Many business owners eventually hire a Personal Assistant. There are so many tasks to complete in any given day and having someone to help you can free up more time, get more done and alleviate at least a marginal amount of stress! When is it the right time to hire a personal assistant though? I knew it was time to get help when I expanded my business and found that there just wasn’t enough hours in the day to finish all of the routine tasks. The day to day fundamentals were building up and I ended up with an avalanche of stuff that needed doing urgently. I began to feel stressed and frustrated, as I had to suppress the ideas and goals in my head for months and months because I was just too busy trying to keep my head above water.
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Many business owners also lack focus on the day to day organisation that keeps a business ticking over. Setting in place office systems and more to the point, sticking with them, are not my strong point. I found that I had a little bit of information here and a little there. A wonderful spreadsheet that I implemented but oh, didn’t have time to use! I needed help. This is where PA’s excel. It is their forte!
If you are still not certain whether you are ready to hire a PA, take time out and write down all of the tasks that you have to do on a regular basis and then all of the tasks that you should/would like to do. This will give you an idea of where you would like to focus your own efforts and highlight the volume of work you could pass to a PA. You could always hire someone on a part-time basis to start with. When I had 200-300 clients, I could handle all the office work on my own but since we expanded in 2015 with the acquisition of two other web design agencies, we now look after over 600 clients and it is simply too much for one person.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, what your job title is, what other people might think – if you’re busy, you’re busy! If you can afford it, getting help to decrease your busy-ness makes sense!
What hiring a PA will do for you
Okay, so you know that you need to hire a PA but are still umming and ahhing over the expense. Let me assure you that you won’t look back. The additional expense will give you the opportunity to focus on running your business more effectively and ultimately increase revenue. It is a win-win situation. You give yourself permission to let things go, except whatever it is that you do best and generate more income at the same time. No more routine tasks that you don’t need to do and don’t want to do!
However you need to be prepared to lose some control and let go. Delegate. This is what you are hiring them for!
A PA will help organise office systems and you! You will no longer need to worry about organising meetings, scheduling events and finalising travel plans. They can do it all for you and even help prepare with any research and all of the documentation that you need to take with you. A PA will free up so much of your time so that you can focus on the big picture. However you must take time out to share the big picture with your PA. The time that you invest to communicate what you want both now and in the future will be valuable. They need to understand your business and what you are trying to achieve so that they can become your ‘wingman!’
The 6 must have traits of a good PA
- A PA must have excellent organisational skills. I have said this so many times and cannot reiterate it enough. Systems that are simple yet effective can save both time and money and the ability to place a hand on the required information at short notice is a god send!
- A PA must have excellent communication skills. They are a key representative of your business and whether it is welcoming a new client into your office or telephoning a client chasing payment of an overdue invoice they should be professional and pleasant at all times.
- They need to be flexible and prepared for all circumstances.
- A good PA loves learning. There will always be something new to learn and they should be proactive so that they can take the pressure off; research information and facts for the online newsletter, create an updated presentation, or become more efficient at social media.
- PAs don’t work with much direction, so judgment, or the ability to make sound decisions without supervision, is important. They need to anticipate or recognize problems and refer them immediately to the right person for resolution.
- A PA must understand she’s part of a team that includes her executive and other employees. She must establish and maintain working relationships with staffers at all corporate levels and with clients.
What I learnt about hiring a PA
I’d decided that a Personal Assistant was definitely someone I needed. However, hiring can be really stressful even though the whole point of this was to make me less stressed!
Hiring is a very time consuming process. I received over 60 applications and needed to take time out to read them all. Some applicants had put a lot of thought and effort into their cover letters and applications, so I wanted to give them the same effort when reviewing. I did however discover that WINZ require beneficiaries to apply for a certain number of jobs to retain their benefits, so don’t be surprised if you get a lot of half-hearted applications that are not remotely what you were looking for. I had already devised a job specification so I knew what all of the main duties would be and needed to check if the applicants main skill set fitted with my requirements. I had applicants who were experts at payroll and looking to be paid accordingly but I don’t have 200 staff, so all that knowledge and experience was not as attractive to me as it would have been to a larger employer.
After whittling down all of the applications into those I wanted to meet and interview, I then had to rearrange my diary to schedule interview times.
The next task was to prepare for the interviews. In order to find the right candidate for me I felt that I needed to prepare questions that weren’t just the standard “where do you see yourself in 5 years time”. I planned to ask open questions that require applicants to give a detailed answer instead of yes or no. Silence is golden. Applicants will tell you things they didn’t mean to if you don’t say anything in response to a short answer.
Advice for Personal Assistant Applicants
Sadly not all applications were up to scratch and a few silly, easily rectified, mistakes in your cover letter and c.v ultimately ruined their chances of an interview. So for those job hunters among you, here are a few tips learnt from my own experience:
- Check your spelling, grammar and punctuation! If you can’t get your own details right how on earth will you do so in a new environment! Presentation is everything so:
- Format your CV so it is readable.
- Don’t waffle on giving your personal opinions. This is not professional and can be boring…
- Don’t try to be creative with graphics if you’re not a graphic design genius!
- Don’t say you have great attention to detail but then mis-spell my name. Come on, you know how irritated you get when someone spells your name wrong!
- Relate your experience to the role. If you don’t have experience, explain how the experience you do have can help your future employer.