The Union’s Right to Information or How to File a Successful Request For Information

In this article we will answer the following questions and a whole lot more:

• What is a request for information?
• Under what conditions can I request information?
• What can I do if the company refuses to give me the information I requested?

The request for information comes from the obligation and duty to bargain and applies to contract negotiations as well as the grievance procedures that follow.

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.

An employer who refuses to provide information or unreasonably delays the provision of information violates Section 8(a)(5) of the Act.

Information can be requested by a Union who is certified to represent company’s employees for the following reasons:

• To prepare for collective bargaining negotiations
• To monitor the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)
• To investigate a grievance

In order for a request to be valid it must somehow relate to one of the above issues.

For example, a Union is preparing for negotiations and requests a copy of all workplace rules and regulations, a list of all positions to include their duties, responsibilities and where their position is located at.

Another example would be if a Union was investigating the discharge of a member. The Union could request a copy of all information used by the employer to decide to terminate the member, including but not limited to, all evidence, statements, emails, photographs, video recordings, audio recordings, photographs and any notes.

Even though a grievance is not necessary to request information it is recommended that the Union has some form of probable cause to justify a request. It does not hurt the Union’s case to be able to articulate the reasons behind their request.

What types of information can the Union request?

It would actually be easier to list all of the information the Union cannot require from the employer. Here are a few examples of information that is not allowed:

• Information covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA)
• Trade secrets covered as propriety information
• Information which the employer has consistently enforced a policy barring disclosure so long as the employer provides an alternative or substitute form of disclosure

In order for your request to be effective it must contain the following items:

• It must clearly identify the information being requested.
• If the request is in connection to another matter such as a grievance it must be clearly referenced.

The following items are highly recommended:

• Clearly state where the information is to be delivered
• Clearly state how the information is to be delivered
• Clearly state when the information is expected to be delivered
• Clearly state that if any part of the request is denied the employer must state this fact in its response

Now let’s talk about delivery. In order for a request to be effective you must have proof of delivery. This can be accomplished in several ways. They are:

• Via certified mail, return receipt requested.
• By hand delivery, with a statement from the person performing the delivery.
• By fax or by email along with a confirmation copy, a reply or a phone call verifying that it was actually delivered.

What can you do if the company refuses or fails to provide the information requested?

The agency that enforces the National Labor Relations Act is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB is an independent agency of the United States government charged with investigating and remedying unfair labor practices. As previously mentioned, an employer who refuses to provide information or unreasonably delays the provision of information violates Section 8(a)(5) of the Act.

This next part will depend how your Union is set up. Many organizations require Locals to go through their parent organization in order to file NLRB charges. You should check with your National or International before moving forward.

For those Locals or Independent Unions who are left to fend for themselves you can file the charges in two ways. You can fill out the forms yourself and either walk them into the NLRB or fax them in, or you can call the NLRB and the Information Officer (who normally answers the phone) will take the necessary information from you.

After a few days an Agent will contact you and tell you what you will need to do. Be prepared to provide an affidavit under oath as well as provide all relevant information or witnesses to support your case.

Generally speaking, NLRB charges filed over refusals to provide information are not subject to the NLRB’s policy of deferral.

This means that the NLRB will fully investigate the issue and if the violation is found to be valid, the NLRB can order the employer to provide the information requested.

Tips About Invoice Factoring

One of the most difficult things about being in business is cash flow, but invoice factoring may provide the means necessary to keep the business flowing. After all, you need a certain amount of cash on hand at all times. But what if you have a stack of invoices that just haven’t brought in the cash yet? You can’t afford to wait until those customers decide to pay you. If you want to be successful, you’ve got to charge on-even if you don’t have cash on hand.

This may sound impossible, but there are solutions for businesses that have a cash flow problem. Invoice factoring is one of the easiest ways to keep the cash flowing even though your invoices remain unpaid. Here’s how it works. You receive quick cash based on that stack of invoices. It’s quick and easy. The invoice factoring company simply buys your invoices and gives you an advance payment to tie you over until your customers actually pay. Their payment then goes straight to the invoice factoring company. If it sounds too good to be true, then it helps to understand more about the process.

Here are some tips to help you use this financial vehicle successfully:

• Most invoice factoring is done in two installments. The first one is basically an advance, and it is given to you when you hand over the invoice to the financing company. The second payment, which is also known as the rebate, is given to you after your customer pays the invoice.

• Advance payments can be anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of the gross value of the invoices, with 80 percent being about average.

• With this form of creative financing, you get paid immediately rather than having to wait one to three months for your own customer to pay you.

• The cost of using this service depends on three components. The credit level of your customers is one component, and the amount of time it takes for your invoices to get paid is another. The third component is the monthly factored volume.

• Usually you will pay anywhere between 1.5 percent and 5 percent for each transaction you make.

• Businesses that are growing quickly can especially benefit from this form of financing because it enables them to get the cash flow they need quickly to keep up with the rapid pace of orders coming in.

