Virtual experiences are reshaping the workforce


The concept of a virtual office and virtual assistant has become increasingly popular over the last few years. The driving force behind this concept is technology, which has ushered in our collectively ability to work from anywhere at almost any time. Another reason is an increase in flourishing small businesses which need the skills of an assistant, but don’t necessarily have the ability to pay for one, or have the need for full-time help. There are a great many benefits to going virtual, but first, it’s important to understand what each one is.

According to David Seinker, CEO of The Business Exchange (TBE), a local co-working space, a virtual office is essentially for when you can’t necessarily afford to rent office space, but you need an address in a prime location.

“Renting virtual office space provides start-ups and entrepreneurs with an affordable, yet prestigious business address without the daily aggravations of renting physical space,” says Seinker.  “You can operate from the comfort of home, but have the benefit of a business address in a bustling busy centre. At TBW, those who make use of our virtual office services will be able to direct calls our way, as well as have access to add-on services such as booking meeting rooms, and make use of other professional services for when they conduct client meetings.”

A virtual assistant, on the other hand, is able to conduct specific tasks for any business. Perhaps the need is to help keep track of someone’s diary, post to social media, or provide creative assistance to a business. It could also be to project manage a particular assignment for a certain period of time.

There are many benefits to using these virtual services. According to Seinker, many of TBE’s virtual office members highlight that the main benefit for them is having a prime address. “We found that entrepreneurs want to have an address that’s in the thick of the business world, but  they can’t afford the rent in these locations. Making use of a virtual office means that they are able to have the address that they want at a much lower rate than what rent here would cost them otherwise. This way, they can funnel much-needed money into other aspects of their business.”

“Not having to worry about missing calls has been a lifesaver for me,” says one virtual office user. “I am on the road a lot and, as a result, I could potentially miss a lot of calls. I don’t need a brick and mortar office space, but I do need someone to take calls and messages for me, so this service has been a massive help in that regard.”

Another major benefit is cost reduction. Virtual assistants are usually self employed and charge an hourly or project-based rate, depending on the scope of work. Businesses who make use of virtual assistants don’t have to worry about hardware either, as each has their own. There is also no need to consider company benefits. Another plus is that a virtual assistant can offer a particular skill, or service that is missing from your team. For example, if you are a laundry company and require social media work, you may consider hiring a virtual assistant to do this on an ad-hoc basis, so you and your team can focus on your core business. Making use of such a service also means that managers whose task it is to grow revenue, don’t get bogged down or stuck on daily admin tasks.

It is evident, there are a number of ways in which virtual office services make life easier for entrepreneurs and small businesses. These days, people are able to work from literally anywhere in the world, so it comes as no surprise that the appeal of virtual offices and virtual assistants is ever growing. It’s a tool that many businesses can look to in order to streamline their business in the most efficient way possible.

Image: Unsplash


PR powerhouse: Fabrizia Esposti


Four years ago, Fabrizia Esposti found herself on a beautiful stretch of beach in Inhambane, Mozambique. Whilst enjoying the fruits of her hard work in the form of a well-deserved two-week vacation, it suddenly dawned on her that she had always wanted to start her own business. returning home to South Africa, Fabrizia hired a business coach who helped her filter through a number of viable business ideas she had developed over the years. “Public relations encompassed all my best business skills and 15 years’ worth of experience, so that was the obvious road to take.”

Four short months later, Fabrizia handed in her resignation at a global sportswear company where she worked as the brand, PR and influencer marketing manager. “I was ready to start this new chapter in my life. Admittedly, the first month was a lonely and tough one, but I never gave up. And look where I am today!” she says excitedly

Since founding her PR agency, 20 Across, three years ago, the company has seen significant growth. Fabrizia credits passion as key to this success. “Passion has been my driving force and will continue to propel me to reach even greater heights. It’s not only passion for what I love doing, but also passion for people and doing great work; passion for success and sharing that success with my team. And finally, a passion for creating a legacy.” She does acknowledge, however, that hard work, determination and sheer guts are what’s needed to build a successful company. “Starting a business is not for sissies, but I can guarantee that it does build character in the long run.”

