AskPat 560 Episode Transcript
Pat Flynn: Hey, what's up, everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to Episode 560 of AskPat. Thank you so much for joining me today.
All right, so today we have a question from David. It's actually about executive assistants and finding one. I thought, who better to ask to answer this question for me than my own executive assistant, Jessica, who's been in the industry for a long time, who can better answer this question for you and everybody else, David. I'm really excited to listen and share David's question, but also share Jessica's answer right after that.
Here's David's question, followed by Jessica.
David: Hi, Pat. My name is David, and I wanted to ask a little bit about the best way to build our team with virtual or even executive assistants. You've talked a little bit about Jessica and Mindy and these incredible people on your team. I know that Michael Hyatt really talks a lot about how incredible his executive assistant is. My question for you is, what is the best way to find real people like this, that live in the U.S.? I know that a lot of these virtual assistant sites are incredible for finding people in the Philippines to do things like research and scheduling and really, really useful work like that, but I'm having trouble finding ways to find people in the U.S. that are in the same time zone or a close time zone, that can really help with the day-to-day work, with integrating, with contacts, maybe even with doing some of the communications that I would do in real time, to sort of save me time. I'm curious what your thoughts are. Thank you so much, and thank you for everything you do.
Jessica: Hi, everyone. Jessica here, Pat's executive assistant. I have to say, I love this question. As an executive assistant of over 10 years, I think I have a thought or two on the matter, and was really, really thrilled, one, when I heard the question, and two, when Pat asked me to answer David's question today. Thank you, David, for the question, thank you Pat for the opportunity, and thank you to everybody in the AskPat audience for listening today. Without further ado, how to hire an awesome executive assistant, courtesy of Jessica, Pat's executive assistant here at Smart Passive Income.
The first thing I'm going to tell you to do is ask your network. There's no better thing that you can do than ask friends and family for a personal recommendation. That's actually how I ended up tied up with the Smart Passive Income team. I've been working with Pat for about two years now. I would say maybe a year, a year and a half before I started working with Pat, I took a coffee meeting with this really awesome gal named Mindy at a co-working facility in downtown Minneapolis.
This was before I ever had any idea about working for myself, really didn't even know what a virtual assistant was. A friend of mine had met up with Mindy at something that we do in town, called social media breakfast, and said, “Hey, there's this really awesome gal named Mindy. She does what you want to do. You need to meet her.”
I met with her; we hit it off. About a year, a year and a half later, when I was ready to launch my business, I sent out an email to everybody I knew, including Mindy. She said, “Really? That is so exciting. I'm really glad that you're going out on your own. We have work for you.” That work was supposed to be five hours a month working for Winning Edits. By the time that they were ready to move ahead, Pat had asked the Winning Edits team if they knew anybody who would be able to help him with the email management project and potentially come on as his executive assistant.
Mindy had one recommendation, two years later, actually a grand total of three or three and a half years later—here I am. You just never know where a conversation, a coffee meeting, a lunch, a networking event, the right words in the right place, in the right ear, to the right person, go so far. I cannot recommend this enough, so please, please, please start by asking your network.
Post it to Facebook and Twitter. It doesn't have to be a personal, in-person conversation that you have, although I do find that those go further. Facebook and Twitter are a great second step. These are free resources. You're not paying for something like Monster.com or a paid Craigslist ad or anything like that, and this is an extension of your network. These are people that you know, people that you have maybe been online or in-person friends with for one, three, five, 10 years.
I have online friends that I've been friends with for 10 or 12 years and we've known each other for a really long time. If any of these people are going to be recommending someone to you, to work for you as an assistant, they know just how important that is, and that it's their reputation on the line as well when they're making those recommendations.
As a last or third resort, I wouldn't say last, but as a third resort, I can recommend reaching out to temp agencies in your area. Generally speaking, temp agencies should be free for you to call up, have a consultation call with. It should also be free for you to have candidates come to your office to interview. That way you have the temp agency doing the searching on your behalf, but then you do the real interview to make sure that it's a good fit for you.
Those would be my three steps. Ask your network, reach out to Facebook and Twitter, look at a temp service in your agency, if you don't have the time to be sourcing, or if your network just isn't coming up with good candidates. Because you just don't know.
The next thing that you need to do is decide do you need this person to be virtual or in person. There are advantages to both. When you're looking at somebody who's in person, someone's in the same city, you've got all of their knowledge and experience of the city that they're in. You can call on them to run errands, pick up your mail, run to the post office, any kind of little out-and-about thing that you might need. I work for Pat and I've been working very successfully remotely for him for about two years now. My 10+ years of experience as an executive assistant translates remarkably well to being a virtual assistant. I know the right questions to ask the internet to find answers to things that I need in the San Diego area, or anywhere that Pat might be traveling. I also know the right questions to ask potential vendors, suppliers and venues. We've had a great deal of success with the one day breakthrough blogging event that Pat and Chris did a little over a year ago.
Then with Pat recording his audiobook, I made one phone call. That was not days and hours of research, that was not me flying out to San Diego. I did 15 minutes of research, made one phone call and Pat has been just thrilled with the results of the recording experience. We really can't wait for you to hear the finished audiobook.
