The People Person

The People Person

Monday, 16 May 2011 15:41

The PA conundrum

I recently spoke to a group of business people and owners. There was a very good question posed; one that I had asked myself about 18 months ago. “At what point in your start-up do you hire a PA/EA and what is their role”?


The diversity of businesses in this group was great to explore very real scenarios; IT companies, health services businesses, financial services and PR. All have one thing in common – fast growth and the owners are active in the business.


The easiest way to answer the question was by defining my worth (by the hour) versus the cost of a good PA/EA. The answer was really simple.


I knew that by hiring someone to be the “glue” in the business, I had the flexibility to do what I do best – sell and see my customers and grow the business and do the things I am very good at doing.


It didn’t make sense that I spent time on non-revenue generating activities, unless of course it was strategic growth planning.


Job Capital was just over two years old at this stage. We had three staff and were growing very quickly. In fact, we had doubled every year since we opened the gates for trade.


I found my EA/PA by referral and met her for a coffee. I knew immediately she was right for the business.


She was intelligent, well presented and most importantly willing to roll up her sleeves and do anything that was required. Big or small.


She also told me she loved entrepreneurs and had studied this at University and was seeking a business to work for that was fast, interesting and where she could work closely with an entrepreneur. A marriage made in heaven!


The timing was perfect. It was also the day we moved into our new offices, so the extra help was a Godsend. She got on with the job and organised our new home.


This allowed sales and operations to sell and deliver. IT, comms, stationery. It was all sorted. Today my EA/PA handles far more and has many balls in the air.


Not just the normal diary management and travel; also HR, social media, supplier negotiations, websites and now the infrastructure and management of my new business ventures and investments as well as my personal requirements; all from an operational level.


There is a very important factor in addition to the skills and attitude requirement, and that is trust.


Over the past 18 months we have built a level of trust that cannot be permeated. It is built on mutual respect and understanding what each other is here to do in and for the business.


She understands how I operate and pre-empts scenarios and outcomes and is literally an extension of my thinking process in many instances.


Making sure the details I don’t have time to manage are not only well managed but tidy, efficient and available if and when I need them.


The person you hire can only be as good as the respect you have for each other and you must allow them to control tasks you know you shouldn’t be doing.


For most start-up owners, giving up control (since we tend to have control freak characteristics!) of what I call “counting the paperclips” is essential for the empowerment of your PA/EA to take control of part of your business and life to make you more effective and grow much faster.


It is in business, one of the best hires and decisions I have made.

Jo Burston is the founder of Job Capital, a company that manages the financial affairs of contractors. The business was named the Officeworks Fastest Growing Start-up at the 2011 StartupSmart Awards.

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