Thursday

How to build a massively valuable business using a more human approach!


Years ago, there were six degrees of separation between you and anyone else on the planet. Then came the social web and suddenly, there was just one pixel of separation between you and anyone with an Internet connection.

So, given this unparalleled business opportunity to connect with almost anyone, what are you doing with it?

Selfish demands from strangers

Very few small business owners seem to understand how to benefit from this opportunity.

They just don't get it. They simply see a way to connect with someone via email or a social network who they think can help them, and ask that stranger for help. Rather than think ahead of the people it would be useful for them to know and invest the time required to connect with these useful people in advance, they just pester them with a direct demand for a selfish favour.

For instance, today alone, around half a dozen people who have never connected with me before, will email me and ask if I will let them write a guest post on this blog. Another dozen or so people who have never previously connected with me, will ask me via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or email if I will 'check out their site and tell them what they are doing wrong.' Then around 50 PR companies will email me a press release, even though they have no relationship with me and I have never published a press release.

None of us are self made people

The idea of the self made person is a myth. None of us can do it by ourselves. We all need the help and support of others, in order to achieve anything of value. The least effective way to garner that help or support, is to pester people we don't know and demand it.

Business is all about people and people value relationships. This means relationship building should be an essential, ongoing process in your business.

Try this

Take some time out to identify the people, who you would like to know and then invest the time required to get to know them. You don't need a complicated strategy for this any more than you need one for making new friends. It's about people. Just keep it human and be prepared to give before you receive. Instigate the relationship with a hello, not a demand. Seek to help, before you ask for help. You wouldn't make a new friend and straight away start demanding they do things for you the same is true in business.

In short: Business is all about people and people respond very poorly to selfish demands from strangers. Make relationship building an ongoing priority, by investing the time required to get to know the people, who you can help and those who may be able to help you. Get this right and the potential is endless!


Source: BusinessNewz

Tuesday

Thinking different - identify what you want from your business


The starting point of developing a more effective business model, is to identify exactly what you want from your business. I'm going to leave you today with a great way to get some clarity around this key challenge.

Grab a pen and a pad and write the following question at the top of the page, then spend as long as required answering it.

Here's the question: If my business were perfect in every way, serving both my lifestyle and commercial needs, what would it look like?

Consider things, such as:

  1. How many hours would I work? 
  2. Which worthy causes would I support with my work? 
  3. How much would I earn? 
  4. Where would I live? 
  5. Who would I work with? You can answer with the profile of clients you want to attract or name names of people / businesses you'd like to work with.
  6. The key is to allow your mind to focus on the things in life that matter most to you and incorporate them into the development of your ideal business. 
If you take the time to do this correctly and then start working on an effective plan, the impact can be life changing. I have worked on this with many clients over the years and it's one of the most professionally rewarding things I have ever done.

Just remember when asking and answering your questions, to Think Different.?

Source: BusinessNewz

Tait Brands - Biannual Property Indicator report IPD SAPOA SA


The highly-anticipated SAPOA/IPD South African Biannual Property Indicator to June 2012, released today, spotlights a moderate improvement in the property market over the past six months, but shows little sign of a full-blown recovery across the sector.

Property investment overall delivered a total return of 5.9%, which was comprised of 1.5% capital growth and a 4.4% income return for the first six months of the year.

A major obstacle for the industry identified in the results is sky-rocketing operating costs, which are quickly outstripping income growth and pushing cost ratios to unattractive levels.

Electricity costs continue to rise, and at monthly average of R12.8/m2 now make up one third of the total operating cost bill for property owners. Rates and taxes constitute a further 20% of the total. The burden of costs is being felt jointly between tenants and owners, however, with around three quarters of total costs falling to the tenant to pay.

Sector-wise, the picture is worst in the office sector. Plagued by stubborn vacancy rates, which shifted from 12.1% in December 2011 to 15.0% in June 2012, and negligible rental growth at just 0.1%, office properties have also seen the highest growth in operating costs across all property sectors.

