Friday, September 30, 2016

HR 101 - How to Manage Sick Leave Abuse - Part 1

HR 101 – How to Manage Sick Leave Abuse - Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC – February 2013

I can’t begin to tell you how many of my current clients are singing the same tune.  Actually if the truth be told it is much more of a lament.  Their staff are constantly off work “sick”.  Sadly for the employer this constant abuse of sick leave has far reaching and very damaging consequences and either the employee doesn’t understand this or they don’t give two hoots about the high risk factor to their employment that their irresponsible behaviour causes.

As the employer, you need to know exactly what the problem is and of course how big the problem is in terms of its financial implications.  Once this has been determined you will be in a far better position to take steps to address the situation.

Firstly you need to ascertain just how big your problem is and it is therefore time to look at the records to get all the numbers (now do you understand just how important it is to get the records done, up to date and properly maintained).

- You need to have a look at the amount of time taken for each absence, for each staff member.  Are they ‘one day’ absences or two days at a time or several days.  What about ‘which’ days are usually taken – are they usually before or after a weekend or public holiday?  Are there any kinds of consistencies, for example, your staff member has a child who is in the 1st team swim squad.  The team travels for meets all over the country.  The employee is absent mostly on Mondays and Tuesdays in the summer months, but very seldom in winter!
- What do these absences cost you?  Apart from the fact that you are paying the wages/salary of the employee (so their daily rate would apply) there is also the lack of productivity that needs to be factored in as obviously the deliverables are also affected.  So start there and work out a rough estimate.
- Get some sort of indication of the ‘type of illnesses’ that the staff claim to have.  For example you would expect people to be ‘down with the flu’ or coughs and colds, during the winter months, but not necessarily all the way through summer as well. Obviously there will be some instances where this information is not available, but where and when it is, it makes for interesting reading.

Once you have gathered and analysed all of this information you will be in a far better position to understand the impact that the absenteeism has on your company.

Next time we will have a look at trying to ascertain the causes of the absenteeism.

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Early Warning - The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

EARLY WARNING – The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting.

This article was posted on the Business Master’s website ( ) and I thought that it is something that should be shared with all – what a great article!

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship BY JESSICA BRUDER

No one said building a company was easy. But it's time to be honest about how brutal it really is--and the price so many founders secretly pay.

By all counts and measures, Bradley Smith is an unequivocal business success. He's CEO of Rescue One Financial, an Irvine, California-based financial services company that had sales of nearly $32 million last year. Smith's company has grown some 1,400 percent in the last three years, landing it at No. 310 on this year's Inc. 500. So you might never guess that just five years ago, Smith was on the brink of financial ruin--and mental collapse.

Back in 2008, Smith was working long hours counseling nervous clients about getting out of debt. But his calm demeanor masked a secret: He shared their fears. Like them, Smith was sinking deeper and deeper into debt. He had driven himself far into the red starting--of all things--a debt-settlement company. "I was hearing how depressed and strung out my clients were, but in the back of my mind I was thinking to myself, I've got twice as much debt as you do," Smith recalls.

He had cashed in his 401(k) and maxed out a $60,000 line of credit. He had sold the Rolex he bought with his first-ever paycheck during an earlier career as a stockbroker. And he had humbled himself before his father--the man who raised him on maxims such as "money doesn't grow on trees" and "never do business with family"--by asking for $10,000, which he received at 5 percent interest after signing a promissory note.

Smith projected optimism to his co-founders and 10 employees, but his nerves were shot. "My wife and I would share a bottle of $5 wine for dinner and just kind of look at each other," Smith says. "We knew we were close to the edge." Then the pressure got worse: The couple learned they were expecting their first child. "There were sleepless nights, staring at the ceiling," Smith recalls. "I'd wake up at 4 in the morning with my mind racing, thinking about this and that, not being able to shut it off, wondering, When is this thing going to turn?" After eight months of constant anxiety, Smith's company finally began making money.

Successful entrepreneurs achieve hero status in our culture. We idolize the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Elon Musks. And we celebrate the blazingly fast growth of the Inc. 500 companies. But many of those entrepreneurs, like Smith, harbor secret demons: Before they made it big, they struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair--times when it seemed everything might crumble.
Until recently, admitting such sentiments was taboo. Rather than showing vulnerability, business leaders have practiced what social psychiatrists call impression management--also known as "fake it till you make it." Toby Thomas, CEO of EnSite Solutions (No. 188 on the Inc. 500), explains the phenomenon with his favorite analogy: a man riding a lion. "People look at him and think, This guy's really got it together! He's brave!" says Thomas. "And the man riding the lion is thinking, How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?"

Not everyone who walks through darkness makes it out. In January, well-known founder Jody Sherman, 47, of the e-commerce site Ecomom took his own life. His death shook the start-up community. It also reignited a discussion about entrepreneurship and mental health that began two years earlier after the suicide of Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the 22-year-old co-founder of Diaspora, a social networking site.

Lately, more entrepreneurs have begun speaking out about their internal struggles in an attempt to combat the stigma on depression and anxiety that makes it hard for sufferers to seek help. In a deeply personal post called "When Death Feels Like a Good Option," Ben Huh, the CEO of the Cheezburger Network humor websites, wrote about his suicidal thoughts following a failed start-up in 2001. Sean Percival, a former MySpace vice president and co-founder of the children's clothing start-up Wittlebee, penned a piece called "When It's Not All Good, Ask for Help" on his website. "I was to the edge and back a few times this past year with my business and own depression," he wrote. "If you're about to lose it, please contact me."

Brad Feld, a managing director of the Foundry Group, started blogging in October about his latest episode of depression. The problem wasn't new--the prominent venture capitalist had struggled with mood disorders throughout his adult life--and he didn't expect much of a response. But then came the emails. Hundreds of them. Many were from entrepreneurs who had also wrestled with anxiety and despair. (For more of Feld's thoughts on depression, see his column, "Surviving the Dark Nights of the Soul," in Inc.'s July/August issue.)"If you saw the list of names, it would surprise you a great deal," says Feld. "They are very successful people, very visible, very charismatic-;yet they've struggled with this silently. There's a sense that they can't talk about it, that it's a weakness or a shame or something. They feel like they're hiding, which makes the whole thing worse."

If you run a business, that probably all sounds familiar. It's a stressful job that can create emotional turbulence. For starters, there's the high risk of failure. Three out of four venture-backed start-ups fail, according to research by Shikhar Ghosh, a Harvard Business School lecturer. Ghosh also found that more than 95 percent of start-ups fall short of their initial projections.

