From Force Multiplier to Founder: Coaching & Training Company Edition

I often get asked what the next career move is for Force Multipliers (Executive Assistants, Chiefs of Staffs, and Personal Assistants). While I believe that being a Force Multiplier is a dynamic career in its own right, it may no longer be the right fit for the individual at some point, as with any position.

What I find fascinating is that many high performing Force Multipliers start their own companies. Recently, I asked former Force Multipliers to reach out with their stories about starting their own companies and a couple of themes emerged – one of which is Force Multipliers who have created their own coaching and training companies.

In this article, I interview former Force Multipliers about their journey to Founder and what they have learned along the way. It was a pleasure hearing their unique experiences, insights, and stories!

Before we jump in, let’s meet the Founders!

Michelle Bowditch

Tech Lover, Educator, Connector & Advocate for Executive Assistants at Door20A

With over 15-years of experience as a C-Suite Executive Assistant across public and private sectors, Michelle has extensive insight around tech loopholes that (even the most successful) professionals fall culprit to. She helps people understand how the improper use of technology affects a brand’s efficiency, bottom line and true potential—then shows them how to streamline workflow, and peak performance with the right tools.

Connection, collaboration and community fuel Michelle’s vision to educate people on the power of tech and explain that it’s not a one size fits all. It’s about having the right mindset and customizing solutions – she equips her clients with both!

Michelle teaches Executive Assistants and Women in Business how to harness technology and use it effectively to propel their career forward.

Connect with Michelle at michelle@door20a.com

Skevi Constantinou

Founder of The PA Way

Skevi Constantinou is an EA with a wealth of experience across various sectors, predominately Corporate Finance. She is a huge advocate for the industry, evoking change by encouraging assistants to be heard as one voice. Having created and launched the popular assistant lifestyle platform, The PA Way, Skevi’s mission is to ensure that assistants and admin professionals are valued, nurtured and listened to – by staging events and learning to enable them to “live like a boss!” Skevi’s aim is to take assistants out of their bosses’ shadow and to own their own light.

With a goal of ensuring that assistants become so powerful, that people do not know who the boss is, The PA Way is a fresh, fun and informative platform to allow assistants to “level up” by learning, development and events. Skevi truly understands that it’s time to put assistants and admin professionals in the limelight and to ensure that it is their time to shine. The PA Way is about inspiring, empowering and motivating you to be the best you can be, not only as the rockstar assistant but as the glow-getter who shines!

Connect with Skevi at info@thepaway.co.uk

Julie Perrine

CEO of Julie Perrine International, LLC

Julie Perrine is an executive
assistant turned CEO and the founder of All Things Admin. She is also an
enthusiastic trainer, author, Certified Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Administrator, perpetual planner, longtime thimble collector, and adoring aunt.

As an advocate of the
administrative profession, Julie encourages admins to be prepared, hone their
skills, and always keep their minds open to new career opportunities. Her
mission is to help assistants thrive, build and strengthen their professional
relationships, and become assets to their executives and organizations. She
believes that people in the administrative profession have the ability to go
anywhere they want to professionally – from a desk in the C-suite supporting a
top executive to becoming an executive and running their own business. Julie’s
upbeat, step-by-step approach to handling the opportunities and challenges
admins face includes proactive strategies for developing a plan, creating
forward motion, and achieving great results.

In 2009, Julie founded All
Things Admin to provide accessible, affordable training, resources, and
guidance to admins worldwide. Since then, Julie and her company have become
integral parts of the administrative training world by inspiring admins to
transform their careers, embrace innovation, and realize their potential. She
has also authored three books, The Innovative AdminThe Organized Admin, and Become a Procedures Pro.

Julie grew up with her three sisters on a farm in Iowa, where she learned to never wear shorts while baling hay and that wildly flailing your arms in a cattle lot is a big mistake. She’s not a big fan of hiking, camping, or scary movies. But she can pack a suitcase or moving boxes like nobody’s business. She loves working and living in Indianapolis. And if she ever retires, she’d like to spend her time traveling with her husband, Todd, taking her nieces and nephews on educational adventures, and learning how to use the manual settings on her DSLR camera.

