Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Business Tips - Bookkeepers & Financial Year End - Part 1

BUSINESS TIPS – Bookkeepers & Financial Year End – Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC – April 2011

I’m really getting to the point where I am beginning to feel like I am ‘sounding like a broken record’!  Problem is that many SME’s don’t seem to be listening and that is really sad.

Every day I meet people who haven’t listened and who are now paying the price and I mean “paying” in every sense of the word.  People who are trying to negotiate payment plans with SARS and people who are trying to hide from the Sherriff of the court, who has arrived to attach their possessions and even people who have had to liquidate their businesses and their stories are all the same – they didn’t understand or know how to do the finances of their businesses.

If only they had listened!

Sure a good bookkeeper/accountant will cost you money.  Sure there will be administration that you will need to do on a daily/weekly/monthly and annual basis, but look at what you have to gain from than – a business where you actually know what’s going on!  For me there’s actually nothing worse than not knowing where I am financially.

Here are some of the things that a good bookkeeper/accountant should be doing for you (so NO, it’s not just about the numbers, it’s also about delivering a good service and understanding your business too).

Your bookkeeper/accountant should ensure that you are properly registered – not only as a company but with all the different legislative bodies that you need to be registered with.  You don’t automatically have to be registered with all of them as some of them are industry specific.  For example if you run a pub or bar or restaurant, you would need to have  a liquor license but if you run a book store you wouldn’t.  If you have staff, you need to be registered as an employer both with SARS and the Department of Labour, and so on.  Your bookkeeper/accountant would need to ensure that you are properly registered and that your annual fees (where applicable) are paid and up to date.

The bookkeeper/accountant should also ensure that your books are maintained on a monthly basis and that they are accurate and calculated and recorded and documented in compliance with the GAAP (Generally accepted accounting principals) requirements.

It is the responsibility of the bookkeeper/accountant to ensure that the monthly/bi-monthly and annual statutory requirements are met on or before the deadlines.

As most of you know by now, there have been many changes to legislation over the last few months, but here’s the thing – legislation changes all the time.  Your bookkeeper/accountant needs to keep up to date with, not only all the changes that have taken place, but also the changes that are being proposed for the future.  The bookkeeper/accountant should be keeping you up to date with all of the changes, especially in terms of SARS (VAT and Tax).  Changes in these two elements could have a financial implication on your company if they are not correctly and timeously implemented.

Next time we will look at some additional issues that your bookkeeper/accountant should keep you informed about.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Monday, May 30, 2016

Motivation - Express - Don't Impress


By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC

Today’s quote comes from E James Rohn, who says “Learn to express rather than impress.  Expressing evokes a ‘me too’ attitude while impressing evokes a ‘so what’ attitude.”

Well this is one that I am very definitely guilty of!  In fact, my usual statement is “and that is my problem – how?” or “tell someone who cares?” and quite frankly at that point in time, that is exactly how it is.  It is not an attitude but rather an opinion.

I guess when you get to my age (now there’s a new one for the books, I never thought that I would say something like that!), you’ve kind of earned your stripes, your bumps and your bruises and there is no longer a need to ‘impress’.  Things just are what they are and for me ‘it just is what it is’.

I often see what happens with the youngsters, who still feel the need to impress and was quietly amused the other day whilst conducting my workshop with a young man (let’s call him Joe) from Cape Town. I conduct a workshop called “A Basic Practical Guide to Starting a Business”. It was a ‘one on one’ kind of training that had been requested and paid for by one of my colleagues who has just started to Franchise his business, and who having been around the block a few times, wanted to make the start up of the business as painless as possible.

As Joe sat down and we started getting into the whole exercise, Joe told me very ‘clearly’ that he had no use for my workshop as he had ‘started several businesses in his lifetime and knows what he is doing!’.  As he rambled on about how many businesses he had opened and run.  I wondered why he was actually sitting in front of me.  When I asked what it was that he actually did, he told me that both he and his wife were working for an employer and it was then that I realized that he had no clue about what he was doing – all of his so called businesses had failed and he was forced to go back to the world of being an employee.  His ego was definitely bruised, and in my opinion would continue to get bruised as he clearly hasn’t learnt the lesson.

My dilemma was therefore one of “do I tell him or don’t I?”  Well, I opted not to tell him.  You see Joe had ‘no use’ for anything that I had to tell him, because he ‘knew everything’ and he was so busy telling me how wonderful he was and how clever he was, that nothing I said would have made any difference at all.  He was very clearly in “impress’ mode.

His workshop was purchased and paid for by someone else though and as I continued my way through it, he interrupted several times, not to ask questions or get clarity, but to tell me how he had handled situations that were similar to the ones that I had raised.  In many of these instances, had he reacted as he said he had, he would have been in trouble with SARS or the Department of Labour.  As I pointed this out – he merely laughed and shrugged his shoulders, clearly very pleased with himself and how clever he had been.  The problem however, is that it was clear to me that as a direct result of his ‘cleverness’ he had lost all of his businesses – the lesson though was clearly ‘lost’ on him.  You see he was in ‘impress’ mode and by this time the only person he was impressing was himself.

