6 tips on managing a factory

 

dirty-industry-stack-factory

You’ve finally been promoted to management. Or perhaps you’ve just landed your dream job at a new company. Either way, you’re suddenly in charge of managing a factory and are starting to wonder how you’re going to, well, manage. It’s a big job, after all. You’re in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly, every job is completed properly and the staff on the floor are happy and productive. It can be a bit overwhelming at first.

But don’t worry, you’ll soon figure out how to do everything and remain in control at all times. You were given this job for a reason. However, if you need a little help to get you started, here are six tips on managing a factory.

Know your staff members’ names

You’re not going to get anywhere with your new staff members unless you know their names. If you were previously working on the floor, then this shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you’re new to the company, you need to start learning names and quickly. You don’t want to be the manager who can’t greet a staff member on the staircase because they haven’t bothered to remember their name. In the beginning, it’s a good idea to walk around the factory and introduce yourself to everyone and familiarise yourself with what they do. Of course, if there is a large workforce, you probably won’t be able to remember everyone’s name at first. In which case it’s okay to ask for the first few weeks. But once you’ve been there a month, you should be acquainted with everyone.

Learn who works what shift

You need to be on top of things. That’s your job. You need to know what’s happening and when. And that means you should always know who is working what shift. Are there specific people who work night shift and day shift? Or do they switch according to a schedule? If so, you need to know that schedule. You need to be able to make sure that everybody is where they’re supposed to be at the time they are supposed to be there. If you don’t have this knowledge, people may take advantage of your ignorance. You may trust your staff and that’s a good thing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check up on these things.

Keep an accurate record of leave days

You can’t just jot down people’s leave days on post-it notes and stick them on the wall of your office. That’s not going to work. You need to be far more organised than that. Sure, the finance or HR department will have this information but you need to have your own record as well. You need to know when someone is going to be away from the factory so you can make a plan if you need someone to replace them for that period of time.

Check the machines are being used correctly

Part of your job is to ensure that the machinery is in working order. And that means you have to make sure your staff members are using the machines correctly. When equipment is used incorrectly, it gets damaged over time. Which will result in your employers having to apply for additional machinery asset finance. And they will not be pleased about that in the slightest. Just like you are in charge of the workforce in the factory, you are also in charge of the machinery and equipment.

Organise a social event every now and then

If you want your staff to respect you, you have to be firm with them and ensure they are always doing their jobs correctly and to your standards. However, that does not mean you shouldn’t get to know them and encourage them to get to know each other on a social level. Once in a while, ask the company if you can organise a braai or drinks after work to encourage people to interact without the loud noise of the machines. You’ll find that internal politics and rivalries among your staff members will lessen if they start to chat informally with one another.

Review processes regularly

Efficiency is key in any factory. In fact, it’s key in any department of any business out there. It’s about getting the most work done without compromising on quality or safety. And that’s why processes are so important. Processes can make or break a factory. You need to ensure you’re doing things the best way possible while you’re managing the factory. Which means you should research the latest processes, compare them to what you’re currently doing and consider trying new methods in an effort to improve productivity and efficiency.

Well done, you got the job. Now you need to do the work. It’s time you get to know your staff, organise schedules, encourage interaction and make sure the factory is running as efficiently as possible.

What to consider when buying a business car

navigation-1048294_960_720In South Africa, just about everyone has a car. Our public transport systems are not as reliable as say, the United Kingdom. Our trains and bus routes and systems are not efficient or safe enough for everyone to happily make use of them. The result is that these public transport systems are often used by the lower income bracket citizens and impoverished communities. This has seen our public transport infrastructure fall prey to vandalism and crime. The City of Cape Town implemented the MyCiTi bus-based transit system. It is possibly the most efficient public transport system in South Africa. The concept is called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the system offers fast and cost-effective public transport. Many Capetonians make use of the MyCiTi buses but they haven’t eliminated the need for cars entirely. Business people still need private transport. Especially those who conduct their business on the road.

 

In Europe in particular, many can make use of public transport systems to get themselves from one destination to another. This is because the transport systems are very well developed, make use of the latest technology, are well-maintained and therefore extremely reliable. Even service providers who offer service delivery that sees them travelling to their client’s destination as opposed to a customer coming to their business premises, can make use of public transport. Unfortunately, in South Africa, we don’t have that luxury. But, we do have business people who need to visit their clients, we have service people who need to assist their customers who ask for a “call-out” service and those who need to travel for meetings.

