Monday, July 27, 2015

Are You Prepared for Fake Bills?

It's an old scam that recurs every couple of years - fake bills.

The first one I ever saw was when I was a training manager for an Australian Government agency. It arrived in the snail mail advising me that my subscription to a training magazine had expired and that to keep it going, I had to renew.

I knew I didn't have a subscription. I checked with our accounting team whether anyone else had bought a subscription and when the answer came back negative, I trashed the subscription overdue notice.

Later, I found that receiving fake bills was a regular activity.

Our organisation's practices required that our accounting staff check all bills that arrived to ensure that:

  1. We had a relationship with the originating organisation
  2. That a payment was due and the amount correct
Additionally, if we did not have an existing relationship with a provider of goods and services, their details would not be in our financial management information system. 

Other organisations I know of became victims of the scam. They raised purchase orders and subscribed to magazines that didn't exist.

Today there is another attempt to defraud in the guise of a Telstra (Australia's Main Communications provider) Bill that looks genuine. This one, details of which are here, are sent online as are most Telstra bills.

Organisations need to have policies and practices in place to prevent lazy staff simply submitting funds to fraudsters who send these fake bills. Similarly, it doesn't make sense to click on links that may lead to virus or other malware sites.

How good are your accounting procedures in detecting fake bills and accounts. Tell us if you have been a victim of fake billing.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

What I learnt from my Senior Sergeant

You know what it's like when you lie there at night, sleep evades you and your mind is as busy as a bee with thoughts about all matter of things. 

Occasionally you have what you think is a brilliant idea.

When I was a police officer working in organisation and methods we spent most of our working days resolving issues and improving existing systems of operation. Our work ended up in a Police Manual on issue to every one of our 5,000 members and included directions from the Commissioner of Police about how to do things. (These are probably online now).

One morning I arrived at work meeting my boss, a Senior Sergeant, in the lift at Police Headquarters. As we travelled to the 11th floor, I told him about this great idea that had come to me like a flash during the night.

"Rob", he said, "It sounds like a great idea, but what I'd like you to do for me is put it on paper."

Always happy to write something - anything, I agreed.

As soon as I arrived at my desk, I began labouring away on my idea. Coffee in hand, pen in another, I beavered away for about an hour. An amazing thing happened.

As I wrote and thought about my idea, it became obvious that, although it had sounded like a great idea at the outset, as I gave it more thought, the idea became less sensible.

No matter which way I tried to write about it, in the end I knew in my heart and mind that the idea was not suitable for the problem it was intended to solve.

When I spoke to my boss later I told him that on thinking about it, the idea I had proferred wasn't really as good as I had thought.

He told me the process of writing requires us to think in depth and that it's not unusual that an idea that once sounded good, when committed to writing, turns out to be a dud.

It was an invaluable lesson. I was attending university doing a management degree at the time and on reflection, it helped me consolidate my thoughts for many of the assignments I wrote.

Older, more experienced employees are an excellent source of helpful advice.

Have you had a similar experience? Do you agree with this? Write a comment and tell us all about your experience.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

A New Model for Email - User Pays

Email distribution of such things as monthly statements has had a huge impact on snail mail. 

Australia Post is struggling to make ends meet in its letter postage department.

Conversely, the parcel postage department is expanding because of huge numbers of online purchases. Unfortunately, for Australia Post, the latter doesn't seem to be a large enough increase to ensure a solid annual profit. It's a dilemma someone will need to solve and it's not unique to Australia.

There are still numerous people who rely on the postal service, so it's not feasible to simply drop the service.

When my wife and I discussed this issue recently, she suggested a fee should be placed on business email. Initially I thought it was a silly off-hand comment, but the more I thought about it, the better idea it became.

If each email had a very small amount charged against it, the level of spam would probably drop immediately. So would a lot of unnecessary email.

Coming up with a foolproof method of collection would, however, be difficult.

Firms like Google with it's Gmail would make a fortune overnight if every email it processed cost its sender a small amount.

What do you think of this idea?


Friday, July 10, 2015

Green Office: An Environment for Better Work Results

Being confined to a limited space for eight, nine or ten hours a day means that your office has to be 
interesting and motivating, or you will not be inspired to bring your A game to the table.

By creating your own office space and arranging it so that it suits you the most, you will find time spent at work less exhausting and more fulfilling. By choosing a Green Office concept, you can even go a step further and introduce an environmentally aware space with a positive effect. Here is how this type of space boosts your creativity and helps you work better.

The Basics

A Green Office concept includes several environmental-related alterations that any company can make and that trigger positive changes in their work ethic, productivity, motivation and results.

These alterations do not have to be big nor especially expensive, but their sheer inclusion in your everyday office life is certain to make a difference.

Among many things you can do to help the planet, there is a considerable number applicable in an office space. Not only can you replace old light bulbs with new ones that last longer and pollute less, but you can also cut back on paper waste, recycle, encourage commuting, and even reuse and repurpose old plastic bottles. Finally, you can bring a piece of nature inside.

Plant for the Future

Modern office design takes the green initiative literally and starts bringing flowers and plants in. This has been proven to lower the level of stress and increase creativity – it is certainly more enjoyable and visually stimulating to be surrounded with plants than stacks of paper and computers.

Therefore, it does not matter if you have an indoor grass carpet, hang flowers on office partition walls or equip every desk with a plant – as long as nature is involved, you are on the right track.

The Benefits

Green Offices have a positive effect on productivity and inspiration, especially with creative arts and crafts. Moreover, making your working space greener is sure to reflect not just on your employees’ attitude towards work, but also assist in the global cause because it will inspire them to introduce similar changes to their homes as well.

It is no longer a secret that our planet is slowly dying due to excessive waste and pollution, and this is all thanks to humans. Therefore, it is up to us to do something, no matter how small and insignificant that seems – if every one of us makes a change every single day, both at work and at home, the overall effect will ultimately be seen.

The Final Effects

Office plants enhance the air quality in your office, regulate air moisture and are, after all, visually appealing which is always good when your employees want to take a break. If you manage to bring
some plants in and focus on several other ways to achieve sustainability, you will surely help save the planet and make your own life a bit greener.

Guest Author Lana Hawkins is a student of Architecture from Sydney. She likes reading and writing about Green Architecture, Sustainability and Green Design.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Happy New Financial Year

At my end of the globe, we've just had Territory Day, the 1 July anniversary of the Northern Territory (Australia) getting self-government in 1978. 

All the fireworks have stopped, the dogs, cats and other pets have settled down again, and now it's time to think about the new year.

Australia's Fiscal Period runs from 1 July one year until 30 June the next year. It's time to review our business finances (and perhaps our personal finances).

A periodic review for any business is a sound idea. Review what's working, what isn't and what can be done better. How can you squeeze more profit out of your operation?

It could be a good time for a spring clean of your shop or office. Sometimes change of layout provides rejuvenation.

There's a light and electrical fittings shop where I live and every time I walk into it I am astonished at how untidy, dusty and poorly laid out it is. Products in boxes literally lie about on the floor, others are on shelves of display boxes. It is always dusty. How the business makes a profit is anyone's guess.

There is something in your business you can improve. Why not review now to identify it and re-engineer it to rejuvenate your business?