Monday, August 31, 2015

MOTIVATION – Accepting Responsibility

MOTIVATION – Accepting Responsibility

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – August 2009

Les Brown says “Accept responsibility for your life.  Know that it is you who will get you where you want to go – no one else.”

Man, oh man – I love this.  You can’t even begin to understand how I so relate to this?

I am so sick and tired of hearing stuff like “He made me do it” or “I didn’t have a choice” or even “It was the voices in my head – they made me do it.”

What a load of BS!

What is it about the world today that no-one wants to take responsibility for their own actions?

We have become a generation of individuals who hide our inadequacies behind the backs of any scapegoat that we find along the way.

I am often left completely speechless by the lengths that people go to in an attempt to escape their accountability.

Why is this?  Is it because we are afraid of what the consequences are?  Is it because we are afraid of what the consequences will do to our precious credibility or is it perhaps that we are cowards and that it is easier to follow the path of many of our leaders and politicians?  It is easier to place all the blame on others or to make excuses than it is to stand up and admit our faults, like the person caught speeding who blames the traffic police for catching him, rather than himself for breaking the speed limit.

Perhaps it is really time to go back to the basics.  Go back to the time that when a person gave their word, it was their bond, when deals were struck on the strength of a hand shake.

Perhaps it is really time to go back to when people had morals and values and when the “What’s in it for me” took into account everybody who had contributed.

Perhaps it is really time to go back to when people took responsibility for their actions and/or inactions and accepted the consequences by being accountable.

Perhaps . . .  yes, perhaps!

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

Friday, August 28, 2015

HR 101 - To Smoke or Not to Smoke


To Smoke or Not to Smoke

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC December 2009

This is one article that really is going to upset a lot of people and yet also make a lot of people very happy.  This is definitely one for the employer!

As an ex smoker myself, I am constantly aware of all the smoke, the cigarette smoke, the cigar smoke and even the pipe smoke that is constantly around me, invading my space.  I am aware of the damage that I have done to myself and the damage that smokers are doing to themselves (and us ‘passive’ smokers too) on a daily basis.

As a business owner, I am also aware of the fact that I have to protect my staff from smokers in terms of the Tobacco Products Control Act.  As you are all aware I am sure, there is “No Smoking” allowed in public places – restaurants and pubs have to have designated smoking areas and smoking is not allowed in malls and indeed in most office buildings.

Here’s the thing though, no where in the law does it state that as an employer, I have to pander to the smoking requirements of my smoking staff! I don’t have to give my employees ‘smoke breaks’, in fact I can actually make them work the time in that they take as ‘smoke breaks’ without having to pay them any kind of overtime at all or alternatively, I can tally up all the time that the smoker used on ‘smoke breaks’ and deduct it from their wages at the end of the week and/or from their salaries at the end of the month!  How cool is that?

I can ban smoking from the building altogether and I can choose exactly which area can be used for smoking purposes and there is no where that it is written that I have to provide shelter from the elements either.  So if I choose to designate the car park as the smoking area and it is bucketing with rain – well quite frankly, sorry for you!

Think about it for a moment, as an employer I don’t have to provide my alcoholic employee with a ‘drinks break’ so why would I feel the need to supply my smoker with a ‘smoke break’ particularly if I am as anti smoking as most other ‘ex smokers’?  Both are addictions?  Both take time out of the workplace which impacts on the bottom line and both have serious health implications.

Now surely that is an incentive for smokers to quit, whilst they are still ahead!

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

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Blogging 101 - The Content - Part 6

BLOGGING TIPS – The Content – Part 6

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC June  2010

Many of us read a huge number of blogs everyday.  In fact, many of us get all our information in an electronic format. I know I do – it’s easier to get the daily news that way – I get to read it when it’s convenient for me to do so.  I get IOL (Information on Line) as well as Mail and Guardian twice a day – that’s reading 4 newspapers a day (and I don’t kill any trees either) as well as several monthly and even weekly newsletters that I subscribe to.  That’s a huge amount of reading and a huge amount of information, don’t you think?

When you consider however that according to statistics over 900K posts are uploaded everyday, together, what you and I read is a drop in the ocean actually.  That said, I do have a day job and cannot (as much as I would like to) spend the whole day reading – so it is very important for me to choose newsletters or blogs that give me information that is relevant to me.

Catching my eye and getting me to subscribe to your blog is difficult at best but getting me to stick around and religiously read all of your articles or ‘wonder of wonders’ eagerly await the next one, is your greatest challenge.