 

Company cars are extremely necessary in South Africa

 

In South Africa, companies that offer sales positions and representatives often offer a company vehicle. The company will have purchased a fleet of vehicles, supplying their staff with reliable and safe transportation so that they may perform in their jobs. For some entrepreneurs, acquiring appropriate transportation is vital and while a car is an expense and a depreciating asset at best, it is extremely necessary.

 

When considering what type of vehicle to purchase for business purposes you have to look at a combination of factors

 

Business vehicles need to offer the best combination of safety, performance, efficiency, technology and resale value. These factors are non-negotiables. You need to consider that purchasing a car that has little power but is fuel-efficient could also end up having subpar safety features and very little resale value. Similarly, you can’t throw money at a vehicle that offers incredible technology but has upkeep and maintenance costs that are likely to break the bank. There are cars that have been rated (by a number of different sources) as top buys for business people or for businesses needing to purchase a fleet.

 

The two car manufacturers that hit the top of the list more often than not are Volkswagen (VW) and Audi. Both of these manufacturers do well to deliver the full spectrum of needs you should be on the lookout for when considering a business vehicle. Of course, safety is crucial and a priority  on the list of factors to gain insight into. Both Audi and VW manage to surpass safety standards every time which is ideal. However, there’s a financial difference to take into account between the two car manufacturers. Audi is significantly more pricey than your standard VW. Therefore, VW is considered a good buy for smaller companies who are watching their pennies.

 

Even as an individual if you are in the market for a car that you know you will be using for work purposes then looking into a used VW is a good idea. In fact, you can pick up a used VW Polo fairly easily and you are likely to find one in really good condition because this particularly model is extremely popular. A quick search online for used VW Polo for sale will bring up a number of search results and even the most basic model, without any frills or exciting technology, will offer you standard safety features and comfort. The best thing about this car is really that it is easy to maintain, light on fuel and just about any mechanic can fix it for you.

 

If you do decide to consider a used VW Polo then make sure to deal with a reputable secondhand auto dealer. In this way you will have easy access to all the information you need and similarly if you are a business owner and fleet manager and you need to sell vehicles from the fleet using a reliable and reputable dealership will ensue you have less admin and a smooth process ahead of you.

 

What 2016 tells us about financing a business

If we’ve learned anything from 2016, it’s that there’s plenty business can and must do to help protect themselves from events they could not have foreseen. To that end, it’s worth thinking about what we can do, as business people, to help keep our businesses afloat while the world goes on. Businesses won’t stay up because we want them to, but through hard work. We need to be able to handle what occurs and look out for dangers that might threaten their continued existence. Just as we care for any loved one, we must be mindful of what could pose a threat to businesses – 2016 shows us that many of the biggest dangers could come out of left field. To that end, let’s look at ways to protect our businesses from any possible dangers.

Look for bargains

We make our own success, but it also involves knowing where to find opportunities for that success to blossom. One clear way to make success into a reality rather than a dream is to find the best deals and bargains. For example, here is a detailed way one American finance writer managed to get an expensive electric car reduced in price. Instead of spending $35,000 on a brand-new electric car, he got it for under $14,000. Businesses must look at their financing options in terms of the best way to make the most out of a little – or, perhaps, how to get exorbitant prices reduced.

Beware “gurus”

Nobody can predict the future, yet many make their money off selling their beliefs to businesses desperate for a path. These finance gurus tend to offer vague reasons for their predictions, forcing businesses down paths they would otherwise have never gone. Consider some of the worst financial predictions in history, by some of the smartest people in the world. For example, in 2010, entrepreneur Richard Branson warned that “the next five years will see us face another crunch – the oil crunch,” predicting a severe supply shortage. Of course, six years later, the price of oil is actually lower than it was then. Businesses must on the evidence they have, that will benefit themselves and shareholders, not the words of those who claim to have knowledge they could not possibly have. The smartest people in the world did not think Donald Trump would get elected or that Britain would leave the European Union – yet both of these large events occurred and have dramatically changed the landscape. How many businesses were prepared when these events occurred? How many were protected from the financial fallout? For example, did these companies have protection for their immigrant employees? Did they have proper health coverage (the repeal in America of the Affordable Care Act has left millions without healthcare, meaning they might not be able to work – a reduction in people able to suddenly work will have a massive impact on businesses and therefore the economy).

