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Member Article

The rise of virtual Executive Assistants - and how to choose the right one

It was predicted back in 2018 in a Gartner study that by 2021, up to 25% of digital workers will use a virtual executive assistant on a daily basis.

Add to this the current situation, namely, the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are more digital workers and remote workers than ever before. The reality is, working-from-home and building a business as a virtual PA and EA is an attractive prospect for a lot of people - and more power to them - but there’s a certain consideration that needs to be taken for choosing the right one for your business.

The risks of not choosing the right support can result in a lot of wasted time, expense and in rare cases putting your business affairs in the hands of someone without the right experience can have consequences beyond just a little inconvenience, such as data security risks, or even financial ramifications.

With more choice than ever before it can be tricky to find the right person to put your trust into.

We always say to our clients that they’re putting their “world in our hands” and it’s true. The people we work with are highly-experienced, senior business professionals, serial entrepreneurs and non-exec directors/chairpersons; their “world” is pretty big, demanding and important - and we never forget that.

Their world becomes ours, and our team members work hard to understand the niches of their responsibilities and reach a level where there is complete synergy between client and executive assistant.

So how can you make the right choice?

Needless to say, experience is the most valuable tool in a virtual Executive Assistant’s arsenal. Our founder, Wendy, has worked as an executive assistant for over 25 years, within high-profile companies and with senior, in-demand business people.

She knows what’s needed before it’s even asked for and works tirelessly to embed herself into their business, their responsibilities and their world. What we do is beyond just a virtual PA service, it’s a framework to help you as a business owner to streamline your working life and put the tasks that can be time-consuming and dull into the hands of people who could do the job in their sleep.

If you’re looking for support and a virtual executive assistant seems like the answer to your problem, it’s worth starting by asking peers at your level if they can recommend anyone. Recommendations are one of our biggest drivers of new enquiries for us because we’ve worked with most of our clients for such a long time and they’re happy to advocate our services, which is a privilege.

Colleagues, peers or even people you might meet at a (virtual!) networking event can introduce you to some brilliant, experienced virtual executive assistants, so it’s definitely worth asking.

From here, once you have a shortlist of people to consider, it’s time to look at their website/proposal and identify:

Do they have sufficient experience?

If they’re new to the world of being a virtual EA, check their LinkedIn profile to discover their past career history and whether it’s relevant to the business you work in or run. We can’t stress enough how important relevant sector experience can be to the smooth-running of a partnership, so if your potential EA has experience in your niche, you’re already off to a good start. If we were being really specific, we’d say you’re ideally looking for a minimum of five years’ worth of relevant experience, 10 even better, if you’re going to truly have the right pair of hands.

Are they sufficiently qualified?

With all due respect, we believe that a virtual EA can’t just be someone with a laptop and a phone who wants to work flexibly around their other life commitments. Our founder and team members have actual Business qualifications, ranging from NVQ to degree-level, and therefore they understand the intricacies of running a business, not just managing a diary or organising travel. And sure, we do that bit too, but our clients tend to be running more than just one enterprise and require a knowledgeable person to follow procedure and understand business requirements in varied circumstances.

What do their clients say?

Client testimonials are hugely valuable for identifying how effective a virtual executive assistant can be. If their clients are happy to publicly vouch for them, it’s a good sign. But what if they don’t have any? It’s cause for potential alarm bells, but in the event they’re just so busy they’ve not had the time to collect these testimonials, or they’re just starting out, it’s not unreasonable to ask to speak to one of their current clients. If they won’t allow this, then alarm bells are definitely warranted.

How much are they charging?

You might not be able to gauge this from a website because mostly, virtual executive assistant services are dependent on the tasks and duties required, but what you should be able to clearly understand, is their payment/service model. For us, our clients only pay for what they use - we call this fractional business support - so it’s very clear and easy to attribute ROI to when you work out the time you’re saving once tasks have been handed over.

The old saying “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be more true when it comes to choosing the right executive assistant, so cheap isn’t a good sign, but whatever the cost proposed, they should be able to explain costs and outputs clearly.

How committed are they - really?

Again, we’re not here to judge, but we’ve built our business on being a 24/7 support mechanism for our busy clients.

We’ve been up at 4am sourcing flights for a client, we have clients who hold meetings in multiple timezones that require our involvement and we’ve even helped with personal administrative requirements on evenings and weekends. We truly embed ourselves into their professional lives, so we know that for them, there’s no real “clocking off” at 5pm.

If your potential virtual executive assistant isn’t prepared to be flexible and work hours that meet your unique business requirements, it might be worth considering other options.

Another big consideration is the Services on offer - you’ll want someone or a company with a diverse service offering who can always ‘add-on’ as you feel more comfortable handing over duties.

Let’s face it, it’s tough enough out there right now without the added stress of choosing the wrong virtual assistant, but follow our tips and you can’t go far wrong.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by NE Digital & Tech .

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