Connect with Julie at adminsuccess@allthingsadmin.com

Margaret Smith

CEO of I Love It When, LLC

Margaret (Mo) is on a mission to revolutionize the operations world in the Real Estate Industry.

Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Mo has a passion for seeking truth and asking the hard questions. Her parents provided an environment where she and her brothers were truly given permission to just be ourselves. She had no idea the privilege she was given.

Prior to Real Estate, Mo was the Docent Program Coordinator at the Seattle Art Museum for 5 years and Assistant Volleyball Coach for Northwest University in Kirkland. She has her Masters in Social Work with a focus on administration, and she is an adamant believer in human potential.

Mo was the Director of Operations for Pickett Street Properties out of Bothell, WA from 2012-2020. Her job involved recruiting, screening, hiring, marketing/PR, client events, team events, culture, podcast production and overall strategic thinking with the Owner, Jesse D. Moore. 

Mo is extremely passionate about raising the standards for admins across industries and professions. She is an advocate, artist, cheerleader, strategic thinker – an admin who wants to help bust open the industry, and assist in the growth of your business and personal life.

Connect with Mo at mo@Iloveitwhen.org

Rhiannon Ward

Mindset Coach & Business Strategist

Rhiannon is a Mindset Coach & Business Strategist who specializes in helping high achievers unlock their mission and purpose to create an extraordinary, impactful life. Prior to becoming a professional coach, Rhi spent 12+ years partnering with leaders at the helm of several multi-billion dollar companies, including the likes of Atlassian, Westfield and ING. Most recently she worked alongside the Founders of the tech unicorn, Canva.  Rhiannon takes a strengths-based approach to her work and is passionate about upleveling collective consciousness.

Connect with Rhiannon at hello@rhiannonward.com or @therhiannonward

 

Can you tell us what you are doing today and give us a brief overview of your career path?

MICHELLE > I am a Tech Lover, Connector, Educator & Advocate for Executive Assistants, and the founder of Door20a, a tech consulting agency supporting female entrepreneurs and Executive Assistants to adopt the latest apps and technology to propel their business and careers forward.

Through an array of personalised tech consults, I empower professionals at the top of their game and those currently climbing the ladder to find their unique voice, disrupt the status quo and identify better ways of doing business.

Embracing 15-years of experience as a C-Suite Executive Assistant across public and private sectors, I have extensive insight around tech loopholes that, (even the most successful), professionals fall culprit to. I help people understand how the improper use of technology affects a brand’s efficiency, bottom line and true potential—then show them how to streamline workflow, and peak performance with the ‘right’ tools.

Within Door 20a’s first year of operation, I have quickly risen into a formidable leader in my field, a finalist in the 2020 Ausmumpreneur Awards (Emerging Business), Western Sydney Business Woman Awards (Start-Up Award), and Roar Success Awards (Wildcat Award).

In 2019 alone, I have spoken at 16 Executive Assistant & Tech conferences reaching 10,000 people discussing various topics, including Creating Efficiencies with Technology: Being a True Business Advisor to Your CEO and Leading from Within.

I am a global advocate for Executive Assistants, supporting them to realise their potential to become strategic advisors, influencers, and confidants to the people they support—while also helping leaders to recognise the value of their EAs.

I am an in-demand speaker and chairperson for events and panel discussions covering:

  • Women in Business
  • Tech Discussions
  • Executive Assistants

SKEVI > I originally trained as a chef when I left school and trained for three years. I then had to change careers as I had an accident which tore my shoulder so it was game over and the doctors advised that I seek an office job. I decided to re-train as an Executive Assistant as I still wanted to work in an environment that was fast-paced, lots of demands and plenty of multi-tasking.

I started out at admin level and worked my way to EA. I have mainly worked in corporate finance. In 2018 I woke up one morning having seen a concept called The PA Way which was a lifestyle platform for the Administrative industry. I was so excited by it that I created it and spent every hour that I had spare on top of a full-time job, working on The PA Way. I launched membership in early 2019 and I put on events, learning,
networking, membership and much more.

