From Force Multiplier to Founder: Virtual Assistant Company Edition

I often get asked what the next career move is for Force Multipliers (Executive Assistants, Chiefs of Staff, 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 virtual assistant 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!

Zoë Binsch

Founder & Owner of Call Zoë LLC

Zoë Binsch is the Founder of Call Zoë LLC, supporting Real Estate Agents on-the-go across the country in building their businesses through transaction coordination and strategic marketing. An alum of the Lorry I Lokey Graduate School of Business at Mills College, Zoë has years of experience working with leaders in Keller Williams Realty, GO Management, and brokerages beyond. Always on-the-go, just like her clients, Zoë began building her company in the Texas real estate market while traveling across the country in a big rig during the Summer of 2020. Since their official launch on August 21st, Call Zoë LLC has grown from a solo Transaction Coordinator to a vibrant team of 15 self-proclaimed nerds spanning multiple divisions within the company.

Beyond the desk, Zoë has a passion for travel as well as sharing in her company’s favorite pastime: Dungeons and Dragons. Leader of the Nerds, she prides herself on building a world big enough for her team and her clients to live their lives by design as their authentic selves.

Connect with Zoë at TC@CallZoe.com and Facebook.com/CallZoeLLC

Emilie Given

CEO of She’s a Given

Emilie Given is a successful online entrepreneur and virtual assistant agency owner who has been featured in Business Insider, Scary Mommy, and The New York Post. She founded She’s A Given, a Seattle-based virtual assistant company in 2018 to be able to spend more time with her family after a near-death experience. A year after leaving her 9-5 at Amazon Corporate HQ, she built a thriving multiple six-figure business. Through coaching and course creation, Emilie’s primary focus is to inspire other administrative professionals to create a career that allows them to focus on passion over paperwork and family over familiarity.

Connect with Emilie at emilie@shesagiven.com

Clint Muhlenberg

Founder & CEO of Level

Clint Muhlenberg’s passion for real estate is rivaled only by his love for helping agents, teams, and admins in the industry succeed. An accomplished operations leader and graduate of Texas A&M University, Clint has years of experience working with esteemed real estate companies, including one of the top ten Keller Williams Realty teams worldwide. A self-proclaimed lover of chaos, he thrives under high-pressure work situations that would make others question their sanity.

While consulting throughout the industry, Clint had a lingering thought: how can leverage be easier? Thus Level was born, a Virtual Assistant company specializing in the real estate industry. Under Clint’s guidance, Level has boosted productivity for real estate businesses by providing outsourced employees in administrative, operations, and marketing roles, among others. His objective is to provide a sense of ease for his clients and prevent them from, in his professional opinion, “working too damn much.”

Outside of work, Clint enjoys giving back to his community by mentoring middle and high school students as well as making people laugh, though he still needs work in this area.

Connect with Clint at clint@asklevel.com

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

ZOE > I am the Founder/Owner of Call Zoë LLC, Transaction Coordination and Marketing for Agents-On-The Go. Our Mission is to elevate lives and businesses through exceptional service and authentic care. What do I do? I lead a team of 15 exceptional nerds who provide dedicated transaction coordination to over 60 Realtors (and counting!) across Texas and Oklahoma as well as marketing and administrative support to Realtors across the country. My background is almost exclusively in education (Assistant Professor, Tutor, etc.) and administrative support (Admin/Accounting Assistant, Supervisor, Operations Coordinator, Director of Operations, Marketing Director, CFO, MCA) with a bit of oddball experience picked up along the way (Record Store Cashier, Concert Venue Assistant, Catering Supervisor). My real estate career has been the most structured growth path with education from Perfect Real Estate Assistant when I was first hired as an Operations Coordinator in 2016, to Director of Operations, and eventual Market Center Administrator (MCA) for multiple office locations of one of the most prestigious market centers in Texas. Throughout my journey, I have had the opportunity to learn and grow with the help of coaches, courses, and especially the Founder & the Force Multiplier. Now, I lead my own company with my own Force Multiplier and am loving my life!

EMILIE > I am the CEO of a virtual assistant agency called She’s A Given. I also launched another branch of the business: She’s A Given Academy where I coach aspiring virtual assistants. I went from high school to technical school (medical assistant), worked for 5 years as a medical assistant, got promoted to clinical supervisor, finished all but 20 credits of my degree in social sciences, got hired at Amazon as an EA where I was for almost 5 years, then left July 2019 to start my own business. 

CLINT > I’m the Founder and CEO of a Virtual Assistant leverage company – Level. We’re on a mission to flip the idea of a Virtual Assistant from a robotic task-doer to a real team player. We currently staff over 100 full and part-time positions in our clients’ businesses in a variety of administrative, marketing, and operations roles. 

