Let’s be honest, if executive assistants and administrative assistants were free – everyone would have one. And since we are being completely honest, most of them would be underutilized. When I first speak with clients about whether it may be time to consider adding an executive or administrative assistant to their team, their first reaction is usually to push back. The number one objection is that their clients would not allow them to delegate most of the tasks they do for them. Basically, it’s the “only I can do that” syndrome.
Some of the obvious tasks an assistant can take off your plate are: answering the phone and taking messages, prioritizing email, managing your schedule, writing thank you cards and letters, helping prepare for meetings, research, filing, creating marketing materials, etc. While these are certainly helpful, if that is all you train your assistant to do – you will still be overwhelmed and your assistant will be bored. You will be amazed at what the best assistants are doing for their principals…
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Let’s start with complete escrow/transaction management. In every interview I conducted, each of the executive assistants managed the transaction from contract execution to closing. When I say complete, I mean that if a client had a question about how a transaction is progressing – the client will have to call the one person who knows everything, that’s the assistant. He/she will most likely have written the LOI for the broker. Once the deal is under contract, the broker is hands off unless something major goes awry – and clients love this. Not only is the assistant better at keeping them informed, the assistant is much easier to reach when the client has a question. One executive assistant I spoke with has managed 35 escrows simultaneously. I definitely can’t do that.
In addition to managing the entire transaction process, most of the executive assistants I interviewed for this series also managed the broker’s business. They pay the bills, interact with broker’s accounting firm, supervise support staff, and make sure the company runs smoothly. When one investment broker needed to hire a new marketing person, his executive assistant conducted the interviews and hired the marketing person. Once hired, the marketing person reported directly to the executive assistant. One broker said:
“She is my eyes and ears in my company – she makes me aware of issues before they become problems.”
Almost all of them said, in some form or another, that “he/she takes over my projects and runs with them, seeing them through to completion.” One of the top retail leasing brokers in the country has an amazing executive assistant that handles incoming calls, produces LOIs, interacts personally with clients, and even conducts tours. She is perceived by clients and the outside world – as a partner. Her principal said:
“She’s involved with everything from marketing and cold-calling on the agency side, to helping me put together tours and explore/scour markets. She’s really doing everything a broker does, and is probably even better at it than most of the brokers in our industry.”
Each of the principals I interviewed said that they knew they had the right assistant when their clients would call and ask for the assistant first. Even if the broker answered the call, they would say “I don’t want to talk to you, give me to _______.” This really frees up the broker to find and win more business, and to focus on growing their company and/or team. This is proof that you are not so important that your clients can’t make it through a transaction without you every step of the way. Don’t be a victim of the “only I can do that” syndrome.
It’s important to note that I found 3 common elements present in each of the successful teams I interviewed. The first element, one that I believe to be crucial to success – is “partnership”. Clients did not feel like they were being handed off to an underling, but that they were being serviced by a partner. The second is “trust” – there is an extremely high level of trust between the best principal and executive assistant teams. And lastly, they genuinely like and respect each other – and neither party would do anything to jeopardize that trust or respect.
Next week we will look at how these successful teams found one another, and got together. We will discuss what to look for, and where to look.