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What can go wrong when hiring a Virtual Executive Assistant

by Feb 9, 2023Blog, Operational Support

Managing your time in today’s fast-paced world is not for the faint hearted. Never before have we felt the full weight of; “so little time and too much to do”. It is, therefore, no surprise that hiring a Virtual Executive Assistant is becoming an increasingly popular option.

Executives choose the ‘virtual executive assistant option’ because they desire professional and committed support on a self-employed or contractual basis. Most importantly, virtual Assistant’s free up your time, so you can redirect your focus to prioritised areas.

Having discussed the virtues of a virtual executive assistant, it’s important to remember that things can go wrong. You know what they say; ‘to be forewarned, is to be forearmed’. Knowing what can go wrong, will allow you to prepare for and avoid negative situations before they occur.

Poor match

Your virtual executive assistant needs to be well matched to you and your business. There are certain guidelines which can help you find the right assistant for your business every time:

  • Personality type – Consider the type of person with whom you would feel most comfortable working with. An individual who will fit in with the culture and purpose of your organisation, and your clients.
  • The importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence – Soft skills have long been disregarded in business. Although, no one will argue that an innovative and collaborative outsource would be a highly valuable team member. When seeking out top talent you’ll want to access their ability to: problem solve, their attention to detail, interpersonal skills, pro-activeness, communication and adaptability. To be honest, this list could go on, what’s important is your understanding of the skills you require, and matching those requirements with a successful candidate.
  • Propensity to add value – An experienced, high calibre, virtual executive assistant will grow with your organisation, adding value to your goals and ambitions. Assess your candidate’s ability to share ideas and suggest innovative concepts confidently. This might include decision-making, creative thinking and communication skills. These skills will allow your chosen candidate to successfully create and adopt new plans, policies and solutions.
  • Tools and systems – Clarify their familiarity with the software systems that are essential to your operations. Examples of this might include experience in; specific CRM or project management tools, social media platforms, and online meeting facilitations, Office 365 or Google Workspace. If the role requires particular software understanding, we would recommend testing for this specifically to measure a candidate’s aptitude.

Delegating the ‘wrong’ tasks

Your virtual executive assistant will be most effective when working within their skillset – whether that’s prioritising, scheduling or travel planning and issuing invoices. A personal assistant is able to provide you with a long list of support, to make the most of it we suggest you consider the following

  • Understand your assistant’s expertise – This will ensure that they are working and delivering to their strengths. It rarely works if you delegate tasks outside their skillset because they are likely to have less passion and knowledge for these tasks. This can result in work which isn’t delivered to the desired standard.
  • Delegate tasks that are repetitive or where you lack skill or knowledge – Top of your delegation list should be tasks that are time wasting for you, or which do not reflect your strengths. In this way, you will free your time to focus on areas which mirror your value to your organisation and allow you to grow your business.

Be clear on your expectations

Your virtual executive assistant needs to understand your expectations, if they’re to work successfully with you:

  • Establish the number of hours required per month – Be clear on the amount of time you require of your assistant, whether this is for 20, 30 or 40 hours a month or more. Hours can be adjusted, but an initial guideline provides a baseline from which you can develop your working relationship and allows for you both to work together more efficiently.
  • Be realistic – Acknowledge and respect the amount of time that delegated tasks, will require. Good work takes time, and remember we take a little longer to complete tasks the first few times to try them. Be patient and be aware that the more you delegate, the less focus for your personal assistant’s core responsibilities.
  • Delegate and don’t micromanage – Trust that they will ask for help if required and be clear in your instructions when delegating tasks. Allow for questions to clarify any concerns they may have.

Invest your time and energy

It is unreasonable to expect your virtual executive assistant to change your life without your help and effort.

  • Recognise that there is no “quick fix solution” – Your relationship with your assistant requires commitment, trust, and clear communication.
  • Communicate your requirements – Experienced virtual executive assistants will anticipate your needs and foresee potential issues. However, it is not realistic to expect them to know what you want at all times, if you do not communicate those needs.
  • Invest in your relationship – It is as equally important to build a solid, supportive relationship with your assistant, as it would be with any other new hire.
  • Regular reviews – It is important to regularly review with your assistant how you both feel things are going, and to invite feedback on how your working relationship might develop or improve.

Mutual respect

Any relationship is reciprocal; showing respect for your assistant allows for a working relationship that grows, thrives, and ultimately delivers more.

  • Consider rewarding your assistant – Sometimes, simply saying thank you, or wishing someone a good weekend, can make a huge difference to how they feel about their value to you and your organisation.
  • Respect any boundaries that you’ve discussed and agreed – In particular, you should note early on; their schedule and availability. Whilst your assistant will be likely to want to accommodate urgent requests and provide out-of-hours support in exceptional circumstances, it is not reasonable, unless agreed, for them to be ordinarily available in the evenings or at weekends.
  • It is important to note that virtual executive assistants are primarily seeking flexibility – They are in a position to choose who they work with too!  It goes back to any working relationship; without mutual respect the relationship will struggle to survive and ultimately the virtual executive assistant will no longer be happy to support you.
  • Timely payment of invoices – It goes without saying that, unless otherwise agreed, timely payment of invoices, and at a fair rate, is indicative of your appreciation of your assistant’s support.

With the right appointment, a virtual assistant brings expertise, efficiency and value to you and your organisation. They align themselves to your goals and ambitions, representing your values and purpose, and allowing you to be the best version of yourself professionally.

Executive PA Solutions is an award-winning virtual assistant agency, committed to supporting you in identifying and onboarding the virtual executive assistant best suited to your requirements. We provide guidance throughout the process and are experts in understanding how your relationship with your virtual assistant is fundamental to your success. Find out more here.  


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