Joe, in my opinion, will continue his life in “impress” mode, as that is his mindset – he has not learnt to express himself and at this point, I doubt that he ever will because of his need to impress, at all costs.

Joe, in my opinion, will close the doors to this new business opportunity too, and it will be everyone’s fault but his.  Until Joe realizes and understands that his mindset needs to change, that he cannot know everything that he thinks he knows and that he too needs guidance and help from time to time, he will never be successful at anything.  Until Joe has recognized the fact that he is full of insecurities that need to be dealt with and that he is not so different from the rest of us – he will not move forward in the journey of life.

Joe, will probably never say ‘me too’ to anything in life – he is too hell bent on ‘impressing’.

Is your name also Joe?

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za

Friday, May 27, 2016

HR 101 - Suspending an Employee

HR 101 - Suspending An Employee

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC December 2010

Please note that this pertains to South African Labour requirements & best practice.

First of all, let’s be really clear about this . . . .  suspending an employee, irrespective of whether it is with pay or not is a really serious thing to do.  It is not something that should be done lightly or at the very least, done without taking all of the consequences into account.  One of the questions that you should ask yourself before suspending an employee is “Did the employee do something that can be considered as “serious” misconduct?

If the answer to that question is no – don’t suspend.  If however the answer is a resounding “YES”, then here are a few more issues for you to think about, carefully – before you continue.

- Are you going to suspend the employee immediately, or wait a few days and what are the consequences to either one of these actions.
- Are you required to hold a ‘pre-suspension’ hearing and if so how do you go about it – what are the requirements?
- Would there be (and what would they be) any consequences if you did not hold a ‘pre-suspension’ hearing?

Firstly – employees should not be suspended unless you are reasonably concerned that they would interfere with your internal investigation.  In other words if you thought that they may destroy documents or say delete e-mails etc., that would really strengthen your case.  If you were concerned about them intimidating colleagues, who you may want to use as witnesses or if they may, in any way do damage to your reputation or jeopardise your income in any way, then you have grounds to suspend.

If you are at all concerned about any of these and I mean justifiably concerned, then by all means suspend.

Remember though, that a ‘pre-suspension’ hearing should take place ‘before’ suspending the employee as failure to do this could result in the CCMA awarding a financial penalty (which always goes into the employees pocket to add insult to your injury) as procedures were not correctly followed.

The length of time that the employee is suspended should also be taken into consideration.  Keeping an employee suspended for too long, even if they are suspended on full pay, could also result in a financial penalty being levied against the employer.

Bottom line – don’t just have a knee jerk reaction.  Think about what it is that you are doing and why, because the CCMA and the Labour Courts are very strict about unfair suspension.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Early Warning - Department of Labour Warns Employers of "S A Legal Act" Scam

EARLY WARNING – Department of Labour Warns Employers of “S A Legal Act” Scam

This pertains to South Africa only

Good day all – I received this through the S A Labour Guide Newsletters.  Please take note



Media Release

Issued By Department of Labour

The Department of Labour is warning business to be wary of people from a company called SA Legal Act claiming to be subcontractors of the department who are selling copies of the country’s labour legislation.

It has since come to the attention of the department that there are people who have already visited company premises around Pretoria/Tshwane area presenting themselves as subcontractors of the Department of Labour and selling copies of Labour Legislation.

“It is alleged that the person(s) from SA Legal Act rocked up in one company insisting that the company buys the documents for display before the Labour Inspectors come for inspection,” said Labour Department Deputy Director-General Inspection & Enforcement (IES) Siyanda Nxawe.

The peddlers of ‘so called’ labour legislation sell copies relating to Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Employment Equity, Occupational Health, Skills Development Amendment Act, Law of Dismissal, Construction Regulation, Sector Determination, Code of Good Practice on the employment of people with Disabilities and the New Tobacco.

“Members of the public, employers and organizations are warned of this scam where people also pose as Labour Inspectors and sell them pieces of legislation. The Department of Labour does not sell legislation information and services of the Department are provided at no cost to workers, employers and general public,” Nxawe said.

The Department also wishes to warn companies and public never to deposit money into bank accounts of scammers. It is also not true that the above mentioned legislation(s) were valid for three years. SA Legal Act is selling the various pieces of legislation in the form of posters and charts, of which a copy sells for amounts of between R280 and R310.

The charts and copies of the Labour Acts can be bought from the Government Printers at marginal rates than those quoted by SA Legal Act or can be downloaded from the website of the Department of Labour at www.labour.gov.za.

The Government Printers have offices is Pretoria, telephone number (012) 334 4508/4509/4510, and they also have offices in Cape Town, telephone number (021) 465 7531.

Issued by Mr. Page Boikanyo

Departmental spokesperson

Department of Labour

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Networking 101 - The Art of Conversation

Networking 101 - The Art of Conversation

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC. August 2010

After one hundred and seventy articles on how to Network, I am getting to the point where it is becoming difficult for me to think about how to say things differently and I am beginning to dread the weekly post.  That’s just not too good at all, I am sure you will agree.  So I have decided that this will be the last Networking article for a while.  Don’t fret though, it does not mean that I will never give any more advice about Networking, but rather that I am taking a bit of a vacation from writing about Networking.

