Thursday, July 31, 2014

HR 101 - WHAT TO DO WHEN . . . . You Want to Retrench Staff


WHAT TO DO WHEN . . . . You Want To Retrench Your Staff

By Nikki Viljoen – N Viljoen Consulting CC – June 2009

Did you know that there are certain instances when you actually don’t have to pay severance pay?  How cool is that!

Here’s the deal – Mike is the owner of a retail store in a busy mall and George is one of his sales persons.

The sales in the store have been dropping steadily and Mike is forced to retrench some of his staff – George is one of these individuals.

Mike is very concerned about his staff and their responsibilities and goes out of his way to try and find them alternative employment and manages to secure a position of sales person with one of his colleagues, for George.  This position is a little different to straight retail though and it means that George will be on the road (although still locally) and he will have to work a little harder to ‘make’ the sale.  In a retail environment, a customer usually walks through the door with the intention to purchase something.  In this environment, George is given ‘leads’ and he will have to close the sale.

George is not impressed and refuses to take the position, saying that his job is in a store and it is not his intention to go running around after other people to look for sales.

George is retrenched without a package and goes off to the CCMA.  The CCMA find in favour of Mike due to the following.

Mike did get alternative employment for George and said employment was within George’s scope – it’s not like George was expected to go from being a sales person to being a labourer. 

The position that Mike secured for George was a positive one and one that George, if he put his mind to it, could do very well in.

George refused to take the offer and the reasons that he gave for turning down the job offer were totally unreasonable.

So there you have it, if you are ever in a position where you have to retrench and you don’t really have the money to pay out huge retrenchment packages, then ensure that you find your employees reasonable alternative employment.

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Networking 101 - Are you in love with what you do?



Are you in love with what you do?

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Do you love your work?  Are you passionate about what you do?  Does it show?  Can people see how you feel about what you do?

If you have answered “No” to any of the above – well quite frankly you are in trouble!

I understand that there are some folk out there who have not yet found their passion, and on a personal level, that is one of the saddest things.  What is even sadder is that some people don’t know that they haven’t found their passion.  A quick test for me is to answer the following question – honestly!

If you had to win the lotto – say 50 million rand – once you have had the holiday and bought the dream house and car, what would you do?  For me it’s a ‘no brainer’ – I would continue to do exactly what it is that I do now.  The only difference would be that it would not be financially driven.  In other words it wouldn’t matter if payments were late, because I would obviously be financially stable, so I wouldn’t need to ‘chase’ money the way that I do now.

I am often told that my passion and joy of living is infectious!  Well if I’m going to be ‘infectious’, I would rather it be with my love of life than any other strange lurgy.  Actually I really don’t understand those around me that live in a perpetual state of ‘doom and gloom’.  Seriously, what’s the point?  Walking around with the world on your shoulders, being constantly sad or angry or both.  Sounds like too much hard work to me.

Think about it seriously for one moment – would you rather do business with someone who is obviously in love with life and who has a positive attitude towards life or would you rather do business with someone who is forever predicting a future that has . . . well no future?

I know which one would attract my business!

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BUSINESS TIPS Being Your Own Boss – Part 12


Being Your Own Boss – Part 12

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – June  2009

So here we are almost at the end of this particular journey.

Many of the institutions that you will engage with, will almost definitely ask you for your business plan.

By taking you on this particular journey in the manner that I have however, means that I have taught you how to create your own business action plan. How cool is that and not nearly as difficult as you thought it may be.

Although not quite the same as a business plan, your business action plan evidences the research that you have done, whilst explaining what your business is all about. It also gives you a step by step, logical chain of events that will ensure that you grow yourself a strong and sustainable business.

Now all that is left for you to do is to document everything you have learnt in this series and your business action plan will be ready to go.

Don’t forget to start off by defining exactly what your business is and what the main benefits are to your clients and/or target market.

Make sure that your plan is easy to read and understand by demarcating the various sections and keeping them separate from each other. For example, operational and administrative issues are very different and should be kept apart. Don’t forget to include all the legal/legislative requirements as well as your branding, marketing and sales requirements.

The financial aspects of your business are also extremely important and this should include your pricing module as well as cash flow predictions.

Each step of your business action plan should include the next action step that you intend to take in order for you to achieve your goals.

As your business grows, so too should your business action plan. It should evolve and monitor and even be used as a measurement tool to see what has worked, in order for you to continue to grow your business successfully.

Good luck and remember to always have fun!

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

MOTIVATION – The Smallest Decision – The Biggest Change

MOTIVATION – The Smallest Decision – The Biggest Change

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – March 2010

Kerri Russell says “Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.”

Much has happened in the last week that not only echo these words but also highlights them and I must admit that I sat in front of a blank screen for quite a while, waiting for inspiration to show itself.  Not that I have ever suffered from writers block, you understand, but purely from a place of finding the right words.

We make hundreds and thousands of decisions each day – some of them are conscious and many are not.  Some have little or even no consequence (that we are consciously aware of – but remember every action has a consequence) others carry profound consequences.

Think about if for a moment – how many times have we taken the wrong fork in the road and ended up lost or going in the wrong direction?  How many times have we second guessed ourselves only to find ourselves in a place that we really didn’t want to be or even need to be.  Those are the negatives and as negative as they seem to be, they are a reality and we need to be aware of them and aware of how we deal and engage with them. 

I want to however, deal with the positives.

I have often had the pleasure of a chance encounter with someone, who has then turned out to be ‘exactly what the doctor ordered’.  It is said that the Universe or God (whomever you perceive him to be) sends exactly the people that you need in your life at exactly the right time that you need them and I certainly find this to be true in my life. I have often made a last minute decision to go or be somewhere and then met someone who has had a profound effect upon my life.  I have often, as an afterthought said or done something, that has led to greater things or even a greater understanding of who I am and what my life’s purpose is.

Many of the articles that I write here, under the banner of “Motivation” have been written to challenge you the reader, but believe me most of them have challenged me, many have taunted me until I got it right or made the decision or changed my mindset.  The fact that I am writing at all was because of the ‘smallest decision’ and look at the profound affect it has had on my life.

Each day, as I sit down to write the article, especially the “Motivation” articles, I often find myself excited, nervous and above all eager to find out what it is that I will write – what the words will mean in my life and how I will choose to react to them. I find myself smiling at my recognition of the truth as I read the words that I am writing.  I find myself kicking my own rear end, as I take up the challenge that I have just laid down for you to do and I find myself wanting to know more, to understand more and to be all that I can be.

Who would have thought that Vanessa’s (my mentor and friend) statement that I should be writing would one day turn into this?  Who would have thought that a little decision to write, to commit my thoughts and opinions to paper, would result in international ratings and rankings and recognition.

Who would have thought it  . . . . . certainly not me!

