Sunday, November 30, 2014

Motivation - Living your life with Passion

MOTIVATION – Living Your Life With Passion

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC- May 2009

Several years ago, I undertook to interview a whole bunch of employees to ensure that they were in fact working the correct positions.  You see, over the years, things had become discombobulated and people were given work to do just so that they could put food on the table and often others were moved into other positions to accommodate them.  I am sure that you can understand that this caused quite a problem.  So in an effort to put the right staff in the right positions – I had to interview them and then compare what they were doing to what they were capable of doing or were trained to do to what they wanted to do.

Why am I telling you this?  Well you see one of the questions that I asked was “What are you passionate about?”

The scary thing about asking this question is that many people answered with an “I don’t know!”  It broke my heart and made me really sad to think that there are so many people out there who have no passion, who work at jobs that they do not enjoy and that are quite meaningless to them, except to put food on the table and allow them to ‘exist’ in life.  How sad is that?

So ask yourself these questions and then answer them honestly:-
1.    Do you know what your passion is?
2.    If you did not have to work for a living what would you like to do and why?
3.    If you just won R10 000 000, what would you do once you had bought the house and the car and done the holiday and why?

Most people just generally want to be healthy, or wealthy or just plain happy or another favorite is to ‘spend time with my family’ or even ‘travel the world’.

That’s all very well and good, but there is more to life and quite honestly, there is just so much time you can spend with the family and just so much time you can spend living out of a suitcase and traveling the world before you will feel the need or the desire to do something else.  What is that something else?  What is that need or that desire?

Once you can answer that question you will have the answer to what your ‘life’s purpose’ is and when you know that - your passion will surface.

Be warned though, it will not just surface – it will erupt from the core of your very being, it will be uncontrollable and it will fill your mind every waking hour.  Once you have found it, nothing will take its place.  Suddenly, what you want to do with your life will become very clear and how you get to it or achieve it will engulf you.  It is one of the most enriching and fulfilling feelings that you will ever experience.

So don’t tarry!  Find your passion and start living your life to the fullest.  Achieve your potential and reach your goals.  Life will never be the same again!

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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Motivation - Life's Attitude to Us

MOTIVATION –  Life’s Attitude to Us

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – July 2010

John N. Mitchell says “Our attitude towards life determines life’s attitude towards us.”

Since I truly believe that I usually write about the things that I most need to hear myself, clearly this one is a good swift kick up my own rear end!

You see lately I have been a bit down in the dumps.  I work hard - really, really hard and lately things just haven’t been coming together as they should.

Deep down inside, in that part of you that knows the truth, I know that I am on the right road to fulfilling my life’s purpose, I know that I am doing what I am meant to be doing and believe me when I tell you that I really do love what I do and I know, that I do make a  difference in the lives of many.

All that understanding and acceptance means nothing though, when I look at my accounts receivable and then look at my empty bank account.  It really is way out of balance and I suppose it reflects the same sort of situation that many other people find themselves in.  What it also highlights for me, is the unscrupulous behaviour of some individuals who want service/product/assistance, but who know that they cannot pay for it.  People who don’t care about the damage that they may be afflicting on others as long as they get what it is that they want!

For the first time since I started my business in 2003, I have had to ‘hand over’ accounts – not only to the debt collectors but to the attorney’s who have issued summons.  Two individuals have had summons’s served to them, a third is about to be handed over and there are two more in the queue behind them.  Even more sad, is that these are not small amounts, each one on their own could be considered an entire month’s earnings.  Not an easy decision for me to make but certainly one that has had to be made.

Yes indeed, down in the dumps is how I was feeling!

Every lead and every avenue I tried seemed to bring me to a dead end or a brick wall and I was getting to the point where I was beginning to wonder “What’s it all for?  All this struggle.”  I mean it really isn’t supposed to be like this!

Last week something happened though – through Networking I met a chap almost a year ago (let’s call him George) and he sent me an e-mail asking for some assistance in getting his policies and procedures in place.  I met with him and last week and as we were going through what his needs and requirements were he said something that knocked the socks off me.

He told me that since he met me all those months ago, he has read my blogs on a regular basis.  Maybe not every day, but certainly on a regular basis and that he learnt a great deal from them – things that have assisted him in the day to day running of his business and that is why, now that he is ready to take the next step forward and get his infrastructure up and running smoothly, he knew that I was the person to assist him.

George went on to tell me that “although you may not be aware of it, you help countless people across the country with your tips and your blogs.”

I sat there quietly, absorbing the words and their meaning and having a huge Oprah “Ah-Ha” moment.

You see, my intent has always been clear – I know what I have to do and I know what path I need to take and yes, sometimes I get distracted and I wonder off the path.  Sometimes the timing is all wrong, because the earth is governed by time in seconds through to years, decades and centuries, as we know it – but the universe is timeless and it is not governed by time as we know and often I (being currently earthbound) am out of sync with the universe and this can cause me great distress.

The fact of the matter is however, that no matter how down in the dumps I was, no matter how I questioned and pondered and worried and stressed – I did just keep going – my attitude was in sync with my intent.

Suddenly though, I am no longer down in the dumps as George’s words were the affirmation that I needed to hear,  my mind shifted, my attitude became more positive and suddenly the world of possibilities , opportunities and probabilities opened up again – as they should.

Since that meeting – I have entered into 3 more joint ventures and signed up 3 more clients, including George.

My actions – in me continuing going forward and just putting one  foot in front of the other, despite my fears and doubts, brought about the meeting with someone who’s words of affirmation changed my attitude.  That change of attitude brought the work back flooding into my space.

So the message today is that even when things appear to be really bleak, don’t give up – keeping on going – try to remain positive, your attitude will reflect in what, how and when things come about for you.

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

Friday, November 28, 2014

HR 101 - Maintain Control of you Staff - Part 1


Maintain Control of your Staff

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC March 2010

One of the biggest mistakes that small business owners make when they employ staff is to make them part of their extended families.  Do that and you have lost control from the get go.

Maintaining control of your staff is critical to ensuring that everyone works well together, in the same direction and working towards a common goal.  Most importantly, it will ensure that everyone is working to maintain the highest quality of service and/or quality control.

It stands to reason then that a ‘close eye’ needs to be kept on the staff to ensure that they meet their quota’s and that they maintain a high standard of quality work ethic.

Often consistent and poor conduct or lack of compliance to laid down procedures is a direct reflection of poor management.  Usually it means that management lack the relevant skill or that they are unwilling to manage or control staff effectively.

This will often result in issues such as (but not limited to):

•    Staff spending hours talking to friends on the phone (irrespective of whether they use the office phone or their personal cellular phones).  Time spent in frivolous chatter is actually ‘theft’ of Company time.  It cuts into that particular staff members’ productivity time and if there are other employees in the vicinity, it disrupts them as well.  In essence it costs the company in time, productivity and in all probability – quality.
•    Quality of work.  Most often, the first thing that goes when the staff are not effectively managed is the quality of their work.  It’s pretty much a case of ‘well if no-body is taking any notice of what I am doing, I don’t need to take care of what I am doing.”
•    Another issue that constantly arises when the staff are not managed correctly and efficiently is another ‘theft’ of time.  It’s when the employees perform their personal and private chores during office hours.  I recently came across a situation where a client’s employee was fixing printers on the side.  The client’s printer broke down and despite the fact that one of the employees duties was to maintain the electronic equipment and despite the fact that he repaired the printer during office hours, this employee actually presented his employer with an invoice for repairing the printer – quite a cheek I am sure you would agree.

Next week we will have a look at some more examples of what employees get up to when they are not effectively managed.

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

HR 101 - To Steal or Not to Steal


To Steal or Not To Steal

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC March 2010

When you catch an employee stealing, your initial ‘knee jerk’ reaction is one of ‘get them out of my sight and out of my company (preferably before I do them grievous bodily harm).’  Step away from the employee – no, seriously – step away from the situation it is full of emotion and that emotion will induce you to do something that you will regret.

Gone are the days when you could just dismiss an employee for stealing.  Gone are the days when you could just tell an employee to pack up and go – the rules are in place and if you don’t follow them, you will be the one paying the consequences for their misguided youth.

Here’s the deal:

Theft is considered a ‘misconduct’.  The Code of Good Practice states “Dismissal imposed several requirements on an employer who is considering dismissing an employee for misconduct.”

