Welcome e-commerce emphasis to this episode of Women Powering eCommerce. Join me every Tuesday and Thursday as I take you behind the scenes of my journey as a female e-commerce entrepreneur. Together, we'll explore the highs, the lows inspiring you to take action and achieve your own business goals. So let's get started.
Today I want to talk about hiring an executive assistant. That is my latest, best move by far. So here's the story. When I started my e-commerce, and you'll definitely relate to that, and it's totally normal when we're starting our own business, and we're just a one-man or one-woman show. So I went from wanting to do everything on my own and not having much of a choice in the beginning to do everything.
So develop your product, create product descriptions, ship the products, answer emails, do the customer support, take care of the marketing, and let's stop it there because there's so much more you know it, and it can get so overwhelming quickly, and eventually you hire people to help you out.
And that's what I did. That's definitely the first thing I did to leverage my time. I actually hired a customer support agent, or should I call it customer support representative. And eventually you realize that you need more people for all departments of your company, whether it's sales, customer service, finance, marketing, all of that. So with time, you learn to delegate, which is great. And because you don't have a choice.
And then I realized a while back, I've hired for all those departments, but there was one area that I still felt I just couldn't do it all in a day. And I realized it doesn't stop there. And I'll tell you more about it. But if you don't know, I run two businesses with my husband. My first one, the one that I developed in 2013, is my e-commerce store called Zumalka, where we sell natural and homeopathic remedies for pets.
And we also own a SaaS business. SaaS is for a software as a service and where we help companies lower their shipping invoices. So that's what we do. And I quickly realized having two companies to manage that the other thing that I really needed help with was email and calendar management. That takes a lot of time. It ate up my time for more important things.
So a couple months back, I would just let either my inbox get so full and not answer a lot of people in a timely manner, or I have to take a lot of time to deal with that inbox. And then there's a lot of other things I wasn't able to get to. So that was a problem. I had been looking at possibly hiring a VA to help out. But the questions that come in mind, and if you've never hired a personal assistant, I'm sure you have those questions.
What will he or she be doing exactly? Do I have first enough work to delegate to that person? Because email management, yes, it takes a lot of time if you're the owner and you have a lot of other things to do. But if that's the person's only job, will it take enough time? And also, can I trust that person? I mean, there is a lot of sensitive information in your email inbox, so how can you trust the person you're going to hire?
But eventually the administrative overload of things to take care of, I just had to do it. I did it with my husband, which helped. We separated our assistant, our executive assistant. So we decided that that would be a good first step. So we dived in and hired one. And I just want to share with you a little bit about my process, how I did that.
We read this great book actually Buy Back Your Time, I have to give that the credit to Dan Martell. And that was not too long ago, but we read that and we had already actually decided that we wanted one, but just weren't sure how to do it. And that just locked in all the questions we had or processes that we needed that we didn't have at the time. I definitely recommend that book.
But we still had decided to do it. Before that, I looked in just online VAs. But I personally didn't feel too confident about that. We went and tapped into our personal network and finally we found that one person that we interviewed and we just felt that trust. She had a background with lawyers, so that definitely helped us on the trust side of things. And she had already done the executive assistant work.
So that's definitely something I would probably recommend. If you're looking into hiring someone, look for someone that has the experience. And if they do have that experience, what you want to do is also check for the references. That's definitely one good thing you can do and for the trust issue if you have any. And as for the work, honestly, since we split her, she's actually part-time.
She works for us part-time for me and my husband. So put that together for now. It's doing good, but I know eventually we'll need more and we'll probably have our own. We'll see for that. But for now is a really good way to just put your feet in the water and test it out and see how it goes. So that's what we did. So if you're wondering do I really need one? When's a good time?
Well, here's what I feel is a good time to think about hiring one is if you feel overwhelmed or you're lacking time. If important tasks are falling through the cracks. If you have difficulty focusing on high value activities. If your work life balance is effective, you're answering emails and booking meetings on weekends, and maybe it's a good time to think about having one. And if you just want to focus on productivity, on being more productive, that's definitely a good way to get all of that out of your way and concentrate on what's more important.
So maybe eventually I'll do a more detailed episode on this, but I just wanted to give you a quick overview of what we've done. And just to go back to the hiring process. Again, you might want to find some inspiration as well on other job posts. That's definitely a good way to do it. You can also include your mission, your vision, your core values in your job post. That's definitely a great way to stay in line with what is really important with you and just attract the right talent.
As for the responsibilities, just make it simple. Make it stick around, email and calendar management. You can have other projects prepared and lined up if the main tasks are done, but usually, depending on how busy you are, you can probably fill up a role, pretty easily with that. Again, like us, maybe hire part-time to start off. That could be a good thing to do.