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Blogging 101 - Where else to look for ideas - Part 3 Edit Blog Entry

BLOGGING TIPS – Where Else to look for Ideas – Part 3

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC December 2012

Last time we looked at describing how people use gestures, for inspiration or ideas for articles of interest that pertain to your particular passion.  Today we will have a look at a few more.

Here in South Africa, although I suspect it is the same the world over, there are more than many instances where people don’t get what they deserve.

Let’s turn it around for a change and put a positive spin on things  - we are always very quick to complain when things are wrong, but how often do we give praise or make a big deal out of things that go right?

After getting intense headaches for a while now, I realized that I haven’t had my eyes tested for over 3 years now, so I promptly took myself off to Torga in Cresta (Torga have a great deal going at the moment) and was told that my new glasses would be ready in about 10 days.  Yesterday, after only 3 days I got a call to let me know that the glasses were ready.  What great service this was – great savings on the deal and glasses ready, way before the expected date!  Well done Torga!

Don’t stress it – I am not going all ‘airy fairy’ on you all.  The truth is though, that I do believe that what you give you get in return.  It is a simple philosophy, but one that has worked well for me over the years.  Again, there is always good karma and bad karma and gain, let’s turn it around and focus on the good.

The really great thing about this type of ‘giving’ though is that it doesn’t have to cost you a ‘financial anything’!  It’s about a kind word, or sharing some time with someone in need, or donating blood or even doing a ‘bro-bono’ mentoring session with someone.  Or how about endorsing some else’s blog or website or tweet, with several reasons as to why your readers may want to go there.

This is one of my favorites and let’s be honest here.  With all of Zuma’s and Malema’s antics, not to mention the rest of the crew we have, here in South Africa there is an absolute wealth of material!  Hells Bells, look at what Pieter Dirk Uys or Trevor Noa or even Zapiro have done with some of that material – not only have they built careers and made a lot of money with it, but they have also highlighted certain political and sometimes even very sensitive issues, with humour and they have made us laugh (we South African’s love to laugh at ourselves), whilst all the while also making a difference.  Now how cool is that?

My particular take on this is  . . . .  “so many articles to write and so little time”!

Next time we will have a look at some more ideas to keep those blogs flowing. Until then “Happy Writing” and don’t forget to have fun!

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blogging 101 - Where else to look for ideas - Part 2

BLOGGING TIPS – Where Else to look for Ideas – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC April 2012

Last time we looked at using Celebrities and their causes or keeping a journal for inspiration for ideas for articles of interest that pertain to your particular passion.  Today we will have a look one more.

How about that for a common daily occurrence?  We all use gestures in our daily communication.  Usually we use them in conjunction with our speech, but often gestures are an alternative form of communication – when you can’t find the right words.  More often than not, when you are a visual person like I am, the gesture can make more of an impact that the written or spoken words themselves.

Let me explain.  I mentor several individuals, one of them is quite an artistic person who operates in the entertainment arena.  Let’s call her Susan.

Susan is looking to embark on a journey of her own into the world of business.  She is bright, articulate and open to ideas and absorbs information at a rapid rate.  At the moment, Susan’s greatest challenge is taking all the ideas and discarding what she doesn’t need and ‘parking’ what she does.  Her greatest fear is that she doesn’t have enough time and enough of ‘her’ as a resource to accomplish all that she perceives she needs to get done.

I explained to Susan how to ‘unpack’ things so that they become ‘bite sized’ chunks that can be easily dealt with and we also chatted about the art of delegation and outsourcing.  You see Susan doesn’t have to do anything other than give the project her name and put in an occasional appearance.

As Susan ‘got it’ and realized that she had been focusing on the wrong issues, she lifted her hands to the center of her forehead and made a motion like someone, whose face has been pressed up close to a curtain and who was now opening that curtain, curiously, to peek out into the wild world beyond.  This simple gesture had a profound effect on me and the visual had far more punch than any written or verbal explanation.  You see I had opened her mind to other possibilities.
Think about the gestures that you make to add value to your words and be aware of the gestures of those that you talk to – all could be used as or in the topic of your next blog.

Next time we have a look at some more ideas to keep those blogs flowing.

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BUSINESS TIPS Being Your Own Boss – Part 11


Being Your Own Boss – Part 11

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – June  2009

Putting structure and/or foundation into your business is extremely important.  It allows you to formulize your infrastructure and means that you work in a consistently ordered way rather than in chaos.

Creating ‘process’ and ‘administration’ sheets will clearly reveal the action that needs to be taken on things that need to be done on a day to day basis.  This enables you to create your operations and/or administration manuals.  These are the policies, procedures and templates that you would use to ‘run’ your business effectively and efficiently.

Writing your processes down shows people (and your staff and even yourself) how you will conduct your business.  Here are some of the steps that you can use to develop your own processes.

1.    Name each process, for example – Client’s Quotes.
2.    Make a list of the actions that are needed to complete the process.  Taking the above example – exactly step by step what is done when you receive a request for a client for a quote on your product and/or service.  For each action the name of the person (or the title of the office holder) who is responsible for performing that action, should be recorded.  In the above instance if you have stock in house, George the warehouse manager may have to check to see if there is stock available.  If there is insufficient stock then Jack who is in charge of procurement, may have to order in, or alternatively if it is a service, the availability of the person concerned may need to be taken into account.  The amount of time it takes (or should take) to complete each action should also be stipulated.  This will ensure that productivity can be measured too.
3.    Once all of these are listed you will be able to define the process correctly.
4.    The above steps need to be repeated for each process in your business.

Get your friends, family, colleagues to go through your processes carefully with you, to ensure that you haven’t left any important steps out and don’t forget to update them from time to time to ensure that the information is still relevant and correct.

Make sure that you keep it simple.  The simpler the process and/or procedure, the less the opportunity for employees to commit fraud or forget the steps and the easier it is to remember.

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Motivation - The Strong Man


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Today’s quote appears to have been written anonymously and it says “It takes a strong man to swim against the current; any dead fish will float with it.”

So what does that mean to you - I know what it means to me.  Have a look around you at all the entrepreneurs, at all the small business owners and at all the people who have made a success out of their lives.  They are all the ‘strong man’ in this story.  They have all done, whatever it is that they have done and achieved against many, many odds!

I know from my own experience, that when I decided to go on my own, it was the biggest ‘leap’ of faith that I have ever taken in my entire life.  Looking back in retrospect of course, I wonder about the fear and uncertainty that I experienced.

Of course at the time, it was really difficult and had I given in to my fear, or indeed listened to any of the numerous people that were telling me how stupid I was and the rest that goes with that, I would certainly not be where I am today, and this missive would not be in the process of being written.  Again, looking back, I cannot understand what was so scary – what I do know however, is that I have grown a very thick skin.

