Archive for the ‘Small Business Computing’ Category

If time runs away from you, this may me an interesting read!

Welcome to my Blog, it has been a while since posting and let me just say not because I have been on holidays or taking it easy, quite the contrary. This has been a very busy and tiring time with lots of physical activity included. This is a very personal story this time and not a personal opinion but an experience I wanted to share.

Do you feel like time is passing you by? Do you feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day, days in a weeks or weeks in a month? well I know how you feel. Busy people tend to fit lot’s into their days, weeks and moths. Have you ever asked yourself why that is, well I have, and recently more than ever. So i thought I would share some personal stuff with you in this blog about how much I have fitted in recently.

Ask yourself these questions and then please read on for my personal story:

  • Do you plan your day before it begins, plan your month before it begins?
  • Do you allow constant disruptions that take your focus away from the priorities?
  • The day before you go on holidays, reflect on how much you get done and how focused you are?
  • What could you do better to create more time in your day or even week?

School holidays are generally a time for me to recharge and put on a different hat. My Youngest daughter being the only child left at home generally goes to visit with her Dad and his family in Darwin. I miss her a lot but I use this time to recharge, work longer hours to catch up and also have some creative thinking time. Unfortunately this has not gone to plan these holidays, let me explain why.

In December I moved my business from one location to another, now if anyone has done an office fit-out before I am sure you can empathise with me and even more so as I am not very smart in the electrical area of an office. So doing an electrical plan was where I was at breaking point. When I say breaking point I mean my boundaries and comfort zone were certainly pushed. I can coordinate many different things and I enjoyed creating a new learning environment for Mantra Training & developments staff and students. Well…….5 weeks later and a few melt downs we are in the office and very happy with the outcome.

I am also very proud to say that my Son has been recovering in a Rehabilitation hospital since the beginning of January and has been doing exceptionally well. Driving to Sydney every week (6 hour round trip) to support him may be tiring, but again I find a way to use this to my advantage and University in the car has been very re energising for business and me personally. For the past 4 weeks I have been watching my Son recover from 8 years of addiction and self destruction. It has been an amazing process and he is working very hard to recover and get life on track. He has been supported by Nurses, Counselors and Support Workers who have helped him in his path to recovery. I am so very proud of him; this has not been an easy journey by any means.

For the past three months I have been training hard for my trip to Kokoda in April and I am getting fitter and stronger every week. As the time draws closer I start to wonder if I have done enough but with 11 weeks to go I am sure I still have time to up the anti and make sure I am fit and ready to take on the trek. I look forward to the history, meeting the people in the villages and the physical challenge. I can’t wait to experience the different cultures and see the scenery of the Kokoda Trek.

So I think when we have to step up we can achieve greatness and fit a lot into a short period of time. Now I don’t think for a minute it is sustainable long term without reflection and rejuvenation, and very achievable in the short term. I think it is soon time for a 4 day long weekend kayaking with my Daughter to slow down and recharge my batteries and brain.

Remember this…… we all have 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year, how we use those hours, days, months and years will provide varying levels of results. if you want to learn some great strategies for time management then contact Mantra Training & Development

Till next time, remember to set your Goals for 2012, Donna

Goal setting with purpose will be the next blog

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Author, Donna Moulds www.mantratraining.edu.au

When we are children we dream about becoming a superhero, or travelling the world, or in my case a hairdresser, untill I had no dolls with hair. As adults…do you think we forget to dream? Dreams are what give us hope and passion, they can drive us to do something that logic would tell us can not be done!

If you have a teenager who is yet to decide what they want to try before they grow up, here is an inspirational story they may want to read………

Chris Warren came to Mantra Training & Development in September 2009 for work experience, which is something that Mantra Training & Development have been part of with various schools and industry bodies for about 3 years now. Taking young adults from a school environment and putting them in a real work environment, that is not only supportive it is also empowering and teaches self motivation. This has also been a wonderful opportunity for the team at Mantra Training & Development.

We have a number of businesses that provide support and mentoring for our team including those involved our work experience program.
One of the Mentors that Chris has had an opportunity to work with and learn from has been john Phillips. He has played a very supportive role with both of Chris’s qualifications.