Prior to founding Level, I was working for Tim Heyl and all his various companies as his Chief of Staff for 4 years. I’ve also held roles working in business development at an IT company for 1 year and in various operations roles at a school bus transportation company for 4 years.

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

ZOE > Your people, the ones you choose to support and build up, will love you beyond measure. I wish someone had told me (and they may have while I was refusing to listen) that the quality people I pour into will do the same for me in return. In all honesty, my coach is still working on retraining my brain to accept this love and support from the Agents and team members I pour into each day. I have been overwhelmed by the opportunities presented, the fanbase my company has built just by being our authentic selves, and the size of the world we have built so far for our team!

Bonus: I hope someone tells every Executive Assistant/Chief of Staff that their service gives their clients their lives back. One of our most touching reviews was written 6 days after our LLC was founded: “She has given me my life back!” Denise Harper, Corsicana, TX. I cried the moment I saw her review. Seeing pictures of mothers spending time with their children, grandmothers playing with their grandchildren, and fathers welcoming their newborn babies into the world while at the exact same timestamp our team processed the paperwork they would have been focused on otherwise… I finally understand our true value as leverage.

EMILIE > Have confidence in yourself and your abilities. Just because you are supporting someone doesn’t automatically make them “better” than you. See yourself as their partner, not their subordinate (even if technically you are). 

CLINT > Learn as much as you can about counterbalance and prioritization. I leaned way too heavy on the work side for far too long. Causes home issues and burnout!

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

ZOE > My first assistant role in the real estate industry was as the Operations Coordinator for a husband and wife team at the most prestigious local Keller Williams office in my hometown. I graduated with my Masters in Business Administration (MBA) with awarded concentrations in Finance, Accounting, and Marketing only to come home to find absolutely no one was looking to hire a 22-year-old MBA. That is, until I found a position listed online for an Operations Coordinator for two Agent Leadership Council (ALC) members. With zero experience in real estate and a resume packed full of administrative and supervisory experience from my college years, I reached out to the Realtors who would become my first Rainmakers and launched into the Keller Personality Assessment (KPA) process head-first. Both my Agents and my office poured into me with endless education opportunities and I was hooked! Since then, I have run real estate operations in California and Texas from a cubicle to a corner office, my car as I drove up and down the coast, through oh so many airports, on a cruise ship, and even a big rig traveling across the country! My life by design continues to grow and I owe it all to starting with my first KW team and the lessons I learned from the couple who took a chance on a determined little MBA.

EMILIE > I don’t know how the universe aligned like this, but my first executive assistant role was at Amazon HQ in Seattle supporting the Consumer Website team. The lead EA who hired me also came from healthcare and saw the potential in me and I’m so thankful. I had supported doctors for 6 years prior to that, so a lot of the skills actually transferred surprisingly. 

CLINT > I actually applied with the Papasan Team and went through a 5-week long interview process. I ended up turning down that role, and they connected me with Tim after. At the second meeting with Tim, he told me literally everything he had going on and needed help with, so I asked if I could write a job description right then and there. I took out a piece of paper and wrote down:

#1 Get shit done.
#2 Other duties as assigned.


And handed it back to him. He said I understood what he needed and offered me a job at that meeting.

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

ZOE > Absolutely NOT. I very specifically avoided starting my own business for years! I was convinced that while “other people” had the charisma and the grit to become entrepreneurs, I was not one of them. Had 2020 offered another opportunity for me to slip into my standard “cog in the machine” position, I most likely would have taken it. Safety and security mean more to me than I could ever express and I was utterly convinced that entrepreneurship had neither. At all. In the slightest. I was not interested in living a life of depending on only myself to set a vision, let alone make ends meet.

EMILIE > Definitely not. I had every intention of climbing the corporate ladder and earning that corner office with the view of the Space Needle. 

CLINT > Yes, absolutely. I had actually started as an intrepreneur inside Tim’s world, creating and running his Real Estate Machine classes. During my time with him, I actually proposed two different business verticals, with plans, proformas, the works! Always wanted to be running something I had created.

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?

ZOE > Culture. I have seen the most incredibly tight-knit teams and the most toxic high-turnover offices firsthand, taking notes from every experience I have had along the way. Now, we not only set our culture with intention, we guard it with our lives. Each and every applicant looking to join our team is first put through the full Keller Williams Career Visioning (CV) model including the Keller Personality Assessment (KPA). Our Operations Manager, Summer Burge, personally meets with each applicant to verify over multiple interviews whether they are a fit for our company culture and will uphold our Mission, Vision, and Values as we grow together. Above all else, we choose to be in business with people who are authentic, exceptional and genuinely care. We have become an unstoppable force for good and we continue to build each other up to new heights. The energy of our cohesive, dedicated, and nerdtastic team is incredible!

