• Evan Ryan

Assistants Are a Requirement, Not a Reward

Seconds and Cents Episode 12 seconds, Episode 12 today's July 20 2020. Today we're going to talk about a topic that's near and dear to my heart. We're going to talk about assistants about how my first hire should have been an assistant. And really, it's been at the forefront of my mind for the last two days, I was helping my aunt as she looks to hire an assistant yesterday, I was talking with my assistant today about what what makes a good assistant. And I'm really excited to talk about this because looking back to when I was a company of one, it was really important for me to understand, and I didn't understand this at the time, that I was the most important person in my business. I was the only person in my business but I was the most important person in my business. I was the chief investor into the business. I was the person who had the vision for the business, I was the person who is executing everything inside of the business. And ultimately what I didn't realize at the time, but I realize now is that anything that I could have done when I was just starting out and to free myself up to be able to do the things that I'm really good at. And to be able to do a lot of things that move the needle would have allowed me to move faster, farther and farther faster. And so I should have hired an assistant first and as I talked about assistance, I'm going to primarily be talking about my experience with Tamra. Tamra has been my assistant for the last nine months and so I will be referring to my assistant because I'm picturing Tamra in my mind. But it can be anybody out there. And really, I think that's the first and most important key point is that the assistant is an extension of you with a complimentary skill set. What's that mean? Well, first of all, my assistant Tamra does everything in her power to limit the number of things that I do in a day. That way I can do the things that I do really, really well. So if I have three or four or five things that I have to get done in a day, or I have a couple of meetings that are very Important, like this morning, I had a very, very important meeting. And then I had a couple of tasks that were really important. And now I'm recording a podcast. Tamra right now is running intercept on my email. She's the person who's scheduling meetings for the next couple of weeks for me, she's the person who handles my podcast. And so once I record a podcast episode, she gets a transcription. She takes that transcription, she makes that a blog post then she posts the video to Facebook and now Instagram. And so Tamra is the person who kind of deals with a lot of the details in my life that I just simply should not be doing and I don't have time for and then that begs the question, why should I not be doing it? Well, because those details don't move the business forward in the way that I should be moving the business forward. And Tamra skillset is to be very detail oriented. She's very process oriented. She is a great extension of me because I am not detail oriented and I'm not process oriented. And we're going to talk about kind of why she joined me. I asked her earlier today Why did you join my business? Why did you decide to work for me? I actually asked her that, because she was talking about what you should look for in an assistant, I didn't look for any of those things. I didn't do any of the work that I should have done in order to hire great assistant. The universe just blessed me with an amazing assistant who helps me manage my life. But kind of circling back to Well, why should Why should I have hired an assistant first and why should entrepreneurs in my opinion, make their first hire an assistant, it's because while you're a one person business, as the chief investor, as the chief doer of all things in your business, you are the most important person. Therefore, if you can amplify yourself, if you can amplify your skillset, if you can elevate tasks to your assistant, that you know for a fact that you cannot continue to do because it's just not a good use of your time, or you know, that you're not going to be able to stick with, then all of a sudden you allow yourself to move farther, faster and easier. Right now I have a team of five. And my company is still dependent on me as the founder for the vision of the company to get the new clients to be able to deliver project plans and execute my company is not self managing yet, I couldn't take 90 days off and my company ends up and ends the 90 days in a better place than we started, although I'm working towards it. Ultimately, when I was a one person company, and I probably still am now the most important person in my company. And so really, as the chief investor, as the entrepreneur, as the founder, it's incredibly important to understand that the most important person is you. And so you really need to do the best job that you can, creating extensions of yourself and complimentary skillsets. Like I said, I'm very vision focused. I'm very product focused. I am not detail focused whatsoever. And so Tamra does a wonderful job being detail oriented, keeping me on task, making sure that the processes that need to be Follow through, like the process that I outlined with how we handle my podcasts are happening every single day day in and day out. And I was in a conversation last night we were talking about Jeff Bezos and I asked the question, do you think Jeff Bezos likes his life? I don't know that answer for sure. Right. But he's worth now something like 172 billion. He can't walk down the street without being swarmed. But where the conversation led was it led to us talking about, Well, Jeff Bezos can't leave Amazon. He's the most important person at Amazon. And if Jeff Bezos did leave Amazon, not only would Amazon stock crash through the floor, and it would recover, of course, but Amazon stock would fall for sure. But also the United States economy because so many people look to Jeff Bezos, his success, to like as kind of a feeling that, well, America is getting stronger. The stock market is getting stronger. My financial future is getting stronger. And if Amazon one of the companies that's really doing really well on a stock market doesn't have Jeff Bezos, well then investor fears are going to take over. And so Amazon stock is going to fall, the s&p 500 is going to fall, the stock market is going to fall. And so it's just a very interesting point that even with over half a million employees, Jeff Bezos is by far still the most important person in Amazon, even if he only works at Amazon half the time, because he has teams that are doing everything else. I think it's really important to when I made my first couple of hires, I hired a social media person, the social media person was working primarily on a client account at the time. And I hired a developer to help me with developing the Lede AI product, once we got it to a point where it worked. And once we got it to a point where now we needed reliability, we needed scale. And I hired those two positions because I thought, well, well, the social media person, I had no social media capabilities at the time whatsoever. And she was primarily doing content creation. So I didn't want to do content creation. And so talking about the developer Well, I got to a point where we had reached the limits of my skill sets and my development capabilities, we'd built a really compelling product that works sometimes and it didn't work others. And what we needed was we needed a technical background to really make this thing, make this thing scale make this thing be built to last. Well, at the time, I thought, if a developer leaves and I can't hire another developer, I could probably take over and figure it out. And I would work a lot of hours, I could probably figure it out. And I thought, well, second of all, I can handle the my new show. So now I can spend more time doing things that are important like setting up client meetings over email and handling my email in general. And really what I discovered was while both of those hires were at the time, excellent hires, and I'm still working with the developer. Ultimately, I should not be handling the minutia and had I given away that minutia had I elevated the minutia like my email inbox and scheduling scheduling meetings, I might have been able to build the product line longer and focus more on the details because my mind was more free. And that leads me to my second point that's about assets. And I think the most important thing for entrepreneurs to realize, as they are going from a one person company to a two person company, or from whatever it is, is that your second greatest asset in the company, as an entrepreneur as your time. Your first greatest is, of course, your health. But ultimately, the greatest asset your company has is the founder, it's the entrepreneur. And so my time as an asset is really, really, really important. I spend a whole lot of time making sure that I am freed up and giving Tamra the tools to succeed to free me up to be able to focus on only the highest of high impact activities. And so, if Tamra is handling needless things, in my opinion, needless things like email and