The next part of the question that I would like to address is that an executive assistant should be your first hire. They can help with any subsequent hires, they can do research, they can help with new hire onboarding, welcoming. They can vet vendors, suppliers, and venues, just like I was talking about with the one-day breakthrough blogging. The executive assistant should be the first person that you are hiring.
When you are making this decision, interview like crazy but listen to your intuition. Don't feel obligated to interview 50 candidates to have a better idea of what the pool is, or to give each person a full hour of your time. I know I personally over the last few years of running my own business, I can tell from the minute that I meet somebody if I want to work with them or not. It's like you get a good handshake, you get a good vibe off of somebody, you can just tell. I bet you guys all have stories like that, where you either are super excited and super glad two years down the line, like I am that I get to work with somebody awesome like Pat, that I listened to my gut and said, “Yes, this is a great fit.”
Or conversely, we've all got stories like this too, where something didn't go as planned, or didn't go as you thought it would, and you said, “You know, I had a sneaking suspicion when we met that it just wasn't going to work out. I should have listened to my gut.” When you're hiring somebody, listen to your intuition, listen to your gut, listen to whatever it is in your brain that's telling you that this is a good fit or it's not a good fit. You can always bring somebody back for a second interview, a third interview, anything like that.
Start small, start with a one-off project, start with a week, start with a month. A lot of companies, if you're hiring someone full time over a freelancer, they do a 30-, 60- or a 90-day trial period, and you're not actually a full-time employee until you've hit that mark. The other biggest thing to look at is soft skills over hard skills. You can have an idea of some of the softwares, like there are definitely basic things that a good assistant should have a working knowledge of: Microsoft Office Suite, how to create PDF documents, having a good phone voice, having a good writing style, being able to write clearly, cohesively, professionally, writing a good email for people. Because this is a customer-facing thing.
There are some hard skills, very small hard skills, though; go for the soft skills. Go for somebody that you get along with, somebody that you like. You can train the hard skills; you can't train or force the soft skills. The best piece of advice that I got with this, I did make a small foray into hiring an employee myself once upon a time. Matt, on Pat's team of Winning Edits fame and Rocket Code fame, said to me, “Hire slowly, fire quickly.”
That is far and away the best piece of advice I have gotten. The person that I ended up hiring on my staff, it did not end up being a good fit, only had her on for about a week and a half. I felt awful about it, but you didn't invest years of time and thousands and thousands of dollars down the line, whereas catching it at the beginning, nipping it in the bud, calling it a day, no harm no foul, it didn't work out, move on.
The next thing to consider is you as the executive. You have to be willing and able to give up control. I know that your company or your project or your client, it's your baby, it's your lifeblood, it's your bread and butter, whatever it is a good assistant understands and respects that. But it's not fun or effective for anybody to have your boss micromanaging you, second guessing everything that you do, looking over your shoulder, redoing the work that you just did. Trust breeds loyalty and it breeds just a really good working relationship. The last consideration is going to be your budget. An executive assistant is a high-functioning, detail-obsessed powerhouse of a project manager. I don't think people understand that about a good executive assistant. You need to compensate and appreciate that person appropriately. For a sake of conversation let's just say that you bill at $200 an hour, pay your freelance executive assistant $50 an hour. Four of their hours equals one of yours.
When I was starting out in the job market fresh out of college, the worst thing—and I will never forget this, I interviewed for this job. It had a laundry list of hard skills. It wanted me to have HR experience, payroll experience, APAR, all this stuff that's really just kind of a catch-all. Granted, an executive assistant is a catch-all role, but it is not fair to expect somebody to be your accounting department, your payroll department, your HR department, and do all of their regular…you know, and answer the phone and order your lunch on top of that.
This job description had this huge list of all this stuff that I had to have, it wanted me to have a bachelor's degree, plus a sunny disposition, be there at the office every day at 7 a.m. on the dot, for a grand total of $10 an hour, no benefits. That is the worst. Pay your executive assistant appropriately. We are worth every single penny. When you see all of the stuff that we can get done in one hour, that used to take you 10 hours because you hate doing it, or you're just too busy, or it's so low on the priority list that it just gets forgotten, it will be the best money that you ever spend. The old adage rings true: You have to spend money to make money. Spend your money on a good executive assistant. Give them the title of executive assistant; it's a badge of honor. It's something that we take seriously.
Yes, I hope that you find this information helpful, David, and the rest of the AskPat audience. Thank you for listening. You can find me online at Galfriday612 on Twitter if you have any further questions or follow-up, and thanks so much for listening. Bye.
Pat: All right, that was Jessica, my EA or executive assistant. She's amazing—can't you tell? I'm just so lucky and blessed to have her on the team, and Mindy and everybody else. I'm just…man, when you build a great team, great things can happen. Jessica, I've got to thank you so much for the answer.
David, thank you for the question today. We're going to send you an AskPat T-shirt for having your question featured here on the show, and you're actually going to hear from Jessica in the next couple of weeks to collect your information, so that we can send that over to you. For everybody else out there, if you have a question that you'd like potentially featured here on the show, just head on over to AskPat.com. You can ask right there on that page. As always I end it with a quote.
Today's quote is from Alan Cohen, and he said, “Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.”
Jessica, very thankful for you, and please make sure to thank your executive assistants or virtual assistants or team today, if you haven't yet done so already. Because you wouldn't be able to do what you do without them, that's for sure. Cheers. Take care, and I'll see you in the next episode of AskPat. Bye.