Entrepreneurs often juggle many roles and face countless setbacks--lost customers, disputes with partners, increased competition, staffing problems--all while struggling to make payroll. "There are traumatic events all the way along the line," says psychiatrist and former entrepreneur Michael A. Freeman, who is researching mental health and entrepreneurship.

Complicating matters, new entrepreneurs often make themselves less resilient by neglecting their health. They eat too much or too little. They don't get enough sleep. They fail to exercise. "You can get into a start-up mode, where you push yourself and abuse your body," Freeman says. "That can trigger mood vulnerability."

So it should come as little surprise that entrepreneurs experience more anxiety than employees. In the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 34 percent of entrepreneurs--4 percentage points more than other workers--reported they were worried. And 45 percent of entrepreneurs said they were stressed, 3 percentage points more than other workers.

But it may be more than a stressful job that pushes some founders over the edge. According to researchers, many entrepreneurs share innate character traits that make them more vulnerable to mood swings. "People who are on the energetic, motivated, and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states," says Freeman. Those states may include depression, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, loss of motivation, and suicidal thinking.

Call it the downside of being up. The same passionate dispositions that drive founders heedlessly toward success can sometimes consume them. Business owners are "vulnerable to the dark side of obsession," suggest researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. They conducted interviews with founders for a study about entrepreneurial passion. The researchers found that many subjects displayed signs of clinical obsession, including strong feelings of distress and anxiety, which have "the potential to lead to impaired functioning," they wrote in a paper published in the Entrepreneurship Research Journal in April.

Reinforcing that message is John Gartner, a practicing psychologist who teaches at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. In his book The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America, Gartner argues that an often-overlooked temperament--hypomania--may be responsible for some entrepreneurs' strengths as well as their flaws.

A milder version of mania, hypomania often occurs in the relatives of manic-depressives and affects an estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of Americans. "If you're manic, you think you're Jesus," says Gartner. "If you're hypomanic, you think you're God's gift to technology investing. We're talking about different levels of grandiosity but the same symptoms."

Gartner theorizes that there are so many hypomanics--and so many entrepreneurs--in the U.S. because our country's national character rose on waves of immigration. "We're a self-selected population," he says. "Immigrants have unusual ambition, energy, drive, and risk tolerance, which lets them take a chance on moving for a better opportunity. These are biologically based temperament traits. If you seed an entire continent with them, you're going to get a nation of entrepreneurs."

Though driven and innovative, hypomanics are at much higher risk for depression than the general population, notes Gartner. Failure can spark these depressive episodes, of course, but so can anything that slows a hypomanic's momentum. "They're like border collies--they have to run," says Gartner. "If you keep them inside, they chew up the furniture. They go crazy; they just pace around. That's what hypomanics do. They need to be busy, active, overworking."

"Entrepreneurs have struggled silently. There's a sense that they can't talk about it, that it's a weakness."

No matter what your psychological makeup, big setbacks in your business can knock you flat. Even experienced entrepreneurs have had the rug pulled out from under them. Mark Woeppel launched Pinnacle Strategies, a management consulting firm, in 1992. In 2009, his phone stopped ringing.

Caught in the global financial crisis, his customers were suddenly more concerned with survival than with boosting their output. Sales plummeted 75 percent. Woeppel laid off his half-dozen employees. Before long, he had exhausted his assets: cars, jewelry, anything that could go. His supply of confidence was dwindling, too. "As CEO, you have this self-image--you're the master of the universe," he says. "Then all of a sudden, you are not."

Woeppel stopped leaving his house. Anxious and low on self-esteem, he started eating too much--and put on 50 pounds. Sometimes he sought temporary relief in an old addiction: playing the guitar. Locked in a room, he practiced solos by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Chet Atkins. "It was something I could do just for the love of doing it," he recalls. "Then there was nothing but me, the guitar, and the peace."

Through it all, he kept working to develop new services. He just hoped his company would hang on long enough to sell them. In 2010, customers started to return. Pinnacle scored its biggest-ever contract, with an aerospace manufacturer, on the basis of a white paper Woeppel had written during the downturn. Last year, Pinnacle's revenue hit $7 million. Sales are up more than 5,000 percent since 2009, earning the company a spot at No. 57 on this year's Inc. 500.

Woeppel says he's more resilient now, tempered by tough times. "I used to be like, 'My work is me,' " he says. "Then you fail. And you find out that your kids still love you. Your wife still loves you. Your dog still loves you."

But for many entrepreneurs, the battle wounds never fully heal. That was the case for John Pope, CEO of WellDog, a Laramie, Wyoming-based energy technology firm. On Dec. 11, 2002, Pope had exactly $8.42 in the bank. He was 90 days late on his car payment. He was 75 days behind on the mortgage. The IRS had filed a lien against him. His home phone, cell phone, and cable TV had all been turned off. In less than a week, the natural-gas company was scheduled to suspend service to the house he shared with his wife and daughters. Then there would be no heat. His company was expecting a wire transfer from the oil company Shell, a strategic investor, after months of negotiations had ended with a signed 380-page contract. So Pope waited.

The wire arrived the next day. Pope--along with his company--was saved. Afterward, he made a list of all the ways in which he had financially overreached. "I'm going to remember this," he recalls thinking. "It's the farthest I'm willing to go."

Since then, WellDog has taken off: In the past three years, sales grew more than 3,700 percent, to $8 million, making the company No. 89 on the Inc. 500. But emotional residue from the years of tumult still lingers. "There's always that feeling of being overextended, of never being able to relax," says Pope. "You end up with a serious confidence problem. You feel like every time you build up security, something happens to take it away."

Pope sometimes catches himself emotionally overreacting to small things. It's a behavior pattern that reminds him of posttraumatic stress disorder. "Something happens, and you freak out about it," he says. "But the scale of the problem is a lot less than the scale of your emotional reaction. That just comes with the scar tissue of going through these things."

"If you're manic, you think you're Jesus. If you're hypomanic, you think you're God's gift to technology investing." John Gartner

Though launching a company will always be a wild ride, full of ups and downs, there are things entrepreneurs can do to help keep their lives from spiraling out of control, say experts. Most important, make time for your loved ones, suggests Freeman. "Don't let your business squeeze out your connections with human beings," he says. When it comes to fighting off depression, relationships with friends and family can be powerful weapons. And don't be afraid to ask for help--see a mental health professional if you are experiencing symptoms of significant anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, or depression.

