This Female Entrepreneur Inspired me the most. This is why.

This Female Entrepreneur Inspired me the most. This is why.

This Female Entrepreneur Inspired me the most. This is why.

Where it all started

I remember watching this female entrepreneur back in the day when I had DSTV and was prepared to pay the exorbitant subscription fee for the drivel bestowed upon us.  This lady featured in a doccie entitled ‘The Secret Millionaire’ and from the moment the opening credits began, I just knew this was one tough, go getter woman.  I was most pleased to watch her in action on another BBC show ‘Dragons Den’ a few years later.

The female entrepreneur I am referring to is none other than the interminable Ms Hilary Devey.  So intrigued was I, I purchased her biography ‘Bold as Brass, My Story’.

The life of Hilary Devey

Ms Devey certainly didn’t start life with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth.  In fact, she didn’t even have a plastic one.  She was born into a regular English family and her folks earned their living working in and managing pubs in her home town of Bolton in the UK.  There were times when her folks were successful in what they were doing and at other times, not so much.  Her folks faced bankruptcy on several occasions and thus moved around the UK extensively in search of employment opportunities.    None of this stopped the young Hilary in her pursuit of success though.  These obstacles toughened her up and she vowed at the age of seven she would never sit on a cold floor again. Ever.

Ms Devey was a bright child at school and had a flair for the numbers game from an early age.  Having to pull her weight at the various pubs her folks managed and lived in, she quickly became adept at pulling pints and learnt how to haggle.  These traits would put her in good stead later in life.  Upon completing school aged sixteen, Hilary served for a short while in the Women’s Royal Air Force, in air traffic control and the supply accounts department.  Her accounting skills were honed, and the lessons learnt in the WRAF ensured she would never be blindsided in business.

How she become an inspiration

Fast forward to 1996 when Pall-Ex, a palletized freight network was launched.  Ms Devey chose a testosterone dominated industry to make her mark. And mark it she did!  Pall-Ex has annual revenues of £59.947 million.  The splendours of success had their foibles though and there were many sacrifices made.   According to Ms Devey’s biography, the hardest work she’s ever done is pull her son from the grips of heroin addiction.  Marriage has also not been her forté as she is twice divorced and suffered a stroke that almost killed her.

Ms Devey is tough as nails and one of a kind.  She is famous for her straight-talking but genuinely warm force of nature.  Ultimately though, she is a survivor and her story, told with complete honesty, is as inspirational as the woman herself.

Good on you Hils!

Celebrating the Women in your Life in honour of Women’s Month

Celebrating the Women in your Life in honour of Women’s Month

Celebrating the Women in your Life in honour of Women’s Month

Honouring the women in our lives this August month

The dictionary describes the word “August” as consecrated respected and impressive.  Words like distinguished, respected, eminent, hallowed, esteemed and honoured are also found in the synonyms.  Is it not then fitting that this be the month to honour women, their achievements and the important role that they have played and continue to play in our lives.

From that very first breath, women have been playing a major role in our lives, feeding, nurturing and comforting us as infants, expanding the role as we grow older into moulding, mentoring and nourishing our minds.  As little ones, our mothers are our first “turn to” mechanism, the bonded cord being tightest during that times.  As we grow and develop, it stretches to allow us the space to become our own little person.  Hitting the teenage years, we start to twist, turn and yank at that cord, fighting for our independence with childish abandon, yet she still holds on gently, guiding and walking the mire with us during those tempestuous years, never far away and always ready to step in when needed and all the while holding herself back as she watches us grow, mature and take our place in the world.

Women Leadership within the family

And how much of that do we really see.  How much of her struggles, heartaches, frustrations, all her sacrifices, wisdom and guidance is apparent to us. She is the one that balances work, life, family, society and a myriad of other things all at the same time, like a never-ending ebb and flow twirling and rolling into itself over and over.  And what do we see – we see Mom. The one who is just there.  The constant figure that we don’t give a thought to having challenges or feelings.  Until we truly grow up and mature.  Sometimes it takes a life-altering incident that makes us take stock and really see and appreciate, and sometimes it is becoming a mother yourself that unravels the same threads and the penny drops into place that not only her, but your grandmother. her mother and so on back for generations, where the same things have been taking place, and the real appreciation of what she did for you starts to grow and you feel her strength and quiet influence deep within your being.

Women create a supportive circle

Some may say “that is not what I experienced” but if we look deep into ourselves we will find the one that gave these things to us.  The one that was there even in the background silently watching and being that strength for us, waiting for her recognition with the resilience and tenacity that women hold, even though we felt it not to be so at the time.

