One commonality among business owners is an entrepreneurial spirit. This quality is what drives them to take risks, set goals, and hold themselves accountable for success. Another shared characteristic of entrepreneurs, is their ability to tackle any task they put their mind to.
Aside from running the day to day business operations, these tasks can range anywhere from managing their own bookkeeping, to scheduling their own appointments and travel, or posting to their own social media accounts. After all, why create an added expense hiring someone to do something you can do on your own? The answer to this may differ from what you expect.
While the ability to self-manage everything within a business can appear to cut back on expenses, this can also hinder business development. This is because, when time is spent managing tasks that can be done by others, the business owner is unable to allocate that time toward their unique skills that drive the business forward. In turn, this prevents the business from reaching its full potential.
One of the best ways to counter this, is by hiring a personal assistant (PA), and/or virtual assistant (VA). Utilizing a professional assistant creates tremendous opportunity for a business owner. It allows them to redirect their efforts into their greatest areas of strength, ensuring they’re managing their time efficiently. Essentially, if you do not have a personal assistant, you are one.
For many business owners, on-boarding a personal assistant can feel like a hurdle, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Here, we will walk through everything you need to know about utilizing personal assistants, and using them effectively, so you can hit the ground running.
Know How to Delegate
The first step when deciding to take on a personal assistant, is identifying which tasks the assistant will help with. Delegation is an essential skill for a business owner. Often, this can feel like a daunting task in itself, as it can be hard to organize the responsibilities, and establish what to hand off. The steps below are a useful way to overcome this.
Start With a List
A business owner needs to start by writing down everything one does in a day. Record everything from getting a car wash, to answering emails, to paying bills. It’s very important to include every detail, because even the most minuscule task can impact efficiency.
Score Your Tasks
After creating a log of all tasks, it’s helpful to then break down each task to analyze which ones are essential for the business owner to work on, and which ones can be handed off to others. An effective way to do this, is to start by scoring all of these tasks on a rating system, like this one below.
- Unique Ability
Line by line, the business owner can score their personal capabilities this way. For example, say one of the tasks is to schedule a meeting with a prospective client. While the business owner may be highly competent, or even excellent, at doing this on their own, this isn’t necessarily something that would be considered a unique ability. In other words, this may be a task that can be handed off elsewhere.
The idea is to define the tasks that can, truly, only be accomplished by the business owner, i.e. the tasks that require a unique ability. Alternately, it’s equally important to establish which areas the owner feels completely disinclined toward, i.e. the incompetent areas. For example, maybe the owner is interested in running Facebook ads for the business, but doesn’t know where to begin; this would be characterized as an incompetent task.
After sorting out individual competencies and ability levels, the next step is to place a value on the tasks that don’t fit criteria for unique ability. Essentially, determine what you would be willing to pay someone else to complete each task on an hourly basis. For example, let’s say the owner would be willing to pay someone $50/hr to manage Facebook ads, and $20/hr to manage their calendar. Sorting tasks this way can help the business owner visualize costs, and prioritize.
After organizing the responsibilities this way, the business person is now aligned to determine which duties might be better suited in the hands of an assistant. By defining tasks based on personal levels of competency, and cost efficiency, the business owner can create a clear sense of direction toward delegating responsibilities elsewhere.
Prepare for Hiring
Now that you’re ready to delegate tasks and begin the search for a personal assistant, there are some things to know to help you better understand their industry. Being knowledgeable about standard rates, expectations of hours, and billing practices will help you better prepare for hiring.
The typical going rate for a quality personal assistant is $25-$35/hour. While this may fluctuate, the rates are likely to depend on level of experience, anticipated hours, and level of responsibility.
Personal assistants typically work as 1099, contracted employees. This is nice for the business owner, because it saves the step of adding someone to payroll, and keeps things pretty straightforward. For the contractor, they’re given the benefit of setting their own hours, and maintaining autonomy.