“Three of these requirements are:
1.    The employer should first consider factors such as the employee’s length of service and disciplinary record;
2.    The misconduct must be of such a grave nature that it makes a continued employment relationship intolerable and
3.    An employee should be dismissed only if that have been found guilty of gross misconduct.”

So what is considered as ‘gross misconduct’?  Some of these are (but not limited to):
•    deliberate (wilful) damage to the employer’s property
•    deliberately (wilfully) endangering the safety of others
•    Physical assault on the employer, a fellow employee or a client/supplier
•    Gross insubordination (so they can steal from you but they can’t give you the finger)
•    Gross dishonesty.

In the old days, stealing from your employer meant that you were dishonest and that dishonesty meant that your employer could no longer ‘trust’ you and meant that your continued employment would be intolerable for the employer – well those were the ‘old’ days.  Things have now changed – again.

You see, the law says it has to be ‘gross dishonesty’ and therefore not all dishonesty.  Therefore this means that not all ‘theft’ can be considered as ‘gross dishonesty’.

My take on this is that if my employee lies to me, I cannot trust them.  If they steal from me, I cannot trust them and quite frankly if I cannot trust them then I don’t want them to be working in my company let alone anywhere near my space.  The law of course, sees this in a different light.

Remember that mitigating circumstances have to be taken into account – those are things like number of years that the employee has been employed by the company and whether or not they have a clean disciplinary record or not.

The employer also has to prove that continued employment of the employee will make the employment relationship intolerable.  This proof would have to show that the relationship was not merely damaged but actually destroyed.

Note to self – outsource everything that you can!

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Networking 101 - Don't Forget to Market Yourself



Don’t Forget to Market Yourself

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

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

“Not marketing yourself is like blinking in the dark.  You know you are doing it.  No-one else does.”

What a chuckle I had with this one!  It really did appeal to my sense of humour and I had this video moment of a cartoon with everything black as the lights are off and here and there you get a flash of white, that then very quickly turns back to black as someone  blinks in the dark!

Marketing yourself need not be expensive, you don’t have to hire one of those marketing guru’s to do it for you – actually it is exceptionally easy to do it for yourself.

Let’s take this one step at a time:-
•    Always, always, always have your business cards close at hand.  Your business card should have the name of your company and all of your contact details on it.  If your company name does not say who you are (i.e. if your company name is ABC Plumbing we all know what you do, but if it is ABC Consulting that is just another story altogether), if possible have something on the back of your card that gives people an indication of what it is that you do, like a list of your services. 
•    Whenever you send an e-mail out, even if it is just one of the funnies you share with friends, have your signature in place.  Your company name, contact details, web address etc.  You never know who your friend may forward your ‘funnies’ to.
•    Get onto some of the networking sites – not only business ones, but the social ones too, like Facebook (have you any idea how much business is done on Facebook?) – always put your company details and your contact details in your profile.
•    When you meet people, even socially, always ask what they do and always find an opportunity to tell people what it is that you do.

This is marketing in its most basic form, inexpensive but vital to the growing of your business.

So go out there – meet people, build relationships, build your brand and above all, remember to have fun!

For more information on Renate, please visit her website at

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Business Tips - Holding Directors Personally Liable for Company Debts


Holding Directors Personally Liable for Company Debts.

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting February 2009.

Today’s article  should perhaps, come with a warning – this is going to hurt someone, somewhere and at sometime and it is going to hurt badly!

It’s all about if you run your business recklessly or fraudulently and I am very serious people, when I tell you that it does carry a jail sentence and you will do jail time.

Have a look at the facts.  There have been some pretty well known big Corporate companies that have gone for a ‘ball of chalk’ in the last couple of years.  Names like Tollgate, Leisurenet and Fidentia spring to mind.  In all of these cases, the directors and/or officials of the company have been handed hefty jail time sentences.  In all cases, the business has been run recklessly and/or fraudulently.  In all cases the media have had plenty to say and you must admit, they have kept us pretty up to date with what has been happening.

Now here’s the crunch.  Don’t for a minute think, that because you are a very small company, and that most people have never heard of you, and therefore you will fly happily under the radar.  That would be silly in the extreme.  If you are a Business owner and you are deliberately running your business in a reckless or fraudulent manner, you could well be the next guest of the Department of Correctional Services.

Think about this though, if you are an unpaid supplier of someone who is running their business in a reckless or fraudulent manner, it may very well make you feel heaps better when they end up as a guest of the Department of Correctional Services, but that does not necessarily mean that you will get your money at the end of the day – you could still be ‘out of pocket’.

The problem here is that although the Companies Act allows the courts to declare that the Directors of a Company are personally liable for debts and losses incurred, specifically in the instances where those Directors have carried out the business of the Company in a reckless or fraudulent manner, the courts themselves do not enforce this easily.  Again be warned, just because the courts don’t award or enforce this easily, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.

So be careful about how you run the affairs of your Company.  Be honest, be upfront and for goodness sake do not engage in fraudulent dealings.  You will be held accountable at some point.

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

Monday, November 24, 2014

Motivation - Let Life Begin


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Today’s quote comes from Grace Hansen, who says “Don’t be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin.”

That surely brought a smile to my face, when I think about all the millions and billions of currency that have been spent to keep us young, take away the wrinkles and stop the ageing process.  Imagine if you will, if that money had been spent on ensuring that life was lived?

I am often amused at the idle conversation at a dinner party – where the discussion is usually centered around who has had what work done.  Quite frankly I can’t see the attraction, but then I guess I have more important things to think about, like the content of the next article or how I am going to assist a client with getting BEE compliant or assist them with getting the most benefit out of being a VAT vendor.

Perhaps that is because I have gotten to that place in my life where it’s not the “what I look like” that is important, but rather “who I have become” and what I want to achieve that takes precedence. 

I have made peace with my bulging midriff, and my breasts that have lost the battle to gravity, and my ‘crock’ knee that was abused during my youth when I played a lot of sport.  So what if I can’t (or perhaps won’t even attempt) to run the four minute mile, or that I have grey streaks in my hair or that I have laughter lines around my eyes – they are all earned and deserved!

Rather think about the battles that I have fought and won!  Things like making a difference in the lives of individuals, playing it forward and giving back.  Think about the journey that I have taken where I have grown as an individual and a person (yes and around the midriff too).  Think about the person who has challenged the universe and come out the other end – positive and with a purpose in life.

So before life passes you by, and believe me it will – think about doing something worthwhile with it rather than running around frenetically looking for ways to prolong it.  No matter how much you stretch it, if you do nothing with it, nothing will have been gained.

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Motivation - Keeping Young


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

The quote today comes from Henry Ford, who says:

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.   The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

One of my greatest challenges, at the moment, is to remember that I have turned 57!  When I think of myself it’s not as an “old” person (not that I am saying that 57 is old!), but I can still remember very clearly as a teenager, working out how old I would be at the turn of the century and thinking I would be ancient! 

Many of my friends think that is time that I ‘grew up’ and started acting ‘age appropriate’ and my standard response to that one is “what for?”

I am very young at heart, and am proud to say that I can still party and out party many much younger than I am, (I suspect that being an insomniac has something to do with that though).  For me, life is for the living and I intend to live it to the full.

Too often, I see people who are bent and buckled by the responsibilities and weight of issues that they carry around with them.  They sag under a heavy load of self inflicted issues or even other people’s responsibilities and be-moan their lot at every opportunity and to everybody who will listen.  They become ‘old’ before their time and simply exist from day to day as they wait for their time to end.  For them, life is about paying their dues.  I could no more live like this than I could chew off my own arm!

I’m not saying that life is a joke or one continuous party!  What I am saying though is that we have all been given an incredible opportunity to live an average of four score and ten years, and once lived we can not go back and change it.  So why not make this the greatest opportunity that we will ever have and live life to the fullest?  Take up the challenge!  Make a difference to the world!

Go on – I dare you!

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Motivation - Keep Going


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

It is said that you can keep going long after you think you can’t!

So many  times we have heard, and no doubt said ourselves – “I just can’t go on anymore!”  Sound familiar?  Yet somehow we always do.

From my own perspective it is at these times that I understand that I need to ‘step back’ from the situation, remove the emotion and the drama, the perceptions and the expectations and look at the cold hard facts.

Often it is my perception that has become skewered by the “what” is happening around me.  Often I am just too close to the issues and have lost my focus or have become caught up in the emotions of those around me.

I am sure that I am not the only Small Business Owner out there (SMME) who loses focus from time to time and this is not a good thing for any individual. 