Like I said, conduct your due diligence with past employers by checking for references. But I want to talk about one mistake that we did and we did not think about hiring. This person... We live in Canada and she is Canadian and we love her so much and she still works with us and we want her to work for us. That's not the issue. But we did one mistake.
Sometimes you have to live it and actually be in it to understand what your real needs are. And she moved to Thailand, and for us it was fine. We're 100% remote. We're almost 100% remote with our businesses, and we are very comfortable with people working everywhere in the world. But what happens is that when she said she'd love to move to Thailand, we said, "Yeah, no problem." And we didn't feel like the time zones would affect us, but they do.
So the issues that we came up with is the delays in email answering and calendar booking. So she'll work her nights, so which will be our mornings here. So in the afternoon what happens, and we take full ownership of everything I'm saying now. Absolutely. So that's just a note to ourselves. And if you can learn from our mistakes, then great. That's why I'm passing them on to you. But it's just in the afternoons, we have no one to answer emails or book meetings. So sometimes life happens very quickly and sometimes you're in the afternoon, you need to have a meeting booked for tomorrow quickly, and then you have no one.
So then what happens is that I have to book some meetings and I have to answer some emails sometimes pretty quickly. So that's one thing to think about. And like I said, love my assistant. We're still keeping her and we're just waiting for another position to open up eventually in the company, that will be even better for her. But for now, she still continues and that's it. Just wanted to still share that with you.
And another thing you want to do is have clear communication. We have a few meetings every week, so twice a week. Right now you might want to do more when you start. So we have two meetings a week. I have a meeting with her on Wednesdays and Fridays. If needed, we'll do more. But usually those meetings will serve to answer some questions, just review the calendar.
We also work together on seeing what else I can delegate. And of course, when you delegate something new and you task or other projects on the site, you want to make sure that you give clear instructions to start off with and then follow through. And what we do also is that she'll, let's say we meet remotely, she'll record our meetings, and she'll use those recordings to answer the emails or book meetings so she won't be there and write notes. That will take up a lot of time. We try to do those meetings pretty quickly. And she'll also use those meetings to create SOPs if needed, if it's a new task, anything new, basically. The recordings are very useful.
And just to go back again to the trust, what I'm thinking about is that of course, have a signed contract. You can never be too careful, and that's definitely a great way to start things off. And the last bit that you don't know if you can trust, well, you'll just have to be human and trust the human behind the assistance. And that's why if you did your due diligence, if you have a contract, I mean the rest, you just have to trust that person.
Also, implement a feedback loop. Ask for feedback regularly. That's definitely something I'd recommend on how you can improve your workflow together. And also asking first, we'll provide a safe environment for that person to provide her or his feedback, back in return I should say, and that goes into the clear communication. You have to be comfortable being transparent and be patient. It's a process when you start off, it will not be perfect. And we started off a few months ago, and I would never go back to not having an assistant. It's just so incredibly amazing. But you have to be patient. It will not be perfect.
And as you go, it will not be. And you'll just adjust. And eventually, I'm sure we will grab a great pace. And I'm pretty happy with what we have and we just learn and adjust as we go in and we're patient both together, but it's going really well. Love her so much. Her name is Pascal, by the way. I love her. So shout out to you, Pascal. You're doing a great job.
All right, so some main takeaways. So recognize the signs that indicating the need for an executive assistant and the potential benefits for you. You want to prioritize the hiring process to find an executive assistant who aligns with your values and work style. So make sure you know what, at least have a base there of what is important for you. Don't make the same mistakes we did. So that's it.
And you want to start to embrace the delegation part and the trust building part. Those things are not easy to start off with, especially if it's a first. But you have to do it to maximize the effectiveness of her work or his work or whoever you hire, and that'll be key to freeing up your time, your energy and keep that for growing your business.
So assess your workload if you're considering an executive assistant. I would say yes, of course, I'm all in for that decision. I would not go back. I would not go back to not having one, honestly, she's so valuable. So I would definitely recommend doing so if you're at that point in your business.
But of course you want to make sure you hired in other more important places first. And then when you don't know where else you could delegate or just hire anyone more than the executive assistant definitely comes in very handy. And please make sure, disclaimer, warning, once you do it, you will not want to go back. All right.
So before we wrap up, I would really like to express how much it would mean to me if you could just take a moment to read and share this podcast or episode. Your support is crucial in helping us reach and inspire more women entrepreneurs in the e-commerce business.
Thank you for being part of this journey with me. I hope you gained some valuable insights and inspiration today to keep learning, growing and taking action towards your goals. See you in the next episode.