• Invoice factoring is different than a bank loan because most banks will not give you a loan based on the stack of unpaid invoices you have. The focus is instead shifted to how much credit your customers have rather than how much credit your business has.

• It’s helpful to have insurance against fraud and / or requiring your customers to be audited. This will help reduce the risk of using this type of financial solution.

• When choosing a company to handle this part of your financial affairs, choose one that is knowledgeable about the laws regarding it.

The Essence of Information Dissemination in Audit Service in Sierra Leone

Introduction

Information at the heart of everything we do as humans. We generate it, we consume it, we share it and we sell it. The careful managing of information is therefore the key to success in business. An introduction to information dissemination in a business provides a solid overview of the role of information dissemination. It gives guidelines on collecting the right information to the right people to support the firms. ‘ strategic objectives and “oil” the everyday operations of the business.

Definition

Dilman 1978, defined dissemination of information is the active and targeted distribution of information or intervention via determined channels using planned strategies to a specific public or audience.

Dissemination is a formal planned process with the intent of spreading knowledge and enhance the integration of the evidence, information, intervention or combinations of these into routine practice. Information dissemination has been characterized as a necessary and sufficient antecedent of adoption and implementation of organisational policies (Dilman, 1978).

Importance of Information Dissemination in Service Delivery

Before assessing the various approaches used to disseminate information, it is worth revisiting the reasons for disseminating information. There are usually good reasons why organisations decide to disseminate information. These reasons are not necessarily independent of one another but can nonetheless be categorized to emphasis the motivation of an organization when initiating dissemination. The reasons are usually to increase the value of one or more of the following attributes of the enterprise shareholders. The following among others are the reasons for information dissemination in organisations:

To Create Awareness: Information is often disseminated in order to educate, explain or promote a concept, process or principle. For example, technical specifications explaining system capabilities, instruction about alternatives to avoid congested transport routes and guidelines for the completion of work in order to ensure consistent appearance of project deliverables are all ways in which information is disseminated to generally encourage recipients to comply with a procedure in the belief of organizational or enterprise improvements.

To Enhance the Response of Customers: Sometimes information is disseminated solely in the hope it will cause some feedback that might require further information to be generated or be used to validate something. Examples include advertising, questionnaires, market surveys frequently asked question list and testimonials.

To allow Collaboration: Information is often disseminated in order for a group of individuals to share knowledge and routes of communication. Examples include workflow systems to support the flow of information between system entities in order to achieve a common purpose, mailing lists where like minded individuals can listen to and discuss common issues, libraries where people can access information, and control system where probes might detect and transmit warnings about certain event(Fink, 1983).

Background of Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL)

Audit Services Sierra Leone is the supreme audit institution of Sierra Leone section 119 of the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone provides for the establishment of the offices and functions of the Auditor General. It started with establishment of the Audit Act of 1962. It was later called the Auditor General’s Department then the office was moved from the Audit General’s Department to Audit service Sierra Leone due to the Audit service Act 1998 which was implemented in 2004. The Act also created an Audit Service Board (ASB) an Advisory Board which has the power to appoint persons, other than the Auditor General to hold or act in offices as member of the Audit service and to exercise disciplinary control over such persons.

The Audit Service Sierra Leone is headed by the Auditor General who is assisted by four deputies. Its headquarters is at Lotto Building in Freetown with other offices in Freetown, Bo, Makeni and Kenema. Also, the Auditor Generals Mandate is specified in section 119 sub sections “2” of the 1991 constitution. It provides for the Auditor General to audit all government ministries, department, agencies, educational institutions and any other statutory body set up partly or wholly out of public funds. This mandate now includes the 39 aligned ministries and departments’ 19 council’s one hundred and forty-nine chiefdom authorities, 64 statutory bodies and donor funded projects.

Methods of Information Dissemination at the Audit Service Sierra Leone

This organisation uses both manual and electronic for Information dissemination:

Manual means of Information Delivery Dissemination.

The manual means of information dissemination in the Audit Service Sierra Leone are as follow:
• Printed copy of the Auditor General report and other document.
• Disseminate of copy of the Auditor General report and other report to various people.
• Disseminating of the Audit Services newsletter internally and externally to various takes holder.
• Organising meetings with civil society group.
• Awareness raising programs in various schools, groups and universities.

Electronic means of Information Delivery Dissemination.

The electronic means of information dissemination in the Audit Service Sierra Leone are as follow:
• Publishing the Auditor General (AG) report on the Audit Services web-site.
• Airing of the Audit Service juggle of various radio service.
• Disseminating of information through social media eg. Facebook, Whatsapp and Tango etc.
• Organising radio discussions or programs on various radio stations. During the radio programmes, listeners were given the opportunity to respond to issues discussed by making phone calls and sending text messages to numbers that were announced to them. The panelists responded adequately to the questions and comments during the radio programmes.
• Radio jingle-As part of the awareness raising programmes, the communication division produced a radio jingle in English and it was later translate in four local languages (Mende, Temne, Krio and Limba). The jingles are aired on various radio stations in the country.