Herein lies your personal challenge – you have worked hard to cultivate and grow your audience – you have to work even harder to keep them enthralled!

For me, staying true to my topic, is what will ensure that I bring my readers back time and time again.  The information that I provide and the fact that I share my knowledge, my experience, my expertise and my research, makes me a very empowered entity.

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Networking 101 - Be Prepared


PART 116

Be Prepared

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – June 2009

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

“Be prepared, act confident and have your business cards at the ready.”

“Be Prepared” – not something that is hugely difficult, I am sure that you would agree, yet you cannot begin to believe the number of times that I go to a Networking event (not to even mention any other kind of event), where the whole idea of the event is to actually Network and people don’t have their cards with them.  I was at a ‘Networking’ breakfast the other morning and sat at a table with nine other people – only one had a business card on her.  I shook my head in absolute wonderment – there I was, dolling out bits of paper for people to write their contact details down on.

Ladies, I am sure that you wouldn’t leave home to go to any kind of event without ensuring that you have make up on, at the very least, and gents – I am sure that you wouldn’t leave home without your wallet – yet people to go Networking events, specifically put together, often at great expense for you to Network and build relationships and not a card in sight!  What a waste of a perfectly great opportunity!

Really, think about it – carefully.  If you want to make the most of every opportunity that could present itself to you and I am sure you would agree that you cannot presume where that may be, then you really do need to be prepared.  Being prepared doesn’t mean like being prepared for a boardroom presentation, it quite simply means always having a business card or two on you. Always, always, always – have your business cards on hand.  Keep a supply in your car, so that if you don’t perhaps have one in your handbag or wallet that you can, if necessary run out to the car and get one.

So ‘be prepared’ and by being prepared you can be confident and look around you – can you see that opportunity?  I can!

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  or

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Business Tips - Managing Your Business - Part 5

BUSINESS TIPS – Managing Your Business – Part 5

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC – April 2011

Irrespective of how ‘uncertain’ times are and how difficult it is to get the business in or make the sale, or how much you have downscaled the expenses, the fact of the matter is that you have to keep your staff motivated if you want to still get the business in and the orders processed.  Clearly I am not talking only of the sales staff here!

Here’s the thing, if you have cut back and trimmed away as much as you should have and tightened your belt as far as it can be tightened, then most if not all of your staff have taken over some (if not all) of the duties of the staff who have left and usually for no additional remuneration.  That means that you need to implement some sort of reward system to motivate them.  This is where you have to get creative, as you may not be able to reward them financially. There are many perks that don’t necessarily cost the company a lot of money but could have huge beneficial implications to the staff.  Things like, introducing flexitime, so that they spend less time in traffic and therefore have more quality family time or even, if it can be done, allowing them to work from home.  This could result in you renting out your excess office space and your staff member spending less on fuel and toll fees – a win/win situation, I am sure you will agree.  Rather get rid of the ‘dead wood’ and poor performers and reward those who have invested themselves in your company and who work effectively and efficiently. Poor performers and ‘dead wood’ take up a huge amount of management time and ultimately increase costs in more ways than one.

One of the quickest ways to decrease costs and increase productivity is to ensure that your operational costs are kept to a minimum.  Machinery should be well and regularly maintained to optimise efficient use and processes implemented and properly managed to ensure that both quantity and quality of output.  This should also be measured to ensure that it is of the highest standard.  Regular review of processes and procedures to ensure that they are both effective and efficient and that they comply with legislation will also ensure that workflow output is optimised and constant and that fines or penalties are not levied against you for non-compliance.

Finally, “always keep your enemies close”.  Make sure that you know what your competition is doing to ensure that you are doing things better, more efficiently and more effectively.  Make sure that your always give value for money and that you operate from a place of integrity and honestly with your clients, your suppliers and your staff.

In your Business – honestly really is the best policy!

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

Motivation - Acceptance and Change

MOTIVATION – Acceptance or Change

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Today’s quote comes from an anonymous wise person who says “Life can either be accepted or changed.  If it is not accepted, it must be changed.  If it cannot be changed, then it must be accepted.”

Man, oh man!  I can just see all the heads a nodding in agreement.  Well here’s the kicker – the next time I hear any of you complain about something, I am going to remind you of this message!

Instead of complaining and moaning and groaning about the economy, the interest rates, the government, the tax man (insert anything you like here), find a way to change it.

If it is the economy – look for innovative ways to do business – notice, I did not say look for illegal ways to do business!  There are a million and one opportunities out there – find one the suits you and change your mind set to make it work for you.