Offices in inner city and provincial nodes are the hardest hit, with rental levels moving backwards.

Nevertheless, there is room for cautious optimism.

Gains are evident in particularly the retail but also the industrial sectors.

Retail property returned the top capital growth rates at 1.7%, along with solid 3.7% rental growth and strengthening occupancy rates. Vacancies in the sector improved from 6.0% to 5.7% over the first half of the year.

Positive rental growth at 4.2% and declining vacancies from 4.3% to 4.1% are likewise good news for industrial property investments.

Six months ago, the IPD’s 2011 results showed 10.4% annual returns in property investments overall, with a slight uptick in the second half of the year that suggested a possible recovery. At the same time, vacancies increased to 6.9%, rental growth declined to 6.2% and yields weakened by 36 basis points, to 9.6%.

Although returns for the first half of 2012 are better than 2011, the results show a fairly muted picture of performance and we are still not seeing any substantial recovery.

The SAPOA / IPD South African Biannual Property Indicator is based on a sample of 1,088 properties covering R104.7bn capital value at the end of June 2012.

Sunday

How to find blogging inspiration & 20 blogging ideas





Even if you have the best intentions in the world, coming up with a constant stream of new ideas for blog posts can be pretty intimidating. All too soon, the corporate blog lies empty because the company has run out of ideas. Don’t let that happen to you! From company brainstorms to new ways of planning copy, we are going to provide you with some great tips on how to generate ideas for blog content.

WARNING: This is a long post, but I think it’s worth the read (and hopefully you’ll agree). If you really don’t have time then there’s a list of our top tips at the end!

Use your colleagues
Brainstorms can be a brilliant way to come up with interesting blog ideas. Don’t limit yourself to asking only the PR or SEO teams though, invite people from across your business to contribute to a brainstorming session. They might not have the skills needed to write good content, but they may have insights and opinions that will help you generate great ideas.

Speak to your partners, colleagues, and employees, and listen to them to decide what would best suit the needs of your company. Then, come up with something you can write about which takes this on board.

You might even want to talk to some of your regular and trusted customers, to find out what they’re interested in, as there’s a good chance other potential customers will share those same interests.

Remember why you’re blogging. In the case of a corporate blog it’s usually to generate business – so put your audience first and write for them, not for your own interests. You might be delighted to finally have a platform to rave about your travels, but your corporate clients won’t care.

One key consideration is to make sure everything you write is both useful and interesting. That’s the best way to maintain a high standard for your blog.


Become a Serial Killer
Serialising your blog posts can be a great way of producing killer copy over the medium term, rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket. By producing a series of posts on the same topic, you increase the apparent relevance of your site for that subject – and give your readers some other pages to click onto.

Serial articles can help keep people interested in your blog and encourage them to return for more useful content on a relevant subject. You could consider writing a series of how-to articles, or reviews of products, industry publications, or even Twitter accounts from within your sector.

At its best, this approach can encourage readers to come back for the next instalment, creating a steady flow of visits. So, if you’re relying on serial posts to get people back to your site, you might want to stick to a regular schedule for maximum effect.

One caveat – don’t flog a subject to death. There is nothing worse than reading a series of posts which do nothing but re-iterate the same ideas over and over again. If you have nothing new to say on a topic then it’s time to find something new to write about.

Read
Simple enough to be summed up in a single word, ‘read’ is one of the best pieces of advice that can be given to any writer. The more you read other people’s blogs – even if they’re not relevant to your industry – the more you’ll understand what makes for engaging content.

You also need to read people’s blog comments and take on board what they’re saying, both on your blog and other people’s. This will help you to understand which sort of posts are good and which aren’t.

Once you’ve gained this understanding, as well as gathering some new ideas, the trick is to turn them into something that is not only engaging and entertaining, but which also meets your marketing or lead-generation needs.

Remember, it’s not just new ideas that you can pick up by reading other blogs – you might also improve your grammar and style along the way.


