Thursday, December 15, 2016

OHSA - First Aid Boxes in the Workplace

This is my last post for the year, I will resume again in the 2nd week of January 2017.  Wishing all of my readers a blessed Christmas and best wishes for the coming year

OHSA - First Aid Boxes In The Workplace

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC.

Please note that this is specific to South African Occupational Health & Safety Act Requirements

There seems to be quite a few questions on when a First Aid Box is required in the workplace and what is even more confusing is what exactly is supposed to be in the box.  So I did a little research and this is what I found.

Please take note that these are the basic requirements and logic must prevail.  If you are not sure – go to the OHSA (Occupational Health & Safety Act) or contact the Department of Labour.

When is a First Aid Box Required
The Act states that “First Aid Facilities must be provided where more than 5 (five) employees are employed at a workplace.”

Now let’s be sensible about this, if you are working in an office where the extent of your machinery is limited to a stapler and a punch, the above refers specifically to you. If you work in a workshop where you are surrounded by machines, all of which could do you grievous bodily harm, logic must surely tell you that irrespective of whether you have 1 (one) employee or 100 (one hundred), you need a First Aid Box.

The Act further states “The employer must provide a First Aid Box or Boxes at or near the workplace, available and accessible for the treatment of injured persons at the workplace.”

So, that means, you guys who have teams of workers out in the field or on site somewhere – the site boss or supervisor or whoever is in charge should have a First Aid Box in the car/vehicle or if there is a lock up facility on site, you could keep it there.

Then the Act says “An employer shall take all reasonable steps that are necessary under the circumstances, to ensure that persons at work receive steps that are necessary in case of injury or emergency.”

The emphasis is on “Reasonable steps” – and this includes but is not limited to the training of employees in first aid skills by a recognised training institution.  This training might very well be specific to the job or business that you are in.  For example training the staff at a nursery school would be similar but very different to training staff at a workshop.  The nursery school would need to include training on treatment for children and infants as well as training on treatment for adults.

The bottom line is though, that your staff are entitled to receive first aid treatment promptly and without unnecessary delay.

What should be in the First Aid Box

The quantities of items that should be in the First Aid Box, would depend upon the number of staff and also the activities performed at the workplace.  I would suggest that in order to ascertain your exact requirements, you need to go to the OHSA and do some more research.

The basic requirements are (but not limited to):

1. Wound cleaner
2. Swabs (for cleaning wounds)
3. Cotton Wool (for padding)
4. Sterile gauze
5. A pair of forceps (tweezers for splinters)
6. A pair of scissors
7. A set of safety pins
8. Triangular bandages
9. Roller bandages (small)
10. Roller bandages (large)
11. A roll of elastic adhesive
12. A roll (box) non allergenic adhesive
13. Packets of adhesive dressing strips (it’s a good idea to get a quantity of assorted sizes)
14. First aid dressing (small)
15. First aid dressing (large)
16. Two straight splints
17. Large & medium disposable latex gloves (it’s a good idea to have more than two of each)
18. CPR mouth pieces or similar devices (again it’s a good idea to have more than two available.)

Here’s the thing though – don’t be putting headache tablets and cough mixtures and the like into your box – that’s considered illegal and if you are caught with anything other than what is listed above, you could be in for a hefty fine.  Think about the consequences of giving a tablet to someone who turns out to be allergic and that someone has a stroke or dies as a direct result of something you have given them – how are you going to feel about that, never mind the legal implications!

The articles from your box, that have been used must be replaced as soon as possible and as the employer it is your responsibility to ensure that your box(es) always carry the minimum requirements and that items that have gone past their expiry or ‘use by’ date are discarded or destroyed and replaced as soon as possible.

It is also a good idea to have a register of sorts to record every time an incident resulted in the use of the First Aid Box. This would also be good in case of insurance or legal claims and the like.

The name(s) of the staff who have been trained to provide treatment should also be kept in or near the First Aid Box for ease of reference.

Remember though, if you are in any doubt with regards to the requirements – contact the Department of Labour or if you are in any doubt re treatment - call for professional help!

Prevention is always better than cure though – so be safe at all times.

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Marketing 101 - 7 Steps to Starting Out - Part 3

MARKETING 101 - 7 Steps to Starting Out – Part 3

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC.

Following on from the first five marketing tips out of the seven steps to starting out – let’s look at the rest now.

The sixth tip is all about the sales process and yes, it is a process.  Many people fall flat round about now as they think that because they are sitting in front of someone that they consider a friend, the process is complete and done – don’t you be making that mistake.  The deal still needs to be done and the sale needs to be concluded.

Make no mistake, sitting in front of someone that you consider a friend will make part of the process very easy, but part of the process will also be extremely difficult, failing to deliver to a ‘friend’ will, in most cases result in the breakup of that friendship as well as loss of the sale and loss of a client!

Ultimately, it is definitely easier (and often safer) to have the ‘sales discussion’ with a qualified prospect who is open to whatever it is that you are selling and open to working with you.  Remember that the successful conclusion of the ‘sales process’ is that the prospect is converted into a paying client.

The final point of course is the deliverables.  You have to deliver and you have to deliver on time, especially to new clients as their expectation of what you have committed to is so much greater.  You have to deliver whatever it is that you have promised and in fact it is in your own best interests to ‘over deliver’.  The saying that goes something along the lines of ‘under promise and over deliver’ is exactly what needs to happen at this point.  Believe me you will score ‘brownie’ points if you work like this and your reputation will proceed you.

Remember, exceeding someone’s expectation of you is a wonderful thing as it will usually end up to leads that are generated by ‘word-of-mouth’ referrals and these are the very best that you can get, they are more powerful than King Kong and certainly more valuable than diamonds and gold.

Take care of the deliverables and the ‘word-of-mouth’ referrals will take care of you.

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Business Tips - What is Cash Flow?

BUSINESS TIPS –  What is Cash Flow

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC

We all hear the words every day – “Cash is King”!  Clearly it is preferable to have physical cash in your hand, than say a cheque or even money in the bank.  Why do you think that that is?

Firstly if the money is in the bank, then there may be expenses that still need to go off your account, you would still need to go to the bank to draw money or alternatively you may not have the card or the correct access codes to get the money out of the bank.  So having physical cash in your hand is always a good thing.

Let’s have a look at what cash flow is – exactly.  Quite simply, it is the physical money that you have access to at any given time.  It’s not the money that you are waiting to be paid.  It’s not the stock that you are waiting to sell – it’s the physical cash that you have access to at any given time.

Having a good cash flow is absolutely imperative.  As SMME’s (Small, Micro, Medium Enterprises) we need a good cash flow in order to purchase our supplies, to pay rent, to pay our staff and to pay our way in the every day manner in which we conduct our business.  In short it is that lifeblood that we need in order to earn our livelihood, without it we would whither up and literally die.

So how do we get this ‘cash flow’?

First of all we need to get money into the business – this is usually referred to as a “cash inflow” and it is usually made of up four different components, these are:
Sales of our products and/or services – well that’s pretty self explanatory.
Loan or credit card proceeds – this is either money that we have loaned from a bank or financial institution or indeed money that we have loaned our business in our personal capacity and/or money that is coming to us from sales that were paid for by means of credit cards or indeed money that we have ‘borrowed’ on our credit cards, even money that is owed to us by our debtors.
Asset Sales – this would be when we sell assets (such as old computers or vehicles etc) that were previously purchased by the company that we are now upgrading and/or even just getting rid of.
Owner investments – these would be property and/or financial and/or business investments that we have made on behalf of our company.