The Businesswoman of the Year award Fabrizia won earlier this year is testament to the fact that hard work indeed pays off. Commenting on what this accolade means to her personally, and for her business, she says: “I knew the minute I won the award that it would be the beginning of a new era – not only for me, but also for my team. Three years of hard work are nothing compared to what we are about to experience; it was both daunting and exhilarating at the same time.”

As a business, they have been able to grow their Cape Town and Johannesburg offices, as well as their client base which now consists of more lifestyle, entertainment and brand PR – all of which complements the celebrity publicity the company has become famous for. 20 Across has also successfully launched a social media management department that is already soaring to great heights.

Describing her leadership style, Fabrizia says: “My business wouldn’t be where it is today without the team I have working with me. Without the right team, you cannot lead. I have colleagues, not staff. We are all working together to achieve a common goal so there’s no reason to constantly assert my position as director of the company.” Teamwork, along with organisation and planning, are key in ensuring overall productivity. “So much time is wasted when things are not filed properly, thought through, compiled as they should be or not delivered when they are meant to be delivered. A team is most productive when they’re organised and have a plan.” 

Fabrizia says equipping people with the necessary skills and training are imperative in building their confidence, enabling them to work autonomously, thus leading to an increase in productivity. “Let’s remember that no one is born ready to do anything. The ability to fail and overcome failure is a necessary skill that must be acquired before anyone – in my opinion – is ready to abandon their training wheels.” And how does one go about promoting wellness in a company? “Understanding, sharing, caring and setting a good example go a long way in building a solid team and working environment.” 

This article was originally published in Fast Company SA’s November 2018 print issue. 

Image: Abdul Malick Ally


Is intergenerational wealth on the decline amid changing values and technological advancement?


New research from Stonehage Fleming, one of the world’s leading international family offices, indicates that changes in family values and technology are putting distance between generations. It was found that family disputes or break-ups are the biggest risk to long-term family wealth. Surprisingly, this risk has trumped traditional financial risks such as poor investment management and tax increases.  The research, titled ‘Four Pillars of Capital: Practical Wisdom and Leadership for Changing Times’, 2018,[1] is an exclusive review and commentary based on consultation with 150  multigenerational members of different families and advisers. Participants were asked to rate what they thought were the top risks to long-term family wealth. Family disputes or break-ups came in first, which is related to failure to appropriately engage the next generation and provide them with appropriate training. On the investment side, risks mentioned include ill-advised entrepreneurial investments, poor investment management, and increases in taxation. Political risks were also mentioned more often than three years ago, when the last report was published. 

“The speed of change in the economic, political and especially technological arenas has meant that family businesses are continually vulnerable to new developments,” says Johan van Zyl, CEO of Stonehage Fleming South Africa.  “Businesses and financial assets can quickly become vulnerable to new developments. This requires astute leaders, able to adapt and sometimes reinvent the core drivers of family wealth.” The values of the younger generation of wealthy families are also changing. They tend to have much greater concern about the environment and social inequality than their parents and grandparents, and are also far more comfortable with technology and able to see its potential for their businesses. “This creates a risk that the strategies developed by one generation may not be fully accepted by the next,” adds van Zyl. 

Despite ranking non-financial risks highly, wealthy families spend far more time, money and effort monitoring and addressing financial risks, even though non-financial risks could have severe financial consequences.  This is partly because financial risks are easier to quantify and tools for managing financial risk are readily available and actively marketed by asset managers and other professional advisers. Addressing the risks of family issues is a far more complex and sensitive process for which there are few ready-made solutions. However, an increasing numbers of families are making significant efforts in this direction, addressing the need for risks to be managed across the spectrum of their affairs. Some families have developed formal risk management tools to suit their own specific circumstances which ensure all key risks are discussed on a regular basis.