Don’t get me wrong, I will listen to any advice that anyone wants to give me, but I make up my own mind, and do what is best for me and for my business, not what other people perceive as being best for me.  I’ve come to realize that other’s people fear of me failing is exactly that – their fear and as such, it’s nothing to do with me and none of my business!  I’ve come to realize that when they tell me not to do things, it is because they lack courage to do what it is that they dream of and on some subconscious level they seem to think that they are ‘saving’ me from myself. 

How presumptuous!  Oh I know that on some level they think that what they are doing is ‘best’ for me – but actually what they are doing is adding to my stress.  Instead of supporting me and finding ways to assist me or to help me realize my dreams, they put every kind of hindrance before me.

Oh and I am not alone either!  Every single person who has gone out on their own, started their own business or even dared to follow their hearts and their dreams, was in exactly the same space that I was in. They have all grabbed the bull by the horns and followed their hearts.  They are all the ‘strong men’ who have swum against the current and who have won the right to live their dreams.  They should all be applauded and their courage recognized.

So the next time you have something to say to someone who wants to start a business or follow a dream – instead of telling them what they can’t do, rather encourage them and tell them what they can do, help them, support them, encourage them and watch how successful they become.

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

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Blogging 101 - Where else to look for ideas - Part 1

BLOGGING TIPS – Where Else to look for Ideas – Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC January 2012

So last week we had a look at just how easy it is to turn everyday experiences into ideas for articles.  Today I am going to give you some more examples of where to look for inspiration.

Using Celebrities & their Causes
We all have our favorite celebrities and many individuals avidly follow what their favorite celebrities are doing and getting up to.  Celebrities also often use their status to highlight their pet projects – pretty much like Angelina Jolie uses her name to advance her projects and her position as a UN Ambassador or Al Gore who highlights Global Warming.

Using my friend Jacques the gardener again, his ideal celebrity to use to promote his business “Grow your own food” to highlight how we can all feed ourselves as well as grow our own little sustainable food businesses, would be someone like Annie Lennox or Cameron Diaz or Leonardo de Caprio, who are all very outspoken about our carbon footprints and issues around hunger and the starving poor – all of which can be addressed in some way by growing our own food.

Sure Jacques would have to do a little research on the exact or specific areas of their passions and commitments, but with his commitment to sustainable and organic food growing, there would be a wealth of information on the issues that they stand for, that he would be equally as passionate about.

I can see the article right now starting with words that go something along the lines of  “Like Annie Lennox who strongly believes that no child should go to bed hungry – neither do I!  Growing your own food  and  . . . .”

Keeping a Journal
Now I know that keeping a journal can be a real pain in the rear end – especially if it is something that you have not done all your life.

Oprah Winfrey often talks about the “gratitude” journal that she keeps and how she writes down at least 3 things every day that she is grateful for.  So what about keeping a journal, either as a full journal about your business day or if that is too much, then say 3 things a day that you learnt, discovered, noticed, experienced etc. about your business?

In the case of my friend Jacques the gardener, this could be a full journal on the gardens that he works in and what works and what doesn’t (and yes all gardens are very different depending on the type of soil or how much sun they get etc.) or the project that he is involved with  and how they are progressing or evolving or it could be on the things that he researched on that day and how they could change whatever it is that he needed to do the research for.

I am sure that you can see that that would open up a huge amount of possibilities and inspire a great number of things to write about.

Next time we have a look at a few more options for inspiration.  Until then don’t forget to have fun with your writing.

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blogging 101 - Where to look for ideas

BLOGGING TIPS – Where to look for Ideas

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC January 2012

I know that I seem to be harping on about this, but every day I encounter people who seem quite keen to start a blog, but who have no idea what to write about.

It is sometimes extremely frustrating for me when this happens because as I talk to them and ascertain exactly what they do and what their passion is, it is abundantly clear that they have a huge amount of knowledge on their subject or specialty and that there is a copious amount of material that they could write about.  Even ‘every day’ things that occur could become a source of inspiration.

Whilst we were on holiday over the Christmas period, my friend Jacques and I were taking photos.  We took photos of everything that moved (and many things that didn’t) and I jokingly said to Jacques “we should start a blog on Things I Saw Today or Things I Did Today!”  The look that he gave me clearly stated that I had lost the plot – again!  I had a good laugh, you see Jacques is a gardener.  He works with many communities, showing them how to grow their own food and then how to turn the surplus into sustainable income and I realized that he was thinking how a photo of a clump of bobbing seaweed (being what we saw that day) could be turned into an article that would have any impact on the work that he does.

So I started to ask the questions (and happily I did know the answers because the tour guide had told us):

q. What does the bobbing seaweed tell us?
a. That there is no perlemoen (abalone) in the area because that is what they feed on – the poachers have harvested everything.
q. So would you harvest the seaweed?
a. Yes I would if I had, or wanted to start a perlemoen farm.
q. So what would the benefits be of starting a perlemoen farm?
a. Well it would replenish the stocks that have been depleted through poaching and it is a healthy organic source of food and if properly managed is extremely sustainable and  . . . .

All of that because of a clump of seaweed bobbing in the ocean – a whole bunch of stuff to write about (not to mention a whole host of opportunities for someone)!

We all have these kinds of experiences during our day – things that we see, encounters with people who we deal with and people who tell us their stories.  Each and every one of them has the propensity to become a blog article that highlights something in our businesses.  We just have to be open to the possibilities.

Personally, I think that the biggest challenge that most people think they have, when they want to write a blog, is the ‘how to write’ it and not the ‘what to write’!  As always my advice here is – write it exactly the way you would if you were telling someone the story, as if you were engaged in a discussion with someone and you were telling them what happened.

So now – who thinks that they don’t have anything to put into a blog?

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

HR 101 - WHAT TO DO WHEN . . . . Your Staff Want To Take Family Responsibility Leave


WHAT TO DO WHEN . . . . Your Staff Want To Take Family Responsibility Leave

By Nikki Viljoen – N Viljoen Consulting CC – June 2009

Welcome back to my protagonists.  Mike owns a small retail store and he has one employee – Jane.  Jane is married and is now pregnant – what is Mike’s responsibility. 

Well here is what the law says in terms of granting Family Responsibility Leave:

1.    The law states that your employee is entitled to have 4 (four) months maternity leave.  Granted you don’t have to pay her while she is on maternity leave, but she is entitled to take four months and furthermore, you will be obliged to take her back after those four months are up.

2.    Should Jane’s now new born child become ill, Jane is entitled to now take 3 (three) days Family Responsibility Leave per annum.  Jane is also entitled to take her own sick leave if her child is ill and should that also run out, she would be able to link her annual leave to this as well, and finally when she runs out of annual leave, Mike will be requested to give her unpaid leave. 