Users of Information at the Audit Service Sierra Leone

A user of information is a person or an organization using the information created by another institution or organisation. In using the information the users are most often identifiable in advance. They use information on a daily basis because of certain work, assignment or work tasks. The following are the Information service of Audit Service Sierra Leone:

Administrative Personnel

Employees of an organization and staff of the HRM department to be specific can access records about their operational and organisation maintenance to make correct decision and solve administrative problems. Directors within the HRM will also obtain information from the record department for taking decisions pertaining promotion, recruitment, transfer and payment of retirement benefits.

Researcher / External user

Audit services are research oriented as a matter of fact, researchers use their information to gain knowledge of the department or the civil service researching on the activities and initiatives of the government. The outcome of these research activities is normally for academic purposes which will help the researcher to gain an in depth knowledge about the ways staff or civil servants, are recruited, promoted, and terminated.

Journalists

The other important users of the information generated at the Audit service office are journalist who may want to investigate claims pertaining poor recruitment and appointment of personnel in the various departments.

Types of Information Acquired at the Audit Service Sierra Leone

Operation Audit Information

A Future- oriented, systematic and independent evaluation of organization activities. Financial data may be used, but the primary sources of evidence are the operational policies and achievements related to organizational objectives. Internal controls and efficiencies may be evaluated during this types of information review.

Financial Information Audit

A historically oriented, independent evaluation performed for the purpose of attesting to the fairness, accuracy, and reliability of financial data. External auditors need this type of information.

Department Information Review
A current period analysis of administration functions to evaluate the adequacy of controls, safeguarding of assets, efficient use of resources, compliance with related laws, regulations and universal policy and integrity of financial information.

Investigative Information Audit

This types of information takes place as a result of a report of unusual or suspicious activity on the part of an individual or a department. It is usually focused on specific aspects of the work of a department or individual. All members of the community are invited to report suspicions of improper activity to the Director of Internal Auditing Services on a confidential basis.

Follow up Information Audit

These are information conducted approximately six months after an internal or external audit report has been issued. They are designed to evaluate corrective action that has been taken on the audit issues reported in the original report when these follow up audits information are done an external auditors reports, the results of the follow up may be reported to those external auditors.

Integrated Information Audit

This is a combination of an operational audit, department review, and its audit application controls review. This type of review allows for a functional operation within the institution (Silver, 2010).

Challenges faced in Information Dissemination at the Audit Service Sierra Leone

Some problems that Audit service encounters with audit information are highlighted as follows:

Finance Problem

One problem that is affecting the institution’s information delivery is finance, and for any organization to survive or sustain thorough development these should be some amount of finance. The organisation faces financial serious challenges in their information service delivery.

Poor Planning of Information Service

The information service is not well effective in the audit service because the people responsible for that are not professionally trained. Only few of them have the capability to do the work in the audit department because of the fact that the information is not received at the right time in line with the needs of the users. The committee does not meet regularly to discuss issues on that.

Lack of Adequate Staff

The challenge of inadequate and untrained staffing situation poses a serious problem for the smooth running of the organisation. The issue of inappropriate staffing can hamper the smooth handling and delivery of information.

In conclusion, information delivery of audit information plays a vital crucial role in the effective management of staff, in any organization. Information is at the heart of any organization or institution that performs the activities related to learning, teaching, research and generation of new knowledge. The goal of information delivery at audit service is to attract and retain a workforce that will enable the institution or organization to achieve its purpose and objectives. However, this work has considered some of the more common pitfalls that hamper effective in Information dissemination which auditors should avoid during the source of their work.

How To Improve Your Business’ Cash Flow Forecast With Factoring

Cash flow forecasting is good business practice for any business.

The cash flow forecast is divided into periods of time and shows the flow of cash through a business, what it starts the month with, what it receives, what it pays out and the balance of cash left at the end of the month. Normally the period will be months but where cash is tight a business may forecast their cash flow on a weekly or even daily basis.

The key issues that factoring addresses is that businesses tend to sell on credit terms to each other. That means that if you raise an invoice today it will typically be on 30 days payment terms. That means that it will be 30 days from today’s date until that invoice is due for payment.

The reality is that the time taken to pay that invoice can be much longer, may be 60 or even 90 days. There may be 101 different reasons for this but as examples, in some cases the customer may only pay invoices at the end of each month which means that an invoice received mid-month may only be paid at the end of the following month. In addition, businesses often stretch out their payments to suppliers, beyond their payment terms, in order to fund their own businesses. Put simply, if they don’t pay your invoice they don’t have to borrow the money from their bank in order to pay your invoice!

Below is an example of how delayed payment of invoices can affect the cash flow forecast of a small business:

Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Month 4
Invoices raised (£)
10000 10000 10000 10000

Invoices outstanding at beginning of month
0 10000 20000 30000

Invoices paid by debtors during month
0 0 0 10000

Invoices outstanding at end of month
10000 20000 30000 30000

You can see that the business does not receive any cash from invoices being paid by debtors until Month 4.