How about the interest rates – well it is my understanding (and I am no economist here) that the rates are put up to combat inflation.  The reasons that we have inflation are many – one I know is because we here in South Africa, live on credit.  So spend less on credit, try and pay off more of your debt so that you can become debt free and find a way to start a savings account.  If we all did this we would certainly be a lot better.

The government – well here’s a fun one!  Certainly here in South Africa we live in very interesting times in terms of what is going to happen come 2016.  Make the effort – find out who is offering what, back a party and actually go and vote.  How can you complain about the government and what it has and hasn’t done, if you didn’t vote?

The tax man – this is one of my favorite’s!  You see the tax man makes money for me!  Yes he does, because I have learnt how to manage my VAT – so instead of me groaning and moaning every second month because I can’t find the money to pay the VAT man, I now celebrate because of how much the VAT man has ‘paid’ me to be a VAT vendor.

So come on people, I challenge you – find a way to make a change and in making a change, make a difference and if you seriously cannot do anything to change the situation, have the grace to accept it, make your peace with it and get on with the business of life!

Don’t let situations or issues control your life – take ownership of your life and make sure that you control the situations and issues in your own life.

Let’s start 2016 on the right foot, going in the right direction – find a way to change something or make a difference every day of your life, even if that difference is to you.  You’ll find that it is not that difficult to do.

Wishing you all the very best, in advance for 2016 – let’s make a difference!

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

Friday, August 21, 2015

HR 101 - Preparing for Disputes - Part 2


Preparing for Disputes – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC November 2009

Following on from last time, today we are going to look at some of the most typical and also most important issues that can be discussed at the ‘pre-meeting’.

Some of the most typical and also important issues that are or can be dealt with are (but not limited to):

•    Any means by which the dispute may be settled.  Both parties would be expected to express exactly what they are wanting that would give them a sense of vindication.  It is often at this point that an “out of court” settlement is reached and agreed to and once this agreement has been signed, the arbitration hearing would therefore  be totally unnecessary .
•    Facts that are the common cause.  In some cases it is the ‘straw that breaks the camels back’ that mess the whole works up and it is easier and more beneficial to all parties to get consensus on these and to agree to the facts up front. Issues such as (but not limited to)
+    the exact date that an employee was employed
    +    the exact date that the employee was dismissed
    +    the exact reason for the dismissal
    Here’s the thing – the more issues that can be agreed upon before the hearing, the less time (and expense) will be needed to establish the facts during the hearing.
•    Facts that are in dispute.  These are usually the issues that the parties cannot or will not agree on.  These are issues such as (but not limited to)
    +    the employees benefits
    +    the employees package
    +    the employees remuneration
    +    whether the treatment by the employer was fair and/or unfair.
    It may also include issues such as whether the employee was at the workplace on the day that the incident took place and so on.

Often at this point the parties may agree that the arbitrator will need to decide if the dismissal was procedurally fair or unfair and also whether it was substantively unfair.

•    Precise Relief claimed.   Usually this is the discussion that takes place that highlights whether the employee wants to be re-instated or whether they want some kind of financial compensation. 

    It is also at this stage that the sharing and exchange of documents takes place and one ‘common’ bundle of documents can be compiled.  Parties fighting about documents and their contents or lack thereof take up huge amounts of time and getting this resolved up front and beforehand makes life a lot easier and it will also greatly reduce the amount of time that is spent in the actual hearing.

Both parties should of course, document the entire meeting, making sure that all the issues that they have agreed to are correctly recorded as well as all the issues that were not agreed on.  These minutes can then be signed off on by both parties that then can also be presented to the arbitrator who will use them to get a clear idea of key issues that are relevant to the case.

Be careful though that you don’t give away too much of your case.  It is for this very reason that it is in your own interests to use someone who is an expert in Labour Law and it’s relevant processes and the negotiation thereof.  If you don’t and the whole thing goes pear-shaped, it could cost you a great deal of money.

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

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Blogging 101 - The Content - Part 4

BLOGGING TIPS – The Content – Part 5

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC May  2010

One of my greatest complaints about blogs and  . . . well any kind of written piece actually, is the language or terminology that is used.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not talking about foul (bad) language or disparaging remarks of any kind, I am talking about the frustratingly difficult terminology that some folk use to try and impress.

Quite frankly, I am the least impressed and all that they really achieve is bamboozle those that they are actually wanting to reach out to and they seriously confuse the rest of us.

What’s the deal anyway?  Why is it necessary to use big words that often don’t even mean what you want to convey, instead of just telling it like it is?  It becomes a whole ‘bullshit baffles brains’ (and we all know exactly what that means) kind of article.

