Episode Twelve: Puichi Hau, EA at Our Future Health

Episode Thirteen: Ethan Bull, Founder of ProAssisting

Episode description

On this episode of The EA Campus Podcast, we are excited to welcome our guest Ethan Bull, Founder of ProAssisting and co-author of The 29-Hour Workday.

Ethan started his career as an Assistant in the entertainment industry before supporting senior-level Executives in the fast-paced world of advertising. Ethan and his family moved out of New York City, and with his wife, they formed ProAssisting, a high-level remote Assistant business. Ethan shared his thoughts on what it takes to work as a top performing Assistant, why it is crucial to develop a high-touch hospitality mindset, what it was like working in the entertainment industry and how Assistants can set expectations with demanding Executives. We covered a wide range of topics, so I hope you enjoy this episode of the EA Campus Podcast.

Show notes


Nicky Christmas 00:00
Do you want to know what it takes to work as a high performing executive assistant? You'll find out when you listen to the EA campus podcast. Join me Nicky Christmas, the founder of practically perfect PA, and the EA campus for a weekly interview with successful systems, who all have first hand experience and lessons to share on what it takes to excel in the role of tune in, get inspired and learn how to create an assistant career where you are valued, motivated and ready to face every challenge head on whether you are an assistant just starting in your career, or prepare to move to the next level. Building a successful assistant career just got a little easier for the EA campus podcast. On this episode of the EA campus podcast we are excited to welcome our guest, Ethan bull, founder of processing and co author of the 29 hour work day, Ethan started his career working as an assistant in the entertainment industry before supporting senior level executives in the fast paced world of advertising. Ethan and his family moved out of New York City and with his wife, they formed the company pro assisting a high level remote assisting business. Ethan shared his thoughts on what it takes to work as a top performing assistant. Why it's important to develop a high touch hospitality mindset, what it was like working in the entertainment industry, and how assistants can set expectations with demanding executives. We covered a wide range of topics. And so I hope you enjoy this episode of the EA camp. Hi, Ethan. It's great to have you with us today on the EA campus podcast. How

Ethan Bull 01:40
are you? I'm doing great. Nicky, I really appreciate you asking me on.

Nicky Christmas 01:47
Oh, it's a pleasure having you read this. Thank you so much. So we've got a lot to cover today. I know that your career has grown in different areas. And there's a lot to talk about. So before we dive into all of that, I'd really like our listeners to get a sense of your career to date. So why don't you give us a run through your career.

Sure, I ended up moving to New York City right after college to work as a production assistant on the Warner Brothers movie Addicted to Love back in the mid 90s. And I got bit by the entertainment bug in terms of acting and writing and also working in entertainment. And the assistant role, the executive assistant role and entertainment is the first stepping stone for about 75% of the people who go and work in entertainment. And I worked in entertainment for about five years, and realised that I had a real desire to write and direct. And I ended up moving from entertainment, to advertising in New York City as an executive assistant to the my day job. So I could write in the evenings and on weekends and make short films. And I'm also a musician and play music. So I was scratching my creative itch outside of work. And I was using the executive assistant role to support that. And then once you crossed the seven, eight year mark of being an executive assistant, it starts to become a career. And the chief operating officer of the ad agency that I worked for guided me into being director of admin services. So I was in charge of about 12 to 15 executive assistants. And we supported about 60 ad executives. And it was about identifying great candidates bringing them in training them raising the level of service and also making sure that they weren't being taken advantage of by certain ad execs in terms of going way above and beyond what what their job requirements were. And and dealing with any interpersonal issues that was in addition to continuing to support the Chief Operating Officer. So it wasn't a moving position. It was just more of an add on. And then my wife was doing the same thing in finance and fashion, working at a as a really high level executive assistant. And when our second son was coming along, we decided to sell our place in New York City and moved to upstate New York, which is about six hours from the city. New York's actually a really big state and to a town to a city called Rochester, New York, and we were a smaller town outside of that. And we quickly realised that the term executive assistant as we knew it, in a big large metropolitan area meant something not completely different, but somewhat different than in a smaller market where the EA role was really strictly nine to five no personal work, more of a gatekeeping scheduling role. There were a few seats In Rochester that was commensurate with our experience as well as our compensation level. And I was fortunate enough to land in one of those while Stephanie was home with the kids raising our young kids. And in that role, I was assisting the CEO of a health care network, $2 billion in revenue 16,000 employees. And I was also director of admin services in that role, where I oversaw about 80 assistance. And we supported a team of about 250 healthcare executives during that time, the two years while I was in that role, my wife got a call from a friend of ours in New York, who said, Hey, I know a consultant who travels the world for Fortune 100 companies, and she needs support doesn't need full time and doesn't care where you live, is this something you'd be interested in? And she said, Sure, and little did we know that became our first client. In Pro assisting as a remote executive assistant service company, we started pro assisting actually in 2009, as a assistant training programme, where we created elearning modules that was geared towards recent college grads. And our pitch to them was pick an industry that you're interested in, learn how to be a great assistant quickly with our help prove yourself from within that company and then get promoted. And we ran that business from 2009 to 2017. And then in 2018, we transitioned it after doing kind of a deep dive on the virtual assistant space. And now currently, we've been running pro assisting since summer of 2018. And I am still currently working with two clients directly as their EA. But I'm also running the business and Stephanie is also working a couple of clients and running the business as well. We've made that transition.

