by Gareth Cotten on 12/03/10 at 12:00 pm
Finance tip: Estate planning
Draw up, or update, your will. Having recently gone into a new tax year here at home, and with the tax changes in the annual Budget having been announced, it reminded me that it’s a good time to have a look at your will. For too many people, this is something they find a bit too morbid, and they never get around to doing it, but it’s one of the most important documents you’ll ever have. Inadequate planning for what happens to your assets and liabilities when you pass away – also known as estate planning – can have huge effects on the amount of tax that you and your heirs pay. Also, if you die without a will, most countries have laws that dictate a pre-determined split of your estate amongst your surviving relatives (in South Africa, this is the law of intestate succession) – often not in the way which you would have liked things to be allocated. So, if you do have a will, but haven’t looked at it for years, do a thorough review. Have your circumstances changed at all? Are the people named in the will still in your life? Do you have more assets or more liabilities that haven’t been taken into account? If you don’t have a will, get moving on putting one together. Sit down with one or two trusted advisors – accountants or lawyers specifically – and work through the various options. Think about who you want to be in charge of your estate when you pass on (know as the executor); how you want to share out what there will be; tax implications of each option; bequeathing to charities; whether you’ll have children/grandchildren; etc. In many countries, even if you don’t have a formal will, but you have an informal ‘letter of wishes’ of how you want things to be handled, that can be recognized as sufficient evidence for the executor to work from…
Business tip: Sales/Marketing
Harness the internet to find out more about your customers. Too often, business owners or salespeople do themselves a disservice by not doing enough research before pitching to a client. Yes, they may well click through the company’s website to get a feel for the business, but there’s so much more that they can do. It’s important to remember that whenever looking for new business, you always deal with people. You may be approaching a business, but it’s a human being who’s going to sign off on the deal. Find out the full name of who you’ll be pitching to, and then do as much research as you possibly can on them as a person. Google them, look them up on Facebook, see if they have a Twitter feed. Use the information that gets kicked up from your search to find a personal angle to approach them on – some common ground that you can use to get past their initial defences. An example: You’ve got the name of the buyer at a big national company, who would be an amazing client to have. Googling him kicks up a few hits with the usual corporate bumpf, but there are also a number of articles which he’s written on hiking and wilderness trails. Through his limited profile on Facebook, you can also see that he’s a member of a number of hiking and trail conservation groups – maybe there are a couple of pics of him on there as well. Come meeting day, and while making small talk, you mention how the weather of late has allowed you to take advantage of a new hiking trail in your area, and how much you enjoyed it. The conversation starts flowing and – bingo – instant rapport! Your chances of closing the sale have just shot up exponentially. Be wary of lying or fabricating stories to create a link, though. The point is to find something with which you can truly relate to the person, and make use of that; not to build tenuous relationships based on half-truths (you’ll always get caught out, and these will blow up in your face down the line)…
Gareth Cotten is one of the growing breed of SA entrepreneurs with that ‘world-domination’ look in his eyes. Gareth runs the coaching and consulting practice 'Good Advice'. Gareth is also the 'course convener' for the University of Cape Town (Law@Work) Start and Manage a Small Business course and the University of Cape Town Basics of Financial Management course. View more articles by Gareth Cotten.