Here’s there thing though, Jane will have to provide documentary evidence to prove that the child is ill.  The normal ‘sick’ leave policy and rules still apply and Mike is entitled to ask for a doctor’s certificate.

3.    During the time that Jane worked for Mike, her father passed away.  Mike is obliged, by law to allow Jane 3 (three) days Family Responsibility Leave (provided that she has not already taken it for a sick baby – the law states 3 days per annum).  Jane will have to produce documentary evidence again, to prove that the person who died, was in fact her father or that they are a member of her immediate family.  The law states that an immediate family member is as follows:
a)    Spouse or life partner;
b)    Parents
c)    Children.

Remember to though – the employee is only entitled to 3 (three) days Family Responsibility leave per annum.  It cannot be accumulated and it cannot be paid out.

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

HR 101 - WHAT TO DO WHEN . . . . You Want to Read Your Employee’s E-mails


WHAT TO DO WHEN . . . . You Want to Read Your Employee’s E-mails

By Nikki Viljoen – N Viljoen Consulting CC – May 2009

It is said that we here in South Africa, have the most progressive and democratic constitution in the world.

One of the issues of the constitution is the right to privacy.  We as South Africans, as individuals have the right to keep our private stuff private.

But what about when your staff do private things during your business working time.  I mean – that’s really not cool!  You employ a staff member to work for you between the hours of x and y and you expect the work to be done, but said employee is playing on Facebook and sending out personal e-mails and even searching the internet for their own personal reasons.

Then of course, you have the staff who may be selling your idea’s or your IP (in terms of the way that you do your business etc.) or even the list of your clients and their contact details.  What then?  Surely if the e-mails are being sent out in your time, using your infrastructure, your bandwidth, your electricity, your computer etc., you have a right to read whatever it is that they are writing and/or sending.

Well the answer is both yes and no.

As the employer, you are not automatically entitled to read all of the e-mails.  On the other hand, if you obtain written permission from the employee to read the mails, then of course you can.

If you have very real grounds that your employee is abusing the use of your e-mail (for example sending out child pornography), then you have grounds to read those mails.

If the mail has been sent in the course of your company’s business (as in a business mail to a colleague or client), then you also may read the mail.

Prevention is always better than cure, therefore getting the permission up front (whether you need it at the time or not), for me is always first prize.  So getting your permission as a clause in your contract of employment is a great way of getting permission before the time.

If you don’t have anything in place though, don’t stress or panic.  Simply give them written notification (and get them to sign that they have received same) of the fact that you will be checking and reading e-mails.

Here’s the thing – you can always read the mails, more often than not they will have no idea that you have read the mail!  The problem is that if you try and discipline them for the contents of that mail, without their written consent, you will find yourself on the wrong side of the law, irrespective of what they have done.

It’s easier and less stressful to be proactive.  Get the proper clauses into your letters of appointment or contracts and get yourself protected.

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Networking 101 - The benefits of networking



The Benefits of Networking

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting

Dr. Renate Volpe, in her nugget cards entitled “Networking Tips” says:

“Benefits of networking include:
•    An enhanced power base
•    Broader access to resources
•    Expanding your sphere of influence
•    Supportive mentorship of peers
•    Successful new business transactions and relationships.”

Let’s have a look at these individually.

An enhanced power base.

Every time you get a referral from someone, or someone new comes to a networking meeting, your own database increases.  As you  increase your data base, so your power base increases and your own personal ‘value add’ increases exponentially.

Broader access to resources.

Now this is a really important one – with the broader access to resources, comes a much bigger value add.  One of my jokes that I tell at some of the networking events is that I pretty much have a contact for most requirements – that includes a brain surgeon!  That has always brought out the chuckles and often nervous giggles.  Last week I actually had to use that contact for a friend who has been in considerable pain for a very long time and who needed a reputable neuro-surgeon.  Imagine for a moment, how she must feel right now?

Expanding your sphere of influence.

Man oh man!  This is such a fabulous concept and so simplistic as well.  Let me give you some more detail – I have a friend and colleague by the name of Mirriam Zwane.  For those of you who don’t know her or of her, she is a multiple winner of the “Woman of the Year” award as well as numerous other accolades that she has picked up along the way.  Mirriam often sends me a mail, or someone will call me and say ‘Mirriam has asked me to contact you”.  I don’t question it, I don’t ask for motives or try and analyse why – I just set up a meeting at the soonest possible opportunity.  You see every time Mirriam sends someone to me, its guaranteed work for me and/or the other individual irrespective of whether it comes from each other or from our databases.  Mirriam for me, is a wonderful sphere of influence.  Go on – google her and see what comes out – she is a woman amongst women!

The powerful thing here is that Mirriam is known for her integrity and her credibility and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that when she asks me to interact with someone, something very exciting is going to come out of that meeting.  So I often sit in the first meeting and say “I have no idea why I am here – Mirriam sent me, so tell me how can I be of help?”

Wouldn’t you like a ‘sphere of influence like mine’ – I am pretty sure that you would!

Supportive mentorship of peers

I often hear people (especially in the SMME environment) say how lonely it is in business.  This is often because they work on their own, and often the only source of interaction is with their clients.  Having a network of people and attending networking sessions allows for interaction with those people.  It is good for the soul – you will find that the problems that you encounter are usually the same problems that they too encounter.  The result of this of course is that you get to ‘brainstorm’ with like minded people and find practical solutions to the issues at hand. 

Suddenly you are not so ‘lonely’ in business, you have a sounding board (well several really) and you have a multitude of expertise and experience available on tap.

Successful new business transactions and relationships

Don’t you just love meeting people?  Don’t you just love talking to people?  Oh about all sorts of things – and as the conversation meanders through business expectations and then through personal transactions and as you get to know that individual more and more, you get to learn more about their dreams, their hopes and their wishes and so in return to share your dreams and hopes and aspirations and they learn more about you as an individual and so a relationship is born.  As that relationship grows, so too does your trust and commitment to that individual and as that grows, so too will the business referrals.  You don’t have to become personally involved with the individual – you can just maintain a professional  relationship and just as a good friendship is grown and maintained on solid honest foundations so too is a good business relationship.  They both feed and nourish the soul.

So when are you off to your next networking event?  Don’t you think you should start going, for your own sake and for the sake of your business?

For more information on Renate, please visit her website at

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Business Tips - Being Your Own Boss - Part 10


Being Your Own Boss – Part 10

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – June  2009

One of the questions that I am asked on a regular basis is “How do I cost myself/product/service”?

To be quite honest, the first time I heard the question I was quite surprised until I understood the ‘why’ of the question that was asked.

