Good news for mining sector’s future

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Recently released mine safety statistics showed a decrease in fatalities. But just days after that good news from Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane was announced, the Lily gold mine accident took place and this disaster has been on front pages since.

The statistics showed that mining fatalities had dropped by 8%. There were 77 deaths among mineworkers during 2015 but that was the lowest reported number of deaths in the mining sector ever recorded.

As we received the good news, tragedy struck and it has brought us all back down to Earth

The Lily mine incident is a tragic one and highlights that while improvements have been made, the mining environment is a volatile one and filled with onsite risks that jeopardise the lives of our mineworkers daily. In other words, we must still continue to work on improving safety measures at our mining sites. In the particular case of the Lily mine accident, an investigation will be able to answer questions about why the container, which was being used as an administrative office, crashed. The container crashed down a sinkhole and there is a possibility that the sinkhole opened up because the area has been heavily mined and the mine design, right from the get-go, didn’t account for areas of weakness. But right now, these are speculative thoughts and an in-depth investigation will reveal all.

The way the Lily mine accident has been handled has been commendable

The Lily mine accident has been handled and reported on with absolute transparency, something which the mining industry in South Africa is not known for. However, this transparency has showcased the support that the mine and the workers have received. Mine rescue services have been efficient and effective in their operation and the stakeholders have rallied together in support. Essentially, while the Lily mine accident is truly horrific, South Africa’s mining sector has proven itself better than it’s been before.

The mining statistics from 2015 do show this positivity and are a solid platform from which key stakeholders can nurture development and increase safety, in particular preventative measures at our mining sites. These statistics is on par with counterparts in Canada and Australia. This could be put down to stakeholders, regulators and unionists coming together to tackle the safety issues in this sector.

Safety measures must be constantly revisited to prevent more tragedy

Safety issues at the mines are a technical affair and mining engineers and safety officers must do the necessary to map out the best practice to protect all workers on site. This can start with the smallest installation of bollards mapping out truck and heavy equipment routes to identifying all weak points where sink holes may occur.

Why you must make customers happy

We cannot underestimate the importance of creating a business environment and interaction customers appreciate. Making customers happy might seem an obvious position. Knowing how to do this and do it consistently is the problem.

The data gathered about customer satisfaction should be of concern to every business.

Customers want their benefits

In a recent article, the Chicago Tribune details a report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI):

“In 2013, customers reported greater satisfaction with retail sector businesses than in any year since the retail survey began in 1995, according to the ACSI report. In the two years since, sectorwide marks dropped about 4 percent on ACSI’s 100-point scale.”

This is due in part to the recent recession, when retailers did all they could to get customers into stores and paying. Retailers are gradually reducing perks they believe hurt their bottom line. This reduction has not gone unnoticed by customers, hence their levels of satisfaction. After all, they’ve come to expect certain benefits and now those benefits are gone.

Expectation is everything

Customers want to be treated like royalty. They potentially will part with their hard-earned cash to acquire your product or service. Whether this expectation is in the form of benefits (greater discounts, more rewards and so on) or how they’re treated by staff, not meeting these can have dire effects.

Whether or not the customer is justified in being disappointed or dissatisfied, the effect on the business remains.  As Oracle, a data service company, pointed out in a 2011 report: eighty-nine percent of consumers started doing business with a competitor after a poor customer experience.

What matters is creating an environment on multiple fronts catering to customer expectation.

Doing it right

Efficiency is often key here: Even an initial bad experience can be solved if you put in place various systems responding to whatever crisis might arise.

One way to maintain efficiency is ascertaining the work space is streamlined. If, for example, you have a retail store, make sure: you have fully trained your staff, your electronics are working, you have good point of sale software, your inventory numbers matches physical stock and so on.

Customer satisfaction is business satisfaction. Regardless of what kind of business we run or where are, we need to be constantly aware of the impact we’re having on our customers.

Tips for improved time management

teamWhether you’re trying to get a new business running, own an existing business or work for an employer, time management is always going to be an issue. You’re always trying to fit in the maximum amount of work in the minimum amount of time.

This often leads to you feeling frazzled, doing sloppy work and failing to get things done.

But you need to consider whether you’re really utilising all of your time correctly. We all are guilty of spending too many minutes scrolling through social media, watching mindless television and standing outside with the smokers – even if you’re not a smoker.