Nicky Christmas 07:02
Wow, there is a huge amount to unpick there. And I've just been thinking of a tonne of questions to ask you because it's such an interesting career journey that you've had. And it sounds like it's been really thought through, you've put a lot of thought into how you want to develop your career and where you want to take it and where being an assistant can take you. So I absolutely want to come back to all of that. But why don't we have a conversation around what you do now? So what does I know for assistants working in their own businesses or working as virtual assistants? This is a tough question. Because no day is the same. But I just want to get a sense of what your role looks like at the moment. So you said that you're working for one particular client, but you're also running the business. So how does that work on kind of day to day aspects?

Yeah, I'm actually working still working for two clients. And I've been with both of those clients for over three years, one approaching four years. It's a juggling act, and against a lot of people's advice, I'm most likely looking at my phone before I get out of bed. And it's not. I don't know if it's the most healthy way to start the day. But I need to be on top of anything that's happening with my two direct clients. I need to be aware if anybody booked any appointments with me the previous night to either talk about pro assisting as a potential client, an assistant, who we are partnered with a client who needs advice, a client who needs advice. And so getting a sense of my day, and knowing knowing how that is going to look. And a big part of that is wrapping up the day properly as well. So that the evening before, really taking a quick look and seeing if there's any outstanding issues, and then being able to shut it out. enjoy time with my family and watching TV, go to bed, and then wake up and check in again. And then that kind of starts the day. And then it's all about me personally, the way that I work as an executive assistant, is I like to play defence. And what I mean by that is being up to date and checked off on as many things on my to do list in what my client's needs are as possible. So I know what information I'm waiting to have come back in, I know that the day should be set up properly. And then I'm prepared to handle the inevitable ball out of left field or something out of the ordinary that pops up or he gets sick or meetings have to move and change and I can jump on that quickly. And then if I'm working on more of a project or something like that it's longer term. I do block out time on my calendar specific Luckily for that, that doesn't involve the day to day work of being an EA or running our business.

Nicky Christmas 10:06
Yeah, I was imagine that you have to be incredibly organised, which obviously is a skill their assistants have anyway. But for I think you're in a very unique position. But there are a lot of assistants who are listening, who are looking after assistants and managing a group of assistants while also being the executive assistant to one of the directors in the C suite, probably the CEO. So is there any having done this for a larger part of your career, I wonder if there's any advice you can give to assistants that are in that position, above the pay, you've got to be organised. I wonder if there's any additional advice that you can give a set of those assistants who are managing a team of assistants, but also still have that crucial job of looking after something incredibly senior?

Yeah, it's sometimes it's not easy. And there can be you can be juggling a lot of balls up in the air, I do look at the EA role as a, there's an older version, or a legacy version, yay, where you're a strict gatekeeper, you have sharp elbows, you're not afraid to play office politics. And that goes back to the secretarial role of even thinking of, I don't know if your audience is familiar with but the TV show Mad Men and in how some of those support staff handled themselves, I really think there's been a huge transition to the modern EA, where high touch hospitality comes in a big way. And being able to play nice in the sandbox, if you will, and have great relationships with all of your fellow assistants, especially if you're in charge of the population of EAs as a whole, they need to feel like they can come to you, and that you're not going to brush their feelings under the rug. I know that's a big pet peeve for a lot of EAs, when they go to human resources. And they're not taken really seriously, the human resource rep usually just wants you to come in, make sure your Exec is happy and go home. And they don't want to hear about career advancement or leaving your role or anything like that. If you are leading assistance, and you're also supporting the CEO, you are the face of that whole population, you're the face of the company, when someone is calling into your boss's office really leveraging the soft skills, keeping open, honest communication, being able to have frank honest discussions with your the EAS that you're leading, but in a very caring manner, understanding that the there's a lot of grey area and ambiguity in the job, and that some of your EAS are going to be dealing with principles that are more difficult than others. And managing that load bandwidth. And having a sense, like one of my yeas may be working on a five to one ratio. But those are all vice presidents. And they're basically just doing expense reports and travel arrangements and blocking their calendar, where another one of my EAS has a three to one executive to assistant ratio. But one of those executives is the president of the company. And she's very demanding. There's a lot of personal work, there's after hours work. And so I'm not going to pile on another principal onto that assistance late. Even though we want to shoot for a five to one ratio, or we want to shoot for a four to one ratio. I think there's a lot of empathy that needs to go into it too. And it's a fine line. It's empathy combined with holding people accountable and setting the right expectations and making sure they can meet those and aren't completely stressed. 24/7 365.

