Remote Executive Assistant?... So, what do you DO?
The setting is usually a party, sitting next to someone on an airplane -pre-COVID- or just striking up a conversation with a fellow patron at a bar while on vacation. If the conversation flows easily and we’re both into it, the inevitable question of “What do you do?” comes up.
“My wife and I run a remote executive assistant business.” I say as I wait for the predictable follow-up…
“Remote executive assistant?... So, what do you DO?”, they ask.
From here I usually say something along the lines of “Well, we can’t get your coffee, lunch or dry cleaning unless we leverage TaskRabbit or a similar service but other than that, pretty much everything.”
The reason I say ‘everything’ is that the executive assistant position -at a top-level- is really a catchall position. Anything that can give a principal more time to focus where they need, want or like to focus, is fair game.
QUICK ASIDE: The term ‘principal’ -which can take the place of client, executive, business owner, CEO, known personality or HNWI- means that this person is the assistant’s “principal point of focus”; the one their attention is focused on. Now back to the show…
A top-level executive assistant is a business partner, project manager, chief of staff, assistant/scheduler and personal assistant all wrapped into one. It’s not that every executive assistant provides each of those functions to their principal but if they are being utilized to the fullest, they eventually do.
As a business partner, a remote executive assistant can, if asked:
- Comment on the new marketing campaign options.
- Provide their point of view on candidates.
- Onboard new people into the organization that interact with the principal.
- Interview potential vendors and perform SWOT analysis on each.
- Sit in on meetings when the principal isn’t available to take notes, offer perspective and communicate status back to the principal.
- Act as a confidential sounding board for the principal.
Once trust is built as a business partner between principal and EA (or remote executive assistant), the sky is the limit. None of this has to be communicated to others outside of the relationship as long as there is a clear understanding of where the principal values their EA’s time and attention as well as the EA knowing where the line is between moving something forward or checking back with the principal for approval.
This kind of relationship doesn’t happen overnight but the value a partnership like this provides continues to grow over time once the trust and understanding are built.
When referencing project management, I’m not referring to people who get their degree in project management and shepherd a new idea through all the processes to finished product within an organization. When we speak of an EA playing a project manager role, that is everything from:
- Planning and executing a successful trip – business or personal.
- Coordinating with a general contractor to re-do the principal’s master bathroom.
- Planning and executing an office move.
- Overseeing an internal technology transition.
- Coordinating a surprise gift for a VIP.
You see, when the boss gets an idea in their head that the executive team is in favor of, but they all say they don’t have anyone on their team to spearhead, who do you think is turned to next?... yep, their executive assistant.
Chief of Staff
Just as with the project manager role, a traditional chief of staff is the principal’s driving force behind meeting KPIs and pushing goals forward on a quarterly and yearly basis by interacting with the leadership team, keeping track of deadlines and the pushing the progress of work forward.
This is NOT what we mean when we refer to the EA or remote executive assistant serving as a chief of staff.
How we look at it -again, when trust is built- is that the people the principal interacts with in both their business and personal lives as well as within their community can interact with their executive assistant instead of the principal directly. If you’re partnered with a high-level executive assistant or remote executive assistant, them having the soft skills to serve as someone on behalf of their principal is paramount to saving their principal time.
When the people that the principal interacts with understand that the executive assistant is speaking on the principal’s behalf, this smooths the flow of information and removes the bottleneck that inevitably surrounds a busy/successful principal’s decision-making process.
In addition to the three high-level roles above, a remote executive assistant must also handle the administrative functions of an office. These tasks include:
- Handling the back and forth to find a day, time and place for people to meet.
- Making reservations for cars, restaurants & general travel research and booking.
- Facilitating the flow of information.
- Keeping an eye on the details and managing through conflicts when “all three meetings” need to happen “at the same time”.
- Being the “Single Point of Contact” for the principal.
When we say, “Single Point of Contact”, if you’re going to take anything away from this blog post, this should be it; That an executive assistant or remote executive assistant can be the principal’s single point of contact. What this means is that instead of the principal making 12 different calls involving their business and personal worlds, they can communicate with their assistant to handle 9 of them which leaves the call to the board chair, the client and the prospect on the principal’s to-do list and the assistant to handle everyone else.
You can’t imagine the time this saves the principal when they know they have someone to turn to who can take those 9 calls away from them.
In larger corporate settings, having assistants help with personal work is usually frowned upon. However, I guarantee you that the CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies have their assistants (and yes, they usually have more than one) spearhead personal tasks and projects.
From our point of view as remote executive assistants usually partnering with smaller organizations or having a close partnership with a client, doing personal work is just part of the role. Again, falling back on the idea that anything that is not a good use of the principal’s time and that the assistant can handle, is fair game.
And honestly, when a principal and assistant are working in sync, it’s just easier for the assistant to handle those personal things that just never seem to make their way off of the principal’s to-do list to make sure things run smoothly and nothing falls through the cracks.
Hopefully this post gives anyone thinking of partnering with any sort of assistant (administrative assistant, executive assistant, remote executive assistant or virtual assistant) an idea of how they could incorporate such support into their own worlds and start to see the amount of time they could claw back and have back as their own.
When you are ready to consider having an ProAssisting Remote Executive Assistant join your team - one who consistently strives to deliver hospitality - we would love to talk.