Despite the lack of payment of your invoices the product still has to be purchased and delivered to the customer. Even if you are able to get credit terms from your suppliers it is unlikely that they will be long enough to account for the extended time that customers may take to pay you. Similarly, all your business expenses and bills still fall due each month and you need cash to pay them despite not having been paid by your customers. This creates a cash flow gap – the gap between the time that you have to pay your expenses and bills and the time that you get payment from your customers for the goods or services that you provide.

The cash flow forecast below shows how the expenses of the business fall due from Month 1 onwards but because of the delays in being paid by debtors, the business has a negative cash position throughout the forecast that will need to be funded from somewhere:

Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Month 4
Invoices raised (£)
10000 10000 10000 10000

Invoices outstanding at beginning of month
0 10000 20000 30000

Invoices paid by debtors during month
0 0 0 10000

Invoices outstanding at end of month
10000 20000 30000 30000

Cash on hand at beginning of month
0 -6000 -12000 -18000

Cash received during month
0 0 0 10000

Expenses paid during month
6000 6000 6000 6000

Cash on hand at end of month
-6000 -12000 -18000 -14000

One solution is factoring bridges that cash flow gap, as soon as you raise your invoices a copy goes to the factoring company who then provide you with 85% (sometimes more) of their value immediately. That 85% means that you have the bulk of the money immediately, certainly enough to pay your expenses and bills within a business that has even the most reasonable of profit margins.

This cash flow forecast shows the same business but you will see that from Month 1 they receive 85% of the value of the invoices that they raise immediately:
NB Factoring charges are not shown in these examples but should be added into your forecast
That 85% is then repaid to the factoring company when the customer finally gets around to paying and the remaining 15% then becomes available to you from that payment (less the charges that the factoring company makes).

The above cash flow forecast also shows the effect of that balance of funds being past onto the business, after the customers pay, in month 4.

So by using forms of invoice finance such as factoring a business that could not afford to fund its cash flow gap is able to adequately provide enough cash to pay its business expenses as soon as it starts trading.

Personal Training and Information Literacy

Scholarship, Practice, and Leadership

Information literacy is extremely important in the health and wellness industry, more specifically in the personal training field. It takes a short amount of time and education to become a personal trainer, and the pay is relatively high for what a person needs accomplish to become certified. An abundance of personal trainers exists because of the high pay, the short amount of time it takes to become certified, and the growing need for society to improve their health. In order for a personal trainer to stand out and become sought-after for their repeated results and excellent workouts, the trainer must be an expert at researching information, comprehending new research, and applying both.

In the article How we Failed the Net Generation, Badke discusses the World Wide Web saying, “… few of us had any idea what it would become in less than 2 decades. Many of our students grew up with the web, so for them it is not a novelty. It’s mainstream. It’s embedded in their lives” (Badke, 2009, p. 47). Most personal trainers only have completed a certification, very limited in information about exercise science, and not a degree at a college or university. Because of their lack of education, the first place most trainers turn for their information is the World Wide Web and not scholarly, peer reviewed research studies. The Internet is not a credible source for information. Anyone can write a blog or post fitness workouts and nutrition information based solely on opinion, and not scientific studies. In order for a personal trainer to ensure they are providing safe and effective workouts to their clients, the trainer must be able not only to read and study research studies but also keep up with the changing information.

One topic not taught in a personal training certification is how to find and decipher sound fitness information. Pia Russell discusses how students are facing the same issues as personal trainers in their studies.

Students have difficulty evaluating the glut of information available, and to cope they frequently depend on quick but questionable sources, like Dictionary.com, which can result in a blind acceptance of advertising-based information, or sources that depend on a truth by consensus approach such as Wikipedia. (Russell, 2009, p. 92).

In order for a personal trainer to be an expert in their field, someone people will listen to, and follow, the trainer needs to stay up-to-date on current research. Personal trainers need to know how to search for information when they face questions they are unsure of. A personal trainer’s job is not only to provide an effective workout but also to educate their clients with researched based information.

Larissa Turusheva discusses the importance of information competence in lifelong learning and education. In Larissa’s study she states,

Information competence is a skill:

• to determine the size of the necessary information;

• to use the necessary information effectively;

• to evaluate the information and its sources critically;

• to develop own knowledge base with the information chosen;

• to effectively use the information for goal achievement;

• to use the information ethically (ACRL, 2000). (Turusheva, 2009, p. 2).

In the personal training field every skill involved in information competence is important. A personal trainer must determine which information is important and which information is not. The trainer needs to evaluate where the information is coming from and apply the necessary information to help the trainer’s clients reach his or her goals fast and effectively. The most important skill a trainer must apply in information competency is using the information ethically. It is unethical for a personal trainer who knows their client has a heart condition to instruct their client to do contraindicative exercises when the trainer knows those exercises put the client at risk. This situation could occur for many reasons. The trainer could be working with a group and does not want to give an alternate exercise or the trainer could want to push their client harder. Implementing ethical practices is part of information competence and extremely important in the personal training profession.