Invite guest bloggers
Consider asking an industry influencer if they’d like to contribute to your corporate blog. They are likely to be flattered, so it could be good for networking, and they will publicise it to all their Twitter followers and online circle, which can lead to some new traffic for your blog.

Just one word of warning: agree how you’ll edit their copy in advance. People can be very protective of their work and may not be happy if you’ve gone through it with a red pen. Edit their work lightly and send it back to them for approval before publishing.

Break the Rules
Finally, a fallback option is to go out and break all the known rules about corporate blogging. But, if you take this option, on your own head be it! Every so often you will find a corporate blog that has almost nothing to do with the company that publishes it, but focuses on something like environmental sustainability or charity work instead.

You might also see ‘corporate’ blogs that are purely for entertainment purposes, filled with jokes, or comic strips, or pictures of cats. When you’re this far outside of the box, there are very few hard and fast rules left to break, but get it right and you could give your brand a huge boost in positive perception as a result.

The only caveat to this is that it’s always wise to have plenty of plain text along with any images, infographics, videos, and so on. If you can get some relevant language into it then so much the better, even if it’s just ‘After a hard day working on our new landlords’ insurance document, we’ve been relaxing with some lolcats. Enjoy!’

That way, even if you’re giving your visitors something fun to look at, you’re still delivering the search-visible text content that will help to get you into the search engine results.

However, I wouldn’t recommend this as a good way to write a corporate blog. Nine times out of 10 it’s not a clever quirky marketing strategy, it’s down to ego, and it brings little benefit to the business.
Five golden rules
Ultimately, there are just five things you need to consider when writing corporate blogs.

Your posts need to be:

-- Relevant -- Timely -- Frequent -- Personable -- Useful

These are the golden rules for great blog content so never publish anything without considering those first.

Top 20 Tips

If you’re still struggling for blog ideas, try some of these top tips:

1. Look at current trends, extrapolate them, and make a prediction for the future of your industry.
2. Do an introduction to 10 of the best up-and-coming bloggers in your field.
3. Find a current topic of debate and express your own, new, different view on the issue.
4. Make a list of common myths and misconceptions about your industry and then debunk them.
5. Satirise a well-known personality – it can be someone inside or outside your industry.
6. Look at a big brand, and analyse both their good and bad points – show where they’re using best practise techniques and where they’re making mistakes.
7. Find a recent piece from a high-level personality in your industry, disagree with it, and prove them and their opinions wrong.
8. Do a case study of something that went wrong in your business. Analyse the mistakes and explain how you fixed them.
9. Break some news about your company, e.g. revealing a new product.
10. Write a list of the vital web tools and software people in your industry can’t do without.
11. Compare the old and new ways of conducting your business.
12. Write an allegory about your idol doing your business e.g. “How Steve Jobs Would’ve Done SEO” or “The Bruce Lee Approach to Marketing”.
13. Go to a trade fair or industry event and report on it.
14. Do a comparison of your national market to markets abroad.
15. Review a book which deals with your industry – particularly if it contains some interesting outside the box thinking.
16. Find out about something new for your industry – a tool, a website, a method etc. – and write about it.
17. Identify industry leaders in your area and ask them to do a guest post.
18. Write a code of business ethics for your industry.
19. Conduct an interview with a prominent or rising industry figure and write it up.
20. Check Digg, StumbleUpon, Technorati, and Quora to find out what’s most popular right now, and what questions people are seeking answers to. Then provide the information they want on your blog.

Source: SmallBusinessNewz

Saturday

3 Tips for Better Balanced Life


1. Build downtime into your schedule.

When you plan your week, make it a point to schedule time with your family and friends and activities that help you recharge.

It helps to be proactive about scheduling.

A lot of my friends tend to wake up, shower, and go straight to work. And they often complain about having no time to do anything. I find that if I can get and extra hour in the morning, I have a more productive and peaceful workday. I can sure tell the difference when I don't.