Then of course money goes out of the business – this is usually referred to as “cash outflow” and again it is usually made up of four different components, these are:
Business expenditures – these are of course the expenses that are raised in the normal day to day running of the business.  This would also include salaries and wages etc for the staff.
Loan or credit card principal payments – just as you got the money either from a loan or your credit card, now you have to pay that loan back or pay your credit card back.
Asset purchases – again, just as you sold old equipment or equipment that you no longer needed, so now you have to buy new equipment and/or assets for the business.
Owner withdrawals – again that is pretty self explanatory and it is when the owner takes money out of the business for personal use.  These drawings are usually offset against the money that the owner has lent to the business out of his/her loan account.

Both the ‘Cash Inflows’ and the ‘Cash Outflows’ also fit into three main categories within the business and these are:
Operating – this covers the sales of product and/or services of your business, together with the business expenses that you incur in the selling of your product and/or service.
Investing – this would be all the assets that you buy and sell and
Financing – this obviously covers all the loans and the repayments of the loans as well as the money that the owner has invested into his/her business and the withdrawals that he/she makes for personal use.

So there you have it, basically what cash flow is and the ‘how’ and ‘what’ it relates to.

Next time we will have a look at some simple tips on how to manage your cash flow.

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

Motivation - Profound Success


By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC

The quote or rather piece today comes from Ralph Marston, who says:

“Real success is not merely a matter of getting what you want. After all, a newborn infant with a loud cry can accomplish that.
Real success comes from fully being who you are. Real success comes from giving your own unique value to life.
The less you need, the more fulfilled and powerful and effective you are. As your peacefulness increases, so does your energy level.
Choose not to let the small things anger you, or annoy you, or distract you. And keep in mind that most things are small things.
Stop fretting so much about whether or not you're getting your way. Seek instead to relax your judgment, and to find the unique value that is in each moment.
You cannot ever fully control everything that happens, and in fact you would not want to do so. Enjoy true success by learning how to take whatever happens, and to make it work for the good of all concerned.”
Wow!  Powerful words indeed and I read through them, I can see once again, that I really need to work on my anger around small issues and control issues.  I seem to be getting angry all the time and it’s over things that I really should be walking away from – such a time waster – anger over silly things.

I think however, that it is important to examine ourselves from  time to time to see where we are at that point in time.  To try and find the root or cause of what it is that is making you react in the way that you are currently reacting.

For me at the moment, I am aware of the spurts of anger, and then usually get annoyed with myself for being angry at silly things!  So it is really time to ascertain what is at the cause of the anger – a time for self examination – a time to deal with issues, so that I can move forward.

So, tell me – do you know what is impeding your advancement towards your own personal success?

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

Friday, December 09, 2016

HR 101 - Who is an Employee - Part 6


By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC

Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice requirements

If you will remember, the forth indicator of how to determine if the person is an employee is:

4). the person has worked for the other person for an average of at least 40 hours per month over the last three months.

Although this is self explanatory, please don’t confuse it with the fact that a ‘casual’ worker cannot work more than 24 hours in a month. Once they work more than 24 hours, they are no longer considered ‘casual’ and are entitled to company benefits. So please watch that one.

The fifth indicator of how to determine if the person is an employee is:

5). the person is economically dependent on the other person for whom he or she works or renders services.

This one can be a real ‘nasty’! You see if the person works for you and gets 80% or more of his/her monthly income from you, not only is he/she considered an employee but you are also responsible for paying his/her statutory payments (such as PAYE/UIF etc) over to the Receiver of Revenue.

The person will not normally be economically dependent if they are running their own Businesses as they would generally have other clients too. Please understand that if a Self Employed person does only have one client, this does not automatically mean that they have entered into an employee-employer relationship as there may be other reasons that they are currently only working for one client.

Again, please don’t fall into the trap that because a part time worker is also able to work part time at another client that they too are self employed. This would not change the fact that a part time employee is just that – an employee, albeit a part time one.

This would also include a full time employee who chooses to (and is given permission to) work at another job after hours in order to improve his/her income. They too still remain employees.

Should a person be free to contract with other Companies and/or Businesses to do work for them or provide services for them, then this would be viewed as an important indicator evidencing Self Employment.

Next week, we will look at the final two indicators.

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

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Gender Diversity 101 - Looking Beyond the Board Pack

Gender Diversity 101 – Looking Beyond the Board Pack

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC

Having been to several “Gender Diversity – Women on Boards”  type seminars and workshops over the last few years, it was very clear and evident that the “Board Pack” is of the utmost importance and that the information contained therein is critical to the decisions that are taken and the strategies that are agreed upon in order for the company to grow in a positive way.

What was also evident though is that the Board Pack and its’ informational requirements is not the only thing that a Board member has to deal with and this side of the proceedings is often neglected when research is done to ascertain what a new Board member needs to know.

It is a recognized fact that as a country, businesses need to include more women onto the Boards.  The reality is that more than 52% of the workforce  in the world (not just in the country but in the world) are women.  That means that more than 52% of the skill set that a business requires resides in the female population.

In this age where there is a world-wide skill shortage, why would any business leader deliberately exclude himself from more than 52% of the skill sets that are so desperately needed?  It makes good business sense then to include women, not only in the workplace, but also in the decision making positions and of course at Board level.

I recently had the privilege of attending a Business Engage “Boardwalk” breakfast that was hosted by Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), where the CEO James Formby stated that diversity is necessary in the Board room because it challenges opinions and creates a different perspective.

Many of the questions that were raised by enthusiastic aspiring to be female Board members, were in fact about issues other than the universally known Board pack.

I was fortunate enough to engage in an informal chat with James and asked him what some of the things, “beyond the Board pack” that we, as women also need to know about in order for us to make a significant difference on the Boards that we may choose to sit on.

“Technical ‘know how’ is not necessary to be a Board member” says James, “but common sense is and women have a huge amount of common sense.”

As women we often second guess ourselves and agonize about whether or not it is the correct thing to do or the right decision to make.  It’s time we got over ourselves and believed in ourselves and just “go” with our instincts.  That’s just another way of saying “use your common sense!”  Ladies, it is built into our DNA, just trust yourself.

Another thing that James was very clear about is the asking of questions.  It’s a good thing but just be aware of the manner in which those questions are asked.  Don’t be confrontational or aggressive and demanding.  Remember that as a ‘newbie’ on the Board, you don’t really have any frame of reference in terms of the history of what is happening.  In the interests of clarity you obviously need to ask the question, but use the right tone and the right words or alternatively try and get the answers before you go into the Boardroom.

It is always a good idea to find yourself a “mentor” on that Board.  Find someone who you respect and whose opinions you can relate to and ask them if they will ‘guide’ you in the correct protocols and processes that the Board follows.

“Establish a rapport with the CEO and make sure that you are ‘visible’ to the organization”, says James. Understand what the company does.  The only way that you truly get a “feel” for that as well the culture of the company, in my opinion, is to spend some time there.  Get someone to take you on a guided ‘walk through’.  Meet the HOD’s (Heads of Departments), talk to some of the staff and familiarize yourself with what is happening, how it happens and when it happens.  It will certainly give you a more thorough grounding and assist you with making more informed decisions when it comes time to vote.

Roll up your sleeves and get yourself involved! Get yourself interested in the welfare and progress of the Company. Remember that there are also a number of sub-committees that are set up for various projects.  Make sure that you get yourself onto some of these sub-committees.  This again will give you a better perspective on what is happening in the company.  The more you engage, the more information you get about how the company works and what the challenges are, the easier it will be to make informed decisions which of course means that you will make more of a difference and at the end of the day, isn’t that why you want to be on a Board – to make a difference?

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

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Marketing 101 - 7 Steps to Starting Out

MARKETING 101 - 7 Steps to Starting Out – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC

Following on from the first three marketing tips out of the seven steps to starting out – let’s look at the fourth one.