Nicky Christmas 14:01
And do you think from your experience, that assistants are best placed to manage other assistants because I've noticed that it's been a trend that when I first started using a system, you worked in a pool of assistance and as more senior assistant would manage direct manage you. And then it changed to you reported directly into your executive. And it seems that we're maybe moving away from that, again into teams of assistants, potentially then with another very Senior Assistant able to manage that. So again, from your experience, what do you think works better when it comes to managing assistance in in organisations,

the way that I've always advocated for and have been able to work it both in the advertising world and in the healthcare world is it's a straight line to your principles. They are your bosses. It's a dotted line to any EA who's overseeing the population. You Want that you want to I suggest that you open have open lines of communication and being that dotted line you can be a confident you can be a sounding board, a lot of times an assistant just needs to yell it out. And if something's really bothering them or something, and then whether you offer a solution, an idea or not, is one thing. And then the other thing is that data that EA who is overseeing the pool of assistance, when that person goes to human resources, and is an advocate on your behalf, it carries more weight. And they usually have that one person in human resources that's in charge of the EA flow and population. In addition to that EA, at least that's how it's worked with me. And that person then sits up and takes notice, because you don't want to go in and cry wolf over every little thing. You want to be able to work through it on your own, I would definitely encourage the EA overseeing the population, to encourage their other EAS to create frank and honest discussions, when possible with their principals. And adult conversations are hard sometimes. And a lot of times, they're hard. But the what I've noticed is that things get a lot easier. If you're willing to have that upfront, and you're willing to broach that uncomfortable topic, there are some principles where you know, they're blowing steam, you've worked with them long enough, you don't need to turn around to them and say, Hey, I really, if this was not my gig, this wasn't my fault. You can't turn around and blame me for that. But if it's new in the relationship, or if there's something out of bounds, being able to have that frank and honest conversation can usually be a good thing for the principal, ie a relationship. And then other times, it just goes south. And you got to deal with that too, because we are both Stephanie and I having lived in this community and a part of the EA community are huge advocates. And I don't want to see anybody getting abused or taken advantage of. And because I already know how hard the job is in general.

Nicky Christmas 17:18
Now, if you're working directly with your executive, and they or they your first line, they're your boss, but having a more senior assistant around who's able to offer advice, and as you said, maybe potentially go to HR with you, or at least coach you and having some of those difficult conversations because for assistance, they absolutely will come up, then that's also really powerful and helpful. And having somebody like you said Ethan and your wife who have been there, seen it, done it, know how to offer that advice is really important as well, especially for assistants who are just starting in the role, because there is a lot of personalities to deal with. So we want to get a sense of what life is like for you outside of work as well. And I always think the best place to start is in the morning. So you did touch on it for us. But I'd like to get a sense of what your routine is like before you start the day. So why don't you share that

with working fully remote, I like to get out and go get a coffee. And I think same thing with lunch, I'd like to get out and go to lunch, we did just get a puppy. So we are dealing with that as well. And that is a responsibility of making sure the dog is taken care of. And as well as the kids and getting them up and going and out of the house. Fortunately, Stephanie and I tagged him on that really efficiently. It's also a check in with Stephanie, we just have a quick check in on what our day is like. So we know where we need to be, whether it's for personal or business, and that's always good to have that check in. And I love being home when the kids get home. I love being able to drive them to practice, whether it's music or swimming or basketball or whatever the flexibility work of working remote is, I think a godsend for us. And that's always great I, I haven't in the last couple months because in summer, I sometimes take some time off but I do try and get a half hour run in and none of that to stay healthy. And then I try and pick my moments in terms of knowing that something's going to come in at work outside of work hours that I want to deal with and get off my plate. And being able to spend that 12 minutes writing that email, or responding or scheduling or making an adjustment for something in the moment is I think a benefit. A lot of assistants that I come across want to just shut down and not look and I'm much more the person who wants to feather in the work. I don't care if it's happening outside of designated business hours. I'm making a choice to do that. So my brain is clear. And I can just let it go knowing that it's checked off the list and done. So there's a lot of fluidity in the way that I work. And that I think is just allows me to kind of shut down, shut, work down quickly, and get out of work mode quickly. But it doesn't work for everyone.

Nicky Christmas 20:23
Yeah, it's interesting, isn't it? And I wonder if that's because you've been working remotely for quite some time. And it's something that a lot of assistants are learning now. See, post pandemic? Well, a lot of assistants are now having that flexibility of being able to go into the office and also work remotely. So I wonder if again, that will change over time because assistants now starting to realise remote work gives you so much flexibility that you are you don't have to be strict with your boundaries in the sense that you can, as you said, go and answer that email will then leave it and you can come back to it later,

