JF2087: How To Find and Qualify an Executive Assistant | Syndication School with Theo Hicks
At some point during your journey into real estate investing you will want to hire some help. In this episode, Theo Hicks will go over how to find and qualify an executive assistant that will help you in your business.
To listen to other Syndication School series about the “How To’s” of apartment syndications and to download your FREE document, visit SyndicationSchool.com. Thank you for listening and I will talk to you tomorrow.
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Theo Hicks will go through a particular aspect of apartment syndication on today’s episode, and get into the details of how to do that particular thing. Enjoy this episode, and for more on apartment syndication and how to do things, go to apartmentsyndication.com, or to learn more about the Apartment Syndication School, go to syndicationschool.com, so you can listen to all the previous episodes.
Theo Hicks: Hi, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to another episode of The Syndication School series, a free resource focused on the How-to’s of apartment syndication. As always, I am your host, Theo Hicks. Each week, we air two Syndication School episodes that focus on a specific aspect of the apartment syndication investment strategy, and for most of these series, we offer some free resource to you. These are free PDF how-to guides, PowerPoint presentation templates and Excel calculators. These free documents will help you along your apartment syndication journey. All of these free documents, as well as past Syndication School series, can be found at syndicationschool.com.
Today, I wanted to talk to you about finding what might potentially be your first hire, and that is a executive assistant. So in this episode, we are going to focus on how to find an executive assistant as well as how to qualify an executive assistant.
Now, I was interviewing someone on the podcast about a month ago, and I believe he was involved with a VA servicing company, or he started it… I think he started it, a VA servicing company. So he helped businesses find virtual assistants for whatever they wanted to do, and one of the questions I asked him besides when to hire a VA – is what do you have them do? So I wanted to quickly talk about that really quick, because he had a very interesting strategy that he thinks people could do right away today to figure out what types of things they can have their first hire, their first VA, their first executive assistant do.
So the exercise is very simple. What you do is you pull out a piece of paper and you make a vertical line right down the middle. So you’ve got a column on the left side and a column on the right side. On the left-hand side, you write down every single thing that you either aren’t good at doing or that you don’t like doing, that you currently do in your business, and on the right-hand side, you write down everything that you like doing and are good at doing in your business as well.
So on the left-hand side, you have the things you don’t like or are bad at. On the right-hand side are the things that you’re good at or you do like, and this is something you can do either one time, just sit down for 10 to 15 minutes and write it all out, or it’s something – and this is probably the better approach, you can walk around with this piece of paper or take notes on your phone and then write it on a piece of paper at night throughout the week. That way you can track, okay, during the week, here are the 50 different things that I do. I’ve got 10 things on the left-hand side that I don’t like to do, that I’m bad at, and 40 things on the right-hand side that I like to do and then I’m good at. And that is going to be your document that tells you what you should outsource first.
So all the things on the left-hand side are what you should be focusing on outsourcing to other people first, and all the things on the right-hand side are what you’ll have more time to focus on once you’ve actually outsourced the left side things. So I would definitely recommend doing the exercise. I really like that. It’s very practical and something you can do right away. So once you’ve got that exercise done and you know what you don’t like doing or what you’re bad at, then you know what types of things you could have your executive assistant do.
So let’s start off by first talking about how to find an executive assistant. So we’ve got four different ways to find your executive assistant. Number one is to use your social network and ask for recommendations from people that you already know. Obviously, the best way to find really any team member or someone to invest with, someone to work with, someone to be involved with is through recommendations, through someone in your current network. So if you like that person in your current network and they refer someone to you, you can assume that you’re going to, most likely, like that person as well. So you should provide a few details of the position to people in your social network or anyone in particular that you know has contacts with executive assistants, and then obviously, give them some contact information so they can contact you if they are interested. So these are things like LinkedIn, Facebook or people that you already know in the real estate industry. So that’s one way, is just someone in your current social network.
Number two is to use Indeed, ZipRecruiter or similar websites to post the position. So just create a job listing and post it to an online job listing website. You can customize the job listing to suit your needs, and it can even be down to the preferred location of the candidate. So if it’s something that you want them to come to your home office, then obviously you’d want them to live near you. Or if you don’t really care, these types of websites give you lots of customized features to select different types of characteristics you are looking for.
For these sites, unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, which you already probably have an account, you’re going to need to set up an account on these if you don’t already have one; and then once you have your account, once you have your job listing, just like if you’re posting a unit for rent or have a property for sale, be prepared to receive a lot of contacts. So that’s why you’re going to want to focus on understanding exactly what you want this executive assistant to do and who you want them to be, and that, in part, comes from doing that left side/right side exercise, because you don’t want to waste time talking to a lot of people who could easily have been screened out if you would have created a better job listing. So make sure you know and narrow down the scope of the position before you post to a place like Indeed or ZipRecruiter. So that’s number two.