So now, onto the last tip on Networking in this series.

I think that it’s appropriate to push the buttons a little and talk about the ‘art of conversation’.

At so many Networking meetings that I have attended, there is always the person who hogs the conversation and who drones on and on about how fabulous they are and how wonderful they are.  You know the type I am sure.  Its the person who, no matter what you’ve done or you’ve  accomplished or where you’ve gone and what you’ve seen, they have done it all and what’s more – they have done it better and faster and. . . .  ja – we are all well versed with this type of individual.

It’s one of the quickest ways to empty a room though and to be quite honest, I no longer even entertain these individuals, I have been known to just walk away mid-sentence!

Sure it’s great to keep the conversation flowing, sure its great to help the newbies who are too scared to open their mouths and sure it’s great to assist the introverts who would prefer not to say anything at all.

Fact is though that if everybody is not taking part in the discussion, all you are doing is standing on your soap box as you deliver your soliloquy.  How sad is that?

Fact is, everybody is there for the same reason, everybody wants to engage with like minded people, everybody there wants to start building relationships and everybody wants to tell people about what they do and who they are.

Breaking the ice to get the conversation going is really great, but talking for the sake of talking will be the death of any kind of relationship that you hoped to get going.

So find the common ground - interesting, light hearted things to get going and everyone included in the conversation – you’ll be so glad you did.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za  or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Business Tips - Being Your Own Boss - Part 12

BUSINESS TIPS - Being Your Own Boss – Part 12

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – June  2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck and remember to always have fun!

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Monday, May 23, 2016

Motivation - Dream to Reach Your Goals


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Like most people who own their own businesses, I am very "goal orientated" and again like most people who own their own businesses, those goals can and have changed on a daily basis.

The below advice to put the goals into some sort of order of priority is something that, quite frankly needs to be done!  The way that I find easier to do this type of thing is to have a 10 year, 5 year and then 1 year plan, and at this time I am referring specifically to the work arena.

Looking forward into my life and into the future for me, makes what I do and how I achieve those goals very important.  So I take the most difficult of all and ask the question - what would I like to be doing in 10 years time.  Where would I like to be in terms of my business and what would I have liked to achieve.  For me these are the 3 most important questions and they are listed separately, with all the bits and pieces going on in rows beneath them.

Once that is complete, I tend to break it down and so here comes the 5 year plan.  Looking at the 10 year plan, many of them are automatically achievable if certain of the other goals are met and brought to fruition, those do not get transferred to the 5 year list, but remain on the 10 year list.  Again what is on the list is broken down into easier to achieve "bite size portions".

Again, once that is complete, I break things down and out of this the 1 year plan is born.  As with the 10 year plan, many of the points on the 5 year plan are automatically achievable if certain goals are met and brought to fruition, those do not get transferred to the 1 year list but remain on the 5 year list.

I now have a list that is 'doable', even if it is somewhat daunting!  Now for me, here comes the challenge.  There may still be goals that are automatically achievable if other goals are met - these are split out from the others and listed to one side.  The remainder of goals are then taken one at a time and what needs to be done to achieve each one is listed as a sub-heading under the goal to be achieved.  These are then given a 'due date' by which they are to be completed - those due dates are diarized, and also put down into my year planner so that they can be seen at a glance.  By checking my year planner on a weekly basis the task can be planned out into daily expectations and what I like to call "mini targets".

I now have a workable solution to something that at the beginning of the exercise, was a hugely daunting, frightening and quite frankly an over whelming task.

On a daily basis, use your diary, or a journal to record what you have done and what you have achieved or have not achieved and why.  Apart from documenting your life, you are also cleansing your mind and settling emotions!

So what am I saying here . . . .  Well basically it is this - If you want to be a success in life and/or in business, you have to have a plan!  Issues need to be put into perspective.  You need to achieve your goals, one little step at a time - remember the statement (I forget now who wrote it, but it is very true) that the greatest of journey's begin with a single step.  Note it says step - not leap, or sprint or anything else that you may want to conjure up in your mind's eye.

At the end of the year, take your lists and look at what you have achieved.  Now is also not the time to beat yourself up over what hasn't been achieved!  I have no doubt that you have done this sufficiently during the course of the year.  Remember daily goals have changed to accommodate ever changing needs and there are goals that have been achieved that were not even recorded or considered.  Because of the changes there are also many goals that are now obsolete, so they now no longer feature.

Adjust your goals for the coming year.  Take time out - I mean quality time with yourself, turnaround and have a look at where you were 12 months ago, what you have achieved and the journey that you have walked.  Pat yourself on the back and give yourself credit for what you have done!  Too often we are too busy bashing our own selves on the head because of what we haven't done, instead of congratulating ourselves and patting ourselves on the back for what we have achieved . . . more often than not with more tasks that had not been on the list than what were.