What does it mean anyway, if I know big words and use them?  What have I proved at the end of the day?  Pretty much nothing hey!

Most likely, I have chased a whole lot of potential readers away.  Most probably, they will never return again and it’s very, very  likely that they will go elsewhere to feed their information requirements.

Using big words, when a little one explains so much more, just shows in my opinion, that you are perhaps just a little frightened of being . . .  well you.

Playing ‘devil’s advocate’ however, means that I get to share some of my favorite words that are no longer used much anymore in today’s terms.

Words like “umbrage” and “pontificate” have a sense of the dramatic and they conjure pictures of long lost days and ‘throwing down the gauntlet’ and honor amongst men (and women too) and . . .  see there I go again.

Using simple words that everyone can understand on a topic that you are passionate about in a field that you are the expert in (or that you have hopefully done the research on) is all that you really need to get the reader interested and sure to keep coming back.

So keep it simple!

See you next time, when we will look at some more issues around some of the content that should be on/in your blogs.
Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Networking 101 - Be Selective


Be Selective

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC. September  2009

When I first embarked on my Networking journey, several years ago, I was so hyped up by my very first meeting and all the wonderful opportunities that I could see opening up before me, that I rushed off to every single meeting that I could find.  In fact it became so bad that on some days I attended a breakfast meeting, a lunch meeting and a late afternoon meeting.

That wasn’t the worst of it either!  I would rush around frenetically after the meeting collecting as many business cards as I could possibly get hold of.  During the next couple of days I would frantically call every everyone and book appointments to meet with people and have a ‘one-on-one’ to ascertain where I could be of assistance to them.  I knew instinctively that I had to meet with people individually to make the whole networking thing work – but I wasn’t satisfied until every single available spot in my diary was full.  Hell, I was busy and if I could have charged for every single hour that I was booked to meet with people I would have made an absolute fortune – if the truth be told, if I had charged for every single hour that people did not pitch I would have made a decent living!

I learnt very quickly though, that having a full diary does not mean that you will have a full bank account.

Having a full diary also means that there is no time to get on with the work that you have painfully secured for paying clients – it means that you have to pull all nighters and you have to work weekends and it also means that you mess with your ability to deliver!

Having a full diary, for an introvert is also really scary and not a good thing and pretty soon, I was absolutely frazzled.  I felt like the planet needed to be stopped and I needed to get off – for a very long time.

What needed to stop though, was me Networking for the sake of Networking.  I needed to plan things properly in order to give me time to get my work done for paying clients and also have enough time left over for  me to be quietly on my own in order for me to charge my own batteries.

Nowadays, my networking habits are a lot different.  Although I belong to many different Networking groups, I try not to attend more than one a week on average.  I don’t ask for cards unless the synergy is immediate and clearly apparent (not only for me to do business with them but also for me to connect them up with someone who may need their services).  If someone gives me a card, I will always accept it – after all, the Universe knows a lot more than what I do and there is always a reason for me to receive that card.

I now also only book meeting one day a week.  I try and book them so that we meet in the same place.  This means that I am not running around in between meetings and I am now optimizing my time more effectively.  I schedule time for clients and I schedule time for me.

Make no mistake, my diary still looks full – the difference now is that it is a more ‘balanced’ full.

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Business Tips - Managing Your Business - part 4

