Numbering System For Policies and Procedures

Numbering policy and procedure documents can be easy or hard depending on how you finally decide on the numbering format. I use simple numbering as you’ll see below but there are reasons for having a more complicated numbering system. I will give you both options and you can decide.

Option 1: Simple system. First of all, I like to do a four or five digit numbering system for all policies and procedures. In other words, I don’t use a separate numbers for policies and then another for procedures. Also, I like to use a sequential numbering starting from a large number like 1000 or 10000. For example, if I have a Human Resources policy on relocation, a second procedure on Purchase Requisitions, and a third policy on Forms Management, then the numbering system, based on a four-digits, would be:

  1. 1000 – Relocation Policy
  2. 1001 – Purchase Requisition Procedure
  3. 1002 – Forms Management

In some companies, I have given out ranges like 1000 to 1200 for Corporate Policies and Procedures and 1201 to 1500 for Human Resources and so on. The problem with ranges is that there is a possibility of a department running of out numbers, which by the way, happened one time to me and it has never happened again. 

Option 2: Some policies and procedures writers use a more complex system to try and pinpoint specific areas within departments. For example, a company might use a format such as:

MF-RC-PE-1001 to stand for the first procedure in the Receiving Department within the Manufacturing Department. A policy might have the number MF-RC-PL-1002 where PL stands for policy. You get the picture.

I have to admit that I did use this numbering format early in my career but it’s so hard to maintain. And forget ever maintaining it when the departments change their name. For example, when Office Services becomes Administrative Services or when Engineering becomes Research and Development or when Office of the President becomes Corporate Offices. When this happens, your entire numbering system would have to change.

Summary: I prefer the four or five number numbering system due to its simplicity. I find the second option as cumbersome but yet some companies might find good reason to use it. The system you select is your choice but all I recommend is that you do some research as to how it will hold up over time in your company environment.

When, Why and How to Ask for Prepayments and Extra Payments As an Expert Witness

Should you ask for a retainer? Yes, you should. If a case appears simple, a modest retainer fee equivalent to two or three hours of your consulting rate may be fair. You can reduce your initial retainer fee under special circumstances or for limited scope of work. In the same fashion, you can raise your retainer at other times when the initial work will be dramatically larger. After assessing how many hours of initial work you will need to undertake, let that guide you to the size of your retainer.

Be particular about the initial expectations so that you can quantify the initial retainer. Ask, and agree, on the materials you must read, the research or investigations you must complete, and consider what tests you must run. Confirm your understanding with an email, a fax or a letter, depending on the urgency of the work. Then, wait until you've received the retainer check or payment before starting the work. If the attorney tells you that the job is urgent, send him wire transfer information so that he can wire your retainer directly to your bank account. This can easily happen in a 24-hour period.

Always ask for an initial payment before you begin work on a case or you might end up working for nothing. If, by the end of the case, the hours you spent did not consume the retainer, you should refund the difference.

Occidentally an attorney will ask you to do work for free. A free first telephone conversation representatives goodwill and can be an encouragement to engage you when the case seems right. Doing analysis or research for advocates and charging them nothing is unprofessional. On the other hand, you can certainly consider pro-bono work from time to time, just as attorneys occasionally do.

One novel element remains to consider. As your reputation grows, attorneys will sometimes retain you just to be sure that the other side can not employ you. As a result, you should value the use of your name as an expert witness, and considering imposing a minimum fee whenever an attorney wants to retain you. You can apply this minimum charge against services, so it will have no impact on the total cost to the client unless the attorney never uses your services.

In my retainer contract, my terms require both an advance retainer and a replenishment of all or part of the retention from time to time. The amount of replenishment depends on what additional work the attorney requires of me. Some experts require that the attorney or client maintain a minimum retainer. To do so, you should bill to restore that minimum whenever the balance in the pre-paid account for the client falls below a specific level. Ask for new advance payments whenever it becomes similar that additional work will deplete the existing balance in the client's account.

Typically, your client will not have to replenish the retainer if the additional work only requires one to several hours. But you should request advance payment in the following instances:

1. If a sudden surge occurs in discovery materials for your review.

2. If your attorney requests that you travel for conferences and meetings.

3. If any investigations require you to travel to job sites or company offices for observations, meetings, and any other explorations.

4. If your deposition has been scheduled. You will have to reserve a variable number of days in your schedule for the deposition, for a pre-deposition conference, and possibly for the travel time as well.

