Most of the small business and solo professionals I know don’t have an assistant. Whether they are an independent consultant, coach, professional speaker, writer, or even a startup CEO, they consider an administrative assistant a waste of money.
Why spend on an admin when I know how to use a computer and can do it myself?
Venture capitalist Mark Suster, on his blog Both Sides of the Table, made a compelling case for the value of an admin.
While I’m passionate about being scrappy when you start and controlling your costs, I’m equally passionate about performance when you have a bit of cash. And I’ve seen way too many CEOs/founders get bogged down in minutiae because they were used to it from the scrappy phase. They’ve struggled to scale.
Think about it. Your single most valuable asset in the early days is your senior team and presumably nobody is more valuable than the founding team. And you’re bogged down in expense claims, booking hotel rooms, scheduling meetings, dealing with a leaky toilet, processing payroll, ordering computers, etc.”
In other words, if you don’t have an admin, you are an admin.
Even if you can do all the administrative work yourself, why should you? The one hour a day you spend running to the post office, balancing the checkbook, or booking airline tickets would be better spent calling prospects, learning, or thinking strategically. Always try to spend as much time as possible using your unique strengths on your highest leverage activities. Running out to Staples to buy printer paper probably doesn’t fall into that category.
Words of wisdom.
Tony Robbins’ First Assistant
I recently watched an interview with Tony Robbins. He tells a similar story of starting out—still just a teenager—and realizing that as broke as he was, he was going to hire help, initially for just two hours a day. He tells his story:
I think in the very beginning the hard thing is you think you can only do it yourself and then there’s only so many hours and you’ve got kids and family and friends and how do I do it all?
The answer is you hire someone. You trade with someone. You trade them for two hours. That’s what I did in the beginning. Because I remember… I was just really young in my career, very in the early days, and I was running to get to the dry cleaners so I could get my only two suits because if I didn’t get them, you know, then the place closes and I can’t get on the plane.
And I was running to the airport sweating like crazy, and I’m a sweater anyway. Sweating like this, trying to get in the door, and it was like, what is wrong with this picture?
I could be doing something that’s so productive and I’m standing in line at the dry cleaning place. This is just nuts. And so I was really… I was like 17, 18, 19, I don’t know what I was, and I said, ‘I’m gonna hire somebody.’ Two hours a day, that’s what I need to start with. And then it was 4 hours.
And so my view is I don’t do anything that someone else can do better, and I don’t do anything that isn’t the highest and best use of my time.”
The Beauty Of Outsourcing
If you’re not ready for that first hire, you might want to consider another option that basically accomplishes the same purpose: outsourcing. In today’s world, “outsourcing” might mean hiring a company to do some task, but more often than not, it means hiring a “virtual assistant” or per-project help from a site like upwork.com.
When you outsource work to others, you free up the time you need to work on your passions—and take advantage of your abilities and strengths.
In interviewing hundreds of highly successful people, including billionaires, famous entrepreneurs, and elite athletes, I’ve reached a conclusion: People who actively look for things to delegate report higher levels of productivity, happiness and energy, and are less likely to feel “overworked and overwhelmed.”
Of course, there are certain things you shouldn’t outsource or delegate, and not just regarding your workday. Billionaire Mark Cuban revealed on TV show Shark Tank that he still washes his own laundry. I do, too. It would be easy for me to have someone stop in each week to do my laundry or to drop it at the dry cleaning place—but I find it grounding somehow to do my own laundry.
I’ve also never had a full-time nanny for my three kids. I’m not judging others who are making different choices; it’s just not the right decision for me. For one, I don’t want a non-family member living in my house. But more importantly, parenting is my first value, so I want to do it myself as much as I can. (I’m fortunate in that I have a lot of schedule flexibility that enables this.)
The bottom line is you should try to outsource everything you can unless:
• It’s part of your values to continue doing the task.
• It costs you more per hour to outsource it than you want to make yourself.
• You enjoy doing it and it’s part of your rest and recharging process.
So, what are you going to delegate this week?