I left my full-time role in November 2019 and I have never looked back since.

JULIE > I am the CEO of Julie Perrine International, LLC. My companies include All Things Admin, Julie Perrine Virtual Associates, and Personality Strategies.

I started in the administrative field as a front office receptionist/customer service person between my freshman and sophomore years at college. I had many job titles ranging from receptionist to Executive Administrative Assistant to the President over the course of about 15 years working corporately.

In January 2005, I left corporate employment and started my own company as a virtual assistant. In 2007, I became certified in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and began offering corporate training workshops as Personality Strategies. In July of 2009, I launched All Things Admin which has been my primary focus over the past 11 years. I have also authored three books: The Innovative Admin, The Organized Admin, and Become a Procedures Pro.

MARGARET > I just started a company called I Love It When, LLC. It is a coaching, consulting, speaking, teaching and retreat company for Admin and Real Estate Agents. I am also available for professionals outside of the Real Estate Industry.

I have a Masters in Social Work with an undergraduate degree in Art & Sociology. After school I coached volleyball at Northwest University in Kirkland, WA for two years. From NW University I was able to score an interview with the Seattle Art Museum – where I spent the next 5 years in the Volunteer and Education departments. I realized pretty quickly that I would not be able to advance much unless I obtained my PhD in Art History. I left that job and stumbled into the Real Estate Industry. I spent the next 8 years moving from Team Admin to Executive Assistant and finally the Director of Operations for Pickett Street Properties out of Bothell, WA. 

RHIANNON > Absolutely! I’m a mindset coach and business strategist — I work with my clients to help them gain major confidence and clarity, and for those who are venturing into entrepreneurship; build a profitable business that they truly love. Prior to coaching, I was an executive assistant of 12+ years, with a brief detour into project management. I had the privilege of working with some of (in my opinion!) the brightest minds in the greatest companies in the world, most recently Atlassian and Canva. Looking back, the assistant profession isn’t something I necessarily ‘chose’. I like to say it found me — and for a long time, I lived and breathed the role of a force multiplier!

Before you started your career as an Executive Assistant, what do you wish someone had told you?

MICHELLE > Be ready to ‘serve first’ then juggle later. Always have your little black book handy to call for advice.

SKEVI > That the industry I was about to enter has very little reward, recognition or respect. It was really difficult for me because I had just left an industry where you were celebrated for all your amazing creations, it was hard work and you would be screamed at, but at the end of the day, the Head Chef would come over and hug you to tell you “great job”. Whatever happened during service was just because of the pace and demand. It was never anything personal. When I entered into the EA industry, I realised quickly that no matter how hard you work, the lack of reward was small from your managers and it was a profession that isn’t “respected” enough. I would be told “oh, you are just an assistant” and “go make me a cup of tea.” My skill set was not being utilised. I was tired of organising these amazing gala dinners, showcases, hampers and more and never getting an invite or being asked if I would like to try them. So, I created The PA Way instead where the assistant is the boss and always will be.

JULIE > I wish someone had helped me catch the vision of what a career path can look like and how much this role can truly prepare you for whatever it is you want to do with your career. Whether you want to be the best EA or the best CEO of a venture you launch or something in between, starting here prepares you to go anywhere you choose next if you’re actively engaged in the learning process and soaking up as much as you can about business and how a business runs as you support the executives and teams you support.

I didn’t even really know what a career was, let alone a path for expanding it. I was mostly just working jobs and enjoying them and doing them well…coasting from position to position. I eventually figured it out. But I feel like I wasted a lot of time and years as a result of not having an understanding of how to explore career opportunities more strategically and not having a plan in place to help me do it those first 15 years I worked corporately.

MARGARET > There is a massive opportunity with this career path, understand that YOU are the next person in line after the Owner/Operator and that is a very critical role. The only ceiling you have is the one you see above you. Once you know and realize this, you can work to make yourself indispensable and create numerous opportunities for yourself. 

