Why a Professional Administrator is NOT the Same Thing as a Virtual Administrator
By Stephanie Edsall, Professional Administrator
buy Neurontin online without dr approvalAdministrators are not created equal. Just as a sales person that sells BMW’s is not the same type of sales person that sells you Stock Portfolios, IRA’s and 401K plans. Just as I do not want my BMW salesperson to know what my retirement plan entails. I do not expect my financial advisor to know the bells and whistles on the 2016 sedan I keep looking at online. Let’s face it, they just wouldn’t talk the same language. To get them to meet the needs and expectations of their own clients, they have become an expert in that niche.
Just as consultants become experts in their own client needs, administrators become experts in varying types of support needs. In the fast moving business world of no- time-to-get-that-done and I-need-help-now-not-when-I-have-time-to-train-them, it is valuable to understand what needs you are trying to fill and which type of support professional can help.
A current trend out there for busy professionals is a VA or Virtual Assistant. Some VA businesses offer a service through a website group, giving you 24 hour access to a “help desk” on-call service. Others designate a single person for performing your tasks on a “next on the list” basis.
Both of these are valuable at that crucial moment when you need this service. Oh man, can you rattle off a whole list of things while waiting for an airplane to board, and feel AWSOME that it’s all getting done, while you sit on the runway waiting to take off with no internet or phone, and feeling unproductive. Instead of thinking “uhhg” and shaking a fist in frustration, you’re thoughts are boy, thank goodness right now, an extension of me is ordering a new laptop cord from Amazon (darn it if you don’t leave that thing plugged in at every hotel in the country), booking a flight for next month’s board meeting, calling to find you a great restaurant with a private dining room for next week’s peer group dinner and emailing the PDF flyer you regularly use to seven people you met at the last conference you attended, oh, and getting you a summary and contact information for a prospect, but need some background information on the company first so you seem vested in what they are doing. All really important and valuable time savers for you, the busy consultant.
A different type of service existing in this realm of admin support is an PA or Professional Administrator. This is typically a relationship that develops over time, is deep, and eventually become part of your high touch first class service you always try to deliver to your clients.
Whether on location in your office or remote, a PA becomes a trusted part of your team and your needs and the needs of your clients are their priority. You know you can call them to brainstorm on a new marketing opportunity you’re delivering next month, and will in turn deliver a soft outline giving you a good start a few weeks in advance. This admin knows you’re on leave next week, and they want to be sure any client loose ends are handled in your absence and have a list of sensitive things going on within your projects to be aware of. They are familiar by name to your best clients, who all know if they can’t reach you, they can call your admin to get time set aside on the calendar to be sure it fits in their schedule needs.
This deeper level of admin (sometimes called an Executive Assistant, or Professional Assistant) knows your family, your true north, what nights you are not available to have phone conference calls because your kids have ball games and knows which clients you are and aren’t willing to give up personal time for. They know what clients have food allergies and need special attention when it comes to setting up coaching sessions during the busy season. They understand you’re approaching writing deadlines, and prompt you for subject matter or research needs so you can be ready to roll when you have a minute. They are looking two weeks to two months out on your calendar, reminding you the need to book flights before the 21 day “increase” hits, registers you for conferences but only for the sessions that you want, and never to the dinners, because you will be entertaining your own set of prospects in the evenings during your trip or trying to catch up on work. These are your true extensions of your own brand, of your business, of your client service delivery model.
Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t. For any relationship with an admin, the dance of how you like things done, or what you’re expectations were versus what you receive back will take some time. As the relationship develops, you will learn easier ways to talk about your needs, or be more explicit in how you think it might go. But with any relationship, that dance takes time. Also give them a chance to show you what they can do. Your method might be good, but they likely have seen it done 3 other ways, and sometimes just being linked into an admin can make you a better consultant.
Know that for your admin of choice, VA or PA, their sole career purpose is to make your professional life easier and more productive. They choose to support others for a living, they want to do a good job, and they are capable of providing you the help. The biggest hurdle is to understand that it is a process, and it comes down to respect and feedback. If you are simply too controlling, too busy, or too demanding, every admin you try to work will result in a failed experience. Think through the approach going into your next admin relationship. Consider some things like, what type of admin am I looking for? What are the top three things I can start with to begin building a relationship with this person through collaborating work? What do I need to do during the “go slow to go fast” phase of our relationship to make this a success for us both.
If you truly want to find a resource you cannot live without, and know you have someone you can depend on and who has your back, and your clients’ needs at heart, take the appropriate steps to take the journey, the right way. Your long turn ROI will pay for itself three-fold. And others will be envious you have figured out how to get further mileage out of those 24 hour in a day.
Stephanie is a Professional Administrator with 9 years of supporting consultants and 19 years total of administrative support experience. She trains consultants in many capacities, one being how to use a PA, VA, EA and other admins so you can do more. She has an Everything DiSC Solutions Provider certification and provides administrative support for many busy consulting professionals all over the US and Canada. You can find more information at Relyongrow.com.