Freeman also advises that entrepreneurs limit their financial exposure. When it comes to assessing risk, entrepreneurs' blind spots are often big enough to drive a Mack truck through, he says. The consequences can rock not only your bank account but also your stress levels. So set a limit for how much of your own money you're prepared to invest. And don't let friends and family kick in more than they can afford to lose.

Cardiovascular exercise, a healthful diet, and adequate sleep all help, too. So does cultivating an identity apart from your company. "Build a life centered on the belief that self-worth is not the same as net worth," says Freeman. "Other dimensions of your life should be part of your identity." Whether you're raising a family, sitting on the board of a local charity, building model rockets in the backyard, or going swing dancing on weekends, it's important to feel successful in areas unrelated to work.

The ability to reframe failure and loss can also help leaders maintain good mental health. "Instead of telling yourself, 'I failed, the business failed, I'm a loser,' " says Freeman, "look at the data from a different perspective: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Life is a constant process of trial and error. Don't exaggerate the experience."

Last, be open about your feelings--don't mask your emotions, even at the office, suggests Brad Feld. When you are willing to be emotionally honest, he says, you can connect more deeply with the people around you. "When you deny yourself and you deny what you're about, people can see through that," says Feld. "Willingness to be vulnerable is very powerful for a leader."


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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Marketing 101 - Making Time to Market - Part 1

MARKETING 101 - Making Time To Market – Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting.

One of the most frequent lines that I hear from small business owners/entrepreneurs is “who has time to market”? I sure can understand that – hell, if I had my way, we would have 48 hour days and only need to sleep for 4 of these!

Now believe me when I tell you that I am no expert on marketing – I seriously am not!  That said, I know that it is of vital importance to get your product/service out there.  If you don’t, you will have a problem and it will affect your bottom line.

Here’s the thing though, you don’t have to spend a fortune to market yourself and it doesn’t have to take up hours and hours of your precious time, but you do have to make some time for it.  So book the time in your diary and have a plan.   Every day we take part in time consuming activities and integrating those activities with a marketing opportunity may just be the key to solving your problem.  Here are a few ideas to make marketing a tad easier for the small business owner who is always on the go.

Shopping ‘out and about’.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, we meet new people on a daily basis.  Think about it for a moment.  How many times have you found yourself frustrated, but still standing in the queue?  For me, the bank and the post office or even the annual trip to renew the motor vehicle license, are the most challenging!  How many times, in a moment of mutual frustration have you turned to a stranger in that queue and started a conversation?  I know I have, and although the conversation usually starts with a moan about how long the queue is or how slowly it is moving, it usually morphs into something else.  Remember to introduce yourself and tell them what you do, find out what they do – give them a business card (you see, I told you, you never know when you would need one) and then keep in touch.  You’ll be amazed at some of the business you will get out of this kind of encounter.

Reading an Article
By now it must be evident that I really enjoy reading a lot.  I understand that there are many people out there that perhaps, are not as passionate about reading as I am.  That said, as SMME’s, a certain amount of reading is kind of obligatory if you are to keep up. Whether it is a newspaper article or an article that is related to the industry that you are in or even an article that sparks your interest on a personal level.  Now take a minute to think of a few people who are in your network who may enjoy the contents of that particular article and send it to them.  Personalize it with a note saying something along the lines of ‘when I read this, I thought it might be something that you would like to read to’.  Doing this will just take a few moments out of your time, but the impression that it creates and the value that you add to the relationship that you have with that person(s) is priceless – every time they speak to someone who needs your service and/or product, they will think of you before anyone else.

Next time, I will share a few more of the types of ways that you can integrate some marketing in your daily life.

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Business Tips - Firing a Client - Part 4

BUSINESS TIPS - Firing a Client – Part 4

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 26, 2016

Motivation - Keep Moving

MOTIVATION – Keep Moving

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

William Golding in his “lessons In Life” piece says “Consider a man riding a bicycle.  Whoever he is, we can say three things about him.  We know he got on the bicycle and started to move.  We know that at some point he will stop and get off.  Most important of all, we know that if at any point between the beginning and the end of his journey, he stops moving and does not get off the bicycle he will fall off it.  That is a metaphor for the journey through life of any living thing and I think of any society of living things.”

So what is it about the human race that we are all so incredibly unique and yet exactly the same?  I guess if I knew the answer to that I would know the secrets of the Universe.  What I do know though is that we all have to go through it all in the same way.  There are no short cuts.  We all start somewhere and we all end up somewhere else and in between those two points we have to move forward and grow as individuals.  Sure there are times that we seem to go around in circles and sometimes we even travel backwards for a time, but essentially we are moving all the time.

Some of us move faster than others, some seem to whizz by with little effort, some seem to drag themselves about, some are relatively baggage free and some seem to be weighed down in the extreme, but what we do is move, searching, in every direction that we choose to take ourselves, for the meaning of life, for our life’s purpose, for whatever it is that we hunger for that always seems to be just out of reach.

The more we think we know, the less we actually know and the harder we look for it.  I am constantly reminded of my own limitations when I celebrate something that I have just learnt only to discover that putting it into practice still needs to be accomplished.  Just when I think I have it sorted the ‘lack of’ my knowledge pushes me ever onwards and upwards.

Sometimes I despair at the constant ‘striving’ to get there – it often reminds me of a journey I once took from Port Elizabeth to Durban.  The road curved left and right at almost impossible angles and it felt like it was climbing ever upwards and as I was getting to the crest of one hill and I thought that it would not get any higher, I would reach the top only to discover that there was yet another hill, a little higher than the one that I had just climbed, ahead of me.  Sure the view was nothing short of spectacular, but the terrain was hard, unyielding and unforgiving.  I could not imagine how people lived there, yet everywhere typical little African huts dotted the country side.  Children looked after herds of cattle and sheep and chickens and donkeys walked in the road.  I remember feeling as though I was literally at the top of the world, yet at some point the road, still twisting and turning sloped ever downwards and with it the feeling of me returning to normalcy (whatever that may mean for me).

I also know that no matter if we are moving forward or round and round or backwards or up or down, that we move by the choices that we make or even don’t make.  I know that we can control the speed with which we move and the direction that we move by the acceptance of the lessons that we learn.  By embracing what we learn and by trusting ourselves and believing in ourselves and ‘what is’ we come to the realization of our dreams.