We constantly worry about deliverables, cash flow, stock, clients who don’t pay or clients who can’t seem to make up their minds.  Then there are the clients who want nothing, but then at the 11th hour expect you to perform near miracles to get the work done on time.  Sourcing new clients and accommodating old ones can take the steam out of any engine and as people who perform all the tasks in our businesses, it is easy to forget, just for a moment you understand, that we are not superman or superwoman, but in fact ordinary men and women who have decided to live extraordinary lives.

So when everything becomes over whelming and the walls start closing in – take some time out – even if it is only half an hour.  Get out of the office or the store. Get up off you chair, switch the phone off, walk away from the computer.  Brew yourself a great cup of coffee, take a walk or even a long bubble bath and just relax.  Re-group and then go back to the problem at hand. 

Many times, quite miraculously a solution will have appeared.  You will be surprised just how often, when you think that you just cannot go on, that something, someone intervenes and life becomes sweet and full of promise.

Remember, always have fun and never give up on your dreams!

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

HR 101 - Safety Laws & the SMME


Safety Laws & the SMME

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC March 2010

The Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) applies to everyone – irrespective of whether you have 1 employee or you have 100 000 employees – it applies to everyone.

Right, now that I have that out of the way, less unpack it and see exactly what that means.

Most small business owners/entrepreneurs that I know, seem to think that the Act only applies to large corporations – please understand that it doesn’t – the Act requires that an ‘employer’  must ensure that the workplace is free of ‘hazardous ergonomics and substances, micro-organisms etc, which may cause injury or disease’.

The purpose of the Act is to establish a minimum set of standards and/or requirements of occupational health and safety within the workplace and/or working environment.

Actually, if the truth be told all companies should have a health policy, which needs to be applicable to all of their employees and workplaces.  Actually it needs to be for persons other than their employees too – so it would need to be applicable to clients or service providers and others who would be ‘visiting’ their premises for whatever reason. 

Where SMME’s go wrong is that they compare their small workplace to that of a mine or a large manufacturing plant and/or factory and then they don’t see their workplace as a potentially dangerous working environment.  Truth be told, all employees have a constitutional right to work in a safe environment, so employers need to do whatever they can to prevent injury to their staff and it is also advisable for them to have someone trained to deal with emergencies.

The staff member also has an obligation not to put themselves at risk.  For example if they work say on site in a construction company, as much as the employer is required to supply the employee with protective clothing, such as a hard hat or steel capped boots and gloves, the employee is obliged to wear such clothing and/or cooperate with the employers requests on the matter.  Failure to do that would actually constitute ‘negligence’ on the part of the employee and the employee can be disciplined and/or actually dismissed on these charges.

Be warned, inspectors from the Department of Labour regularly inspect companies – large and small and they will also investigate any incident where someone is injured or any complaint that may have been made and if the SMME has not complied they will be in for penalties, just the same as any large corporation.

Remember too, that it is the responsibility of the company to report any injury that has occurred in the workplace to the Department of Labour within 7 days of the incident occurring.  This does not just apply to incidents where someone has lost a limb but also incidents arising when someone slips or trips or is exposed to chemicals or falls from a height or where someone has a sprain or strain or sustains a burn or even noise damage etc.

If you, as an SMME or entrepreneur, are not sure of what needs to be done be sure to get some help.  But get yourselves a ‘health policy’ and get yourself informed – someone’s life may well depend upon it.

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

HR 101 - Are Employers Protected


Are Employers Protected

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC March 2010

To say that several of my clients have been seriously challenged by some of their employees over the last couple of months would be nothing short of a huge lie!  It’s almost like all the employee misfits of society got together and decided to cause as much chaos in the workplace as they could.  Great business for me, but seriously challenging for my clients.  One of the questions raised by most of the clients affected is “Are Employees protected or is it all for the employee?”

Well here are some facts:

•    Section 9 (1) of the Bill of Rights contained in the constitution of South Africa says “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.”
•    Section 9 (2) of the Bill of Rights contained in the constitution of South Africa says “Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.”
•    Section 23 (1) of the constitution says “everyone has the right to fair labour practice.”

Here’s the thing though – what does the constitution mean by “everybody” and how “equal” is everyone?  Our perception is that there are some that are more ‘equal’ than others.

Well in my opinion (and remember I am not a legal person) this should mean that employers should have the same rights to fair labour practices as employees and that they should also be entitled to take their employees to CCMA, and sue them for breaching their rights.

Unfortunately, it appears that my opinion does not count as there was a case where the Labour Court said that the CMMA did not have to hear a case where an employer brought charges against an employee for ‘unfair treatment’.  In fact the court said “It is not thought that employers need any protection against unfair resignations by employees.  The majority of workers in this country are still  un-unionised and remain extremely vulnerable.” And “ in my view the employer remains very economically strong compared to an individual worker and the fact that this protection is afforded the employee  but no similar protection is afforded the employer does not come anywhere near to diminishing the power that the employer has.”

Clearly the courts are not prepared to uphold the constitution for all – it only applies to some and furthermore clearly, not everyone is equal!

Sadly there are small companies all over this country, that are closing down due to the economic challenges they face and these are made worse by problem employees who are out to make a quick buck and who have no scruples about who their actions affect.

So how do employees protect themselves, well for me, as usual, it is about implementing systems.  Policies and procedures are a basic requirement of any business and even as a ‘one person show’, I have them implemented in my business.  I have checklists on the ‘when things must be done’ type of issues as well as checklists on the ‘how things must be done’ type issues.  In the chaos and speed that we currently run around in, it is easy to ‘miss’ a step in whatever it is that I am doing and believe me, that ‘missed’ step is going to have a consequence (and one that usually hits me in the pocket/wallet area).

The majority of my clients who were ‘challenged’ by their employees over the last couple of months, did not have the relevant policies and procedures in place and the consequences cost them and those that did have policies and procedures had not implemented them or enforced them and therein lay their greatest problem.

As I’ve said before, and will no doubt say many times again – policies and procedures should be implemented in every business – they protect us from our own stupidity!  Having those policies and procedures on hand and not implementing them  . . . .  well enough said on that!

Understand though, that any ‘self protection’ mechanism that you indulge yourself in, will have to comply with the Labour Laws as ‘equal’ or not, ‘fair’ or not – the workers rights cannot be tampered with. That said however, at least if the policies and procedures are in place, there can and should be consequences!

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Networking 101 - Keeping Confidences



Keeping Confidences

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

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

“The keeping of confidences, is an unwritten rule of successful networking.”

Ain’t that the truth!  I met with a lady (let’s call her Anne) a couple of days ago for a more in depth ‘one on one’ meeting and she really had me reeling.  You see we had initially met at one of the networking meetings that I go to on a regular basis.  I had taken her card, as well as the cards of the people who sat on either side of her and I was now having my customary chat to ascertain exactly what it was that she did, who her target market was so that I could understand how best to either refer her or connect her up with people that she could add value to or who could add value to her.

During the course of the discussion, she started talking about one of her clients, let’s call him Tim.  Apparently Tim had quoted on a job for his client, let’s call him James and then when he received the relevant materials for the job, he noticed that his supplier had given him a whopping discount.  The bottom line was that the materials that he had quoted on (and usually put a 15% mark up on as part of his fees) had in fact been supplied to him at cost plus 10% as the supplier was clearing out his warehouse for new stock.  This in financial terms meant that Tim was paying 50% less than what he had quoted on.

Tim now faced with a dilemma because there were several options.  One would be not to say anything, and keep his quote exactly the way that it was thereby increasing his margins and his profits exponentially, two would be to tell James the truth and pass the saving onto the client and three would be to tell James of the windfall and suggest that they split the unexpected windfall between them.  Personally I liked the third option the best – it would be a win/win for both of them.

Whilst we were having this discussion, my friend James saw us chatting and came over to greet me.  Without missing a beat – Anne asked for his opinion and in order to get it, started telling him the entire storey, before they were even introduced.

Well I am sure you can guess what happened next.  You see my friend James was Tim’s customer and as luck would have it, Tim had decided to keep all the extra profit for himself.  The amount in question would have run into hundreds of thousands of Rands.

James, of course was absolutely furious over what he then perceived as Tim trying to rip him off and cancelled the whole deal.  Tim, later found out that it was Anne who had talked and now she too has lost a client and I, well I would really think hard about referring either Anne or her client Tim to anyone in my data base.  I would be constantly wondering who was saying what about whom and who was being over quoted.