5. If a trial has been scheduled; you will have the same factors of blocking out time for possible travel, meetings, and testimony.

You should also estimate airfare, hotel, car, and food expenses as well. You can contain those in requested advance payments. If you ask for advance payments, ask for them well in advance. Larger companies often have processing delays for invoices or payment requests. You do not want those delays to stand in the way of your work. Do not wait until the last minute to ask for advance payment. Your business needs to be organized enough to estimate the size of advance payments. You can base those payments on discussions with the attorney about the progress of the case and what work you expect will be required of you.

The most important advance payment is the one that precedes a trial. Be firm in asking for advance payment for your anticipated billings before traveling to testify at a trial. Clients have now spent a large sum of money by the time a trial begins. If the client loses in the trial, he either may not be able, or choose not, to pay you. But because he needs your testimony at the trial, put the pressure on him to pay beforehand and not on you to collect afterwards.

Receiving advance payment for your trial testimony time permits you to respond "No" to the potential cross examining question of whether the client owes you any money.

If the client has now paid you, you can honestly point out that the verdict in the case will have no affect on your testimony.

Introduction to Fixed Asset Management

There are obvious benefits from implementing and maintaining a record and control over assets. Savings can be obtained from being able to both see current asset deployment and thereby maximizing their use. Monitoring assets will reduce unauthorized use or misappropriation and insure employees leaving a firm return assets under their control. In some cases a system is mandated by government regulations, terms of lending, public grant terms, insurance terms etc. One person can maintain and manage all fixed assets of a business if they have software to assist them. Computer systems and software available reduce complexity, save time and prevent mistakes. Why use an asset management software program?

While paper and pencil methods can be used, software programs assist in the recording, maintenance and auditing of assets. This saves time and gives a clearer picture of assets since sorting and viewing in different ways is quick and easy.

The most basic ‘solution’ would be using a spreadsheet program such as excel. Even after migrating to software specifically designed for asset management there are times that a spreadsheet program may continue to be useful.

What is an Asset?

What you call an asset often depends upon your business activities. The first thing that comes to mind is fixed assets such as computers, production equipment, office furnishings etc. You might even wish to consider employees as assets or even service and maintenance contracts. A flexible asset management software program can provide a way to track many things most of us would not consider to be assets.

What are my first steps in setting up a system or ‘solution’?

1: Decide what assets will be managed.

The more assets the more work in setting up your system. Limiting assets to only those over a certain dollar value is a good idea.

2: Deciding what characteristics of assets it is important to record within the software.

Your choices will not only have an effect upon the amount of work required but also the extent to which you can manipulate and view asset information by sorting on asset information field or combination of fields.

For example if you setup a field for ‘location’ then you can sort data to see what assets are in each location. If you also have a field for ‘type’ or ‘class’ then you could further sort and display to show only certain types of assets such as computers at one or more location.

As in every aspect of life one has to make tough choices between what is ideal and what is feasible. Your choices will have an effect upon data entry when new assets arrive as well as collecting information about existing assets. Choices you make will also have a bearing upon your choice of software since some may not handle everything you want. One such a limitation is found within the AssetTrakker Pro software program. TrackitSoftware does not provide a method of tracking depreciation because it was felt this added too much complexity requiring the collecting and maintaining of a lot more data. Additionally, they felt, handling depreciation requires superior knowledge of government rules and regulations beyond the expertise of the very people that stand to benefit most from asset management. Accounting departments already calculate and account for depreciation. *Some software does promote depreciation calculation but only offers limited functionality that in most cases is not the way regulations demand.

Some help!

Below is a listing of Asset Attributes ‘fields’ for your consideration. You will not want to use all of them for your own ‘solution’ and may well have additional ones you need.

Asset #: The key identification reference used to track assets. They can be straight numbers or a number with an alphabetical prefix. (0001 or A001). This number is used for audit purposes and perhaps for cross-reference.

Make: Manufacturer

Model: Useful when arranging service or buying parts. Useful as allows grouping by model type.

Serial #: Specific asset identification. Needed when making warranty or insurance claims.

Cost to Repl.: Estimate of the cost of replacing an asset. Useful for planning, risk assessment and insurance.

Cross Ref. #: Reference other asset number or tie together group of assets.

Type: Can be used for a general grouping such as furniture, computer, shipping, etc.

Condition: Helpful to see what is likely to require replacement or decide on service needs.