Well this is my favorite one for sure, but that is because I absolutely love to write – it is a passion that I found, rather late in life and as you can see from my blogs it is one that I am making the most of – catching up for all the years I lost I suspect.  Thing is though that writing is one of the most powerful marketing materials.  With the advent of the internet and more recently ‘social networking’, your writing skills (or if you don’t have them, your marketing guru’s) is of paramount importance.  I use my blogs on as well as the posting of the blog on my own Website and on Twitter and on Facebook.  Posting the blog, by means of a “url link” onto Twitter and Facebook ensures that I get visitors to my website.  The blogs give out useful information for free, to anyone who cares to read them, but the primary target is Small Business Owners or Entrepreneurs and as people read what they think pertains to them, they are drawn to read more and more as my blogs cover a vast variety of subjects.

The blogs are therefore used to educate potential clients and persuade clients to not only avail themselves of the ‘free information’ but that help is but an e-mail away or a phone call away, should they need it.  My website also contains the links to the various articles that I have written for newspapers and/or magazines as well as YouTube clips of my interviews on various television programs.  All of this is used to promote my business and most of it cost me only the time that it took to research the material (usually for my own or a client’s needs) and then to write the article.  Not a bad marketing budget, even if I say so myself. So it is worth everyone investigating in it for themselves.  Most small business owners are ‘specialists’ in what they do, or passionate about what it is that they do, so why not share some of that passion and some of that information – it will draw people to your product and/or service that you provide.

Then comes engagement and no I don’t mean the marriage type, I mean where you have the interest of the other person and you engage in conversation with them.  Getting an appointment with someone you have met whilst Networking or someone who has been referred to you, timeously is of the utmost importance and obviously the sooner it is done the better.

Invite them for a cup of coffee and have an informal chat.  Find out how you can be assistance to them and tell them they can be of assistance to you.  Remember to keep it reciprocal – it’s the best and most profitable way for both parties.

That’s it for this week folks – next time we will look at the rest of the points.

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

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Business Tips - Using Your Voice

BUSINESS TIPS - Using your Voice

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting

It is said that “You never get a second chance to make a good impression and it only takes 15 seconds to make that impression.”

Rightly or wrongly the fact of the matter is that it’s the ‘visual’ – all of you – yes warts and all, that ultimately contributes to the creation of that impression.  It’s your appearance, your attitude (portrayed by your body language) and even your voice that people first get to see and/or hear, and they then make a judgment on who you are, based on that.  Really crazy, but that is the truth of the matter.

Much has been stated on your appearance and there are style and image consultants galore, who will mold you and dress you and ensure that you are wearing the right clothes, in the right colours, with the right shoes and the right accessories, the right make up and the right hair colour/cut/shape (insert what you will here).

Still more has been said about the eating of food and the diets that go along with them to get you into some sort of shape (other than round) and that will greatly enhance your appearance.

Don’t for a minute forget all the coaching, counseling and hours that you spend, at great expense I might add, getting a good a healthy attitude adjustment.  Making sure that your head is not only screwed on tightly, but also facing in the correct direction.

On a personal note though, there is nothing more strange and off-putting for me, than meeting the most beautiful woman on the planet and then when she opens her mouth to speak, out comes something that can only be described as, a high pitched squeak in a clearly phony American/English/French (insert what you want here) accent!  Or how about the very tall, extremely well built, slightly bronzed next James Bond, with the dashing smile and rippling muscles, who opens his mouth only to sound like my neighbour’s 13 year old son, whose voice is changing.

Quite honestly, when I am confronted with voices that sound like these, I am so busy trying to keep a straight face and not burst out into gales of laughter, that I have missed whatever it is that they are trying to say.

The point of the whole article is to highlight the fact that it is clear that good vocals and good speech also is of vital importance to the package that is you and will contribute greatly in the selling the concept, service and/or product that you are trying to sell.

Phony accents and/or voices that are clearly ‘put on’ do huge amounts of damage to your credibility and therefore to your value.  If you are putting on a fake accent and/or voice – what else about you is fake and phony.

Imagine hearing a presentation done in an unnaturally high pitched voice with a phony accent.  How much of that particular presentation would you actually hear and how much of what you have heard will you actually believe?

Research shows that people who converse in a ‘rich resonant voice, in the lower frequencies’, irrespective of whether they are male or female, are usually seen to be more sincere and/or credible.

So, if you have a problem with a voice that is high pitched or nasal sounding or monotonous and flat, perhaps it would be a good idea to invest in some professional assistance and advice – for the sake of your business.

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

Monday, December 05, 2016

Motivation - Taking Action

MOTIVATION –  Taking Action?

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – May 2012

Todays’ quote comes from Al Batt who says “It is easy to sit up and take notice.  What is difficult is getting up and taking action.”

I must admit I did have a quiet chuckle about this one.  I guess I have watched too many movies where the wife yells at the husband at every possible opportunity “You never take any notice of me or what I am saying!”  Honestly speaking, not only is he not taking notice, he is also not doing anything about the problem either and the more she continues to shout and scream, the less likely he is to pay any attention or take any action.

For me, just like it’s not having the knowledge that makes me powerful, it is what I do with that knowledge that makes me powerful – taking notice without putting the action into play is just a complete waste of time!

To be quite honest I am completely at a loss with people who are inactive.  I think in the grand scheme of things, many people do not understand that there are also consequences for inaction.  Most people understand (although they may not accept) that there are consequences for your actions, but few understand that there are also consequences for inaction – it’s the whole “but how can you hold me accountable – I did nothing!”  The fact that your doing nothing resulted in the consequences is, for some reason, more difficult for some people to wrap their heads around.

Here’s an example – you’re driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town – you see the petrol gauge moving from “F” to “E” slowly but surely.  You continue on your journey going through one town after another – passing one petrol garage after another, but not stopping to fill up.  Clearly the consequence of that behavior is that eventually the car will run out of petrol and you will come to a standstill.  You have done nothing and there is a consequence.  This is a consequence of your non-action. Conversely, you have stopped at the garage to fill up with fuel, but the petrol attendant filled up with diesel instead of petrol – now that is a consequence of an action that took place.

Many folk seem to float through life without committing to anything

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

Friday, December 02, 2016

HR 101 - Who is an Employee - Part 5


By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC.

Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice requirements.

If you will remember, the second indicator of how to determine if the person is an employee is:

2). the person’s hours of work are subject to the control or direction of another person.

If there is a Contract and/or Letter of Appointment and the hours of work are stipulated therein, this is a really strong indicator that there is in fact an employment relationship between the employer and the person.

On the other hand, the lack of stipulated hours in a Contract does not necessarily mean that it is not a Contract of Employment.  As soon as there is any kind of control or any indication that the person is required to work a specified number of hours within a specific period (per day, per week etc), this an indicator that the person is an employee as flexi-time working arrangements can  also be present in an employment relationship.

The third  indicator of how to determine if the person is an employee is:

3). in the case of a person who works for an organization, the person forms part of that organization.

This one on the face of it appears to be somewhat tricky.  However it probably applies in respect of any employer that is in the Corporate arena.  It would not apply to say someone who employs a domestic worker or a gardener, although having said that both the domestic worker and the gardener are obviously employees.

Let’s see if I can explain this a little more clearly.  If a person does work for or supplies services to an employer, as part of his/her own business interests, they do not form part of the employer’s organization.  So for example, I have my own business, it is a registered as a close corporation, I supply a service to other organizations, however I do not form part of that organization, but rather form part of my own organization.