BUSINESS TIPS – Managing Your Business – Part 4

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC – April 2011
We’ve looked at Managing your cash flow and making sure that your margins are where they should be, as well as ensuring that you are meeting your client’s needs.  Today we will have a look at ‘managing your working capital’ and your advertising.
First off, let’s have a look at your ‘Working Capital Management’. Ensuring that you manage your working capital correctly, will have quite an effect on your cash flow as it ‘releases’ monies that would normally go towards expenses.  Let me explain – your clients pay you 30 days, but your suppliers want payment up front.  This means that you are carrying the whole thing financially on your own (it will also have an impact on your risk management too).  By negotiating better payment terms with your suppliers and/or your clients, you will decrease your risk and have a better cash flow situation and a stronger working capital, which could go towards growth and/or expansion.
Other critical areas to look at are (but not limited to), your debtors list.  Make sure that you follow up outstanding or overdue accounts on a regular basis and don’t be scared to put ‘errant’ clients on ‘hold’ or in extreme cases, even firing them.  Remember this is your business and you make the rules. 
Stock is also something that needs to be managed both effectively and efficiently as this is one of the first areas that you will experience losses when there is  downturn in the economy (ok, if the truth be told this is all the time, not only when things become a bit rough).  So stock needs to be properly controlled to ensure that the shrinkage is kept to a minimum and that stock levels are kept to acceptable levels.  Too much or too little stock on hand also has its own consequences.  Oh, and don’t forget to make sure that your stock is properly and adequately insured and that (particularly with perishables) that the FIFO (first in first out) method is used, that way you will not end up with stock that has expired.
One of the first things that seem to go for a ball of chalk when times are tough is your advertising.  This is not good at all.  Think about it logically and calmly for a moment. Taking your marketing out of the equation means that less and less customers are going to know about you and less and less customers are therefore going to buy from you! Crazy that -  you are wanting to increase your sales, which means your marketing and advertising should increase.
By all means, modify the way that you market yourself.  Cut down on say, using the big PR agencies (or any agency for that matter) and try and do things for yourself.  Get an e-mail campaign going or use the social networking sites and twitter to drive people to your website.  Start a newsletter and give ‘useful’ information to your clients. Make sure that you are still in the forefront of their minds and that they don’t forget you and go to your opposition or competitors as a result of this.
So change the way that your market yourself, if you must, but ensure that the amount of marketing increases rather than decreases.
Next time we will have a look at some of the other issues around what to do when your business is going through a tough time.
Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Monday, August 17, 2015

Motivation - Lack of . . .

MOTIVATION –  Lack of  . . .

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – July 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 14, 2015

HR 101 - Preparing for Disputes - Part 1


Preparing for Disputes – Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC November 2009

Over the last few months, I have been inundated with clients who have had the need to discipline staff.  In every single instance, although I have previously taken them through the “how to” and the “what to” with their staffing challenges, they have chosen not to listen to or take my advice. The result now is that they are deep in the smelly brown stuff and getting them out of it is going to be expensive.  Had they but listened in the first place, none of this would have happened and they certainly would not have been in the space that they have now found themselves in.

In all of the instances, a huge amount of time and resources, not to mention cost has been spent to ensure that the damage is now contained and that it does not spiral out of control.

Preparation of documents and a comprehensive documented statement of account is vital, so ensuring that the telling of the story and how it unfolded is critical and whilst it is always a good idea to leave ‘emotions’ at the door, explaining how you felt, your perceptions and expectations is always a good thing.

Having your story backed up with documentation is extremely useful, but having witnesses who can corroborate your story and the documents is even better and in all probability the most powerful thing of all.

Remember however, that a disciplinary hearing is still a process and it doesn’t matter how powerful your case is, you still have to follow the process, especially the most basic of all of the processes and they have to be followed completely and to the letter of the law.  Not doing so will actually make things a whole lot worse instead of better.  So please take notice of this.

From there, depending on the outcome of the findings, the dispute may be referred to the CCMA for conciliation, con-arb or arbitration.

Please be aware of the fact that should the dispute go to con-arb or arbitration, the responsibility of preparing the case properly will be yours. So if you are not sure of what to do make sure that you get someone who knows what they are doing to help you and guide you through the process.

The reason that you need to prepare yourself properly is because you can expect to go through a court type hearing with all the relevant proceedings and processes.  You see you will not only have to present your evidence in a manner that is professional, but yet concise and easy to understand – you will also have to respond to and try and counteract the evidence of your opponent, also in a profession manner.  You have to come across as believable and ensure that what you have to say bears merit rather than malice.

There may be a need for a “pre-arbitration” meeting with your adversary.  In many instances this type of meeting could in fact resolve the matter, thereby removing the need for an arbitration meeting altogether.  At worst the pre-arbitration meeting will assist in the reducing of time that it will take to complete the hearing and/or assist you in the preparation of the meeting.  For the record though, although the CCMA would like the parties to have a ‘pre-meeting’ and that it could be to your own advantage to do so, the fact of the matter is that it is not compulsory.

Next time we will look at some of the most typical and also most important issues that can be discussed at the ‘pre-meeting’.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Networking 101 - Take Time to Take it all in.


PART 126

Take Time to Take it all in.

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC. August  2009

I attended a workshop last week that was facilitated by Iain Johnston of Iain Johnston Consulting ( ) .  What an interesting time I had and I also got some great tips on all sorts of things from him too.

One of these tips was something along the lines of – when engaged in dialogue with someone, wait for 5 seconds after they have finished talking before you respond with your own comments.

There are several reasons for this, but one of the most important ones is that the other person really feels that, not have you heard everything that they have said, but that you are also really thoughtfully considering what they have said before you respond.  It’s like you are weighing up their words carefully.

