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PACER PlusTrade Agreement negotiation is getting No Where

The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations or PACER Plus negotiations is getting no-where.  If Australia and New Zealand are serious about pursuing trade policy with the Pacific islands that will stimulate economic development, greater political leadership as well as strategy rethinking are needed.  While a few Pacific negotiators are happy with the way the negotiation stages are going, most have been disappointed with the PACERPlus talks.  Most negotiators are saying that Australia and New Zealand have to think strategically and make offers that will be accepted as at the moment there is really nothing of value for the Pacific Island states in the agreement.  Until something of interest is placed on the table, it seems PACERPlus won’t be going anywhere.

Papua New Guinea (PNG), a large Melanesian nation within the Pacific region with large amounts of natural resources at its disposal refused to enter into the PACERPlus trade negotiations because there is nothing in this trade agreement for PNG and the Forum Island states as stated by one of the country’s ministers.  While Fiji is participating in the negotiation with reservations, on the benefits from enhanced regional trade and economic integration, other island states should take their time to review the entire working document before moving any further into the negotiations.

Dr. Roman Grynberg, a well-respected Economist who worked before for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat spoke against the content of the PACER Plus trade agreement and its implementation schedules.  He said the trade agreement will not benefit anyone except Australia and New Zealand.  Businesses in the Pacific who have worked with Dr. Grynberg would agree entirely with his views.  It is not rocket science or one does not need to be an economist to read between the lines to see where this trade agreement is heading.

The Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce & Industry (VCCI) is calling on the Vanuatu Government, the Opposition, all MPs and all national leaders to take their time to read through the entire trade agreement document before deciding on Vanuatu’s next move.  Vanuatu should not rely entirely on the advice given by a few of its trade negotiators and the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor (OCTA) based in Port Vila.  The VCCI is happy to work closely with the Vanuatu Government to weigh the pros and cons of this trade agreement before an official stand can be taken whether to sign the agreement or not.

Tune up your business 3

A series of short practical articles on keeping our businesses running well and smoothly.

We are used to keeping our car or vehicle engines tuned, we top up the oil, we try not to run out of petrol, we keep them clean, we have our cars serviced – if we don’t the vehicle breaks down, we use more fuel, it is inefficient, it will often let us down, it will not last as long, it will be a waste of money.

We need to apply the same thinking to our business. If we don’t tune up our business regularly we will lose money, we will lose staff, we will lose customers and market position, we will encourage our competitors to overtake us – we may even go out of business.

During this short series of articles Chris Elphick takes us through a service check for our business.

 

Today the focus is on looking after the money!

We are in business to make money – we need to pay our bills, we need to pay our staff, we want to pay ourselves and make a profit!

Regular, good quality financial management will help you to:

  • Compare actual performance against planned performance
  • Understand your income and expenses cycle
  • Help to maximise your business efficiency
  • Check how your business is going overall and convince others e.g. banks if required.

Research show the most common factors contributing to poor financial business performance are:

  • Poor financial management
  • Failure to plan properly
  • Failure to understand basic financial ratios, such as price, volume, costs and break-even points
  • No RISK management strategy, particularly from a financial and cash flow perspective
  • Failure to manage growth
  • No transition (exit) or succession planning strategy

Although the finances don’t drive the business (good marketing, good products and excellent service does that), your business cannot open if there is not enough money to open the doors, cannot survive short term if the cash flow is insufficient  and cannot survive long term if the profit margins are too low

The primary business objective must be to make as much profit as possible. Unless you make a profit you will be unable to achieve any of your other goals – employing people, having the lifestyle you want, supporting your family, supporting your community or investing in future growth.

Remember the criteria is to make more profit, not more turnover. It is pointless to increase turnover, sell more but not make any more profit.  That way we end up working harder but not smarter.

There are three components that reward you for being in business. Firstly, return on effort:  evaluate the net profit from your business against the time you have spent producing that profit. Secondly, return on capital invested:  not only are you working 40+ hours a week, but you had to invest your own money into this business to earn profits; and thirdly, return for risk:  the risk involved in being in business is considerable.

It is also important to understand the distinction between cash and profit.

  • Cash is the money we have available in the Bank to spend.
  • Profit is the difference between income we receive and the expenses we pay.

As our cash balance does not necessarily follow closely to our profitability – it is not sufficient to monitor profitability – in order to survive, we must monitor cashflow as well.

 

 

There are several factors which, singly or combined, will be the cause of cashflow problems in a business:

  • Debtors
  • Rapid growth of business
  • Downturn of business
  • Poor management and planning
  • Unrealistic demands

We need to know if the shortfall is permanent or temporary which will take some analysis of the facts and figures.

