he asked in terms of the criminal record was part of his interview process and that all the applicants had been asked the same question – Sarah had not been singled out at all. Furthermore, in view of highly sensitive issue around blood diamonds and the fact that Mike’s business involved the use of diamonds, employing someone who had trafficked in blood diamonds, could have a negative impact on his business.

In this instance, following the correct procedures in terms of the interview process as well as disciplinary and dismissal procedures is what won the day for Mike. As usual, if you are not 100% sure of what you should be doing or where you stand legally, get yourself some help.

Next time we will hear about a not so happy ending for an employer.

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

Thursday, July 07, 2011

EARLY WARNING - Infant Car Seat on Roadside

Infant Car Seat on Roadside

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – July 2011

I have received this mail from a colleague and as such cannot vouch for whether it is true or not, but I do feel the need to pass it on, in case it is – forewarned is always forearmed.

“While driving on a rural end of the roadway on Thursday morning, I saw an infant car seat on the side of the road with a blanket draped over it. For whatever reason, I did not stop, even though I had all kinds of thoughts running through my head. But when I got to my destination, I called the police and they were going to check it out, but this is what the police advised even before they went out there to check . . .

There are several things to be aware of . . . gangs and thieves are now plotting different ways to get a person (mostly women) to stop their vehicle and get out of the car.

There is a gang initiation reported by local police, where gangs are placing a car seat by the roadside with a fake babe (or doll) in it . . . waiting for a woman of course, to stop and check on the abandoned baby.

Note that the location of this car seat is usually beside a wooded or grassy field area and the person (woman) will be dragged into the woods (grass), beaten and raped and then usually left for dead. If it is a man, they are also usually beaten and robbed and maybe left for dead too.

Do not stop for any reason! Call the police and report what you saw, but don’t even slow down.”

It sure is a sad world that we live in if this happens.

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

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

BLOGGING TIPS - Responding to Comments

BLOGGING TIPS – Responding to Comments

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC July 2011

Most of you who know me, know that I have an opinion about most things and I am not afraid to voice that opinion. It wasn’t always like that – there was a time when I just kept quiet, sucked it up and said nothing. Problem with that of course is that it does damage inside, to your being. So once I realized that and got over myself, I stated my opinion, not just to be difficult or give someone a hard time, but to get it out there – to make others think perhaps a little more and even sometimes (if I am perfectly honest) to see if I can get someone to change my mind.

That means of course, that I often leave comments on the blogs or articles that I read and I must say that I feel kind of deflated when I don’t get a response. I understand that we are all busy, that we all have 101 things that need to be done and usually they all need to be done yesterday – but that said, it’s kind of rude don’t you think? It’s like not saying ‘you’re welcome’ when someone says thank –you, or not saying ‘bless you’, when someone sneezes.

Think about it for a moment, by ‘enabling’ the comments section on your blog, you are actually inviting people to interact with you, to share their feelings/emotions/thoughts on what you have written and then what . . . nothing happens, it’s like having a one sided conversation and quite frankly, that for me is just boring.

For me, it would be the same thing as not answering questions about the topics that I train on or being ‘indifferent’ to others. We all know that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference and ignoring someone who has taken the time and trouble to comment on something that you have written, irrespective of whether it is good or bad - well that is just being indifferent in my book.

Being ignored, that’s just horrid and quite frankly, I often don’t go back to that particular author. Why should I? Blogging for me, is not only about getting my message across, it’s also about interaction and with interaction comes relationships and we could all do some more of those.

My blogs have opened my life up to the rest of the world and I now have people who I correspond with all over the world. From the USA to Russia – from Holland to the UK, Australia to Canada – I’m sure you get the picture. Do I get business from these people – well not directly, but I have learnt a great deal and I am exposed to more than my little world and yes, indirectly I have gotten business and even a mentor or two.

Responding to comments for me is a must, it’s a way to open up a dialogue, to interact and to grow as a person.

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

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

BUSINESS TIPS - Common Mistakes Start-up Businesses Make - Part 2

BUSINESS TIPS – Common Mistakes Start-up Businesses Make - Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC – July 2011

Following on from last time, here are some more of the common mistakes that are made by SME’s (small, medium enterprises) and start-ups.