meeting meeting, invites calendar invitations. I don't really like doing email. I've never understood why people like doing email. I've never really been excited about the idea that I've three hours worth of email to do. If I can spend less time doing email and more time creating value for my customers, I'm going to do that. Right. And so now I spend about 20 minutes per day on email, I can spend more time for focused time, I can spend more time creating value for my customers generating leads through Pinterest for my customers generating new content for Lede AI doing whatever we need to do in order to be able to make our customers even more successful. And here's where that pays off. The more success that our customers see, the more success that we see. Right? If we can make our customers more successful, and we can allow our customers we can build our customers bigger future, then it's highly likely that our customers will include us in their bigger future, right. And so I spend a whole bunch of time focused on activities like how can I create more value through Pinterest for my customers? How can I use my knowledge, attitudes, skills and habits to create value for our customers through Pinterest. How Can I use my knowledge, attitudes, skills and habits to create value for our Lede AI customers create value for the newspaper industry as a whole through automated content. And so ultimately, instead of spending that time answering emails and saying, Well, I'm available on Tuesday from three to five, and on Wednesday from 10 to noon, but then I don't have any availability, until next Monday, I'm spending time really moving the needle. And that needle movement that I'm able to do is what generates the new cash that's able to grow our business and scale our business. And I think Lastly, in terms of time as an asset that allows me to take more time off, which is one of the most important things. When I went to Strategic Coach the first time, they recommended that we take 180 days off a year as founders as entrepreneurs, and I Scott, and everybody else in the room scoffed at it and pretty sure I had like the chills, right? And they said, No, you need to take 180 days off per year, and it's because you will make more money if you do it. They said ultimately You spend more time fixing mistakes that you made while you were tired than you do advancing the business. And so I tried it. And for the next year, I didn't take 180 days off, I took 130 days off, and our profitability increased by 400%. And so now that I have an assistant and now that my assistant is a wonderful extension of me, she's doing an incredible job, doing like kind of intercept, command and control on my email command and control on my calendar. She's doing things like alerting me to serious issues, and she's also doing things like she responds to emails as me she's doing all these wonderful things. It allows me to take time off, that then frees up my mind and rejuvenates me and allows me to make the right decision the first time instead of fixing the mistakes that I was made while I was tired. I think the third point here about assistance and how my first hire should have been an assistant is I was at a Strategic Coach session. This was in Toronto, maybe July 23. Team, it was July 9 2019. And we're talking about how I spend my time and well, how much time do I spend doing activities that I'm excellent at how much time do I spend doing activities that I absolutely love to do every day that I'm competent at. Right? I love to do things. I'm excellent at some things. I'm competent at some things and then I'm just totally incompetent at some things. Right? And for me, one of the things that I'm really incompetent at is I'm really incompetent at bookkeeping. But to be honest with you, I'm incompetent at email. I'm very short over email I've been told I'm very very brash over email. People don't really enjoy emailing me they typically do it as small as little as possible because they only want to talk like they don't want to engage me over email. I'm great talking to people over the phone but over email, I just don't want to spend the time doing it. And so I was talking about how scheduling meetings I'm really bad at email I'm really bad at and preparing meeting agendas. I'm really bad at and process in detail. I'm really bad and somebody in my small group But Strategic Coach said, Well, why don't you have your assistant do this? And I said, Well, I don't have an assistant. And they said, you don't have an assistant. Do you think of an assistant as a reward for being successful? I said, Absolutely, you know, right, like the conventional thinking here is that you get to a certain level of success and then you can delegate to assistants. And you can have an assistant and so you can work less and the individual said, Well, absolutely not an assistant is a requirement for success. It is not a reward for being successful. He said, You will not be successful until you hire an assistant. But once you hire an assistant, your success will accelerate. And he said do not come back next quarter. It was going to be an October quarter. He said do not come back next quarter if you have not hired assistant, I had hired an assistant a few weeks before I came back and she had already started to make an enormous difference. And ultimately, I think people do And assistant as kind of this overhead expense, when they don't see that an assistant is an extension of you an extension allows you to be more you and allows you to do the things that only you should be doing. And I used to have this mentality that was well as a bunch of minutia. And I can just work more. And like I should be tougher. You know, Mark Cuban used to code for 36 hours straight. And so I can do that kind of stuff. I can work for 18 hours a day, I can work for 100 hours a week. And the reality is, is that's just not a good, that's not a good way of working. It's not a good work style. It's not a good way of advancing your business and your business will advance slower if you work too much. And so I did hire an assistant. It was the best decision that I had made. But it is not a reward and assistant is absolutely a requirement in order to allow you to focus on only the things that you should be focusing on. Fourth, and I've mentioned this, but it's really, really important here is that my assistant is an extension of me And this is a really key point here, she manages both my personal life and my professional life. So as an entrepreneur, as a founder, I don't have a work life balance. I don't have a work version of my life and like a personal version of my life, it's all the same. I am working and I take time off, but also my personal life comes into the mix and my personal life plays just as much of a role as my personal life is does. But ultimately, I have to have my assistant know every aspect of my life and I asked her today I said, Hey, is it kind of weird that you know, my whole life? Is it weird that you're making dinner reservations? For my girlfriend at night? Is it weird that you're making doctor's appointments for me that you're scheduling orthodontist appointments for me? She said absolutely not. And the reason why is because the personal life and the professional life have absolutely no barriers because I'm an entrepreneur because I'm a founder. There are times that I'm working Very interesting times, like one to three o'clock in the morning on a Friday night or on a Saturday morning, and there are times where my personal life is taking over, I'm gonna take three or four or five days off, and I need to have Tamra cancel all my meetings. And ultimately, she manages every aspect of my life. And I think it's really important to understand that there's no difference for my assistant, in scheduling a dinner with my girlfriend and scheduling a dinner with a client or the collaborator. And then lastly, I think it's really important to understand here that and this is all stuff that was important for me to understand is that it's not delegation. I don't delegate to my assistant. I don't delegate tasks that I don't want to do. I elevate tasks that I should not do. And there's a very key difference. The key difference here is that she will do the task better. And I shouldn't be doing the task in the first place. Could I do the task? Possibly. Is there any honor and struggling through the task? I've been dreading setting up doctor's appointments for three weeks is there any honor and my calling the Doctor No, but not only is she going to be able to figure out how to get all those doctor's appointments on the same day, so I'm just ripping off the band aid. But she's going to be able to figure out how to get phone calls while I'm in the car. While I'm in between meetings, she's going to figure out how to get me things that I need to read while I'm sitting in the waiting room. Right. And so she's doing an amazing job at elevating or at taking the tasks that I could do, but I should not be doing tasks that are requirement in my life. But I shouldn't be rewarded for being successful and and now I get somebody doing that. No, it's a requirements that I can focus on the things that I really need to focus on.

