Author: Dorota

How to Use Inventive Problem Solving to Refine Your Business

Business today is full of perplexing problems, especially in early stage companies, just ask anyone with their masters in management. Often, the more traditional ways businesses used to solve problems are outmoded, or simply not fast enough. These are the times when you should employ creative problem solving methodology to fix a problem or come up with an alternative solution to an issue that is challenging your organization.

In the very earliest days of a company, you can use innovative problem solving to test an idea.  This type of solution can be derived from using a four step process:

  • What is the opportunity? The first step is to gain a complete comprehension of solutions already on the market. If you’re designing a consumer product, observe how it is already being used in the marketplace. What do they like? What annoys them? Have users invented their own work arounds for product flaws? 
  • What if? Identify these key points, and discuss them among your colleagues. Make a list of possible solutions and brainstorm different ways to solve the problems. This is a better system that just throwing ideas against the wall without having done the discovery process. You’ve identified possible needs here and are thinking of creative solutions.
  • What wows? Once you have identified the entire spectrum of possible solutions, contemplate and discuss which ones will work.  Look for those that fall into the “wow zone”, those innovations that will motivate the public to buy your product or service. Now you start to employ standard business models to each of the solution, and narrow the list down to some viable ends.
  • What works? You’re at the state where you can create prototypes or beta versions and bring them back to the group you originally observed. After initial feedback, return to the office and reinvent, hone where you need to. Small failures sometimes lead to big successes.

For more general problem solving, group brainstorming involves everybody, and can be a fun as well as productive session.

Why a group?   Better decisions. It can be argued that group brainstorming creates better solutions by affecting one of the three elements of decisions:

  • Criteria – group participation assures that more people that will be affected by the decisions will be involved in the process.
  • Cause/Effect – by including people with specialized expertise, you can be assured that more specific proposals, relevant to the problem, will be put forth.
  • Alternatives – groups tend to offer a higher quantity of solutions, as well as a greater variety.

The role of the leader in group brainstorming can take one of two paths, either as an advocate, or as a moderator. It’s best if one role or the other is taken, and that role not change during the session.

When you set out to resolve sticky situations in your company, answer two questions prior to setting out to find a solution:

1. What kind of problem is this?  A product modification, distribution, marketing?  Identify the core area of the problem prior to setting out to find a solution.

2. Who else has faced this type of problem?  Often it’s best to take a lesson from history rather than ‘reinventing the wheel.’  What companies or products have suffered from this type of situation in the past?  Did they solve it?  How did they solve it? What is the long term result of their solution to the problem?

Creative problem solving can be a great tool for most organizations, large or small, successful and mature, or just starting out. It’s important to identify a time or space specifically for this session, and not have employees or outside advisors coming and going during the session, checking email, answering phone calls.

You might consider having them “off-campus” in a nice setting like a hotel or resort, as many employees will consider that kind of session a “perk” and not “work”.

New loan service could be the refreshment the South African economy needs

One of the biggest challenges to any budding entrepreneur is having enough cash available at the right time. Although the pay-day loan service that Wonga offer is sometimes seen as a “tide-me-over” facility to cover an unexpected bill or an emergency expense, that is not always the case. Sometimes good deals and great offers come along with the chance of picking something up for a great price; but if you don’t have the cash available, you could lose out.

The wherewithal to seal the deal

If you run an online business buying and selling some sort of product, cost price is everything. Spotting a good deal and being able to act on it there and then can mean increased profits when you sell the product on. But you have to be able to get your hands on the cash when you need it. Whether you already have a business, or you are just waiting for the right moment to start one up, Being able to finance that special deal can be crucial.

All entrepreneurs have to start somewhere, and for most it means starting off at rock bottom. But according to a recent report in SME-South-Africa.co.za, South Africa is leading the race when it comes to fostering entrepreneurship in women. For many of these ladies (and their male counterparts too), access to short term high cost loans could make all the difference to getting their business start-ups off the ground, or making an important killing.

Doing your homework properly

The key of course is making sure that you can afford the loan in the first place. Short term is good because it means not having to create long-term debts. But it does come at a price, and that price is the interest that the loan provider will charge. If you take this into account, and you can still show a profit on your sales over and above the amount of interest you have pay back, you’re onto a winner and a pay day loan can be a great asset. Raising finance is never easy at the best of times. A pay-day loan could be ideal.

A new oxygen supply

The fact of the matter is that according to a report a couple of months ago in Global-Process-Servers.com, the “grass roots” of the South African economy may have been stifled by lack of access to short term funds. But with the appearance of the pay-day loan facility, that could be a thing of the past.