I know that in order for us to be the master of our own destiny we have to keep moving.  I know that in order for us to attain and achieve our goals we have to keep moving.  I know that the minute we stop moving we will literally cease to exist.

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

HR 101 - Training Records Check List

HR 101 – Training Records Check List

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC

As usual it is of the utmost importance that accurate staff records are kept and maintained.  Ultimately these may be required to prove illegibility in terms of BEE and/or EE requirements.

Clearly it will also assist with ensuring that staff are adequately trained for the tasks that have been allocated to them and/or to ensure that they remain up to date and ‘current’ with the latest technological and/or legal requirements and/or methodologies.

Some of the required information is (but not limited to):

1. Employee’s personal information:
- Surname
- Name(s)
- Identity Number
- Employee Number (where applicable)
- Designation/Position
- Grade/Level
- Line Manager
- Department
- Date Started
- Gender
- Racial Group
- Disability

2. Training courses attended
- Course Name
- Type of Training (i.e. skills/development/ABET/school level/further education/tertiary etc.)
- Training Provider – Name
- Training Provider’s registration information with the relevant SETA’s etc.
- Starting Date
- Completion Date
- Number of Training days/hours
- NQF credits – if registered
- Examination information including results obtained.
- Direct costs incurred – cost of course/books/examination fees/any other.
- Indirect costs incurred – travel/accommodation/meals/any other.

3. Bursary Information
- Type of Study
- Name of course/degree/diploma
- Special Conditions that may apply
- Contract date
- Contract Term
- Costs incurred.

Remember though that records are only worth anything if they are updated and maintained on a regular basis.

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Early Warning - All About Procurement Fraud - Part 6

EARLY WARNING - All About Procurement Fraud – Part 6

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting.

Last time we looked at some of the different types of issues that need to be looked at around procurement.

Today we will have a look at some more.

As we said one of the ways to limit procurement fraud is to ensure that you have a proper procurement policy in place and that it is adhered to and checked on a regular basis. We looked at the Needs Analysis, Timing and Suppliers. Then we looked at Supplier Communication and Negotiation and then Supplier Liaison, Logistics Management and Tender Notification. Other issues that need to be taken into account when implementing the procurement process are (but not limited to):

In this the final issue on procurement fraud let’s look at some of the practical processes that can be included  (but not limited to) in your procedure in order to limit fraud.

- Make sure that the procedure is that there has to be a minimum of 3 quotes.
- Make sure that all the suppliers, who have submitted quotes, have contactable references and do the reference check.
- The person, in your company, who submits the quotes, should not be the person who authorizes the use of the supplier (unless of course that is you – the business owner).
- The person, in your company, who orders the products/supplies/service, should not be the person who authorizes the purchase (again, unless of course that is you – the business owner).
- The person, in your company, who ‘pays’ the supplier should not be the person who authorizes the payment (unless of course that person is you – the business owner).
- There should be a valid ‘gift’ policy in place to govern/prevent your employees from receiving ‘gifts’ as ‘kick-backs’ from suppliers and/or service providers for ensuring that they become creditors.
- The most expensive quote does not always translate into the best value for money – make sure that the research is properly conducted to ensure that you get the best value for your money.
- Make sure that you have a proper Service Level Agreement in place, with realistic consequences for non-delivery and/or to ensure that you are properly covered in terms of compliance.

Finally, use common sense – if the deal is ‘too good to be true’, it usually means exactly that.  Always be alert for charlatans and scammers as they are always on the look-out for gullible business owners.

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Business Tips - Firing a Client - Part 3

BUSINESS TIPS - Firing a Client – Part 3

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 19, 2016

Motivation - It's a Matter of Choice

MOTIVATION – It’s A Matter of Choice

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC – October 2009

Jeremy Kitson says “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice.  It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

Oh my, that certainly has brought a huge smile to my face!  You see I am of the opinion that not only do most of us do not achieve all that we can, but we do this because of the choices that we make (or don’t make for that matter).

Since working with my mentor and friend Vanessa and meeting Donna McCallum the Fairy Godmother ( , I have become a huge deal more aware of the choices that I make.  In fact, often as I make the choice I realize that it’s the wrong one and then I have to run around un-doing what I have just done. Note to self – stop, think and then make the choice!

It is imperative though, that once the choice has been made that it is followed by an action, without the action there may very well be a result, but it’s probably not the result you were hoping for.

So often we work really hard at what we are doing and we seem to be going backwards or round in circles, so we work harder still.  Sweat pouring down our faces, we put our shoulders to the grindstone and we push ourselves even harder until we fall down in this little heap of exhaustion.  That was our choice.

The choice however was based on an antique belief system that has been passed down from generation to generation and that is (but not limited to) that we have to work hard to be successful.  Notice the ‘hard’ part.  Think about residual income – that is money working ‘hard’ for you – not you working hard, but rather you working smart.  Now that’s the kind of work that I love to do.

Of course it doesn’t just happen though.  You have to make it happen, by the choices that you make.  By the way that you set it up.  By following the natural flow that your life takes instead of trying to swim upstream like a salmon!  The action still has to take place in order for the result to be the one that you want.

I guess, what I am trying to say is that we need to decide what we want to achieve and then we need to look around and see how best to achieve that result and when I say ‘how best’ I mean the most simple, the easiest, the most gratifying and the most fun – don’t forget the fun!  Then of course we need to take the action, even if that means inaction – like sitting still whilst we ascertain in which direction ‘the flow’ is going or resting to ensure that we are fit and healthy to take on the challenge.

Yip, it’s all in the choices and like most things in life, the more you practice the better you get at it.  So go on, make the choice!  Make as many choices as you want, and then just for the hell of it, make some more.  The more choices you make towards achieving your goals, your dreams and your aspirations, the more opportunities will arrive in your life to encourage you to make  . . .  still more choices.

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

Friday, September 16, 2016

HR 101 - What is Condonation?

HR 101 – What is Condonation

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC

Please note: This pertains to South African Labour Relations & Best Practice.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that ‘condonation’ is:

“Implied pardon of an offense by treating the offender as if it had not been committed”.

Condonation in terms of labour is when an employee fails to refer a dispute to the CCMA (Committee for conciliation, mediation and arbitration), within the 30 day time period.

Let’s bring out the protagonists. Mike owns a small but very busy cell phone retail store is a popular mall.  George is one of the sales assistants.