And remember . . .  focus on the goal that is in front of you - don't gaze into the future and try and complete the 10 year plan in the 1 year space.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za

Friday, May 20, 2016

HR 101 - 24 Hours Notice

HR 101 - 24 Hour’s Notice

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC

Please Note: This pertains to South African Labour & Best Practice requirements.

Let’s go back to my favourite protagonists – I haven’t used them for quite a while.

Mike is our SMME who owns a small store in a busy mall.  George is his right hand man, who is basically the shop assistant and who is employed full time.  George has worked for Mike for more than eight years.

George started working for Mike just after he left school and he had a basic standard 8 education and no work experience at all.  George now is computer literate and is proficient at selling and he looks after the shop with the help of a casual, when Mike takes the occasional day off.

George now also has a full matric that he earned by correspondence and that Mike ultimately paid for.

George has a proper Letter of Appointment that he has signed and that states that a month’s notice should be given at termination by either party.

Over the past few months the relationship between Mike and George has been different.  Not bad – just different you understand – but certainly different.

It all started when Mike did the annual increase and he gave George a 10% increase.  George did not appear to feel that the increase was sufficiently big enough.  Mike showed George all the increases that the business had to contend with, such as rent, utilities and so on and explained that due to the fact that sales were down and expenses were up, the store could not afford a bigger increase at that time.

Whilst George appeared to understand the predicament that Mike was in, he was not his usual self.  Mike tried to find out what the problem was, but could not get any feedback from George – Mike hoped that ‘time’ would sort the problem out.

Well time certainly did sort the problem out, but not in the way that Mike would have liked.  You see George came to work one day and stated that he was resigning with immediate effect and that this would be his last day and that he expected to be paid in full, including his leave pay etc., by the time he left that afternoon.

As I am sure you can understand, Mike was more than a little shocked!  What now? Apart from anything else, it was coming up for Christmas – easily the busiest time for the retail sector and apart from him having to find another person to replace George, there certainly wasn’t enough time to find someone and train them.  Mike was in for a very heavy two months.

Frustrated Mike stated that George had signed a contract stating that he would give a month’s notice.  George shrugged his shoulders and stated “I am not coming to work here tomorrow and if you have not paid me and my money is not in my account tomorrow morning, I will go to the Department of Labour.”

Well so much for gratitude!  So much for treating your staff well and fairly and for paying for their education . . . .  Well, no use crying over spilt milk.

Understandably, Mike was furious, but what sort of recourse did he have?

In a similar case “National Entitled Workers Union v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation & Arbitration & others (2007) 28 ILJ 1223 (LAC), the union employed a person who left them without giving notice and the labour court disagreed that this was unfair labour practice perpetrated against them.”

According to Advocate Estelle Botha, “the court confirmed that the one recourse for employers is to sue the employee under common law, for breach of contract”.  Yeah right!  Exactly what purpose would that serve, other than to incur more costs and waste more of the employers valuable time?

Advocate Botha agrees that employees who give 24 hours notice or who just walk out are most definitely in breach of contract and that what they are doing is totally illegal – but how does that help the average entrepreneur or employer?

Wait – help is here!  Advocate Botha has a solution for us and it goes like this.

Advocate Botha says “In order to protect themselves, employers must stipulate in the employment contract that should the employee terminate the employment contract without tendering the written contractual notice period, then the employer will deduct from the final payment to the employee, an amount equal to the period of notice not given.”

You see, if you include this clause in your Letter of Appointment or contract of employment, it becomes part of the agreement between the employer and the employee and when the employee signs the letter or contract of employment, it becomes a condition of their employment.

Then if the employee does ‘gap it’ or does only give 24 hours notice, you as the employer can deduct notice pay from whatever it is that you owe them.

How cool is that !

Remember though, unless you have that clause in place you cannot deduct the money. So for those who have letters and contracts of employment in place – don’t forget to ‘re-negotiate’ – whatever you do, don’t just change it.

I am off to include the clause in my contracts . . .

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Early Warning - Where are Your Employee Deductions?

EARLY WARNING – Where are your Employee Deductions?

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – June 2011

Times are tough – I get that, but stealing the money that you have deducted from your employees is just not on!

Funds that should be paid across to the Pension Fund or to SARS (South African Revenue Services) or even to the UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) and that are then misappropriated by the employer, can and do have serious implications for the employee.

The problem then is that if the company becomes insolvent the funds that should have been paid over cannot (or at best become extremely difficult) be collected or at best become extremely difficult to collect, especially if they were destined for the Pension Fund.  This is because retirement type funds are not classified as ‘secured creditors’ but rather as ‘preferred ones’.  Payments that were destined to go to SARS are a bit easier to collect, but the bottom line is that if there is no money, then there just is no money and having to wait for years to get that money back in, doesn’t help you one iota, if you are retrenched and unemployed right now without UIF to fall back on.

The bottom line is that the Trustees and Administrators of these funds need to take action the moment payment is not received rather than wait until such time as the company is declared insolvent.