From tiny acorns

It has to be said of course that we’re looking at the small end on the market (the SMEs – with the emphasis on the S for small). But seeds have got to be sewn somewhere, and a great many are falling on the fertile ground of the virtual business world – online start-ups. As they say, from tiny acorns; mighty oaks do grow.

In a very real sense, the pay-day loan could be the boost that the South African economy needs to further foster and nurture its wannabe entrepreneurial young people. As well as being used to help some South Africans out of a tight spot, it could be used as an investment in South Africa’s future.

Case Study: Farm Business Consultants Comes to the Aid in the Purchase of a Woodstock Farm

Besides aiding farms and small businesses with their annual tax filings, Farm Business Consultants Inc. is a tax and accounting firm that can also help its Members in business situations that call for more specialized tax and accounting knowledge. Say, for example, when a business decides to expand through the purchase of another business. In a scenario such as this, tax knowledge and expertise is critical to assuring that the purchase is as smooth and as cost-effective as possible. And Farm Business Consultants serves as the opportune tax consulting firm to provide that critical tax knowledge and expertise that’s needed.

Take, as illustration, the example of a Woodstock-based business that was looking to purchase a farm several years ago. The owner of this business was a Member of Farm Business Consultants, and as a Member, he had been very happy with the quality of consulting service FBC had provided him. And indeed, the quality of consulting work that Farm Business Consultants would provide the business owner in his farm purchase would make him an even more satisfied Member.

Unfortunately, there was a problem, and a potentially significant impediment, in the business owner’s purchase of the farm. This small business proprietor was buying the farm with his spouse. However, as a partnership, they were not registered for the Goods and Services Tax, or GST. The fact that they were not registered had the potential of causing a serious problem and a serious expense, as the seller of the farm was a registrant of GST. Because of this, the couple would have to pay an additional $24,500 in order to buy the farm. This was an enormous expense that was being added to the farm purchase, one that the couple was not expecting.

Fortunately, the Woodstock business proprietor was a Member of Farm Business Consultants. If he hadn’t been, there was a strong chance that the couple would have paid the additional fee for the farm.

These were all points that Farm Business Consultants’ tax and accounting expertise were able to effectively and successfully address.

The FBC tax specialist working with the Woodstock couple immediately applied for a GST registrant number with the Canada Revenue Agency on behalf of the couple. The application was processed successfully and that action alone helped save the couple $24,500 when they purchased the farm.

The advice and consultation Farm Business Consultants provided to this Woodstock couple reinforced why FBC is one of the largest and most experienced rural income tax consulting firms in the country.

Compensation: some people just don’t get it

We all know someone who would rather go into hiding than stand their own round at the bar. You may have even been the victim of the thoughtlessness of a motorist, who after denting your vehicle fails to leave their details or an offer to pay for the damage. However, the following examples of stinginess will take some beating, and although some are admittedly quite funny, the majority are just down right insulting.

Racist runaway

This week’s papers feature an article about a rather rude and blatantly racist driver in Sydney, who after ploughing into a stationary vehicle left a note saying, “I’m sorry I reversed into your car. I am Asian and can’t drive. Here’s a hungry jack’s voucher.” Obviously intending to inject some humour into the situation, the driver failed spectacularly and incensed the victim so much that he has taken to the internet in an attempt to find out who the culprit is. To make matters worse there were witnesses to the incident, yet they failed to note the registration of the offending vehicle as they believed the motorist was leaving his contact details.

The Daily Mail newspaper provides further examples of other weird and wonderful offers of compensation, including:

• £2.48 compensation for not having internet for a month

• A year’s supply of fruit cake (I’d be pretty happy with this one to be honest)

• Vouchers that can only be used in the USA … plane tickets with that one please!

• A carton of orange juice that was actually out of date and going mouldy

• A free meal for a customer at the same restaurant they endured food poisoning

If you are seeking compensation for a personal injury, and would quite like something more substantial that anything mentioned above, give us a call on 08000 430 430. We don’t settle for anything less than you deserve, no matter how tempting the fruit cake.

Real compensation

Our solicitors are a seriously dedicated bunch and know how important it is to get satisfactory results as quickly as possible. You can rely on an efficient service from friendly, yet professional individuals. If you are fed up of being fobbed off and require representation from a reputable personal injury legal firm, you’ve come to the right place. We handle dog bite claims, accident at work compensation, medical negligence claims, motorcycle accident claims and many more types of personal injury claims. Your solicitor will help you claim damages that can assist with day to day living expenses, medical bills and household expenses that have built-up due to your inability to work.