So how does that make me different from an employee, who also provides a service as well?  Well you see, apart from having a registered company of my own, I also have to bear the risks and be accountable for issues such as poor performance, bad workmanship, incomplete work, price increases etc.  In the instances where there is an employment relationship, the employer would be the one to bear these risks and be accountable to the client – not the employee.

Next week I will continue with some of the other indicators.

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

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Gender Diversity 101 - The Basic Truth

Gender Diversity 101 – The Basic Truth

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC

A while ago now, I advertised a Gender Audit Workshop that was taking place and that I thought would be of interest to someone other than myself. A chap called me to get some additional information.  As I was trying to explain what the workshop was about and how it would benefit business, he abruptly interrupted stating “so this is just another ‘beep, beep’ thing for you ‘beep, beep’ women!”

I responded “actually my dear, you males are also a gender!”

As amusing as this is, it is also quite sad that many individuals, both male and female, feel so disempowered and that the fact is that they feel so disempowered because of their own skewered perceptions.

In the interests of clarity, let’s make sure that we all understand exactly what each of these terms mean before we go any further.

According to the google dictionary, gender is defined as “Either male or female division of a species, especially as differentiated by social and cultural roles and behavior.”

Gender Diversity on the other hand, according to Wikipedia is “A term referring to how different genders are represented in a relevant setting.  Primarily the term is often used to refer to females and males, though in some contexts and research the term may also refer to those who fall into the non-binary categories of gender.”

The reality of course, is that more than 50% of the population are women. The statistics show that more girl children than boy children are getting degrees at university and yet there are more men being employed in senior positions than women.  How does that even make any kind of sense?  Surely as a business owner who is employing someone in a senior position, you would want to employ the very best that a) your budget would allow for and b) the very best person who has the correct qualifications and skills that your budget would allow?  I know I would!  Yet statistics also show that men are still being employed in decision making positions over qualified and skilled women. How does that make any kind of good business sense? By doing this you are actually restricted your access to more than 50% of the qualified and skilled individuals that you need to employ – why on earth would you do that?

Part of the challenge of course in terms of the representation is getting the balance right.  The last thing that you want to do is make the pendulum swing too far in the opposite direction -  that too would not make any kind of business sense.

In my opinion, the other greatest challenge is not to” isolate” anyone.  It should be an inclusive process!

It’s about getting everyone involved. It’s about getting those who have the experience, the knowledge and the skills, sharing with those who do not – not to then exclude the ‘teachers’ from the workplace but rather to include the ‘students’ into the workplace.

It’s about levelling the playing field so that everybody contributes to the team and more specifically to a team that pulls in the same direction for the greater good of everyone in the company.

So if you decide to make the transition and include the whole gender diversity into your company culture, make sure that your intention is one of inclusion.

Make sure that your goals are one of inclusion!

Make sure that your action plan is one of inclusion!

Including women in every aspect of your business and getting the balance and equality right, is not only morally and ethically right, it is also quite possibly the best business decision that you will ever make.

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Marketing 101 - 7 Steps to Starting Out

MARKETING 101 - 7 Steps to Starting Out – Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC

I know that when I started out I had no clue about ‘how to’ or even ‘where to’ market my service.  Coming out of a Corporate environment, where the accounts department was down the corridor and to the left and the marketing department was up the corridor and to the right and the art department was somewhere in between - starting your own business is not that easy as you may think.

Having spent, up to that point, most of my working life, just getting on with it, in a Corporate environment, where the assistance that I needed, was on tap so to speak, and then having the disciplines that the Company required me to meet, very clearly defined, meant that it was a huge ‘wake up to reality’ check when I finally ventured out on my own.  I learnt though – very quickly.  Sure if you are working from home like I do, it’s great to be able to work in comfortable clothes, which for me in summer is shorts and a t-shirt and in winter, my favorite tracksuit.  The reality though, is that irrespective of how you dress, the work still has to be done and you learn very quickly that you have to put proper structures in place in order to remain focused and  disciplined.

The biggest thing of course is that, on your own you do not have the resources at your fingertips that you perhaps had at the office. Let’s face it, in your Corporate world you were plugged into everything, but remained only responsible for your particular job/position/field of expertise.  On your own, you are in fact the whole shebang!  There’s no-one else to do the marketing/finance/design etc and then you will still also have to make the tea!  The reality is that you are everything to your business all rolled up in one.

Here’s the thing though.  As frightening and as daunting as it may seem, with a little bit of research, a bit of planning (and yes you do have to do it) the whole thing may not be as scary and frightening as you think.

Remember though – no planning and no research will undoubtedly result in a big disaster!

One of the first issues that needs research is the target market.  Let’s face it, pitching your product/service to the wrong target marked will result in disaster or more specifically – no sales.  So it is imperative that you know exactly who you will be offering your services to.  Once you get to the point that you can picture them in your mind as clearly as you can, your own family and close friends, then you know that you are going in the right direction.

It is of vital importance that you have a very clear picture of your product or service.  It you are vague about what it is that you are selling, chances are that your communication about the product/service will also be somewhat vaguer and your passion about what it is that you want will also come across quite diluted.

The third issue that you need to deal with is your Marketing Message.  Remember that this is how you will be engaging and communicating with your target market.  This, in essence is how you explain, in words (or sometimes pictures), what your product/service is.  This is where you get them interested and hungering for more information. So your message must be very clear, exciting and engaging.  There is nothing worse than trying to tell people what it is that you do or sell and they are struggling to stay awake from absolute boredom.  So make sure that your message is informative but also exciting and interesting.

That’s it for this week folks – next time we will look at the rest of the points.

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Business Tips - Unlocking Our Hidden Potential

BUSINESS TIPS – Unlocking Our Hidden Potential

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC

I seem to be on a mission lately to discover exactly what makes me tick, particularly in terms of business.  I seem to have these brilliant (well I think they are brilliant and only my opinion counts here) ideas and that’s where they end.  Sure, everyone who hears what I have to say also thinks my idea(s) are great, but still nothing happens – clearly I have to change something.  A little research got me to this.

1. Thinking and planning ahead.
How difficult can that be I thought!  Ja right – apparently the trick is to go forward in time to 50 or even 100 years from now irrespective of whether you see your product and/or service (not to mention to yourself haha) lasting that long.  It has something to do with shifting your mindset and allowing it to project into the future.  Anyway, I digress – from there you have to work backwards and create a ‘vision’ plan.  You do this in blocks of ten years at a time and it is very important to ask and answer the questions of “who, what, where, when, why and how”.  For example, who will be your target market and whether it is local, national or international.  The what would be either the product(s) and/or the services that you provide and so on.  Getting this practice right will tell you exactly how you are going to achieve your objectives and therefore your business goals.

2. Getting hold of the data inside our own heads.
I am sure you’ve all heard about how little capacity we actually use of our brains. It has been suggested that we use something like 10% of our ‘conscious’ minds and the rest of all the information, memories, data, knowledge and what else have you is then stored in our ‘sub-conscious’ – how one would actually measure this is beyond me, but then again I am no expert.  In any event the idea here is that we should try and get into our ‘sub-conscious’ minds in order to access this very valuable data that is stored there.  Now the experts say that for a period of 21 days (I suppose to get us into the habit) we should write something brief on whatever we want to improve on our ‘leadership process’.  So for example if we have a problem with dealing with customers or staff, the more we write about it the more we’ll access our sub-conscious mind and the easier we will find solutions to the problem.