As the CEO and also a Trainer/Assessor, Chris instantly caught my eye with his “go get it” type attitude to technology and websites. At the time I thought I had a good website and was pretty proud of the fact that I could update it. Now……. don’t get me wrong we had to rein him in on a number of occasions as he wants to do things today without looking at the security or other access and usability implications. In fact I remember him launching our new website way to early and he didn’t take a back up. But we had a plan B and more importantly Chris was able to learn the importance of planning and being patient.

Once we launched the new website early in 2010 I realised how primitive my old site was. Not even 12 months later Chris has created yet a better website allowing for growth and advances in technology and has learned a greater degree of skills in many areas allowing for a much better product. He has also learned how to work better with people not just technology and has grown into a wonderful young man with some great skills that have now seen him accepted into a Bachelor of Software Engineering.

Chris has completed a Certificate III in Information Technology and will have completed his Certificate IV in Information Technology (Web design) by December 2010 and this will then take him into the University by February 2011.

In August this year Chris was also invited to the Google office in Sydney where he was able to contribute some of his skills and learn what it would be like to work with such an elite group of IT experts. He was blown away by the experience and I also think it ignited his motivation and drive to really go for what he wanted in a career path as well as was he is truly passionate about.

Here is what Chris had to say:

From College to University

At the end of college I always knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how I would go about doing it this involved having a Gap Year and then going to University to complete my Bachelors of Software Engineering then I discovered Mantra Training & Development, after initially completing work experience I was offered a
job by the CEO Donna, to Continue working on the Mantra Training & Development website and be part of the team.

An entire year later, the experiences I have had, the people I’ve met, the skills I’ve gained, and the qualifications I have achieved are amazing to say the least. To put this into perspective I never anticipated what I have achieved in such a short time. It truly has been a incredible year and a great start to both my personal and professional life. I now look forward to an exciting future as I know anything is possible.

And now through gaining my Qualifications under an Australian Apprenticeship with Mantra Training & Development as my RTO and Employer, I created the pathway and had the
support to enter University, my new Journey will begin in February 2011.

I will continue working with Mantra Training & Development and assist them in growing their organisation into one of the best RTO’s in the ACT, and help Mantra generate more pathways and opportunities for it’s students, staff, and trainees.

I would like to give special thanks to two people, Donna & John. You have parted with some tremendous skills that I will use for through out University and the rest of my life. Thank you….

Now this is a great message about keeping dreams alive.

Donna Moulds

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Andrew Newnham

Andrew Newnham

By Andrew Newnham (Fruition Data)

When a piece of software insists that it must be used in a certain way, which contradicts your business practises, a workaround is often used as a quick fix to trick the software into thinking that it is still being used properly.

For example a piece of software may insist postal or zip codes must be 5 numbers long, yet here in Australia we only use 4 number post codes. So a workaround in this situation may involve entering an extra zero at the start or end of the post code. For example Sydney NSW (post code 2000) may become 02000 or 20000.

So considering a workaround is very quick and easy to implement, why shouldn’t they be used? Furthermore as workaround are most often required when doing business administration work, this is not necessarily time you can bill to a customer.

Time Factor
Assuming you charge $100 an hour, and let’s say you need to use a workaround on average once per hour and it takes 1 minute to use the workaround. Well over the course of 3 years (the average amount of time between system upgrades), that comes to $10,400 in wasted time. That’s simply time spent working around a small problem, for example entering appointments into your calendar and your appointments database.

You need to ensure that everyone in your organisation is using the same workarounds otherwise each employee may be using a different workaround for the same problem. For example, one person may be entering in “N/A” into a field, whilst someone else is entering in “Other”, whilst someone else may be entering in the code “0”. Whilst you may understand what they mean, your reporting systems probably don’t.

Using the post code example above, in Australia there are legitimate post codes which start with 0 and end with 0. Thus if one person is entering in the code 02000 with a fake zero in it are they talking about the post code for the ANU ACT which is 0200 or are they talking about Sydney NSW which is 2000? So using this example if you need to run a report based on sales by post code, and you’ve being using an extra zero to make 5 digit zip codes, unless you are positive that everyone has been using the same workaround for converting 4 digit post codes to 5 digit zip codes, you may find your getting some sales in some very strange or non-existent places.

