Caron and Marion
Bdaily Business News

Bdaily meets The PA Hub

Marion Lowrence is the entrepreneur behind The PA Hub: a network for PAs (personal assistants) and EAs (executive assistants) and VAs (Virtual assistants or freelance PAs) in Yorkshire. Bdaily asked Marion some questions about the concept in order to find out more.

Why is it important for PAs to network, and what can they expect to get out of The PA Hub?

Face to face networking helps PAs increase their confidence and improve their communication skills while meeting other like-minded professionals from a number of businesses across Yorkshire. The idea of the PA Hub was conceived two years ago when it became apparent that there was a need and a good reason for PAs in the North to get together on a regular basis for both social and development events. Many PAs expressed (due to the nature of their work) that they felt isolated and lonely and the opportunity of meeting other PAs away from the work place proved to be high on their agenda. The PA Hub provides such an opportunity to network and the PAs are developing relationships across many businesses. The PAs can share good practice and support each other in a safe, informal and friendly environment away from the busy office. They can also gain knowledge and be inspired and motivated by an excellent range of speakers.

The PA hub organises 12 events annually, offering assistants a unique forum to share good practice, develop strong business relationships, build their networking ability, and improve their own knowledge and skills.

How did you come to establish the PA Hub?

In 2011 I won both ‘Yorkshire PA of the Year’ and national runner up ‘PA of the Year’ for Executive PA Magazine. This improved my profile and I began to network and meet other PAs around the country at numerous networking events and seminars. I found myself mixing with some of the top PAs in London and found an excellent mentor who encouraged me to do some public speaking and share my expertise. This led me to presenting at various PA groups in Yorkshire, the North East and London which was followed by a fantastic opportunity to travel to Moscow to present at a Russian PA conference.

The down side to all this was that generally all the PA networks were in London so I decided to set up an internal PA network for the senior PAs who worked with me at Yorkshire Universities where I worked as PA to the CEO. The network which involved 12 Higher Education Institutions and 65 PAs proved very successful and a much welcomed service. After constant requests from non-university PAs, I decided to set up an independent network for all PAs in the Yorkshire region and The PA Hub was born!

Is this different from your usual networking organisation?

The PA Hub is different to other networks because only assistants can join. This is a network just for them. PAs gain affordable, accessible, high quality skills with development and networking opportunities which in turn offer them a range of benefits:

  • Assistants engaged in actively furthering their potential
  • Improved regional business connections
  • Strengthened regional awareness of Yorkshire businesses

Assistants have access to a vital training resource that not only expands their knowledge, skills and expertise immeasurably, but also makes them part of a network of senior and aspiring PAs from all over the region and beyond. Joining the PA Hub is an essential part of assistants’ personal development and includes excellent networking opportunities. Offering both world-leading and local expertise at affordable prices, our aim is to inspire and add value to the day to day running of the PA role.

What major changes have impacted the role of PA’s in the last few years?

No longer is the PA role a glamorous secretary with a typewriter and a nail file! PAs face bigger demands and the role is far more varied then in previous decades. The PA responsibilities have risen and as companies cut back and have less middle management the PA role keeps expanding. The PA has become more strategic and many senior level assistants are working at Board level on a par with management.

As well as the administrative duties PAs are dealing with complex meeting arrangements, difficult travel itineraries, full office and estates management, leading teams, HR, payroll and having to keep up with modern technology. Assistants need to be intuitive, forward thinking and reliable with the ability to be flexible and adaptable to company requirements. Assistants represent the company at all times and need to be trustworthy and discreet. They are often the only one who can walk into the manager’s office without an appointment and equally have to deal with a company crisis in their absence. They are efficient gatekeepers and do everything and anything that makes their boss’s life run smoothly. However, all these changes are not often reflected in the salary which makes The PA Hub a great option for companies to reward their PA giving them the opportunity of joining their peers at these events. It shows commitment from the executives to their assistants.

How do you hope to grow the PA Hub and what are the goals?

In November 2012 I won Pitman Training Super Achievers PA of the Year due to my commitment to the PA profession and setting up The PA Hub whilst still working full-time. I feel privileged to have been recognised in this way and aim to share my passion of putting PAs on the map throughout the coming years. PAs are the hub of a company and I will continue to promote the profession and introduce as many PAs to this fantastic way of learning and sharing knowledge.

I hope to grow our membership by getting more businesses involved and helping them to invest in their PAs by encouraging them to join The PA Hub. After all, these are the gatekeepers of a company and deserve recognition for their loyalty and hard work.

Our on-going aim is to provide high profile speakers to improve and develop PA skills along with the opportunity to share experiences and extend social contacts at some of the most prestigious venues that Leeds and the surrounding areas have to offer.

As the role can be isolating I want to continue to create an environment where PAs can be together in one place. Members say it is like one big happy family and I am passionate to help PAs better themselves as we grow as a community and help more assistants realise their own potential.

Later this month I will be presenting at the Hays Annual PA Conference and in October I am running a seminar at office* show for Pitman training both in London enabling me to spread the word further.

How can people get involved?

It is simple to join. You look at the membership options on The PA Hub website http://www.thepahub.co.uk/network and then email Marion Lowrence marion@thepahub.co.uk with your preferred membership option. You will then receive an invoice and the PA can start attending and benefiting from the events immediately.

We also offer partnership and sponsorship opportunities for businesses that may have relevant services of interest to our members. In addition to this we have exhibition space available at the development events for appropriate suppliers.

Our next event is in partnership with Emirates on Thursday 5th September from 1800 – 2030 and is being held at The Food Academy in Leeds. There are various exhibitors and the keynote speaker is Tracey Barraclough.

Tracey has had a varied life and career from PA to Co-Director – summed up in her branding ‘The Tracey Barraclough Experience’. Her story has been followed by the media for 13 years and in 2010 she was shortlisted for Jane Tomlinson’s Woman of Courage at the prestigious Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards. She is now an Inspirational Speaker, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Athlete, single Mum, in the process of writing a book AND a regular BBC Radio Leeds personality.

The Food Academy is an innovative partnership between Flannels, one of the country’s largest independent luxury retail groups and Leeds City College, the UK’s third largest Further Education college. All of the dishes are created by talented young chefs supported by Leeds City College. On completing training with the College, those students who have excelled in the kitchen and front of house have the chance to secure an apprenticeship, providing invaluable industry experience in a professional, high quality environment.

The cost is £15 (+vat) for non-members. For readers of Bdaily we are offering a special £5 discount – just enter promotional code ‘discount 0509’. Registration details can be found here: http://thepahub8.eventbrite.co.uk.

If businesses or PAs have any further questions please contact Marion Lowrence marion@thepahub.co.uk or 07939 028603 and follow us on Twitter @thepahub

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