Stephanie and I worked in New York City for a long time for at a very high level more talking six figure compensation packages being personal work, as well as being that business partner, project manager, chief of staff assistant slash schedule, I know that Stephanie was working in finance. When blackberries became ubiquitous. I was working in advertising when the iPhone came about. And at the level that we were assisting our principals, being able to log on at home, or step out of a restaurant and change a meeting, invite or send an email changed the game for assistance. And I think a lot of companies and principals took advantage of that opportunity to leverage their assistance support outside of business hours and on weekends, without codifying any additional compensation, or rules of the road. And frankly, I think assistants were taken advantage of in those times. And I think what the pandemic has done is shined a light on that. And a lot of EAs at a very high level are like I work remote all the time. And I still went into the office Monday through Friday nine to five. And so it wasn't necessarily a change, it just was. And now I think companies are coming in grappling with what is our remote work policy? What does it mean for our assistants, when you work for the CEO of a hedge fund, or the CEO of a major fashion brand, or the CEO of an advertising agency. When you're on vacation in Aruba, there's still work to be done. There's still times when you sneak off to your hotel room and spend 28 minutes clicking off the most important things that need to happen. So I just think the pandemic shined a light and I'm talking about the high level I'm talking about that all encompassing EA, who is compensated appropriately, and but works that 24/7 365 mentality.

Nicky Christmas 23:14
Do you think there's no getting away from that, that you if you want to work at that level for an executive who as you said is the CEO of a hedge fund creative director of an ad agency, whatever it happens to be? Do you think as an EA, you have to go in knowing that it's an all encompassing role. And as you said, when you're on holiday in Aruba, because you've been paid? Well, you are still going to have to go off and answer emails and dig into why do you think that post pandemic? That is still absolutely the case?

My gut is telling me yes, if you're being comped 150 base, plus a bonus opportunity to get can get you to 250. And you are so integral to that person and that family in that company that you know, hopefully at that level, you have a second and you have a third assistant in the office. But there's always the potential for something to come up that you knew about three months ago. And the second and the third assistants don't. And they need that information. And it's only in your head. It's tough. It's a gig. And I would just stress that I hope you're working for a principal who has manners, who understands the hard work you're doing appreciates your work tries to give you some latitude and free rein on how you execute because you're not paying someone that much to micromanage them, and to nitpick every little thing and harp on things that are water under the bridge. And a lot of that is a toxic attitude, but from the principal perspective A lot of that comes from their own insecurities and stress it. I didn't know that I was going to be part therapist when you start working at a high level EA, but in essence, you kind of are. And so it's all about trying to partner with an EA or with a principal who appreciates you, and shows it both from a compensation perspective, but then also from a personal perspective. And there's a lot of people, there's a lot of horror stories. I do think that through the me to movement, and with what we're seeing from some people like how Scott Rudin treated his assistants, and I know people who worked in his office, I actually interviewed to be in his office, he's an Uber, theatre and movie producer who just completely abused his EAS, verbally, mentally, and it's just uncalled for, I don't care what industry you're in. And I'm hoping we move beyond that with a combination of the pandemic and the me to movement, because a great EA only wants to help, they only want to save you time. And you need to empower them to do that. And if you're, if you're using fear, to do that, it's only going to get you so far. If you use partnership and look at your EA more as a peer number one, they're going to rock run in front of a bus for you and walk through a fire. But number two, your organisation and the people outside of your organisation are going to see how you partner with your assistants. And they're going to be like, Whoa, that's an amazing relationship right there. I want that too. And I'm hoping that some of that has cracked and me coming up in the entertainment industry. And my wife working in fashion first and saw it and realise that she loves fashion but doesn't love working in fashion. I don't care how rich and powerful you are, I just I don't think it gives you carte blanche to treat your assistant any which way you want. And if you can work for someone who's known to be demanding and you get through a year and a half, two years, you have an opportunity to quit, and you will always get another job. And if you can't find one, you can either go and work as an independent contractor, because there's a lot of people who would see that executive or that company on your resume and be like, I want to check this personnel. So you do have options. The trouble is, is the golden handcuffs, if you have an EA role where you're making 121 5180, and your life has creeped up to that, and you don't have enough savings and money on the side to support your monthly expenses that will feel like a prison sentence. And so the first step is to save enough money to live below your means and be prepared. It's they call it I'm not going to say the bad word. But I'll say flip you money where you are, have enough to say okay, I can be six months looking for another job, I'm not going to put up with this.

Nicky Christmas 28:18
It's really interesting, because it's not something that we often talk about. But it's something that I've certainly spoken a lot about with the practically perfect PA and EA campus community, it's that you can leave, you can absolutely leave. And I know in obviously in certain countries, your salaries attached to your benefits and status attached to your healthcare and things like that. So in some countries is easier to leave than others. But as you said, you make a plan and you leave you do not have to put up with that toxic behaviour anymore. And you can also call it out. I think assistants are much more empowered to call that behaviour out now because of a lot of important been brave people that have stood up and called it out in public. So I think it's certainly some of the stories that have come out of the entertainment industry around the metoo movement of empowered assistance in other sectors that would have popped with that behaviour not doing it anymore. So I think times are changing, probably not as fast as they should be, but they certainly are.