How to solve the problem?

Contact a software solutions company. We can find out of there are options which can fix the problems with your current software, or we can recommend a new software solution which doesn’t require use of any workarounds to be used.

So if you would like to know more about databases, data storage, and software in general, feel free to give Fruition Data a call on (02) 6100 3780.

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John Phillips

Contributed By: John Phillips (Ocean Computing Solutions)

Bullying is as old as civilization itself, internet connectivity has simply given it a new medium. That does not make bullying more palatable, of course. Unfortunately, it simply means that people with a mean and vindictive streak are now able to bully their victims around online as well. An increasing trend worldwide, workplace bullying over the internet is a phenomenon that refuses to die down.

While there are many types of cyber bullying in the workplace, the most common one remains intimidation over email. The actual content may take many forms, of course, but a cyber-bully usually takes advantage of a new employee, or a new member on the team. Making up new rules, accusing the victim of ‘errors’ that do not really exist, publicly denouncing a person’s work by marking everybody else on that particular email are some of the typical shenanigans that are resorted to by the cyber-bully.

Besides vicious emails, cyber-bullies could hurt their victims by accessing their private data, posting private details of employees on corporate blogs or public blogs, or by sending offensive missives on internal chat networks.

Cyber-bullies exist in firms of all sizes, but the small firms and entrepreneurial set-ups are particularly hard hit, since a small team gives the cyber-bully that added edge. Worse, small business set-ups are affected more as well, since they can hardly afford a dip in morale due to cyber-bullying, or even a workforce that may look to quit on this account.

Most major countries, including Australia, have laws in place to combat cyber-bullying in the workplace. In fact, each Australian state has separate legislation regarding this issue, with most of the onus being placed on the corporation involved, whose responsibility it is to ensure that its employees have a safe workplace.

There’s no one single way to deal with cyber-bullying at the workplace. Ideally, a potential cyber-bullying victim should first try to deal with the problem by addressing the cyber-bully and letting him/her know that a problem exists. If done in a firm, but polite manner, this usually is enough. In case the situation is exacerbated, most firms have processes in place that can be followed in such an eventuality. In case you happen to be a small business owner, you should ensure that you have a ready idea of what to do if your employees are being affected by cyber bullying – a fair, open and transparent policy that is known to every employee goes a long way towards building employee morale – and isn’t that always welcome?

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John Phillips

Author: John Phillips (Ocean Computing Soltions)

Good passwords form the basis of secure computer systems, but what is a good password?  In this short video, John Phillips, Managing Director of Ocean Computing Solutions, defines a strong password and provides a simple technique for choosing a memorable, secure password.

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John Phillips

Author: John Phillips (Ocean Computing Solutions)

I recently had a discussion with someone quite new to using computers, and who was looking to purchase his first computer.  The first of many questions asked was “should I get a laptop or a desktop?”  The answer really depends on your individual requirements.

The first thing to consider is the need for portability.  If you need a computer to carry around with you, using it in many different locations, a laptop is the only real solution.  If you don’t have a need for a portable machine, a desktop is a viable option for you.  Desktops tend to be cheaper than laptops at the same performance level, and are less difficult to upgrade and repair than laptops.

If you decide to purchase a laptop, you need to consider how much time you will spend using the machine.  If you are going to be doing a lot of typing, a good keyboard and large screen are essential.  On the other hand, if you are mostly at your desk, and sometimes need to be out and about with your computer, especially if you want to take it on planes and the like you can comfortably use a much smaller, more portable laptop by connecting a normal mouse, monitor and keyboard while you are at your office.  This means you only use the smaller keyboard and screen while on the road.

Purchasing considerations for desktops are more straightforward than laptops.  For business use, you really want a machine that is going to be reliable and quiet.  It is also worth considering the energy consumption of the machine you are purchasing, with business specific machines from HP, Lenovo etc usually requiring less power than custom built machines from the local computer shops.

Common to both desktops and laptops is the software you need to support your intended use.  All computers will come with an operating system, which is the basis of the software on your computer, pre installed.  Usually this will be a Windows variant with the latest version being Windows 7.  There are several editions of Windows 7 including Home and Professional.  Each edition has different capabilities, so you’ll need to consider the features available and ensure they meet your requirements.