RHIANNON > Don’t get too caught up in a ‘destination’: the next promotion, the next role, the next company. Enjoy the journey. Figure out early on what your zone of genius is, and find a position in which you can spend as much time in that zone as possible. I was on the corporate ladder for so long because I was always so focused on the ‘next’ thing, that I missed all of the opportunities around me — and it took me a long time to realise that I didn’t really want to be on it.

Tell us about your first assistant role. How did you land the job?

MICHELLE > I had just returned to Sydney after a tree change in the country (messy divorce and needed R&R) and I knew I couldn’t return to the corporate world in the wine industry managing their global events. I said to myself that I wanted to be present for my 3 young children. The job had to be easy and close to home. I applied for a receptionist role as it was 1 kilometre from my house and I could walk to work, I thought WOW, this is a no brainer. When meeting the CEO who had just transitioned from a small accountancy and financial planning practice into the big corporate space; we just clicked like, “the fit was right”. For two hours we talked about our love of sport, family, food and wine. He forgot to interview me and said, “I need you as my EA/PA/Chief of Everything”. He believed in me, trusted my abilities as a leader and the skills I had learnt from being in the Events space on a global platform.

SKEVI > I was working as an admin in a company and one day I was sneakily watching YouTube. The video was saying about how you need to “make” things happen and only you are in control of your destiny. So on a whim, I walked into the CFO’s office and said “Hi, you may not know me but I want to be your Assistant”. He looked at me and replied “I am not hiring?” I said “One day you will be and I am getting that job.” Two weeks later, I was moving my desk outside of his office. It all started because of that YouTube video!

JULIE > I was hired by a local campground through the local workforce development office for a front office receptionist position. It paid $4 per hour as a summer job while I was in college. I handled a lot of front office customer service tasks such as guest reservations, check-ins, check-outs, selling supplies, dealing with difficult customers, etc. It exposed me to a lot of small business operations and customer service best practices.

MARGARET > As I was leaving the Seattle Art Museum I put out the word to my network that I was open to an interview in ANY industry. My friend Jenn happened to tell a friend of hers that I was looking, who then said something to HER friend. I interviewed – it piqued my curiosity, and I had enough experience and motivation to show I could do the job. I was actually overqualified. I believe it was my experience and emotional intelligence that helped me to land the position.

RHIANNON > My first assistant role was at a financial services firm — I was fresh out of school, and I craved the real-world experience that the education system hadn’t offered me. I got a call to come into a group interview at this firm, and so I went (braces and all!). I think my tenacity won them over. Funnily enough, the executive I was hired to support later told me that he didn’t initially choose me and wanted to hire someone else — his boss overruled him. I was with the firm for almost 4 years, and a decade later, that executive still says I’m the best assistant he’s ever had. It was like a baptism of fire and I loved every minute of it.

Was it always your intention to start your own business at some point?

MICHELLE > Starting Door 20A was not a planned, thought out decision, it simply evolved when I saw a genuine need to help women with tech. I was supporting a CEO in a start-up business and to be honest, they couldn’t afford me, nor did they need an EA at my level. In the meantime, I had lined up several speaking events, all whilst still looking at a full-time position. Upon entering the speaking circuit, I was instantly inspired. It gave me the confidence to believe in myself and what I was doing. It was then that I felt the confidence to enable me to start educating and inspiring others. I will continue to wake up every morning with the sole purpose to inspire others no matter what is happening in my world. I get a huge kick out of helping people.

SKEVI > Since I was a child, I have always wanted my own business. My parents had their own business and so did most of my family. I grew up knowing that I wanted to help people and I have never lost sight of that. It is my purpose.

Having worked for some intense companies, I realised my future was working for myself. I am an empath and love to share advice, learning, even food! It was really hard in a corporate environment where I was told to “stop smiling” and “don’t ask people how their weekend was.”