It also makes them feel that you have taken a real interest in what they have to say rather than just waiting for them to pause for a breath before you jump right in with whatever you have to say.

In reality, what it actually does do, is give you a chance to formulate an intelligent response to what has just been said rather than you making a complete toss of yourself by firing off a response before you have even heard the end of the sentence.

I know that I am very guilty of this and always seem to be in a hurry to have my say.  Truth be told though, the other person also has the right to be heard and probably also has the same desire as I do, to be heard.

Jumping right off the mark like that may well mean that I get to ‘say my say’ really quickly, but it will not guarantee that my say is actually heard or even that if it is heard that it is understood and quite frankly what is the point of me having my say if it is not heard or understood.

So a huge big thank you to Iain for making me aware of this and in my new found awareness, my understanding of the fact that by slowing down and pausing before I jump right in, I will be Networking far more effectively.

By Networking more effectively, I will be building better and stronger relationships and better and stronger relationships will result in more and more sustainable business coming my way.

Bottom line, slow down – smell the roses, drink and savour the coffee.  Life was not meant to be lived at break neck speed.

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Business Tips - Managing Your Business - Part 2

BUSINESS TIPS – Managing Your Business – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC – December 2010

As usual, let’s have a look at exactly what a “margin” is.  The Wiki says :
Profit margin, net margin, net profit margin or net profit ratio all refer to a measure of profitability. It is calculated by finding the net profit as a percentage of the revenue.

The profit margin is mostly used for internal comparison. It is difficult to accurately compare the net profit ratio for different entities. Individual businesses' operating and financing arrangements vary so much that different entities are bound to have different levels of expenditure, so that comparison of one with another can have little meaning. A low profit margin indicates a low margin of safety: higher risk that a decline in sales will erase profits and result in a net loss.

Profit margin is an indicator of a company's pricing strategies and how well it controls costs. Differences in competitive strategy and product mix cause the profit margin to vary among different companies.

The easiest way for me to remember it is that the margin is the difference (financially) between what everything cost (not only materials, but also time and expenses [for me as a service type business] and research, printing, paper, ink etc.) and what I charge.  If your margins are too low, you will never make a profit and on the other hand if you set your margins too high, you run the risk of never making a sale – it’s a delicately balanced scenario!

Essentially there are two ways to increase your margins (profit margins) and those are either to cut costs or cut prices.  In order to know which one to do it is obviously essential that you focus on your margins on a regular basis and also on what the current economic trends are as it is not always a good thing to cut prices, although it is always a good thing to cut costs, as long as that does not interfere with the quality.

Sometimes increasing the price of your services and/or your product has a powerful statement attached to it – it says “I’m worth it” or “the product is worth it”.  I know that when I started out, I had nothing to compare my services to and the result is that I used my corporate ‘salary’ as a gauge to set my hourly rates – wow, was that ever a big mistake.  I priced myself far too low and the result is that I attracted many clients, all of who desperately needed by expertise, but all of who could not afford me!  Within 24 months I had doubled my hourly rate and I was attracting clients who not only needed me, but who could also afford me.

In this particular instance, me raising my charges had an incredibly powerful effect – it said ‘this is what I am worth’ and the psychological effect on me, as an individual, was incredible. Before, even though my prices were very low, I was chasing business by giving discounts, hoping to retain the very clients that could not afford my services in the first place – that was a very costly mistake – I wrote off a lot of money to bad debt.

Nowadays, if I am going to give a discount – it is because there is a huge value to me and it is based on a whole different set of criteria, such as (but not limited to) early or timeous payment etc.

Cutting costs is definitely the best way to increase your margins and thereby increase your profits.  This is not always an easy thing to do particularly in tough times, when you are looking at staff and salaries.  You have to divorce yourself from the emotions and look at the cold hard facts.  Can you do without this particular function being performed by a single person, in other words “Don’t make it about a person or personal”, but rather about what’s good for the Company.  If you have two people doing work that can be done by one person, then it stands to reason that you only need to employ one person – don’t get sucked into the emotional side of things.

Keeping your costs to a minimum and your clients to a maximum is therefore the best way to ensure that your margin remains on track and is the best way to meet and even surpass your budget requirements.

Next time we will have a look at your customers.

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

Friday, August 07, 2015

HR 101 - What to do when . . . . Staff Take Time Off

ARTICLE 45 - WHAT TO DO WHEN . . . . Staff Take Time Off

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC November 2009

Once again the issue of what and how much time can be taken by employees has come up.  There always seems to be so much confusion around this issue – here are the facts.