2. Drop activities that sap your time or energy.

Many people waste their time on activities or people that add no value -- for example, spending too much time at work with a colleague who is constantly venting and gossiping. I recommend taking stock of activities that aren't really enhancing your career or personal life and minimizing the time you spend on them.

You may even be able to leave work earlier if you make a conscious effort to limit the time you spend on the web and social media sites, making personal calls, or checking your bank balance. We often get sucked into these habits that are making us much less efficient without realizing it.


3. Rethink your errands.

Consider whether you can outsource any of your time-consuming household chores or errands.

Could you order your groceries online and have them delivered? Hire a kid down the street to mow your lawn? Even if you're on a tight budget, you may discover that the time you'll save will make it worth it.



Hope this helps. Cheers! Willem

Tuesday

MOTIVATION


Had a quick chat with one of my associates this morning and the following came to mind regarding MOTIVATION and wanted to share it with you.


Ask any person who is successful in whatever he or she is doing what motivates him/her, and very likely the answer will be "goals". 

Goal Setting is extremely important to motivation and success. So what motivates you?

If you are a lawyer because that's what your parents want, you may find it difficult to motivate yourself. 

Sure, it's possible to succeed with someone else providing the motivation for you. ("If you graduate from college, I'll give you a car!" or worse "If you don't graduate from college, you won't get a car.") But motivation that comes from within really makes the difference.

Certainly, you need some intelligence, knowledge base, study skills, and time management skills, but if you don't have motivation, you won't get far. Think about this analogy. You have a car with a full tank of gas, a well-tuned engine, good set of tires, quadraphonic CD system, and a sleek, polished exterior. There it sits. 

This car has incredible potential. (Have you heard that before?) However, until a driver sits behind the wheel, puts the key in the ignition, and cranks it up, the car doesn't function. 

You guessed it; the KEY is MOTIVATION.

Interest is an important motivator. So is a desire to learn. When you link these two things together, you create success. Often success in an endeavor leads to more interest and a greater desire to learn, creating an upward spiral of motivation toward a goal you have established.

So be honest with yourself. Are you genuinely interested in XYZ? Have you set realistic goals for yourself? How can you develop the internal motivation that really counts? When it comes to motivation, KNOWING is not as important as DOING.

Monday

LEARN TO FOCUS: 7 SIMPLE TIPS TO CONCENTRATE BETTER


“To be able to concentrate for a considerable time is essential to difficult achievement.” ~Bertrand Russell

Some of the most difficult things we have to face in our lives demand complete concentration; without it, these tasks don’t come to fruition.

I’m trying to write a novel. I wasn’t naive enough to think it’d be easy but I greatly underestimated the things that it would demand: research, intense thought, planning, imagination, learning, patience, flexibility–the list goes on.

You don’t have to be writing a novel to understand that some things require absolute focus. Living life fully depends upon our ability to observe carefully, give attention where it’s needed, and concentrate on one task at a time to stay mindful.

The problem that I face every day as I try to write and plan my project is that I get easily distracted. If I’m not drinking gallons of tea or cleaning out my emails, I’m fighting to keep my mind focused on the task at hand.

Our minds like to wander. It’s only when we place our attention on a single or small group of tasks that we come to realize this. What’s even worse is that as soon as we realize, we start trying to bend our mind to our will and force our thoughts away–not a constructive approach.

I’ll give you an example you might be able to relate to.

You have paperwork to sort, an overwhelming email inbox to clear, but your mind suddenly, at this crucial moment, decides to remind you that there’s chocolate in the fridge. Maybe you try to file the thought away but it keeps bouncing back and shouting at you to ditch the email and go eat the chocolate, because chocolate is way better than emails and you know you want to.

The email can wait, right? Sure it can!

The meditation classes that I’ve attended in my life have taught me not to push these thoughts away, but not to give into them either. The trick is to simply observe and let the thoughts pass. Sometimes this is easier said than done but with practice, it is possible to still your mind. Then you can concentrate.

