What does an executive assistant do. Would your business benefit from hiring an executive assistant?
An executive assistant acts as the centre of your business, they coordinate the incomings and outgoings of your business and ensure you are operating smoothly. As a business owner, you can have multiple channels coming to you as a constant flow throughout the day. An executive assistant captures these inflows, coordinates, organises and systemises them before delivering them to the next step in your business process. A similar process happens for your outgoings, an executive assistant drafts, edits and adds your personal touch to your outgoings, and manages the following up process.
An executive assistant is an crucial component for your business and can be the key to boosting your productivity, keeping you on track and coordinating your business activities. A few examples of this is qualifying and nurturing leads before they find their way to you - this can ensure only leads who are ready for your expertise land on your desk and your time is not wasted on prospects that will not lead to a sale. Another key area for an executive assistant is managing your calendar and appointments. Sometimes with the hustle and bustle of business, things can slip off the radar and appointments or follow ups can be missed. This could mean losing a big-ticket client to poor customer service or missing a deadline for an investor.
So what is it that an executive assistant does for your business?
An executive assistant will juggle tasks, projects, enquiries and anything else moving through your business. They will take your meeting minutes, notes, emails, projects and tasks and organise your information to ensure your data is cleansed and at your finger tips. An executive assistant will manage your calendar, CRM and project management software to ensure files are up to date, information on projects and clients aren't scattered through a thousand different mediums such as emails, chats, notes and programs.
An executive assistant will also often manage your internal records and data, edit and draft documents such as tenders, proposals, capability statements, letters, emails and more, to save you time and act as a sounding board. A part of this responsibility will often include administration duties such as email management, bookkeeping, research, transcription, customer service, filing, receipt management, and more.
Typical every day role of an executive assistant
The kind of tasks an executive assistant will undertake on a daily basis include:
First point of contact for customers,
Personal calendar management,
Reminder services, including daily and weekly agendas and appointment reminders,
Lead management, including qualifying leads,
Meeting minutes and memos,
Data control and data cleansing, including filing and receipt management,
Drafting and editing documentation and communication, such as presentations, letters, proposals, reports, and others,
Basic social media and website maintenance,
Managing customer relationship management, project management and databases,
Client support and troubleshooting,
Implementing and maintaining business procedures and processes,
Liaising with staff, clients, suppliers and investors,
Bookkeeping and data entry,
Invoicing and following up on payments and correspondence,
Business and business owner support,
And other tasks that emerge throughout the day.
Is an executive assistance important for your business?
An executive assistant has the potential to change your business for the better through boosted productivity, professional image, and efficiency.
Take calendar management for example, how long do you spend recording your appointments, preparing pre-meeting information, confirming appointments, checking your schedule, sending post-meeting information, following up and answering general questions? This alone can interrupt your day multiple times and take your attention away from key projects reducing the level of quality and focus on important tasks.
Email management is another, if you receive 30 emails a day and spend 5 minutes per email answering enquiries, sorting and adding important information to your calendar, you've experienced 12.5 hours of wasted time per week. What could you do with an additional 12.5 hours a week? Give a project that little bit more, take on additional work, or create an investment plan?
If you've experienced the kind of busy that has led to quick, unthought out responses to customer enquiries, not responding to emails until days later, missed appointments, lost information, no idea where you sit with your cashflow or customer financial value, or not being able to clock off at the end of the day because of administrative work, an executive assistant would be an asset for you.
Another consideration if you're trying to grow your business or streamline your processes is an executive assistant can act as a sounding board. It is often the case that you do not want to share all the behind the scenes of your business with staff but an executive assistant who is managing this alongside you is a great person to bounce your ideas off and improve systems.
What qualifications do you need from your executive assistant?
An executive assistant does not require any specific qualifications so it depends on what you would like out of your experience.
If you would like bookkeeping and financial management, you should look for a qualified bookkeeper,
Experience in business and business management is always a bonus as so much of an executive assistant's role involves coordinating business operations and,
If you are willing to pay more for specialised skills a degree or qualifications in business, finance or management will give you access to specialised skills and knowledge.
What are the key skills you should look for in your executive assistant?
Skill: Detail-oriented and organised
Why? Most businesses experience huge influxes of information and tasks to be handled throughout their day. A detail-oriented and organised executive assistant will be able to identify key information amongst the influx and systemise it to ensure you or your staff do not lose track. An executive assistant has to be able to find answers quickly, track deadlines and maintain important information to ensure your business appears consistent and is viewed as industry expert to your customers.