You see there are several issues that need to be taken into account when working out your pricing in order to ensure that you are able to cover your overheads, productions, distribution, labour costs and marketing costs.  Don’t forgot though, that you also want to make a profit too and this also needs to be factored into your calculations.

Your goals and how much you want to make also has a huge impact on the pricing strategy, so that is something else that you need to be really clear about.

As usual, research needs to be done.  You need to check out consumer demands which will also affect the end pricing.

Also, have a look at your competition.  What they are selling their product/services for.  Don’t go too low because people may think that your product and/or service is inferior and don’t go too high or you will price yourself right out of the market.  Rather make yourself competitive and make your service the deciding factor.

For many though, at first you will probably be guessing at what your costs will be – don’t let this deter you, but do try and be as realistic as possible.

As your business grows and stabilizes you will be able to ascertain what your exact or real costs are and will then be able to adjust your pricing accordingly.

Take care with your margins though as getting that particular formula wrong could have long lasting effects on your business.

Find the correct formula, document it and stick with it and you will be on the right road to success.

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

Monday, July 14, 2014

Motivation - The opportunity to begin again

MOTIVATION –  The Opportunity To Begin Again

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – May 2010

Henry Ford says “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.”

What an incredible opportunity to change our mindsets!  What an incredible opportunity to look at the world through different eyes.  What an incredible opportunity to make a choice, to stop beating ourselves up, to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, learn the lesson and move on with renewed energy, a lot of insight and a smile of optimism on our faces.  I surely do like it!

Most of us look at failure in a really negative light.  In this country, we are so programmed to be successful that failure of any kind has a really bad stigma attached to it.  People look at someone who has failed as though they have some sort of contagious disease and who should be avoided at all costs.

Yet the fact of the matter is that we all fail on a daily basis.  The reality is that are not born perfect and that we have to learn.  The challenge here though, is that we need to learn from our mistakes and not repeat the same mistake over and over again.

Then of course is the myth that many people have, that ‘opportunities’ never come their way!  What a load of hooey! Yes of course opportunities can come your way (or not) but the other reality is that you can make your own opportunity.  Our thoughts can become our realities if we put in the right ingredients and that of course is the ‘action’.  Even those opportunities that fall out of the sky like manna from heaven, still need to be actioned.  Without action they remain . . .  well opportunities.

I am often amazed at the reaction of individuals who sit around and bemoan their fate, nothing works for them, everybody hates them, none of their ideas or their schemes take off, Networking doesn’t work for them and they wait for something to happen, something to rescue them and nothing does!  Well, quite frankly – what on earth did they expect?  The miracle that is, is life (and even that required an action), for everything else we have to get up off our rear ends and do something about it!

Simple, isn’t it?  So when you fail and fall down – stop crying and moaning and waiting for an angel to come and rescue you.  Think about what you have done that got you there in the first place, make adjustments to what caused the problem, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get going – find the opportunity and then do something (albeit different) about it.

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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

BLOGGING 101 - Write when you do have ideas

BLOGGING TIPS – Write When You do have Ideas

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC December 2011

I’m sure that by now, most of you understand that I do love to write.  Actually, if the truth be told – if I don’t write every single day, I feel as though something is missing in my life.  You know what I mean – that feeling that you have forgotten to do something, but you can’t think of what that ‘something’ is.

The fact of the matter though is that despite the huge amount of material and ideas that I have for articles and stories – sometimes I am just not in the mood to write.  Sometimes, although the idea for the article is scrumptious and delicious and absolutely perfect – I’m not, and the words just won’t flow and as I once was so inspired, so uninspired I am right now. That’s usually when I fling my arms heavenward and declare “Someone has messed with my mojo!”

When I am in this frame of mind – well there’s actually no point in actually even trying to write!  I know because I have tried before – many times and all that happens is I’ve written a load of absolute drivel, messed up a perfectly good idea, then irritated and annoyed myself beyond reason.

Conversely, there are times when I can’t seem to stop writing – when ideas flow like running water and it feels like the pen won’t keep up with my thoughts or my fingers won’t move quickly enough over the key board.  When this happens, I can produce an article every 15 to 20 minutes and I have been known to write far into the night, often forgetting to eat or drink or even go to the bathroom.

I really do love it when I am in this space because this is the time when I write articles in advance.  The articles for my column in the “Your Business Magazine” ( may be written for the entire year, in one sitting.  Speeches for Toastmasters, or functions where I am the guest speaker or on occasions even new workshops that I have been asked to facilitate, are written during these times and are therefore ready long before they are actually needed.

There’s nothing quite like getting to a deadline knowing that the article has been written and that there is no need for panic or haste – especially when it is one of those times when I really don’t feel like writing about anything!

So use your time of inspiration to write to your heart’s content and put the ‘writings’ into your own pantry to be used as and when you are uninspired or just not in the mood. This way you can continue to love what you do instead of becoming irritated and resentful when you are forced to do something that you really don’t feel like doing.

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

HR 101 - What to do when . . . Staff make a costly mess


WHAT TO DO WHEN . . . . Staff Make A Costly Mess

By Nikki Viljoen – N Viljoen Consulting CC – May 2009

Many of us have had costly machinery or equipment and even property, damaged by staff.  Apart from a sharp increase in our blood pressure and our stress levels, is there anything else that we can do?

So let’s have a look at our usual protagonists.  Mike owns a furniture shop and he has several delivery vehicles.  George is the driver of one of the delivery vehicles.

George and his vehicle were stopped in a roadblock and Mike received a long list of things that were wrong with the vehicle.  Things like both indicators and brake lights not working, faulty brakes, no spare wheel, badly cracked windscreen and several other issues totaling thousands of rands.

Mike, understandable is absolutely furious, I mean – who wouldn’t be?  But is there anything that Mike can do about it?

Well let’s have a look.  Firstly – are there any procedures in place?  Has George signed for and accepted the responsibility for his vehicle?  Are the vehicles booked in regularly for service?  Is there a daily checklist in place to ensure that the vehicle is fit to be on the roads?

If procedures are in place and George has not followed them, then clearly he is at fault and there is a consequence.

If however, no procedures are in place to ensure the wellbeing and maintenance of the vehicles – then in my opinion, Mike must share the responsibility and accountability.

So what can Mike do about this?  Well in this case – Mike has policies and procedures in place.  All the drivers sign a document when they take delivery of the vehicle, stating that ‘where failure to adhere to laid down procedures results in damage to the vehicle the driver will be held responsible for the cost of the damage and said costs will be deducted from his salary”.  George has signed the document agreeing to this.
Mike checks George’s documentation and is both shocked and horrified at what he discovers.  George has signed off on documentation indicating that the vehicle has been serviced regularly – the reality is that has missed five service dates.  George’s daily documentation indicates that the brake and indicator lights were checked and found to be in good working order.  Tires were checked and found to be in good order.  In fact the paperwork evidences that George’s vehicle is in tip top condition.  The sad reality however paints an entirely different picture altogether.  The bodywork is badly scratched and dented in several places, the  vehicle needs new tyres and most of the tools and equipment that is standard issue on the vehicles, are missing.