I am quite frankly astounded at how easily people talk about other people’s business!

For me the only time that you give out other people’s names is when you are referring them or connecting them.  If you really feel the need to tell the story, tell it – but leave peoples names out of it. 

The world is a very small place and trust is so easily broken – once broken it is very difficult to rebuild – it’s easier to just not lose the trust in the first place. 

For more information on Renate, please visit her website at .

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Business Tips - Firing a Client - Part 4


Firing a Client – Part 4

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting March 2009.

The next client has got to be of the worst kind.  They are the clients that are really stressful to work with.  In many ways they are the most fabulous clients to have – they pay on time, they don’t quibble about the price, there’s always work coming in and the work itself is exciting and it stretches your mind.  It’s challenging and a pleasure to do.  So what’s the problem, I hear you asking? Well for me it is when I don’t particularly like the client as a person.  They are usually unpleasant, difficult to work with, rude and over bearing.  They have no respect for what you do, yet would not be able to do it themselves, which is why they hired you in the first place.  They impose ridiculous deadlines and feel that they have the right to call you any time of the day and night and that you should be at their beck and call.  Quite simply put they are exhausting.

When you are caught up in this merry-go-round, you will need to think very carefully about whether or not you want to continue this relationship – if you do, you will need to set very firm ground rules.  One of my colleagues does it by charging double time for anything that she has to do after hours and that includes taking telephone calls.  They soon learnt not to call her after hours.

Whatever the reason – before you fire a client, you need to sit down and ask yourself some questions.  Are you ok about losing the client?  Would you be able to work with them again if you had some sort of break with them?  Would you consider doing any future work with them?

The answers that you give yourself would clearly make a difference on how you went about actually firing the client.

Here’s the thing – screaming and shouting, swearing and slamming the phone down, storming out of the office and saying things in the heat of the moment, is not  the way to do it – remember you are supposed to be a professional person.

Not returning messages, phone calls, e-mails and just ignoring them until they go away is just plain rude – also not the way to do it.

Then of course you are just too busy and you will be too busy for the rest of your natural life. For me this is also not the right way to go about it.  For me it’s about being upfront and honest about it. It’s about being professional and dealing with the problem in a mature manner.  Let’s be honest, often the client will not even know that they are being a royal pain in the butt.  If you show them and explain to them what the problem is, and they are equally mature about things, there may even be a way to salvage the relationship.

If you can’t, or if (as in the case of a friend who ended up being threatened by the client) they don’t want to or you realize that you don’t want to keep them either – then it’s time to walk away.  Don’t walk away angry – learn from the experience and just walk away.  Remember the Universe is a funny old place and as one door closes, somewhere another opens.

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

MOTIVATION – It Might Have Been

MOTIVATION – It Might Have Been

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

John Greenleaf Whittier is the man who wrote today’s quote which goes “For all sad words of tongue & Pen, the saddest are these ‘It might have been’”.

I am often asked if I had to die right now, if I had any regrets.  On the face of it, it’s a really simple question but look beneath the surface and it becomes a whole lot more.

For many, there is little more than the drudgery of life.  Putting one step in front of the other with no thought to anything other than remaining barely alive.

For many, there is nothing more than the hope of finding a few hours of work in order to put food on the table.

For others, there is nothing more than the hope that your favorite intersection has not been taken by someone else, and you are forced to beg elsewhere in the heat of the sun, or the cold of winter, through the storms and winds.  Forced to look at people who either show sympathy by giving you a few coins or disgust at the fact that you are begging or many who don’t even see you as human – to them you are invisible.

For many, who merely exist from day to day, there aren’t even any dreams of what could be or what might be, all they have to look forward to tomorrow is exactly what they had today – nothing!

I wonder what they would say if they were asked if they had any regrets?  I wonder, if their very lives are something that they regret?

What about those who have been physically and mentally damaged by violence, by crime, by life – would they even understand what a regret is, or are they locked into a world so very far from ours?

So, to get back to the original question – do I have regrets, I don’t think so.  There are many things that I have done, that in hindsight, I would have probably done very differently.  But actual regrets – no – I think everything that was meant to happen, has happened at exactly the right time and space that it was supposed to have happened.  Any sooner and I would not have been able to cope and any later and I would have been off in another direction.

So, you see – I am one of the lucky ones.  I can dream, I have hope and although I may have been slightly ‘damaged’ along the way, by life – I am still essentially just exactly who I am meant to be.

Will I change – of course I will!  I will continue to grow, I will continue to dream and I will continue to move forward – just as I always have.

What about you – any regrets?

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Motivation - Integrity


By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC

The quote today comes from the great Confucius himself, who says:

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.”

Pretty straight forward I would say – but what kind of integrity do we have in the home?  Therein lies the million dollar question!

My Concise Oxford Dictionary says that integrity is: “Wholeness, entirety, soundness, uprightness, honesty.”

Those are some ordinary words with huge meanings behind them and if we would have to live up to them or the perception of them – what would that mean in the grand scheme of things?

On a personal level, integrity means a whole bunch of things – like;

Being honest about things – honest with myself, first and foremost because I cannot possibly be honest with anyone else, if I am not honest with myself!

Standing up, and being counted for what I believe in, irrespective of what the consequences to that is.  Things like - I will not tolerate cruelty to animals, to children or the elderly. 

When making a commitment, sticking to the terms of that commitment or the spirit of that commitment.  It’s about delivering on promises. 
The deliverables must be met.

Giving my word – that for me is good enough because my word is my bond!

Treating people the way that I would like to be treated.  So many of us have double standards.  We do things, but then when others do the same thing it suddenly becomes an issue.

Being respectful of people’s time.  Being late for or not pitching for appointments for me is one of the most disrespectful things that I can do to someone, the minute I know that I am going to be late or cannot make the meeting, I phone and tell the person that I am supposed to be meeting.  – by not doing this, I am telling the other person that my time is far more valuable than theirs.

Then of course there is acceptance – none of us like to be judged, especially by someone who doesn’t know us at all, and yet we judge people on a daily basis, based on our perception of what and who they are.  Don’t do it. You don’t have the right!  We all want people to accept us for who and what we are, so how about we afford them the same consideration and respect.  Accept people for who they are.

So, think about it – carefully – what is your integrity like?

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Motivation - Improving the Present


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Today’s quote comes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who says,  “Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear.”

So what does this mean to you?

For me, it’s a reminder not to live in the past.  So many times, I find myself looking at instances that occurred in the past, not only from a personal point of view, but also from a business point of view, and getting upset all over again.  What an absolute waste of time and energy!  It doesn’t matter how upset I get, or how righteously angry I may get – nothing will change what happened.  We can’t re-live it, we can’t go back and do it again or do it differently.

This of course means that we have to live with the consequences of the past and we can surely learn from our mistakes.  But none of those consequences and our subsequent learning means anything if we don’t use them in a present to make our lives easier.

So when you find yourself wallowing in self pity because of something that happened to you in the past – do yourself a favour.  Kick your own butt, and get down to applying what you learnt and apply the lessons from the past to what you are doing now. 

Make a difference to your life now – you cannot do anything about the past, but you can certainly improve the present, by utilizing the lessons learnt from your experiences in the past.

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

HR 101 - Overtime - What you're in for


Overtime – What You’re In For

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

There is a huge amount of confusion about what is considered overtime and what actually is overtime and this often causes problems within an organisation – it’s that whole perception and assumption thing that very seldom actually reflects reality.

For example a normal working week is considered (by law) to be 45 hours.  So if an employee works a 5 day week, 8 hour day (remember their lunch times do not constitute ‘working’ time), they have successfully worked a 40 hour week, so working an extra ½ an hour does not mean that they qualify for overtime, because they are still 4 ½ hours short on what they should be working.  Many employees do not understand this and then feel that the employer is ‘cheating’ them out of overtime pay and by the same token, many employers are not aware of this and just pay!  Either way, it is not a good situation and hopefully this article will put things into perspective.

Overtime and work on Public Holidays.
This is where the wording in your Letter/Contract of employment is extremely important.  Unless there is a proper agreement and/or contract in place, according to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the employer is not permitted to ‘force’ the employee to work overtime (remember that this means the time that an employee works during a day or a week in excess of ordinary hours of work) on weekends or public holiday.

If you don’t have anything in place in terms of your Letter/Contract of employment and you, as the employer, require overtime work to be done over a weekend and/or public holiday, your staff would only be obliged to work if you got their agreement, in writing, to do so.