Here are some things I do to help me concentrate:

1. Procrastinate first.

Set a time limit of ten to fifteen minutes and doodle. Allow your mind a space to be chaotic. If you take time to clear your head, it will be easier to focus later.

2. Connect with your passion.

If you’re not enjoying something, you’re not going to give it your full attention.

When I’m struggling to write or develop my research themes, I stop and think very hard about why I’m doing this. My answer is usually something like: I love the idea I have; I love language; I love philosophy; and I’m excited beyond words about the potential of my project.

If you’re saying something similar, great! Reaffirming why you’re doing something keeps your focus on track.

3. Confront your demons.

Okay so maybe they’re more like nagging voices than demons, but the point is to stand up to them and say “Why are you bugging me?”

Most of the time those little nagging voices are reminding us of things that we haven’t done, could have done straight away, and still need to do. These things aren’t usually urgent but sometimes something important can crop up.

Our minds have a way of getting our attention if it’s really needed so if you have a noisy mind, it’s worth listening just in case you left the gas cooker on. If it’s not something you need to do now, make a mental note or jot it down on a post-it, and then tuck it away for later.

4. Use to-do lists.

I’m always writing these and I can achieve pretty much anything if I make one. Lists of tasks break down our chores into manageable chunks. This allows us to concentrate on one thing at a time instead of a huge mess of things. Chuck in a bit of prioritizing and time management and you’re on you’re way to becoming a concentration winner.

5. Get creative.

I find that I lose concentration if I get bored. I’ve recently invested in a dry-wipe whiteboard to combat this problem. How does it work? Spider diagrams.

I think out complex ideas by writing on them on the board and making mind-maps from them. Sometimes I’ll play free-association games, draw my ideas instead of writing them or create huge lists of questions to ask myself about what I’ve just written.

The point is to have fun because when you’re having fun, you’re concentrating on the task at hand.

6. Walk away.

If your concentration isn’t playing along then take a break. There are some people who can work while battling with their attention span, but to me, this is torture. If I can’t focus, I won’t drive myself into the ground over it. I leave my writing alone for a while, go for a short stroll, or play a game.

Sometimes a change of scenery and a bit of space is all that’s needed to get you back on track. When you return, see the project with new eyes, as if looking at it for the first time.

7. Learn to let go.

I used to worry about my writing all the time. I’d finish up a scene and then stress about how the metaphor I was using was flat or how my characters’ actions didn’t make sense. I’d worry about it for hours, meaning I didn’t take time to rest–meaning I wouldn’t want to work the next day. The best way to focus on the work later is to focus on not doing the work when it’s time to stop.

Learning to let go of work is about creating boundaries and sticking to them. Without them, our concentration fails because the task becomes laborious. Ever heard of leaving your work at work? That’s right…leave it there!

The more you practice concentrating, the easier it gets. I have no doubt that if I can learn to focus longer, my novel will take shape.

How do you help yourself concentrate when your mind wants to wander?

Thursday

How to get the most out of your access bond



JOHANNESBURG – Access bonds are becoming increasingly popular as a means to pay off your home loan due to its money management facility and saving component.

Home Loans South Africa (HLSA) explains that any amount you pay into your home loan, over and above the agreed instalment, will result in you paying off your home loan faster, enabling you to save a huge amount in interest payments.

All banks offer access bonds and while they might use different names, the facility is the same. If you did not ask for this facility when you first took out your bond, you can apply for it. The bank will then do a risk assessment as required by law to ensure you are not over-indebted.

In the case of Standard Bank: “The outstanding balance of your home loan is reduced when you pay excess funds into your AccessBond account - this means that you pay less interest on your home loan. Because interest is calculated on a daily basis, the benefit is effective from the day on which you deposit the funds.”

Other banks may calculate the interest on a monthly basis. Here it is important to find out exactly when your financial institution calculates interest so that you can ensure that your debit order comes off a day or two before. This will also result in some saving. It may seem insignificant on a month-to-month basis, but it adds up. To try and establish by how much, experiment with the several bond calculators available on the internet to calculate your options.