Under charging for products and services.
This one I certainly can relate to as it was one of the mistakes that I made when I started out and it became a really big problem. You see firstly, the way that you ‘charge’ (especially for services or hourly rates) tells people who you are and even what you think of yourself. Secondly, it all goes to selecting, in part, who your target market is. Obviously, if your charges are too high, or not in line with the rest of the industry, this could also have quite an effect on your turnover and obviously your cash flow.

My biggest problem was that I could not find anyone here in South Africa who was doing what I wanted to do – great opportunity for me, but a bit of a ‘thumb suck’ when it came to fixing prices and costs. So I used my ‘corporate monthly salary’ as a guide line! What a mistake that turned out to be. I also did not factor in a whole bunch of stuff, such as (but not limited to), that although there are (well there should be) eight working hours in a day, five days a week to get the work done (well that’s what I got paid for in the corporate world) – the reality is that some of those hours will be spent on marketing and finding those clients – you can’t charge anyone for that and some of those hours will be spent on admin – you can’t charge anyone for that either. So the bottom line is that you don’t have 22 days in a month that you can charge out at an hourly rate – more realistically it is around 10 days. Now that sure messes with your calculations.

The second problem was that because I had come in at such a low cost (R200 per hour), I attracted pretty much all the wrong target market. Yes, they were the SME and start-up market, which was exactly where I wanted to be, and yes they were in desperate need of what I was offering, just like it should be – the problem was that they could not even afford to pay me at that low rate.

Instead of cutting my losses and walking away from the problem, I compounded it by becoming all emotional and feeling sorry for them, so I offered them a) discounts if they paid me cash and b) terms if they couldn’t! Bad move on both elements. By offering them discounts on charges that were already too low, I was not even breaking even and of course I was telling them that I did not value myself very much and quite frankly, if I didn’t value myself very much, why on earth would they value me? Offering them terms . . . well let’s just say that that wasn’t my finest decision, especially as I continued to work for them, even while I was trying to get money out of them for work that had been done months ago. I am sure you can see where that went – they disappeared and I never got paid and it got quite ugly. In my first two years of trading, I wrote off tens of thousands of bad debt that I could ill afford.

Finally I got over my emotional self, upped my prices considerably and found myself a better quality of client . . . One that could pay. Are my prices still reasonable? Of course they are, they have to be in order for me to make any impact in my chosen market, but they are no longer ridiculously low.

So this is very important people, you need to make sure that your charges are reasonable enough to evidence good value for money, but you also need to cover all of your costs as well as leave something over as profit. It needs to be looked at very closely and very honestly and more often than not, very brutally.

Next time we will have a look at some more of the most common mistakes – till then, remember to have fun too.

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

Monday, July 04, 2011

Cape Town Workshop - 19 July 2011 - A Basic Practical Guide to Starting a Business

Cape Town Workshop - 19 July 2011

A Basic Practical Guide To Starting A Business – 19 July 2011

Hosted by Sisibukula, Viljoen Consulting, German Chamber, Randburg Chamber and WIF.
Getting started in the right direction will ensure a smooth transition from 'wannabe' to business owner and will allow you to focus on what you are good at - you know, getting that product and/or service to market. Ensuring that you have everything in place and working correctly, will ensure maximum productivity with minimum effort and will always affect your bottom line. Getting your processes and procedures in place will ensure that your business is built on a strong infrastructure that usually translates into a sustainable business.
The workshop deals with the everyday issues that arise when starting a new business. It saves time and energy as well as money. Time in that you don’t have to spend time in queue’s trying to get the correct documentation, or doing research on the Internet or anywhere else for that matter, trying to find out what you have to do and where you have to go in order to do it.

A Basic Practical Guide To Starting A Business is broken up into the following main titles below and starts off with the difference between a Sole Proprietor, a Close Corporation and a Company and how to register each of these entities.

