How important is a great assistant?

I can personally attest to how important it is – but only if you want to remain composed, unhurried, thoughtful, and less frazzled.

Like one can’t prove a negative, it’s hard to imagine the value of a great assistant. Until you lose one. Like I did in January.

Experience has taught me that the only thing worst than not having a great assistant is having a mediocre one.

Yup, life is too short for bad wine, substandard books, and employees or subcontractors who don’t pull their weight.

Why, then, do so many of my consulting and coaching clients find themselves putting up the b.s. of energy-and-money-sucking underperformers?

It’s because we’re lazy. Not lazy as in lay around and pop bon-bons lazy. But lazy in that we want to buy our way out of what we don’t want to do (read cold-call, or input contacts, or provide customer service, or pre-qualify), and we hire people without adequately vetting them, don’t manage them well, and don’t hold them to measurable outcomes which we monitor.

You may recall in the long-running series Murphy Brown, Candace Bergen played a single working mother back when that was still a scandal. One of the running gags was the series of administrative assistants that Bergen’s character ran through.

Let’s be honest. Sometimes we think we can just throw a body at a problem and kid ourselves that it’s fixed.
Or buy a subscription or program…that is never set up correctly, and monitored. We often never revisit our decisions, or the problem.

I sincerely think that sometimes it’s easier for us to keep paying for something than to admit we made a mistake. I see that kind of thing all the time with the business owners I counsel; several times just this week! The busier the business owner, the more likely. Hundreds of dollars a month spent on non-performing services, all the way to thousands for sub performing people!

So, a month ago I made the decision to embark again on the process of replacing my virtual assistant (VA). The first 2 candidates crashed and burned during the interview process. The third came highly-recommended, and was supposed to start yesterday. However, we had a miscommunication during the intake call (after having had one during the hiring process, too).

That was such a red flag for me that I did some thinking and decided to pull the plug on her before we began. A big part of my brain wanted to continue, hoping she would work out. But I had to trust my gut.

24 hours later, through the use of eLance.com (about to become upwork.com soon), I had identified 3 candidates that appear to be well-qualified. Two have already scheduled appointments with me on my online calendar. When I looked at the Linked in Profile for one candidate, I saw a written recommendation from someone I respect tremendously (recommendations are MUCH more impressive than those dime-a-dozen Linked In endorsements), so it’s looking good.

What has been your experience finding – as my former VA would say – EPIC administrative help? Do you have any tips or stories to share? Or is it just me who feels very Murphy-Brown-like?