Leo Appleton conducted a study about the information competency skills of student midwives. In the study, the students were taught information research skills and the grading requirements became stricter to promote credible information sources. The results of Appleton’s study showed, “Students reported increased confidence in using library and information resources. Appropriate and timely information-skills training embedded into health-studies curricula can lead to students becoming independent and lifelong learners, as well as improving the standard of their academic work” (Appleton, 2005, p. 1). Not only were these students able to learn how to effectively search and decipher information during their schooling, but also, the training followed the students into their careers in the health field. Personal trainers who have information competency will be able to provide their clients with everything they need to be successful, long term.
Conclusion

Information literacy is vital in every profession and should be taught and enforced when students are in school. Students need to be taught the valuable skills needed to conduct quality research and decipher the material. Those skills will follow students into their careers, where they will be considered experts in their field and leaders. Even if the students are just trying to become certified in a certain field, those skills should be taught during the certification process. Most personal trainers receive only a certification and are never taught how to research accurate information. Because of this the trainers turn to the Internet for their answers. In turn, many personal trainers are making recommendations to their clients based on opinion and not research. This practice has serious implications for the health of their clients and the personal trainer’s credibility. Personal trainers must learn the skill of literacy competence.
To your health,

Jessica Summerall

References

Appleton, L. (2005). Examination of the impact of information-skills training on the academic work of health-studies students: a single case study. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 22(3), 164-172. doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2005.00576.x

Badke, W. (2009). How we failed the net generation. Online, 33(4), 47-49.

Russell, P. (2009). Why Universities Need Information Literacy Now More than Ever. Feliciter, 55(3), 92.

Turusheva, L. (2009). STUDENTS’ INFORMATION COMPETENCE AND ITS IMPORTANCE FOR LIFE-LONG EDUCATION. Problems Of Education In The 21St Century, 12126-132.

Cash Flow Forecasting for Milestone Billing

Forecasting cash flow for a one invoice project is pretty easy to understand. Cash will hit your bank account when that invoice becomes due. But what about projects that have multiple billing milestones? How can you predict cash flow for multiple future billings over an extended period of time?

*What do you really want to know?*

Part of the confusion with predicting cash flow is understanding which tool to use for the job. QuickBooks does have a cash flow forecasting report which is useful for telling you what should happen for the invoices and bills that have been entered into the system. This type of forecast will easily show you when payments should arrive in your bank account (if everyone pays what they owe on time) and when payments will leave your bank account (if you have every payment entered as a bill and pay them on time). If you want to know what should happen, the QuickBooks report will work just fine. If you want to know what will happen based on real life conversations….keep reading.

To generate the QuickBooks type of cash flow forecasting for progress billing, you would need to enter your invoices at the beginning of the project. You would then set a reminder to actually send the invoice on the date of said invoice. This approach is dangerous. There’s a pretty big risk that the invoice won’t be sent or, if the scope changes, no on will remember those invoices were out there. In those cases, your cash flow forecasting is wrong and you’ll end up calling collections for invoices that were never sent and/or aren’t owed.

*Real life is messy.*

In addition to the risks involved with invoicing early, the forecasting report is limited to what SHOULD happen. We all know real life is messier and you want to know what WILL happen to your cash. Every day you are having conversations about late invoices or accepting payment arrangements. You know that your biggest client always pays at 60 days, even though the invoice is due in 30 days. The only way to get those adjustments into QuickBooks is to change what should happen to what will happen.Do we really want to change due dates in QuickBooks to match what you know will happen? Absolutely not! We want our accounting systems to reflect our contractual agreements. We need to accurately reflect how past due invoices actually are. How else will you have effective collections conversations?

*A better tool for the job.*

The cash flow forecast, on the other hand, needs to be an estimation of what really will happen. A relatively simple Microsoft Excel spreadsheet is usually the best tool for the job. This spreadsheet will track when you expect your revenue to hit the bank account and when your bills and payroll will leave the bank account. The first column (each column represents a time period, usually a week) in your spreadsheet will begin with your bank account balance, then add incoming cash, subtract outgoing cash, and finally total to what you expect to have left in the bank. That ending bank balance will be the beginning bank balance in the next column (time period)…wash, rinse, repeat.

For our progress invoicing question, as soon as the project agreement is signed, we can drop the cash receipts into the weeks we estimate they’ll be received. Of course, the project may change course causing the invoice dates and cash receipt expectations to change. When that happens, we’ll make those adjustments in our spreadsheet and immediately see the impact on our cash balance.

Keeping an updated cash flow forecast will enable you to make smart money decisions. If you see the ending balance is going negative, you know you need to make some adjustments to your plan. If you want to make a large purchase or extend longer payment terms to a client, you can make those adjustments in your forecast; you’ll know if you have enough cash to support it before you make the commitment.