- Accounting Records & General
- Banking Accounts
- Receipts and Banking
- Cheque Payments and/or Internet Payments
- Invoices
- Credit Notes
- Bank Reconciliations
- Petty Cash
- Control of Numbered Stationery
- Computerised Accounting
- Staff & HR Issues
- Security/Safety
- Money Laundering
- Filing
- Stock Control

No prior knowledge of Starting A Business is necessary for this highly effective but simple to understand workshop that promises to equip you with powerful tools to register and manage your business on a practical level.

About the Facilitator – Nikki Viljoen
Nikki Viljoen is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who has her own company called Viljoen Consulting.

Nikki has in excess of 30 years experience in this field both from a banking perspective as well as from a Corporate perspective.

Having seen a huge gap in the SMME market, Nikki started Viljoen Consulting to assist SMME’s to become compliant and to establish controls and processes and to implement structure into the smaller companies to give them greater stability, and to encourage sustainability.

Nikki’s business blog or was recently internationally rated at 8.9 out of a possible 10. This places Nikki 5th in the world in her category. With her blog Nikki shares useful Business and Personal tips with anyone who cares to read it.

Date: Tuesday 19th July 2011

Price: R950.00 per delegate (includes breakfast/lunch/refreshments and course material)
Venue: CCDI
2nd Floor, Herrington House
37 Barrack Street
Cape Town

Time: 08.30 to 3.30/4.00 pm. (Registration from 08.00 onwards). Please allow additional travelling time to combat traffic.

RSVP: no later than Friday 15th July 2011 . Space is limited therefore bookings will be accepted on a first come first serve basis.

Please contact:-

German Chamber delegates please contact or 011 486

Randburg Chamber delegates please contact Nobuhle Mhlanga on or 086 101 9218
Women in Finance delegates please contact or 084-353-9865.
Everyone else please contact Nikki Viljoen on or 083 702 8849 for booking details.

MOTIVATION - Don't Compromise Your Life

MOTIVATION – Don’t Compromise your Life

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – July 2011

I was extremely lucky to have ‘discovered’ my passion, quite by accident although I like to believe that it was by some sort of design. I couldn’t bear to think of working at a job that I wasn’t passionate about or that I hated. On some level I guess, I do understand that there are some jobs out there that are done by individuals who have no passion for what they do or perhaps have no ambition to do anything else – it really saddens me when I think of them though and it just makes me that much more grateful for being able to work at and in a field that I love and am absolutely passionate about.

Actually it reminds me of my younger brother, who at the age of about four or five, was asked “what do you want to be when you are grown up?” and he replied without hesitation “I am going to be an accountant and I am going to be a millionaire!” All the other little boys were wanting to be train drivers and ambulance drivers and policemen or whatever their perception of a ‘fun job’ was at that time. It was easy to change their minds by talking to them about other adventures like the ones that sailors had or explorers had, but my brothers very serious statement stood and his mind could not be changed. At forty something, his choice has stood the test of time as he is a senior international partner with a well known audit group and he has been with them for around thirty years now and he is a millionaire – so yes, he has achieved the objective that he had as a little five year old boy.

His and my story though are the exception and not the rule as sadly, the reality of life is that often it is easier to find your lover or your life partner than it is to find a job that you truly love. How sad is that?

The ideal time to make the decision about what you want to do, of course, is when you are starting out. Again sadly, the majority of our youth have no cooking clue about what it is that they want to do – the ‘drop out’ rate at universities and colleges evidence the amount of indecision that there is out there and even more end up in dead end jobs doing what they have no passion for and what they hate, just to put food on the table.

The question for me of course is; it this how we compromise our lives? Is it acceptable that we accept second best and we then spend the rest of our lives wondering about “what if . . . ?”

We all try and pay attention to the needs of our loved ones, we try and pay attention to the needs of our bosses and all the other external factors that need attention in our lives, but we very seldom pay attention to our own needs and what we need to fulfill our own dreams and aspirations.

Often we allow others to make decisions about our lives and often these decisions are based on their aspirations or dreams. Sometimes it’s family members who feel the need to live their lost lives vicariously through yours. Here’s the thing though, living your life like this will not bring any fulfillment in their lives or your life for that matter.

