Being a startup founder or the head of a small business is an all-consuming job in many ways. You and your core team become the c-suite, while taking on marketing, sales, operations, and every other function that has to be done to keep your company running. And when staying lean is critical to your small business, when the team is putting in such long hours over time, your risk burnout.
If you’re like most founders at this stage, you know you need additional help in order for your company to grow, but you're not ready for a significant hiring investment. You’re aware that you should be working on strategic initiatives rather than cleaning up one more slide deck, so you’ve wisely decided that a fractional executive assistant is a needed addition to your team. But what are the best ways to use a fractional executive assistant, so you get the most of their time?
We’ve found there is limited practical information available on how to effectively collaborate with a fractional EA, leaving leaders to assume the responsibility of navigating this relationship without clear guidance. Here, we will give you tips on the best ways to use a fractional executive assistant, so you can make the most of their skill sets and gain the maximum benefit from this hire.
First, Audit Your Time
Start by running a time audit of over a week, using software like Timely, RescueTime, or Toggle Track to track where your hours are spent. Divide out specific administrative tasks, including scheduling and confirming meetings and simple communications (like emails, chats, and calls). Be sure to take note of time lost due to trying to multitask. The picture created from this will tell you what are your true “time sinks,” and lay out how much time you’ll gain back from handing over certain tasks. Take It Easy Group’s Founder, Tarra Stubbins, is happy to help with this process through one of our workshops.
What You Actually Do In a Day
Determining how your time is spent each day will allow you to do two things: figure out exactly what you can hand over to an executive assistant and understand how many hours you’ll need to reserve for the fractional EA role.
Divide out categories of the way you’ve spent your time, starting with the administrative tasks:
● Planning meetings and events
● Confirming appointments
● Arranging your calendar
● Invoicing vendors
● Paying bills
● Planning travel
This will give a true picture of hours that are the easiest wins and the quickest ways you’ll realize value from an executive assistant right from the start.
Hand Over Your Information Processing
According to a McKinsey survey, the average worker spends almost a third of their week processing email, with the majority of that time spent on reading and deciding what to respond to. For small business founders and CEOs, this time could amount to even more, given the high volume of emails and other information received on a daily basis.
Reading email and filtering what communications you need to respond to now, today or later is the first group of tasks you can hand over to your EA. The benefits from this are compounded, as not only will you gain back the time spent on processing information, but you’ll also gain back the time that these things distract you from focusing for a consistent, uninterrupted time on a task.
Your fractional EA will be able to implement strategies like filtering out unnecessary communications, email batching, and setting aside dedicated time for information processing. They can also delegate certain tasks to other team members.
With an executive assistant, you as a founder or CEO no longer need to be the one cleaning up the deck or searching for a visual to illustrate a concept before a presentation to potential investors or customers.
If your company is one that deals with frequent slide deck presentations, be sure to make note of this when hiring an executive assistant. Some EAs specialize in design skills and know how to compose compelling slides on a moment's notice.
Do you spend time polishing your meeting notes into coherent reports? If your deliverables are written meeting summaries or reports on current issues in the market, make sure the fractional EA you hire is well-versed in business writing. An EA will be able to write summaries and compile reports for you, so this is no longer a task you have to spend hours doing.
Collect Documents from Outside Sources
How much time does your team spend chasing bank statements or other documents? Rather than making calls to your accountant or bank, or coordinating between these offices, this is one of the best ways to use a fractional executive assistant.
As you need to gather legal and compliance documents, this is a task that an EA who is familiar with financial and legal forms will be able to handle. Gather a list of documents you routinely need to see over a month, and give these to your EA. Or, ask your executive assistant to keep track of what is needed over the month, so they can be familiar with the routine requests for documents that come up.
Coordinate Marketing and Sales
If you’re spending time on basic user research or deciding whether a new customer segment might be worth your company’s time, these are prime tasks for an EA who has a marketing background. An EA can conduct research and gather data on your customers, as well as keep basic track of your ad campaigns. If social media is a big part of your business, request an EA who knows the social media platform where you spend the most time. Our fractional executive assistants specialize in all the major social media platforms, which helps when you don’t have a budget for a marketing team.
Stay Connected to Stakeholders and Customers
As a CEO, you don’t have time to peruse social media all day to check every mention of your company. A fractional EA is a highly valuable resource to help you know what customers are saying about your company and its competitors. Whether monitoring Facebook, Instagram posts, or tracking what customers say about your company over Yelp or other review sites, this aspect of an EA’s skills is worth its weight in gold.
Your fractional EA can also answer customer inquiries, manage customer relations and respond to emails. Most executives find that this is a huge time saver allowing you to focus on larger issues your business is facing.
Plan and Execute Projects
If you spend a large amount of time planning projects, consider handing this over to your fractional EA. Request an EA with strong project management skills. Once you have your goals and overall projects clear, make use of your executive assistant to break these projects into doable actions, and plan the project timeline and budget. They can also coordinate projects that require outside help, by giving you vendor options and interviewing these vendors to determine what is a fit for your company.
A Skilled Executive Assistant Is Be the Key to Business Growth
Overall, understanding the best ways to use a fractional executive assistant will help you manage your time, communication, and keep your focus on scaling your business. As we’ve laid out in this article, a fractional EA will be ready to help with much more than filing paperwork and answering calls. They can help you stay on top of your key day-to-day tasks, help with marketing, gather legal documents, plan projects, and assist with customers, so you can focus on the bigger picture.
By leveraging the expertise of a fractional EA, you will create a more efficient workflow that frees your time and allows you to focus on driving real business growth. Small tasks that could have become business growth blockers are now handled by a competent team member who you employ for only the hours you really need them. Additionally, by assigning tasks that align with your EA’s strengths and interests, you will create a more motivated and engaged core team, allowing your company to scale faster.