EMILIE > I do a lot of things the same: take time to really get to know my people, think big/fail big, customer obsession but the one thing I do differently is promote work/life balance like my sanity depends on it. IT DOES! I tried my best to create a sense of work/life balance/harmony, whatever you want to call it with my leaders and I take it a step further with myself. On Mondays, I don’t take calls or meetings because my little one is home from daycare. On Fridays I keep it light and have “CEO days” where I force myself to focus on really big picture items and strategy. 

CLINT > Feedback, feedback, feedback. I’ve made it a point to share feedback better with my direct reports, as well as ways for them to work with me better. Having that open line of communication just helps everyone. We don’t wait when there’s something wrong or something we need to discuss; we have the conversation that’s needed and move on to get results.

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? 

ZOE > Surprisingly enough (to myself), I was very well prepared to take on my position as Founder/Owner of Call Zoë LLC thanks to the skills I had developed as a Force Multiplier. I have been the Force Multiplier for some of the most incredibly talented and passionate leaders in my industry – Kim Steel & Kris McCullough of KSA Real Estate Group spring to mind. Their dedication to company culture and bringing their full selves to the table with no holding back were shining examples of how authenticity sets the scene for success.

My Masters in Business Administration studies, combined with my time spent as a Market Center Administrator for Keller Williams Realty, also provided detailed business practices and on-the-job experience which made the transition as seamless as possible. Everything I had learned from Day 1 of Perfect Real Estate Assistant all the way to Regional Leadership development has already played a role in my business’ establishment, design, and expansion. While I was worried that the Founder role required more charisma than I naturally brought to the table, I have been pleasantly surprised that my administrative side and nerdy nature have become a form of magnetism of their own! Both clients and talent are attracted to who we are as a company, what we stand for, and who I am as a person – Force Multiplier background and beyond!

EMILIE > Well, I wasn’t in the C-Suite at Amazon, however the directors/VPs I supported would be CEOs a zillion times over at other companies so I consider it the same. They were basically the CEOs of their organizations and I attribute much of my success to the leadership principles I learned and lived at Amazon. There was also a LOT of on the job learning. Amazon/working with senior execs really helped me THINK like a CEO/Founder, but doing it is another story. Thankfully, I jumped into the deep end and learned how to swim very quickly by absorbing all of the information I could via online learning/books/mentors/peers.

CLINT > The experience definitely helped me become a Founder/CEO! You gain a lot of experience without being taught it; some things you just pick up from watching how they work, think, and act. I always advise new leaders that when they hire their Force Multiplier, the first 2 weeks they should be attached at the hip, literally for every meeting, even the personal ones. The more time I was able to spend with the leadership, the more I learned in general. There were definitely some things you could only learn by doing, though having prior experiences to revert back to made things simpler. 

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

ZOE > I faced a difficult decision at what had once been my dream job: either I got onboard with leadership’s version of ethics and staffing, or I moved on. I had never left a job without a back-up plan – I pride myself on being the Queen of back-up plans. And yet, something inside me had finally had enough of the low standard I was surrounded by. Resigning from a negative work environment which had drained my enthusiasm (and given me a streak of white hair in the process), I set out on my own. I dove into Quantum Leap with Gary Keller in May of 2020 – yes, right smack dab in a pandemic. From there, I identified my abilities, built a Vision, crafted the first draft of my Mission Statement, and applied for MAPS Coaching. With the help of my awarded MAPS Coach, Sally Chaplin, I designed a world worth building and gathered a team who believe in upholding the same exceptional standards I set.

Now, our team has expanded from 1 terrified woman facing her fears to 15 nerds with a passion for being truly exceptional! We were even awarded a grant from KWKC to continue our expansion through coaching with Essentia Consulting’s Jillian Anderson. Through our coaching sessions, I have come to realize that the safety I thought I was losing in becoming my own boss is only achievable through being my own boss. Rather than rely on someone or something else to set the culture, pace, and people within the organization, the choice is now mine. Had I not experienced the disappointment of my not-so-dreamy dream job, I may never have been given the opportunity of a lifetime: creating Call Zoë LLC.

EMILIE > At 26, my son and I almost died in childbirth. It sounds cliche, but it’s true and it changed my entire outlook on life. I was no longer okay with spending 1.5 waking hours with my baby each day. I needed to create a solution where I could work from home and spend more time with my family; while making a sustainable income. I had no idea I would grow it into an actual company, but it did and I’m now able to provide other working moms the same freedom I was seeking. 

CLINT > It was all about the timing. The company was going through some changes and new roles were being created. I knew I wanted to get into a different role than the one I was in, so I chatted with the team about how a few different people could absorb what I was doing and we could transition well. Though we initially thought it’d take 1-2 months, we ended up continuing on for 5 more months after that, and during that time I was able to get things ramped up and figure out what was in store for my new business!