So whether it be your birthmother, your grandmother, a substitute or a mentor that you have taken into that role, take the time to feel their strength and the love and nurturing that they have given to you.  Honour their sacrifices and celebrate their joy.  After all, a little piece of them lives on in you.

Why dressing for Success can create the right mindset

Why dressing for Success can create the right mindset

Why dressing for Success can create the right mindset

I’m sure almost everyone would agree that one of the big perks of working from home is that no specific dress code applies.  If you feel like working in your pyjamas all day, no one is stopping you.  It’s your choice, but does it have an impact on your productivity?  Sorry guys and gals, but research has shown that it actually does.  The author of The Golden Apple:  Redefining Work-Life Balance for a Diverse Workforce says that work clothes do impact you on a business and a personal level.  It is also important to set boundaries between working hours and personal time.  When the official work day is over, it’s best to change out of the business attire otherwise you could feel like work never ends.

Self discipline and how you dress does pay off

A few years back I worked half day for an elderly man who was a magazine publisher and worked from home.  Every morning when I arrived at his home office, he was dressed in formal office wear.  I asked him why he bothered.  His answer was that if he were to dress casually, he would be more inclined to first wander around his garden and play with his dog than get to the office and before he’d realise it, most of the morning would have gone by and he’d have achieved very little.  He only worked mornings, accomplishing what he had set out to do and then changed into casual wear and spent the afternoons playing golf, meeting up with other retired friends or pottering around in his garden.

I had a mentor once that set her goal to be a millionaire before she turned thirty, which she did achieve.  She started out working from home in her garage.  Every morning she would get dressed up in her working attire complete with heels and handbag and be in her garage office by 9am sharp.

Gaining respect and being taken seriously

What impression do you give those around you?  Do you look like you take your business seriously?  I experienced this first hand with family members.  When you look like a frumpy mum, that is pretty much how everyone is going to treat you.  Step up your game by dressing to match your business and see the difference in the attitude of those around you.

Dress up to resist multi-tasking

 When working from home it is easy to get caught up in exhausting multi-tasking.  When wearing your sweats it’s easy to dash from your desk to the washing machine, desk to the wash line… and so on.  If you were dressed for work, you would be less inclined to do some of these things.  Agreeably, there are the benefits to multi-tasking, but it can also affect your overall performance.

Casual days

If dressing up every day really doesn’t appeal to you, throw in a casual day or two into your week.  You are the boss after all so you get to choose. 😉

To learn continuously is to be a successful Virtual Assistant

To learn continuously is to be a successful Virtual Assistant

Continual learning as a Virtual Assistant

The world is always changing.  New technologies offer new challenges and new methods.  Clients have different needs as their business changes and grows. A Virtual Assistant must keep up with all these changes to deliver the best service to their clients.  Apart from this working for a variety of businesses also exposes the Virtual Assistant to new industries and markets.

Doing research is a great part of learning

My first assignment with VA Connect was research on Smart Home products.  I was amazed at how a Smart Home works.  There is a huge range of products available which makes life easier and safer and they are integrated to varying degrees.   In many cases the system is controlled by a smart speaker which is voice integrated systems from e-commerce providers.  The irony is that such a system is also known as a Virtual Assistant.   Many people already rely on artificial intelligence systems which remind them of appointments, book a restaurant or orders food based on what stock there is, or isn’t, in the smart fridge.   I could give many more examples but cannot list them all. The most interesting product I learnt about is a device which releases a scent upon request.  Various aromas are available which create the mood required.   Because this costs around US $400 I am not interested in buying one, but it would be nice.

Being a Virtual Assistant also teaches me life skills such as managing my time and prioritising. On a typical day I have a routine so that I can do the necessary chores and fit in my client’s work as planned. Of course, there are days when my plans don’t work out and I need to get up early and put in a few hours before breakfast.  At other times I work late into the night, but the work gets done and I meet my deadlines.

Learning new life skills

What I have also learnt is that I can be disciplined as well as flexible.  I perform better when I don’t allow myself to feel stressed. There is no manager or colleague anxiously hovering over my desk, breaking my concentration and slowing my down. I have also learnt how to manage my family’s needs and we are all more organised as a result.

The new technology I have been exposed has opened my eyes to the wealth of products which I would never have known about. My confidence has grown as a result.

Because clients rely on their assistant for help it is also important that I acquire skills and learn how to use new technology.  There are many, many options for learning on the internet – YouTube, online courses and help forums are some examples.   If I cannot manage, there is always the team at VA Connect who can point me in the right direction.

What You Can Expect When Joining The Virtual Assistant World

What You Can Expect When Joining The Virtual Assistant World

What You Can Expect When Joining The Virtual Assistant World

Back in 2008 the world of Virtual Assistance looked very different to what it does today. Being in the thick of things in the VA industry in South Africa, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing first-hand how this industry has matured and evolved over time.