And ultimately, I think here that what I've learned is that great executive assistants, they take what I'm bad at and what I shouldn't do, and they do it well, absolutely every single time. The example here is this podcast. I record a podcast three, four times a week. Maybe a little less than that, depending on the week, but I record a podcast. And then she puts it through the process. But I could not be trusted to put it through the process of getting it into a blog post and then putting it on Facebook and then putting it on Instagram and getting it transcribed through our AI transcription service more than three times I would just give up on the entire podcast itself. She does it she does it well, she does it well every single time and she does it in a repeatable manner. And I asked her I asked her kind of, well, why did you join me? Why did you join my business? And I think this is how I'm gonna end the podcast but it's, it's a real testament to what makes a great assistant and what should you be looking for in a great assistant for yourself and, and this is what these are her words, not mine, she said. So the most important thing became Can I really truly help him? I'm not a big picture person. I'm just not. I see details from the minute someone suggests an idea. And I knew just talking to you that you're an ideas person. I'm a details person. So see I'm an ideas person. She's a details person. And she's said, well, the combination is lethal. If you've got two people who have one another's weaknesses in aces, we can't fail together. you're totally different than anyone else I've worked for I never, I'd never worked for anybody younger than me. I thought that was exciting, too. I really didn't feel like I had anything to lose. But I could immediately see ways that I could help you and help the business. And so my assistant who is an absolute hero to me, reiterated here, listen, it's about being an extension of you. And it's about being an extension of you with a skillset that you don't have. And so I'm really excited to talk about assistance. I think people have this warped view of assistance. They have this warped view of assistance being a reward for being successful. And I can't wait to talk more about well, how do I use my assistant? How does Tamra be a hero to me? How is she a hero to me every single day and how can your assistant be a hero to you?

The above is an AI transcription of Evan’s Seconds and Cents podcast.

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