Most people would put a new car, holiday bonus or vacation getaway at the top of their wish list items but an executive assistant tops them all for an entrepreneur.
It is no secret that entrepreneurs, by necessity, wear many hats. As a founder of several start-ups, my responsibilities have ranged from CEO to marketing, finance, project management, grant writing, social media, videography, design and, most recently, technology so I could customize our websites.
We yearn for someone to start wearing some of those hats, but when you are strapped for cash and have what seems like endless needs, hiring an assistant role gets cut from your priorities. In the thick of my start-up journey, there were countless nights when my mind was racing with to do lists and project plans. An assistant seemed like a fantasy, a day that I would only see in my dreams.
Then, one day, that oh-so-distant dream became reality! The day finally came where I was blessed with the opportunity to hire a parttime assistant!
It was a true milestone and day of celebration that felt like mini fireworks where exploding inside of me. The skies had opened up and I was thrilled at the prospect that the thousand-ton weights I had been carrying around on my shoulders were finally about to become lighter.
But I was wrong! Rather than lightening my load, on-boarding an assistant doubled my work. My dreams of being more organized and having more time on my hands crumbled on the first day. For an assistant to help you, they must first be set up, acquire all foundational knowledge of your business and be provided access to the necessary resources to assist with your needs. While I knew my start-ups better than the back of my hand, all of this valuable insight was stored in my head. In the time it took me to write out all my thoughts and supply the necessary administrative details, I could have finished more than half of the items on the list!
Nonetheless, that stressful transition was a valuable learning experience that every entrepreneur should go through. Here’s what I learned:
1. Get your ideas out of your head.
Entrepreneurs are known for carrying their best ideas and project plans in their brains instead of their files. That stops working when you start growing your team. Even the crème-of-the-crop talent can’t read your mind. Getting your ideas on paper is a good practice that will save you valuable time down the road when you need to share your ideas with others.
2. Get organized for real.
I considered myself a fairly organized person until I hired an assistant. I quickly realized how disorganized start-up life had made my work. While my many idea scribbles, sticky notes and jumble of files still made sense to me, it was quite difficult for an assistant to decipher my internal sorting system. Sorting my files into clear folders, labeling my inbox and creating note templates required extra late nights and many hours of leg work in the beginning but provided a fantastic structure for me to stay organized on crazy days ever since.
3. Learn to delegate and prioritize.
Productive leaders understand the value in delegation but for entrepreneurs delegation is difficult at first, especially if you are really close to your venture. When it’s quicker to just do it yourself, it is hard to let go and trust a task to anyone else. Practicing delegation is a great way to not only prepare yourself to lead a team but to also prioritize your time. Assigning tasks to my assistant forced me to assess priorities and my time allocation. When administrative tasks come up, I start to think to myself: “is this a valuable use of my time or can someone else be doing this?”
4. Be accountable.
Someone waiting on your work makes you accountable. You can no longer procrastinate or move a project to “when you get around to it.” An assistant relies on you to stay on track with your tasks so they can continue to support your needs.
Even if you are not yet at a stage to hire on your first assistant, the process to setting yourself up as if you were onboarding a new team member is a beneficial exercise for any entrepreneur.