It’s taken the South African market a very long time to warm up to the idea of hiring someone outside of the office to do their admin for them. Yet, over the last year and a bit the Virtual Assistant market has exploded! South African businesspeople cannot get enough of the VA industry and international business people are seeking the services of SA Virtual Assistants. It’s beautiful to see!

Thanks to this growth I’ve been able to establish Africa’s largest and most successful managed Virtual Assistant Agency. It’s my absolute pleasure to work with such amazing clients and VA’s alike! My passion is to help others and through our agency we are able to connect people from all over the globe. Our clients love us, and well, yes our VA’s love us too!

So, if you are new to the VA world, either starting out on your own or wanting to join an established outfit, you probably have a few questions around what to expect.

In this post I’m going to take you, the potential VA (whether independent or not), through what it’s like to join a Virtual Assistant Agency from the Agency Owner’s perspective.

Here’s what to expect when joining my team

Expectation Management

It is important that you note : This is not a salaried job. As a Virtual Assistant in South Africa you are seen as an independent contractor. Because you are not employed you are solely responsible for your own taxes, medical aid, insurance, office equipment, and so forth. If you’re going at this alone, know that you are an entrepreneur, running your own business, managing your business finances, strategising your marketing, filling your own sales funnel.

Should you join a VA Agency you can expect to receive agency rates. Many prospective VA’s approach me for work whilst they are working full-time, and they expect that their salary be replaced by VA work. You and I know that it does not work this way. Virtual Assistant rates, whether you are working for us or for yourself, is calculated very differently to a salaried job.

You are expected to hustle daily, to find clients, and keep your sales funnel filled at all times. As a VA Agency owner it is my job to do that, taking this part of the responsibility off your shoulders.

The marketing of the agency and doing international outreach falls under my watch. You in turn are expected to treat each client with the utmost respect, offering them invaluable support and ensuring that they thrive within their environment with the help of your savvy admin support.

Have the right attitude

Skills can be taught, attitude cannot. I’m a firm believer in this, which is why I think CV’s aren’t a true reflection of one’s capabilities. You can have the right attitude and not at all the skills required to do the task. However, because your attitude is right you will be willing to learn and upskill yourself.

Tools of the trade

Every job comes with certain skills requirement and being a Virtual Assistant is no different. There are a myriad of online tools and apps that will help you do your work better. Not only that, your client may request of you to use a certain CRM software or project management system. Do the research on the most popular types of apps for CRM, lead pages, project management, communication, email marketing, social media scheduling and so forth, and get yourself acquainted as far as you can. It will look good and certainly count in your favour when you are being interviewed as a prospective VA.

What are some of the tools we like to use?

  • Slack : communications tool
  • Trello : project / task management software
  • Toggl : time recording software
  • Zoom : conference calls / video calls / webinars
  • Xero : online invoicing system
  • Vtiger : CRM (Customer Relationship Management software)
  • Social Pilot : social scheduling and analytics
  • Google Analytics : social media and website analytics

Interview like a pro

It’s one thing to be presentable on paper, quite another in an interview. I’ve had the privilege this past week of conducting many prospective client / prospective VA interviews and the one thing that is pertinent – I need to help you improve your interview skills! This is your opportunity to “sell” yourself, give the client a reason to work with you, and not a reason to not choose you.

I can only do so much selling over the initial sales period with the client, punting our services, and truly bringing across how amazing my team is (you have been hand picked after all!), however, if you don’t come across as being strong or assertive or sure of your trade in the interview, well, then my pre-sales work becomes null and void.

Let’s get ourselves upskilled in presenting our brands better, whether online, on paper or in person!

Excuses are not allowed

#noexcuses I think that says it all. To clarify, I don’t accept excuses, not from myself, not from team. Either you can or you cannot. Both are choices. It’s my job to push you out of your comfort zone. And I shall do so daily. Why? Because I want to see you succeed. I want every person I’m surrounded by to be successful and to be the best that they can be.

Bringing it together

Love what you do, do what you love. I certainly do! I’m loving this entrepreneurial journey and my Virtual Assistant Agency truly brings me joy and fulfillment. I want you to experience the same thing. I want you to be excited to “come to work” every day.

We have crafted this business over 10 years. We have aligned ourselves with the right energies when it comes to both clients and our Virtual Assistants. When this is aligned it means one thing : that together we can be great. It means that we’re not working against each other, that we want to share our knowledge and see every team member be successful.

Here’s to you, our fabulous Virtual Assistants in South Africa!