Beyond Windows, you will probably want a copy of Microsoft Office to enable you to type documents, work with spreadsheets and the like.  It is generally cheaper to buy Office at the same time you buy your computer.  Once again, it is important to buy the edition of Office that has the programs you need to complete your work.

Finally, I always recommend purchasing a, extended warranty that lasts at least three years.  This way, if you have any hardware problems with your system, you can easily get it fixed without incurring additional expense.

We are always happy to help people purchase computers for business use.  As you can see, there are many things to consider, and a good IT support provider will be able to assist you to understand your needs, then supply and install appropriate hardware.  At Ocean Computing Solutions, we sell complete computer packages including software and installation and configuration at your office for a fixed price.  For more information, please give us a call on 1300 558 121, or visit our web site at http://www.oceancs.com.au.

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John Phillips

Author: John Phillips (Ocean Computing Solutions)

John Phillips, Managing Director of Ocean Computing Solutions uses his Tiger Repelling Rock to demonstrate why business owners shouldn’t assume their backups are working in the absence of information to the contrary.

To ensure your backups are working, why not sign up for a free Network Problem Prevention Audit from Ocean Computing Solutions?  To arrange your audit, if you are a Canberra based business with five or more computers, visit http://www.oceancs.com.au/?q=node/8 or phone 1300 558 121.

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By Jean McIntyre (Marketing Angels)

Which movie describes your marketing approach: ‘Field of Dreams’, ‘Pay it Forward’, ‘Chain Reaction’ or ‘Game Plan’.

Stop Press

If you already understand the value of marketing are ready to start writing your own marketing plan but just need a bit of expert help – stop reading and register for Marketing Angels DIY Marketing Plan workshop 23rd February. $319 early bird discount. Click here to register.See what previous attendees have said

Common Approaches to Marketing

I’m a bit of a movie buff – well a movie fan – so I like to use movies as a metaphor for life – and marketing is no exception.

Working with lots of Canberra businesses I can identify 4 different approaches to marketing.  Obviously there is one that I think is the most successful but there are elements of all that every business should consider using as part of its marketing plan.

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams (with Kevin Costner) is one of my favourite movies of all time but I have to say it’s not my favourite approach to marketing.  It’s unfortunate though that I see many Canberra businesses who favour this approach.

This is the business that starts with a great idea to sell something that the business owner would like to buy that believes the line from the movie ‘Field of Dreams’: “If you build it they will come”.
They have no plan and therefore no strategic investment in marketing. They believe that their idea is so great and that everybody wants or needs their product so they’ll just come looking for it and buy it.
We can always find cases in history where this approach has worked and been successful.  It’s very, very rare and has only worked with revolutionary products and a very strong unmet demand.
When successful though – these businesses quickly become market leaders who then have market followers. The ones that survive this rapid success are the ones that quickly develop a good marketing plan (and need a huge marketing budget) to stay number one ahead of imitators.
Smart business owners know that this kind of success without marketing effort truly is just a dream.

Pay It Forward

The ‘Pay it Forward’ business relies solely on word of mouth to build their profile and sell their products.

There are a lot of these businesses in Canberra also.   This is likely because it’s a small, contained city with two degrees of separation (hang on isn’t that another movie title?).  If this marketing strategy is going to work it will be in a place like this.

It’s not a bad approach for sole trader whose business is basically just a job. These businesses believe that because they have a good reputation and good connections that they’ll achieve all their business through word of mouth – and so don’t require marketing.

They are usually good networkers and get sufficient referrals from clients, friends and acquaintances to keep them plugging along.

There’s nothing wrong with word of mouth as a strategy – particularly if you have loyal customers.  In fact it should form a part of every business’ marketing plan.  But it should be combined with at least customer service and product development strategies to keep clients satisfied and a reward program to proactively encourage referrals rather than waiting for loyal customers to think of your business and refer.

However if your business is an asset that you want to grow in value and expand – if you want to create an asset that you might sell in the future – then you’ll require goals, thought and planning for the business to experience anything other than simple organic growth.

Chain Reaction

The ‘Chain Reaction’ marketing approach is for businesses that at least want to grow and understand the benefit of marketing to help them with that growth.