There is also something that you as an employee can do and that is check on a regular basis that your contributions have been paid over to the relevant body and thereby ensure your future.

Be proactive and make sure that everything has been paid over.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Networking 101 - Always Have Business Cards With You

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     THE POWER OF NETWORKING
Networking 101 - Always Have Business Cards With You

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC. August 2010

I am at a total loss!  No really – at a complete and total loss!  Yip, sometimes words fail me and this, is one of those time!

People who go to (or even set up) Networking meetings/events, who do not have business cards with them!

I mean I can sort of kind of understand being somewhere and running out of cards because the crowd that you expected to be there, is somewhat smaller than the crowd that actually arrived (but that’s why I always have a full box of cards in the car), but people going to a Networking event or even hosting a Networking event and not having any cards – well that, for me just defies logic. I mean, why are you going to a Networking event (not to mention actually hosting one) if your intent is not to Network?

The bottom line of course, is always be prepared (for me it’s always about being proactive) and that means always having cards with me – it’s my branding, it’s my marketing, it’s my PRO, it’s the way that I Network and it does work for me.  So I always have cards in my wallet, cards in my work bag, cards in my notebook (the one that I usually take when I go to Networking functions) and cards in my car.  That way, I may run out of cards on me, but I always have a back up supply.

My business cards are crucial to my getting new business.  They represent me, they represent my skills and services and having them with me always, tells people that I am serious about what I do – that I am serious about my business and that I am a professional, regardless of whether I am at a Networking meeting, or at my nephew’s school watching a soccer match.  My business cards tell people that my business is open . . .  well for business.

I never know when the next opportunity is going to come knocking at my door – it could be as I stand in the queue at the post office or waiting for my car to be vacuumed at the car wash (and yes I did meet a colleague there, who was invited to attend some Networking meetings and the rest, as they say, is history), so I make it a point to never be without a card or two.

So the next time you head out the door, check for car keys, house keys, watch, wallet and of course . . .  those business cards!  There will come a time when you will be pleased that you did.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za  or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Business Tips - Being Your Own Boss - Part 11

BUSINESS TIPS - Being Your Own Boss – Part 11

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – June  2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Monday, May 16, 2016

Motivation - Going Through the Barriers


By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC

Today’s quote comes from Vincent Van Gogh who says:

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

Now we all know that Vincent Van Gogh was slightly mad!  Anyone who cuts their own ear off has got to have lost the plot at some point.  That said look at the beauty of his paintings, so somewhere along the line he had to have gotten it right.

Pause for a moment and think about what his words mean.  I know that people who play sport often ‘go through the pain’ and from what I understand it means that when whatever it is that you are doing is painful, you just keep on going and at some point it is no longer painful.

What makes business any different?  Why do those particular words just have to pertain to someone’s talent, be that of the artistic kind or the sports kind?  Surely that would also apply to ‘talent’ in the business sense of the word too?

There is not a single person who I know, who is in business today who has not at some point in time – just wanted to give up and throw the towel in.  There is not a single person who I know, who is in business today who has not thought ‘why does it have to be so hard’?

Well the truth of the matter is that it does not have to be hard, it’s just that as mere humans we tend to loose our way and then we make decisions that have consequences and it’s living up to and with those consequences that is what is hard sometimes.

So the next time you hear the little voice inside of you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is time to book your spot in the nearest mental institution, it could just be your intuition giving you a nudge to make a decision.

What decision will you make?

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za.

Friday, May 13, 2016

HR 101 - When You Want to Hire Staff - Part 3

HR 101 - When You Want to Hire Staff – Part 3

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC August 2010

Last time we had a look at how to screen the applicants using the Job Description and today we will progress onto the actual interview.

So there I was left with 3 applicants for the job.  How to choose which one would be the most suitable for the position.

At this point it is not always about the qualifications and the number of years experience – what happens, as in my particular situation where you had 3 individuals who met all the requirements in the job description?  Well at least that is what they said.

It is extremely important, when you interview someone to have a list of what it is that you want to ask – be sure to ask everyone the same question and have a ‘reason’ why you are asking that question.  For example, when you ask a candidate if they are married and have children – the question is not so that you can ask them out on a date, it is usually asked so that you can ascertain if they have other commitments (outside of the working environment) that will take up their time or asking them what sport they enjoy is not because I want to come and watch them playing their next game, its because I want to know if they play for the Provincial/National team, as that would take them ‘out of the office’ when they go away on tours and the like.

Remember questions like “Are you pregnant?” or “Do you have HIV/Aids?” should not be asked.  Actually, if the truth be told, you can ask any question you like, but if the applicant is of the opinion that they didn’t get the position because of  their answer to that particular question, then you could be in trouble with the Department of Labour as you cannot discriminate against  someone because they are pregnant and you cannot discriminate against someone because they are HIV/Aids positive.  So why bother asking those particular questions unless the position that they are applying for will adversely affect those in that particular position. For me, awarding a score to each answer that is positive for the Company, means that I can reduce their answers to numbers and then the applicant with the highest score would be the winner.  Don’t forget to take into account things like, whether they are able to work as part of a team, your first impression, how they presented themselves, how they spoke or articulated what they wanted to say – these are all very important factors that should also be scored upon.  What do you think of the individual and as a person?  Let’s be honest – if the hair on the back of your neck rises each time you look at them or talk to them, it is not a good idea to hire them, especially if you are going to be working closely with them.  Don’t ever disregard your ‘gut feel’ or your intuition – it may save you many a grey hair in the long run.

