Being the CEO can be hard, having an assistant can help!
If you’re like me, you love what you do! You get to make a living being creative, loving kids and building community. Running a studio involves marketing, team building, financial planning, risk management and so much more. You may have even been called a “Jack of all trades” or people say “I don’t know how you do it all!” But, sometimes, the slow creep of discontent rears its head. You may feel overwhelmed by all that you are trying to keep straight in your mind. You may have to do lists, long range plans, hiring and staff development, finances and curriculum work that takes the back burner far too often. In fact, I’ve heard fellow studio owners say they are struggling to keep their head above water.
One of the great elements of larger companies and those outside our industry is the role of an Executive Assistant. This role isnot your Office Manager, they are not focused on direct service to customers, instead, they are focused on serving you! They learn your flow, schedule, decision making style, personality and challenges and then they make the magic happen. A good quality Executive Assistant can manage your calendar and scheduling, book travel, enforce your boundaries, handle expense reports, attend meetings on your behalf, organize files, manage your inbox, create first drafts of various projects for you and take a whole lot of work off your shoulders. In fact, if you don’t have an assistant - you are the assistant - you are doing your role and the role of an Executive Assistant at the same time. Now that sounds exhausting.
I know what some of you are thinking - “how on earth could I afford this person?” I get it, money may be tight and, especially if you’re not up to date on your expenses, you really don’t know what you can afford. So, I suggest starting small, you certainly don’t have to jump in with a full time assistant. Start with two hours per day twice a week and see how that works. Budget a reasonable amount for an administrative position and start with just four hours - that may be easier to stomach. You might consider making it a time-bound position for just 3-6 months if you are nervous about making an ongoing commitment.
Next, its time to create a list of things that you LOVE and things that your LOATHE. Write down the tasks that you are responsible for, the projects that you oversee, the things that are need to do but not want to do. Where can you have someone step in on your behalf? From little things to bigger projects, get all the ideas down.
For me, I chose to install someone to manage the studio inbox as a second tier above my admin team. This person would be the go to person when a concern needed to be escalated to a higher decision maker - someone that could authorize a refund of a certain amount, handle a sensitive issue, or have a difficult conversation with confident and correct information. Next, I gave away the front line recruitment and hiring of staff. Our company isn’t large enough to have a separate Human Resources team. My assistant drafts and proofs position descriptions, posts them on the website and job boards, selects candidates, screens them with a background check and conducts a first interview. I only view the standout candidates that come in for a second orthird interview. My assistant is also the neutral party that sits in on employee discussions or disciplinary actions. The third item that I took off my plate was all the extra openings of the studio for contractors, fire inspectors, maintenance, getting quotes for various things so that I have my daytime free to do the things that I want to focus on. My assistant has access to various software such as JotForm and Asana and can create and manage data that we use regularly. Lastly, my assistant knows our studio and project management software inside and out, has administrative privileges and can troubleshoot issues, enter new season classes and prices, audit accounts, run reports and make projections, and identify things to raise to my attention.
Finally, before starting a relationship with an Executive Assistant, recognize that you must select someone that can think like you enough to represent you. Take your time finding the right person, then trust them to do the job you’ve given. Layout clear expectations of what success looks like for you. This person will become your right hand person at your studio. Allow your EA to follow you around a bit - to job shadow and learn your routine. Over time, your EA may even suggest things that they can tackle for you, and this is where the true gold comes in - when they can anticipate a need before you ask. So, I challenge you to give it a try! Take a moment to imagine what it might feel like to have someone dedicated to serving you vs. the customers - it's pretty awesome. Go for it and tell me how it's working out!
Ginger Haithcox is a born leader. She graduated with high honors from Douglass College, Rutgers University with a BA in Religion, and a minor in Cultural Anthropology and completed an array of dance, performance, and production courses at Raritan Valley Community College.
Ginger is a consummate professional, collaborative team player, and creative colleague that consistently delivers programs and products of excellence. In addition to the above, she’s the principal owner of Haithcox Business Solutions, which offers mentoring and support services for aspiring entrepreneurs.