3. Improving and increasing productivity.
I am sure that you will agree that your staff will never have the same level of energy as you do, particularly when they are selling your product and/or service.  It stands to reason that they will never be as passionate about your business as you are – so logic must tell you that you need to motivate them to be, well almost as energetic or passionate as you are.  To do this you need to get them to participate in the exercise – you need to find out what it is that ‘drives’ them in terms of the work that they do or what would drive them and then use that information to empower them.  This means of course, that you would need to tailor their specific talents or skills or needs to what you need done.  It will become a win/win relationship and you will be amazed at the difference it will make.

4. Being Innovative and Creative.
Oh here is one for the history books!  Use your staff – I don’t mean in a nasty way, but use their individuality, their passion and their creativity to help you (and them) see things more clearly.  One of the most common things that I am told my small business owners is that they often feel ‘lonely’ in business. In a Corporate environment, it is easy to ‘bounce’ ideas off colleagues or have ‘brainstorming’ sessions – when you are in business for yourself however, you often don’t feel that you can ‘talk’ much less brainstorm with anyone.  Just because your staff ‘work’ for you, doesn’t mean that they will not have some great ideas – so talk to them, encourage them to come to you with those ideas.  If you have a problem – get the staff around the table and let them brainstorm with you, to find a solution to whatever your problem is.  You’d be amazed at what comes out of these sessions.  One of my clients does this once a month, usually about ideas on how to bring in new business and they have a prize, once a quarter for the best idea. Several of those ‘ideas’ now are bring in handsome profits.

5. Take responsibility
Taking responsibility for our own actions is one thing, but taking responsibility for something that someone else does is very difficult.  I had a friend once who, when her daughter and her were at loggerheads, would often stand back and say ‘She is acting like that because of what is happening in my life!’  Often who we are and what we are going through influences those around us and then their behaviour is as a direct result of what we have done or are doing.  So when your staff are acting up or acting out – it’s a good idea for us you step back from the situation and see what is happening in you life that may have influenced their actions.  Remember you are responsible for putting food on their tables and they may just be trying to protect that.  Obviously I am not talking about someone who is, say stealing – they would need to take responsibility for that, but someone who is out of sorts or is moody or is not doing the job in the way in which you want it done.  Take a look and see what the underlying problem is – look at the cause rather than just the symptom.  Talk to them, ask the question, open up the avenues of  communication – let them know that you are willing to talk about issues.  It will make a great deal of difference to the way that they perceive you and often will be enough to ensure that perceptions and expectations are met.

Whatever you do and whatever your challenge may be, remember why you got into business for yourself in the first place – and don’t forget to have lots of fun!

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

Motivation - Perseverance

MOTIVATION –  Perseverance

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

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

Ain’t that the truth!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will eventually get there.

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

HR 101 - Who is an Employee - Part 4


By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC.

Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice requirements.

Ok, now that most of you have gotten over your initial shock and realized that you are actually an employer and that the person working for you is actually an employee and not a contractor, let’s get into a little more depth here.

1. The Manner in which the person works is subject to the control or direction of another person.

So what does this mean in English?  Well for starters it means that the person is required to take note of and follow instructions, procedures and policies as laid down by the employer.  Take me for example, I am an independent Consultant.  As such I don’t have to follow the rules, policies and procedures of any company that I am Consulting too.  I don’t have to follow their dress code, I am not required to be at work (on their premises) at the same time as their staff do, I can come and go as I please without having to ask anyone’s permission, I do not get a salary at the end of the month or a pay slip of any kind.

So basically if you have a “contractor” that you are currently in a ‘relationship’ with, in which he/she supplies you with only labour (for example) and you have to direct or supervise the way in which they work , then guess what – they are an employee.

Let’s take the example of a garden service.  They come in once or twice a month, there is a whole team of them under the direction of a supervisor (well hopefully under the guidance of a supervisor).  They come in, with their own tools and equipment and mow the lawn, trim the hedges, cut back unnecessary growth, etc., and then off they go.  From what I can understand, they are there for a limited period of time.  You, yourself don’t need to stand over them and supervise.  They know what is required of them and they get on with it.  Your only input in this one is right at the beginning, when you set up the contract with their employer to say what your requirements are, in terms of what you want done.  You have no say in how the job is done or what tools they should use or what brand of anything they need to use.

In an employment ‘relationship’ the employer has the right to determine which tools will be used, who the staff are going to be, what raw materials are necessary.  The employer will determine the work ethics and performance boundaries and rules.

A very strong indicator of when there is an ‘employment’ relationship, as apposed to a ‘contractual’ relationship is where the ‘employee’ is subject to the Company’s, and therefore the employer’s, disciplinary code, company policies, procedures and Code of Conduct.

Next week we will continue with our more ‘in depth’ look at the remaining 6 indicators of ‘Who is an Employee’.

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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Customer Service 101 - The Customer is Always Right

CUSTOMER SERVICE 101 - The Customer is always right

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

We’ve all heard the phrase “The customer is always right”.  The phrase was apparently first coined in 1909 by the founder of Selridge’s Department Store in London.  It was used to instil a greater sense of awareness amongst the employees, of their attitude towards customers and how they interacted with them.  It is used today, rightly or wrongly, by business to indicate or give the impression of providing good service.

In many businesses today, particularly where there are call centres in place, this has become merely lip service.  Nowadays though, with the internet, e-mails and blogs, the networks and people who are linked with working networks, when a client chooses to complain, very few companies can afford not to listen.  With the introduction of industry ombudsmen there are even more complaint channels available to people who wish to voice their complaints.

This makes consumer power bigger and better than it has ever been.  The question of course is do we, as consumers, complain enough, or do we just put up with bad service, poor quality and indifferent sales people for the sake of a quiet life?

If a client takes the time and/or trouble to voice a complaint it should be seen as an opportunity, by the business, to right a wrong, or as a second chance.  The fact is that customers who complain give business the opportunity to improve their service and thereby retain the patronage of their clientele.

Ironically, the reality of the situation is that very few of us take the time and trouble to complain or express our dissatisfaction directly to a company usually because the perception is that it is not really worth the effort.  Many South Africans just tolerate bad service.  What we usually do is ‘vote with our feet’ and of course our voices, when we tell all of our friends, family and colleagues or in fact anyone who will listen about the bad experience that we had.  This does not help the situation at all, as we have not dealt with the root of the problem.

Human nature being what it is though, means that we usually complain a lot more that we praise.  So when we moan and groan quite liberally to all and sundry we very rarely spread the news when service or quality is exceptional.  The result of this of course that we as consumers have the ability and potential to make or break a small business.

Clearly it is of the utmost importance to deal with customer complaints effectively and efficiently.

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Marketing 101 - Why Do What Your Competitors Do?

MARKETING - Why Do What Your Competitors Do?

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC.

From an information point of view, it is of the utmost importance to know and understand what your competition is up to.  The saying “Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer”, really applies in this case.  You need to see what kind of prices they are charging and what products and/or services that are offering or even how they are packaging and/or promoting their offerings.

Whilst it is important to know what the competition are doing, it is equally important not to follow exactly in their footsteps.  You need to be unique in what you do and you need to develop your own strategy.

So if your competitor puts everything on sale at less 50%, it is not necessary for you to put everything on sale less 55%.  This can only result in a really ugly price war.

Rather think of, or come up with innovative ideas on how to give better value.  Most people know that the best is not necessarily the cheapest and that the most expensive is not always the best.  So find ways of adding value, best value.

Do some research on your target market – find some need that has not been met or something that your competitor doesn’t have and add it to what you offer.  Make what you do or the way that you do it, not only different but also irresistible.

Make your client conscientiously choose you, your products, your services before they go anywhere else!

Set you apart from the rest.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Business Tips - Storing Your E-Mails

BUSINESS TIPS - Storing Your E-mails

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC.

I must admit, this is something that I have had to research on a personal level.  When you get to the stage of getting in excess of 100 mails a day it can be a daunting exercise to try and manage and/or prioritize the mails.