JULIE > I did not grow up thinking I was going to be a business owner someday. However, I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family. I watched my mom run a greenhouse from our farm, my grandfather ran a repair shop from his farm, one uncle ran a greenhouse from his home, one aunt and uncle owned a health food store in our town, another aunt and uncle ran a gas station and later a catering business. My sisters and I used to pretend we were store owners when we played in the yard and loved having a 10-key to punch numbers into.

In college, I created my first business plan for a cake decorating business. So whether I realized it or not at the time, entrepreneurship was hard-wired into my thinking and had become a natural part of whatever I thought about doing. I’ve always done something “on the side” whether it was babysitting, selling crafts at local shops, or selling Tupperware, etc.

MARGARET > Nope. I had a photography business on the side at the time in 2012 – I never thought I would start my own business and 100% support myself. 

RHIANNON > I’ve always been incredibly entrepreneurial — I started my first ‘business’ at 5 years old, hand drawing and taping ‘magazines’ together to sell to our neighbours. They actually did pretty well! There were too many other small ventures to count along the way — and I knew deep down that one day I would leave corporate and build something myself. For a long time, I wasn’t entirely sure what that was, but I knew there was more that I wanted to accomplish and so I followed the trail and spent a lot of time deepening into my mission and purpose to figure out what that should be.

Being the right hand to the leader of an organization, you see the good, the bad, and the ugly of running a company. Now, as the Founder of your own company, what are you doing differently?

MICHELLE > I identified very quickly my weakness and outsourced those bits in my business. Leaving me the space to focus on my strengths to uplift many executive assistants and small business owners. I always say, “it’s not about the 1st or 20th door that opens and closes on you, it’s about the A Team that your journey with along the way”. For me having my A Team (or cheerleaders) is so important to cheer me along, pick me up and brush off the bruises when needed.

SKEVI > Although I work on my own, my “customers” are my members. They are the heartbeat of everything I do, so I listen to them. I never was listened to when I was in the prime of my career. It’s really important for employees to be heard because they are the reason the organisation is alive and I feel with everything I do with The PA Way, my members are the forefront of everything I do. I do what I do for them and also our industry. Their voice is the only one that matters to me.

JULIE > I try to be very consistent and deliberate about showing appreciation, saying thank you, and being respectful. I try to do this in my communications both verbally and in writing. But I also try to do it with little tokens of appreciation and surprise packages by mail here and there also.

I also watched a lot of my executives and managers not be able to turn work off when they went on vacations. They chose not to or didn’t feel like they could fully unplug to fully recharge. I have built my business with systems and procedures as a foundational component so that any single one of us should be able to take time off – planned or unplanned – and not have to worry about things getting done because we have documented procedures in place for those covering for them to follow. I have consistently taken 10-12 day vacations over the past 10 years and not checked email once. It can be done!

MARGARET > I am collaborating with a number of different business owners and organizations. I am opening myself up to opportunities of all kinds. I am operating in alignment with my intuition, love and compassion- which is often left out of business.

RHIANNON > My business naturally is very different to any organisation I have worked in because it is a lifestyle business rather than a large corporation. However, one of the things that I am doing differently is that I don’t set firm goals, OKRs, KPIs etc and I don’t measure the success of my business through metrics and various data sets. I know, I know. Sounds ridiculous. But there is a bit of psychology behind this, and I have adopted a very different approach to building my business that is working really well for me and my clients by focusing on vision and impact rather than just numbers.

Do you think your Force Multiplier role and leadership in the C-Suite prepared you well to be a Founder/CEO or did you find there was more on the job learning than you expected? 

MICHELLE > 110%, we are the CEO in our own business supporting at the C Suite level. We are leaders with a seat at the boardroom, making decisions and we have a voice to inspire many.

SKEVI > I always knew I was a mini CEO to the CEO but I have learnt so much doing this on my own now. I am very much that Founder who spends hours on YouTube trying to find the answers, learn a new skill and how to level up, but it gets lonely. There is no one to bounce ideas off, create a campaign with or get excited when something new pops into my head. It’s hard because whilst I am self-driven and ambitious, it would be nice to have someone there who can guide me and I guess in a way, that is the only “element” I miss out being a full time EA. My Executives always showed me another view point or method.

