Archive for 2008

Make money in the dark

Saturday, March 1st, 2008
Make money in the dark
by Marilyn Parr

Bill Gibson reveals how to keep your business afloat during the power cuts

Originally Published in: Succeed in business
There is no getting around it: the power cuts are a major blow to South African businesses. And unfortunately, among the hardest hit are the little guys running small and medium enterprises.

“We need to get real about this,” says Bill Gibson, chairperson of Knowledge Brokers International. “If your company is barely breaking even every month, the power cuts could put you out of business. Even if you are turning a profit, you need to prepare for the possibility of lean times ahead.”

“Do not wait  around for Eskom, the government or your landlord to give you a hand – you have to help yourself” – Bill Gibson


By nature, smaller businesses are more agile than large corporations. This is the time to exercise your flexibility and out manoeuvre your bigger competition. “Do not wait around for Eskom, the government or your landlord to give you a hand. The truth is that you have to help yourself,” says Gibson.

Analyse your business’s needs and gather as much information as quickly as possible. This empowers you to take action. Businesses that have moved swiftly are capitalising.  “There is a steakhouse in Sandton that was the first to get a generator. While other restaurants are in the dark, it is scrambling to seat the people queuing out the door.”

The secret to making money in any economy, good or bad, is to keep your business lean and keen. In other words, determine how you can keep your overheads down and direct your energies into growing your core business.

“Getting lean is one thing but staying keen requires hard work psychologically,” says Gibson. “The market is still there – even if it is smaller.”

Many companies tend to withdraw and stop advertising in tough times. Never do this. Redouble your efforts. Make more calls and be proactive. Now is the time to advertise, because everyone else is pulling back and it is easier to get above the noise level.

There are a number of aspects to managing your people effectively during a crisis. The first and most important is keeping morale up.

“We all need outlets for our frustration and anger. The trick is not to get bogged down in the negatives,” says Gibson. “Look for good news and make sure you tell your staff. Set aside a certain part of the day for complaining and then concentrate on making the most of every opportunity.”

He adds that in some ways the power cuts have helped to stimulate much-needed dialogue in companies. It has forced people to hold impromptu meetings and to talk about issues that are other-wise sidelined.

Gibson says that losing good people is not an option. He suggests that you work closely with your staff and be upfront about the state of the company. Involve them and listen to their suggestions.

“Try to be fair when it comes to reimbursement. Instead of letting people go, try to find an agreement where you cut back working hours equally. Consider going onto an hourly rate of pay but institute half a day’s pay as the minimum.”
During tough times, the survival instinct kicks in and people tend to look after their own interests. According to Gibson, it is more effective to pool resources and work together with others, especially if you run a small or medium enterprise.
“Try splitting the cost of a generator with other small businesses in your building. It can be a huge expense for one company alone but together it is manageable.”

Dealing with the power crisis may mean adjusting the way you do business. For instance, working hours may need to be revised. Once there is a schedule in place, work around the power cuts or go in on weekends. Try to arrange that activities that do not require power take place during load shedding times, like meetings or training sessions.

If a large part of your business is about calling for sales, print out hardcopies of your client database. Plan your calls in advance and divert landlines to cellphones so that you are able to take calls wherever you are. Better planning with regards to petty cash and petrol is a necessity.

Retailers may have to consider processing credit cards manually. Gibson admits that this is risky but says that it is better than not being able to make any sales at all.

A restaurant in Sandton is scrambling to seat customers because it was the first to get a generator


Lastly, consider investing in technology to alleviate the power crunch. Laptops and cellphones work on batteries and can give you a few extra hours. Buy extra batteries and keep them charged. Investigate 3G connectivity for laptops and uninterrupted power supply for other computers.

Realise that although you are not in control of the situation, you can control your reaction to it. “In any given situation you have three choices,” says Gibson. “You can speak out. You can accept it. Or you can exit.”

For many people who own businesses, exiting now is not an option because of the time and money they have invested to grow their enterprises. And because there is only so much talking to be done, it seems that adapting to the circumstances is the most sensible route.

Gibson says that adapting means you have to get real about where the country and your business are.
He adds that while disbelief is a normal reaction under stressful circumstances, you cannot stick your head in the sand and pretend that all is well. “Power cuts are a reality. The sooner you believe it, the quicker you can do something about it.”

Now is the time to advertise, because everyone else is pulling back and it is easier to get above the noise level


Bill Gibson has spoken to over one million people around the world and is the chairperson of and a partner in Knowledge Brokers International SA (Pty) Ltd (KBI), along with Marius Liebenberg. Bill Gibson is the author/developer of the 25-module sales system titled The complete sales action system and the eight-module Managing complex business relationships system. For more information about Bill Gibson as a speaker and the KBI products, contact 011 784 1720 or bill@kbitraining.com

Avoid the blame game

There are many possible reasons why the country is experiencing an electricity supply crisis. And while it is important to figure out the cause, the truth is that pointing fingers is counterproductive. Looking for someone to blame is energy sapping and prevents you from moving forward.

