Signs You Need an Executive Assistant (and NOT a “VA”)

One of the first questions people ask when they realize they need help in their business is, who is it that I need to hire?

Sometimes it’s difficult to define because it seems like you have so many disparate tasks! We’re here to help with a few clues.

Specifically, people often wonder which type of assistant they need. Should they hire an executive assistant? Or should they hire a VA? (Yes, the two are different!) Here, we’ve put together a few signs that should point you toward hiring an executive assistant:

Differences between EA and VA

Let’s begin with a quick refresher: the roles of virtual executive assistant and virtual assistant are different, even if sometimes people get them conflated. A key difference is that executive assistants tend to take a project management role, managing several moving parts and not necessarily doing all of the “doing,” but making sure others do. In contrast, virtual assistants are task managers. They follow a set list of tasks in a day.

Another key difference is the level in which they operate. An EA is used to working with the C-Suite crowd and operating in that fast-paced environment. They work with executives to help further the goals of the company. A VA helps with the tasks that work toward the goals, but they tend to take a less strategic role. While an EA will reach a point that they anticipate your needs and get ahead of them, a VA will tend to stick to the list.

Of course, there’s also the question of how much you pay for the help. An EA will cost more. You get an experienced professional who is able to take charge of a lot of things in your workplace. A VA is typically paid less, but you also can’t expect them to take on the same level of responsibility that an EA does.

With all that said, what are some signs that your next hire should be an executive assistant?

Signs you need an executive assistant

Signs you need an executive assistant

The following signs are some typical behaviors or events that happen in businesses that indicate they need an executive assistant to come onboard:

You spend more than one hour on admin each day

Okay, so this could also indicate that you need a VA, but an EA will typically be able to step right in and take charge of admin, whereas a VA will need you to create a task list of specific work.

And hey, you definitely shouldn’t be spending so much time on admin, not when you could be working on tasks that add value to the business. If you have to create lists of tasks, that’s more admin time for you.

A new EA will need some “warm up” time to figure out how things work in your business and what you need, but a key difference is in the level of initiative. They’ll be examining your admin processes at the same time and figuring out any areas they could improve.

You get frustrated having to tell someone what to do

A VA’s job is to get on with the tasks that you tell them to do. This might be fine, depending on your willingness to take the time to make those task lists. However, sometimes doing that is sucking up more time that you don’t really have, and you’d prefer someone more proactive.

That’s a sign you need an EA. Executive assistants are proactive by nature and will create their own to-do lists (based on a good understanding of what your needs and goals are, of course!). 

One thing we often hear is “I need someone who comes to me with solutions, rather than just more questions or problems.” That, in a nutshell, is an executive assistant.

You’re in a process rut

Executive assistants are process management professionals. They can assess where you are at right now, look for any gaps or needs for improvement, and design processes to resolve the situation.

If you:

  • Don’t have processes and need someone to develop them, or;
  • Do have processes but need someone who can manage them proactively,

… then an executive assistant is the hire that you need to make.

You need help with buffer time

Do you find yourself going from meeting to meeting in quick succession? Do you end up low on energy, perhaps with a bit of brain fog? You need buffers built into your time so that you have the space you need to recharge and refresh.

An executive assistant plays an important role in protecting the energy of the executive that they serve. Calendar management falls under their job role and they’re quick to learn about what an “ideal” routine looks like for you.

Most executives simply don’t have time to manage their own calendars well and that’s where back-to-back engagements start to cram in. An EA will make sure your calendar is blocked with the buffer time you need to prepare for the next task.

Signs you need an executive assistant
Every executive needs “buffer time” and an EA will ensure that you get it Click To Tweet

You need a gatekeeper

If you’re regularly being asked for things “beneath your pay grade,” it’s another issue that can suck up time and energy. It’s not about being pretentious, either. This is about protecting the precious time necessary to get your key work done. Executives need time for breaks too!

A gatekeeper is a person who provides the answers to other people. They know you very well and understand your approach to most issues. They’re also familiar with who and where to address queries.

The gatekeeper role definitely belongs to an EA. When we talk about “pay grade,” it tends to be above the pay grade of a VA to take on this role. They’re there to work on tasks, not direct other people.

You’re spending too much time on emails

Inboxes have become crazy-busy over the last decade or so. Most people at work are constantly receiving new emails and many have little chance to stay on top of them. It creates an environment where critical information might get lost in the pile, or seen too late.

Depending on your personality, the state of your inbox can be a cause for great stress. Many people view the inbox as another giant task to tackle and to try to whittle down. If you find that you’re reading all of your emails and spending a lot of time on the filtering and responding, then it’s a good sign you need executive assistant help.

An EA will take charge of your inbox by filtering, sorting, delegating and deleting. They’ll then delegate what’s left to you, significantly cutting back your time on emails. 

You’re doing too much doing

How many times have you raced to the next meeting, but felt like you’ve had no “thinking time” to prepare for it? Many executives find that they spend so much time on doing, but what they really need is more of that critical thinking time to strategize. How much more productive could those meetings be if everyone had sufficient time to prepare?

An EA is the person you need to help clear that thinking space. They’ll either take over or delegate many of the “doing” activities you’ve been dealing with and free you up to work strategically.

Final thoughts

Do you recognize yourself in any of the examples? If so, it might be time to hire an executive assistant to shoulder some of the load.

Here at Worxbee, sourcing the best executive assistants and matching them with the right companies is what we do. We take over the extensive screening processes and ensure they are a good fit for our strict criteria.

Would you like help finding the right executive assistant? Talk to us here today.

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