If you often find yourself stuck in that vicious cycle of time wasting, you likely could benefit from some advice on how to improve your time management. It can be extremely difficult to focus on the important tasks of applying for machinery finance for your new business, finding new employees for your existing business or acing that performance review at work if you’re stuck in that cycle. These are some time management methods you could consider adding to your day:

 

Plan your day

Start each day knowing what you’re going to work on. This allows you to ensure your most important task is completed first, early in the morning and likely when you’re feeling energised and ready for the day. This was made popular by business and productivity consultant Ivy Lee. He asked members of a team to plan their days the day before, to work through each task until it was completed and only then start on the next task. Tasks which weren’t completed were immediately added to the beginning of the next day’s list. This method is effective because it forces you to make decisions about what’s important, takes away the trouble of deciding what to do first and requires you to focus on a single task.

 

Resist the urge to multitask

The Pomodoro method of time management encourages people to focus on one task for a set period of time – usually 25 minutes. This system works because it asks people to concentrate fully on a single task for a short period of time. When you start a new task, you’re refreshed and able to start with a new perspective.

 

Consider how you use your time and try implement some of these suggestions to make the most of your days. You’ll probably soon be able to get more done and feel less stressed.

Why it’s good business to protect your clients

Recently, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook informed users that the FBI has ordered Apple to provide backdoor access to the iPhone’s operating system. Cook noted that Apple opposes the order, as it would not be possible to provide the FBI with such access, without putting millions of customers’ privacy at risk.

Initially, there’s nothing too remarkable about this – until you realise that this is a major company willing to go up against the US government to stand by principles central to the company. Cook writes:

“Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.”

Businesses aren’t just answerable to their customers and shareholders, but the government. They have always struggled to balance these sometimes conflicting needs, as this incident shows. The FBI wants access, but that access means undermining the reason so many are Apple customers: privacy.

The company, being a major player in tech business, sets an example in whatever it does. If Apple opposes such measures, the FBI can expect other companies to follow suit.

Speaking to Wired, Catherine Tucker, a professor of marketing at MIT Sloan School of Management, said:

“My research on this suggests that users are in fact deterred from using digital products with confidence if they feel that their actions are being tracked by the government. From a marketing standpoint therefore, I believe Apple stands to benefit from taking a stand against legally mandates encryption backdoors.”

This indicates that one of the most important aspects to customers in recent years has been privacy. Yet, there are of course political aspects to this and some users could claim to have no issue with access. If you have done nothing wrong, they claim, you have nothing to hide.

Many academics have responded to this line of thinking as being largely incorrect. Just because we’ve done nothing wrong doesn’t mean those who access our information won’t.

Keeping up with such policies and events might mean that more businesses should invest in computer courses. In this way, companies will have staff on hand who can more easily inform their decisions.

Thankfully, a company like Apple already has such experts. What matters is that other businesses know whether to follow Apple’s example or not.

If you’re in business you’re in the numbers game, end of story

30214532-colorful-graphs-data-analysis-marketing-research-and-annual-report-background-concept-for-success-bu-Stock-PhotoWe’re certainly in an age of information overload which results in a need for metrics and analytically-minded people to wade through the deluge of data and find meaning in its existence. The information derived from what the data and numbers tell us is used for decision-making on the daily which means that no-one who actively participates in the business world can claim to be ‘not a numbers person’. Nowadays it’s simply unacceptable to be inept at numbers.

For a long time the accounts department and financial manager or director handled the monetary numbers, the IT guys handled any kind of analytics and the executive board were the only people who understood the reports. In recent times, these different silos of information have needed to be integrated which means that everybody, from your marketing department to procurement to your executive board need to have an understanding of the numbers that are keeping the company going.

So where to start?

The financials of your business are an excellent place to start if you want your staff to become au fait with the numbers game in your company. Understanding the dynamics involved in the financial management of your business is key to understanding why certain decisions are made and everyone is likely to feel more accountable and empowered with this information on-hand. Your teams and their leaders who are non-financial managers, are now able to predict various outcomes by having the theoretical understanding of financial management and more clarity on the implementation financial tools. Their business activities are better planned because they understand the impact of their decisions better.