Then get them to do a little test – something that they would be expected to do as a matter of course.  If for example you are employing someone who will assist in putting together and running an event -  give them the brief on an event that you have run in the past (take out the clients name and any other confidential information or change the names etc) and get them to give you a list of what they need to do.  Someone who has actually done this before will have no trouble giving you something that makes sense, but someone who is taking a chance will in all probability leave out many of the most fundamental and basic steps.  Getting them to do a little test is one of the quickest ways to ensure that you actually have someone who knows what it is that they are doing as opposed to someone who thinks they know it all.

Finally, once you have made your choice, don’t forget to check those references.  Don’t just call the cell phone number of the person that they say they worked for – look up the Company’s phone number and ask to speak to that person – at least that way you know that they actually work there.  Another tip is to ask to speak to that person’s supervisor/manager.  Do you know how many people give the name and contact details of the person who sat at the desk next to them and not their supervisor and/or manager? Remember that if you cannot get hold of one or more of their references, there is usually a reason and I promise you it will not be in your favour.  I personally would not employ someone whose references I could not verify.

If you are needing certificates and/or diplomas – check with the university or learning establishment to make sure that they did in fact get that qualification – this always reminds me of the surgeon who is performing complicated operations who was thrown out of medical school before he qualified.  Don’t believe anything they tell you – check it out and make sure yourself.

Next time we will have a look at a completely new topic.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Early Warning - Credit Card Fraud

EARLY WARNING – Credit Card Fraud

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – June 2011

We seem to still be on the whole Credit Card experience – this was also received from a colleague.  Again, how true it is, I couldn’t vouch for – but it does seem plausible and for me forewarned is always forearmed.

“Yesterday I went into a pizza restaurant to pick up an order that I had called in.  I paid using my Visa Cheque Card, which of course, is linked directly to my current account.

The young man behind the counter took my card, swiped it and then laid it on the counter as he waited for the approval, which is pretty standard procedure.  While he waited, he picked up his cell phone and started dialing.  I noticed the phone because it was the same model as I have, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

Then I heard a ‘click’ that sounded like my phone sounds when I take a picture.  He then gave me back my card but kept the phone in his hand as if he was still pressing buttons.  Meanwhile, I’m thinking: I wonder what he is taking a picture of, oblivious to what was really going on.  It then dawned on me - the only thing there was my credit card, so now I am paying close attention to what he is doing.

He set his phone down on the counter, leaving it open.  About five seconds later, I heard the chime that tells you that the picture has been saved.  Now I’m standing there struggling with the fact that this youngster just took a photo of my credit card.  Yes he played it off well, because had we not had the same kind of phone, I probably would never have known what happened.

Needless to say, I immediately cancelled that card as I was walking out of the pizza parlour.  All I am saying is be aware of your surroundings at all times.  Whenever you are using your credit (or debit) card, be cautious and don’t be careless.  Notice who is standing near you and what they are doing as you use your card.”

The bottom line as always, be aware, be safe and take steps to ensure that you don’t become a victim.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Networking 101 - You Should be Networking All the Time

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Networking 101 - You Should be Networking All the Time

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC. July 2010

I had an interesting experience the other day.  I was invited to UJ (University of Johannesburg) to do my Networking presentation to the 3rd (I think) year Marketing students – about 200 of them.

Ok, it’s not just you – I also thought it was a very strange request, but hey – I’ve learnt not to judge.

Turns out that there is no material around on how to use Networking as your marketing and since the lecturer knows me from years ago and understands that all of my business comes from Networking and therefore all of my Marketing is in fact Networking, she called me in to do the presentation.  How weird is that?  I mean really, how can your Marketing not include Networking?  For me that’s really bizarre!

For small businesses, who don’t have deep pockets or extremely large budgets, the simplest, most effective and cheapest way to market yourself, your product, your service is through Networking.  I’ve said so before and I will most probably say it again, in my opinion, Networking is the most affordable, important and powerful business tool that is available to SMME’s (Small, Medium, Micro Enterprises).

The problem as I see it is that people don’t know how to Network effectively.  Just because you have work at this particular time, it doesn’t mean that you can stop Networking.  Just because you find yourself in the middle of a recession, it doesn’t mean that you can stop Networking.  Just because you don’t get to sign a deal at the Networking meeting that you went to last night, doesn’t mean that you should stop Networking.  Networking should be something that is second nature to you and it should be something that you do all the time, while you’re waiting in the queue at the bank, sitting watching your kids playing sport or at a formal Networking meeting and/or event – you should be Networking.