The bottom lines is that you have to look out for yourself – you have to what’s best for you in order for you to be able to be there for others or for you to take care of others.

You cannot compromise your life! You have to live your life to the full and become all that you can be in order for you to fulfill your destiny.

I know that I am, but what about you?

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

Friday, July 01, 2011

HR - Religious Discrimination - Part 2


Religious Discrimination – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC - July 2011

As promised here is the story version of what happened at the CCMA. Let’s bring out the protagonists.

Mike owns a very busy little gym in a quiet suburb and he has several body builder type staff working for him as personal trainers. Patrons are not encouraged to work out on their own, but are allocated their own personal trainer(s) to assist them with getting the best out of a workout. Patrons are then encouraged to make use of the gym’s masseurs, who are all properly trained in working with sports injuries.

As part of the branding, all staff are required to wear uniforms – the males are required to be clean shaven, with short hair (for hygiene purposes) and the females are required to wear their hair (specifically long hair) up in a ponytail and away from their faces. When in the indoor heated pool, all staff are required to wear swimming caps, again for hygiene purposes and to minimize the amount of hair fallout.

Mike’s business is expanding with more and more sports patrons coming to his gym to receive expert training and he has had to increase the number of personal trainers and masseurs. Mike’s letter of appointment specifies that the gym is open 7 days a week and the hair and hygiene requirements and he is careful to explain the reasons for the requirements at the interviews to ensure that both male and female staff are aware of the requirements and that they agree to them up front.

Everything goes along splendidly for several weeks and then he notices that several of the male staff are not shaving regularly. Mike calls a staff meeting and reiterates the requirements and instructs all the male staff to come to work ‘clean shaven’ on a daily basis. Mike further states that staff members who do not properly portray the image of the gym and the brand will be sent home to sort out what is required, at their own cost and without pay for the time wasted.

The following day, several of the staff again came to work unshaved and when Mike instructed them to go home and shave, they refused on religious grounds. They explained to Mike that they belonged to the Nazarene religion and that this religion forbade them to shave or even trim their beards. All of them were instructed to attend individual disciplinary hearings and all of them were dismissed.

Of course all of them went off to the CCMA and they claimed that their dismissal was automatically unfair as it was based on their religion.

Mike stood his ground and stated that:-
• Apart from the fact that beards made personal trainers and masseurs look dirty and untidy, all of these employees had been briefed on the requirements of being clean shaven as this was a hygiene requirement as well as part of the branding and therefore image of the company.
• All of the employees had arrived for the interview, clean shaven, they had signed their letters of appointment, thereby contractually agreeing to be clean shaven and
• For the first couple of week’s they had all come to work clean shaven, with no problem at all.
• At no time, until they all refused to shave, had any of them advised Mike that they were of a religion that forbade them being ‘clean shaven’. Clearly Mike was perplexed by this development.

The Court decided in Mike’s favour based on the following facts:
• There were several issues with this particular religion that were forbidden, yet the staff had transgressed on all of them, such as but not limited to: - the employees worked on a Sunday (and had never refused to do so) despite the fact that they were forbidden to do so in terms of their faith.
• The staff had arrived for their interviews clean shaven and had remained that way for several weeks despite the fact that they were forbidden to do so in terms of their faith. These two issues indicated that the church was ‘flexible’ in the application of these rules.
• The staff could not show that they would have to ‘suffer a harsh penance’ for breaching the rule of not shaving.
• It was evident that these employees were selective in their choice of which religious laws and rules they would follow and which they wouldn’t.
• The fact that Mike was very consistent in applying the rules of ‘clean shaven’ male faces etc evidenced that these staff members had not been singled out on the basis of their religion, but rather on their non-adherence to laid down company procedures that had been previously and meticulously followed, by these very same employees.
• Grooming and hygiene was an important and integral factor in the running of a private gym.

Be warned though, just because Mike won this case , doesn’t mean that employers will always win cases based on ‘unfair discrimination’ relating to religion and beliefs – each case should be looked at in terms of it’s own merits and it is advisable to employ the services of a HR/IR (human resources/industrial relations) expert when in doubt.

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