However, if the problem has been continuous, the business is growing and no other causes seem to apply, it is likely to be a permanent shortfall. If the shortfall in working capital is identified as a permanent problem, the following remedies should be considered first: Capital Injection; Bank Loan; Sell Surplus Fixed Assets or Equity Finance

Short term cashflow shortages will benefit from the following strategies: Reduce Drawings; Improve Profitability; Decrease Stock or Negotiate with Suppliers

Cashflow projections are important for all businesses and especially for smaller ones where there is often no spare finance.

  • What do they include? – all incoming cash, revenue from trading, loans, tax refund, grants.  All cash expenditure, expenses, purchase of assets, drawings, tax payments, loan repayments.
  • What they show – what is projected to happen to the cash situation of the business if events fall as predicted, the closing bank balance or overdraft level at the end of each month.
  • What they help with – seeing the effect of your predictions before they happen, identifying where future cashflow problems may occur, identify the effect of seasonality on your cashflow.

Remember that cashflows are only as good as the assumptions made to prepare them:

  • Ensure assumptions are sound.
  • Prepare a range of projections over a range of income and expense levels, i.e. pessimistic, most likely, optimistic.
  • Use the number crunching power of the computer to calculate maximum overdraft likely.
  • Get expert assistance in preparing or reviewing projections to test your assumptions.  Use your accountant or talk to your bank manager.  As Bankers tend to take these projections very seriously, take a lot of care when presenting your cashflow to a Banker.

Finally let us remember how we make money.  We make money by increasing our profits which is done in three ways:

By increasing prices       By selling more         By decreasing costs.

Most businesses have to do some of each but the key is to make decisions based on good planning and forward thinking. Burying our head in the sand if we see a problem coming is not a good business strategy!  It will not make our problems go away.

 

Coming next – part four of our business service check-list – looking after our people

Chris Elphick is Director of Learn.fast Pacific, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Vanuatu and other Pacific countries.  He is an experienced business mentor and has years of experience of working with Small & Medium Enterprises.  He works in Vanuatu as a mentor, coach and trainer.

If you have a business issue for Chris to comment on please contact him at chris@learnfastpacific.com

Vanuatu Agri Tourism Week

The term Agri-Tourism was coined especially to get businesses in the agriculture and tourism sectors to work together.  It was thought that getting these businesses to collaborate will see fresh fruits, vegetables, root crops and seafood being harvested and transported with ease to hotels, resorts and restaurants in town faster.  In theory it looks good however implementing the concept has its own challenges as apart from the agriculture and tourism sectors, other business sectors also come into play along the value chain.

The Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) as one of the main organizers of the upcoming event is calling on all business owners and operators interested in being part of the Vanuatu Agri Tourism Week event to register their interests and participate in the program.

Agri-Tourism is the new buzz word and movement throughout the world that everyone wants to be involved in. Agri-tourism is all about connecting directly with their market and customer.

No one wants to miss out being able to make a connection with their market, or in creating and developing new markets through the Agri Tourism movement.  Livestock farmers, vegetable growers, tour operators and hotels are all part of the Agri Tourism chain.

The celebration begins with the launching of Vanuatu Agri Tourism Week on the 18th August 2016 at the new Convention Centre in Port Vila.

Entry to the three day event held over 18th, 19th and 20th August, is free to both exhibitors and the public.

Exhibitors are invited to participate and those that take up the offer get priority in next year’s event.

The theme for this colourful event is presented through the important message of a Healthy and Wealthy Nation.

The event will encourage and support a forum to establish, and grow many vibrant business connections between operators. For example livestock farmers and market gardeners connecting with processors and value adders to supply hotels and restaurants with genuine Vanuatu products and tastes.

Vanuatu is a remarkable nation that has a lot to offer everyone. Tour operators take visitors to see the real Vanuatu. They are also part of the Agri Tourism market and ambassadors for the country.

Transport operators will find this worthwhile. School children of all ages will discover new sites, sounds and even tastes throughout the event.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry with the Ministry of Agriculture have come together in support of this stimulus by appointing a steering and action committee to oversee the program and develop a colourful and important event.  Lock the date in and become involved.  You can contact Mr. Jack Lowane who is the Chairman of the steering committee on jlowane@vanuatu.gov.vu or on 7799293 or the VCCI reception at reception@vcci.com.vu or on 27543 for more information or to register your interest.

Effective communications : ‘Wise people talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something’

Communicating is something we all do all the time.  Yet we are often hopeless at it!  It is easy to ‘open our mouths and let our bellies rumble!’  It is harder to engage our brains and ears first before we communicate anything to anybody.