On the negative side, these businesses generally regard marketing as a cost (that they’d rather not have) and are typically driven by special promotional deals and ideas from other companies (usually competitors) to present marketing tactis they can use.

This business is the favourite of predatory advertising sales people who arrive with offers of 20% off, additional ads at no cost, free placement in sister publications or affiliate websites.

These businesses often quickly lose faith with their trials of marketing because often the opportunities they take up don’t have the breadth of creative product, distribution, people and other marketing tactics to meet customer needs and the promotions they undertake take up don’t quite match the media habits of their target market.  The tactics might have worked for a competitor – but that competitor likely has a different offering and different messages to deliver.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with being frugal – accountants love business people that minimise their costs.  If you are going get good outcomes from this approach you need to have a clear understanding of your market, your messages and the media habits and associations of your clients.  You need at least a sketch of the kinds of tactics that will work for you so that – when a sales person comes along with a deal – you can recognise whether it’s one that will work to connect with your market and deliver sales.

This folks is what we call a marketing plan!

The Game Plan

The Game Plan approach is the most successful marketing approach.

Game Plan businesses start with goals.  They know where they want their business to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 or even 20 years.  They have a business plan that says what they need to do to get them there.  They’ll have a plan for when they hire and train staff, when they’ll buy equipment, when they’ll seek expansion finance and when they’ll move premises. They know how many customers they’ll have and how much those customers will buy from them.

Above all they have faith in their businesses and that their plans will succeed.

Game Plan businesses will of course have a marketing plan that is fully timetabled and budgeted and they understand that this will be an investment they need to make to get them where they plan to be.

Having a ‘Game Plan’ or a marketing strategy doesn’t have to mean a huge cost.  A smart business owner will conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine which strategies will deliver the greatest brand awareness and ultimately the highest sales from the least outlay of funds and time.

A good marketing plan enables a business to make these important business decisions.

It Doesn’t Need to Be Difficult

Planning of all kinds has gotten a bad wrap over the years because a lot of experts have layered much complexity on to the process.  People think of plans and think it’s all too hard and takes too long.

That’s not the case with marketing planning.

The hardest part of putting together a marketing plan is finding out what makes your market tick, how your competitors present themselves and then thinking about what that means for your business.

Once you understand your market – it’s easy to work out what products you can offer, what you need to say and what are the best media to say it in.  All you need to do then is work out your tactics and set a realistic budget and timetable.

This of course is where a marketing consultant can be really helpful.  Consultants like Marketing Angels can help with all parts of the process – researching your market, developing messages, identifying, scheduling and implementing tactics. We can also just be there to look over your shoulder as you get the satisfaction from achieving excellent results yourself.

If you need a kick start with developing your plan – Marketing Angels is running a 1 day workshop here in Canberra on Tuesday 23rd February at University House in ANU.  Click here to find out more or register.

I’d love to hear about what approaches you have taken to planning your marketing and how they have worked for you.

Jean Mc

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John Phillips


Author: John Phillips (Ocean Computing Solutions

Recently there have been reports in the media relating to a bug in Internet Explorer which was allegedly exploited by the government of a large communist state to spy on dissidents.  Many media outlets went as far as to say don’t use Internet Explorer at all, use something else, like Mozilla Firefox (http://www.mozilla.org). 

This kind of story makes great news.  It has everything, a potentially deadly computer security threat (especially if you are deemed to be a dissident in a country where capital punishment is not uncommon), espionage, and radical advice that we should all stop using the most popular browser on the web. 

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with this.  Starting at the beginning, the vulnerability concerned, while an extremely serious remote code execution flaw*, only exists in Internet Explorer 6.  IE6 shipped with Windows XP, and has since had two major version updates.  We are now at Internet Explorer version 8.  Anyone who has automatic updates enabled on their computer would have this most recent version, and would not be put at risk by this particular security threat. 

The spying allegation came from Google, who allege the Chinese government implemented a sophisticated exploit with the purpose of obtaining logon details to Gmail accounts operated by persons of interest to said government.  Google have been so incensed by the actions of Beijing that they are now claiming they will stop censoring search results for users in China (an operational requirement imposed upon the Google China operation (www.google.cn) by the Chinese government).  The Chinese government could well prevent Google from operating in China if this goes ahead – serious stuff. 