Yeah, one more point I would like to make though is that when I started at the ad agency after transitioning from entertainment, I worked for a ad executive who went through 13 assistants in one year. And he they wanted to bring in a male assistant and someone with entertainment background because I was surviving in the entertainment world. And he was the hardest boss I ever had to work for about a year and a half. Just so intelligent, very demanding expects the best from everyone. Life is moving fast in charge of a lot of people charge of a number of departments travelling consistently. So You had to be quick, you had to be accurate, you had to be flexible. You had to be smart you had and you had to gain his respect. And what the funny thing was, is that after that first year and a half, he ended up fully trusting me 1,000%. And he was one of the best bosses I ever worked for. So I'm not saying be afraid of working for demanding successful, hard charging people. I'm saying, be able to pull the ripcord when it gets abusive either physically or mentally, or when it is just, you're being tasked with things like I need to fly to Wichita, Kansas, tomorrow at four o'clock and land but they don't want to pay for a charter or a private jet. So things like that. And then they take that out on you that's abusive. But having a boss that yells and screams, and is just super smart, and very fast paced. I think that's actually great to work for someone like that. It just levels you up. So there's a fine line that I'm talking about.

Nicky Christmas 31:09
Yeah, setting expectations, isn't it? I think it's for, you want to know that upfront, if that's the kind of person that you enjoy working with, that you want those challenges, and you want somebody to have a high expectations of you because they have high expectations of themselves. I agree, I love that atmosphere. I love that atmosphere, and I was an assistant, but it's not for everybody. And it's knowing it's absolutely knowing what you're going into when you start that role. And I think of people who are executives who are like that, you'll get that sense from them. When you interview with them, you will do you will see them straightaway and know whether or not you want to work with that executive. So it's knowing yourself as much as it is getting a sense of what the executive wants from you and what you're capable of what you're capable of perform, or how you perform in those environments. So you've got to know that yourself is up to you as well as much it is you can't blame that on the executive, if you knew what you were walking into when you started well, they're not going to change. So I want to get a sense of what it's like now working as a virtual assistant, but also running a virtual assistant company, because that I think we have a lot of conversations with assistants about making that move from being a corporate AI into virtual assistant, but then going on to run your own virtual assistant company. Can you talk us through that? How that worked for you? And what some of your thought processes were alongside your wife about how you've made that journey?

Yeah, I mentioned earlier how she stumbled into getting a client. And then I left Rochester Regional Health, and turned around and said, What is this virtual assistant world. And there's some pretty big players in the United States. And so I applied to one. And I quickly got through the inner prop interview process, they were like, we want to partner with you. And you'll be working with eight to 15 clients a month that you will pick out of our message board a comp compile a book of hours every month, and we're gonna pay you $18 now. And frankly, Stephanie and I were taken aback, we really felt that that can be right, for the right kind of person. But for two people with our experienced who were making well into the six figures, it was not a slap in the face just not the right fit, but we just couldn't it felt like it devalue the EA roll in our own eyes and it thinking about what one of their clients at a cocktail party and someone says, Oh, you have an Assistant, do you mind me asking how much you pay them? And they say, Yeah, we pay $45 an hour. And so out of that $45 An hour $18 An hour goes to the assistant. And this was in 2017 2018, by the way, so prices rates have gone up. So assistants, what I'm hearing is that they're making between 23 and $27 an hour, which you know, it is what it is for a virtual assistant company. And so we decided to go a different way we came up with a different business model that is based on our personal experience as career executive assistants. And we consider our company a remote executive assistant company, as compared to a virtual assistant company. And the two ways that we differentiated what we do with pro assisting is that we work off of a three to one executive to assistant ratio, meaning that any one of our assistants has a maximum of three clients and that allows them to provide full service support juggling three clients and being in and out of their business every day Monday through Friday nine to five after hours and on weekends in a typical situations or Should the principle be travelling is very, it's the sweet spot. And the other thing is that we don't charge by the hour, we charge a flat retainer rate of $3,000 a month for 1/3 the resources of one of our assistants. And a prospect will say to me, Okay, how many hours is that, um, like, you take 177 hours, which is, you know, the average nine to five amount of hours per month, over the course of a year divided by three, and you're in the ballpark. But more importantly, you're not paying for time you're paying for this person's experience, we really partner with high level executive assistants, we, we make sure that they're exclusive to their clients by only partnering them with three clients. And the clients know, they're only sharing them with two other two other clients. And what never gets talked about is that there is legacy knowledge, personal knowledge about your principal, knowledge about your company, that builds up over time, to where a good EA becomes that single point of contact, for any number of departments, for the principal's family, for the community for the philanthropy work that they're doing for the boards that they're sitting on. And there's value there. And so if you're working on a strictly by hour basis, there's no incentive to become efficient, because they're going to become more efficient over time. Or to gather as much of that information as possible, know the answers to all those questions. So you're keeping things from even getting onto your principal or clients plate. And the other thing is that out of that $3,000 a month, we pass 80% of that onto our assistant. So when one of our assistants has three of our clients, they're making north of $86,000 a year. That's as an independent contractor, we talk a lot about how to pay taxes, we talk a lot about where their healthcare is coming from, we do have a backup system to support for time off, we also talk a lot about running it as your own business, and creating an LLC or a Subchapter S corporation, writing off your your internet, your cable, your home office expense, any computer purchases, really treating it as your own business, we have EAS who just have three clients from us, we have EAS who have one or two clients and then have worked outside of their clients with us. And a lot of business consultants over the few years that we've been doing this have told me, You gotta get your margins up 20% only taking 20% is not enough and yada yada and just, I don't want to do that we are advocates for the EA community we are EAS and we really want to be able to put our head on the pillow at night knowing that we are doing everything we can for our EA and the way that we that we've structured this business. And it's not for everyone either on the EA side or on the client side. And that's okay, we have so many options now. And there's it's not to say that you can't go with a VA company and get a great virtual assistant, who really takes care of your needs and everything. And if you can find that great, our whole focus is on kind of setting the rules of the road, setting up the expectations properly on both sides of the equation. And really, really honing that we're trying to fill that space between what a VA provides and what a full time assistant provides. And we're doing that through this model specifically,

