A great PA is an entrepreneur’s secret weapon

Martin port

By Martin Port

14 April 2022

Three years ago, I had a wake-up call. I was sitting in my kitchen at 1am, replying to all the emails that I hadn’t been able to deal with during the day. I still had about 100 more to read and I needed to be up to get a train at 6am. In that moment, I knew that something had to change, fast.

Over the next few weeks, I began looking for a trusted PA. Someone who could manage my email, my diary, and whose administrative skills far outweighed my own. As luck would have it, I bumped into Madeleine Taylor-Hopps at an event, and offered her a job then and there. When you know, you know.

This post is aimed at any leader who is still trying to juggle everything alone. Stop! Your time is too valuable to fritter it away arranging meetings or booking travel. Every minute you spend on admin is a minute you’re not dedicating to growing your business.

I believe that a talented and trusted executive assistant is absolutely key to achieving your entrepreneurial dreams. And here’s why:

1.)   Maddy solves problems in real-time

If I’m tied up in meetings, I know that Maddy is monitoring my emails and will ring me if something urgent comes up. She is highly capable, and if she can resolve an issue, she has the autonomy to forward on a request to the right people. This means that – often – by the time I come out of the meeting, the problem has already been solved. That is an enormous weight off my mind.

2.)   I have reclaimed hours of my day

I estimate that I was spending three hours every evening catching up on emails before I hired Maddy. That time is now my own again. She clears everything that I don’t need to see out of my inbox and prioritises the important messages. I have a hearing impairment, so Maddy also listens to my voicemails and sends me a summary – just one of many ways that she makes life easier for me.

3.)   Absolute confidentiality

I trust Maddy implicitly. She sees confidential documents and discussions but I never worry that she’ll share what she sees. During the recent buy-out, for example, she saw all the financial information and was privy to all the negotiations. She was a huge asset during that time.

4.)   A human face

BigChange is a software company but I’m passionate about retaining a human feel. When people get in touch with me, I like that it’s Maddy arranging meetings and not some faceless app. If I’m busy and forget to chase something, I know that Maddy will remind me, or that she will be the first port of call for anyone struggling to get hold of me.

5.)   Support 24/6

Every leader will have a different relationship with their executive assistant. It’s down to the individuals to set boundaries. From day one, Maddy and I had an understanding that she would be available six days a week. If someone calls me on a Sunday afternoon and asks for a meeting Monday morning, I know Maddy has it covered. This consistent level of support has made Maddy completely indispensable to me and the business.

There are some great agencies out there dedicated to placing executive assistants. For anyone starting the process, I advise prioritising trust above everything else. Maddy used to work in finance in her last job, and was there 16 years, so I knew she was a trustworthy and loyal individual. Ideally, you want someone who has worked for senior leaders previously. It’s a very specific skillset: we can be demanding but, hopefully, always grateful for the support. Mutual respect is very important. Maddy takes on all the tasks that I would struggle to manage on my own but I still book most of my own travel, for example, as I can do that easily through a few clicks on an app. I try not to overload her on busy days.

But that’s enough from me. Let’s hear from the woman of the hour. Here’s Maddy:

“When I joined, Martin told me that I was going to change his life. It’s amazing how many emails and calls come to Martin that he really doesn’t have to deal with, so I know I save him hours every day. He believes that his productivity has increased threefold. I also now support Richard, our CEO, as well as the leadership team, which is helping them to save time and fit more into their days.

“I would say that being a mum taught me everything I needed to know to be a great PA. When you have three children, you learn to be very organised, flexible, and reactive. Mums are great problem-solvers. And now my kids are grown up I can use those skills in BigChange.”

Madeleine Taylor-Hopps, Executive PA at BigChange

“Martin thinks that I’m a miracle worker but most of the time, my job just involves a healthy dose of common sense.”

If you want to see incredible gains in productivity overnight, get yourself a PA – but please don’t steal mine!

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