The research that I did came up with the following suggestions:

I keep all mails that pertain to my clients and my service providers.  I have a file for each client and/or each service provider and pretty much in the same way that I would file my paperwork, I use these files on the computer.

So for example if I have a client ABC Consulting – I would have a folder (under clients) called ABC.  In the folder ABC, I would have sub folders such as invoices, quotes, payments etc – but for the e-mails I would also have sub folders for incoming mail and another for outgoing mail.  It just makes it easier if I am looking for something that I sent to the client or something that I received from the client.

The rest of the mails that pertain to anything other than clients and/or suppliers, that I want to keep go into sub-folders of my Inbox.  This means that I can search though all my messages (particularly if I am researching something) all in the same place.

I have also discovered that you can have replies that you send out, sent to a sub-folder too.  How neat is that?   You can write a rule to have messages sent to various folders on receipt or on sending the message, depending on what it is that you want to do.  Click on the Tools tab and then select Rules and Alerts.  Remember though that if you have more than one ‘rule’ that applies to incoming e-mail, the rule that was placed first is the one that takes precedence.

Keeping a handle on your e-mails will make it easier to manage all the information overload that most of us experience on a daily basis.

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

Motivation - Playing the Victim

MOTIVATION – Playing The Victim

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Stedman Graham says “People who consider themselves victims of their circumstances, will always remain victims unless they develop a greater  vision for their lives.”

That just hits the spot!  I am so tired of hearing about people being ‘previously disadvantaged’ and the ‘suffering’ and the rest that goes with it.  The racist card is played at every opportunity and the ‘poor me’ card brought out at the drop of a hat and yet we don’t seem to do anything about it.

A couple of months ago I wrote an article for the Business Report in the STAR Newspaper on “Intimate Relationships in the Workplace”.  You can just imagine the responses that I received!

One woman phoned me to tell me that her husband is having an affair at work and then asked me what to do.  Well I am no ‘agony aunt’ and I am certainly not a medical person who is qualified to hand out this kind of advice, but what I can do is voice an opinion on what I would do if I were in the same circumstances.  This woman, (lets call her Jane) was quite indignant about the fact that her husband was ‘lying to his children, imagine’ and yet . . . here she was telling a total stranger intimate details of her personal life.  She laid it on thick, telling me ‘when and where’ he met up with his illicit romantic partner and that ‘everybody’ at his work knew about it and yet they did nothing.  The truth is of course, that it’s not their job to do anything, it’s hers.

You see Jane really got off by playing the victim and the martyr, she could gain everybodys sympathy and this made her feel like a worthwhile person, it also was the only kind of attention that she seemed to be getting.  When she paused for a breath, to tell me some other despicable thing that he had been doing, I asked her why she had not turfed all his stuff out onto the street and changed the lock on the door.  She seemed quite taken aback by the very mention of that.  I told her that she had given him permission to act the way he was acting because of her inaction.  By not doing anything when she found out about the affair, she was telling him that it is ok for him to treat her in this manner – so of course he did, constantly.  Furthermore, she was also lying to the children, every time she made an excuse about where he was at night.

Jane was gobsmacked for a few seconds and could not get the words out to say anything.  I suspect that I had just taken the wind out of her sails and she was taking a good hard look at what she was doing too.  Finally she agreed with me saying that she had never looked at it like this before.

Is Jane still with the wondering husband – I have absolutely no idea.  What I do know though is that Jane stopped in her tracks and probably for the first time in her life understood that she could change her circumstances by changing the way the she responded to things.  Whether she has made the changes in herself and her circumstances or not, is a whole different ball game, but I do know that she is now aware of what she is doing and hopefully she will make the changes that she needs to make.

Going back to apartheid and the ‘previously disadvantaged’ – quite honestly, right now I don’t even have much empathy left, let alone sympathy!  Oh and I know that I am going to upset a huge number of people too and so be it.

For every one person who is still flying the ‘previously disadvantaged’ banner, there are probably two or more who have done something to change their circumstances.  I would rather help these folk and have oodles of time and respect for them.

There are those that have done things for themselves instead of standing around, begging bowl in hand, waiting for someone to do something for them.  I would rather help them turn their lives around and respect them for the changes that they are not only willing to make but are also making.

There are also those who have perfected the art of playing the victim and for them, ‘being the victim’, is their full time employment, it’s their right and quite frankly, it’s probably exactly what they deserve.

So today, I challenge you – if you truly want something to change, then get up off your rear end and make it happen.  If you’re not prepared to make the changes or do something for yourself, then quite honestly – please don’t tell me, I really don’t want to hear it, because my time is better served making things happen and changing the aspects in my life that I don’t want to stay the same.

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

Friday, November 18, 2016

HR 101 - Who is an Employee - Part 3


By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC

Please note that this pertains to South African Labour and Best Practice requirements.

So now it’s crunch time!  Who is an Employee?  Well the Code  states that there are 7 (seven factors) in determining who an Employee is – the challenge lies in the fact that only 1 of these factors needs to be present, not all 7!

Let me say that again for those who were not listening the first time around.  Only 1 out of 7 factors needs to be present when determining who an employee is!

These factors (in no particular order) are:

1. the manner in which the person works is subject to the control or direction of another person.
2. the person’s hours of work are subject to the control or direction of another person
3. in the case of a person who works for an organization, the person forms part of that organization.
4. the person has worked for the other person for an average of at least 40 hours per month over the last three months.
5. the person is economically dependent of the other person for whom he/she works or renders services
6. the person is provided with the tools of trade or work equipment by the other person.
7. the person only works for or renders services to one person.

So now you have it and while you all fall about in fear/laughter/joy and whatever other emotion that you can bring to the surface, I will leave it there for this week.

Next week we will drill down deeper into each of the factors, so that the lines are clear – no smudges - it either is or it isn’t!  So by the end of this article you will know exactly where you stand and where your employee stands, whether you would like to justify it otherwise or not.

So be brutally honest with yourself (not anyone else, just yourself), examine each item individually and if you can honestly answer yes to any of the above – you have an employee, whether you would like to admit it or not!

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Customer Service 101 - Sick of Poor Service

CUSTOMER SERVICE 101 - Sick of Poor Service

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

So why is it that many customers do not complain?  Well one theory is that it is because of the physical reactions to their own bodies that make people reluctant to make the complaint in the first place.

According to Harris Interactive, 85% of the respondents in a survey said that they had “customer experiences so appalling that they have:
Used foul language (29%)
Developed a headache (21%)
Felt chest pain (6%) and
Cried (5%)

The most common frustrations being:
Not being able to understand a customer service agent (44%)
Being put on hold, listening to bad music or repetitive messages (45%)
Spending a great deal of time on a Web site or automated phone system searching for important information and not finding it (39%).”

Actually my pet hate is not even mentioned in this lot, although I am sure that I cannot be the only one to experience it.  It’s the customer service call centre person who will not put you through to a supervisor or a manager or anyone for that matter, despite the fact that he/she cannot or will not or does not have the grey matter to assist you.
Clearly the reality of the situation in South Africa is that good customer service doesn’t seem to be on the agenda at all.

Part of the problem I suppose is that many customers, who want to complain often don’t know how to complain, where to go to complain or even what to complain about, strange as that may sound.  On the other hand there are many companies who don’t have the necessary infrastructure in place to handle queries and complaints and the result is that you get passed on from one person to the next, obviously explaining the whole story each time you get passed onto another poor soul who has no clue how to help and so just passes you on again!

Talk about frustration!

The onus, I am afraid is on us, the consumer.  In order for Companies to actually do something about bad service, it is up to us to get the message through to them that things are wrong and that we want change to take place.

