Category Archives: Business

Handling Awkward Conversations with Colleagues

Let’s face it; working closely with colleagues can be a real strain on social boundaries. Getting along with people in your working environment doesn’t necessarily constitute friendship, yet full time employees spend between eight and nine hours per day sharing office space.

Addressing clashes of character or awkward communication in the workplace can be difficult when there is no way to avoid issues that challenge working relationships. So how does one approach a colleague about matters that are less than flattering?

Constructive criticism

Where productivity is concerned the interest should always lie with the company. An employee whose habits are counterproductive must be confronted in order to preserve the working team’s efficiency.

For instance, if a worker has a tendency to display rude behaviour, interrupt colleagues or ignore procedures, office relationships can suffer greatly. It is up to the team leader to address the person and stop the problem. However, criticising an employee for personal habits can leave them feeling insulted – even more so when the problem is of a sensitive nature, like personal odour or inappropriate dress.

Nobody is perfect

Even though a personal issue like bad body odour can make it difficult for employees to work with a particular person, it is good to keep a fair amount of perspective when awkward issues arise. In some lines of work physical exertion is inevitable, and sweating is normal. With South Africa’s sunny summers even people who do admin jobs in Cape Town or other hot climates tend to perspire throughout the day.

Before complaining about a colleague or confronting them about the problem, ask yourself if everyone else in the office is smelling like a freshly picked rose. Only if the person’s odour problem is persistent, even in a moderate climate, is it worth addressing.  Be careful not to offend someone just because they are having a particularly smelly day.

The same logic applies to colleagues who talk, eat, dress or organise their desk differently to you. Ask yourself if their behaviour is affecting productivity. If not, are they violating the company’s rules or dress code? Would you tolerate being criticised for their personal habits if the situation were reversed?

Consideration is key

The truth is spending five days a week in the company of colleagues will inevitably lead to some frustration and certain issues just can’t be ignored. If steps have to be taken it is important to be considerate of your co-worker’s feelings.

Addressing the issue is always better than gossiping behind the person’s back. Speak to the offending party in private rather than raising their personal shortcomings in front of the group. Warn the worker that they might be hurt by what you plan to say, and make the conversation as sensitive as possible.

Expect a certain amount of denial or anger after the discussion. Highlighting positive aspects about the person or offering to help them deal with the issue can soften the blow. Explain that you are addressing the issue to protect them from being the topic of gossip or allowing their offending behaviour to cost them good working relationships.

Dealing with the reverse

Keep in mind that co-workers are just as likely to get frustrated with you as you are with them. If a situation arises where a colleague approaches you about an issue concerning your working relationship, listen with an open mind and try to appreciate how awkward it was to start the conversation in the first place.


Having Business Assets can Save the Day

When thinking about investing wisely for your small business it always good to consider the type of returns you can expect. Marketing, market research and high quality training are all investments with positive effects. Although essential, these are examples of investments that have to be revisited as markets and the industry change.

Now think long term and consider your businesses assets. What cards do you have tucked up your sleeve for a rainy day?

Why should a business invest?

Imagine how much revenue can get lost by not being able to replace tired equipment or to expand as demand grows.

To ensure the necessary capital is available when the time comes to expand a business, it is important to put away funds from the onset of the venture. An investment specifically reserved for financing a larger premises or new equipment means usual cash flow wouldn’t have to be tapped when the time for expansion arises.

The value of broad spectrum assets

Liquid assets like investment portfolios are great for allowing your business capital to work for you. The other perk of this type of investment is instant access to your money when your business is in a temporary fix.

Besides your liquid assets, it’s good to have some good old brick and mortar behind your name. According to Property News, every business should aspire to own their premises. Think about it – instead of your rent being a monthly expense, it could be a payment towards a commercial mortgage. Paying off your property slowly but surely adds to your business capital and it means you are able to expand, revamp and operate your office space as you would like to.

Property investment for your business

With the current South African interest rate looking mighty friendly and the value of property on the rise, 2014 is promising to be a great year for investing. So why stop at owning your own premises, perhaps this is the time to consider buying multiple commercial spaces to lease out.

Even residential property in your business’ name is a worthwhile investment that can be rented out for a steady income. Consider the possibility of investing in residential property that can be rezoned as commercial space and put to work as rentable office space.

When the time comes to take your business venture to the next level, selling a property investment is the substantial financial injection that can make all the difference.

Where to invest in SA property

With its status as being SA’s millionaire city, and new developments happening in urban as well as business sectors, just about any property for sale in Johannesburg is bound to be a good investment. However, the innovative development happening in Cape Town due to its Design Capital status is also worth keeping an eye on.

With 2014 being the year to buy property, it is worth taking the plunge and buying some real business assets for your company.



When Cashflow is Low and Debt is High

Did you know that even Donald Trump has had his issues with debt? The real-estate mogul racked up $3.5 billion in business debt and $900 million in personal debt before filing for bankruptcy in 1991.

It took several years, but the Apprentice star eventually got his finances in order. What we can take away from this is that anyone can go through hard times – and find a way out.

Most businesses need to deal with debt at some point. When your cashflow isn’t high enough to pay off all your bills though, it’s time to reassess your payment strategy.

Know where you stand

The first thing you need to do is orientate your business in relation to how much money is coming in and how much needs to be going out. In other words, make a cashflow projection for the next quarter, or even the next year. Be as realistic as possible or else it’s not going to help you.

Also, make a list all your debts, as well as how much you are paying on interest.

Prioritise expenses and debts

Can you cut down on your expenses? Prioritise your bills. Some expenses are absolutely indispensable to the running of your business, like utilities, employee wages, taxes, and rent.  Others can be put on hold, decreased or cancelled altogether.