So people, it is in your own best interests to get your Letters of Appointment up to date and in compliance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

How to calculate the rates.
Let me be very clear here – there are some employees that are not ‘covered’ by the BCOA (Basic Conditions of Employment Act) – these are (but not limited to):
-    Members of the National Defence Force
-    (workers in) Senior Management
-    Sales staff – who travel
-    Workers who work less than 24 hours in a month
-    Workers who earn more than an amount gazetted from time to time – clearly this pertains to specialized circumstances and would not affect most employees – if you’re not sure, please contact an HR Specialist.

Then of course there is the, no overtime work will be paid unless the overtime has been authorized by an employee’s Manager or is required in terms of a work roster.

Workers must receive 1.5 times their normal hourly rate of pay or time off in exchange for overtime or they can even receive a combination of the two.

Staff are not obliged to work overtime:
-    Unless the overtime has been made by agreement (in your Letter/Contract of employment or by consent in writing)
-    If the overtime is more than 10 hours per week (if this is a special circumstance a ‘collective agreement’ can increase this to 15 hours a week, but only for a maximum of two months in any given year.)
-    Workers may not work more than 12 hours a day.

Pay for Overtime Work
Like most calculations in life, life is generally made a lot easier if you have a formula to calculate with – overtime remuneration is no exception to the rule.

5 day week overtime calculation:
Those who work a 5 day week work 21.67 days per month, this is accepted as the norm.

The working week is accepted as 45 ordinary hours (not including overtime).

The working day is accepted as a 9 hour day.  The employee is paid for 8 hours and the 1 hour meal break is NOT paid for.  Before every staff members starts weeping and wailing and shouting the odds, this is the law as it is gazetted in the BCOA, so don’t be having a go at your bosses!

So therefore the formula for calculating the hourly rate is:
Salary divided by 21.67 (remember these are the days worked in a month) divided 9 (those are the working hours per day) and 21.67 multiplied by 9 = total working hours per month (195.03 hours).  Therefore if Tommy earns say R5 000 per month then his hourly rate is R25.64 per hour and if he has worked 48 hours in one week, then he is entitled to 3 hours over time at 1.5 times his hourly rate, which would mean that he is entitled to an additional R115.38.

The calculation for employees who work a 6 day week is as follows:
Those who work a 6 day week work 26 days per month, this is accepted as the norm.

The working week is accepted as 45 ordinary hours (not including overtime).

The working day is accepted as a 7.5 hour day.  The employee is paid for 6.5 hours and the 1 hour meal break is NOT paid for.  Before every staff members starts weeping and wailing and shouting the odds, this is the law as it is gazetted in the BCOA, so don’t be having a go at your bosses!

So therefore the formula for calculating the hourly rate is:
Salary divided by 26 (remember these are the days worked in a month) divided 7.5 (those are the working hours per day) and 26 multiplied by 7.5 = total working hours per month (195 hours).  Therefore if Tommy earns say R5 000 per month then his hourly rate is R25.64 per hour and if he has worked 48 hours in one week, then he is entitled to 3 hours over time at 1.5 times his hourly rate, which would mean that he is entitled to an additional R76.92.

So there you have the mysteries of overtime and how to calculate it at your fingertips.

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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

HR 101 - Sexual Harassment - Be Warned


HR 101 - Sexual Harassment – Be Warned

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

When we think about ‘Sexual Harassment’ most of us think about the office letch who tries to ‘cop a feel’ at every opportunity at the annual Christmas party or any office function for that matter.

Truth be told, it’s a lot more than that and it covers a vast array of incidents that most of us would never even think about.

Having a look at the code of conduct I came across some startling revelations – these are (but not limited to):

Sexual Harassment charges can be brought about by the unwanted (unwelcome and not mutual) conduct of a sexual nature of Employers, Managers, Supervisors, Employees, Job Applicants, Clients, Suppliers, Contractors and in fact anyone who has dealings with a business.  Here’s the thing to keep in mind if you are the Employer – an employee has the constitutional right to work in a safe environment, so you are not just responsible for your behaviour and that of your staff, but also of all the above type people who may be visiting your offices at some point or another.  How scary is that?

The Code of Conduct also states that Sexual Harassment is not confined to persistent behaviour but can also be a single incident.  So it is not only about the Supervisor who is constantly pinching the rear ends of the female staff but it could be the sandwich delivery chap who winks at the receptionist as he delivers the boss’s sandwich.

Sexual Harassment is also not only of a physical nature but it can also be verbal.  Some of the examples as quoted in the Code of Conduct are listed (but not limited to) below:

1.    Physical conduct. 
-    this pertains to any unwelcome physical contact from someone simply touching you to the more serious charges of sexual assault and rape and it can and often does include a ‘strip’ search by or in the presence of someone of the opposite sex.

2.    Verbal Conduct.
-    This pertains to things like unwelcome innuendoes or suggestions and hints.  What one person may consider innocent flirtation may be perceived by another as a sexual advance.
-    Comments with sexual overtones or sex related jokes, or insults or even graphic comments about a person’s body made in their presence or even directed towards a person, would also fall into this category.
-    Inappropriate enquiries and questions about a persons sex life, their sexual orientation or even whistling at a person or a group of persons can (and does) fall into this category.

3.    Non-verbal Conduct
-    gestures (remember the often used zap sign that we are all so fond of using), indecent exposure (the office flasher and that includes the ‘wardrobe malfunction’ in the form of an exposed boob) and the unwelcome display of sexually explicit pictures and objects (be careful who you send porn to and who reads the jokes in your e-mails) falls into this category.

4.    Quid Pr Quo Harassment
-    This is when the boss or supervisor or member of management or even a co-employee tries to influence the process of employment.  This is when your increase or promotion or your access to training, the manner in which or when discipline takes place or even your dismissal, or your job application or any employee benefits hang or is dependant upon sexual favours.

5.    Sexual Favouritism
-    this, of course is when the boss (or a person in authority) rewards only those who respond to his and/or her sexual advances and the rest of the staff are not rewarded at all.

The bottom line is that it is the responsibility of employers to ensure that they create and maintain a working environment in which the dignity of their employees is respected.

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Networking 101 - Don't forget Your Business Cards



Don’t Forget Your Business Cards!

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

I went to a Networking dinner the other night and was totally amazed that around 80% of the people that I met did not have a business card with them!

I mean, this was a Networking event, not a visit to the neighbour’s house for an informal braai – although quite frankly you should have a business card to two with you when you go there too.

Going to a Networking event without a business card is just plain stupid! Even if your business cards are still at the printer, or you forget to pick them up – make sure that you have something with your Business name and contact details. This was a huge event (with over 1000 people present) and I had the opportunity to actively network with a minimum of 30 people. I walked away with 27 business cards, of which 23 have the names and contact details of the various individuals written on the back of my ‘old’ business cards.

Not having business cards at a networking event actually tells its own story – it tells me that you are not serious about doing business with anyone. Well that or you have no idea about what networking is about!

Going to a networking event is an opportunity to give your cards out freely and always ask for one in return. Contact the people whose cards you have taken and follow up. Phone them, book an appointment to see them and exchange referrals.

Always, always, always have a sufficient supply of cards with you!

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BUSINESS TIPS - Firing a Client – Part 3

BUSINESS TIPS - Firing a Client – Part 3

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting March 2009.

We all agree, at some point in our lives, that there are clients that we just have to get rid of or we ourselves will suffer a slow and agonizing death.  Here are a few more reasons for you to look at, to know and understand, that now is the time to fire these clients.

At some point in our lives, we have all done work that has been boring to the point of screaming inside ourselves, ‘if I have to do this one more time I am going to kill myself’!  Often we hold onto it because of the financial implications – it puts food on the table. The problem is, what it does to our ‘souls’.  It can go a long way to destroying the entrepreneurial spirit, or it  crushes our self confidence.  Sometimes we do it to ‘add’ to our portfolio’s or so that we can show that we have worked for a plethora of interesting clients – my suggestion to you though, is get rid of them as soon and then as fast as you can.  They will rob you of the essence of who you are faster than you can blink!

Then of course there is the client that you have had since before ‘pa fell off the bus’!  Let me tell you a story.  When I first started my business almost 6 years ago, one of my first clients was also in the retail game.  They had little in the way of policies and procedures and they also had a host of hungry shark type suppliers following them around.  Several months into our relationship I discovered suppliers stealing from them and I mean stealing goods – actual goods going missing and stealing money in over charges and the like and then the fun started.  To cut a long story short the claims and the court cases amounted to several million rand – nothing to be sneezed at.