Annual Leave – This is a legal requirement
In terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCOA), employees are entitled to a minimum of 15 working days per annum.  This is essentially the very minimum for employees that work an eight hour, five day week.  Obviously the longer their day or week the more leave that they are entitled to.

When leave can be taken and the procedures for completing leave forms and authorization therefore needs to be documented into a “Leave Policy”.

Sick Leave – This is a legal requirement
Again the BCOA is quite specific.  Rule of thumb is as follows:  If you take the number of days that your employees generally work over a six week period, that is the number of days that they are entitled to take over a three year period.

So for example, if your employee works a five day week for six weeks, this culminates to thirty days.  Therefore your employee is entitled to take thirty days sick leave over a three year period.
Obviously issues like doctor’s certificates and leave forms should also be taken into account and these requirements should be documented when you are putting your leave policy together.

Please remember that employees need to be reminded that “Sick Leave” cannot be accumulated. If it is not taken it is lost.

Maternity Leave – This is a legal requirement.
In terms of the NCOA, female employees are entitled to four months maternity leave.  At this particular point in time, this is unpaid, however should the Company elect to put the employee on some sort of remuneration or even fully paid maternity leave, they are entitled to do so.  Remember though that once the precedent is set, it needs to be consistently maintained.

As usual the Company’s requirements as well as the rules pertaining to ‘what to do’ when applying for maternity leave should be included in your leave policy.

Family Responsibility Leave – This is a legal requirement.
The BCOA allows for three days in any given year.  There are several requirements as to when and under which conditions this leave can be taken.  The BCOA have the basic requirements, however that said, as long as the basics are met and complied with the number of days as well as the requirements can be extended by the employer.

The BCOA stipulates that Family Responsibility leave can be taken by employees, in relation to the immediate family as defined by the law.  The exact requirements together with the relevant documentary evidence should be included in the Company’s Leave Policy.

Please remember that employees need to be reminded that “Family Responsibility Leave” cannot be accumulated. If it is not taken it is lost.

These are all of the leave applications that are required by law.  Other leave requirements such as (but not limited to):
Paternity Leave
Study Leave
Unpaid Leave

May very well be included in the Company policy, however this is not a legal requirement and is at the discretion of the employer.

Remember though, if you are not sure about what the requirements are, contact a Labour specialist – don’t just guess.  Guessing will usually end up costing you in the long run.

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

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Blogging 101 - The Content - Part 3

BLOGGING TIPS – The Content – Part 3

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC April 2010

So by now, I am sure that you have gathered that as passionate as I am about my business, so am I passionate about blogging and when I blog, not only do I learn for myself, but I also share what I have learnt.

Most of us have heard the words that “knowledge is power” – I’d like to say that knowledge is exactly that – plain, unsophisticated, understated . . .  well knowledge.  The “Power” of the knowledge is in how we use it and what we do with that knowledge and by sharing that knowledge with others who will use it, we enable, not only ourselves but those around us too.  How cool is that!

The sharing of knowledge shouldn’t just be a ‘here and now’ experience either – so make sure that you create an ‘archives’ which allow people to go back, time and time again, to refresh their memories about the issues that you have written about or to savor their favorite posts.  It will also assist with reading articles (in one sitting), that have perhaps been broken up into parts so that are easily readable.

Another idea, in order to assist with your archives is to break up the content of the articles into sections, pretty much like I have for the blogs on my website. So each time I introduce a new topic (pretty much like I did when I introduced “blogging” as a topic), I add a new content section to my blog index.

Now, to get people interacting with you, it’s also necessary to tell people ‘about’ yourself.  People like to hear stories, especially stories about where you come from and what it is that you have done in order to get to where you are.  It makes them relate to you in a completely different way.  Put a photo of yourself onto your blog – it gives people a sense of communicating directly with you.

Make sure that you have a section that gives people direct access to you.  Have a contacts page with, at the very least, your e-mail address.  If you are not comfortable about being contacted at all hours of the day and night by people who live on the other side of the planet, or who are in different time zones, don’t include your telephone number.  Many people like to clarify issues or perhaps add to the discussion or even provide alternative information.  So allow yourself to be accessible, even if it is only up to a point.

Be willing share, not only your thoughts and your information and knowledge, but also your blog too.  Invite guests to ‘blog’ on your site.  If you feel like you are giving up control, then choose the topic yourself and reserve the right to edit what they have written.

See you next time, when we will look at some more issues around some of the content that should be
on/in your blogs.