Cash in the Barrel: Oilfield Service Companies Between a Rock and Hard Place When Seeking Financing

Many oilfield service companies have major cash flow problems, and it’s not their fault. Most of the big oil and gas companies pay their invoices in 30-90 days. Many oilfield service companies don’t have the cash reserves to wait for those payments; they have their own obligations to meet. Oilfield service companies have high cash demands and slow turnaround times, and business owners feel it where it hurts-their pocket books. This puts oilfield service companies between a rock and a hard place.

At first glance, it would seem that the company should open up a traditional line of credit so they can pump working capital into the business as needed. In principle, this is a great idea. Getting a traditional line of credit is very difficult for many oilfield service companies because most banks require substantial collateral, clean balance sheets, and long successful histories. In reality, few oilfield service companies meet those criteria. But, there is a solution. Invoice factoring.

Accounts receivable financing, or factoring has gotten a bad rap-and rightfully so. When this method of financing started becoming popular in the US, many factoring companies took advantage of growing businesses that were vulnerable and were charging sky-high rates and running off their customers with aggressive collection practices.

Today, invoice financing has a whole new face and is much more business friendly.

Invoice factoring allows business, such as oilfield service companies, to capture revenues that would have been locked up in slow payment of invoices. Factoring reduces the time it takes your business to get paid, so you can stay current on payroll and payables.

There are three main benefits of invoice factoring for oilfield service companies:

1. Predictable and reliable cash flow: The business’ cash flow improves immediately as invoices are created and sold.

2. Increased sales: Flexible credit terms give the business a competitive edge in its marketplace. Predictable cash flow allows more sales to large but slower paying customers.

3. Reduce debt and fund growth:The proceeds from the sale of invoices can be used to pay off debt, take cash discounts on purchases, acquire inventory, or capitalize on growth opportunities.

The way invoice factoring works is quite simple: the factored invoice proceeds are sent to the business in two installments. The first installment (usually 90% of the face value of the invoice) is sent to you within 24 hours after submitting the invoice to the factoring company. The second installment, also called the reserve, is remitted to you, less the factoring fee, when your customer pays the invoice.

Factoring companies don’t look at your business’ credit, but they look at the credit worthiness of your customers. Businesses that have tax liens, recent bankruptcies, or debtor-in-possession even qualify invoice financing.

Invoice factoring is the perfect tool for stability and growth in oilfield service companies. Factoring lines are designed to increase as your sales grow and self-liquidate as they cool off, which helps smooth the cash flow cycle through periods of price volatility.

7 Top Tips for Managing Information Overload

What is Information Overload?

Contrary to popular belief information overload is a concept that has been around for centuries. As early as the 3rd or 4th century BC, people regarded information overload with disapproval. Around this time, in Ecclesiastes 12:12, the passage revealed the writer’s comment “of making books there is no end” and in 1st century AD, Seneca the Elder commented, that “the abundance of books is distraction.”

The term “Information overload” was popularized by Alvin Toffler in his bestselling 1970 book Future Shock. It refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information.

However, it has been the advent of the Information Age and access to the internet that has popularised the phenomenon that is Information Overload. The internet has connected billions of people to a constant and growing source of information that is not only available but is relentlessly pushed at people.

Sources of Information Overload

So where does all this information come from? The 3 main culprits are:

Email – Without doubt the biggest source of information. People receive vast numbers of Emails of all descriptions on a daily basis. Most of these are spam and maybe caught by spam filters but many will end up in people’s inbox.

RSS Feeds – The ability to subscribe for all the latest information updates from websites that people are interested in.

Social Media – The rise in popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc. and the advent of smart phones have provided a constant stream of information that is accessible from anywhere at anytime. Whilst a lot of this information is easy to digest it is often a gateway to more information and, if you’re not careful, you can lose hours digesting information and conversing with friends, colleagues and associates.

7 Tips to Avoid Information Overload

So how do you get this information under control? Here are my top 7 tips which will hopefully provide some help.

1. Reduce number of emails

No surprises here as it is the greatest source of information. More efficient use of email is a blog post in its own right. However, you must reduce the volume of emails that you receive by unsubscribing from as many lists as possible. You will not and cannot process all the information that is being sent to you so be ruthless. If you find that there is something you really miss then you can always re-subscribe… the sender will not mind!

2. Turn off notifications

If you are notified every time an email, text, Facebook post or tweet hits your inbox then your tendency will be to have a look to see who it is from and whether it is important. Chances are that it can wait and it is not worth the interruption of what you were doing.

3. Define your Goals

Ensure you have very clear goals and activities to achieve those goals. In this way you will only process the information that is important to that particular activity or task.

4. Keep Focused

Avoid all the temptations to read another email or article. Stay true to the task you are working on. The distraction may look really interesting, but is it a good use of your valuable time?

5. Allocate time for Information review

Set time aside to allow yourself to browse through the mountain of information. It is important that keep abreast of what is going on and get some fresh ideas and perspectives. Try allocating time when you are least productive so that you don’t waste that valuable ‘doing’ time. Perhaps you could sacrifice some of the time in front of the TV.