Be creative

Business people must be more creative than ever, as they go forward. It’s using plant and machinery finance in clever ways to create more jobs, services and so on. It’s creating new advertising campaigns, drawing in younger people, getting active on social media. Creativity means standing out from others, an expression of individuality that draws people in so they want to work with us in various capacities. 2016 showed that creativity is key, especially in a world that is increasingly competitive.

Proper hiring and proper management

Our business is only as good as your least talented staff member. Hiring the best people must be at the top of our list of priorities. Businesses are made of teams, so if one person messes up, it falls sideways and upward. That is, it affects everyone, not just the work of the person who made a mistake. Competency must be paid for and rewarded, which means it is on us to treat our staff properly, doing what we can to retain them for as long as possible.

The longer someone works for us the better for everyone, since this establishes a long-standing dynamic that gives a measure of stability to the constant shifting market. For example, we could listen to various studies that indicate working from home has enormous benefits. Not only do people then feel more inclined to work for us, but their work improves, too. If our concern is that people need rigour and micromanagement in order to complete their work, the failure is ours not theirs – we should not be hiring people who can’t work when left by themselves. Otherwise we’re being teachers and watch dogs, not managers focused on production, ideas and so on. Implementing new strategies for the benefit of staff will go a long way to making a business better than it ever could be.

People are always looking for ways to stay employed after all and no one likes the sense of fear, when leaving. There’s no guarantee any job is forever and the lack of job security is one reason people tend to stay in position longer than before – after all, even advanced degrees are not guarantee we’ll be employed. Yet that shouldn’t stop us as business people putting effort into retaining the staff we do have.

Tips for getting investment capital for startups

Probably one of the greatest challenges for entrepreneurs is cashflow. It’s a surety that many entrepreneurs have spent sleepless nights thinking about the age-old question, ‘How do I find the money to start my business?’. There isn’t any magic to it, and there’s certainly nobody waiting in the wings, ready to throw money at you just because you’ve a new and exciting business idea.

On the flip side of the coin, a new business offers many creative options that simply aren’t available if you were buying a car, home or large consumer item. As an entrepreneur, you’ll need to think long and hard about your options and be tenacious in your approach. If one or two options don’t work for you, there are always other options. So here are a number of ideas that could help you source the money you so desperately crave.

Open your wallet first

Consider using your savings, home equity or retirement accounts. Sure, it’s risky. But if you were risk averse, you probably wouldn’t be an entrepreneur. And if you don’t have the confidence in your own idea, by backing it with some of your own money, then how could you expect investors to? Investors tend to back entrepreneurs with more than just good work ethic.

Seek a loan or line of credit from the bank

Typically speaking, this option won’t be available to new startups unless you’ve got an already established credit history without blemish or existing assets that you’re willing to use as collateral. If, however, you are fortunate enough to have this option open to you, then it’s an incredibly safe and stable form of finance, one that’ll hopefully transfer to your business. This option of corporate finance is, therefore, more attractive for those who already have a relationship with the banks.

Back your bootstraps: Fund yourself

Paying off your business’ financial commitments as you go using the revenue earned from early adopters is certainly one way to balance your business’ resource-finance scale. As a startup entrepreneur, nothing is more scarce (except perhaps sleep). The more you’re able to learn to bootstrap in the beginning, the easier it will be for you to find ways to raise other sources of capital. And the advantage is that you don’t have to relinquish any dividends or control over the idea.

Keep your fixed costs to a minimum: Share office space or equipment as much as possible. Co-locate with another small company, use the computers and servers you have and try and avoid any major capital purchases.

And consider your variable costs as though they were your own money: Seek trade credit agreements with key suppliers, save on travel for business with smart scheduling and teleconferencing – a Skype call is far cheaper than a flight from Cape Town to Joburg, hire interns from local universities or design schools.

Pick those you partner with carefully

As an entrepreneur, there’s nothing quite like finding a supplier, distributor or customer (first prize) who sees your business solution as an absolute necessity and is willing to help foot the bill alongside you. So why not plan for success from the get-go?

It’s far healthier for your business to create relationships and iron out the kinks as you go along, than to try break into already-established relationships once the company is ready to grow.

If your business solution is as critical for the market as you hope it is, then there will be potential early adopters. If they think that you’ve got what they need, they’ll be willing to open their wallets. Early adopters are good in that they provide invaluable perspective on what’s good with the product/service and what needs improving.