Description: Other detail in addition to make, model, and serial number.

Memo: Additional information about the asset. If a computer you might want to list details of the hardware configuration or even the programs installed on it.

Department: This is helpful for sorting assets by department to assist in auditing.

Location: Good field to have so that a search/sort can give you a clear view of where assets are located.

Used by: Necessary if you have assets in the personal possession of an employee and/or assets off business premises.

Date Assigned: Useful if assets are moved around or for telling how long an asset has been at its current location.

Expected EOL: The anticipated date when the asset will no longer be useful.

Funded by: Source of funds if provided by Bond Issue, or outside funds (loan) or a grant.

Cost: Total cost of acquiring an asset.

Date Acquired: Helps give some idea when replacement might be required.

Disposed: Indicates an asset has been disposed of.

Disposed Date: Date asset was disposed of.

Business Use %: Used if an asset is not used full time by the business to break down asset use. Not for everyone, but a field that imagination might find an indispensable use for.

OUT: Used for Tool/Equipment Tracking,

Taken By/In From: Used for Tool/Equipment Tracking to indicate who is taking or returning item.

Date Due: Used for Tool/Equipment Tracking to show when an asset is due back.

Recovered Value: Net proceeds of the disposal of an asset.

Disposed Detail: Notes on how and where an asset was disposed of.

Warranty: Indicates if asset is covered by a warranty or could be used if covered by a service/maintenance contract.

Warranty Expiry: It is useful to see what expiries are approaching for tracking maintenance or service agreements. Helps prevent paying for service covered by warranty as well as prompting the repair of items before expiry.

Image: Can assist in asset identification or where ‘look’ is an important feature. Useful if insurance claim ever made.

Value: Could be amount the asset is insured for. Risk exposure control.

Leased: Helps keep track of Leased vs Owned assets.

Lease End: Used to warn when assets have to be replaced or the lease has to be renewed according to the terms of the lease.

Lease Start: Commencement date of lease on leased equipment.

Lease Co: The name of the company from which an asset is leased.

Audit Date: This column records the date the batch scans of assets were made for audit purposes.

Auditor: Record the name of the person who performed the audit.

What next?

By now you have a good idea of what asset information you want to track. Before looking at the various software packages available you should consider how many people will be entering data and how many will be accessing the data. For a smaller organization it is likely that just one person will be involved but in larger firms perhaps a number will wish to participate. Your situation could require purchasing more than one software license and the software must support multiple users.

Use a Barcode Scanner?

A barcode scanner can be used to speed data entry and auditing. This will add to the cost and most lower priced software packages offer limited support for barcode scanners. If properly incorporated into software a scanner can provide excellent value and save a lot of time, particularly for annual audit purposes.

Below are outlined the types of barcode scanners used with asset management software.

A ‘dumb’ tethered ccd scanner is cheapest and purchased for around $70. This can only be used when plugged into the computer and acts similarly to a keyboard in that you scan a barcode and it is put into whatever cell or space you are in.

A ‘laser’ tethered scanner is more money but will be able to scan smaller barcodes and perhaps have a deeper field of view (easier to scan a barcode quickly).

A ccd or laser scanner which has built in memory so scans can be made and then the scanner can be brought back and plugged into a computer, and those scans uploaded. This is extremely useful for audit purposes. For maximum utility your software should be optimized to take advantage of this ‘batch’ memory capability. A capable unit can be obtained for around $150.

A laser scanner with internal memory, as well as an input screen and keys, means that after scanning a barcode you can add additional information. These are more expensive and again their use has to be integrated into your management software. While prices are coming down you are looking at units in the pocket pc price range plus scanner cost. It is usual for software utilizing these units to also, for some reason, be priced higher.

Asset Management Software

The range of prices for asset management software is $200 to $10,000 and all require you to do the entry of existing asset data as well as some setting up for your requirements. Some offer telephone advice at additional cost but hands on assistance only comes with expensive packages (this level of software requires expensive sales force and marketing expense so perhaps their price, for the features provided, may seem high).

Purchasing Criteria a lot of people seem to use. You may have more.

1: Price 2: Ease of implementation of system 3: Ease of use 4: Ability to fit the business 5: Functionality 6: Potential to handle growth

What you can obtain for a reasonable price

A program with full relational database, such as MS SQL Server Express, or open source database. Today there is no reason to settle for less power or quality. Microsoft provides their SQL 2005 ‘Express’ DB version at no cost.