Nicky Christmas 38:51
it's so lovely to hear that because I think like you said, that aspect of the assistant role that's so incredibly value valuable for EAS that work inside organisations, is that as you said that legacy aspects, knowing the business inside out. And when you move into a virtual system model, and you're talking about money per hour, and just passing on these tasks and getting this work done, you completely forget that aspect of what makes a brilliant assistant so valuable inside of inside an organisation. So that's so great that you're passing that on to your clients and getting them to understand that and they're seeing that value because it's that difference, isn't it? And I'd like to come on to my next question because I think it ties in really nicely with that. So because of the way the world has gone now with the pandemic and that ability for assistants to work remotely and that understanding that it is possible the technology is there. Assistants don't need to be tied to their executives desks. Do you think there will be more of a move into assistants leaving the corporate world and becoming virtual assistants? Isn't that your see more of Do you think?

I think we're still trying to find In the equilibrium, I do think that there are EAS who just work better in the office, when they are right outside their principal's office. And there are principals who want that, whether it's old school, or someone who is on their 30 year career, or it's someone who is a startup CEO, I think there's room for both. And I think there's room for hybrid, I will really want the discussion for anyone who's working in a W two role. And in the United States. That means working for a company where they're handling your benefits and everything, and they're the only company you're working for, there needs to be a discussion about flexibility. And I think that's still happening. I think that a lot of companies have gotten a free ride from since 2007, or even before when I mentioned the Blackberry, iPhone coming along, they may be reluctant. But I do think the sunshine is definitely putting a spotlight on that. And I have helped assistants who aren't working with us but are in full time roles, strategize about how to broach that subject with their boss, their HR department. And I think if that flexibility is not coming in certain companies, they're going to lose talent. And that's where kind of our model fits in because we look towards larger metropolitan areas where assistants want to move out, and aren't going to commute the hour and a half each way to go in to to, but they've built up this amazing wealth of experience and knowledge that has value. And we want to provide an outlet there. So I think, again, I don't think we've reached equilibrium yet I think the conversations around the remote work policy of an organisation in general needs to be had and and if you're not getting what you want, again, the best thing about being an assistant is it is a trade. It transcends industry. It transcends personality of your principal, we always say I think a great assistant is a chameleon, you can work in any industry. And by the end of your second week, you're going to be able to explain what that company does at a cocktail party succinctly. And you're going to be able to mould yourself to the needs of your principal. Because you are you have a servant's heart you're looking to provide to them, you want to provide hospitality. And so having a trade, take comfort in that. Take comfort in the fact that you aren't chained to your principal for your career. changing jobs is hard. Finding work is hard, but it's doable. And there are tonne of options right now.

Nicky Christmas 42:52
That's exactly right. There are so many options for assistants. It's such an exciting time to be an assistant. Absolutely. There's a lot of options available. I got to go back if we can to the first iteration of processing, because I found that really interesting. First of all, that you were running online courses in 2009. That is a huge amount of foresight there. So congrats. Well done for that someone who's been running practically perfect case since 2011. It's not often you hear of organisations that predate free date that so that's amazing to hear that you were doing that back then it was really interesting what you said about working with people that have come out of college, and using the assistant role as a stepping stone to something else. Some of this we don't talk about a lot, because we talk about the assistant role being as you were saying a profession. It's a trade. And that's absolutely right. But for assistants who are listening to the podcast that do want to use it as a stepping stone that's not talked about very much. So I wonder how you feel about that. Now, if that's something that's still out there and available to people that want to get into an industry and start from assistant move into something else?