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

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Prepare your Elevator Speech
By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – August 2009
Dr. Renate Volpe, in her nugget cards entitled “Networking Tips” says:
“Prepare you elevator speech.  Who are you?  Where do you work?  What benefit is what you do to the person you are speaking with?”
There seems to a great deal of confusion as to what information should be included in an elevator pitch.  Before I go into more detail about what it is, let me just be clear about exactly what it isn’t.
It is NOT an opportunity for you to tell your life story, explain in minute detail how you got to the point in your life where you currently are.  It is not about your hopes, your dreams and your aspirations.
Now that I have gotten that off my chest – what it is, is a short one to two liner exactly as Renate lists it.
What is your name?
Who do you work for?
What do you do?
What is the benefit of your product and/or service?
It really is that simple – any more and your elevator speech becomes a lecture – any less and in all probability, no one will understand what it is that you are trying to get across.
Here’s the thing though – you really have to have something that sets you apart from the rest and you really have to practice it so that when you deliver it in front of a huge crowd of people, you sound like you know what you are talking about.
Imagine if you will, a room full of people and there are 5 bookkeepers.   What makes each one unique and believe me they are?  It might be that one specializes in tax or one deals mainly with payroll issues or one helps people to manage their own books.  Whatever sets you apart from the rest is “what is key” to your elevator pitch.  Whether it is something that is unique to your product and/or service or you or whether you make a statement that gets people thinking or makes them want to know more about you and what it is that you do – it’s about what makes you different.
Remember to keep it short – no more than 30 seconds or so.  Also, remember to keep it real – your integrity and credibility should never be in question or be brought into disrepute.
Now – where is that mirror to practice in front of?
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  or

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

BUSINESS TIPS – Managing Your Business – Part 1

BUSINESS TIPS – Managing Your Business – Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC – December 2010

Most will agree that the light at the end of the tunnel is no longer an oncoming train and whilst the 2008 recession (such as it was) is now officially over, it will take the economy (read SMME’s) some time to rally, make a come-back and hopefully deposit us right back to where we were – obviously not in terms of what caused the melt down in the first place, but certainly in terms of running productive, successful businesses.

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

Fact of the matter is , that when you are in the dwang – that’s exactly where you are and sometimes it is just a matter of waiting it out.  There are a number of tips though, that will help and guide you through, should you find yourself in difficult and/or trying times.  Actually it is not a bad thing to get yourself in the habit of doing these all the time – bad or good times.

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

Think about it for a moment – it doesn’t matter how many people owe you money, or who have promised to pay you – the bottom line is that when you look at your bank account, it is about what is actually there (less what needs to be paid out) that actually counts.  So it stands to reason that the cash flow needs to be properly managed and should be discussed at every management meeting.  If, like me, you are on your own, it is a good idea to make time (at least weekly) to check up and see what is going on.

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

Next time we will have a closer look at margins.

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

Monday, August 03, 2015

Motivation - Ability


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Today’s quote comes from Stevie Wonder, who says “We all have the ability.  The difference is how we use it.”

There is a great advert on TV at the moment about talent.  It goes something along the lines of talent and whether we are born with it or not. It ends with something like, whether we are born with it or not, in order for it (whatever the talent happens to be) to happen we have to work at it.

Look at all the emerging actresses and actors that seem to be springing up lately, and let’s not forget the new singers and Idol contestants.  I know that I always think that they have just ‘sprung’ up out of no-where, but that is just because I haven’t seen them before.  It doesn’t mean that they have not been passionate about what they do since they were knee – high to a brick.  It doesn’t mean that they haven’t practiced it at every opportunity.

I mean do you really think that the winners of say “Idols”, or “You think you can dance”, woke up one morning and decided to enter a competition, without any kind of preparation, cracked the audition and actually made the finals or even won?  This is the real world – stuff like that just does not happen!  These people have worked day and night to get to the level of competency that they have achieved.  Whether they actually have the talent or the ability is largely dependent on how much effort they have put into or invested in it.

So now here’s a thought – what makes it any difference in business?  You may have the greatest widget ever invented or the best service in the world, but if you don’t work at it and get it out there, market it, brand it and get exposure to it, from as many people and/or organizations as possible, nothing is going to happen.

That is why it is so important to be passionate about what it is that you do – I could think of nothing worse than slogging day in and day out over something that I didn’t really believe in, or something that I didn’t even like (much less love) – quite frankly that would just be a huge waste of time and energy and would also be soul destroying.

So tell me, have you used your ability today and if so, how have you used your ability today?

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