Number three is you can just consider hiring a staffing agency. So there’s a lot of companies out there whose sole purpose is to find employees that you need. So for example, I know in a previous job that I got, I got it through a staffing agency. So a business goes to a staffing agency and says, “Hey, I have a job opening, here are the requirements for the job, here’s what I’m looking for. Go out and find me someone,” and then the staffing agency goes out and finds someone, interviews them, pre-screens them, and then if they are a good fit, they will pass on the information to the business owner. So in this case, you would go to a staffing agency, tell them the scope of the position you’re looking for, for an executive assistant, a staffing agency will go out there and find multiple people, interview them based on the criteria you provided them, and then if two, three, four people makes sense out of the 50 people they talked to, then you’ll just be speaking to those four people, as opposed to having to talk to 50 people if you were to do it yourself.
Some of these staffing agencies also do temp-to-hire situations. So something where you don’t have to hire them full time right away, they can work for you temporarily as a test and if you like them, you can hire them. If not, you can go ahead and find someone else through that staffing agency. But the major pro of the staffing agency is that most of the candidates will come pre-screened already, as opposed to you having to do all of that on your own.
Then the fourth way to find an executive assistant – and this will be more if you need someone immediately; you don’t have a few weeks or a few months to go through the hiring process with a thing like Indeed or ZipRecruiter or through social media or through a staffing agency, but you need someone working for you next week or tomorrow – then you can use a website like Fiverr or Upwork and just hire a virtual assistant in the meantime.
So let’s say you do your left side, right side exercise, then you realize that, “Man, I really don’t like doing this one thing and I don’t want to do it ever again. I’m just completely done,” then you can go on a website like Fiverr, create a posting for that particular thing. Maybe it’s you don’t like scrubbing lists or something for direct mailing campaigns. Well, you can find someone on Fiverr to do that for you. They’re gonna be a lot less expensive than hiring a full-time executive assistant, and you’ll be able to get them on your payroll, in a sense, immediately.
So those are the four ways to find an executive assistant. Now, what types of things do you ask them when screening them once they’re actually found. Now, obviously, it’s going to be very specific to your real estate niche. So an executive assistant who’s working for, say, an apartment syndicator might be a little bit different than an executive assistant who’s working for a wholesaler or fix and flipper, or someone who just sends out a lot of direct mailing campaigns. So obviously, you’re gonna want to add to this list specific questions on whatever niche that you’re in.
You’re also going to want to add specific questions based off of the result of your left side/right side exercise. So if there’s ten things you don’t want to do or you don’t like doing, you’re not good at doing, and you want an executive assistant to those ten things– well, obviously, when you’re talking to them, you’re going to want to know if they are actually capable of doing those things, but besides those two things, these are a few general questions that you can ask a executive assistant regardless of what real estate niche you’re in, or regardless of whether you’re in real estate or in some other line of business.
So the first question is what software programs have you used in the past and how would you describe it your computer skills? Obviously, we live in the age of technology. So an executive assistant who’s doing administrative tasks is going to need to know how to navigate a computer. Especially if you are doing really complicated real estate strategies like apartment syndications, there’s a lot of different softwares and programs that they will have to use, rather than having to do everything manually. Maybe a system you’ve already put in place that you want them to take over. Well, if you don’t have computer skills, then it’s not going to be a good fit. Again, assuming that you want someone that has good computer skills.
Number two – describe a time you had to adjust a schedule due to unforeseen circumstances. So executive assistants are typically responsible for managing the schedule, the calendar of the person they’re working for, and if you need to change something on your calendar or if someone needs to reschedule something with you, how are they going to handle that situation? Can they handle that on their own or will they need you to be involved in that? Because at the end of the day, the purpose of the executive assistant is to make your life easier. So if you have to be involved in tasks you don’t want to be involved in, like scheduling, then it defeats the purpose of having an executive assistant.
Number three – what are your strategies for managing your time when dealing with multiple urgent tasks simultaneously? So asking about their ability to multitask – because again, being an executive assistant isn’t a job where you do the same thing every single day. Things that come up that are higher priority, so how do they prioritize things? How do they make sure they get the higher priority things done first, while also addressing other things that need to be done at the same time?
Next question – describe a time you identified a problem and proactively created and implemented a solution. So again, very similar to the second question about describing a time you had to adjust a schedule due to unforeseen circumstances. The purpose of the executive assistant is to make your life easier. So if they’re able to identify problems and fix problems without you even being aware of it, that’s gonna make your life a lot easier, as opposed to them finding problems and then needing you to actually fix that problem. Obviously, there’s gonna be cases where they can’t fix everything, but there are times where they should be able to do that on their own.
Next – how would you deal with an angry person demanding to speak with an unavailable executive, or wanting to speak with you, who’s unavailable? So if someone calls the executive assistant that’s really upset, how do they handle that situation? What are their communication skills like? What are their people skills like? Can you give me an example of when this happened in the past? This is especially important if you’re doing things like cold calling. Whenever I talk to someone about cold calling, they always say, “Well, most of the time, they don’t answer, and if someone does answer, it’s oftentimes they’re angry with you, they get mad. And then there’s other times where obviously, we make a deal.” So if you’ve got an executive assistant who’s screening phone calls for you, most likely, eventually, they’re going to speak to someone who’s angry. So how do they handle that?