What we do

We have many years of experience in this specific area of law and our reputation is known throughout the UK. A North West based company, we travel throughout the UK to meet the needs of our clients. Home appointments and hospital visits are just a couple of the services we provide and we do our utmost to ensure you are comfortable throughout the entire process

Why the NHS Needs to Improve Employee Engagement

Staff engagement remains a hot trend in the private sector, but is its reach yet to fully extend to public-sector organisations such as the NHS?

The National Health Service is one of the UK’s most renowned public services and its model is held up as an exemplar of public health provision across the world. However, evidence shows that there is still plenty of scope available to develop the organisation further using modern business principles. Experts also believe that without these modern business models the NHS will struggle to evolve. Will engagement models hold the key to this historic organisation’s future?

The Value of Staff Engagement to the NHS

Staff engagement is a driving principle of modern business and industry. It involves developing, rewarding, communicating to and empowering staff to bring about measurable gains. This people-based strategy is adopted by organisations large and small to develop employee wellbeing, retention, motivation and performance. In the case of the NHS, it is intrinsically linked to associated benefits and measurable things such as patient care and satisfaction as well as clinical outcomes such as treatment rates and mortality. Ultimately, and in the case of the NHS specifically, an employee engagement strategy which is effectively planned, integrated and communicated can work to deliver safer patient care of higher quality. So how well is the UK-wide organisation doing at integrating such approaches?

The NHS has devoted resources and effort towards developing an engagement strategy over the past 24 months, but there remains real scope for further advancement and improvement. Internal employee satisfaction survey and focus group approaches are allowing current progress to be measured and assessed for improvements, and further opportunities certainly remain.

The Drivers of Engagement

Staff engagement isn’t simply a nice-to-have or a driver of performance. There are cost implications too. The NHS faces significant pressures to reduce its costs, and demand is rapidly growing for its services. Budgets are frozen whilst costs increase, requiring managers to find more effective and efficient ways of working to squeeze more value from resources and assets. A second driver is care quality and safety, following the Francis Report concerning the Mid Staffs scandal last year.

Useful Background Research and Reading

A report by the IPA has been produced for NHS employers and the association of Healthcare People Managers. It looks at interventions and approaches that deliver high engagement and offers specific recommendations at a Trust level. Equally, another useful resource is the recent survey by Aon Hewitt which shows current engagement levels and the benefits of increasing these.

The NHS faces significant challenges for its staff, including pay freezes, increased productivity requirements and significant organisational changes and associated risk management. Managers will need to look at the employee lifecycle to improve retention and attraction of key talent and the highest performers, whilst establishing the employee value proposition to bring in top performers, particularly from the private sector. To achieve this full set of improved performance and delivery objectives, staff will need to be fully engaged and supported to unlock innovative approaches and to drive forward more efficient services. Ultimately, this means that the right staff engagement strategy is not simply an optional extra. It is potentially a fundamental delivery platform that will allow the NHS to succeed in its future challenges.

3 Good Accident Smartphone Apps For Auto Insurance Claims

The time during an auto accident is a harried time where we barely remember our names, let alone the myriad small details we are suppose to remember and or think about. However this period of time is quite crucial and can possibly mean the difference between getting a large insurance settlement or being found at fault and responsible for a rather large bill. So it pays (literally) to be vigilant and to record information as accurately as possible during an accident.

 Luckily there are a number of smartphone apps which help us do just that and are quite good at it. In this article, we take a look at a few of them. See our top picks below.

1. Car Accident Report –

This handy dandy app allows you to record important information that is needed during an insurance claim and or simply to relay back in police reports. Things such as driver details, vehicle information, photos, video, witness statements and so on. You can have some it pre populated such as your insurance company contact number, policy numbers, etc but most important is (on the scene) information. Since this is usually through all the chaos, the hardest part to remember.

2. Help! I Crashed My Car –

This app bills itself as your personal vehicle assistant and its name is spot on. Through the app you can quickly find local police, hospital and or ambulance information, get tips on what to do during an accident, get live traffic updates and even schedule vehicle repair appointments on the spot. These things might not seem terribly vital when you’re calmly sitting behind a computer screen; but it’s an entirely different matter after a vehicular collision. Our thoughts and hearts go into overdrive and the simplest information escapes our brains; so these apps can and do come in handy in a time of need.