Now that the vulnerability is known, it is only a matter of time before other unscrupulous parties will look to create their own versions of this exploit in order to obtain passwords to internet bank accounts, credit card numbers and the like. 

The bottom line is the media likes sensational stories, and this fits the bill.  It’s good to see the media taking an interest in computer security, it’s a pity this wasn’t reported in a more considered way. Perhaps it’s because scary headlines sell newspapers, maybe because the journalists involved didn’t have sufficient understanding of the content on which they were reporting.  This would have been an excellent opportunity to encourage people to use the automatic updating functionality within Microsoft Windows to keep their software up to date, to install anti-virus software, use a firewall, and generally be careful on the internet.  And that is my recommendation to you. 

To turn on Automatic Updates, follow the steps in this article: http://www.microsoft.com/security/updates/mu.aspx.  If you are running a business with more than a couple of computers, having an IT professional examine your network and make sure it is as far as possible free of security vulnerabilities is essential. 

Ocean Computing Solutions can help Canberra based businesses in this way.  If you have five or more computers, you can take the first step for free.  Just visit our web site and sign up for a free Network Problem Prevention Audit, normally valued at $497.  This comes at no cost to you and with no obligation to do or buy anything.  At the end of the audit, you will get a written report detailing our findings and recommendations. 

* A remote code execution vulnerability is a software flaw which allows an attacker to arbitrarily run software of his/her choosing on a remote computer via the internet, probably without the knowledge of the computers owner.  This effectively means the attacker has remote control over the compromised system.

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By Jean McIntyre

Marketing Angels

Why do small business owners often feel lost when we deal with large organisations like banks?

I was chatting on the phone today with my good friend Lana – relating the horrendous saga of my dealings with Westpac over several months while trying to set up a merchant facility for a start-up business.  The conversation got around to the general observation that small businesses often have little success dealing with large organisations.

Lana is of the view that it’s because a single instance of poor service is often not noticed in a large organisation and those who deliver it just get complacent about the impact of their actions on the people at the other end.  Lana works for a large Government service delivery organisation and says the same thing happens there.

Let’s look at what happened with Westpac

Early in November 2009 I went to the website of an online payment facility and completed an application and paid my fee.  I was then directed to a page that said I needed to apply with one of the big banks for a merchant facility.  I had vowed 20 years ago never to deal with a bank again so I wasn’t impressed with this but went ahead as I had no choice.

I completed a simple online application and was informed that I’d receive a package from Westpac in due course.  A couple of days later I received an email from a Westpac employee with some prices in a table and no explanation.

I wrote to Westpac and asked what the prices related to and exactly what I would be up for initially and on an ongoing basis.  The reply I received was full of jargon like ‘chargeback’ , ‘service fee’, ‘participation fee’ and it took me some time to get information from Westpac as to exactly what I was signing up for.

Westpac Gives Vague Instructions

Soon after, I received another email – with vague instructions and some pdfs of forms that it seemed I had to complete.  I wrote back to Westpac saying that I thought I’d received the wrong forms as what I had appeared to be a mortage application.  I was concerned because I was applying for the merchant account on behalf of a company – that had limited assets apart from a bank account and a website – but it was asking for details of all my personal assets.

The response from Westpac was that this was the way it was and Westpac had the most robust application process of all the banks and that this was necessary to protect this. 

I wondered at that point where I and my needs sat in that equation.

The website needs to be fully-functioning

Now at this point, the website is in development and testing and so the actual site is just a shell – ready to be populated.  I’m waiting on the merchant ID to finalise the online purchasing infrastructure and pricing.

I then received an email from Westpac saying that they need a copy of my ‘registration’ and that the website didn’t meet their requirements.  I asked “what requirements” and was told that among the many forms that were sent with the second email, there was a page of ‘Website Requirements’ that was not mentioned in the email.  I looked at the requirements page and could not see anything in this that didn’t comply – even though the site was in testing.

I also queried exactly what registration was required – my ABN registration, company registration, registration of a business name or some other registration that I was unaware of.  The woman from Westpac was unable to answer that question and so suggested that I send all of the above.

Feeling trapped – Jean complies

Of course, feeling trapped and powerless – I complied.  It turns out that she had searched for the business using the incorrect name and was now suspicious that I was trying to do something dodgy.