Next – what do you believe an executive assistant brings to a company? So just getting an understanding of what their expectations are of an executive assistant. The next question – how do you anticipate the needs of an executive? So again, making the executives’ lives easier, making your life easier by anticipating things and being proactive as opposed to reactive.
Next – why do you think you’re well suited for this position in particular? Pretty self-explanatory.
Then lastly – what do you enjoy most about administrative work? So all those questions, at the end of the day, are trying to accomplish – one, are they capable of doing what you need them to do, and then two, are they going to be able to make your life easier? That’s really the two questions you need to have answered. Are they capable of doing what you need them to do, and by hiring them, is your personal life, is your business life going to be easier? Also, getting an understanding of what their expectations are of the position. So you can get understanding of what they’re going to do once you actually hire them.
So just to finish off the episode, I wanted to go over — I’m not going to read it in its entirety, but I do have a sample posting that Ashcroft Capital has used in the past for finding an executive assistant. So obviously, Ashcroft Capital is an apartment syndication business. So some of the wording will be a little bit different based off of, again, your particular real estate niche. But at the same time, the structure of this, I think, can apply to all positions, and then obviously, a lot of the stuff in here can be used as well.
So the way that the job posting is structured, it starts off with a bio of Ashcroft Capital, and then it goes into a bio of them as an executive assistant. So these are the characteristics that we want to see in our executive assistant. The third is the responsibilities of the executive assistant, and then the fourth are the requirements. So obviously, in the bio, you want to put the name of your company, what your company does, some of the statistics of your company, and then also in that section is what you’re hiring for. So it says, “We are hiring an experienced, reliable, task-oriented executive assistant to a co-founder of our company. The executive assistant will be responsible for performing a number of business, as well as personal administrative duties. This is an ideal position for a well-qualified candidate to get in early and grow alongside of a powerful and entrepreneurial investment firm.”
Basically, just summarizing the entirety of the other remaining three sections. So who will you work for, what do you need you to do, what’s the benefit to you? Boom, boom, boom.
So the section two is the ‘about you’ section. So this is a paragraph that describes ideal characteristics of the executive assistant. So it reads, “You are a highly motivated professional and capable of managing your workload and prioritizing tasks in a fast-paced environment. You take initiative and think through questions that might be asked and proactively address them before they are asked. When it comes to completing your tasks, you’re consistently reliable. You’re a self-starter and can start and can work autonomously. You want to be a part of something special. You want to a career, not a job. You want to work with a small, but dynamic team that is accomplishing big things.” So as you can see, in that ‘about you’ section, that corresponds with a lot of the questions that you’re going to ask during the interview process.
Next are the responsibilities. So whatever responsibilities you want them to do, make sure you list those out as well. So for example, completes projects or special assignments by establishing objectives, determining priorities, managing time, gaining cooperation of others, monitoring process, problem solving, making adjustments to plans.
And then lastly, the requirements– so obviously, read these just so you have an understanding of what the requirements were for the executive assistant role that Ashcroft Capital is hiring for, because again, you don’t want to hire just anyone. You want someone who has experience, who has certain skills, and then you’re also gonna want to mention the pay.
So requirements, “This is primarily a work from home position, but might require working from an office one or two days a week.” So are they capable of doing that? Two is polished, written and verbal communication skills. Three is at least five years of being an executive assistant. Now this, obviously, is going to depend on where you’re at in your business, because at this point, Ashcroft has 22 properties, 8000 units worth over $900 million, so they could demand someone who had experience.
If you’re just starting out and looking for a executive assistant, you’re probably gonna have a hard time hiring someone who has a lot of experience, but you might be able to. So this part’s really up to you. Then lastly, experience in real estate finance and/or legal is preferred, but not required. So ideally, they have an understanding of the base understanding of finance, in general, if they’re gonna be working for a real estate company… But at the end of day, that’s not a absolute requirement, especially if they are a solid executive assistant and are able to learn on the fly.
Then the last requirement would be, how do they actually apply? So for this listing, it says, “When you apply, please provide a cover letter with your resume,” and then it has a salary of $45,000, plus the opportunity for up to $25,000 in bonuses… Just to give them an idea of how much do you pay an executive assistant.
So that concludes the episode. Now you know everything you need to know about hiring, finding, qualifying an executive assistant, and also, you learned the left side of the paper/right side of the paper exercise for actually figuring out what you would need an executive assistant to do.
So thanks for listening. Until next time, make sure you check out some of the other Syndication School series about the How-tos of apartment syndications and check out some of the free documents we have as well. All of that is available at syndicationschool.com. Thank you for listening and I will talk to you tomorrow.
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