Skill: Reliable and Discrete
Why? An executive assistant is often the one coordinating the information for your business and is therefore essential to your day to day operations. If your executive assistant is often not answering emails, coming to work or providing consistent services, your business can suffer. On the other side, this information is often confidential and is an asset for your business, ensuring your executive assistant is discrete and confidential will provide you and your customers stability and confidence. Sensitive information should be handled carefully and be protected.
Skill: Multitasking and time-management
Why? A perfect world would mean only one task or project is open and one enquiry hits your mailbox at a time, however this does not happen. It is more often than not the case that everything comes in at one time and you are juggling demands from multiple people through multiple sources. Being able to identify priority statuses of projects and enquiries and multi-task is essential for an executive assistant. It can be damaging to not recognise high-priority tasks, shift focus when needed, be able to restructure the day and manage time to complete deadlines.
Skill: Decision-making and problem-solving
Why? To save you time it is essential an executive assistant is able to learn your organisational goals and vision, and represent this by making snap decisions and problem-solving. If every task, project or enquiry requires your assistance, your time will be stretched too thin and your attention will not be where it needs to be.
Skill: Commitment to self-development and tech savvy
Why? It is unrealistic to expect an executive assistant to know everything or be able to do everything. It is not humanly possible, and as a business owner you will know how important it is to use your skills to be able to adapt and grow to meet your client's and business' needs. This is the same attribute you need in an executive assistant, someone who is passionate about self-development, tech savvy and strives to learn new skills. This will ensure not only is your executive assistant growing with you but they are also learning new skills to bring to your business.
Skill: Communication and People Skills
Why? As the centre of your business, it is vital your executive assistant has excellent written and verbal skills. This is not only so communication with you and your team is smooth, but so communication with clients is professional and represents your image. Your business will require someone who can adapt to formal and personal communication styles as needed.
Skill: Composure and Humility
Why? As a business owner you know running a business is full of pressure and adapting to changing environments and demands requires constant energy. You want an executive assistant who can remain composed under pressure juggling multiple tasks and changes and keep a clear head when quick decisions need to be made. You also want an executive assistant to show humility and understand the key responsibility is to make you and your business look good.
Virtual executive assistant or in-house executive assistant?
This often comes down to personal preference and there are a few benefits and drawbacks of both options.
Virtual Executive Assistant: In today's technology driven age, hiring a virtual executive assistant can be the most efficient option.
Depending on the size of your business, you may not need an executive assistant to be working every day 9-5, hiring a virtual executive assistant means you can book a package of hours to be used throughout the month as needed and maintain flexibility in your scheduling.
Everything has become digital - filing systems, customer enquiries, bookkeeping, and the list goes on. A virtual executive assistant will already have processes and experience managing small businesses virtually. If you aren't already digital, a virtual executive assistant will help you streamline your processes and go online.
If you do not require an office to conduct your business, going virtual from home offices will save you big on overheads and increase your profits.
Typically an in-house executive assistant will sit at the front desk or at a desk in front of the CEO's office, the benefit of having a virtual executive assistant is they are easily accessible for all team members if desired, boosting productivity not only in top management but all organisational levels.
If you would like someone to sit at a front desk, you won't get this from your executive virtual assistant.
If you are not tech savvy, it might take you some time to adjust to a virtual executive assistant so it is vital you enlist someone who will walk you through the process.
In-House Executive Assistant: Some businesses still prefer to have an in-house executive assistant in their business office.
If you would like someone sitting at your front desk to greet customers who come in this is a great option.
You will have direct access to your executive assistant is you're not so tech savvy.
It will cost much more to have an in-house executive assistant through overheads, superannuation, insurance and paid leave.
You will reduce your flexibility, if you do not need one full-time and hire a part-time executive assistant, you will have to roster certain hours and days and won't have the flexibility to call on your executive assistant if the need arises.
An in-house employee will often have more sick days and absences as they do not have the same flexibility as a virtual executive assistant.
To finish up, how do you know you're hiring the right executive assistant?
Trust - The number one thing I would recommend is make sure your executive assistant is someone you can trust. An executive assistant has access to the ins and outs of your business and is often representing you and your values. Make sure you hire someone you can trust to do right by your business.
Tip: Look out for confidentiality in their contracts, a secure filing system, and personality traits that indicate they have integrity and honesty.
Professionalism - This is a person who will be representing you and your company, make sure they are representing your consumer value proposition.
Tip: Keep an eye out for communication style, personality style, work ethics and values.
Business Sense - Looking for someone who is experienced with business will help you be sure the right decisions are being made, key information is being recorded and opportunities are being identified.
Your business can benefit considerably from an executive assistant and if you find the right one, they will work with you and your business long-term, supporting your growth, professional image, and sustainability.