Some things are not essential to the running of your business, like insurance, but should still be high on your priority list. It’s too dangerous not to be covered with business insurance. Check to see if there is a more affordable coverage plan you can switch to though.

Your debt also needs to be prioritised. Remember that it’s not the creditor who yells the loudest or makes the most threats that should be at the top of your list. Make sure you pay off your secured debt or debt you have personally guaranteed, because if you default on these the consequences are severe. Unsecured debt, like credit cards, is still a priority but not as much so.

Restructure debt

While it won’t decrease how much you have to pay, by restructuring your debts you can make payment less of a burden on your cashflow.

If you’re having trouble paying your debts, speak to the people you owe money to see if they’re willing to freeze your debts. People can be understanding if you’re honest about your situation. Explain to them that it’s in their best interest that your business remain solvent, because they’ll retain a long-term customer.

Also, if you owe several payments to the same creditor, you might be able to consolidate debt into one lump sum and simply pay one amount over a longer period.

You can also put some of your payment on credit, such as stock, and pay it off later. Be careful of this option though, as you don’t want to have to face more payment difficulties down the line.

By making some adjustments, you can pay off your debts, maximise your cashflow, and get your business into a stronger financial position. Don’t worry if your progress is gradual. Any progress, so long as it is consistent, is going to get you out the red.

Thoughtful ways to improve your business’ security

Security is an essential feature of any business. It shouldn’t be considered as secondary to profit – or rather, what today, we call “survival” – but as concurrent. By not considering what should go into security, you run the risk of losing everything that allows you to even have a business in the first place. But, even upon installing some function of security, that’s no guarantee the security is any good or appropriate.

Good security versus mere security

There’s a difference between closing a door and locking it. A closed door is, in some places, sufficient, such as within family homes and among friends and family. Knocking is regarded as respectful. Yet, for potential intruders, this is of course insufficient. Similarly, merely having security is not the same as having sufficient or proper security: by this we mean, security that actually responds to possible dangers that your business might face.

It’s the difference between locking your car or house and having an alarm system. In the one case, people can overcome it, but even the mere illusion of an alarm is sometimes sufficient to dissuade burglars.

You must be aware of your situation: Do you live in a particularly hostile area? Is it quiet and residential? How quick are the response times? How valuable are the items in the business complex? Do you have a safe onsite or elsewhere?

By consulting security experts, we can work on a case-by-case basis to determine the best solution for a business’ security – whether it’s a matter of installing proper window security, proper CCTV control room equipment, or even protections for laptops.

The point is: Security isn’t one thing because the things we are securing aren’t just one thing.

The key form of security

The best and most effective form of security is prevention via vigilance.

As many businesses know, even with security staff can get lazy and are not particularly vigilant – because they assume that security installed means less people will take chances. Thieves will take chances – they know that onsite staff are lacking in responses and vigilance. It’s not enough to have staff, they also need to be trained properly.

Similarly it’s not enough to have, say, mirrors. You also need to have a good lay out of the store, such that the mirrors are visible to your (trained) staff to spot potential thieves. Installing cameras is good, but what point do they serve if they can only see the top of someone’s head and not the rest of them, to indicate any identifying markers?

So, even with security, we need to assess whether the security being implemented is working and is functioning appropriately. And, majority, we need to ensure that we are practicing constant vigilance and awareness since preventing crime is better than combatting it – or rather is the best way to combat it.

How to Choose the Perfect Location for Your Second Business

When a business is running smoothly, it’s usually time to start thinking about expansion. This is of course provided you have the cash flow to support a second venture. But if everything is in order, it’s time to start scouting for a location.

It’s imperative to choose wisely before signing on the dotted line for a premises. As a business owner with one successful business already, it should be common knowledge that the location of a business can make it r sink it.

The first clue as to where you should open shop next would be the area from which most of your business queries are coming from. Should you, for instance, be in Cape Town’s CBD but people from Somerset West and Strand are purchasing your products, it could be an indicator of a gap in the market in those areas. So then you’d want to start looking into property for sale in Somerset West or Strand.

Still, do not neglect to research the demographics of the people living in close proximity of the location you’re considering. You don’t want to put up shop anywhere in town – you want to be close to the people who are buying your products or services. Collect all available data, even if takes doing a survey, then evaluate said data to help you decide whether a location is right for your business.

It might sound counterproductive, but consider setting up shop close to a competitor. People are already travelling to the area for the type of product or service you provide, so why not cash in on the existing traffic? Part of this strategy would be in-depth research into your competitors to see what they’re offering and at what prices. You’d want to at least match, but preferably beat their product or service offering.

Other factors that you should consider when looking at properties or location are the flow of traffic, accessibility and visibility:

The flow of traffic: Imagine you run a breakfast spot. Would you want your business to be on the side of the road most people drive along in the morning, or on the opposite side? Naturally you’d want to be on the side people use most on their way to work. This consideration might not be applicable to all businesses, but if you run any sort of establishment that people like to ‘pop in to’, do keep this one in mind.

Accessibility: It should be easy for people to access your business, whether they do it by car or on foot. Look at the building’s location in relation to main roads, where the front door is located (it should face the road or parking lot), and whether there is enough parking on the grounds.

Visibility: Would your shop be visible to the people who need to see it? Think about that breakfast spot again. If it’s located two streets up from the main road, how will drivers know about it? It would be much better to be next to the main road, in plain sight of drivers.

These are some of the most important factors to consider when choosing a location for your second business, but by asking yourself a number of other important questions, you can ensure that you pick the perfect location.