3. iWrecked –

iWrecked is both good on Android and iPhone and essentially it helps with having detailed vehicle and insurance information at your fingertips. We like this one because of it’s ease of use and nice looking interface. If you like simple, go with iWrecked and download to your phone to get a feel for it. Remember these apps allow you to pre populate information such as contact numbers for your insurance carrier, policy numbers, coverage limits, type, etc which is needed both during and after an accident; along with police report. These are the first set of questions asked during the claims process as well. Simply pull out your smartphone and the info will be there.

No one likes to plan for an accident, but those who do – are in a better position to manage it better and properly. Insurance companies need details of an accident and the better prepared you are, the better your chances of coming out on top during a harsh claims process.

Be ready and have fun during your travels, but most of all – be safe. Good luck.

PES 2018: Tricks to succeed

We all love it, but we even know that it is not easy to play like a boss and win every game. So, here are some tips and tricks compiled to help you succeed and will almost every match you play.

Pass and move

This is not a secret tip, but you need to focus on it more than ever because PES 2018 is quick and sensitive. Your finger tips should be ready to make quick passes and keep moving. Even if you have the best player (for us it is Messi), you need to be really quick.

And yes, start practicing it. Slowly and steadily you will be able to move the ball quickly. After all, you need skill and sharp responses for the same.

Balanced Team

Building our favorite team is easy, but one should not assume that our favorite team is balanced. Yes, we are leaving out someone because we don’t know much about their abilities (or let’s face it! We hate them and so we don’t want them in our regular team).

Apart from players, we need to focus on the formations too.

Plan to defend

We want to score more and win more. However, it is important to defend better if you want to win an important game. To defend well, you need to contain your opponents. You can do this by attempting to push players towards the wings. Here, make sure that you send a second player and pressure your opponent. You can send a second player by holding square (PS4) and X (XBOX).

Another important point here is – you should never try to commit to every tackle. Save your energy and strategy for the crucial ones.

Shooting

PES 2018 is a superior game, and there are infinite ways to score. The game makes your shooting crisp and sharp. However, the finesse shots take practice. So, it is important to practice such shots. When in a game, practice shots even while playing with a lesser-known team (if you are winning the game).

Pace control

This can be difficult at the start. However, once you get used to playing, you can expect controlled shots that reach the target.

Tip: When starting out, you should try and bring players into the game to control midfield battles. Sprinting all the time won’t help. In fact, it will make things worse for you. Stamina issues are here to stay, and you can expect this little reason to destroy your game. So, no more superhuman running is possible. You can hurt your favorite players and lose games if you jam the sprint button. So, control your speed and perfect your aim.

Concluding, if you think that you can play like a boss without these tricks, you might be frustrated with back to back losses. So, learn something out of this post and make the most of it.

If you have not yet bought your copy, visit an online store and buy it.

5 Hidden Expenses That Can Suck the Cash Flow Out of Your Side Business

Side businesses can be a great source of extra income, as has been well document on this blog (here are two great articles from the community on it: but there are several hidden expenses that can suck life out of your cash flow. For the last several years I have run a number of side projects and run into these hidden expenses time and again. 

1. Software As A Service fees adding up

Software as a Service are software products that instead of paying one time for them, you pay smaller ongoing fees to be able to use. They are great initially for a business as you can save on the upfront cost and pay $10-$100/mo for ongoing use of them. At the same time, these fees start to add up and can really take a hit out of your cash flow. What to do? Look at the one time cost of similar software and evaluate your time period needed to break even if you were just to buy it outright. It may cost more upfront, but can lower your ongoing costs tremendously. 

2. Transaction Fees/Bank Fees

You send an invoice via paypal. Your customer pays. Paypal takes their cut. You have a client wire their payment to you. The bank takes a cut. You charge your clients credit card. Your credit card processor takes a cut. These transaction fees can add up to some significant cash flow drain over time. How to make it? Weigh your best options and then provide pricing adjustments that take in to account the various transaction fees. 

3. Sloppy Books/Calendaring

Keeping sloppy books, not tracking tax payment dates can really eat you up in late fees/penalties. Sloppy books can also increase your charges with an accountant when it comes time to pay your taxes. What to do? Hire a bookkeeper. They are pretty cheap and allow you to have the peace of mind that things are taken care of and you avoid excessive late fees. 

4. Improper insurance coverage

More than likely you need insurance for your business, but overpaying on insurance because of the brand you choose or the policy you have can add on to your expenses in unneccesary ways. Insureon publishes reports that let you see what other similar size businesses get in the way of coverage and this can help you determine if you have the right policy. 

5. Spending too much time researching

This one is counterintuitive, but some times you can spend too much time researching a product or solution for your business in hopes to save some money, when really it would have been more cost effective to spend a bit more, but save time that could be used on focusing on client sales. 

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