JULIE > It was certainly helpful in preparing me. But there is no substitute for being the actual CEO. Perspective shifts significantly. I used to wonder why one of my executives could never keep her email cleaned up and her desk cleared off. I used to think… she’s the most intelligent woman I know and if you looked at her inbox or her desk, you’d think she’s totally out of control. Then I became her. Now I get it. But having been an EA before being a CEO, I know how I can and should be able to leverage the skills of my EA/VA team members. One of the big challenges for me has been delegation. Because I used to be an EA/VA, I know how to do a lot of the things I need done for my own business. But I should no longer be the one doing the administrative tasks. So this is something I have to constantly catch myself on and have my team help prod me on also.

I also realized I had a lot of knowledge about a wide range of topics from my EA support roles, but I didn’t have the depth I really needed in finance, marketing, and sales. Like I said earlier, the EA role was tremendous for exposing me to a lot of things and helping me prepare to do what I wanted to do next. But that’s just the beginning when you launch your own venture. The learning has to go much deeper and be continual to stay on top of the technology and trends. You have to read constantly!

And while I was exposed to a lot of financial statements and accounting details in my various roles, knowing how to read your own numbers and understand the key metrics for the type of business/industry you are in is much different. That was a steep learning curve for me.

MARGARET > Yes, I was completely prepared – even if I didn’t realize it right away. As a Force Multiplier I was thrown into situations I was not prepared for all the time – this was the best training I could have asked for. It has removed any fear I had and taught me how to lean on my resourcefulness. 

RHIANNON > In some ways, absolutely, yes! I had a brilliant vantage point of how things work at the top of some incredibly successful businesses. That experience has proven to be absolutely invaluable and the level of commercial acumen that I have cultivated as a result has helped me tremendously in my own venture. In other ways, it can be a hindrance — there is a big shift in thinking that occurs when you make the transition from Force Multiplier to Founder. A lot of beliefs that needed to be shed, habits changed and adopted, and paradigms shifted. I learn so much every day that just could not have been learned in my role as an assistant.

What was the tipping point for you that made you decide to start your own company?

MICHELLE > There wasn’t a tipping point – it was I found myself thinking I needed a 9-5 job and was applying for many roles after I was no longer needed in the start-up tech business. I slowly found myself mentoring EA’s and then speaking at events about my experience and how technology can change our roles as EA’s then people started paying me and one day I went ” I got this girl” so then I founded Door20a. 

Door20a opened its doors in July 2019 to help Executive Assistants and small business owners to find their voice, disrupt the status quo and identify better ways to do business. I teach many how to harness technology and use it to propel their career and business forward. 

SKEVI > My dream in February 2018! I originally thought it was a dream but two years later, I have realised it was a message and that message has become my vision.

I owe everything to our industry and to my members. I cannot function without working on The PA Way. I was meant to have a week off recently, the first in two years and I lasted two days. It gets very addictive!

JULIE > I found myself working for the best executive I had ever worked for in the most toxic work environment you can imagine. The company had just entered into bankruptcy prior to my starting in the position. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But this executive was fantastic. We were well matched on personality type and work styles. He was one of the most positive and respectful people I had ever met. And he was really the only thing that made the job bearable.

So when I realized about nine months into the position that he was likely going to be retiring/resigning in the near future, I said that’s it. The chances of me finding a fabulous executive fit like this again seemed elusive. I was starting to see a trend on my resume where I wasn’t staying in any company for more than about three years and I didn’t want to get classified as a “job hopper”. (Although now, that seems like forever on a resume.)

So I started researching virtual assistance. At the time, there were about 4,000 VAs globally. It was just getting started. And I had observed that close to 90% of what my executive and I did was via email or phone anyway… even sitting in offices side by side. So if I could support him sitting in an office side by side, I could probably support him and others sitting in an office across town or even half way around the world. I started mapping out what my transition plan would look like if I did become a VA, and started putting the wheels in motion so I was ready to activate the plan if and when my executive decided to leave the company.