Once the main hurdles had been jumped, although there was still a lot of work to be done and policies and procedures to be implemented – my weekly obligation was suddenly cut from 3 days a week to 1 and then just as suddenly, only when they needed me.  I weathered the storm understanding the lessons that I had to learn and got on with my life.  Almost a year went by and suddenly, out of the blue, I received a call to please come and assist them with their shipping documents – it appeared that the new supplier was also over charging them.  It was the 2nd week in December, my diary was full and I was handed the shipping documents for the entire year to check and go through.  I ended up working through the night every second night and at the end of the exercise I even gave them a 15% discount – they’re “old” clients after all.

This is where it gets interesting – they paid, but asked me to reduce my fees even further as they could not afford me.  Here they are, both partners driving in the latest Merc’s, wearing the height of fashion, going overseas on holiday several times a year – money seemed to be of no consequence, yet here they were asking me for a ‘better rate’ – never mind that they had not given me any work for an entire year, never mind that I had to work through the night every second night for almost 3 weeks – none of that seemed to matter in the slightest.  You see they had given me one of my ‘first breaks’!  Here’s the thing though – I had worked like a dog for every cent that they had given me and it wasn’t as if I had not delivered.

My reply – well it went something along the lines of “my hourly rate is RXXXX.  If you are willing to guarantee me, in writing a minimum of Y hours a month, I am prepared to give you a 5% discount, on anything over the Y number of hours that I work.” 

Did I get any more work from them?  Of course not. Was it sad to see them go?  Of course it was, my relationship with one of the partners spanned more than 15 years and we have now seemed to have gone our separate ways. Has it made any difference in my life?  Of course it has – I found a bunch of other clients who are willing to pay the full price and who don’t dump things on me at the last minute and who don’t expect me to work all hours of the night and day because they are not organised. 

Don’t be scared to walk away from something that does nothing but build up resentment in your heart – it’s just not worth it.  By walking away from something that is harmful, you are opening up the door for something a lot more worthwhile.

Next week we will have a look at some additional reasons on why to get rid of some of your clients.

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Motivation - If you're not growing you're dying


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

The author of my quote for the week is David Molapo.

"If you’re not growing – you’re dying"

What a powerful statement and how incredibly true! Think about the life of a child. Your mother carries you for nine months - pretty exhausting I might add, and then as she gives birth and thinks 'ok now I can rest for a few moments' and then the child starts wailing to be fed, or watered, or changed. Once they settle into a routine, she thinks, 'ok now I'll rest.'

Sorry for you, because then start the teething and then the usual children’s ailments and before you know it the baby is crawling, and then walking and getting into all sorts of mischief. Then come the terrible twos with the temper tantrums and then before you know it the child is off to school - 'ok, now I'll rest" thinks the exhausted mother.

Not yet, because there's homework and projects, and the taxi service to and from soccer and rugby and dancing and sleepovers and.......

Then comes high school and boyfriends or girlfriends and ......

Now consider for a moment - what would have happened to the child if as it was born, it fell asleep and that is the way it stayed. Not only would the child have probably 'died' if not physically, certainly in some or other sense of the word, but for all her wanting to 'rest' the mother would have been beside herself with worry as the child was not 'growing' in any sense of the word.
That growth should never stop - from school to University and into the big wonderful world, that abounds with opportunity. Our thirst for knowledge and experience should never abate. If it does we will surely shrivel up and die.

Don't let anyone or anything stifle your natural curiosity - it is there for a reason. Strive to learn, to understand and then to put that skill to use, as you go forward and then . . . well then go and learn some more.

Here's hoping that you have a 'curiosity' filled week!

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

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Motivation - Integrity or Making Excuses


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Today’s quote comes from Dr Laura Schlessinger who says:

“People with integrity do what they say they are going to do.  Others have excuses.”

So which one are you?

I remember, as a young child, my father saying to me “You are not responsible for the name that you have brought into this world as it is the name that I have given you, but the name that you take out of this world, is the name that you have made for yourself.”  I am not sure that I understood the implications and the consequences of what he was saying as I was far too young, but these words have had a great impact on my life.

On my journey down the path of what we call life, I have often heard things like “the banks took everything I own, they were the downfall of my business!” Or what about, and this is my favorite “The VAT man is killing my business!”

My question to both of these (and countless others) is ‘why’?  When you started your business and you went to the bank for a loan, presumably you had to sign a piece of paper, in the form of a contract that said – you will pay back x amount every month or words to that effect.  So then why is the bank, now the bad guy, because he wants his money back?  I really don’t get it at all!  What about the VAT man – you collect money on behalf of the VAT man and in payment of this service, he gives you an interest free loan for two months and he also allows you to offset some of the VAT that you have already paid out, against what you have collected on his behalf – so every two months, when he wants his money  back – how it is that he is suddenly the ‘bad’ guy?  I don’t get this either?

Could it possibly because of your own short comings?  Could it be because you have not fulfilled your responsibilities as a Business Owner?  Could it possibly be because you actually are not a person of integrity?

You see, instead of taking the bull by the horns and admitting to our own short comings and admitting to ourselves that we are the ones that have actually messed up . . . big time, we turn to the government, the banks, the interest rates, the weather/global warming (insert anything you want here) and then sit back smugly – because well, we were not at fault and we are people of integrity!

Guess what people?  We aren’t!  If this sounds very familiar to you and it is something that you keep saying – guess what? You are not a person of integrity!  Own it!

But all is not lost because we can change who we are, and this is an easy one to fix! There doesn’t have to be any soul searching, heavy therapy or anything else. 

It’s a simple case of “do what you say you are going to do”!

So now – now what are you going to do?  Are you going to tell me that you are going to do something and then . . . well, only you will know what happens next.

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

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Motivation - Africa is not for sissies


Today’s article comes from my brother's friend and colleague Miles Crisp.  Miles used to work with my brother Tommy at Deloitte’s, but he has recently (and I mean in the last two months or so) gone out on his own.  Miles has been reading my blog and sent this article to me.
"I Thought Africa Was Not For Sissies

Let me confess right at the outset that I am a terminal optimist.  I have never been inclined to any other way of seeing the world, mainly because, as I see it, if even a tiny fraction of all of the things that people spend their time and energy worrying about ever came to pass, we would have got to the end of the world a long, long time ago.

It also strikes me that we are inclined to worry about the wrong things. George Bush launched an entire nation into a war based on the threat of terrorist strikes after the twin towers thing. Imagine if, instead, he were to have received the statistics of the number of Americans who died of obesity in the same year. (Do Americans require larger burial plots today than they did before? I know that they can now get bigger toilet seats.) The point is, USA public funding may have been much better spent fighting the Battle of the Bulge than fighting the Taliban – who now simply grow cocaine for a living. At least Americans can feel safe from Al Qaeda while they happily die from other things, possibly even more easily preventable. In fact, millions of them deliberately live in Los Angeles and San Francisco which are going to fall into the sea, so it also seems to me that they are not as risk averse as their President seems to think they are. They are even rebuilding New Orleans - as the Americans say, “Go figure.” It seems to me that very little is actually predictable, and the things that are, are quite boring anyway.

Back at home in South Africa we have had Polokwane. This was apparently a disaster because we witnessed a serious vote of no confidence in our president, and a vote for a man with a shower rose on his head. Dinner party and braaivleis conversation topics have now returned with a vengeance to talk of emigration, doom and gloom, and general dark pessimism. Optimists like me are drowned out by cries of “Open your eyes, and get into the real world! In fact….” I am told, “It will not help to open your eyes anyway because it is so dark after Eskom dropped all of the balls!”

The country has gone to dogs. Manto is still charge of hospitals and vegetable patches, Eskom has failed, matriculants can’t read or write, you cannot get a driver’s license without paying a bribe and the police are being run by the mafia. Soon the Scorpions will be disbanded giving free rein to corrupt politicians. So Clever Trevor reassures us, and allocates even more money to the soon-to-be-disbanded Scorpions. (It seems that no-one told him to cut their budget. They can’t even get that right.) Have you seen the potholes on the road? The criminals are running the show.  And then, as we quaff our fifth beer at the braai, and turn to watch the sun go down on one side, and the full moon come up on the other, some philosophical character says, “Another shit day in Africa!” and his best mate chimes in, on cue, “Ja man, Africa is not for sissies.”