Clearly George has been dishonest in his paperwork and he is now responsible.

What does the law say?

Well, since the damage to the vehicle was caused by George and the loss of the tools and equipment on the vehicle was George’s responsibility – George becomes financially liable for these.

Mike will have to follow the usual disciplinary procedures and George must be allowed to show why the deductions should not be made.

That said, George has signed in agreement to owning the responsibility and Mike can make deductions from his salary as long as:
•    the total deductions from George’s salary cannot exceed the amount of the loss or damage.  In other words you cannot charge him more than it cost you.
•    The total deductions from George’s salary cannot exceed one quarter of his monthly remuneration.

Here’s the thing though – if George decided to leave Mike’s company before the debt is fully paid, Mike would have to institute legal proceedings against George.

So the answer obviously is – yes you can claim monies back from employees who damage your machinery, equipment and property.

It’s easier to claim such damages if you have proper procedures and policies in place.

Remember though that you have to have the employee’s permission to deduct money from their salaries and you cannot deduct more than 25% of their monthly salaries.

The time has come to make people responsible for their own actions.

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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

HR 101 - What to do when . . . You're not sure if a medical certificate is required

HR 101 - WHAT TO DO WHEN . . . . You’re Not Sure If A Medical Certificate Is Required.

By Nikki Viljoen – N Viljoen Consulting CC – Mal 2009

First of all the BCEA (Basic Conditions of Employment Act) says that you are not obliged to pay a staff member if they are absent from work for more that two consecutive days or more than two (single) days during an eight week period, if they do not, will not or cannot produce a medical certificate.

The medical certificated must state that the staff member was not able to work for the dates and the duration that the employee was absent from work because of ‘sickness’ and/or injury.

Should the employee be off ill for an isolated day, they are not required to produce a medical certificate provided that it is not more than one day in every eight weeks.

It is a good idea to lay down the rules governing sick leave, in your letter or contract of employment.  ‘Spell it out’ in easy to understand language.  Let them know what the requirements are and what they can do and what they cannot do.

For example, “Medical Certificates are required if an employee is ill or injured for two consecutive days or on a Friday (or Saturday) and/or on a Monday and/or on the day before or after a public holiday.”

“Medical Certificates are also required if more than one single day is taken during every 8 (eight) week period.”

“Failure to produce and/or submit a Medical Certificate from a registered medical practioner may result in the employee taking unpaid leave.”

This tells the employee, very clearly what the boundaries are and what the consequences are, should that boundary be crossed.  It removes the emotion out of the situation, is clear on its intent and removes all confusion.

Remember to keep it as simple and as clear as possible.

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

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Networking 101 - Never abuse your Network



Never abuse your network.

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting

Dr. Renate Volpe, in her nugget cards entitled “Networking Tips” says:

“Never abuse your network.  Be respectful and request permission where indicated.”

You have no idea just how important this is, if you want to stay in the networking game.  Let me be a little more specific.  The world is no longer a huge place.  Each time new technology is written/developed/invented or however you would like to put it – the world shrinks a little more.  In the old days a journey by ship took years, then we got aeroplanes and it took, at worst days or hours – now we can travel the world in seconds.  Today I spoke to my Russian friend in Greece, my friend in Arizona in the States and my brother in Australia on SKYPE and because we all have camera’s we can all see one another as we talk, thousands and thousands of miles between us and yet we talk and we can see one another as if we are sitting next to each other – the world has become a very small place.

The world of the SMME has also become really small too, especially if you confine it to the country that you happen to be living and networking in – this means, and listen very, very carefully now – this means that if you abuse your network - within seconds many, many people will know about it and as much as referrals are your best form of obtaining business, they can also become your worst nightmare.  The grapevine works in both directions and believe me when I tell you, that once your name is mud on that grapevine, you will be shut down faster than you can blink.

Here’s an example of what not to do:  During the early part of last year, I met a fellow (lets call him George)  at a networking event.  Subsequent to that meeting, we had a one on one and I gave him a long list of referrals.  People who would not only be interested in his product, but also people who were ‘connected’ who could also send him to other people who would be interested in his product. 

Now those of you who know me, know that I don’t just give out a bunch of names and contact details – I send an e-mail to the person that I am referring you to and to the person who has been referred.  I introduce the two on the mail and give a brief outline of what each one does.  It is obviously time consuming, but it turns into a warm call and a referral and each party knows what to expect.

About four months later, I met George at another networking event and we ended up after the event having a drink together and again I gave him some more contacts (remember I had had six months to grow my data base and my circle of influence).  Again I took the trouble to e-mail both parties and introduce them to each other.

About six months after that – I bumped into George at yet another networking event.  At this one he was bemoaning the fact that he was not getting much work out of the networking events that he was going to.  Perplexed (remember I had given him a huge bunch of referrals – people who would have had great value out of the product that he was selling), I asked him, which of my contacts had not ‘come to the party’?  At this point, I  was on the brink of phoning my contacts to ask them what the problem was as I was that sure that his product would assist them greatly.

He smiled very sweetly and said “Actually Nikki, I haven’t contacted any of them and actually it’s been such a long time since you sent the mails to me, could you send them again?” I’m sure you can just picture me standing there with my jaw hanging open!

Needless to say he never got those e-mails re-sent and in fact he will never get another one from me either!  Apart from the fact that I very nearly sent him an invoice for 6 hours of work in which I wasted my time and the time of my contacts, who read the mails and then sat waiting to be contacted, this man will never, ever get any kind of referral from me!  To make it even worse, I will tell everyone that I come across, not to give him referrals because he does absolutely nothing with them!

How rude!  How disrespectful!

Remember, each time you get a referral – you will be getting work based on someone else’s credibility.  If you mess with that person’s credibility – you also mess with yours!

Treat referrals as the “golden nuggets” that they are, or you may find yourself “nuggetless” and with no new “nuggets” in sight.

For more information on Renate, please visit her website at 

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

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Business Tips - Being your own boss - Part 9


Being Your Own Boss – Part 9

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – May  2009

Most people think that marketing is about getting people to buy something that they don’t necessarily need or even want, by persuading them that they do actually need the item.  This is not correct.

Marketing is actually about telling the right people (in other words your target market) how your particular product and/or service will be of benefit to them in either their business or personal lives.

Here are some of the things you need to look at to create a marketing plan that will work for you.

1.    Who is your customer? 
What is unique about your product and/or your service – who are the people who are most likely to benefit from what you have to offer and why? Make a list of all these groups of people.

