The days of the Mad Men-like secretary are gone. Miss Money Penny is no more. Administrative help is no longer about taking dictation, fetching coffee or stocking up on clean ties. Rather, if you want a successful hire, you must find someone with the aptitude and determination to maximize your business.
Today’s executive assistants are smart, talented and driven. They have leadership skills that enable them to do your job when you’re not there. In fact, stop thinking “executive assistant” and start looking for an “assistant executive.”
Herb Kelleher was working at the law firm Matthews and Branscomb when he first worked with legal secretary Colleen Barrett. When Kelleher moved into a leadership role at Southwest Airlines, Barrett not only followed him, but also took on a bigger role herself – she helped the airline become one of the “best places to work” in the country. Eventually, she moved up from executive assistant to vice president of customers, then to president and, eventually, to chief operating officer.
June Martino’s career skyrocketed in much the same way. Starting out as Ray Kroc’s bookkeeper, Martino took on the roles of corporate secretary, then treasurer, director and, finally, part owner of McDonald’s Corporation.
It’s no doubt these long-term relationships had everything to do with the creation of two incredibly successful businesses.
When Gary teaches or masterminds with other entrepreneurs, the topic often goes to hiring. The basic organizational model and path described in The Millionaire Real Estate Agent applies to any business. Any small-business owner is usually only three great hires away from having a big business. And your first hire should be administrative help. Someone who can hold the worlds at bay, and allow you to focus all your energy on building the business. You make your stand on the first hire. When you get it right, when you hire real talent with leadership potential, all future hires become their responsibility. You’ll be succeeding through them. To quote the book, the journey to a business that nets you a million dollars a year “may well begin when you hire your first great administrative person.”
So how do you find that ideal individial to help you run your business? Money lost due to hiring mistakes can run from $4,000 to millions of dollars, depending on the position. These mistakes come from a lack of attention to detail in the hiring process so remember to take the time to learn everything you can about your candidate. What’s in their past? What are their future goals? Where do they excel? How do they communicate? You can never invest too much time in identifying talent.
Four Tips for Hiring an Executive Assistant
1. File a Missing Person Report – Sketch a description of this person before looking at resumes. Portray them in so much detail that if someone found them, they’d approach you saying: “I found your perfect person!”
2. Learn Who They Are – During the interview process, learn about their experiences and future goals. Ask them questions about their past and invite them to participate in a behavioral assessment – like the DISC or Activity Vector Analysis (AVA). The more you learn about them, the more you’ll know how well they’ll fit with you and your business.
3. Verify References – Who else knows them? It’s such a small world that if you go deep enough, you may find someone you know who knows someone who’s personally worked with this candidate. The Internet and social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn make this very easy.
4. Hire for Your Replacement – You’re hiring for more than just an assistant – you’re searching for your replacement. Replacement talent will drive your business forward. They will have the ideas and leadership skills to bring your company to the next level. And, at some point in the future, they should earn the right to have their title flipped from executive assistant to assistant executive!