“South Africa is not Zimbabwe, but it is not a fully functioning first world country either. At least now we know what we are up against and this gives us a basis from which we can operate. We are not the only country in the world experiencing an energy problem. China, Brazil and Cuba have found solutions and we can too,” says
Bill Gibson.

Amid the disappointment and the outrage, business owners need to adopt a rational approach if they are to keep on top of the situation. Although it is not possible for the average person to solve the country’s problems, they can solve the challenges facing their own companies. With the right attitude and through honing your tactics, you may even find ways to increase your sales.

What is UPS?

You may have noticed, over the past few weeks, that there has been a less than continuous stream of electricity to everything in your company. But not to worry, spokespeople for the relevant authorities say that it will not continue for more than another seven years. Yes, you may kill yourself now.

However, there is a solution to keep your computer systems running so that production and productivity are not completely decimated – the ever faithful UPS. This translated from tech-speak into English is uninterruptible power supply. What it does is immediately supply power to computers to maintain normal operation during a power failure until a backup generator can be activated.

Except for online UPS, a short transfer time between two minutes to 10 minutes can be expected. Usually, when the blackout happens, the power supply of PC continues for 16 minutes, and therefore most PCs will still work during the transfer period.

According to UPS Direct, there are five criteria to choosing the right UPS:

1.    Understand specifications of all UPS
2.    Consider the requirements of power quality
3.    Understand the current capacity of the UPS and consider expansion in the future
4.    Choose the reputed brands and manufacturers
5.    Choose a UPS based on your requirements

Coupled to this, there are also five important evaluation criteria of which to take note:

1.    UPS reliability and stability
2.    High efficiency and low noise
3.    Suppliers’ reputation and financial situation
4.    International safety approvals such as TUV, UL, CSA etc
5.    Plant certifications such as ISO9001, ISO9002 etc

Getting out of a cash flow crisis in a hurry

Friday, February 1st, 2008
Bill Gibson

Bill Gibson

While you are saying this you are in denial and valuable time is passing by. Rather face reality. “If it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, it is not an eagle,” says Bill Gibson, director of Knowledge Brokers International (KBI). Succeed asked how he would get out of a cash flow crisis:

Act immediately

Do not waste time and energy on trying to figure out how it happened or who is to blame. You can do that later. Focus all your resources on correcting the short-term cash flow problem.

Be proactive with your creditors

Visit or call them and explain your situation. Ask for a specific payment or non-payment plan over the next 60 to 90 days. It is simply a matter of scheduling payments that both you and the creditors can live with. Get the payments as low as possible with a commitment to increase the payments if things get better. Find out the minimum payments your creditors can accept. Perhaps you can even just pay interest. Tell them you will phone at the end of the month to inform them what you can pay. Ask them to not phone you in the first three weeks. That way you can devote all your time and energy to bringing in the cash, rather than handling calls from creditors which depletes your time and energy. I am not suggesting that you misuse your creditors, but facts are facts. If you owe a large amount of money to creditors it is not just your problem, it is also theirs. They want to see you stay afloat. Swallow your pride and invite them to help. You will be surprised at the solutions with which they may come up.

Be proactive with your debtors

Sit down face-to-face with all clients who owe you money. Offer a discount of 10% to those who can pay much faster than normal.

Negotiate payment advances

Ask for advances of 30% to 100% on jobs that you are doing. This could carry you through the tough period. The last two months before year-end large companies, parastatals and government departments often have budgets they have not spent. If they do not spend the money, it is not carried over to the next financial year and so they often pay in advance.

Do not waste timeand energy on trying to figure out how it happened or who is to blame

Be sales oriented

Every single person who works for the company has to be sales oriented. Reg Wightman, the owner of a building supply dealership, one day accompanied his truck driver on a delivery. He walked around the site and talked to various people working on the job. When he left the site he had a bigger order than when he arrived. It made him realise that the person doing the delivery is also really a salesperson, so he rearranged his whole operation. He delegated a lot of his responsibilities as manager to other employees so he could be on the delivery truck a lot more. His sales increased markedly.

Find innovative ways to sell

Terry Stalker is the owner of a bed company. He decided to place lamps, comforters and sheets in his delivery trucks so that his delivery people could sell them when doing deliveries. Installers were also trained to look around the house and report any needs they noted in terms of furniture. A few days later, one of the salespeople would give the client a call saying, “Well, our driver was at your home and he noticed you seemed to need…” They got a lot of add-on sales that way. When you have a cash crisis you need to find innovative ways to sell.

Last resort moves

* Take your short–term debts, such as lines of credit, promissory notes, credit card balances, income tax and supplier balances, and try and get a consolidation loan. Spread the payments over three years. This frees up monthly capital and lowers your monthly overheads. It might cost more in terms of interest in the long run, but it could be the short-term fix needed to get you out of trouble.
* Consider offering shares in your company to major creditors to wipe out all or part of the balance you owe. Have a good buy-back clause.
* Sell your receivables at a discount to the company that buys receivables.
* Use equity in your home with a second bond to pay off some of the debts.
* Consider a financially sound co-signer for a large consolidation loan. In return, you could put that person on your payroll for an agreed amount until the debt is paid.
* Seek advice from business owners who survived cash flow problems.