George keeps taking sick leave and he does not follow the correct procedures which are 1) to contact his supervisor if he is not going to be at work or be at work on time and 2) to produce a doctor’s certificate if he has been off work for longer than two days.

George has already had a 1st, 2nd and final written warning for these offences.

George is once again not at work, he hasn’t phoned in and they have not been able to contact him.  A week later George comes back to work.  George is silent on the issue of why he did not call in and why he was not contactable but he produces a note from the clinic evidencing that he was at the clinic on the first day that he was absent from work.  There is no further documentation to evidence that George has been booked off.

George is issued with a notice to attend a disciplinary, he is found guilty and dismissed.

George does not appeal his dismissal and nothing is heard from him until three months later when Mike received a notification from the CCMA.

Now the normal rule is that George had 30 days after the date of his dismissal to lodge a dispute at the CCMA and yet, here we are three months down the line and a dispute has been lodged.

George had been to a labour attorney who had made a Condonation application and the commission had granted it.

Some of the issues that the commission would have had to look at and consider before either condoning the application or rejecting it are (but not limited to):
- How late is the referral
- The reason for the referral being late
- Whether the employee has a case or not
- Whether there is prejudice to both the employer and the employee.

In this particular instance George had advised that he had been ill and had supporting documentation (being a letter from the clinic where he had been committed) to support this.  On the grounds of this documentation, the application was successful (it doesn’t mean that he has won, just that he can still lodge his claim).

The lesson here of course is for the employers to understand that just because the 30 day period has expired and they haven’t received notification from the CCMA, doesn’t mean it’s still not coming!

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

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Early Warning - All About Procurement Fraud - Part 5

EARLY WARNING - All About Procurement Fraud – Part 5

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting.

Last time we looked at some of the different types of issues that need to be looked at around procurement.

Today we will have a look at some more.

As we said one of the ways to limit procurement fraud is to ensure that you have a proper procurement policy in place and that it is adhered to and checked on a regular basis. We looked at the Needs Analysis, Timing and Suppliers. Then we looked at Supplier Communication and Negotiation. Other issues that need to be taken into account when implementing the procurement process are (but not limited to):

1. Supplier Liaison
Of course it is important for the supplier to perform and at this point in the process that is exactly what needs to be done.  It makes sense therefore to have some sort of scorecard in place around the performance of the supplier.  By now there should have been at least one or two deliveries and re-orders and the whole experience needs to be evaluated.  Should the supplier have not met your basic requirements, then it is obviously time for you to consider alternative suppliers and/or options.

2. Logistics Management
Whilst we all have expectations around our suppliers and their delivery of our goods, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that we manage the whole process. Issues around (but not limited to) shipment, delivery and payment need to be monitored closely and of course the terms and conditions of the contract must be met at all times.

There may instances where ‘installation’ needs to take place and then training needs to be effected.  Clearly this would also need to be monitored carefully as well.

3. Tender Notifications
Should your company be large enough to require and/or need tenders to go out to meet your procurement requirements then obviously this would necessitate a whole different workflow.  There are software systems that can be utilized or you can also outsource these requirements.  Obviously you can also keep this ‘in-house’ but I would suggest that careful consideration be taken into  how the whole process should work and of course a lot of research would need to be undertaken in order for this to be as painless as possible.

Be sure to document the process so that there are clear lines of what the requirements are and make sure that each step is monitored carefully.

Next time we will have a look at a few more steps that need to address in your procurement process.

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Marketing 101 - Losing the Plot

MARKETING 101 - Losing the Plot

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting

I am sure that at one time or another we have all sat in front of the TV, having watched the same ad, for what seems like the 100th time in the same  hour and thought or even said “I’m sick to death of this Ad!”?

More often than not, the first time we saw the ad, it captured our imagination and if you are anything like me, you will have even, on occasion looked forward to, or even actively sought to watch it again and again – especially if it has had me in fits of laugher.  But pretty much like a song that I went from wanting to listen to over and over again, I soon got tired of it.

Does this mean that the ad must be pulled or taken off to be replaced by another?  Good heavens no!

The Company who owns that particular ad may have heaps of spare cash to indulge themselves in producing a new ad campaign, but the average small business owner does not and the old saying of “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” certainly applies here.  If the ad or the promotion or the marketing campaign is making you money – for heavens sake don’t stop it or swap it for something else – that’s just losing the plot!

Sure if it is not working anymore, then by all means step up to the plate, but if the money is still rolling in, then you being bored with the ad, or the promotion or the marketing campaign is not a good enough reason to switch to something else.

Remember that what is old and boring to you is still shiny and new to your untapped target market.  If it’s making you money, stick with it.  When the results show that the money is no longer coming in, then it is time to change, but don’t change before the results are in.

One way to appease your growing boredom is to test the market with a new promotion and then track these results.  That way when your ‘old’ promotion shows in the results that it is no longer working and it is time to make a change – you have a brand new promotion ready to take its place.

So be clear about why you want to swap a promotion, make sure that it is about the results and not just your boredom.

Make sure you don’t lose the plot!

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Business Tips - Firing a Client - Part 2

BUSINESS TIPS Firing a Client – Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 12, 2016

Motivation - Inspiration & Motivation


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

This weeks quote comes from S’thandiwe Kgoroge who says; “It’s good to be inspired by other people, but strive for excellence at your own pace.”

So many times, we try and keep up with the people who originally inspired us, or the people that we look up to.  Then when we are not able to do so, we sink to our knees in despair and beat ourselves up because we have failed!


Why do we feel the need to do things at the same speed/time as everyone else?  Are we not unique individuals who should be walking life to the beat of our own drums?

Surely it would be better for us (and probably less stressful for those we are trying to emulate) to set our own goals and arrive at our destination in our own time, having now experienced the lessons along the way that we were intended to learn?

Don’t always be in such a hurry!  Take time to enjoy the journey!  Take time to understand the lessons and therefore to learn from them!  Take time to enjoy your life.  Take time to be ‘all that you can be’.

Take time to be you.

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

Friday, September 09, 2016

HR 101 - What to do with Domestic Workser

HR 101 – What to do with Domestic Workers

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC

A number of my clients have found themselves either on the wrong side of the law or alternatively with a sullen, at odds with the world, domestic worker.  Neither are fun to deal with and the reality is that meeting the requirements as an employer is not that difficult and having the correct procedures in place is not that difficult and usually calms the waters as your domestic employee now feels secure in their employment and you will have the means to measure their performance as well as have the law on your side in terms of the disciplinary codes.