However we need to remember than even if we do not open our mouths we are communicating non-verbally by our facial expressions, our bodies, the way we stand, the way we wave our arms around and so on.

We cannot avoid communication and poor communication is costly to all businesses – it results in more accidents, mistakes, staff losses, equipment breakdowns, customer losses, relationship breakdown , loss of quality, loss of reputation, loss of $$$$.

Communication is the glue that holds the business together. No change is possible without it. Good communication has a direct link to profitability, productivity, individual satisfaction and business sustainability.

Effective communication requires us to listen without being distracted and to seek to understand the other party. All communication is 2 way – there is always a sender and receiver and the two need to relate well together in order for good communication to take place.

Good communication takes time and works best when there is a clear purpose – agreeing a job, clarifying a design, finalising a contract and so on.  It requires us to take an interest in the speaker.

Awesome communication requires us to have empathy – in other words to see things from the other person’s point of view; confidence and assertiveness; a real desire to communicate and an end goal – a clear picture of why the communication is taking place and what you and the other party want out of it.

In business we communicate in a range of ways – telephone, fax, text, email, face to face, Skype, mail etc.  We have a number of communication mechanisms – phone messages, emails, letters, business cards, brochures, our vehicles, our clothing, our marketing, invoices, feedback questionnaires, customer data bases, posters, websites, Facebook, you tube etc.

All our communication needs to be clear, current and concise.

All staff who communicate with other people (in other words, ALL staff and management) must be trained in effective communications. They need to be aware that tone and body language speak louder than words!

The initial communication between a potential new customer and your company has the potential to turn a customer on or off.  It needs to be friendly, professional, competent and encouraging. If it is an answer phone then make sure the message is clear and that you answer it quickly!  Make sure all your communication mechanisms – cards, brochures etc. – are up-to-date, relevant and customer focused.

Use every opportunity you can to communicate effectively with your customers and suppliers.  Send messages on your invoices; use newsletters and topical tips; keep a good customer data base; send messages on birthdays and anniversaries of when work was done; remember annual gas appliance service, septic tank maintenance etc.; always do follow up calls to confirm that everything is OK; ask for comments on your website or testimonials; ask satisfied customers for contact details of anyone else who might be interested in what you have to offer.

Effective communication is not an optional extra for any business.  You either set out to communicate effectively or you will do it in a mediocre manner that will almost certainly convey negative messages to your customers.  Poor communication will drive your customers into the arms of your competition and suppliers are likely to become indifferent and disinterested in you or your business!!

Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Chris Elphick is Director of Learn.fast Pacific, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Vanuatu and other Pacific countries.  He is an experienced business mentor and has years of experience of working with Small & Medium Enterprises.  He works in Vanuatu as a mentor, coach and trainer.

If you have a business issue for Chris to comment on please contact him at chris@learnfastpacific.com

 

National Consultation on the UN Pacific Strategy

The United Nations operational activities in the Pacific over the last 5 years (2013 to 2017) have been guided by a United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), a strategic program that outlines the collective response of the UN system to development challenges and national priorities in 14 island nations.  Another program the UN Pacific Strategy (UNPS) will be developed to carry on for a further 5 years after the UNDAF funds are exhausted.  UNPS will concentrate on country level and regional development priorities.

During a consultation meeting organized by the Vanuatu Government and the UNICEF in Port Vila on Friday 5 August 2016 at the Convention Centre a spokesperson from the UN stated that the UN is ready to listen to the Pacific island states on what development goals they would like to see achieved in the next 5 years (2018 to 2022) as the UN is willing to assist technically and financially towards those goals.  The Vanuatu Government through the Department of Strategic Policy, Planning & Aid Coordination revealed that after the Priority Action Agenda (PAA) ended, the government really hasn’t finalized a National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP) yet, a document that should contain Vanuatu’s developmental needs.  In the plenary sessions, the discussions that followed says it all that the PAA failed to achieve many of its goals.  Although the UN is insisting that Vanuatu draws up its developmental goals with possible assistance to be provided for by the UN development arms, it could be seen that if developmental goals are developed but adequate resources are not allocated to those goals then the still to be finalized NSDP will go down the same lane the PAA went.

From the presentations it could be seen that the rural areas where the development goals should be heading have not received much assistance.  Port Vila and Luganville have benefited much from the development partners including the UN but the majority of the people who were and are still in need are left out.  PAA failed because many of its policy directives were either implemented only in the urban centers or were only on paper and were stored away in the shelves.  The NSDP once finalized will have to be reviewed by all from the government to the Non-Government Organizations to the private sector to ensure it is workable.

