Friendly business

The business of accounting is business. Nobody said that, but it’s true nonetheless. Accounting is a profession that is definitely not about counting beans and wearing cardigans these days. CPA Australia members are core parts of every aspect of Australian business life, and so it is unsurprising that they are often among the first to identify new business issues as they arise and they are the ones given to advises for business improvement. For example, an issue noted recently is the potential impact that online social networking has upon business, and if you work from home in your business, you will need to learn how to take home pay for this. These websites allow friends to chat, share photographs, videos, and to discuss their work, lives, loves, wins and losses. At last count, there were more than six million Australians with profiles on Facebook and MySpace.

It is hardly a business issue that Australians have friends. Mateship is an Australian tradition, whether on the Kokoda track or on Facebook. The issue is that, as our world becomes more connected, it is increasingly difficult to separate personal lives from the world of ‘work’. Private actions now take place in very public places, with search engines voyeuristically distributing these activities for the entire world to see. Consider the recent YouTube ‘star’ who made negative comments about his employer. Once, those excruciating videos would have tormented only his unfortunate immediate family. YouTube provides the conduit to a whole new audience. Questionable tastes in humour cross organisational hierarchies though. There may be regrets for the partner of a consulting firm whose photo was posted online by a member of his staff, complete with Hitler moustache, swastika, and a Nazi salute. Not perhaps the look his professional profile is looking for.

Business owners must cross the generational and digital divide to become digital citizens so as not to be caught unawares, like the new owner of a motor dealership who was unaware of a web comment telling prospective customers to ‘avoid [the dealership] like the plague’. Three years on, that advice is still there and is prominently displayed when new customers Google the dealership. Twitter, a relatively new social networking service, allows users to post ‘microblogs’ from their mobile phone. Comments damaging a business’s online reputation are regularly made there – at one store, while still in the store, a customer ‘tweeted’ to her 789 ‘followers’ about the bad service received.

It is not all negative. Delight the digital citizens and your business will benefit. Robert Scoble, a particularly notorious blogger, mentioned a new book he was reading in a single tweet. With over 34,000 followers, it seems people took note, and the book quickly scaled the heights of the Amazon best seller list.

A generation has matured with the internet at their fingertips. This is a different world than the old world of football, kangaroos, meat pies and Holden cars. Your customers use the internet to inform their opinions. A business can take some steps to present itself in the best light possible, but actively manipulating information is unwise. The punishment for chicanery and ‘bad behaviour’ online is unpleasant, caustic and swift. Transparency and honesty are necessary in the digital world. The actions of an over-zealous employee can quickly ensure that a business is condemned to the scrapheap of irrelevance – consider the very public example of the software developer 2Clix who brought legal action against Whirlpool to have negative comments taken down from its forums.

Increasingly, ‘personal’ and ‘work’ lives collide. People need to be a little more circumspect when posting material online. Activities are often publicly available and can be seen by anyone – an audience perhaps not originally considered. Recruiters increasingly Google a candidate’s name to see what can be discovered. Personal information can be used for identity theft, and likewise corporate information on personal profiles can be used for ‘social engineering’ scams to defraud the business.

Is this an accounting issue? Probably not. Is it a business issue? Definitely, and accountants fundamentally are about business. The CPA Congress in Melbourne this year includes a workshop to help people understand how they can use online social networking tools without causing great grief, and how a business can respond to the business challenge of online social networking in a positive way. This workshop will be particularly beneficial for businesses seeking guidance in navigating the digital landscape effectively. Experienced accountants, like those at the Professional Corporate Services In Australia, can offer valuable insights and strategies to optimize online presence and mitigate risks. For those few people that are natural digital denizens, the workshop will discuss tactics they already know. For others, there will be hints and tips that will save them time, money, and a poor online reputation.

The social networking phenomenon is here to stay and will continue to grow. Businesses must understand the impact of social networking upon the business, and monitor their ‘internet footprint’. Individuals must understand acceptable behaviour when living out their digital life. Simply ‘banning’ or ‘ignoring’ online social networking is rarely helpful. A sensible and informed approach is important, with an awareness of the potential risks and problems. For tailored guidance on managing financial challenges, consulting with an Insolvency Practitioner Bedfordshire can provide valuable insights and support.

Social networking: sometimes, it’s about business.

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Bringing online social networking to business – through ‘old media’

Last Friday I had the pleasure of what is probably my first ‘real’ media experience.  I’ve done newspapers and magazines before, of course, and I’ve certainly written plenty of opinion pieces for a great variety of fora (websites, magazines, newspapers, etc), but I’ve never done live radio or live TV before.  I’ve still not done live TV, but I have now done live radio with ABC local radio through Richard Stubbs in Melbourne, Bronwen Wade in the Riverland (South Australia) on Monday, and Paula Tapiolas in Townsville on Tuesday.