Another way of saving money is to deposit your salary into your bond account and transfer sufficient funds into your current account to cover all your deductions like debit orders. You must first get electronic access by linking your current or savings account to your home loan.

HLSA says any extra funds paid are not locked into the bond and can be withdrawn whenever you need it. There is also no restriction on the amount you can pay into your home loan account. However, some banks do limit the amount you can draw at any given time.

Caution

Absa property analyst, Jacques du Toit, does sound a word of caution against using your long-term bond to finance goods that should be paid off over the short-term, like a car. Vehicle finance is usually granted over a five-year period. Paying it back over the long-term will pile on the interest.

Standard Bank explains that if you have sufficient equity in your home loan for a new car, the best option is to draw the money from your home loan. This will save you around 4% in interest. It will also cut out having to apply for credit with another financial institution.

However, the bank says a car loan should be paid off over a maximum period of five years: “…calculate what you would have paid on car finance and pay that amount into your bond every month…if you pay off your car for 20 years, the car will be long gone and you will still be paying, plus you’ll be paying for the next car as well.” Source - Moneyweb

Monday

15 Property Rental Facts You Need to Know


A house is a house is a house…..

1. House prices may have increased significantly over time, but at the same time they've become much smaller. The average plot size has shrunk from 1 061m² in the late 1970s to just 574m² currently, with the average house shrinking from 203m² to 146m².

2. As the country's demographics continue to morph, so do housing formats. While 4- and 5-bedroom houses made up more than a third of all houses in the late 1980s, the figure is barely 10% today. Around 90% of all housing is comprised of 2 and 3 bedroom units.

Buying and selling
3. It takes longer than ever before to sell a house. In 2005 it took about 6 weeks; today the average time a house spends on the market is 15.6 weeks.
4. When a sale does happen, it is a negotiation. The latest figures show that 88% of sellers drop their asking price, and that the average fall in price is 11%.
5. People are scaling down due to economic pressures, and increasingly favour renting over owning. Home ownership has dropped from 70% a decade ago to just 62% now. 22% of sellers say their reason for selling is "downscaling due to financial pressure".

Investment purchasing
6. The buy-to-let market has slowed down significantly from the boom years in 2004, when 25% of buyers fell into this category. Today, only 9% are buy-to-let buyers, although this number is again picking up slightly.
7. There are an estimated 700 000 rental properties in South Africa – 65 000 of which are listed on the PayProp database.
8. Before ancillary costs, the average buy-to-let investor achieves a 7.6% return on capital. When costs such as property taxes, repairs and maintenance are factored in, this number drops to 6.3%.

Rentals
9. According to the PayProp Rental Index, the average rental increase at present is just 5% - the lowest it's been in 12 months.
10. The latest TPN figures show that 11% of tenants do not pay their rent at all!
11. Across the price bands, the biggest risk for non-payment is encountered in the sub-R3 000 and above-R12 000 rental brackets. Below R3 000, tenants are hampered by inflationary pressures, while interest rates appear to thwart the more indebted tenants of the above-R12 000 category.
12. For the first quarter of 2012, TPN results showed 81% of tenants to be in good standing. This is a vast improvement on the 71% recorded in the first quarter of 2009.

Legal compliance
13. 73% of estate agencies most recently audited by the EAAB did not have a clean bill of health concerning their trust account audits – putting their clients (and themselves) at immense risk.
14. A shocking 32% of agents audited by the EAAB did not have valid Fidelity Fund Certificates.
15. The average rental portfolio generates 400 transactions and 700 accounting entries over month-end – requiring solid oversight.

To sum it all up, the market is showing slow signs of recovery on the sales side, while rentals seem to be growing in significance. However, tenants are under strain due to auxiliary cost increases, putting pressure on their ability to afford higher increases, thereby decreasing owner returns.

If you have a solid rental portfolio, now is the time to ensure that it is properly maintained, because it represents a reliable source of income in an unsure market.

Courtesy: PayProp, Source Portfolio Property Investment