A program that allows you to attach images of assets. While not necessary for everyone it is something that someday you might want to use.

A program that integrates the use of inexpensive ‘batch’ memory barcode scanners because, if not now, at some point in the future such an accessory will save time and money. Used in auditing it assures an asset was actually seen as barcode had to be scanned.

A program that will permit the management of 10,000+ assets. With decent memory in your computer and a fast full relational database engine there isn’t much of a limitation anymore and while certain functions might slow down a bit even a low cost program should handle over 10,000 assets.

A program that is flexible so you can take advantage of features later instead of having to implement everything at once.

*If more than one person is to be given access to the database then you should ensure that different levels of access can be set for different users to prevent unauthorized changes to data.

What you can get but not cheaply.

A program that integrates directly into your current accounting system.

A program that has full professional depreciation calculations.

A program that runs directly off your company server (lower cost software runs off workstations and while a central database can be located on your server and accessed by individual workstations this is not the same as complete software being server based with applets on workstations.

Hand holding and in house training to get your system up and running. There are firms that will sit down with you and ask you all the right questions, set up your software, audit and list all your assets and then train your staff how to operate and maintain your ‘solution’. Most, to my knowledge, will recommend a mid to high priced software because it is easier to sell (commission higher as well) and easier for them to install due to their familiarity with it.

Nuts and Bolts

Gathering your Asset Information How you perform this step depends upon your situation. In our discussion below we assume you do not have existing asset information, in an existing excel spreadsheet or other format. If you do then you would save work by export/importing that data into your asset management software.

Starting your Asset Listing and Numbering from Scratch

This is an advantage because you are not limited by inherited constraints. Of course it is more work, as you cannot just load in existing asset information but have to collect everything yourself.

Collecting asset information is time consuming. Getting this information accurately, with as little work as possible is important. Thinking about how to do the job and planning will help make this big job easier.

The following is how I suggest doing this but you may have your own, perhaps better plan.

Create data entry sheets that you will have people write in information about assets under their control. Your asset management software may create these or you could make up an excel spreadsheet to obtain them.

Try and obtain some ‘buy in’ from the department or location manager with control over assets. The closer to the asset you can allocate some responsibility the better that asset will be controlled. ‘It’s my department’s asset’ is more powerful an incentive than ‘it’s I.T. Dept’s asset’.

Final steps

After entering data, that your co-operative managers helped you obtain, it is time to work with that data within your asset management software. It should not take long to become familiar with how it can present information to you on screen and in reports.

Now sit back and enjoy how easy it is to administer your assets.

The Importance Of Communication Skills

Communication skills simply do not refer to the way in which we communicate with another person. It encompasses many other things – the way in which we respond to the person we are speaking, body gestures including the facial ones, pitch and tone of our voice and a lot of other things. And the importance of communication skills is not just limited to the management world, since effective communication skills are now required in each and every aspect of our life. However, in this article we will discuss the importance of communication skills in two areas namely business and relationships.

First, let us concentrate on the importance of communication in business. We can measure the importance of communication skills in the business sector when we take a look at job advertisements. There is little chance that you will come across an advertisement which does not mention that candidates should have good communication skills. Perhaps this is the only criteria which creates a positive impact when a person goes for a job interview. This is because technical qualifications are likely to be more or less the same for the candidates.

Without effective communication skills, a person may find it impossible to climb up the corporate ladder. Promotions come to those who can communicate effectively at all levels, from senior management level to the lowest employee. The use of communication skills in business is covered in more detail at http://www.communicationskillsworld.com

As for communication within relationships, it should be remembered that maintaining good relationships is a way to a healthy lifestyle, and a good relationship can only be maintained by maintaining healthy communication with our near and dear ones. They are the ones we stay with on a regular basis. They are also the ones who see us at our best as well as our worst.

Good communication skills help the relationships to develop along good lines, and ensure that arguments and disagreements are kept to a minimum. Good communication will avoid arguments and insults

Another important part of communication in relationships is taking the initiative yourself. Do not wait for your best friend to call you after a long break. Instead take the phone and also take initiative to start the conversation. Often people have this problem while communicating, which comes from fear. They always think a thousand times whether to approach a person or not. But a person with good communication skills is always the first to start a conversation.

Given the importance of communication skills in both the personal and the corporate world, any individual who want to make progress with their life should develop this important skill.