How Much Should I Pay an Assistant?

So, you’ve decided it’s time to hire an assistant? Smart move. Decision made. Time to get to work, right? Not so fast! Inevitably, the next series of questions I get from our Founder & Force Multiplier community or from coaching clients is, “What do I pay an assistant? What is a good salary for a badass EA? How much do I have to pay them?”

What often isn’t being said in many of these questions, is, “What is the least amount of money I can spend in order to hire someone who is awesome, will keep money in my pocket, and won’t leave for a better opportunity in 6 months?”

Well, I hate to break it to you, but there is no easy answer to those questions! Depending on the scope of your business (include size and maturity), the industry, the Executive, your geographic location, and the exact role and responsibilities that you’re hiring for, a “good salary” can range from entry-level to multiple six-figures.

While I can’t give you an exact figure (see above), what I can do is walk you through a series of questions and items to consider to help you determine a competitive compensation package that will indeed attract and retain a badass Force Multiplier.

  1. What is your budget? In business, I have bootstrapped my way to where we are over the past 14 years, always leading with revenue, rather than other people’s money. If the business can no longer effectively operate or grow with your current resources (people or systems), then it’s time to consider that next hire. But remember, we’re talking about what the business can support. Perhaps you can make a six-figure hire out of the gate. If that’s the best use of your money and that person will help you grow the business’s bottom line, then go for it! But if not, consider what money you have to work with and what would be the best use of those funds to gain some leverage in your life and business, so that you can keep growing, and eventually move that part-time assistant into a full-time hire or increase their salary along with their increased responsibilities as the business grows. Not every business or Executive starts out by hiring a Senior EA or Chief of Staff (nor do you necessarily need one!). Start where you are and allow the business (and your hires) to grow and scale.
  2. A Force Multiplier is an investment. When you’re hiring anyone, particularly an assistant who will be an extension of you and your work, with the responsibility of making you more productive, shift your mindset from hiring as an expense to hiring as an investment. Investments should give you a return, and that goes for your Force Multiplier too! An assistant should allow you to focus on your most important activities, which are usually dollar producing activities, such as acquiring new clients, new lines of business, mergers, and acquisitions, etc. Not only should they be able to pay for their own salary within a few months (based on the leverage they give you), they should be maximizing your time so that you are quickly, doubling or tripling their salary in additional revenue. Regardless, of what salary you choose to pay a Force Multiplier, hold your money and that individual accountable to the results. And one final note, when you invest in a Force Multiplier, that means you must invest in their training and growth as well. They will only be as good as an assistant as you are as a leader.
  3. Determine the exact role & experience you need. What you pay an assistant is largely based on who you are hiring. Are you looking for a part-time office assistant? A C-Suite EA with global business experience? A Chief of Staff? An Administrative Assistant to help you, the company, and three other team members? An Operations Manager? Drill down on exactly the role you need to fill and how many years of experience, as well as any specific education or certifications you believe will be required to meet your expectations for the position. Compensation varies greatly between these roles. Get clear and then start interviewing.
  4. Do your research. Now that you’re clear on WHO you want to hire, start doing your research. What are the average salaries for that position and experience level in your city? Search competitor’s websites and see what they are offering for similar positions. Websites like Salary.com, Glassdoor.com, and PayScale.com are great places to start. I like to supplement that research by looking at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as our state Department of Labor website, and then drill down to the specific city, for more specific information.
  5. Communicate your vision. This is going to help attract the best right hand to your organization. High achieving individuals (whether they are fresh out of high school or 30 years in) not only want to know who they are working for, but the why behind it all. Share your vision for your organization widely and often. You never know who is watching and searching for a company (and vision) just like your’s to align themselves with. The success of the assistant is so closely aligned with the success of the leader. When you have a shared vision, you will be unstoppable.
  6. Get creative. Salary, health benefits, and a 401K plan are not the only way to compensate talent. Get creative. First, find out what motivates your new hire – it could be a straight salary, it could be a smaller base salary with an equity position in your company, it could be additional vacation days with the ability to work remotely (new office set-up included). This may change over time as your company, your team, and your Force Multiplier grows their leadership and expands their role. Revisit compensation at least annually.

    In the early years of our company, and because of the entrepreneurial nature of our organization, we hired emerging talent (that’s where my now Chief of Staff, Hallie, was when I hired her for a marketing assistant position about 10 years ago). Emerging talent has a few years of experience under their belt, they know how to navigate office politics, and how to manage their time and foster good internal and external working relationships. Yes, they are less expensive than proven talent, which comes with its own set of risks and rewards. They don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay! It’s a great opportunity for them to learn and adapt to you and your leadership style and company culture. As a company matures, like ours did, I now prefer to hire proven talent for most positions. These individuals are running on all cylinders immediately and yes, they are a larger investment out of the gate, but a more established organization would in theory have more capital to deploy.

Whether you are hiring emerging talent or proven talent, or someone who you just spot a lot of potential in, understand what stage you and your company are at and hire accordingly. And either way, for me, having someone grow alongside me is the ultimate reward.

So, how much should you pay your Force Multiplier? That’s ultimately up to you. Investing in people – through salary and education/training is never a bad investment, as long as it’s the right hire. It’s a two-way street. Invest in your Force Multiplier and they will invest in you. That is what long-term strategic partnerships are all about.

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