Sometimes finding “the one” - the ideal administrative professional who can help you to reclaim your time - can be a big deal.

For MaKara Rumley, founder and CEO of Hummingbird Firm, it took a bit to find the right AP to work with, but once she did, she was able to significantly boost the growth activities and billable hours she could manage.

In fact, MaKara revealed she went through six administrative professionals in six years. She was concerned: how could she get the help she needed? Was it her?! (Spoiler: No, it wasn’t!).

We recently caught up with MaKara to learn more about her story. Here’s how she has found “the one” to work with and how it has impacted her business:

About Hummingbird Firm

MaKara Rumley is an environmental justice attorney by trade and runs Hummingbird Firm, a community engagement consulting company. They work on many projects, including transportation, development, city master plans, green spaces, and trail planning. Their specialty is working with their clients to connect them with underserved or under-represented communities.

Hummingbird Firm is a ten-person, decentralized team, with members spread through different states. It’s important for them to be able to work effectively and efficiently from a distance, serving their clients well.

Hummingbird’s clients include: architectural and engineering firms, design firms, professional master planners, and federal contracting with EPA ( including climate, environment, environmental cleanup, and transportation). The end client might also be a city municipality or the federal government.

Time to find an administrative professional

MaKara describes how she reached a point where she realized getting some help with work tasks was a necessity. “You get to a point where you need assistance, where you’re actually working on $10 to $100 an hour tasks when you need to be working on the $500 an hour tasks, the things that make the business grow,” she says.

Tasks like scheduling or taking notes in meetings don’t require expertise in environmental justice or community engagement! MaKara could work on more billable hours, doing tasks that best used her core skills.

“We develop strategies for our clients and determine how they reach segments of the community that could be termed as ‘hard to reach,’” MaKara says. “It’s more that they don’t understand how to reach them, or they’re unfamiliar with their culture,” she says. “We don’t just look at data, we perform site visits and tours to see where folks in the community congregate. These are examples of tasks that require my expertise.”

Finding “the one” administrative professional

We’re the first to acknowledge that finding the right administrative professional can be hard. It’s a competitive market and good APs are snapped up fast. MaKara’s journey began with a Worxbee virtual AP who she found great to work with, but as Hummingbird didn’t have a lot of hours for the AP at the time, she ended up having to choose to go with a client that had more hours of work available.

This meant MaKara needed to find someone else. “It was tough!” she says. “It’s a lot to bring someone new into your company and have them understand the subject matter, your culture, and your personality. It takes a lot of energy and emotional work - I don’t think people often consider that.”

MaKara says after that, she took on a college student at the suggestion of someone who thought it might be a good mentoring opportunity. However, like many college students, the person needed a lot more guidance than a typical AP, so it wasn’t the best fit in terms of taking care of the workload.

After that experience, MaKara met the owner of another AP company and decided to try them out. She tried a few APs but found that they just didn’t have the level of skill and professionalism that Worxbee APs have.

“One of the keys when you hire in this way - are you getting someone who only wants the job to fill a gap between companies? Because if that’s the case, they’re not really invested in the success of your business. You’re just a pit stop, and their work shows that, and their attitude shows that,” says MaKara.

So, it has been a long road for MaKara, with six APs in six years, but she’s now found an amazing AP through Worxbee. “I’m kind of nervous,” MaKara says. “My current assistant is so good and I don’t want her to go anywhere! She fits in so well with our company and our culture. I feel like someone has my back.”

MaKara gave a quick example: she experienced a death in her family recently, which meant she couldn’t be available at work. However, her AP managed to hold down the fort admirably while she was gone, so MaKara found that her return to work was much easier than anticipated.

The difference a good AP makes

Before getting an AP, MaKara estimates she was spending 75% - 85% of her time on tasks that could be delegated to someone else. Things like setting up and maximizing the use of software, scheduling, and administrative tasks took up a lot of time - these are the sorts of things she refers to as “$10 to $100 per hour tasks” when she should be focusing on the $500 per hour tasks.

After hiring an AP, MaKara feels she is in the ideal zone where she is able to focus more on the tasks that really require her expertise. She describes how it’s still very important to take the time to communicate clearly with her AP: “I’ve invested the time in my current AP to where we’ve really got to know one another well. She’s at the point where she can see emails coming into my inbox and respond to them herself. I can 100% trust her to professionally respond, even if that’s to say ‘we’re not available right now, but we’ll get back to you.’ That’s a huge thing for a small company to have to say.”

Since having an AP onboard, MaKara estimates that at least 50% of her time is spent on the billable tasks that make the best use of her expertise, produce billable hours and grow the business. The rest of her time is spent on the sorts of tasks that she as CEO must handle. For example, she describes how they need to define some standard operating procedures for the business. “I need to block out time to create the framework for that myself, but my AP has already figured out things like what software we’re going to use,” MaKara says.

Could MaKara quantify the impact of having an AP? “She’s probably saved me 5 hours per week just in research that I’d usually do myself,” says MaKara. “Qualitatively, her title may be administrative professional, but I have elevated her to my Business Manager. She manages not only what goes on in my company, but aspects of my personal life too, such as organizing family travel. She has put in blocks of time to make sure I’m buffered between meetings,” she says.

“Those qualitative aspects are key - I’m running a company because I enjoy it! If the environment becomes arduous, then I’m not enjoying it anymore. My AP helps me to maintain that joy, and maintaining that joy connects me to the passion I feel for the work that we do.”

Final thoughts

What drew MaKara back to Worxbee?

“Worxbee listens to what your needs are as a business owner, and they really look at your personality as well,” she says. “It’s not someone’s resume that gets them hired - do they have the emotional intelligence to work in your company? Are they kind? Are they patient? Are they respectful in their communication? These are intangibles that are key for whether you enjoy working with someone that you can’t find on their resume.”

MaKara likes the process Worxbee goes through to find “the one” AP for our clients. “They look at the characteristics that will be the best fit for your communication style,” she says.

“Their candidates are professionals. They’readministrative professionals, often with decades of experience. They’re not just doing this job in-between jobs. Worxbee candidates are on-par with the professionalism you need to maintain and exhibit as a business owner and their matching process is layers deeper than the competition.”

While experiencing “hiring fatigue” between her fifth and sixth AP, MaKara found the Worxbee team to be patient partners. “I’d describe it as a white-glove service,” she says. “They really worked to make the experience easy and convenient.”

Are you ready to find “the one” AP who will be a great partner in your business? Book a call with Worxbee today, to see how we can help you.