Sending your team leads, department heads and managers on a finance course will equip them with the skills to identify problems, understand the different financial reports and will improve their decision-making skills. In this way, a business owner can rely on their department heads to report not only on activities and completed projects but also on expenditure, and should the report be negative, they can unpack the reasons why and pinpoint where any discrepancies occurred.

Use technology to understand the numbers

Many companies, even small businesses, have taken to implementing some kind of ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution which can be integrated with all other systems and software that is currently in use. This will provide your employees with an integrated dashboard on which they can view key areas of information, churn out reports at the click of a button and keep their finger on the pulse whether they require insights into ‘telling’ data or profits and expenditure.

Ultimately, empowering non-financial managers with knowledge that helps them understand the financial operations of your enterprise, equipping them with the tools to understand and read analytical reports and pinpoint areas of importance will only help the business to remain operational. The numbers game is crucial in the business world, now more than ever before and with tech trends such as The Internet of Things and harnessing the power of big data, every single player in the marketplace should be focused on the numbers more than anything else.

 

 

Turnaround strategies for a dying business

bizThe dream of starting a business is one that many up and coming entrepreneurs look forward to achieving. Unlocking the doors, stepping in, and finally getting the feeling of accomplishment, is part of fulfilling the dream. Until the realisation hits that you have only made it to the brink of success. After the door for business is open, the hard work to keep it afloat sets in. When things go south, there are a few turnaround strategies you can consider.

Keep communication open between management and staff

Employees are the heartbeat of a company. Without them pumping the blood to the heart, the business is nothing. Management should never keep the status of the business to themselves as one way or another employees will find out the truth. The news of the company going downhill will spread like wildfire, and this could be potentially dangerous to the business. The last thing any owner wants is for employees to jump ship, which is bound to happen when the latest developments are not honestly conveyed to them. Communication between top management and staff is a big priority that should never be left behind.

Build the confidence of investors and lenders

Good public relations courses have taught that the way to success is to keep up the appearance of the business. Building the confidence of the investors will keep your business afloat to a certain extent, but that also means that you need to be honest with them about the financial status. In this way you will then be able to determine if they are willing to cooperate and support a turnaround plan or if you need to consider a sale or liquidation. Investors and lenders, especially those in relation to equity, call for deft handling and close contact. During the early stages of a turnaround plan, regular communication on the short-term cash position and performance against revenue and expense targets will keep lenders up to speed with what is going on.

The suppliers

Never forget that suppliers play an important role in the success of a turnaround effort. The suppliers need to be kept in the loop and made to feel that it is in their best interest to continue the supply and demand of their service. Your suppliers need to supply the business and to leave credit lines in place, no matter how time consuming it may be to keep negotiating specific dealings. The best way to go about doing this is to rank them according to their importance and manage the relationship accordingly, investing time as necessary to engage suppliers at a senior level.

How to boost your business credibility online

picThe whole world is becoming digital: everywhere we go, websites, social media accounts and new forms of entertainment are all demonstrating how we’re becoming increasingly connected. Geography is no longer a barrier to business, as people communicate instantly from anywhere in the world. Social media has meant we have greater insight into the lives of others and into business operations.

Of course, with greater connectivity comes greater scrutiny. This is why in recent years, businesses have fired people for what they say online – even on these people’s private social media feeds. Businesses themselves lose face with the public for mistakes these businesses make.

Improving your business’ credibility is a good way to prepare for this kind of scrutiny. With better credibility, any mistakes you make will probably have less of a longterm negative impact.

The reasons why are self-evident: If someone you’ve had a good relationship with makes a mistake, you’re more likely to forgive and move on. If you discover someone you barely know did something terrible, you’re more likely to view them only through that lens. (It’s in this way first impressions matter!)

Credible sources

One good way to improve your credibility is to associate with already trusted sources or businesses.

Your website is a prime space to display this association: you should already be striving to rub shoulders with big players, so this is further incentive to do so –  you can then proudly display their logo on your website (with their permission). Whether it’s about being accredited for certain services or client work done in the past, showcasing a famous logo is guaranteed to show the general public you are a serious industry member.

Platforms

Being connected means the public will reach out more often. With a boost in the various platforms for communication, businesses need to be aware of how to use and respond, on each one. Whether this means software, such as social media, or hardware, such as mobile, knowledge about how to communicate is essential: it’s often failures of communication that result in increased customer complaints and, worse, dissatisfaction.