We, as consumers have the power to ensure that businesses give us better service, but we have to speak up, take action and get the ball rolling.

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Marketing 101 - Targeting a Market You Can't Reach

MARKETING 101 - Targeting a Market You Can’t Reach

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC.

As much as we all like to think that our product and/or our particular service is something that everyone on the planet really, really needs – the reality of the situation is that there are really some people out there who don’t need the product or service, or who don’t want the product or service and in some cases don’t deserve the product or service, and in some extreme cases some who you don’t want to have the product or service.  These people are very definitely not in our ‘target market’ and I am sure that you will agree, marketing to them would be a complete waste of time, energy and money. It’s just the way it is.

So logic must therefore tell us that there is a specific group or type of people and/or businesses that it would be ideal to market to – those specific people and/or businesses are commonly known as our ‘niche’ market and/or ‘target market’ and they are the ones most likely to purchase whatever it is that we are selling.

What we often do then is to market to people that are in our ‘niche’ or ‘target market’, but then going from one extreme to the other – instead of marketing to all and sundry (which as we have seen from the above is a complete waste of time, energy and money) we tend to go to the other extreme and narrow the target market down to such an extent that it only pertains to a handful of people and they live in Alaska.  Now that is also not too clever is it, as it means that that particular market will not sustain your business.  So clearly it is a good idea to be really sensible about this.

I find that writing stuff down helps me, so make of note of EXACTLY (the narrowest ideal person(s)/company) who need your product and/or service.  Then expand on that list to others that may have a need (but not necessarily understand that they need it yet) and then people who would love to have it (whether they need it or not) and of course people who have the money to purchase it.  Your list will have grown somewhat by now I am sure.  Then have a look at the things you can ‘add on’ or value add to what ever it is that you sell and go through the exercise again – you will be amazed now at how your list has grown.  Finally see if you can partner with someone who does something similar or something that can fit in with your business (for example for me as an Internal Auditor to partner or JV with an Accountant is quite logical and now I have two data bases and two lots of target markets to look at) and then go through the exercise again – you will be pleasantly surprised at what you find.  Each time you ‘partner’ or ‘collaborate’ with someone else, go through the exercise again – so if I now ‘collaborate’ with an attorney, I will be able to target a far greater number of people again, and so on.

So now you have created a customer profile and identified the characteristics or needs of your potential buyers and you have identified your ‘niche’ or ‘target market’.  Now you need to have a look at whether they are long term clients or ‘once’ off.  As much as it is really great to sell to ‘once’ off buyers – they are spending the money after all, it’s even nicer to be able to build up a data base of clients who come back time and time again – not because your product broke or because your service didn’t do the trick, but because of the quality of your product and/or service.

Finally, beware of targeting people who cannot afford your product and/or service.  There are some people out there, who no matter how much they love your product and/or service, no matter how much they desire your product and/or service and no matter how much they need your product and/or service – just can’t afford it or don’t have the money.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to sell your product and/or service to them – the sad reality of this is that either you will sell it to them and never see the money or you will be competing for their grocery money.  Not a good idea all around.

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Business Tips - So You Want to Buy a Franchise

BUSINESS TIPS – So You Want To Buy A Franchise?

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC

So many times I’ve heard people say “My dream is to open a little coffee shop/restaurant/take away/pizza place (insert your own dream/idea here), when I retire.  Sadly, more often than not they sink their hard earned life savings into a Franchise something, only to discover somewhere down the road, that it is not what they expected or even worse, the business is not able to sustain them and they end up losing everything.

Research people!  Research!

You really need to know exactly what it is that you are getting yourself into.  You need to understand, in graphic detail exactly what the business entails, especially if you have never worked in that particular arena before (cooking dinner for family and friends once a week is very different to running a kitchen in a busy fast food outlet).

Here are some of the issues that you need to look at, familiarize yourself with and indeed, understand at some level.

1. As I mentioned before – research is vital and just to be clear on this, the research that needs to be done, needs to be done by you!  You are the one that needs to understand all the pros and cons.  You are the one who needs to be interested in the whole process – therefore you are the one that needs to develop as much first hand knowledge as possible.  Attend as many franchise expos as possible, surf the internet, find something that matches your passion and once you have decided which franchise you are interested in, you can move to the next step.
2. Now the real research begins!  Firstly, look at the industry that your choice of franchise is in.  Find out all the information that is available for that particular industry.  Have a look at all the other franchises that are in the same sector.  What makes the franchise that you have chosen ‘stand out’?  Is the sector a growing one (this means that you have to look at lots of statistics and even know how to read them properly)?  Have a look at all of the trade magazines (or on the internet), what do they say about the industry, the sector, the competition and the franchise that you have chosen?
3. Next you need to look at the brand of the franchise that you have chosen.  What makes it unique?  Why would customers/clients use this brand and not something similar around the corner?  Look at the physical branding – things like signage, logos, staff uniforms, shop fittings – does the branding run through all the stores so that they all look and have the same ‘feel’, or are some of the stores different and if so why? In other words, is the brand, colours, logos easily identifiable and recognizable?
4. The next thing to research thoroughly is the actual franchise organization.  What are the rights and obligations of the franchisor, and what are the rights and the obligations of the franchisee?  What are your expectations and will they be met.  What are the expectations of the franchisor and will you be able to meet them.  What is the support structure in terms of procedures, policies, templates, IT, staff training, product training and so on?  Will the franchisor give you all the investment and financial information that you need?  Will the franchisor give you their ‘disclosure documents’?  Are their disclosure documents updated annually as prescribed by the FASA (Franchise Association of South Africa)?  Make sure that you not only read, but also understand all of these documents.  Ask questions.  Get your lawyer and/or accountant to also look at the documents and ask questions.  Make sure that the answers that you get satisfy the question that was asked and don’t be afraid to ask more questions.
5. If, after all of this you still want to purchase the franchise talk to the professionals, take the documents to a franchise consultant or a business broker (preferably one that works in the franchise arena) and get their opinion.  Get them to look at the questions you asked and the answers you got. Make sure that they are comfortable with every single point in the contract.  Let them explain it all to you again, point by point and in a language that you understand.

Until next time

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Motivation - My Stones


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

William Arthur Ward says “We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them  or build with them.”

Well here we are again and it’s all about the choices that we make to any of the situations that we may find ourselves in.

A huge debate has been raging on one of the forums that I used to belong to.  You see as in most aspects of life, there were several people who were very active and prolific on the forum.  They all came from different backgrounds, different cultures, different religions and so on.

Whilst discussion took place over a varied number of issues, usually these could become quite colourful as people voiced their opinions and their beliefs and it was easy to see that people were really passionate about what they did and what they believed in.

Where the whole thing started to go pear shaped (well for me anyway) is when certain individuals would not allow people their own opinions in their own beliefs (or lack there of) and started to almost force their own religious beliefs onto everyone else, belittling the beliefs of everyone else and quoting chapter and verse at every inappropriate opportunity.

Pretty soon every discussion ended up having some sort of religious debate and the own/founder of the forum stepped in and censorship was born.

Constantly members complained about what could be or couldn’t be discussed as the offending few continued their barrage of religious innuendo, until many members just quietly left, no longer wanting to be party in the foray!

Several members bravely continued to try and keep the forum going and new discussions were started only to be promptly invaded by the quoting of  scripture either offered up as a solution and/or given as the cause of whatever happened.  It became so that you couldn’t go anywhere on the forum without tripping up or falling over a scripture of some sort.