Because we were a publicly-traded company, I knew he could not disclose to me what his future plans were. But I read his emails and I could read between the lines. So one day in our 1:1 meeting, I said to him, “If the opportunity to work for you outside of this environment ever existed, I would welcome it. Because I’m either going to work for you or work for myself.” I wanted him to know what I was thinking even if he couldn’t tell me. He smiled big. He said, well, you know for legal reasons I cannot disclose what my plans may or may not be. But let’s just leave it at this… maybe some day you can do both. And we never discussed it again.

About nine months later, he retired from that company. I hung around for a couple more weeks to make sure things were all cleaned up and transitioned well. Then I resigned and started my virtual assistant business. And he was right… about eight months later, he became one of my clients with a new startup venture he was pursuing.

MARGARET > COVID. I had the opportunity to work from home consistently and I LOVED it. I was able to sit in the fact that I had completely outgrown my role and it was time to make the leap.

RHIANNON > The global crisis. Seriously. 2020 has single handedly been the most transformative year of my life thus far, and early on I had a somewhat morbid moment where I questioned everything. How long do we have? How long do I have? No one knows. And I knew for certain that if I didn’t do this thing NOW, I would never do it. Because now is all there ever is. I decided that the fear of inevitable regret was far worse than my fear of failure — and so I went for it. It has truly been the most magical time of my life and I am so glad that I did.

Is becoming your own boss a natural career progression for EAs and Chiefs of Staff?

MICHELLE > If you have the passion and desire to do it, just go for it!

SKEVI > This is really interesting because assistants I think are born leaders. It’s up to us to guide our Executives each day. I recall once my Executive at the time shouting at me, telling me I was no good at my role. I remained really calm. He asked me, “Why are you so calm? I am angry with you!” I replied, “Be angry all you want but I can schedule in some downtime later this afternoon in your diary, or would you like tomorrow? In fact, I can schedule your whole life until kingdom come. You know when to take lunch because of me, you know when to leave work because of me, you even know when to take a bathroom break… because of me. I am good at my job.” He looked at me completely shocked, shook his head and laughed. “Skevi, you are so right. I can’t live without you!!” And I think that is the story for many Assistants. They need us because we are amazing.

JULIE > It can be. But it doesn’t have to be. I firmly believe in the motto “start here, go anywhere” when it comes to this profession. You can start where you are and choose what you want to do next. Maybe it’s more of what you’re currently doing. Maybe it’s stepping into a new role or industry entirely. YOU get to choose what’s right for you at the time.

And it’s ok to change your mind at any point. Life changes. Situations change. What you want and need for your career today may change drastically for a variety of reasons (e.g. pandemics, personal health issues, family changes, layoffs, economic recessions, etc.). And there are some points in life where you just want to be the best you can be at the job you’re doing without worrying about what you’re going to do next. There’s absolutely no shame in that. Others are on a trajectory to bigger things from the moment they set foot in a new job, and that’s great, too. I just hate seeing people tell assistants that they have to do X or Y as their “next step” or that they should feel bad for wanting to ever be more than an EA if this has been their career of choice so far when the sky is truly the limit no matter what your job title may be.

MARGARET > Yes, I believe it is a very natural progression. After thinking back through the different stellar EAs and Operations gurus I have met over the years – we are often a fabulous mix of innovative, systematic and emotionally intelligent. 

RHIANNON > Honestly, no, I don’t think so. That’s not to say that there aren’t many, many EAs and Chiefs of Staff who will go on to build very successful businesses — but I don’t think it’s the natural order of progression or the linear path.

What advice would you give to someone who is in an assistant role and thinking of starting their own business?

MICHELLE > Before you start, make sure you have your cheerleaders alongside you are wearing their red tutu’s and pink pom-poms, just be brave and do it. Life is too short to sit there constantly wondering “what if”. Technology allows us to set up a business with minimal costs and there are so many great platforms out there to support you.

SKEVI > Ask yourself why you are doing this. I mean that in the nicest way because The PA Way grew faster than I ever could have imagined and I am lucky that I am able to work to deadlines really well and work under immense pressure because I am trained so well from my kitchen days.