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

ZOE > It absolutely can be! I never expected to become my own boss. In fact, I went so far as to proclaim that I would always be an intrapreneur rather than an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship seemed absolutely terrifying! My most closely guarded value is safety and I was sure that there was no safety in being my own boss. While I had heard tale after tale of entrepreneurs striking out on their own to rely on themselves as the “only sure bet”, I never dreamed I would be in the same boat one day.

When I was forced to make the choice between staying in a role I had come to dread or creating my own future, I received the lesson of a lifetime. I set out on my own. While it seemed unnatural at first, I have grown much more comfortable over time with the help of my team surrounding me and cheering me on. Through our team’s infectious positivity, I can honestly say I am more empowered now than I ever could be working for someone else. When I first made the switch, it was my company, my culture, and my vision. Four short months later, it has grown into a world of its own as we have worked together to kick-start our company, our culture, and our much greater vision – naturally.

EMILIE > That depends what kind of EA you are. If you like clocking in and out, turning off your email pings at 5pm, and staying within the confines of your job description, that’s a big fat “NO”. If you have drive, foresight, and you’re one of the people who gets “bored” working only 40 hours per week, I’d say yes it’s very natural 🙂

CLINT > Not necessarily, everyone is different. I think some people prefer to be the executioner and thrive in that role the best!

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

ZOE > Utilize your strengths first and create a Mission Statement before you make the jump. Develop the game plan to build the life you choose to live, the life where not only are your professional desires met, but – more importantly – your personal passions are able to take hold and carry you through the tough times. Personally, when I begin to feel overwhelmed by part of the 80% outside of my 20% of the 80/20 Rule, I lean on our Mission Statement and recharge in the knowledge that I am creating my life worth living while serving the people I care about most: my team and my clients. Our Mission Statement is to elevate lives and businesses through exceptional service and authentic care. We crafted this Mission Statement as a team with a dream and are now blessed to share our Mission with the world as we continue to impress our clients, attract talent, and take territory. Through our personal strengths, we have come together to enact our Mission and everything seems possible when these two pieces fall into place.

If I could give you one piece of advice as you make your way from Force Multiplier to Founder, it would be to surround yourself with visual reminders of why. Why do you get up in the morning? Why do you do whatever it is you do all day? Why bother? When I was working at my last “job”, I eventually reached the point where I could not answer. It seemed like there was truly no point in bothering to show up anymore – no matter what I did, no improvement was made.

Now, I surround myself with reminders of why I choose to wake up every morning and work in my company. Two of my favorite features of my desk are my quote block which reads “The meaning of life is to find your gift… The purpose of life is to give it away.” and the little framed photo of my Oma (grandmother) holding up little toddler me. I have so many people who poured into me along the way to nurture the gift that I have to give. Now I sit down at my desk every single day to do my part and give that gift away.

EMILIE > Make sure you choose to do something you are passionate about; not just something that will make you money. Owning a business is hard, and if you don’t really love what you’re doing it will suck the life out of you and it won’t feel like “it’s worth it.” 

CLINT > You can learn a lot about a river by standing at the edge and looking at it, and you’ll only truly learn it by hopping on the raft and going down it.

Do you have an assistant?

ZOE > I am blessed to have a support network within my company which includes our Operations Manager, Summer Burge, our ECoordinator, Tyler Best, our Texas Supervisor, John Binsch, and our Oklahoma/Marketing Supervisor, Crystal Wasoski. Summer provides Human Resources Management as well as general business assistance. Tyler provides direct Client Support and Retention assistance, ensuring all of our Agents feel heard. John leads our team of Transaction Coordinators behind the scenes and constantly improves our efficiency. Crystal is building our Oklahoma branch and our Marketing Division, ensuring that our company culture is preserved as we continue to expand. With multiple eyes on each facet of the business at all times, we are always held accountable to our goals, making progress, and maintaining attention to every little detail. I would be beyond overwhelmed if I attempted to face the day without the assistance of my Executive Team. Together, we can accomplish so much more!

EMILIE > I do! I am all about putting people where they excel, so I have assistants working in HR, Marketing, PR, Sales, and one who works with me personally. My assistant isn’t full time yet, but there’s an FTE in my 2021 budget for it!!

CLINT > Of course! Everyone needs a Force Multiplier. If you don’t have an assistant, you are one.

What are you working on next?

ZOE > We are expanding our Transaction Coordination (TC) services, our bread and butter, throughout the state of Texas and into Oklahoma as well as adding a few additional divisions to provide further administrative support to Agents across the country. We have begun our Oklahoma TC Division launch, our Marketing Division has taken on more clients and become more robust, and we look forward to developing our Administrative Support Division as well as our Vendor Partnerships Division in 2021!

EMILIE >  Steadily growing our client base for the agency, a digital course for the coaching side: EA to VA, and perhaps dabbling into corporate training… TBD on that one 🙂

CLINT > Changing the industry’s understanding of what a virtual assistant really is.

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