The founder of the forum, whilst implementing rules, failed to enforce said rules and the offending few just continued at every opportunity, climbing over every discussion and every debate, quoting scripture after scripture, chapter after chapter and verse after verse.  Remember this a Business forum, where issues around business were discussed and so every discussion from ‘Crime affecting Business’ to ‘staff behaviour’ came under some sort of religious attack until finally, in disgust and frustration, I have picked my  stones, that I was trying to build a community with, and I have left.

I will use my stones to build another community.  One whose members will, hopefully also use their stones, to build the forum into a community with a strong foundation, good business ethics, a value of friendship, an understanding and respect of the opinions of others and their right to think differently.

A community who can share ideas, debate issues, care about one another and laugh together.

But if they don’t – remember my stones can always be gathered up, tucked back under my arm and moved to greener pastures.

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

Friday, November 11, 2016

HR 101 - Who is an Employee - Part 2


By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC.

Please note that this pertains to South African Labour and Best Practice requirements

There is a “Code of Good Practice – Who is an Employee”, that has been published and it is a 53 page document, that looks at this question, in great detail – I will be dealing with this over the next couple of weeks.

The code starts out by setting a whole bunch of guidelines.  Its’ main objective is to make things clearer to Joe Public, about who a staff member is for the purposes of the Labour Relations Act and other Labour related legislation.

It also deals specifically with all the differences between an employee, and everything about that relationship, that is controlled (or should be) by the regulations that are promulgated by Labour Legislation and independent contracting.

There is a very big difference between the two and although we, as SMME’s sometimes blur the lines, there is a very definite line between the two.

The code also ensures that the employee is protected through the various Labour laws and that these employees are not put by the SMME into contracting arrangements, thereby depriving them of the protection of Labour law.

We need to understand that Labour Department are not complete idiots, they are aware of the fact that there are some employers out there, who have contracts that because of the wording, camouflage the employment relationship, and in so doing ensure that the employee does not have any legal rights to fair treatment.

There appear to be some really strange employment relationships in the Labour market such as, but not limited to:
Disguised employment,
Ambiguous employment relationships,
Non-standard employment and
Triangular relationships.

It stands to reason, that the employers to whom this applies, will at some point be caught out and when you do – understand that you will be way up past your eyebrows, in the smelly brown stuff.  So if there are any of you out there, understand you need to sort it out and you need to do that quickly!

The code requires that “any person who is interpreting or applying any of the following Acts, must take this code into account for the purpose of determining whether a particular person is an employee, in terms of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (LBR); the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (BCEA); the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 (EEA); or the Skills Development Act 97 of 1998 (SDA)”.
This obviously means that the definition of ‘who an employee is’? is slightly different in the Code than it is in the various Acts, and that the definition in the Code now supercedes those in the above mentioned Acts.

It also requires the Code “should also be taken into account in determining whether persons are employees in terms of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 86 of 1993 (OHSA); the Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993 (COIDA) and the Unemployment Insurance Act 63 of 2001 (UIFA).”

Again, the definition of ‘who an employee is’? is slightly different in the Code than it is in the various Acts, and that the definition in the Code now supercedes those in the above mentioned Acts.

Next week, we will continue to look at exactly “Who is an employee”.

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

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Customer Service 101 - Power to the People


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

It is said that collectively, we as consumers are incredibly powerful!  Strong words I am sure that you will agree!

You see, we vote for a company either with our wallets, our words or in fact our feet.  Every time we make a purchase for a service and/or a product, we are voting with our wallets and telling that particular company that we approve of their service and/or product.  On the other hand, every time we choose not to make a purchase or we use one of the competitors we are voting with our feet and in doing so we are actually telling that company that we no longer are choosing to purchase their products.  Then of course when we complain about a service and/or product we are voting with our words.

It is those words that can cause the most damage.  You see when we vote with our feet – it definitely has a negative impact on the bottom line, but when we vote with our words the negative impact on the bottom line is far greater because not only has that company lost our sale, but in all probability it has also lost the sale of all the people that we have spoken to.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon which way you look at the problem, statistics show that only 10% of the people who are not satisfied with a product or a particular service actually initiate any kind of action.  This, in real terms gives the companies somewhat of a false sense of security in terms of the level of service and actually does us consumers an injustice.  Why you may ask – well if the truth be told, the perception is that the service is not as bad as it actually is.

It is for this very reason, that every single complaint should be viewed in the most serious of light.  Action must be taken as soon as the complaint is received and Companies should take all complaints as extremely serious.

As a service provider you should be continuously trying to find ways in which to ‘up’ the level of your service.

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

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Marketing 101 - Relying on Networking to Generate Sales Leads


By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting

Now what I am about to say is probably going to sound like a huge contradiction in terms.  You see I always carry on about the fact that I get all of my work through Networking and now I am telling you that relying on Networking to generate sales leads is not a good idea.  I can just see all the eyes raising heavenwards and groans of ‘well make up you mind!’

Well it’s like this, I am a natural Networker and a natural connector – so it works for me as an individual.  For those of you who find Networking hard work or in any way difficult or you actually just don’t ‘get it’, relying on Networking to generate your sales leads is a really bad mistake.

You see most people will join a Chamber of Commerce and go to one or other of the meetings and shuffle around meeting one or two other people who are doing exactly the same thing.  You may or may not meet someone with whom you can form a joint venture or strategic alliance with, sometime in the future and it may give you a few brownie points for being visible as a supporter of your community, but in all probability it will not generate you any kind of sustainable sales leads.  That is because you will not ‘work’ it.

One-on-one networking is time consuming and it is hard work and if you don’t work at it properly, there is no guarantee that you will get any work out of it.  So be sure that you are aware of what it is that you are doing and why you are doing it.  It can become a very costly exercise both financially and also with your time.

So for those of you who are uncomfortable (or perhaps that should be not as comfortable as I am) in the Networking environment, you should use Networking as any other of your marketing strategies – measure them and determine the cost to you versus your payback.

Don’t be too quick to blame Networking for your lack of sales leads though, it is probably your lack of knowledge and/or your failure to understand how to Network correctly that will result in zero sales leads.
Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Business Tips - Measuring Ourselves

BUSINESS TIPS – Measuring Ourselves

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC

Incredible as it may seem – we all use about 10% of our mental processing patterns in the conscious part of our brains.  That, of course, means that around 90% is stored in our sub-conscious or unconscious minds, and these are responsible for activating our day to day habits.

This means, that if we are not constantly measuring and adjusting, only some of the things that we are doing will actually end up being productive and/or effective and a lot of the things that we do automatically will just be completely ineffective and quite frankly, just a waste of time and energy.

So it stands to reason that feedback is essential that if we are completely aware of what we are doing that we are able to measure it too.

So – how do you measure?

Well the first thing that you need to do is put a plan into place.  Then you need to track your results and take score.

Once your plan is in place, and you have set up what your time frame is, you have to ensure that you are very clear about what actions are required and that your attitude is correct (in case you meet any challenges along the way).

Now you have to ask yourself the following questions from time to time.  These are (but not limited to):

a) Am I on track to achieving my goals and desires?
b) Is what I am doing taking me in the right direction in terms of me getting closer to my goals
c) What variables have come into the situation and does that mean I have to change and/or adjust what I am doing in order for me to continue going in the correct direction?
d) If an adjustment must be made, what is it and what do I have to put into place to ensure that I meet the requirements to ensure that I continue on the correct path?
e) Will these changes still bring about the results that I require and in the time frame that I have set – if not, what do I have to do to adjust it to meet the time frame requirements?

Understand though, that if you do not take the time to ask and answer these questions, you will fall right back into your old habits as these are governed and controlled by your sub and/or unconscious mind.

So – make the decision and make the choice to become a participant in your own life.

Remember always to measure and adjust.

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