Don’t be afraid to try crowdfunding

Exploding Kittens, a simple card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats, became the most backed campaign in the history of Kickstarter. If 219,382 people could back a game with $8,782,571, then why not your idea? Crowdfunding is the newest source of funding, where anyone can participate as exemplified in online sites such as the aforementioned Kickstarter. Here people make online pledges to your startup during a campaign, essentially pre-buying your product for later delivery through donations.

Pitch your financial requirements to friends and family

As a general rule, other potential investors will probably already expect you to have some form of commitment from this source as a sign of your credibility. If your friends and family don’t believe you, how can you expect outsiders to? This is the primary source of non-personal funds for very-early start ups. It also offers you a safer, less risky space to practice your pitch.

Of course every option has its pros and cons, and not every one may be available or even attractive to you. Some are difficult for first-time entrepreneurs to swallow. Others simply don’t work for your circumstance. Thus, it’s always a question of what you qualify for and what you’re willing to give up to turn your dream business opportunity into a viable and stable business. Best of luck to you.

Security considerations for small businesses in 2017

Small businesses are not exempt from caring about security. They, too, need to be as invested in what occurs in keeping their data and other aspects of the organisation secure. Though so much of security is often focused on big businesses and major breaches, such as hacking and cyber invasion, there are many aspects to security worth considering. To that end, if you want to be able to protect your businesses from outside interference, in order to actually produce quality work and meet client expectations, it’s important to consider what is happening in terms of security in the future. Businesses must stay ahead of security concerns in order stay ahead of those who would do damage and participate in criminal activities.

Everything is cyber

These days every business understands that being connected is essential. No longer are modern businesses only local, but are branched out into the rest of world. They exist in various forms, communicating through social media, email, website and so on. Even internally, data is stored digitally, people are able to operate and conduct meetings regardless of location. But this internal idea is itself part of the problem. As the American National Cybersecurity Institute noted:

“One of the biggest threats a company has that puts it at risk for an attack or data breach is its internal users. Lack of cybersecurity awareness and training can put organizations at a significantly higher susceptibility to cybercriminals. As Tripwire’s security engineer pointed out, security doesn’t just mean taking measures to prevent the attacks, but providing training and guidance on how to handle incident response in the event that an incident occurs. And this should be done throughout all levels of the organization, especially considering ransomware schemes like spear phishing happen primarily through emailing employees.”

Training is important but so is monitoring. So often when people consider installing, say, CCTV camera or a video wall controller, the assumption that it is to prevent outside interference. But the threats come from inside, too. This can be intentional or negligence. As SC Magazine pointed out:

“[Workers] taking the necessary steps to ensure security in the workplace becomes less of a priority for them as they seek to perform their job functions efficiently. In fact, 40 percent of firms expect a data breach in the next 12 months as a result of employee behavior, and employees indicated a widespread lack of awareness of good cybersecurity practice. The consequence is that over the last year, 78 percent of breaches have originated from within the extended enterprise (including contractors and ex-employees), the report found.”

This is a shocking number. In terms of the future, more businesses must focus on creating policy and training programs to highlight the dangers posed by employees themselves.

Education

Learning new skills and acquiring knowledge is never a bad thing. This is particularly important if, as we noted, employees learn what to do and what not to do in order to minimise any cyber dangers to businesses. Businesses owners must take the necessary steps to help minimise this danger and this means supplying education and courses that can enable their employees to not make any mistakes. Of course, nothing is perfect, but training isn’t about perfection in this case – it’s about reducing the chances of invasion, manipulation and so on from occurring which could threaten the whole company.

For example, you could begin by putting in place policies that minimise or completely restrict mobile devices. As Forsythe notes:  “As smartphones and tablets become constant companions, cyber attackers are using every avenue available to break into them.”

Most of us expect these expensive pieces of tech to be secure. In reality, they are not. With simple equipment, hackers can get in and make use of other, more powerful equipment nearby. For example, says Forsythe, “hackers can gain access to a nearby mobile device in less than 30 seconds and either mirror the device and see everything on it, or install malware that will enable them to siphon data from it at their leisure.”

You can also encourage employers to change their passwords regularly, instituting Two Factor Authentication on all their important accounts. Google, for example, sends a message to your phone when you login to your email from another device or computer. After all, if you suddenly login from somewhere else, that’s a red flag of hacking – since it means someone else is invading your space. But sometimes, of course, it’s just using a new or another device. Sending a quick note to your phone lets you authenticate it. Since hackers don’t have your phone, this is a much more secure method and is recommended by many cybersecurity experts.