Maintaining communication could mean you need better equipment. This is worth considering, even if it means using options like asset finance, giving you resources to work from.

Work itself

But communication isn’t all that maintains credibility: The work you do must itself be one you’re proud to put your name to. Whether as a result of a project’s creative brilliance or impact on the world, you should be striving to offer services and products that themselves will put you in a positive light with the ever-scrutinising public. You should be doing work that the public wants to share and talk about, even on their own private social networks.

In these ways, your credibility will skyrocket and put you in a positive light in a world that is now always online.

Claiming from your insurance

Life-InsuranceDisaster can strike at any given moment, hence the reason why many business owners take out insurance. Without insurance a business can take a major nose dive leaving the owners at a devastating loss. In some cases it may also happen that owners only later read the fine print and see that they are not liable for a certain payout. Insurance companies are tricky this way, so make sure you don’t find yourself at the other end of the stick.

 

Keep a good record

 

Keep all files or any documents safe and all in one place just in case you may need it someday to make a claim. Frustration will arise if there is no way to find your missing documents. Keep all receipts for your insured items and if there are any valuable items, take photographs of it showing their condition. When you have taken out asset finance for your goods, you will want them insured.

 

Making your claim

  1. Report the claim to your insurance company if anything has been vandalised or stolen. Reporting the incident to the police becomes your biggest priority after you discover the incident.Certain policies have time limits for you to report incident to the police so do it straight away.
  2. Make sure that you go over your papers to ensure you are covered for the goods that need replacing, then go over the procedure process you need to follow. If something broke, don’t call up a handyman, first check with your policy. As some policies state that you have to use a workman approved by the insurance company. Your contract will state if the company will provide its own workman or if you can go ahead and hire anyone you choose.

 

Have all documentation at hand

 

When you have all your ducks in a role the entire process will run smoother. When making the call or going to the insurance company make sure you have your policy document at hand with all receipts of the goods that are stolen or damaged and most importantly the police report reference number.

 

Get the facts straight

 

Always be truthful when answering question that the insurer may ask you. It will hurt your case if they find out that you kept certain detail from them. Go about explaining the circumstance of your claim in great detail and be clear about what happened, don’t exaggerate any events and keep the following in mind; times and dates, details of everyone involved and what took place.

What to ask when buying a house

picThe decision to buy a home is one of the biggest we have to make. Yet, so often, we are unprepared for what that means. We are not ourselves financial experts and thus cannot be expected to make the decisions necessary to acquire the best outcome in negotiating home loans.

It’s helpful then to at least start knowing what questions to ask. One of the most important questions is whether you want to rent or buy a house – and there are plenty of helpful online spaces that can help you decide, as pertains to your personal situation. There are also tools like home loan calculators that help you discover which loans you can qualify for.

Once you’ve done this, it might help to ask specifically about the mortgage you need or want.

For example, do you want a fixed-rate loan or adjustable rate mortgage (ARM)? Nerdwallet highlights the difference:

“The difference between the two loan products is easy to understand. A fixed-rate loan has an interest rate that never changes. An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) resets its interest rate at specific intervals. That can be a powerful tool for homebuyers with specific goals in mind.”

This question goes very far, however. A fixed rate mortgage is better for someone in a settled career and lifestyle – particularly those with dependants or families. With a low but locked-in rate, you have a consistent view on what the expenses will be every month. You won’t be surprised and have to quickly find interventions, while supporting yourself and others.

Younger people find ARMs more appealing however. Primarily the openness it allows means that those advancing in their careers are not locked down – it allows you to keep longterm options open, while retaining a sense of security in paying a loan.

Some loans allow you to pay points on an initial basis that lets you lower the overall amount. These are small percentages of the total amount you take, but they could add up in terms of permanent lowering of your final amount.

It’s also important to keep in mind other costs, such as closing costs. As Michael Blujay points out:

“In addition to the down payment, you’ll also have to pay closing costs — miscellaneous fees charged by those involved with the home sale (such as your lender for processing the loan, the title company for handling the paperwork, a land surveyor, local government offices for recording the deed, etc.).  The average closing costs percentage is usually about 2-5% of the purchase price … but 1-8% is not uncommon.  And to be clear, nobody chooses a specific percentage number—the closing costs will just happen to add up to some percentage.”

There are plenty of other aspects to consider but these are some to keep at the front of your mind when going into buying a home.