Is Your Business Growing?

By: Kris Jamieson

Often times entrepreneur’s and executive’s growth hits a ceiling when they are trying to do everything on their own and things start to go overlooked when this happens.  Consider partnering with a virtual assistant to help you grow. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. VA’s effectively provide you more time for you to focus on the areas that will help grow your business as they will take on the administrative tasks are sucking all your time from you.
  2. VAs generate new ideas and more efficient ways of doing things – this saves time and money – as well as allowing you to scale operations. VAs have experience working with different industries, businesses and people. Your VA could suggest the perfect solution to a problem you’ve been tackling.
  3. Hiring a VA is more cost effective than hiring a full-time employee. There are no benefits to pay, and VAs use their own office space and equipment. You pay for their time – that’s it.
  4. VAs generally have specialized skills that could benefit you in lots of ways such as marketing, bookkeeping, social media, and also networking on your behalf.
  5. VAs are typically business owners themselves, and understand the pressures you experience, and are better equipped to help minimize pressure and risk.

Not only can a VA help you be more efficient, your VA can be a great resource for new ideas and ways of doing things. Your VA can become an integral part of your business and be just as dedicated to growing it as you are.

Kris Jamieson

Virtual Assistant and Partner – mackenziedoheny.com

 

 

 

What does your assistant really think–about you, their job, and the organization?

Over the years, I have done much hiring, training, and mentoring of executive assistants. In that time, I’ve learned to recognize characteristics of highly successful assistants. Much of their success comes from their attitudes—towards their leader, their job, and the organization.

Here are three things that highly successful assistants do:

They believe, truly, that what they are doing is helping not only the individual they are supporting but also the company as a whole.

Assistants who believe this tend to get annoyed less, are bothered less, and view everything that comes across their plate as important. If they don’t know how to do it or don’t think it’s in their job description, they either learn and add it, or find the right person to take it and make sure they don’t need help while doing it. If your assistant acts like tasks are beneath them (within reason and ethical standards, of course), it’s fair to ask them what they think their job actually is. Invite them to consider how their work more generally ties into the organization’s mission, too. Help them to see how their work is both necessary and important.

They actually like being an admin and have goals to stay in that role, rather than move out of it.

Of course, people can grow, and I am in no way insinuating that one shouldn’t strive to get bigger and do better. But the true assistant sees their value. They see their job as valuable. They become indispensable and so congruent with their leader and company values that it would be extremely hard to replace them. That is, in effect, their goal—to be worth their weight in gold, not to move out of the role eventually.

They don’t have an adversarial attitude.

True-blue “lifers” don’t have a chip on their shoulder. They don’t have an attitude about their job or your bad habits/shortcomings, and they certainly don’t roll their eyes behind your back or get together with the other employees to complain. If you have a gut feeling that this is happening, trust your gut and bring it to the forefront. Be honest about areas where you struggle and be open to ideas for improvement, but also share your expectation that your assistant step up in these areas, too. You are, after all, a team—not adversaries.  Covering for your shortcomings is actually part of their job. If they don’t think so, then they are in the wrong profession.

Being someone’s personal and executive assistant can be extremely rewarding and fun, and it should be a lasting relationship built on trust and mutual respect.  Make sure you feel that now, and if you don’t, find out why.

Client Gift Giving Without the Stress

By: Kris Jamieson

Now that Halloween is over, the world has launched the holiday season. Every corner you turn you are faced with bows, trees, glitter, and song. The holiday season can be a logistical nightmare for a business owner: gifts, traveling, corporate and family events, gifts, evening engagements, gifts…

Your clients are likely hoping, and maybe some expecting, a thank you for their business.  Let’s just add this to your ever-growing list, shall we?

Lean on your assistant for this and leverage their ability to organize, collect addresses, compare costs and hopefully their creativity.

Below is an outline of what your assistant should be thinking about and helping you get in motion:

  • Timing. Decide when clients should receive their gifts in order to work backwards. Are you recognizing them at Thanksgiving? That is a great way to send a message of thanks to your clients. Maybe you’d like to wait until December, or some companies choose to recognize their clients around the New Year. Whenever you want your gifts to be received, timing is the key to everything working out well.
  • The Gift. You can choose this, or let your assistant chose, or work together to come up with the perfect gift. Think about your business and your audience. What is the essence or “feel” of your business? Who are your clients? Do they have anything in common? Do you want to send food or something perishable? Will you have something created with your logo, etc that will require lead time? Is there a brand message you would like to send? Will you send the same gift to everyone, or will you have different levels of gifts? The answers to these questions should coincide with the timing.
  • Preparation. Your assistant should own this step, but may need your input if you have personal preferences about any of these points: Is there any assembly required before the gifts are sent? Are there items that are being ordered vs picked up at a store, or is it a combination? What other items will you need for gift wrapping, and overall presentation of the gift? If you are sending gift certificates, or some other gift that recipients will need to retrieve, how will receipt of the order be tracked?
  • Delivery. Your assistant will track delivery via whatever service you decide to use and make sure that all have been received. Some hard-to-deliver to locations can be solved by using a courier or having your assistant hand deliver as needed. Let them give you updates once a week or so, as well as letting you know if any delivery trouble was encountered so you can send a personal note letting them know it’s on the way.

