Hiring an executive assistant is a romanticized process.
You imagine hiring an assistant as this beautiful moment of success. You’ve been able to get your business to a point where you can not only afford, but need the extra hands. As an entrepreneur, this is exciting.
It means things are going well.
As accidental entrepreneurs, a.k.a average people with just enough bravery to get us to each new level of our businesses, we remember the moment we thought, “Do we need an assistant?” At first, we put it off for months.
There always seemed like there should be something else prioritized.
→ “We should build out our marketing team first.”
→ “Let’s hire another customer service rep instead.”
→ “We could put that money towards product upgrades.”
And that’s how we got ourselves into situations where we needed help… but were refusing to give ourselves it. Workdays got longer, we were doing work that shouldn’t have been done by us, and we despised parts of our business more than our annual teeth cleaning.
It would be good to tell you, “That’s when we knew we needed an assistant,” but that’s not the truth. We kept pushing ourselves and prioritizing other teams until suddenly we were working until 10 pm every night, doing tasks we didn’t like, and knowing this wasn’t where our focus should be.
If we could go back in time, we’d have put these five clear signs you need an executive assistant into a neon sign and hung it across our desk. Every day we’d look at that sign and when we suddenly resonated with at least one of these signs, we’d make the hire.
Here are the signs we avoided, but should have realized sooner, that meant we needed an executive assistant—now.
#1: Your workdays are only getting longer.
You don’t plan for your workdays to get longer. It’s a gradual progression. At first, you’re just working until six every night. No big deal, right? Then there’s an off day where you need to spend an extra hour on the computer figuring some stuff out. That off day turns into a few off days and the clock slowly creeps past seven. “It’s alright,” you tell yourself, “It’s just temporary.”
A few weeks go by and you plan your days to end around eight. You tell yourself again, “It’s just temporary.”
If you’re working past six every night for months and telling yourself this is just a temporary thing…that’s cute. We remember those days. We thought we had entrepreneurship figured out. You just need a few months (maybe a year max!) to get traction and those late nights would turn into 4-hour workweeks.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that seamlessly. Months and even years can go by without you realizing you needed to hire an executive assistant to take some of the tasks off your plate a long time ago.
The truth is, overworking yourself isn’t special or even unusual. A Gallup poll found that 39% of small business owners work over 60 hours per week, far greater than the 33.8 hours worked by the average employee. You want to work longer days, fine; but that time should be spent on vital tasks to grow the business, not tasks an assistant can handle.
Executive assistants can help you with the administrative tasks that are eating away at your day and keeping you from being able to get the needle-moving work done.
#2: You’re doing work below your hourly rate
This might feel like a strange sign because you don’t have an hourly rate. As an entrepreneur, you no longer look at your salary in terms of time. You’re probably looking at your salary in terms of how your business is doing. Business doing better? You can pay yourself more. Business doing worse? There might be a cut to your paycheck.
You never think of having an hourly rate, though. You’re on the right track here, but we need you to figure out your hourly rate anyway. This isn’t so you can figure out how much to pay yourself—but so you know when you’re doing tasks that are well below your rate. If you figure that your hourly rate is $200 minimum and you’re doing tasks that you’d hire an executive assistant to do for $20-40 per hour…this is a problem.
That’s why you need to know your hourly rate. As soon as you can say, “I would pay less for this task than my hourly rate,” it’s time to move that over to an executive assistant. That’s a task that doesn’t require your skillset, it requires theirs. An executive assistant can help you with all the maintenance that comes from growing your business.
#3: You’re spending hours on tasks that can be taught through SOPs
If a task has an SOP–it’s not your job to do. As the founder and CEO, you have to do the stuff that can’t be taught. This is the chess game, the strategic play-by-play that takes you from startup to traction to momentum, and the moment of infliction. We call this The Scalable Lifecycle and they’re the stages every business owner goes through on their journey to “success.” To get to hypergrowth and breakout success, you have to get traction and momentum.
You can’t get either if you’re working hard on tasks that could be taught to someone else. Using Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), tasks can be taught to anybody on your team. An SOP is a fancy way of saying you put step-by-step instructions in a Google Doc, walked someone through how to do the task, and then had them takeover.
Any task that can be put into an SOP, marketing, customer service, fulfillment, etc.—should not be on your to-do list. Create SOPs and hire an executive assistant to help you with those tasks. SOPs are one of your best business friends. Get realllllllllly used to making these.
#4: You’re spending too much time out of your zone of genius
When you’re out of your zone of genius your mind thinks, “Do I still want to run this business?”, “Is this worth it to me?”, and “Why is [insert person you follow on social media] so much better at entrepreneurship?”. Being outside of your zone of genius is like being stuck eating your least favorite food every day. It’s not fun, it’s not exciting, and it takes the magic out of entrepreneurship.
The more time you spend outside of your zone of genius, the less time you get to spend in it (MATH!). The goal of having your own business wasn’t to work your tail off every day doing things you hated while risking it all. If you wanted to do things you hated, you could have worked a corporate job and had MUCH lower risk. An entrepreneur spending time in their zone of genius thinks, “This is hard, but so much fun,” “I can’t wait to get back to this tomorrow,” and “I’m genuinely having a good time.”
Executive assistants can take these tasks off your plate. They can help you eat your favorite food every day, spending your time as you like. Sure, entrepreneurship comes with challenges and plenty of “meh” tasks, but you should never be living in these tasks. Create an SOP and shift them towards your executive assistant’s to-do list (they’re more than happy to take them on).
#5: You know you need help
You’re intuitive. You’re an entrepreneur. You know what your business needs (most times). Hiring an executive assistant isn’t like getting a face tattoo. It’s not a decision you need to think about for months (and hopefully years) before you decide to go for it. If you’re struggling to keep up in your business…it’s time to outsource something.
Make a list of the tasks you couldn’t possibly create an SOP for and another list of tasks that you could. Imagine what your bandwidth would be like if you didn’t have to worry about those tasks every day. Probably great. Your bandwidth would skyrocket which would give you more energy to work on the big picture (and play that chess game!). If you know you need help…trust it.
Hire an executive assistant to help with the tasks that you know you can train someone to do. You didn’t come into entrepreneurship to not see your family, never take a vacation, and spend every waking hour working (how long has it been since you’ve seen the sun?!). You chose this riskier, challenging path for freedom and control over days.
Executive assistants help create that freedom and get you back the control you originally wanted from your business.
If you nodded your head at any of these signs, it’s time to get an executive assistant. Don’t be like us and keep putting it off for months until you hit a point where your life revolves around your business and nothing else. Hire the help.
Consider it a birthday present from you…to you.
It’ll be one of the best ones anyone has ever gotten you.