You need to want to do what you do, otherwise it will become work. I love what I do so much that I don’t see it as work most of the time. It’s my shot at inspiring the people I value the most.

JULIE > Start taking courses on how to start a business that are offered through local community colleges, SBA, SCORE, or even events offered through local entrepreneur incubators. Go deeper into the various aspects of finance, accounting, sales, marketing, operations, etc.

Activate your network in person and online. Make sure your network knows what you’re working on and keep them involved in your launch timing so they can help spread the word and make connections to potential leads/clients for your business.

Find a good attorney and develop a strong relationship with him or her. Make sure you’re setting things up from Day 1 on the right legal footing so your personal assets are protected and your intellectual property is, too.

MARGARET > Take your time. You are on nobody’s schedule but your own. You know what to do – stay the course and listen to yourself. When you know you’re ready – leap. 

RHIANNON > Get really clear on your mission, purpose and zone of genius. Have a simple business plan. Then GO FOR IT. You won’t ever feel ‘ready’. Know that there will be many aspects of the way you have worked for years that will need to completely, drastically change. There was a part of me — an identity — that I had to grieve when I went into business for myself.  The role of an assistant is vastly different to that of a CEO and so major change is needed in order to be successful. Different things become important. If you go in eyes wide open that the way you think and work is going to shift, then you can thoroughly enjoy the ride for what it is — which is a very exciting journey!

Do you have an assistant?

MICHELLE > I have two support staff that helps in my business to do things that I am not good at. Plus, I have some great apps and tools to automate the boring stuff. My favourite 3 apps at the moment are Calendly, Square & Xero.

SKEVI > No, but everyone tells me I need to get one but I am not quite there yet where I can hand over my diary. Crazy when I think about it because this is exactly what I would debate with my Executive!

JULIE > Yes.

MARGARET > Not right now 🙂 If it continues to go as it is – I will need one within the year. 

RHIANNON > I don’t have an assistant in the traditional sense, but I do have two team members who manage the things that are very much NOT in my zone of genius. I will be hiring an assistant in the next 12 months and continuing to expand my team.

What are you working on next?

MICHELLE > I am now an author of my first e-Book ‘What Is in Your Tech Toolkit’. This book is one where the chapters change and grow each month depending on when a new piece of technology launches or upgrades or when a new app is released, and it is relevant to a chapter.

I just hit the send on first paper for Harvard Business School. The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into the position of the Executive Assistant and the diverse ways in which they work as true business partners. My goal is to be able to influence the future of the role, develop resources to support Executive Assistants to improve their rank, and enhance the outcomes for both Executives and their Assistants.⁠

In this study, I focus on understanding the impact technology plays in supporting Executive Assistants to meet their deliverables. I also focus on identifying areas where the integration of technology can further enhance the productivity of the Executive Assistant. This study aims to broaden the knowledge of the ‘strategic’ versus the ‘transactional’ Executive Assistant, and it will enable us to understand the perceptions of the position and advocate more thoroughly for true recognition of this key role.⁠

The paper is big and full of so many insights that even blew my mind away. Thank you to 4,732 administrative office professionals from around the globe.

2021 will see me continue to educate and advocate for executive assistants plus inspire and empower women in small businesses to use technology in their business to create efficiencies so they can work on their business not in their business.

Shhhh, don’t tell anyone either but there may be a book released ….. Be YOU Do YOU Amaze YOU

SKEVI > I have so much in the pipeline, membership is re-opening to let new members in, I have a mini-festival to organise called Rock & Glow, The PA Way awards and much more. Plus, being there 100% for my members. They are the most phenomenal squad, I cannot stress this enough!

JULIE > I’m working on a procedures development focused offering for business owners.

MARGARET > A book!

RHIANNON > In 2021 I am launching a suite of programs and resources created specifically for those in corporate who want to ditch the grind to build their own, impact-driven business —  something I am really looking forward to sharing!  I also have my podcast ‘Tea with Rhi’ being released early in the new year

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