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. 😉

You Teach People How To Treat You

You Teach People How To Treat You

You Teach People How To Treat You

This is so true and it took me a while to realise this, many years in fact. It is important to set healthy boundaries.

Very wise words from Dr Phil : “I’m not saying that you’re responsible for another person’s behavior. This is not about blame. But I am saying that you have power over your reactions. So if there is a person in your life who isn’t treating you with the respect and consideration you deserve, you have a couple of decisions to make. Are you willing to accept accountability, and do you really want to make a change? If the answer is yes, then you should ask yourself: “What am I doing to elicit this person’s behavior or to allow it to continue?” Even if you think you aren’t doing a thing, your inaction is speaking for you.”

Learn to speak up

We should not silently resent and not speak up. I have certainly been guilty of this. If we want a different result then we should speak up and make it known if we want a different result. Yes initially it will be difficult to do this but practice makes perfect!

Speak your truth

When we are asked as to what is wrong, do not answer nothing when there is in fact plenty wrong! I have said this many times that there is nothing wrong when in actual fact I have felt most uncomfortable. We have to actually teach that person or persons how to treat us and believe me they will take their cue from there!

Personal boundaries are of importance

Teaching others to respect your personal boundaries is healthy. It does not mean controlling or punishing others but rather are guidelines as to what is acceptable in your life and what is not.

I have for many years thought that always making myself available is a way to win the love and respect of others but it certainly does not work this way.

It will of course take time to differentiate between a genuine request and some taking advantage, therefore we have to learn the difference between being firm and inflexible.

I have had to learn that I am entitled to my own thoughts, opinions and feelings.

It certainly does not come easy to set your boundaries in the workplace or on a personal level.  Knowing them and actually setting them are two different things but it can be done.

Setting the above in motion will certainly enhance our self-esteem and self-worth.

Acting assertively takes practice. Know your limits. Remember too that teaching people how to treat us is a process that involves teaching them.

Love and respect yourself first

Look at how others that act with self-confidence and demand respect are treated well. Follow their example. This will not happen overnight, I know, but others will start to treat you differently. Do not allow certain behaviours from others that make you feel uncomfortable.

I love this quote by Anna Taylor :

“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.”

To sum up, good advice from Morgan & Wiseheart:

  • Start with yourself
  • Talk about your “rules of engagement”
  • Communicate your needs clearly and compassionately
  • Model how you’d like to be treated
  • Reinforce behaviors you like
  • Pick a role model to emulate
  • Have realistic expectations



What is your “what if” plan?

What is your “what if” plan?

What is your “what if” plan?

Now, what if is a very common and also important question in our industry. We should always assure that we have a
contingency plan in place for the majority of “What if?” moments in our day to day lives. This question could be interpreted in many circumstances in your daily lives as a virtual assistant. Today I will be discussing a few of these what if questions.

Scenario #1

For my first example, I would go with one of our latest and greatest fears that we currently have in South Africa and that fear is named “Load Shedding”. Hopefully, according to Eskom, this will not affect us much but if or when it actually happens that you mid-sentence loose power, all your unsaved work will be gone and your internet router will be of meaning that your internet access will also be gone for the +- 2 hours that the load shedding is going on. For you to be prepared for this “what if” moment, you should in case that you are using a laptop ensure that the laptop is constantly charged up fully so that you do not lose any mission-critical information. The full battery should allow you to save the essential files and also maybe finish the project that you urgently need to finish. If you are using a desktop pc my suggestion will be to invest in a good quality UPS of at least 1000KVA to allow you to save your work and safely shut down the computer. Some models actually have space for you to plug in your power supply for your internet router so that you can still have a few more minutes of internet.

For those of us that do not have the luxury of owning a UPS but are working on a laptop witch, I strongly suggest the internet router going down can be bypassed at least for a short while. You can invest in a small internet modem/router that works off a battery and a sim card and can also be charged on using the USB port of your computer. It works by creating a small range wifi network that allows you to still access the internet.

Scenario #2

Another “what if” moment is when you have to work away from home due to any reason. It could be that your child/spouse is sick or that you go out for an afternoon lunch with an old friend or whatever the reason may be. For situations like this, I will suggest a few things. Firstly as before I would suggest that you rather do your work from a laptop or notebook computer. Also as suggested before invest in the wifi modem that runs of a battery that you can quickly and easily charge from your computer.

Also what I suggest is that you and your client keep in continuous contact with each other and explain to him if you have to leave your house for any reason you can inform him/her that you will be working from a different location but you will still have your computer as well as internet access so that you can continue doing the work from a different location.

Now, “what if” this is not possible? Then it would be in your as well as your clients best interests to say to your client I will not be available during this time but will be back, however as soon as I am back again I will carry on with the work required of you.

A MAJOR “What if” moment and also very important is What if I lose all my data? I know it is a horrible feeling and inconvenience not only to you but also your client if something is to happen with your data. In this case, it is my recommendation, out of a personal experience, that you have the following in place: firstly do a regular backup of your most important documents and information to an external drive. Preferably not a flash drive as they tend to get corrupted, go missing or most often the capacity is not big enough. There is also another option that I suggest you have in place in addition to the external drive for backups and that is to have a cloud service in place. There are several ones available. Some are free like Google cloud, Dropbox and also and some paid cloud services like

Final thoughts

Lastly my final “What If” moment is what if you do not have enough time to finish your work or do not understand what exactly it is that your client wants you to do, then feel free to ask your client. Rather ask and make sure before you start than starting with something you do not understand and having to do double work. Remember, your client is also a person just like you and would be able to assist you with any queries that you may have regarding the assignments given to you.