Firstly let’s define who “Domestic Employees” are.  They are your daily helpers, your maids, your chars, your gardeners.  They are also your drivers or care givers to the elderly, the frail or the disabled as well as child minders or anyone who cares for your children.  In short, they are anyone who works in your household.

Here are some of the basic legal requirements.

Like any other employee, your domestic worker needs and is entitled to have a written contract in place, irrespective of whether they are full time and even if they only work one day a week.

Like any other employment contract all the terms and conditions of the employment need to be listed.  Issues such as, but not limited to:
- Starting and ending times
- Pay rate
- Leave requirements (include not only annual leave, but also sick leave and Family Responsibility leave)
- Duties
- Any special requirements such as when leave must be taken or cannot be taken etc.

Obviously your domestic worker needs to understand clearly what these terms and requirements are, so you need to go through them slowly and carefully and if necessary, in her/his home language to ensure that they do in fact understand what your expectations are.  If your domestic worker is illiterate, make sure that you explain things in simple terms.

No one can be forced to sign a document and many domestic workers are terrified of putting their ‘mark’ to anything.  So if your domestic worker refuses to sign, you can fulfil your compliance requirements by documenting this on her/his document and then giving them a copy of the document.  Don’t forget to keep one for yourself though – ensuring that you have also documented the refusal to sign the document and the date that the document was given to her/him.

Wages and Related Criteria
The rate of pay for Domestic worker’s, like any other category, is protected by law and there are minimum rates of pay for hourly/daily/weekly/monthly paid individuals.  Workers who work in the rural areas for example are entitled to a different level of pay to those working in the cities and things like whether they are ‘live in’ or if they have to take public transport, are also taken into consideration.  So you would need to familiarize yourself with what these differences are.  Please go to the Department of Labour’s website ( ) to get this information.

Remember that if your domestic worker/gardener works for you for more than 24 hours a month (and yes this means if you have someone in to help you once a week, this does apply to you), you have to register with the Department of Labour as an employer.  Once you have received your registration number, you have to register your employee for UIF.  The UIF is calculated at 2% of the employees total wage.  The employee has to pay 1% (which must be deducted from her/his wages) and the employer has to pay 1% as well.  This money has to be paid over to SARS (South African Revenue Services) every month and before the 7th of the following month.

All employees are entitled to receive a pay slip indicating what their remuneration is, what deductions have been made and how much leave they are entitled to.  In the case of casual and/or ‘piece’ workers, it is suggested that you get them to sign in receipt for any money that has been given to them for services rendered.  This will remove any emotional outbursts such as “I worked all day cleaning the garage and I never got paid!”

Leave Related Issues
The usual suspects apply – Annual Leave, Sick Leave, Family Responsibility Leave and of course Maternity Leave.

Just like any other employee, your domestic workers are entitled to paid annual leave and this is calculated at the usual three weeks (15 working days) per annum for full time workers or 1 (one) day for every 17 (seventeen) days worked.

In terms of sick leave, the cycle is also 36 months and the domestic worker is entitled to an amount of paid sick leave that is equal to the number of days that she/he would normally have worked during a period of six weeks or 30 days is she/he is full time employed.  So for example, your once a week char/gardener, in this instance would be entitled to 6 days and your full time (Monday to Friday) domestic employee would be entitled to 30 days paid leave for every 36 month period.

For the first six months of employment however, your domestic worker is only entitled to 1 (one) day’s sick leave for every 26 days worked.

Like all other forms of employees, your domestic worker is entitled to 4 (four) months unpaid maternity leave and you are obliged to ‘re-employ’ them after their 4 months is up.  Remember also, that you cannot dismiss them for being pregnant or getting pregnant and doing so would be considered ‘unfair’ by the CCMA and you would be fined and find yourself hugely out of pocket.  So don’t do it.

Domestic employees who are employed for more than 24 hours a month (again this applies to your weekly char or gardener too) are also entitled to take Family Responsibility Leave in the amount of 5 (five) days per annum.

Bits and Pieces
All the other HR requirements that apply in the Corporate Employment world also apply to domestic employees.  So this of course means that you cannot just dismiss, you have to have a fair and reasonable reason for wanting to dismiss your domestic worker.

The rules around discipline also apply, so written warnings and disciplinary hearings need to take place and be documented in the usual fashion.

Performance appraisals should also take place at least annually and increases and/or bonus should relate to the results of these, also government will insist on a minimum annual increase.

Issues around retrenchment still apply and in terms of this employers are governed and restricted in exactly the same way as any other employer would be.

The rest of the terms and conditions in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act also then still will apply to your domestic employees and you need to be aware of the fact that non-compliance to any of these could result in you receiving a visit from the Department of Labour inspector who may then issue a compliance order and/or even issue you with a fine.

The simple or most cost effective measure of course, is to ensure that you are compliant and keep yourself that way.

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

Thursday, September 08, 2016

EARLY WARNING - All About Procurement Fraud – Part 4

EARLY WARNING - All About Procurement Fraud – Part 4

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting .

Last time we looked at some of the different types of issues that need to be looked at around procurement.

Today we will have a look at some more.

As we said one of the ways to limit procurement fraud is to ensure that you have a proper procurement policy in place and that it is adhered to and checked on a regular basis. We looked at the Needs Analysis, Timing and Suppliers.  Other issues that need to be taken into account when implementing the procurement process are (but not limited to):

1. Supplier Communication
Once you have sourced the supplier, irrespective of whether you have one supplier for each product or several suppliers, you need to obtain quotes and/or ask for a proposal.  It may be that you require additional information pertaining to the product and where it was sourced (for the Eur1 certificate if applicable).  It is important to have the correct contact details of the person that you will be dealing with in order to establish a good working relationship.

If this is a new supplier that you are considering, it is a good idea to get references (which of course must be checked properly). You may require samples so that you can check the quality or find out who to speak with when you have issues around repairs or maintenance or installation etc.  You may what to test samples so need both new and used products in order to conduct same.

Clearly the better the lines of communication the more successful the relationship will be, remember to be clear in your expectations and requirements.

2. Negotiation
I always say that assumption, perception and expectation are the three most dangerous words in the dictionary because they seldom meet reality!

The reality of course is that there will always be negotiation.  The client always wants to pay less for the goods and the seller always wants to sell more products for more money.