6. 80:20 rule

If you a researching a topic then often the 80:20 rule will apply, i.e. you will obtain 80% of the information you need from 20% of the material that is available. You could spend a lot more time processing more information but it will not add a great deal more value to your work. I would recommend the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss for a great explanation of this concept.

7. Archive for Future use

If you believe the information may be useful at some stage in the future then set up some rules to archive the information. Ideally use automatic rules where possible so that you are not tempted to have a quick sneak only to find that you are still reading it 30 minutes later. Many email systems will allow you to set up rules that will send emails to specific folders based on the sender or subject details.

The volume of information that is available is only going to grow and grow so you need to take control of the way in which you access the information and manage your time. To put it in context consider this amazing statistic:

‘All of the information produced between the dawn of time and 2003 is now being produced every 48 hours!’

I will leave you with this question, how much of this information do you really need to know about?

9 Rules of Cash Flow

There is an old saying: “When you’re out of cash, you’re out of business.” However cash flow can be one of the most difficult challenges when running a small business. Knowing some basic rules of cash flow can help to free you from money worries. These ten basic rules will help you take control of your cash so you can enable your business to succeed.

  1. Cash Is King. It’s important to recognize that cash is what keeps your business alive. Manage it with great care, because it is the lifeblood of your business.
  2. Never Run Out of Cash. Make a commitment to do what it takes to maintain cash flow. If you don’t, you’re out of business.
  3. Know Your Cash Balance. Do you know what your cash balance is right now? You should. It’s absolutely critical that you always know your exact cash balance. Failure is inevitable if you are making business decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate information.
  4. Daily on a Daily Basis. In other words, do today’s work today. The key to knowing your cash balance is to have up-to-date information in your accounting system. Having the numbers you need, when you need them is critical.
  5. Invoice Immediately. You can’t have cash in the bank until you collect it. If there is a delay in sending out your invoices, there will be an equal delay in receiving cash. Invoice daily if you can.
  6. Never Manage From your Bank Account Balance. Your bank balance is never a true measure of your cash. The cash in your bank account and your real cash balance are two different things. Don’t make the mistake of confusing them. Attempting to mange cash flow from your bank account is a prescription for failure.
  7. Forecast Your Cash Flow. What is your cash balance going to be like in six months? Knowing this can tell you if you are managing your business or if your business is managing you. Predicting your cash balance into the future will give you critical information you need to successfully manage your cash flow today. Be proactive in your approach to cash management.
  8. Cash Flow Issues Don’t Just Happen. It is amazing how many small businesses fail because the owner didn’t recognize that they had a cash flow problem in time to do something about it. Just like any other problem, there are always signs well before cash flow issues appear. Reviewing your cash flow forecast on a regular basis will help you to prepare well in advance of having a real cash problem.
  9. Get Expert Advice. Not all business owners are comfortable with calculating projections or conducting a trend analysis. Many times they just don’t have the time. Bookkeepers, although capable, may not provide the insightful knowledge that a seasoned professional may. Wrong information can lead to wrong decisions. Have an expert (a CPA, or Financial Analyst) review your accounts to help you make the best decisions you can make for your business. It is well worth the investment.

Taking a focused and pragmatic approach to managing your cash will allow you to ultimately focus on what you want most… growing your business. That’s a recipe for success.

Information Security Management System: Introduction to ISO 27001

Current Scenario: Present day organizations are highly dependent on Information systems to manage business and deliver products/services. They depend on IT for development, production and delivery in various internal applications. The application includes financial databases, employee time booking, providing helpdesk and other services, providing remote access to customers/ employees, remote access of client systems, interactions with the outside world through e-mail, internet, usage of third parties and outsourced suppliers.

Business Requirements:Information Security is required as part of contract between client and customer. Marketing wants a competitive edge and can give confidence building to the customer. Senior management wants to know the status of IT Infrastructure outages or information breaches or information incidents within organization. Legal requirements like Data Protection Act, copyright, designs and patents regulation and regulatory requirement of an organization should be met and well protected. Protection of Information and Information Systems to meet business and legal requirement by provision and demonstration of secure environment to clients, managing security between projects of competing clients, preventing leak of confidential information are the biggest challenges to Information System.

Information Definition: Information is an asset which like other important business assets is of value to an organization and consequently needs to be suitably protected. Whatever forms the information takes or means by which it is shared or stored should always be appropriately protected.

Forms of Information: Information can be stored electronically. It can be transmitted over network. It can be shown on videos and can be in verbal.

Information Threats:Cyber-criminals, Hackers, Malware, Trojans, Phishes, Spammers are major threats to our information system. The study found that the majority of people who committed the sabotage were IT workers who displayed characteristics including arguing with co-workers, being paranoid and disgruntled, coming to work late, and exhibiting poor overall work performance. Of the cybercriminals 86% were in technical positions and 90% had administrator or privileged access to company systems. Most committed the crimes after their employment was terminated but 41% sabotaged systems while they were still employees at the company.Natural Calamities like Storms, tornados, floods can cause extensive damage to our information system.