It is common for PA’s to have multiple clients at any given time. This allows them to grow their business, and gain experience across multiple industries. For an employer, this can be very beneficial. This is because it allows a business owner to hire someone who may be open to working only a few hours each week. For someone with a busy schedule, you would be surprised at how far a few hours of extra help can go.
As a 1099 contractor, a PA will typically track their hours, and send invoices to the business owner. There are many online tools they can use to log hours, such as TSheets, Toggl, or Harvest.
The options of where, and how, to deposit their payments can be flexible, too. Various options include PayPal, Venmo, or simply direct deposit.
Be sure to communicate clearly with one another in the beginning to establish hourly rates, what the expected hours will be, how often the PA will send invoices, and how they will be paid. Creating these expectations, and agreements in the forefront will set you both up for success.
Know What to Screen For
Now that you know what to expect with payment logistics, the next step is knowing what to screen for when looking for your hire. Considering you want to hire this person to maximize efficiency, it’s important to look for someone capable of being autonomous. The less direction your personal assistant needs, the easier it will be on you. Here are some ideas on how to screen for this.
As with many industries, the more experience, the better. It’s optimal to find a PA with some level of experience, as they will be more likely to better understand your needs. If you struggle finding a candidate specifically with personal assistant background, experience in similar roles, such as event planning, also tend to do well here. The idea is to look for people that are skilled at being resourceful, and can find solutions with minimal guidance.
Create Test Scenarios
A really effective, and common way to screen candidates is to provide them with test scenarios to gauge their problem solving abilities. The best way to do this is to relate the test to your needs. For example, say you travel frequently, and you need a PA to book travel arrangements. Try providing candidates with complex travel scenarios, like this.
I need to arrange travel for two over Labor Day weekend to Las Vegas. I want to stay three nights at a hotel on the strip for no more than $300/night. I want a layover in Chicago. On the return flight only, I want the tickets to be booked in first class.
An optimal candidate would be able to complete the request, but most importantly, find solutions on their own for any “grey” areas. By creating these scenarios, you can gauge the candidate’s natural ability to complete tasks without guidance. This is the type of person that will help you get things done, and allow you to allocate your time elsewhere.
Similarly to considering a person’s qualifications, referrals are a tried and true method of finding a quality candidate. Personal assistants, especially those that work virtually, tend to have large networks of other assistants they can recommend. They regularly network with one another across places like LinkedIn, and Facebook. Because of this, another great way to find a PA would be to ask business associates for connections.
Utilize Project Management & Communication Tools
After you’ve screened for a top-quality candidate, it’s important to establish effective communication practices while you work together. There are some great tools, and methods available to streamline communication, and workflows. These will maximize efficiency between you and your PA, especially with a virtual assistant.
Sometimes, business owners are unsure how to communicate a task they would like to delegate, especially if the task seems obscure. There’s a couple ways to solve this. One method is to simply scan, or forward related documents to the PA, and ask them to take care of it. Remember, you scanned for a resourceful candidate, so their skills will come in handy here. Similarly, there are tools, like Loom, you can use to record your screen. This allows you to provide visual examples of the task you need help with.
While this can depend a lot on individual preference, another practice that’s useful for maximized efficiency, is to establish recurring cadences with your PA to touch base. This structure can encourage efficiency, by minimizing the need for communications outside of the designated time. Between meetings, you can use tools like ClickUp, or Airtable to track projects, and stay informed on progress.
The tools and workflows utilized between a business owner and personal assistant will vary, based upon the needs and expectations of both parties. In the beginning, there may be some ebbs and flows while you partner up and find the workflows that make the most sense. Be sure to have lots of open dialogue while the PA becomes acquainted with the business, and you’ll both be aligned for success.
Operate Your Business Efficiently
Now that you understand the value of a personal assistant, the in’s and out’s of hiring one, and the best ways to utilize them, you can feel confident about hiring an assistant to join your team. A personal assistant and/or virtual assistant will be a great asset to you while you work to operate your business efficiently. Remember, if you don’t have a personal assistant, you are one.
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