The firm’s previous research report, ‘Four Pillars of Capital for the Twenty First Century’ (2015), found that a family’s tangible assets are just one part of a broader legacy. No financial legacy can survive through the generations without addressing other key issues around a family’s culture, values and the purpose of wealth.  The firm identified four pillars of capital that are key to the long-term sustainability of family wealth: 

Financial capital, which comprises those tangible assets, business and intellectual property of the family that have quantifiable financial value.
Intellectual capital. This is the accumulated skill, knowledge, experience and wisdom a family has accumulated, which it can apply to the management of its wealth, its contribution to society, the individual fulfilment of family members and the collective wellbeing of the family. Social capital is the way in which families relate to and engage with society and the communities in which they live and operate. Finally, cultural capital is what brings families together by identifying shared perspectives and themes in the way family members conduct their lives, their approach to business, the way they treat others, the way they contribute to society, their attitude to wealth and the things they value. “Significantly, since our 2015 report, several families have invested considerable resources into converting some of the ideas around the Four Pillars concept into practical management tools,” van Zyl concludes


The social impact of Instagram’s new hiding likes feature


In a bold move, Instagram is currently testing a new feature that hides post likes in seven countries across the globe. The new feature allows users to see who liked their own posts, but no-one else will be able to. But is the world ready for this?

It begs the question whether social media platforms are turning a corner and forcing brands to pay attention
to metrics that matter instead of vanity metrics when it comes to choosing
influencers for their campaigns. In a Twitter thread,
Instagram said that they want users to focus on the quality of photos and videos posted, not the
number of likes. Basically, circling back to more authentic content.

According to marketing strategy consultancy, Nfluential, many users
are worried about influencer jobs hanging in the balance with this new move,
when in reality it would be great for brands and influencers alike. Brands have
measured influence with popularity for far too long and finally they’ll now be
forced to consider the metrics that really matter – engagement and impressions.

Hiding likes will help curb the
proliferation of influencer fraud on Instagram, whereby users buy followers and
likes in order to appear more influential than what they are. If likes are
hidden, there will be no need for this.

If this feature is here to stay,
the popular influencers with little to no influence will no longer get booked
by big brands purely because they get thousands of likes, but rather those
with resonance, authenticity with real content will rise to the top. Quality
engagement will become hugely important, although it already should be.

Over the last year or so we’ve
already seen a shift from portraying ‘perfect’ lives to being more open about
real life on Instagram. Users are hungry for content that they can relate to as opposed to being constantly bombarded with curated versions of people’s picture-perfect lives. Maybe this is the next step to a healthier and more
relatable social media platform.

It’s also a great move in terms
of mental health for the youth. So often we hear about the distress caused by not getting enough likes. Some users even delete content, feeling that it’s not good
enough when they don’t get the outside validation through likes. It may sound
trivial to us, but teenagers are impressionable and something as small as social media validation could, and
has, tipped many over the edge. By hiding likes, no-one will have a benchmark to
feeling good enough.

The test has been rolled out in Australia, Brazil, Canada, IrelandItaly, Japan and New Zealand. While the announcement brought
out mixed reactions, there is still one question on everyone’s lips: When will Instagram
bring back chronological order? It seems that everyone, including me, would like
to see the posts of those who they follow, in a sequential way, rather than the
hordes of sponsored posts. Will they listen to their users? Only time will


Just got a raise? Here’s how to handle the extra funds


You’ve finally been promoted and received a fabulous raise. Your immediate reaction may well be to rush out and upgrade your car, move into a bigger house or take your kids on holiday. To make a long-term financial impact on your life, seize the opportunity by deciding on the best way to make the most of the extra income you will soon be earning. While most of us have aspirations we are working towards, and we certainly deserve to reward ourselves for progressing in our careers – it may be worth taking a step back to evaluate what the new salary means in practical terms. It may also be worth revisiting your short-, medium- and long-terms goals to ensure that any additional spending is in alignment with those.

Lifestyle creep, according to Investopedia, is when “an individual’s standard of living improves as their discretionary income rises and former luxuries become new necessities.  A hallmark of lifestyle creep is a change in thinking and behaviour that sees spending on nonessential items as a right, not a choice.”