I say, “Get a life!”  I also say that it seems like Africa is now full of sissies. Where are the descendants of the warriors who defended El Alamein, and trudged behind the trek wagons? Where are the descendants of the 1820 Settlers who scratched a living from their patch with no water, no electricity, no petrol and no cell phones? And for my black brothers, where are all the descendants of those magnificent leaders, Kings Shaka and Moshesh?

Imagine explaining to Piet Retief, Cecil Rhodes or to Mzilikazi, “The country has really gone to the dogs now! There is no paint on the tar roads, and we had only twenty-two hours of electricity yesterday. Our tap water might become polluted sometime in the future, and my cell phone keeps dropping calls. I wiped out a tyre on my brand new BMW in a pothole last week, and I now have to have a reason to fire my staff. My flight to London was delayed by two hours last week because we had to change flights after the engine fell off, and my gardener bought his code 10 drivers’ license for R1000.”

Piet Retief would have pointed out that this all sounds much better that his last meeting with Dingaan, Mzilikazi would have pointed out that he walked from Durban to Bulawayo with all of his people and Cecil Rhodes would have pointed out that he still pays for bursaries today. It is extremely unlikely, by the way, that any of these three heroes were everything we remember them for. They all had serious blots on their copy books, corruption, bad debts, murder and other delightful activities that kept them very busy.

People ask me, “Are you going to stay in South Africa?” “Are you going to invest in South Africa?” “Are your kids going to stay in South Africa?” (Now here is a great one! I know people who have emigrated from SA with their whole families because their kids may leave the country one day!) “Will the Rand depreciate?” “Will I be able to get first world schooling for my kids, and first world health care for my family?”

I say, “I expect so.” “I hope so.” “I don’t know.” “Probably.” “Sure.” It is not about whether these things come to pass or not. It is about how you react to them. You could just as easily lose your health, either by accident or by disease. You could lose family members or close friends. Or they could lose their health. Your house could burn down after a Highveld lightning strike, or you could drive your car into a Putco bus.

I say, “We are here now. I am surrounded by family and friends who know me and trust me. I have been able to afford everything I could ever have wished for, and more. I have been able to help people who have not been so lucky. Every day I encounter passionate, smiling people, almost all less privileged than I am. I have been able to contribute to the livelihoods of dozens of people in one way or another, and every day I am reminded of how lucky I am. I have descended from some amazing people who survived all sorts of trials, none of whom had what I have. So don’t whine to me about Eskom, and Jacob Zuma, and the Scorpions, and the ANC, and the Rand and……

Rather go and do what you can to help yourself and the people around you.

And when we get together to braai, tell me that you are not a sissie, and that the sunset is just beautiful.  Tell me who you helped today, and what you did to make your ancestors proud!”

Then you can add with real passion, “Another great day in Africa!”

Miles Crisp
"Enabling others to transform themselves"

Friday, November 07, 2014

HR 101 - Avoid Using Hearsay


Avoid Using Hearsay

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

I am sure we have all watched the legal type movies on TV where whoever is in the witness box being questioned, says something along the lines of ‘Joe told me . . . .’ and then the oppositions lawyer stands up and says “objection – hearsay”!  Well that’s the way the law says – you cannot give evidences about what someone else said!

I have, of late, been the chair of several disciplinaries and in most cases, the employees have, in an attempt to gather sufficient evidence to be able to get a verdict of dismissal, relied on their verbal evidence.  Now that is all fine as long as the person being disciplined actually agrees that the complainant’s (usually the employers) evidence is correct.  The minute they disagree with what is being said, a problem occurs as it becomes a ‘he said/she said’ type of situation.

Having documentary evidence is of vital importance and is also a legal requirement.  So for example, it would be important to have the written procedure in place as well as the documented evidence that the procedure has not been followed.  That said, it is equally important to have the correct person present the evidence at the disciplinary hearing.  Having someone for example, who is not well versed in the policies and procedures in the company or who is totally unaware of what actually happened will result in more harm than help to the case, as the manner in which the evidence is presented is almost as important as the evidence.

The document that is presented should also be in the original form and the fact that the document is authentic would also need to be established.  This is to ensure that documentation is not suddenly produced ‘after the fact’ and also to ensure that the information in the documentation is relevant and admissible to the case.

The usual procedure is for the complainant to give oral evidence at the hearing and the oral evidence would then be backed up by the documents as and when they are entered into evidence.  Witnesses would then be brought forward to corroborate the evidence both verbally and with the relevant documentation.  Showing or evidencing that the accused employee is aware of the contents of the documentation could then also be necessary.

Let me be clear on something though – if the document cannot be proved to be authentic then the document and/or its contents cannot be admitted into evidence.  The party (being the complainant or the accused) who enters the document into evidence, holds the burden of proof.

There is only one type of evidence that the chairperson of a disciplinary hearing can accept as the truth without the burden of proof and that is called ‘A judicial notice’.  This pertains to certain facts that would be commonly known and it means that it is not necessary for any evidence to prove these facts.  An example of this, is an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) nurse is charged with smoking in a dangerous and non-smoking area whilst she is attending to patient who is on oxygen.

Usually the complainant would have to prove that the accused actually smoked in the ICU and also that the ICU is actually a non-smoking area and that smoking near someone who is on oxygen is dangerous.  In this instance the chairperson could rule that the complainant need only prove that the accused was indeed smoking, as it is a judicial notice (an acceptable fact) that it is dangerous to smoke in an ICU area.

Basing a hearing on ‘knowing’ that the accused is guilty or only documentary evidence or only witness testimony is not a good idea.  You have to have sufficient ‘admissible’ evidence both oral and documentary, to prove the guilt of the accused.

Remember too though, that no matter how much you have proved the accused guilty to yourself, it also has to be proved in the perspective of the chairperson/arbitrator or Labour Court judge.

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

Thursday, November 06, 2014

HR 101 - Labour Broker Employees – Part 3


Labour Broker Employees – Part 3

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC February 2010

Following on from last week, this week we will look at some of the other requirements pertaining to Labour Brokers, particularly with regards to the CCMA.

To put it bluntly, the CCMA does not want to see employees employed by labour brokers.  It has recognised these employees as ‘defined’, which pretty much means that their rights are the same as other employees and as such the labour broker as well as whomever the employee works for also have obligations towards the employer.  If you have any doubts about where you stand, have a look at the articles on ‘What is an Employee’ in this blog series.

You see the cost of hiring staff and staff benefits is ever rising.  Dealing with Trade Unions is time consuming and often a pain in the rear end and then having to deal with the CCMA, well quite frankly, the less said about that the better.  Enter the Labour Broker and herein lies the problem.

Originally the Labour Broker  was referred to as “temporary employment services (TES).  As you can see this is where the whole thing has gone pear shaped as clearly this has fallen by the wayside and many companies no longer use Labour Brokers or employment agencies for the supply of their ‘temporary’ requirements and now many companies use the services of Labour Brokers for their entire permanent work force.  So now who owns the employee problem in terms of the law – the labour broker or the company who uses the labour broker.

Often the line becomes badly blurred, the client will perhaps dismiss a staff member (although strictly speaking the staff member does not work for them but works for the labour broker) and then the labour broker carries the responsibility.

Then there are situations where the client no longer requires the services of an employee and the broker dismisses the staff member based on that.  This then is in direct contravention of the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Clients themselves, are often unaware of how they blur the lines as well.  I have a client who uses the services of a Labour Broker, but who asked me how they should ‘measure’ the performance of the staff in order for them to calculate end of year bonuses.  I was confused and asked them why they are paying bonuses for staff who are someone else’s employees.  These same clients perform their own disciplinaries as well. In my opinion the transgression should be reported to the labour broker who then is responsible for all disciplinary action that takes place.

My advice to companies who need to invest in employees – unless you are 100% sure of the definition of a labour broker and equally sure of what an employee is and 100% sure of your requirements and/or responsibilities in terms of those employees, don’t use a Labour Broker as engaging their services may end up far more costly and aggravating than you actually managing the staff yourselves.

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

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Networking 101 – Reciprocity



Networking 101 – Reciprocity

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

For the record, as much as I Network and as much business as I get out of Networking and as much value as I add by Networking, none of it would be worth a damn if I didn’t reciprocate!  In absolute honesty, I would probably lose any and all credibility that I have built up over the years.

Now before everyone falls over in a dead faint, because they think that they have failed miserably in this endeavour – let me just tell you that there are many different ways in which to reciprocate.