Make sure that your expectations are fair and clear.  Is the price right, are the goods readily available and if not what are the time lines for delivery?  Are the products standard or do they have to be customized and if so what does that entail? Delivery schedules should be put into place as well as payment schedules.

If you need to test certain products to ensure quality etc., then this also needs to be documented into your process as well as what the physical tests are, as well as what the acceptable levels are in terms of the quality and functionality of the product.

Next time we will have a look at a few more steps that need to address in your procurement process.

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

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

MARKETING - Is Your Business Idea Built On Market Research Or a Hunch?

MARKETING - Is Your Business Idea Built On Market Research Or a Hunch?

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting January

I know that when I started thinking about ‘going on my own’ so to speak, the initial idea was born out of absolute frustration and boredom.

I had been working in the same Group for over 10 years and for the last 4 of those years, I had been doing exactly the same thing, day after day.  Seeing the same people day after day, and finding the same mistakes and theft and fraud and . .  yip, I was doing exactly what I do now (being an Internal Auditor), but my work life had reached a plateau.  There was no longer a challenge, I was as high up in the Company as I would ever be able to go and quite honestly I felt really burnt out.

There were two options available to me, to find another position at another Company or ‘go on my own’.

Moving to another Company
When I sat down and really thought about this option, it took all of about 30 seconds to dismiss it.  It wasn’t that I was unhappy with my current employers.  I was well paid, highly respected and highly regarded – it was, well quite honestly it was the lack of challenge.  How long would it take for me to reach this same “space”, if I took a job at another Company – I really didn’t think it would take too long at all.  So this option fell right off the table.

Going on my own
The first time I even dared to look at this option, I thought I was going to have a heart attack!  I mean for goodness sake, what on earth did I know about starting and running a business.  Sure as an Internal Auditor, I knew how to put the processes and procedures in place, but put them in place of ‘what kind of business’?  As head of the Department, I knew how to manage staff and I was also acutely aware of all the pitfalls associated with HR and the Labour Relations Act – I had certainly “Chaired” enough disciplinary hearings and dismissed enough staff over the years to understand the implications.  But even if I did have staff, what good would they be to me if I didn’t even know what kind of business I wanted.  So that idea also got shelved – for a while anyway, but it came ‘a-knocking’ from time to time.

The more I thought about what I wanted to do, the more frustrated I became.  I was literally ‘clueless’!  Time went by and slowly but surely this little idea started to germinate.  Why couldn’t I do exactly what I was doing now – but out there in the big wild world.  Why couldn’t I do “Internal Auditing” for little companies?

Now at this point, had I resigned and just done it, I can assure you that nothing would have come of it and this brilliant idea of mine would have gotten me nowhere.  Why, you may ask?  Simple really, I had no idea if there was a ‘need’ for my kind of service.  Just because I thought that it was a good idea, didn’t mean it was so!  I had a vague idea of who my target market should be, but because I thought that they may need my services, didn’t mean that my potential clients wanted my services.

So I did what I knew best how to do – I started investigating (also known as market research).  I spent many hours trawling the internet, looking to see if there was anyone else out there who was doing what I do – there wasn’t.  Now that could mean one of two things, either it was because there was no need for the service, or alternatively it was because no-one had thought of the idea before.

It was time to check my target market  - fortunately I have a great number of friends who are Entrepreneurs and as SMME’s they fall into exactly the market that I wanted to test.  The internet also provided me with a huge amount of material and information as to exactly what was available and what wasn’t.  The result was that there was a huge need of what I could provide and either no-one else had thought about it, or alternatively no-one else had the skills with which to do it.  All of this research and ‘investigating’ took over three years to accomplish and the result of this is that I have now been ‘on my own’ for almost 14 years.

So what is the point of this story – it’s really quite simple, if your business idea is built solely upon a ‘hunch’ or ‘an idea’, in all probability you will fail.  This is because no matter how ‘in love’ you are with your product or service and no matter how passionate you feel about it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the ‘real’ market out there will share your enthusiasm.

Look at what the statistics prove – hundreds of businesses start up every day – that’s not a bad thing at all, but hundreds of businesses close their doors and go out of business each day too and that is not a good thing.  Yes not all of them go out of business because they failed to do their market related research, but a great number of them never even get off the ground and huge amounts of money, blood, sweat and tears result in everything being lost.

You have to put in the research and also test the market.  I had 3 clients before I even resigned from my job.  Without the research being done, you will have no idea if your service, product or idea has any chance of  being sustainable.

Rather start out as you mean to continue – slowly, steadily and sustainably.

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

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Business Tips - Firing a Client - Part 1

BUSINESS TIPS - Firing a Client – Part 1

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting

Firing a client!  To many small business owners out there this may sound like attempting suicide.  That said, it is often in our own best interests to get rid of problem clients.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to define what the word ‘client’ means.  The Concise Oxford Dictionary says “Person using services of professional man (lawyer, architect, social worker etc).”  The Wiki says “A customer a buyer or receiver of goods or services”. Surely that would mean that if the client is a ‘buyer’ that the goods or services that they had received would actually need to be paid for.

Look I’m not saying that every time you have a difficult client you need to get rid of them, I am talking about the client who consistently gives takes up 80% of your time and energy but only contributes to 20% of your income. It’s the client who never listens when you tell them things, who never takes your advice but when the smelly brown stuff hits the fan, expects you to drop whatever you are doing and sort out their mess . . . at a discount!

It’s the client who you constantly battle to get money out of, in fact it takes you longer to get the money out of them than it did to do the job in the first place. I have some of these clients and my 2016 policy for them is that they actually need to pay me up front and then I will do the work for the amount of money that they have paid me.  That way they get the work done that they want and need and I get paid on time – a win/win I am sure that you would agree.  Alternatively, get a deposit up front, especially if what you are selling is a product.  I sell a service you see and quite honestly, I cannot un-write a policy or procedure or un-teach something that has already been taught, so there is nothing that I can actually take back from them.

Another way to deal with clients who don’t pay on time and then cancel everything out of the blue (when you have already done the work) is to put a substantial cancellation fee into your Terms and Conditions.  Don’t be shy or scared to phone them for money, it is after all your money and I have no doubt that they did not blink an eye when they contacted you at all hours of the day and night demanding your attention.

It really isn’t worth the aggravation and irritation!  They will cost you more in time and effort and energy than what you will make off them in the long run.