In one of the presentations, adults interviewed in the rural areas stated that assistance from the developmental programs funded by donors that were supposed to reach them did not reach them.  In fact the interviewees raised many issues that were raised before that there is a need for income generating activities to be developed and sustained in the rural areas to ensure community dwellers earn regular income from those activities as well as to guard against or reduce rural-urban migration.  Other issues are access to funding which is now seen to be a never ending issue and access to business mentoring to ensure micro and small business entrepreneurs who initiated businesses maintain and sustain their business operations in the long term.

The private sector would like the government through the Department of Strategic Policy, Planning & Aid Coordination to finalize a draft of the NSDP as quickly as possible and have the draft circulated widely to collect as much inputs as possible.  A well-documented NSDP dossier covering all 17 sustainable development goals in the yet to be developed UNPS will ensure that Vanuatu receives much developmental assistance from the UN and other development partners.

Update on Airport Issues

The Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce & Industry (VCCI)acknowledged the work currently being done at the Bauerfield international airport runway.  The damage to the runway and the refusal of a few airlines to land at the airport caused a lot of businesses to suffer.  However now that several airlines apart from Air New Zealand began flying into Port Vila again, tourist numbers are rising again.  There are a few New Zealand experts that are currently on the ground examining the drainage system along the runway.  They will be providing views on how appropriate to upgrade the drainage system to ensure the runway when renovated will last longer.  The World Bank and the Vanuatu Government will be signing a contract this year to enable the full renovation of the runway to begin early next year, 2017.  When the renovation works on the runway kicks off early next year, there may be a few disruptions to flight schedules however the Airports Vanuatu Limited (AVL) will be in consultation with the airlines and other stakeholders concern to minimize any flight disruptions to ensure normal flights continue.  Air New Zealand has yet to confirm a date when it will resume its flights into Port Vila.  There are ongoing discussions that the Bauerfield and Pekoa international airports will be upgraded to Code E to gather for larger aircrafts or long hauls while the Whitegrass airport in Tanna will be upgraded to Code C.

Fine tuning your business

We are half way through the year.  How is your business going? What have you achieved so far? What challenges have you overcome and what are you proud of? What do you want to achieve for the rest of the year?

We regularly check our bank balance and our business stock and resources, we put fuel in our vehicles and make sure the engine is properly tuned yet how often do we stop and review our business progress.

I often hear business owners and leaders complain about being too busy and not having enough time for the important things – what can be more important than making sure our business does not run out of fuel!

We need to be constantly reviewing our plans and if necessary fine tuning them to get maximum performance, just as we would with an engine.

We need to be constantly demonstrating our care of our people.  We need to make sure they are properly trained and supported and that they are fully engaged as active team members. Disengaged staff cost us a lot of money!

We need to be treating every customer as special – we want a whole army of raving fans out there telling others what a wonderful business we are.

We need to ensure that our business systems and processes are up-to-date and fit for purpose – businesses waste an enormous amount of money on propping up systems which are way past their sell-buy date and which no longer add value to the business.

We need to make sure that we are leading from the bridge and that we have a committed, engaged and capable team in the engine room!

It is time to take stock of our business progress in 2016.  We need to pull back from the day to day activities of making money and engage in some reflection on how we are making money!  Are we working harder and harder doing longer and longer hours or are we working smarter?

We can only work smarter if we have created some clear plans in the first place – we need to know where we are going and what it will take to get there.

Follow this 6-point plan to help you review business progress at this mid-point of the year.

  1. Ask your staff to identify what they feel has been achieved so far this year

Our staff probably think much more about the business than we give them credit for.  They are at the sharp end and they see what is happening and what could happen.  We often take them for granted and just don’t ask them for their opinions.

  1. Find out what is worrying or challenging your staff at the moment

This is not about encouraging people to moan and complain but unless we really know what is causing problems or challenges for the workforce then we can never find ways of improving things.  We need to engage all our people in a culture of continuous improvement.

  1. Go out and actively seek feedback from your customers and suppliers – what do they like or dislike about your business?

In my experience customers love being asked what they think and it gives out the message that you care about their opinions – after all they do pay your bills!

  1. Write down your own feelings about your business so far this year. What are you proud of and what disappoints you?

Don’t fall into the trap of asking everyone else but forgetting yourself – you might find it useful to talk to a colleague or friend or mentor.  Not talking is not an option!

  1. Think about all this feedback. What is it telling you?  What changes, if any, do you need to make to your plans for the rest of the year?