You need to find out where you are most comfortable Networking, whether it is at a Networking meeting/dinner/breakfast or at a conference or exhibition or a workshop/seminar or what about charity events or even socially – whatever is more comfortable for you, is where you will be the most successful at Networking, as long as you are Networking.

Remember though that Networking is not about doing business, it’s about meeting people, building relationships and building trust and respect.  Once those are in place – doing the business is the next natural step.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za  or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Business Tips - Being Your Own Boss - Part 10

BUSINESS TIPS - Being Your Own Boss – Part 10

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – June  2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Monday, May 09, 2016

Motivation - Great Achievements


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Today’s quote comes from David J. Schwartz, who says :

"All great achievements require time."

I am pretty sure that we have all heard the saying ‘Stop. . . . .  and smell the coffee’.  For some of us though, and I am including myself here, time seems to run away!

It’s not that I am unproductive or that I squander my time, or even mismanage it – it’s just that there doesn’t seem to be enough of it ever!  I sometimes get the feeling that I am literally running against time!  There is always so much to do, so much that I still want to achieve, and never enough time in which to do it!

I am always impatient with people who waste my time, especially banks, post offices and the like. I am thoroughly irritated by people who meander through life, who seem to walk with no sense of purpose.  I am frustrated by people who can’t see the big picture or the finer details, and yes – you do need to see them both!

I am frustrated by people, who don’t seem to know what they want, let alone how they are going to achieve it, and don’t get me started on people who profess to know what it is that they want but then when you chat to them it is clearly evident that they are actually quite clueless!

You see, although I can ‘talk the talk’, I am essentially a doer, so once I have had the talk and thought it through, I want to get going.  Most of the time, I am frustrated by people, who still want to talk about it . . .  for another 6 weeks (by which time the opportunity has moved on), or people who want to think about it for another 6 weeks (again the opportunity has moved on) or by people who are just plain undecided!

I agree that ‘great achievements take time’, but my biggest challenge is taking the first step towards realizing that achievement!  If it is something that I can achieve myself, I am usually off to a flying start, however if I am doing something together with others . . . well, I think I have made my point already.

Make a decision and take the first step and for heaven’s sake just get going.  Achievements take time, so I would still like to be around to benefit and enjoy the fruits of my labour as and when the achievement is realized.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za

Friday, May 06, 2016

HR 101 - When You Want to Hire Staff - Part 2

HR - When You Want to Hire Staff – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC August 2010

Last time we had a look at ascertaining whether we really did need to hire staff or not, as well as ‘how to’ ensure that we were hiring them for a specific purpose (being the right purpose) and not just because there was a body available and we felt sorry for them.  This time we look at the next steps to take.

Ok, so now you have set up the job spec and posted the information where -ever you can think of on the web, at your local supermarkets - just generally all over.  Suddenly, it’s as if the flood gates have opened and you are flooded with e-mails and CV’s.  Everyone is looking for a job (whether they are actually qualified to do it or not is something else altogether).  You will be able to tell at first glance (and I mean glance – don’t do more than that at this stage) who may be (and I stress MAY be) suitable and who definitely isn’t.  Here’s a true story:

I was looking for a Financial Administrator for one of my clients.  The job spec was really very clear, to the point that we stipulated that the applicant should be a qualified CA (chartered accountant) with a minimum of 5 years working experience in a Financial environment.  One of the applicants we got a CV from (and there were over 700 applicants for the position) was working as a Financial Planner in one of the banks – she didn’t even have basic bookkeeping as a subject at school.  Curious I contacted her and asked her why she even responded since she was clearly not at all qualified for the position.  Her response “well I work in a financial planning department in the bank, so how difficult can it be”?  Not too difficult I guess, if you have done the study for 3 or 4 years and qualified and done the year long stint as an ‘Article Clerk’ and then actually worked in a Financial department (and no Financial Planning is not a Financial Environment – it is an Insurance environment) for no less than the required period!

Once you have gotten rid of all the nonsense, it is time to take a more serious look at what is left (I was left with around 20 at this point).  I usually draw up a check list of sorts, of the requirements that are needed for the job and then as I work through the CV’s, I tick off what they have.  For me, the applicant needs to have at least 80% of the requirements before I even start interviewing and of those some are not even negotiable.  As in the above example – certainly the applicant having the required qualification, is not negotiable, but the applicant having say four years experience instead of the required five, would have been a point that I would have been happy to negotiate.  After performing this particular task, I was left with 3 people to interview.

Next time we will have a look at the next step.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Early Warning - Credit Card Theft

EARLY WARNING - Credit Card Theft

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – June 2011

I received this mail from a colleague and now pass it on in an attempt to halt this particular type of theft.  The article appears to have been taken from the website http://www.prepaidlegal.com/hub/spears_m.

“A man at a local restaurant paid for his meal with his credit card. The bill for the meal came, he signed it and that the waitress folded the receipt and passed the credit card along with the receipt.  Usually, he would just take it and place it in his wallet or pocket.