It’s an interesting experience – particularly the Melbourne interview, which was on Friday and was the longest session I’ve had (although, the beauty of radio seems to be that you get the luxury of discussing the issue a bit at length – and you don’t have to shave if you’re on the phone).  The Melbourne interview I did from what I do believe was called a Tardis – which is an airless dark box with a microphone and a headset at the Toowong studios here in Queensland.
As a parent and I joked this morning, luckily I wasn’t there to talk about claustrophobia…

Actually, though, I was there to discuss the business impact of social media marketing, which is a topic that’s dear to my heart, particularly since I am putting the finishing touches to the Online Social Networking Guide for CPA Australia (and I might get to do that the instant I stop doing radio interviews and marking assignments).

As you would expect, the questions of all the interviews were fairly basic to anyone who has any exposure to the online world – I did particularly like the Townsville interview, probably because no matter what I do I’m still a parochial Queenslander (and Townsville was the third interview in a row, so perhaps I now know what I want to talk about).  The themes were around the risks to business, although I did try to bring in the benefits of online social networking as much as I could.

Certainly, if I have a mission in these interviews it is that I am trying to get businesses to set up Google alerts, be aware of what’s going on in the social networking space, and let their staff know what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to their business’s brand.

Anyway, anyone who wants to be scarred some more can listen to my interview with Richard Stubbs online here.

Ironically I haven’t heard from ABC 612 here in Brisbane, whose studios are all of three kilometres from my house and would be better for my consulting business than, say for instance, building my LinkedIn network in Melbourne :).

Business impact of online social networking

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of presenting a three-hour workshop at CPA Congress in Melbourne on the ‘Business Impact of Online Social Networking’.  Partly my presentation was regarding the business risk of online social networking, but also considering the positives and how online social networking can be used to make growing your enterprise.

@micktleyden was there, as was @alex_d13 from time to time.  I think it went fairly well – I have to say that three hours is a long time for any workshop.

Overall I was happy with it – as usual my opinion though doesn’t count so if you attended please feel free to email me or leave a comment either here on my blog or at the CPA Congress community.  Incidentally, I have to say that having the OSN to support the conference has been a different and good idea – it allows you to get expectations sorted out a little earlier and provides a framework for an ongoing discussion outside of the three-hour workshop.  Depending on your perspective that may or may not be a good thing.

Anyway, as usual you can download the ‘Business Impact of Online Social Networking’ workshop notes here.

Incidentally, the PR machine at CPA Australia has been working overtime – there’s been an interview with a journalist at Melbourne MX and apparently I am to appear on ABC radio in Melbourne with Richard Stubbs, about 2.30pm Melbourne time.

As it’s radio I probably won’t have to shave…

All good fun.  Hey, if I run out of things to say about online social networking perhaps I can talk about budgeting (did a thesis in it), database querying (did a thesis in it), technology dominance (doing a phd in it) or IT governance (lecture in it)

I am a dilettente.

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Communicating financials to management: developing effective reporting mechanisms

Back in August I gave a presentation entitled as above for CPA Australia.  I seem to have neglected to upload the powerpoint and speaking notes.  This post addresses that oversight.

See below for an overview of the presentation.

Presentation overview

The need to communicate complex financial information to management need not be an onerous task. Indeed, the ability to simplify this information and turn it into a strategic tool is becoming a greater priority in many organisations.

This session will explain:

  • How to develop effective reporting mechanisms that ensures data of high integrity and quality
  • Responding to management information needs – how to develop a process that ensures timely response
  • Other key reporting and systems issues that affect how information is presented and used

Further details are contained in the downloadable attachments.

Feedback on ‘Communicating financials to management: Developing effective reporting mechanisms’

Back in August, I gave a presentation for CPA Australia at Royal on the Park, which had as its objectives:

  • How to develop effective reporting mechanisms that ensures data of high integrity and quality
  • Responding to management information needs: how to develop a process that ensures timely response
  • Other key reporting and systems issues that affect how information is presented and used

I note incidentally that I haven’t posted my speaking notes online yet – I must do that.

Anyway, feedback was good, even if I’ve not picked up any clients out of it :).  Here is the feedback the presentation received:

Session Title:    ‘Communicating financials to management: Developing effective reporting mechanisms’
Venue:     Royal on thePark, Brisbane
Date:     26/8/2008

Your overall Rating:    4.35
Technical Content rating:    4.52
Presentation Material rating:    4.43

All comments specific to your presentation

  • Good presenter. Liked the way he asked what people wanted out of session & made sure he covered those points.
  • Very good presenter. Showed a great awareness for presenting on & answering what we wanted to get out of the session. Terrific.

I continue to thank Alan Anderson for showing me his tactic of plain old ‘ask the audience what they want’ for presentations.  The audience, not surprisingly, always seems to appreciate it, and it’s hard to miss the mark if you can at least link back to those dot points.

Of course, if someone comes in for the wrong session it can be very entertaining.

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