Oh, absolutely. I you will have to become an employee, you will have to go into the office probably more like 730 to seven. But when you're young and just out of college. It's like they do studies about remote work and the pandemic and everybody who is like 35 and above never wants to go back into the office and everyone who's 35 and below is chomping at the bit because it's a big part of their social interaction in life. And when you're getting out of college, I do believe you should work 60 7080 hour weeks. I do believe that you need to network and be in face to face and I think it's awesome. And you have an opportunity to set yourself apart by having conversations with people in other departments forming those relationships. Talking about career path, the assistant role in the EA role can cover so many Many different aspects. It's not hard to say, look, I learned Canva. And I can do some photoshop design. And I can, I've been reading some copywriting books and I can do some marketing, or I've been reading sales books and I can go into new business development. And it's much more comforting for an HR department to take someone who's in an assistant position, move them to a different role, have them in house to train the assistant that they bring in, have them in house to interview the assistant that's going to be the fit in that role. I encourage, we do a little consulting work. And I encourage companies to look at their assistant roles as apprenticeships, and be ready to move people out of those roles at the 1.5 or two year mark. And what you're doing is you're training your executives to be a little bit more nimble. And obviously, it doesn't work for every assistant role. And you are going to come across some assistance where they say myself included when I was in advertising, that boss that I mentioned earlier, he said, Look, Ethan, do you want to move up? He's all puts you where you want to go? Or do you want me to protect you and just keep you as my EA and I said, Look, I've got a lot of stuff going on outside the office. I'm writing screenplays, I'm publishing a graphic novel, I kind of want to just stay in this role for now. He's great. He's we don't have to have a review. We do a rolling review, anything comes up, I will stand by you and stick by you. But the opportunity was the end. You get to know someone's personality, work ethic, sense of devotion, hospitality, their mindset in the EA role. So it's an easy move. But a lot of companies are afraid to do it and look at it that

Nicky Christmas 46:48
way. It goes back to what you said, at the start of the podcast, when you said you'd been in the assistant role for seven, eight years, and then that at that point, you thought yourself, I'm an assistant, this is my career, this is what I want it to be that point, isn't it, it's when you're younger, it's great. And it's something we definitely don't talk about enough in the industry, it's a great stepping stone to other things. It's a real, it gives you a real ability to learn the business. And then go and decide what you want to do or learn the industry and go and decide what you want to do. And so I think that's something that we don't talk about enough that the assistant role gives you that opportunity as well. And then maybe after you've been in it for some time, you can say to yourself, you know what, this is my job, this is my career, I'm going to make the most out of it, and then maybe go into those really senior level positions where you do have to think of it as a career.

And I want to have specialty business school in New England, very prominent business school in when I became when I started realising that I'm a career executive assistant, I got nervous. And that's one of the reasons why we created pro assisting in 2009 was I'm very entrepreneurial, I have an interest in business. And I was always searching for ways to leverage our experience. And that's what we did. The first iteration was never big enough for us to quit our jobs. But it connected us with a lot of assistance, it helped us start understanding how the Internet could really be leveraged for a business. And then now we're lucky enough knock on wood, that we can keep going and sustain this business for many years to come. And so now my business degree is finally coming into play. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Nicky Christmas 48:29
And as I said, it's been able to leverage some of the things you probably have used as an assistant as well. So somebody working with the executive that you described earlier, who really pushed you probably has helped you now run a business a successful business, because one of the things that is so great about being an assistant is you are in the room with incredibly smart people who are running organisations. So that ability to learn from them and then go and use that knowledge somewhere else is, again, very unique to the assistant industry.

My best mentors have been other than my father and my stepfather. My best mentors have been bosses, both men and women. So it's I feel blessed that we are here right now. But what was interesting, and I think, any virtual assistants or remote executive assistants out there, when you break off on your own, and you're not a full time employee, I really didn't realise that there is just an inherent level of stress on being able to perform and making sure you're providing value because if you're not, a client will leave and it's something I didn't I didn't expect I didn't really know about and you need to trust in your background. And in the fact that being an assistant is a trade and is always something you can turn back to and fall back on or continue as your own little business. And so just because As you're managing your own schedule, and the business is going great, there still is stress, we're one email away from an assistant having an issue or an assistant leaving or a client leaving. And that comes at all times. And it's just part of part of breaking off on your own. If anybody out there who is breaking off on their own, or is currently on their own, as an independent contractor working in these kinds of roles, you're not alone. The stress is there. I'm here to tell you, yeah, don't let that don't let that hold you back. And you get, I wouldn't say it goes away, but you get used to it.

Nicky Christmas 50:38
Yeah, I'd agree. That is something that I certainly didn't realise when I started running practically perfect. Pa is a full time business having worked as an executive assistant in an organisation, it but the one thing that kind of made me slightly more resilient to it was that it was my stress, it was my own stress, I wasn't managing my stress plus somebody else's stress. It was my stress to deal with. So that was always something that made me feel much better about things and able to be able to cope slightly more. I've got one more question before we have to wrap up, which is you've been working as an executive assistant for a long time, and you've had different iterations of that. But I wonder if there's any change that you would like to see across the assistant industry now that we are we have moved so far over the last few years,