2.    Create a list of ideas.
Invite all of your friends, family, colleagues to a brainstorming session to find different ways for you to reach your customers.  This is known as ‘octopus marketing’ as different people will have different ideas and all of these ideas could reach out into all the different directions, but still all be a part of the same marketing plan.

3.    The Best Idea
Take the best idea out of the whole lot – your favorite one, the one that you would love to do.  Usually if you pick the idea that appeals to you the most, chances are you will actually do it.

4.    Test.
Always test the water, so test your idea and if it works, test it again and if it works again – well then you have a winning formula.  If your first idea doesn’t work however, don’t fret and panic – choose one of the other ideas and test that.  Sooner or later you will find an idea that actually does work.  The experts say that we should try at least three different marketing plans every month.

Remember to always have fun.  If you don’t have fun with what you are doing, chances are that you are in the wrong business.

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

Monday, July 07, 2014

Motivation - Forgiving Friends


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

It is said that, no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while and we must forgive them for that.

Oh yes, I understand this on the most basic of levels and depending on the level of the hurt that is caused the forgiveness is easy.  Well for me it is.

My problem and this is something that I obviously have to work on until I get it right, or as right as I will ever get it, is the management of the memory of that hurt.

I am not talking about the minor cuts and bruises that we get from any relationship and probably mostly a friendship, I am talking about the major league stuff.

It’s the hurts that are ‘deal breakers’ or the hurts that cause physical pain to the soul, that I am talking about.  It’s the hurt that changes, on a fundamental level, how you look at that person that you have called friend, and you make a decision about whether you still want that person in your life or not.

Forgiving someone for something is not an issue at all with me.  I guess because of the pain that I went through as a child when my parents were murdered.  I understand and have done so for a very long time, that in order for me to grow as a person I need to let go of the many issues that I have in life, and then move forward.  I have understood that I had to forgive in order for me to heal and for me to move on.  Harboring that intense kind of unforgiveness in my heart and in my soul becomes destructive to my own life.  I got that and I forgave!

My problem is the memory of that pain.  Let me try and explain it another way.  There is a saying  that goes something like “Forgive and forget”.  I think that means that when we forgive we should also forget the transgression.  Therein lies my difficulty.  Forgiving is not the problem, forgetting is the challenge.

Let’s take for example a couple – one of them is unfaithful to the other.  The hurt party may forgive and even try to forget and not bring it up again.  However should the transgressor come home late, or plead extra time at work, or go out with the boys/girls or spend any time away from home, sans partner – the hurt party will always be wandering what the deal is, because somewhere in the back of their minds is the fact that they were hurt once before, by this person.

Well that is the way it is with me, with friends.  You see they are the very people with whom I have been the most vulnerable.  It is my friends who I have shared my biggest secrets with.  My fears, my weaknesses, my hopes, my dreams, my expectations.  It is my friends who I have bared my very soul to and when they do something, especially deliberately, to hurt me – how do I forget that?

When I am hurt in such a manner, by someone I call friend – I usually forgive and then walk away from the friendship or the relationship, so as not to let that person have another opportunity to hurt me.  I wish them no ill – in fact I wish them the very best of luck and happiness in the future as long as they have that future as far away from me as possible!

Is this the right way to handle this – quite honestly, I don’t know.  What I do know however is that there are many people who travel with us on this journey that we call life.  Some will be with us from beginning to end, some will only travel a part of the way with us, many will never even meet us.

For me, the trick is to understand who is a ‘lifer’ and who is there but for a fleeting moment.  Once I have established that, I need to ‘let go’ to walk away in the understanding that my journey with that particular person has come to an end, for whatever reason.

When I walk away, I need to do that with peace in my heart and a smile on my face.  I need to celebrate the good times and learn from the bad and then discard them – there is no place for painful memories in my heart and in my soul.

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

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Blogging 101 - Stealing content and ideas

BLOGGING TIPS – Stealing Content & Ideas

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC September 2011

I was asked the other day whether I had ever ‘stolen ideas and/or content”? To be quite honest I was gob smacked!  Now I can see you all shaking your heads and wondering if I have lost all of my marbles!

Here’s the thing, more often than not, (probably around 99.9999% of the time), something that I have heard or something that I have seen or something that I have read about, has sparked an idea for an article, in my mind.

Logic must tell you that it would be impossible for me to actually experience every single thing that I write about.  Of course that does not mean that I cannot write about the lesson that needs to be learnt or in fact learn the lesson from someone else myself.

Look, let’s be honest here – I am not saying that you should plagiarize anyone’s work or not give an author credit for something that they have written.  That for me goes without saying.  Words that you use that were written by someone else should be correctly credited.  That’s not only a legal issue, but for me it is also a moral one.

What I am saying though, is that words, or pictures often spark another idea or are often the basis of another idea that will usually end up as an article.  Pretty much like the question that was asked that has now become this article.

This is often one way that allows ideas to be shown in perhaps a different context or from another viewpoint.

The fact of the matter is that I have several websites that I visit on a daily basis and several newsletters that I get on one feed or another and I also subscribe to several magazines and am constantly reading books that pertain to business or biographies and even non-fiction.  The fact of the matter is that all of this reading makes something ‘click’ and somewhere, something has made me think and that thought has resulted in an article being written.

So whilst I don’t condone or promote ‘theft’ of someone else’s work  or that an article that someone else wrote be attributed to yourself, I do feel that we all get ideas from somewhere and even when we do ‘research’ we are still using other people’s work to validate what we are doing.

Think about it for a minute – and then go and write your own article!

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

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Blogging 101 - 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 do 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 e-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

Friday, July 04, 2014

HR 101 - What to do when . . . Your staff member is pregnant


WHAT TO DO WHEN . . . . Your Staff Member is Pregnant

By Nikki Viljoen – N Viljoen Consulting CC – April 2009

First of all, for the record – you cannot dismiss an employee because they are pregnant. Dismissing an employee on the grounds that she is pregnant is viewed as “automatically unfair” and it comes at a cost.

Second of all, for the record – the full period of maternity leave is 4 months (unless otherwise agreed in writing for a longer period).  If you shorten this period, even by mutual written consent, you could find yourself in the deep smelly brown stuff.

Thirdly, the employee’s right to ‘time off’ for the pregnancy does not end there – let me explain.  Let’s return to our protagonists.  Mike the owner of the retail outlet and Jane the cashier.

Jane is pregnant and she is due to give birth in November and as we all know, December is a really busy time in the retail environment.  By mutual agreement (Jane does not want to lose out on her Christmas commissions), they agree that she will only take one month off, as pregnancy leave, instead of the laid down 4 months.  Jane signs off on this giving her consent.