If you’ve recently been promoted, here’s Hancox advice to avoid the pitfalls of lifestyle creep:

1. Understand your package
It is imperative that you understand exactly what your new package includes and excludes. Be sure what your take home salary will be before making any hasty commitments. Often, the HR team at your office should be able to assist with this.

2. If you need to strengthen your financial position, this may be your chance
It may be worth evaluating whether your circumstances require you to use the money to place you in a stronger financial position. You may opt to put the additional income towards settling expensive debt or creating an emergency fund, retirement contributions or specific savings goals. That way, the money’s not accessible for you to spend, you don’t get used to having extra income for nice-to-haves, and you’re one step closer to financial peace of mind. Hancox says, “When I got promoted, I chose not to get used to the increase for everyday spending, but rather to use it in a way that I knew would serve my family and I well in the long term.

3. Get to grips with the trade-offs
The extra money from a promotion means you have the chance to make good choices for you and your family. But do you put more towards your child’s education or buy a house? Do you go on an amazing family holiday or retire a year earlier? Do you make lifestyle sacrifices now so you can reap the benefits later in life? A financial planner can assist you in deciding on goals and create a plan to make them happen. 

4. Adjust your retirement saving, if possible
If you’re not already doing so, you should aim to put at least 15% of your income towards retirement. This is just a reference amount and will need to be tailored to your individual circumstance, but it’s a good yardstick. As your salary increases, so too should your retirement fund contributions. Hancox recalls the discipline it had taken to make that conscious decision to consistently increase her retirement savings each time she was promoted. “I do allow myself the occasional spoil, but I always try to consider the comfort and lifestyle of the ‘future Lee’ to make sure I’m doing her justice too.”

5.  Make conscious decisions to slow the creep
If possible, keep your expenses the same, and set goals and milestones for bigger purchases. You should also continue shopping mindfully. Buy trendy, affordable antique furniture over new items. Make every dinner a ‘Masterchef Mystery Box’ occasion – online sites like Supercook show you recipes you can make with the current contents in your fridge. Stop the impromptu shop on the way home. Continue to pack lunch rather than buying it at the nearest coffee shop. Skip the second latte even though it’s now easier to afford it. 

6. Understand the behavioural psychology behind your spending habits
Much of your attitude towards money is shaped during childhood. Try to understand the factors behind your money personality. Having these insights will make you more conscious of your decision-making. Additionally, appreciate how important it is to share financial education with your children from an early age. “When I grew up, we didn’t have the luxury of buying impulsively so that helped me to remain level-minded with my own finances as an adult”, says Hancox.  “It could have gone either way, though!”

 7. Spend more, owe more
When you earn more, often the temptation is to spend more, which ultimately leads to owing more. You might be about to pay off the bond on your current home, but the temptation may be to take out a new 20-year bond on a bigger, ‘better’ property. You can end up trapping yourself in terms of living in a certain way. If you keep ‘upgrading’, you keep having to pay off increasing debts, which means you’ll probably need to work for longer and potentially have less to retire with. Of course, you may have your reasons – perhaps there is better capital appreciation in that area, or you have a family who is outgrowing the current home –  just as long as you know what the short and long term implications are, and you’re making an informed decision.

8. Discuss the promotion or bonus with your partner
Very often couples think about money differently. If you’re a saver and your partner’s a spender, for example, and he or she is already planning the upgrade of the family car with your increase, while you want to pay off the bond, this may cause a bit of friction. It may be worth having the discussion upfront. 

9. Enjoy the money and realise some creep is okay
Speak to a financial adviser to understand what’s viable from a lifestyle creep perspective, especially if a promotion comes with a big payday. Think through every decision. If you go from a Fiat to a ‘Merc’, you’re going to have pricier tyres and increased fuel expenses to contend with, as well as a potentially more expensive maintenance plan. If you buy a bigger house, don’t forget the rise in rates as well as maintenance costs.

Hancox concludes, “You need to celebrate the hard work and effort that led to your promotion. A professional financial planner can assist you in putting a plan in place that helps you do just that. And if the lifestyle creep has already set in, it’s never too late to turn things around. Your financial planner can help you set realistic goals for the future.”