Let’s have a look at some of them:

1.    Many people like to get/give the money one.  In this instance, whenever you give someone a lead and that lead bears fruit, the recipient then gives you a percentage of the value of the fruit that your lead has generated.
2.    Some like to give reciprocal leads, so whenever they get a lead for you they will pass them on.
3.    Then if you have a ‘virtual’ company, like I do we all include each other.  Whenever I get work for example, I will pass on or include the members (where appropriate and necessary) of my virtual organization onto the client.
4.    One of my favourites is value exchange.  For example one of the people in my team is a Lawyer.  She does, mostly contractual work.  The majority of her clients come to her with the specific purpose of getting a contract done, so she gets very few ‘leads’ that would be appropriate for my business.  So what we do is that I pass on all the legal stuff to her and she does all my contracts and/or answers all my legal questions for free – how cool is that?  I now do not sign a single legal document without her first having a look at it and making sure that it is all fine.

Not doing the reciprocal thing is just not on.  Consistently trying to get as much as you can out of people without bringing something of your own back to the table will eventually destroy the very relationship that you are trying to build.  Don’t do it!

If you are strapped for cash and cannot pay people for their leads, find the other ways in which you can help others.  Make a point of referring business to your contacts.  You can do this by listening to the ‘wants, desires and needs’ of the person you are talking to.

Opportunities for this constantly arrive in front of your very own eyes, learn to recognise them and seize the moment!

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

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

BUSINESS TIPS - Firing a Client – Part 2

BUSINESS TIPS - Firing a Client – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting February 2009.

Here we are, pulling our hair out, having heart palpitations and generally feeling like we just cannot cope any more.  The reason for us feeling like this is a difficult client.  These are some of the reasons why you should be firing your client (or getting them to fire themselves.)

You have to continually chase after them, follow up for feedback, constantly remind them of things and literally baby them.  This means that you are managing your client and usually the management of the client takes longer than it does to do the actual work.  Now if you are not charging for the time that it takes you to manage the client, this means that you are actually running at a loss and no-one gets into the business of business to run at a loss.  It’s like having a wayward child and one that you didn’t even give birth to – so here’s the thing, either charge them for the additional hours or get yourself a client that doesn’t need to be treated like a child.

What about the client who expects you to do illegal things?  No I don’t mean the client who asks you to take someone out – nothing that serious, but the client that asks you to use photographs that neither of you have taken or download and use music that you haven’t paid any licenses for or material that neither of you have written.  Either which way, it’s not legal and it’s not ethical and . . .  well, it’s just not right.  Walk away from them and you do the right thing.

Oh and don’t forget the client who constantly moans and groans about the costs of what it is that you doing – no matter how much ‘discount’ you give them, it’s never enough and from experience the more discount you give them, the more demanding they become, giving you work at the last minute and expecting you to drop everything in order to do it and then groaning about the cost again and haggling about the price again and expecting yet another discount.  You will come out of this one mentally and physically exhausted and wondering if it is worth it all – no it isn’t.  Cut your losses and walk away – rather find a client who understands and appreciates your worth.
Next week we will have a look at some additional reasons on why to get rid of some of your clients.

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

Monday, November 03, 2014

Motivation - Taking Action

MOTIVATION –  Taking Action?

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – November 2012

Al Batt says “It is easy to sit up and take notice.  What is difficult is getting up and taking action.”

It’s been a long, hard year.  I’ve seen more tears than I have smiles.  I’ve see people in pain, emotional pain and even physical pain, as they have watched their lives fall apart, as they have been retrenched or divorced, or watched helplessly as their businesses have fallen down. I have lost some of those people to suicide, to drugs and to absolute despair.

It’s been hard for me to watch as many looked at their shattered lives, in horror and disillusionment, all the while bemoaning their bad luck, the bad economy, bad management by the government, too much power by SARS, perceived power of ex husbands or ex wives and their over zealous lawyers.

Some have given up completely and succumbed to whatever fate and consequence that awaits them.  Most cling to some or other notion that they will be rescued in the nick of time by some sort of divine intervention.  I suspect that they will be very disappointed and some will become even more disillusioned and despondent.

Some have gotten back onto their feet, shaken their fists at the Gods (whomever you perceive them to be) and done something about their plight.  Unfortunately many have done the same thing all over again expecting and even believing that they will get a different outcome – I suspect that at some point everything will come crashing down around their ears again and they will wear the same shell shocked, deer in the headlights, look that they have worn many times before – only to repeat the cycle all over again.

Some, a small quantity of folk, have not only taken notice of their predicament, but they have learnt the lesson, taken cognizance of the pertinent aspects of those lessons, discarded what was not needed, gotten up and done things differently.  They have found themselves on a completely different path in life, one that is sustainable and profitable and even self satisfying.  These individuals have, by their own actions, created their own ‘divine intervention’, their own luck and have changed their own destiny’s.

These folk have, by their actions, shrugged off the negativity that surrounded them, become deaf to all the whining and moaning, blocked out all the angst of government misadventure, SARS untimely interventions, economic woes and risen above the petty admonishments of the general business populace. They have done what they needed to do, not only to survive, but to live and to make a difference.

So who are you, or where are you in this world of perceived hardship?  Are you one who merely takes note of all that is going on around you or are you the one that gets up and does something positive about where you are going and where you want to be?

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

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Motivation - Lead SA


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – August 2010

By now, most Gautengers, if not the rest of South Africa have heard of the Prime Media “Lead SA” initiative.  I say “Well Done” on a brilliant concept!

While telling us all about it the other day though, Alex Jay mentioned that he had heard that Edith Venter had said something along the lines “ordinary South Africans need to step up and do their bit” (and no those are not the exact words before anyone gets all bent out of shape).  Some individuals took umbrage to this because well . . . oh who knows – I actually cannot remember, I just remember wondering what the hell they were on about!

For the record, I know Edith Venter in my personal capacity and she has got to be the least judgmental person on the face of the planet.  I guess that is because of how often she is judged and/or misquoted and/or quoted out of context.

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to and attended a luncheon held and hosted by Professor Helena Van Zyl of the University of the Freestate.  There were about ten of us and the conversation was lively, to say the least.  One of the topics under discussion was how people have this unrealistic attitude to entitlement – you know the one I am talking about.  The one where the staff member, who is part of the marketing team, refuses to carry a box of promotional items to the event that is about to start, well because they ‘have a degree in marketing and they were not employed to carry things’, so it’s not part of their job!  As you can imagine, all of us had similar and sometimes hilarious tales to tell.

One of the ladies said that she will never forget the time that she attended an event and went off to the bathrooms, only to find Edith Venter in her beautiful ball gown and made up to the nines, on her knees in one of the stalls, cleaning the toilet.

You see, the bathrooms had not been cleaned to Edith’s exacting standard and rather than trying to find who was ‘in charge’ and then  finding the person who was supposed to clean the bathrooms and getting them to re-clean (there was very little time as guests were already beginning to arrive), Edith got on with just doing it herself.  Was it her job – of course not.  The bottom line however, is that Edith was in charge of the event and although the staff responsible for cleaning the venue were not accountable to her – Edith was responsible for everyone’s ‘experience’, and to Edith (being the person that she is) this meant that their ‘loo time’ was a pleasant experience too.

Knowing Edith as I do, this is probably exactly what she meant when she said (my mis-quoted words) that ordinary South Africans should step up and do their bit.  Furthermore I suspect, this is exactly the essence of what “Lead SA” is all about.

Yes, it’s about not bribing the metro cops when you exceed the speed limit – but rather you making a concerted effort to slow down.

It’s about not getting upset in the traffic and allowing road rage to get the better of you – rather turn up the music and enjoy the tune or enjoy the weather or sneak a peek at the beautiful lady/hunky man in the car next to you.

It’s about not complaining about everything that is wrong around you and waiting for someone else, the government, the politician, the cleaner to fix it/sort it out/ clean it up – but getting up off your own rear end and doing something about it.

So for me, it’s well done Edith Venter, for being who you are and leading by example.

It’s well done to Alex Jay, for dealing sensitively, with the disgruntled when they jumped to conclusions about what Edith had said.

It’s well done to Terri Volkwyn and her Prime Media team for starting and backing this incredible initiative.

But mostly – it’s well done to us ordinary South Africans, who have embraced the concept and the spirit of “Lead SA” and in so doing, will make a difference in South Africa. 

We are indeed all extraordinary individuals.

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