Funny enough though, he actually took a look at the card and ‘lo and behold’, it was the expired card of another person.  He called the waitress back and she looked perplexed.

She took it back and hurried back to the counter under the watchful eye of the man.  All the waitress did while walking to the counter was wave the wrong expired card to the counter cashier, and the counter cashier immediately looked down and took out the real card.

No exchange of words . . . nothing!  The waitress took it and came back to the man with an apology.

Make sure that the credit cards in your wallet are yours.  Check the name on the card every time you sign for something and/or the card is taken away for even a short period of time.

Many people just take back the credit card without even looking at it, assuming that it has to be theirs.

For your own sake, develop the habit of checking your credit card each time it is returned to you after a transaction.”

Good advice, whichever way you look at it.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Networking 101 - Making Small Talk

Networking 101 - Making Small Talk

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC. July 2010

Karl Smith, a business networking and referral coach says “The Ability to connect with others through small talk can lead to big things.”

Ain’t that the truth!  Who would think that a casual meeting with someone, where there were no expectations, perceptions or hidden agenda’s can turn into something so much bigger.

Last year I attended several Intra-Africa Executive Breakfasts that were hosted by Upbeat Marketing, that were a platform for people to Network for ‘across border’ opportunities.  I met people from all over Africa and also South Africa.  I dined with Ambassadors and High Commissioners and CEO’s of big Corporate Companies here and there, and also ordinary folk like you and me and I learned a lot.  I spoke to random strangers that somehow ended up sitting next to me or sitting at the same table as me and learned about different cultures, different African cultures – it was illuminating!

I met a chap by the name of Richard from SAFM and through him ended up being interviewed on SABC International and because of that got calls, e-mails and messages from friends and family all over the world, who watched me being interviewed – that’s a biggie for me.

Sure, me being an introvert, made it really difficult to make conversation or chit chat with total strangers, but here’s the thing – small talk opens the door to getting friendships going.  Small talks breaks the ice before people get serious enough to start discussing business.  Small talks starts the whole process of building relationships.  Small talk got Richard and I talking and that small talk lead to a big thing in my life.

So what is ‘small talk’ exactly?

Generally speaking, ‘small talk’ is considered to be ‘light’ conversation about every day common variety type happenings – so don’t be talking about politics or religion or sex – those will just get you into a huge mess.  It’s about interesting things that you read in the paper or in a magazine – things that don’t require too much research to too much thought.  Nonsencesickle (is that even a word) things that are amusing (as long as you are not disparaging anyone), that bring a smile to a face or that are topical to what is happening around us at the moment (I wonder what else we can talk about now that the World Cup has had it’s 15 minutes of glory?) It’s the type of conversation that people engage in at a cocktail party or the office party.

You see the thing is, it’s not always appropriate to talk about business.  Meeting someone for the first time at a wedding for example, and launching yourself into your full business presentation, is not a good idea – chances are that by doing that you will ensure that that particular person may never want to see or even speak to you again.  But telling a light antidote of something that was really amusing at the last wedding that you attended, to a table full of strangers who are sitting silently – shy to talk to each other because they have never met, is sure to get a conversation going as others start to tell of funny experiences that they may have had at weddings or birthday parties.

Sadly most people are not really any good at ‘small talk’ and when they have nothing to add to the conversation, they retreat even further into their shells – afraid to come out in case they make a fool of themselves.   Even sadder is the fact that engaging in ‘small talk’ with someone usually gives them a first impression, a very accurate picture of who you are as a person.  It reveals things like (but not limited to) – do you listen attentively when someone talks to you?  Do you express yourself eloquently or do you speak in dis-joined words that confuse?  Do you join in or hold yourself apart?  Do you have an opinion that you are willing to share with others or do you just follow every one else’s opinion (even when there are some that hold opposing positions)?

From the way that you handle yourself with ‘small talk’, people will automatically perceive how you would go about the ‘business talk’.

So how do you go about becoming proficient at ‘small talk’?

Well some of the tips, I have already given you – read, read, read – the newspaper, magazines (and for goodness sake not the heavy financial ones – rather look at the gossip ones, Paris Hilton’s latest antics usually bring out a smile to two).  The internet is also always a huge resource of information.  If you know you are going to meet a particular person – Google them, try and find out what their interests are and then hone up on that.

Remember though, conversation is something that happens between two or more people. It’s not a dialogue for one – let others also have a chance to say something or add to the conversation.  This can be done by asking a question that doesn’t necessarily require a ‘yes or no’ answer, like a ‘what do you think of . . . . .?.  Then step back and listen to the answer as well as the opinions of everyone else.

Making ‘small talk’, like everything else in life, takes practice, the more you practice the better you will become and the better you become, the more confident you will become.

So invest a few minutes every day in reading something light and/or interesting that you can share with someone. Get yourself engaged in ‘small talk’ with someone today and you’ll be sure to reap the benefits of something that could be really big in the future.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za  or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Business Tips - Being Your Own Boss - Part 9

BUSINESS TIPS - Being Your Own Boss – Part 9

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – May  2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za