All feedback, however painful it is to hear, is a gift in that it gives us a chance to put things right but we have to be receptive to feedback and to the comments of others who may well see our business differently to ourselves.

  1. Let people know what you have decided – get them on board!!

Smart business leaders engage people in their business journey and make twists and turns in that journey when it is necessary.  They are aware, reflective and future focussed.

By using this simple 6 step process twice a year you will be more likely to have a fine tuned business that runs efficiently and smoothly in most conditions.

Chris Elphick is Director of Learn.fast Pacific, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Vanuatu and other Pacific countries.  He is an experienced business mentor and has years of experience of working with Small & Medium Enterprises.  He works in Vanuatu as a mentor, coach and trainer.

If you have a business issue for Chris to comment on please contact him at chris@learnfastpacific.com

 

Regional Young Entrepreneurs Forum in Fiji

 

Representatives of government officials, Chambers of Commerce, National Youth Councils and Young Entrepreneurs from five Pacific island countries met in Suva, Fiji from 29 June to 2 July 2016 at a Regional Young Entrepreneurs Forum to discuss a few strategic approach for youth entrepreneurship aimed at increasing investment in youth.  The meeting recognizes that youth employment and entrepreneurship is the biggest issue that affects young people in the Pacific today with average youth unemployment rates at 23 per cent.  The representatives were from Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and Fiji.  The Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce & Industry (VCCI) was represented at the meeting by Mr Stanley John Fred, a young finance business trainer at the VCCI.

The meeting re-examined the existing Pacific Youth Development Framework which targets four broad outcome areas however more emphasis were based on the need for more young people to have secured decent employment and the need for young people to have increase access to relevant education and training in formal and vocational sectors as well as involving more youth in entrepreneurship.

During the discussions, issues that need support were mentioned which included from across the region there are significant gaps between the skills young people acquire through formal education and the needs of employers and the wider economy, Pacific governments and development partners recognise these challenges and are devoting significant efforts and resources to improve labour market institutions, capacities of training institutions to engage with emerging labour market opportunities needs to be improved, strong political will is needed to address youth unemployment and the diverse impact of youth unemployment means there is often no clear policy leader in addressing the issue from a government perspective.

All participating countries were asked to draft their national action plans on how appropriate to deal with youth entrepreneurship and Vanuatu came up with the need for support, both financial and expertise, in holding the First National Youth Employment Forum as a first step in consolidating discussions and policies on youth entrepreneurship and a request for regional stakeholders such as PIPSO, Fiji Young Entrepreneurs Council, successful young entrepreneurs such as Hands on Harvest, POETCom (Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community) and SPCthat presented in the Regional Young Entrepreneurs Forum to also present at this First National Youth Employment Forum.

Further consultations will be held locally among collaborating institutions including donor partners to see when the first National Youth Employment Forum will be held.

Wik blong Vanuatu Trade Fair update

A note to all interested participants of the 2016 Wik blong Vanuatu Trade Fair.

As mentioned in previous meetings, the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) who is coordinating the famous event of the Wik blong Vanuatu in New Caledonia, has set a limit of participants to 60.  The VCCI would like to state that it has already reached the target of 60 participants.  Sixty participants have fully paid their registration fees and the VCCI cannot afford to take more because of the budget restriction.

Again the main aim of this trade fair is not only to exchange cultural and business aspects but also to promote Vanuatu tourism amongst the New Caledonian public.A range of Vanuatu local products will be displayed by the 60 participants such as local spices, handicrafts and carvings.

The VCCI will be contacting the confirmed 60 participants early next week to organize meetings with them.

E Commerce Training for Women in Business

Dear VCCI Members,
Read below an email from Pacific Island Private Sector Organization (PIPSO) on E Commerce for Women in Business:

 

In an effort to support Pacific females in business, 12 women from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are being given the opportunity to undergo PCF Grow Project training, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with PIPSO and PCF. Participants will be put through 10-weeks of training – all of which will be online and conducted by James.

The business women will be selected through a process implemented by PIPSO. The women will be a mixture of those who do not have an online presence and those who do but have had challenges in fully utilizing their websites and social media presence for sales and marketing.

There will be no cost required in setting up websites for participants, however each candidate would be required to pay for Shopify Shore.
We are inviting expressions of interest for female business owners looking to improve sales via training provided by the Grow Pacific project.

Criteria:
· Business principal(s) must be female and based in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu
· Have an existing product or range that can be sold and fulfilled via a website
· Be available for weekly online training and support sessions

Please let interested female participants complete this online form to submit their application: http://www.growpacific.com/form-grow-pacific-participants/