The Westpac employee then said that I needed a referral from my building society – where I had said on the initial form that I wanted money deposited (I love my building society).  I asked her what this was for but she didn’t answer me.  She also asked me to explain in detail on the website, the products I was selling, how the payment and pricing would work as this information was required for the website.

The Westpac officer wrote: ” Website needs to be developed before they will assess the application.  All banks have the same requirements of viewing the site before approval.  It is because banks need to view what products are being sold, that there is adequate information on the Website for a credit card holder to make the decision whether they are going to use their credit card on your website and get the products they are paying for.”

Westpac is not a police officer

I was no clearer after this and I was quite cross by this time.  I explained that I would not put this information up on the site as I was going to protect my intellectual property until the site is ready for publication – including the payment processes.  I said in no uncertain terms that it was none of Westpac’s business what information I put on my site (apart from privacy and security details). 

In my frustraion I said in my reply email: “Banks DON’T need to view what products are being sold.  It is up to the individual business to comply with the law.  The bank is not a police officer.” 

This of course fell on deaf ears.

I asked who I could speak with about the unreasonable requests and delays from Westpac and yet again in a further email. I received no response.

Tell us EXACTLY what we have to do

I went back to my web developer and said that we needed to get the test website as close to fully-functioning as possible – otherwise Westpac would not approve the merchant facility.  I put in a lot of work, we organised a Security Certificate for the site and gave them access to the development site.  I then asked if they could look at it and explain EXACTLY what was needed now to approve the site.

I received an email back saying “thanks” and informing me that (despite my being a sole signatory for the company) they required a signature from my husband (who is a silent partner) as another director.  Rather than argue this was not necessary, and feeling even more powerless, I and my husband complied.

I faxed off the form and emailed the Westpac employee to say I had done so and said I still hadn’t had a response on what was wrong with the website.  By this time it was 2nd January (two months from initial contact) and the employee was on Holidays.

Westpac finally gets back

On 11th January I received a phonecall from another staff member responding to my email.  She said that the website had been given conditional approval – “subject to the Westpac Account”.  I asked her what this meant.  She explained that they would only issue a merchant ID if the business opened a Westpac Business Account to distribute the money to.

I was astounded and said that this was the first time anyone had told me in over 2 months that I was required to have a Westpac Account.  I said that had I known this – I’d have gone to the bank I had an account with previously.  I related that I had told them at the very beginning that I wanted the funds put into the IMB.  She said that she had tried to get me “an exemption” but that this had failed.  All I needed to do was go into a Westpac branch with all my registrations and IDs and they would open it up for me.

I did that today. Walked in to my local branch and said I was here to open a business account.  The teller walked over and got the ‘Business Manager’ who immediately asked “What kind of business is it?” 

Jean cries on John’s shoulder

That was the wrong question to ask the wrong person who had been through everything I had been through.  I said “Why do you need to know that?”  I told him it was an online business.  He looked for a while at his computer screen (he didn’t look once at me) and said “I can’t see you today – it will have to wait until next week”.

I walked out and cried on my husband’s shoulder.  I said “they really don’t want my business do they?”

Jean gets help from the IMB

In despair – I just drove home.  Back in my office I started wondering if the IMB could help me.  I looked at their website and they said that they will open merchant facilities for their clients.  I knew that they did this through Westpac and so wondered fi they could help me.

I rang the call centre and they put me through to their business banking area.  The man I spoke with was very helpful and explained the relationship they have with Westpac and said he’d give them a call and get back to me.

He did that within an hour and said that the people I had been dealing with should have realised that I was an IMB customer early in the piece and applied a general exemption.  He said he had sorted this out for me and the woman from Westpac would ring me today to advise me of the approval.  I said I wished I had come to them months ago instead of putting myself through all this trauma.

I’m still waiting 7 hours later for Westpac to call me.

So what’s the upshot.

There’s a simple message in this that I won’t spend too much time explaining.

The advantage that small organisations (and small businesses) have is that they are much more connected to their customers and much more likely to act when there has been a problem.

Make caring about serving your customers part of your marketing plan and you’ll never lose them to big business.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with big banks.

Jean Mc

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