In November Jane goes on leave a week before the due date and then Jane gives birth and becomes a proud mother to a healthy set of twin boys.  So far, so good.   Well the twins start off healthy, but soon they both develop colic and Jane understands that there is no way that she can go back to work as soon as she had planned, she needs to take care of the boys.

Jane contacts Mike, explains the situation to him and requests an additional one month maternity leave.  Mike is furious – he has not put any kind of contingency plan into place as Jane assured him that she would be back after a month and it is too late to get someone else in to help as the store is already as busy as can be and he cannot ‘spare’ anyone to train someone new.  Mike tries to be reasonable and tells Jane that she can have an additional two weeks leave.  Jane refuses to accept this new arrangement and just doesn’t go back after the additional two week period is up.  Mike dismisses her in Abstentia.

Jane takes Mike to the CCMA for unfair dismissal, stating that she had been dismissed for a reason that was directly related to pregnancy.  Mike says that that is nonsense as the wording in the Labour Relations Act (LRA), sections 187(1)(e) “for a reason related to pregnancy” means that if a mother has any sort of complications as a result of the birth and that this does not extend to any illnesses experienced by the baby.  Mike also says that Jane was not dismissed because of her pregnancy or because the babies were ill, but because she was absent from work without leave.

Well the CCMA saw things a little differently.  Just as the price of democracy is very high, so too is the price of equality.   The CCMA’s take on this was “Difficulties experienced by employers in keeping a woman’s job open while she is on maternity leave is the price that must be paid for recognizing the equal status of women in the workplace.  The law protects women, not only while pregnant, but also while they are attending to the consequences of pregnancies.”

How’s that for a smack of reality?

Mike then pointed out that Jane had signed an agreement stating that she would only take one month’s maternity leave.

Well that didn’t work very well either – you see the BCEA (Basic Conditions of Employment Act) says that the employees are entitled to 4 months maternity leave.  So the agreement that Mike had with Jane for the 1 month maternity leave is in fact unlawful, so it cannot be enforced as it contravened the BCEA.

In this instance, if Jane had been given her full four months maternity leave, this situation would not have arisen.  The consequences of Mike’s action was very expensive – he had to pay out 20 months remuneration and also pick up the costs of both his attorney and Jane’s attorney to.

The bottom line is this – the BCEA are not just guidelines, it is the law – so if it stipulates something, that something means that it is the minimum that you can do – in this case the minimum amount of maternity leave that can be given is 4 months.  Anything less than that could find you in hot water – anything more than that can be negotiated and agreed to.  Remember though, if you give one employee 6 months maternity leave, you have to give all the others the same amount.

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

Thursday, July 03, 2014

HR 101 - What to do when . . . Manager's abuse their staff


WHAT TO DO WHEN . . . . Managers Abuse Their Staff

By Nikki Viljoen – N Viljoen Consulting CC – April 2009

Sexual harassment is not the only ‘harassment’ that occurs in the workplace.  There are many bosses out there who are nothing more than bullies or predators and who use the power of their positions to manipulate and intimidate staff, in order to feed their own inadequacies or fantasies.

For those who do that, and you know who you are – be warned, you can and will, more often that not, pay dearly for your transgressions.  If and when an employee resigns because of the behaviour of the employer/manager/supervisor, there is a consequence.  The term for this type of resignation is called ‘Constructive Dismissal’ and believe me when I tell you that this is viewed in a very serious light by the CCMA.

Constructive dismissal is built around the fact that (as it is phrased in UK laws) “An employer must not, without reasonable or proper cause, conduct himself in a manner calculated or likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence between the employer and the employee”.

Managers/supervisors/employer’s who consistently harass staff on a psychological and/or emotional level may push their staff into resigning and this could result in the CCMA getting involved.

Here are some tips on how to avoid the perception of harassment.

-    If the employer has a problem with a staff member’s performance, clearly it is in the best interests of the business for the issue of lack of and/or poor performance to be resolved. When criticizing a staff member’s performance it is a good idea, not only to tell them what they are doing wrong, but also give them suggestions, and if necessary the tools with which to improve themselves. Ultimately this will benefit the business too.
-    Be consistent and make sure that you follow the precedents that have already been set.  Be sure to treat all the staff in the same manner.  If you discipline one staff member for an infraction, any other staff member that has a similar and/or the same infraction against them, must face the same disciplinary action and the same result.  Run a ‘tight ship’ by all means, but make sure that you are always fair.
-    The level of performance that you expect from one employee, must be the same level of performance that you expect from all of your staff.
-    Never humiliate staff members, especially in front of other staff members.  Treat your staff with dignity and respect.  Be sensitive to their culture and religion.  You can get your point across without having to resort to disparaging remarks.
-    Managers/supervisors/employers need to understand that psychological and/or emotional harassment of staff is not acceptable and that training managers/supervisors/employers in the correct manner of dealing with staff is an investment in the business.

Handling staff correctly will result in greater productivity, which will result in greater profitability.

A happy workforce with a healthy relationship between management and staff usually results in a successful business.

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

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Networking 101 - Often Less is more



Often less is more

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting

Dr. Renate Volpe, in her nugget cards entitled “Networking Tips” says:

“Often less is more.  Don’t overload people with information.  Keep it simple!”

Aah!  This is absolute music to my ears! I seem to run around like a mad person telling people to keep things simple - simple procedures, simple English, simple, simple, simple!

In days gone by when I still worked in the Corporate world, I remember everyone in absolute hysterics with me, when during a senior management meeting, in absolute frustration I blurted out “We should have a sign made that says, “Our new mission statement is ‘Why simplify things when we can make them as difficult as we please!’ ”

I mean think about it for a moment – we wouldn’t travel from Johannesburg to Durban, via Cape Town – now would we?  (Well I suppose some bright sparks would!) Yet somehow we persist in doing things the hard way, making it difficult for ourselves.

I am sure we have all heard the words “It can’t be that simple – can it?”  Well actually people – it is and it can be. 

So make notes for your ‘elevator speech’ and again for a bit of a longer introduction.  Make sure that your information is clear, that the sentences flow into each other and that they actually make sense.  Keep it as short as possible – the longer discussions should take place on a ‘one on one’ basis.  Make sure that the message you are trying to get across is understandable.  Remember you know (we hope that you should know) intimately what you do and you carry that picture in your head.  What you are trying to do is put that picture into as few words as possible and hoping that as you say those words, the picture that you have in your head will magically appear in the heads of the people around you.  Be clear and careful about this, there are a few people who I have seen and heard at networking meetings over the last ten years, and I still have no idea about what it is that they do – their messages are really very complicated and unclear!

Now here lies the challenge – how do I refer someone, when I am absolutely confused about what it is that they do!

So here it is:
Be clear
Be concise
Keep it short
Keep it simple.

Happy networking!

For more information on Renate, please visit her website at

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