Your assistant can be hugely important with the planning, execution and follow-up of your holiday client gifts. With good communication, your assistant can take your ideas and run with the plan. You can be as closely connected to the process as you wish, depending on what you decide to do.

Whatever you do, may your upcoming holiday client (and all) gift giving be a well-organized and stress-free process. It is possible – and that’s a gift for YOU.

Your Executive Assistant Is Your Ambassador

Are you running low on bandwidth? Need someone to head off disasters, thin out your inbox, manage call and demands for you? Someone to tackle these projects the way you would, but isn’t you? If so, you’re either in need of an executive assistant (EA) or a better one, or you may need to train your EA to be an ambassador.

An executive assistant can and should be your ambassador—someone to think like you and confidently make decisions like you would. To serve in this capacity, though, they need to know not only what needs to be done, but how and why. Learning your values and beliefs (and how they align with the organization’s mission, vision, and values) will give them a solid base from which to act. Without providing this essential “you” and “we” material, however, it will be hard for them to make day-to-day decisions in a fast-paced environment.

In one amazing company that I worked for, the mission, vision, and values of the company were made real in almost every situation. My leader would give me examples of why she would do something and then ask me, “What value does that embody?” Once I learned to see and implement the guiding values, I was able to act for her with confidence. But I also asked her a lot of questions to better understand her preferences and beliefs: “Why did you choose that?” or “Why would you prefer this over that?” I viewed each time we were together as a learning opportunity and cherished every minute. She was driven by a desire to learn and demonstrate competence, and I strove to do so as well.

When leaders are willing to receive a little respectful and informative push-back from their EA’s, they may learn inconsistencies in their values and beliefs, discover a slight misalignment with the organization’s mission, or find a new and better application of their values and beliefs. Great assistants can sometimes make better decisions than the leader would on the spot. In those moments, the leader may learn something important and also feel better understood. This sort of mutual affirmation grows trust between the pair and allows the leader some room to breathe, knowing that the EA truly gets it.

Not every EA is capable of and interested in understanding how and why you want things done. If that’s your current situation, then you either need to search for a new EA or provide more ambassadorial training. When your EA gets it and can act fully as your ambassador, you will likely get compliments from friends, colleagues, and clients. You will start to get your questions answered before you ask them.

Gatekeepers Are Being Replaced with Strategic Partners

A lot of executives refer to and consider their assistants “gatekeepers” who control access by means of managing calendars and warding off time-wasters. When assistants act as gatekeepers, executives don’t have to have some unpleasant or tedious conversations. And those who get past the “gate” may feel the glow of entering the inner circle. But at what cost—to the assistant, the executive, and the organization?

When an executive assistant (EA) is assigned to keep people out, the result usually isn’t greater efficiency. It tends to lead to more work and work-arounds, in addition to bad press. People don’t like to be told “no” without getting at least a semblance of a proper audience. They want to be and feel heard. If they’re not, they may be upset and take their business elsewhere. They may bad-mouth the executive and the organization as a whole to important clients, prospects, or industry players. And those kept outside the gate may decide to pester the EA with calls. Or if the EA always says “no,” they may bypass the EA entirely and go directly to the leader themselves.

Executive assistants should not be saying no for the sake of saying no or because they are unwilling to re-arrange a day of meetings to accommodate something that has high priority. Instead, they should be willing to listen to the needs of the caller and make a decision based on what would be the best choice for the leader and the company at large. The EA’s role is to think like their leader and to understand who is coming in and going out of the office and why. Their responsibility in handling the calendar is huge, as it could make or break a day’s work for an executive if done improperly. However, the viewpoint of the EA should be that every person that reaches to them for a meeting or call with their leader is important enough to be heard and their purpose understood.

An EA should be a strategic partner to the leader and someone the leader can trust to make decisions rather than just someone at a desk who knows how to put Outlook invites on a calendar. Naturally, if they’re going to be true strategic partners, leaders need to stop seeing and referring to EA’s as gatekeepers. And they ought to coach their EA on how to prioritize meetings (i.e. clients first, family second) and tell them why and how they themselves would say yes or no so EA’s are able to embody that.

We all know what an unpleasant gatekeeper experience feels like. As a leader, your goal should be to employ and train an EA who will be unfailingly friendly and cheerful, who listens well, and who knows the appropriate place to put people on the calendar. And if it doesn’t make sense for a person to meet with you, your EA should refer them to someone in or outside the organization who is the right person and then makes sure they are connected.