Information Security Incidents: Information security incidents can cause disruption to organizational routines and processes, decrease in shareholder value, loss of privacy, loss of competitive advantage, reputational damage causing brand devaluation, loss of confidence in IT, expenditure on information security assets for data damaged, stolen, corrupted or lost in incidents, reduced profitability, injury or loss of life if safety-critical systems fail.

Few Basic Questions:

• Do we have IT Security policy?

• Have we ever analyzed threats/risk to our IT activities and infrastructure?

• Are we ready for any natural calamities like flood, earthquake etc?

• Are all our assets secured?

• Are we confident that our IT-Infrastructure/Network is secure?

• Is our business data safe?

• Is IP telephone network secure?

• Do we configure or maintain application security features?

• Do we have segregated network environment for Application development, testing and production server?

• Are office coordinators trained for any physical security out-break?

• Do we have control over software /information distribution?

Introduction to ISO 27001:In business having the correct information to the authorized person at the right time can make the difference between profit and loss, success and failure.

There are three aspects of information security:

Confidentiality: Protecting information from unauthorized disclosure, perhaps to a competitor or to press.

Integrity: Protecting information from unauthorized modification, and ensuring that information, such as price list, is accurate and complete

Availability: Ensuring information is available when you need it. Ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information is essential to maintain competitive edge, cash flow, profitability, legal compliance and commercial image and branding.

Information Security Management System (ISMS): This is the part of overall management system based on a business risk approach to establish, implement, operate, monitor, review, maintain and improve information security. The management system includes organizational structure, policies, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes and resources.

About ISO 27001:- A leading international standard for information security management. More than 12,000 organizations worldwide certified against this standard. Its purpose is to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.Technical security controls such as antivirus and firewalls are not normally audited in ISO/IEC 27001 certification audits: the organization is essentially presumed to have adopted all necessary information security controls. It does not focus only on information technology but also on other important assets at the organization. It focuses on all business processes and business assets. Information may or may not be related to information technology & may or may not be in a digital form. It is first published as department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Code of Practice in UK known as BS 7799.ISO 27001 has 2 Parts ISO/IEC 27002 & ISO/IEC 27001

ISO / IEC 27002: 2005: It is a code of practice for Information Security Management. It provides best practice guidance. It can be used as required within your business. It is not for certification.

ISO/IEC 27001: 2005:It is used as a basis for certification. It is something Management Program + Risk Management. It has 11 Security Domains, 39 Security Objectives and 133 Controls.

ISO/IEC 27001: The standard contains the following main sections:

 

  • Risk Assessment
  • Security Policy
  • Asset Management
  • Human Resources Security
  • Physical and Environmental Security
  • Communications and Operations Management
  • Access Control
  • Information Systems Acquisition, development and maintenance
  • Information Security Incident Management
  • Business Continuity Management
  • Compliance

 

Benefits of Information Security Management Systems (ISMS):competitive Advantages: Business partners and customers respond favorably to trustworthy companies. Having ISMS will demonstrate maturity and trustworthiness. Some companies will only partner with those who have ISMS. Implementing ISMS can lead to efficiencies in operations, leading to reduced costs of doing business. Companies with ISMS may be able to compete on pricing also.

Reasons for ISO 27001: There are obvious reasons to implement an Information Security Management System (ISO 27001). ISO 27001 standard meets the statutory or regulatory compliance. Information assets are very important and valuable to any organization. Confidence of shareholders, business partner, customers should be developed in the Information Technology of the organization to take business advantages. ISO 27001 certification shows that Information assets are well managed keeping into consideration the security, confidentiality and availability aspects of the information assets.

Instituting ISMS:Information Security -Management Challenge or Technical Issue? Information security must be seen as a management and business challenge, not simply as a technical issue to be handed over to experts. To keep your business secure, you must understand both the problems and the solutions. To institute ISMS management play 80% role and 20% responsibility of technology system.

Beginning: – Before beginning to institute ISMS you need to get approval from Management/Stake Holders. You have to see whether you are attempting to do it for whole organization or just a part. You must assemble a team of stakeholders and skilled professionals. You may choose to supplement the team with consultants with implementation experience.

ISMS (ISO 27001) Certification: An independent verification by third party of the information security assurance of the organization based on ISO 27001:2005 standards.

Pre-Certification: Stage 1 – Documentation Audit

Stage 2 – Implementation Audit

Post- certification: Continuing Surveillance for 2 years 3rd-Year Re-assessment/Recertification

Conclusion: Prior to implementation of management system for Information Security controls, organization does have various securities control over information system.These security controls tend to somewhat disorganized and disjointed. Information, being a very critical asset to any organization needs to be well protected from being leaked or hacked out. ISO/IEC 27001 is a standard for Information security management system (ISMS) that ensures well managed processes are being adapted for information security. Implementation of ISMS lead to efficiencies in operations leading to reduced costs of doing business.