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

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

Monday, September 05, 2016

Motivation - Life


By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Today’s quote comes from Oprah Winfrey who says “If you look at what you have in life – you’ll always have more.  If you look at what you don’t have in life – you’ll never have enough!”

Ain’t that the truth!  Think about it for the moment – all the people (and I am pretty sure that you have them in your life too) that continuously moan and groan, all day long and day in and day out because they ‘don’t’ or they ‘can’t’! Not only in their personal lives, but also in their business lives.

They are forever crying about “I can’t make a living because of the Government, taxes, the VAT man, the red tape, the competition, the interest rates, the recession, the crime” man oh man, I could go on and on – pretty much like they do!  I’d like to bet that even if the Government gave them everything that they needed, if they had preferential tax breaks, or the VAT man actually paid them to be VAT vendors (which he does just by the way), if there was no red tape, or if the competition went out of business, the interest rates came down, the economy was booming and there was no crime – they would still be finding sometime to moan about because they still would not be making a living!

It’s their attitudes that stink!  If they changed their attitudes they would be changing their mindsets too and they would see all the opportunities that abound everywhere.

The problem with people like this is that they expect everything to just happen to them, instead of making things happen for themselves.

Opportunities, like most things in life, need some sort of action.  It’s no good just seeing the opportunity – it’s not going to fall like manna from heaven, into our laps and the miraculously morph itself into something else, just for our benefit – we have to play our part and do something about it!  We have to not only recognize the opportunity, we have to grab it and do something with it.

So the next time you hear someone moaning and groaning about all the things that they don’t have, get up off your rear ends and go and make something happen in your life so that you don’t become complacent and become just like them. Celebrate what you have and turn the dreams that you have of what you want into reality.

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

Friday, September 02, 2016

HR 101 - Some Strange Interview Questions

HR 101 - Some Strange Interview Questions

By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC

It was with great amusement that I read (and I must say absolutely enjoyed) an article that I received from “Job search clinic on behalf of Gerard Le Roux”, entitled “3 dumb questions & a Bruce Lee quote.”

I was more than amused to find one of the questions that I always ask on there, although I am somewhat confused as to why it was classed as a dumb question.  Quite frankly, I don’t see it as such, but perhaps I should let you in on it – the question of course is “Why should we hire you instead of the other candidate?”

Oh come now – how could that possibly be a dumb question?  I guess it would have to do something with the ‘intent’ behind the question.  

You see for me, it’s about what you, as the candidate, think that you can give me, or do, or be that is better than or bigger than what you think that the other candidates can give me, or do, or be.  It’s about how you see yourself, whether you are different or the same as others.

In terms of this particular article though, if you as the candidate even attempted to answer the question, you would immediately be disqualified because . . .  wait for it . . .  because you would be ‘trying to answer without the facts.  How can you possibly compare yourself with people you’ve never met and know nothing about?”

Now that for me is just being difficult and trying to trip people up or be ‘clever’ at someone else’s expense.

The other two questions in the article are really strange – the first one being “If you were a shoe, what kind would you be?” and the second one being “Tell me about a time when you . . . ?  I guess for the first question, if you were intent on being in the fashion industry or it was a job to do with say colour it may have some kind of meaning and for the second question, I suppose if you were doing something that required instant use of your imagination it might have some sort of meaning, but for the average ‘Joe Public’ I can’t imagine what the right answer would be.  I think if I had ever been asked a question like that, as an Internal Auditor, I might have decided that that particular company was more than a little strange and whilst I do have a number of eccentric friends, working for an eccentric company would be altogether a novel idea.

So why am I telling you about these questions?  I promise it is not just to raise a smile, but also to let you know to expect the unexpected as well as the sometimes bizarre.  They may very well just be checking to see if you have a good sense of humour, nothing more.

On the other hand however, they may be checking to see how you handle difficult situations or situations ‘out of the norm’ or even how you solve or find solutions to things outside of your comfort zone.  So don’t be flippant when you respond.

Oh yes – and the Bruce Lee quote was “The successful warrior is the average person with laser like focus.”

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

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Early Warning - All About Procurement Fraud - Part 3

EARLY WARNING - All About Procurement Fraud – Part 3

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting

Last time we looked at some of the different types of procurement

Today we will have a look at some of the different issues that need to be looked at, around procurement.

One of the ways to limit procurement fraud is to ensure that you have a proper procurement policy in place and that it is adhered to and checked on a regular basis.  Issues that need to be taken into account when implementing the procurement process are (but not limited to):

1. Needs Analysis.
It’s a good idea to sit down and establish a strategy.  This of course means that you really have to understand the Company’s needs.  To start off, a ‘short term’ strategy (usually anything between three to five years) should be implemented.  You will also need to “define” the ‘technical direction’ as well as the requirements that this will entail.  Remember technology changes at an incredible rate and therefore you need to prepare yourself for all the changes coming down the road.

2. Timing
When do you need the stock?  How long does it take to get to you?  How quickly (or slowly) do you go through the stock and at what level of ‘stock-on-hand’ are you comfortable with for each product?

Remember stock-on-hand becomes money in the bank, only when it is sold, so having too much stock-on-hand is not a good thing particularly if it is a ‘slow’ moving product.

On the other hand, if you don’t have the stock-on-hand, you won’t have the money in the bank either as you cannot sell what you don’t have, so not having enough stock on hand is not a good thing either, particularly if it is a ‘fast’ moving product.

3. Suppliers
You need to identify your suppliers. In a small environment this is usually done through your networks and then when that fails you will usually resort to Google.  Remember that whilst referrals from friends, relatives, colleagues and in particular staff, can be great, they may also carry a hidden cost in the form of ‘kickbacks’ or payoffs.

You need to ascertain if the product is a specific brand, in which case there will be recognized suppliers, or maybe you would like a product that is similar but less costly.  You may want to use several suppliers for the same product or use a single supplier for all of your products.  You may want to use local suppliers or import your products, the choice of course is always yours.  Here’s the thing though, it is very important that you do the research and identify who best, will supply you with what you require at a competitive price – good value for money is the name of the game.

If you are wanting to import, then attending Trade Shows or contacting the ‘Trade” section of a Chamber of Commerce who will assist you, is the way to go.  Taking a company’s name and contact details out of the yellow pages or its electronic equivalent, without getting referrals and doing your homework is a very clear recipe for disaster.

Next time we will have a look at some more of these  issues.

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