Whether you’re an independent consultant, micro-business owner or a corporate executive, the right choice of a personal assistant can make a huge difference in your operation.

Basically, you need someone who can manage you – represent you well in a variety of tasks – an assistant who can make you look good.

My personal preference has always been to hire a personal assistant in lieu of any other titles. The reason? A great personal assistant is flexible and talented.

Case study — what works

In my situation as a confidential business-performance consultant, for tax reasons my CPA advised me to move my business  to my home. I converted two rooms into offices – one for me and one for my assistant.

Over the years I’ve had multiple assistants from different backgrounds. They all have been talented and have adapted well for a myriad of duties – from building spreadsheets to scheduling my vacations.

All tasks were necessary to keep me organized so I could focus on client needs.

Caution: Be careful in recruiting and hiring

Don’t live with an untenable situation and don’t be afraid to cut your losses. I once hired a talented person skilled in bookkeeping who happened to be a relative of a close friend. The new hire was told I wanted a personal assistant.

Either I didn’t make the job description clear or the persons weren’t listening.

She was hired to replace a highly valued assistant who resigned after three years because her husband had accepted a job 3,000 miles away. She offered to stay long enough to train her replacement.

On the first day of training after just a couple of hours, my outgoing employee came to me and confided about a problem she noticed with the new employee: “She won’t do anything but bookkeeping.” The person’s inflexibility was a red flag.

So I made an uncomfortable telephone call to my friend to explain the untenable situation – his relative had to be terminated on the first day of training because she was inflexible.

Fortunately, a former consultant who had an MBA applied. She had recently moved into the area and wanted a part-time job. Her training lasted about 30 minutes. It turned out she could do the work in one-third the time. I had clients who jokingly wanted to hire her away from my firm, and I’m not sure they were joking.

The moral of this story:  Hire a person who can help take the load off your shoulders – to save you time and money while helping you to increase revenue. With a great personal assistant, the revenue is more easily turned into profit.

Basically, you need someone who can manage you – represent you well in a variety of tasks – an assistant who can make you look good.

Here are eight qualities for which to recruit and hire:

1. Soft skills

The person needs to interact with you and others diplomatically. This helps to prevent stress, which is a huge killer of time and money.

Obviously, you want someone who will be polite with you, your clients and vendors. But soft skills are important in other ways.

Whenever I faced an important decision and my personal assistants disagreed with me – one of them who had an MBA  — always ended her smile and a comment: “But it’s your call.”

Invariably, I’d do it her way and was happy I did.

2. Intelligence

There is no substitute for intelligence and common sense. An intelligent person is more apt to be organized, keep you organized, make the right decisions, and communicate well.

3. Congeniality and collaboration

Congenial and collaborative personal assistants ask lots of questions. They work well with and others and get the jobs done right.

They also have patience. They know the meaning of the phrase, “No matter what there are no big deals – no matter what.”

In other words they’re slow to get angry. They don’t react to situations. They respond. There is a difference between the two.

4. Understanding responsibilities

Whenever a crisis occurs, it has always seemed to be on a Friday when few people are around. A great personal assistant knows the role, anticipates the necessary solutions and implements them.

To do accomplish these feats, a great employee will also have to fully understand your firm’s needs.

5. Prioritizes well

Certainly, a personal assistant should understand your vision, mission and values. In order to help you fulfill growth opportunities, the person must be organized and be able to prioritize well, and apprise you of any potential problems.

6. Continuous self-improvement

Hire someone who isn’t hesitant to learn and grow professionally, and will look for ways to sharpen skill sets.

You want someone who understands the marketplace for your business and in you sector – someone who is contemporary, and who will stay current on technology and digital security.

7. Assertiveness

There’s a difference between being aggressive and assertive.

For this position, it’s important to have an employee who is assertive – when a need arises, it promptly gets filled. It helps to have someone who can fill in the gaps of projects.

The assistant must also know the meaning of compromise, but also know when to say no – whether it’s to a client or you.

The key is for assistants to know your values but be respectful in responding.

8. Confidentiality

You will sleep much better at night if your assistant keeps details confidentially. Whether business is good or bad, you don’t want someone who will discuss your affairs with the wrong people or outside the office.

A great personal assistant is priceless. So hire for these qualities, and then be generous with remuneration and appreciation.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related articles:

Increase Profits by Hiring Talent with the Best Trait — Enthusiasm — You’ll increase your odds for profits with high-performing employees with the right culture — if you hire for the right personality trait – enthusiastic people. That’s right. Look for people who have the makeup to being committed and who will care for the welfare of your company. You’ll increase your chances for the strongest results.

Office Productivity: Psychologists Share Secrets — If you work in an office, corporate psychologists say there are several strategies you can use for more productivity. Here’s an infographic entitled, “What You Need to Know to Be Productive at Work.”

Advice for Men: How to Manage Women Employees — You must exercise due diligence to motivate talented employees and retain them for an efficient and productive workplace. But many male managers unwittingly mismanage their female employees.

Hiring Impact An Impact Person Starts with Screening Resumes — 5 Tips — If you want to hire an impact person, your hiring process is really important. The place to start is using best practices in screening resumes. The wrong hires result in costly turnover — a waste of money and time. Before you start interviewing, the place to start is your screening of resumes.

Hiring for a Small Operation? Conduct Behavioral Interviews — In this economic environment, whether you run a small operation in a big company or you own a small business, you’re wearing many hats. So you need employees who can successfully wear multiple hats, too. What does that entail? It entails several things. To compete successfully, small businesses especially need people who are a good fit culturally.

“Never hire someone who knows less than you do about what he’s hired to do.”

-Malcolm Forbes


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.