I think that I'm coming across a lot of prospects who come to talk to us about potentially working with us who really pigeonhole their idea of what an assistant is, and and I say, Look, we view an assistant as being a business partner, a chief of staff, a project manager on assistant slash scheduler, and a personal assistant. And they always come back to business partner, what do you mean, I have a CFO, I have business partners. And I'm like, but if you are with an assistant for a year and a half, and you see a new marketing campaign come across your desk, do you think to ask your assistant what their opinion is of it? Do you look at your assistant and their wealth of knowledge and say, they may have a better way? I think that and there are a lot of principles, a lot of business leaders, entrepreneurs, CEOs who get that, and who really leverage the relationship properly. And there's a lot of micromanagers out there, a lot of old school thinkers out there who don't get the benefit. And so I think that there's an opportunity for opening up and I know, we didn't get a chance to talk about it. But we did Stephanie and I published a book at the end of May. And it's called a 29 hour workday. And it goes through those five performance multipliers that I talked about. And that is one way we're trying to push principals, business leaders, startup CEOs in general C suite executives to open their mind, and to brainstorm better about how they can leverage great support, because the modern executive assistant wants to provide time back to their principal, they want to do it in a high touch hospitality way. And they want to feel like a peer, a seat at the table. Absolutely.

Nicky Christmas 53:41
Absolutely. I will make sure that we add the book details to the show notes. Because I know for a lot of assistants, it's up to them to teach our executives how to do that. Because as you said, there are a lot of executives that don't know that's an option. They just have maybe they haven't worked with an assistant before that is that proactive that wants to be strategic, or they've just never even given their assistant the opportunity to be able to do that. But it's quite often it's the assistant that has to teach our executives that that is possible. So any help in that area. But those difficult conversations, anyhow, welcome,

right? No, and I've coached assistants to take our book, read it. And if you're at review time, or even if you're not walk into your boss's office or virtually and say, I honestly believe you're not leveraging me like you could. You're not leveraging the support I can provide that will be better for you. In our current state, I've read this book. I think you might really enjoy it. And I think you might really open your mind in terms of other ways to leverage my support and If after, if you read the book, and after six months, you notice a difference, I would like to talk about getting a raise or use it in the review discussion, to say, you're only giving me a 3% Raise. But I honestly believe you're not utilising there's a lot left on the table here. And you can use our book being just one option to have open that discussion. Give them a tool to open their mind, you may be able to cross that big hurdle and at least show the initiative and show that you care about your career and your work product and see where the chips land. But something like that can be a discussion starter.

Nicky Christmas 55:50
Yeah. And I love that that it's that from that perspective, because that's the book that an assistant wants to hand over to their executive because it's written for their executive. So it's helpful in that sense as well. I have one last question before we wrap up, and I feel the need to ask it because you are from an entertainment background. But it's something that we come up in a discussion recently on the a campus community. And that's whether or not the entertainment industry has helped or hindered the assistant role. So I'd love to get your perspective on that, particularly as you worked in an advertising agency and madmen was certainly referenced in that conversation.

The entertainment industry is definitely kind of stereotypes, the assistant role with the portrayal whether it's Devil Wears Prada, or swimming with sharks. And so in that way, I don't know if it's helped or hindered. I do know a large number of famous producers who started as an assistant and proven that you can leverage that role to great heights. And so I actually think it's helped because there are a lot of industries where personal work is shied away from And personally, I don't feel that's really valid because the role of a great assistant is to find time for your principal anywhere you can. And the entertainment industry. When you are an EA in the entertainment industry. It is all encompassing, it is anything and everything was an EA at William Morris, William Morris Agency, and an agent, one, a mannequin of Whoopi Goldberg, who was a client of ours. And I had to take along with another assistant, the company car and drive this mannequin up to see tuxedo Park and put it in her den and set it up in her den while she was way and then go back to the office.

So that's not a job description is

not in the job description. But it was it's she got a kick out of it. She said I jumped out of my skin when I walked in the room. It's not in the job description. It's really thinking outside the box. It's a double edged sword, though. That's where you get the Harvey Weinstein's, the Scott ruins of the world because they're allowed to be that way. So I actually I think it's a double edged sword.

Nicky Christmas 58:18
That's a great. That's a great example of the things that assistants have to do, as you said that they're never going to be on a job description, but you roll with the punches through these things. It's been an absolute pleasure talking with you. I know there's a lot of questions that I didn't manage to get around to asking, but I feel like the advice that you've given to the listeners today will be really invaluable.

I really appreciate it. Thank you for having me

Nicky Christmas 58:42
on. Thank you so much for listening to the EA campus podcast, we would love for you to take a minute to subscribe to the EA cannabis podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. If you could give us a review, we would so appreciate that as well. If you want to check out the show notes, you can do that by going over to the EA campus.com forward slash podcast and take a look at everything that we discussed. You can also find all the links to the resources, articles and tech that we mentioned during the show. If you want to join the conversation inside the EA campus community, you will also find all of the information on the EA Campus website. The community continues to grow and we have an amazing group of assistants sharing their careers. We have ongoing events and training for our members and we would love to see ambitious and career driven assistance join the EA campus. Thanks for your time and I hope you tune in again to the next episode of the EA campus podcast.

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