Administrative On-Demand: The Administrative Profession and the Uber Business Model

by Melissa Mahoney

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You may have seen recent articles touting the Uber business model as the new wave of the future in many professions, including the administrative profession. The UBER business model, in this sense, means applying a pay-as-you-use-it concept to administrative services. The idea is project-based admin services, which can be contracted through an easy-to-use website or app. While virtual assistants are often project-based, the big difference is companies would be automatically matched to different people each time they put the request out. The truth is, we don’t know yet if companies will actually start making a widespread shift to this admin services concept. The other truth: We don’t know yet if it would have a positive or negative impact to business. It’s intriguing to business leaders on paper because it has a black and white positive impact on the bottom line.

But, if businesses don’t factor in the value of admins as business partners, their evaluation is not an accurate reflection of the potential impact to their bottom line. What’s the value of an EA as a business partner? The value is much more than EAs even give themselves credit for most of the time. For easy illustration, let’s take two top executives of Widgets Inc. Their combined salaries equal $1 million, and they have one EA who supports them both, who makes $75,000. That means the EA in theory should take 7.5 percent of non-revenue generating work off the executives’ desk to cover $75,000. However, in reality, great EAs take much more than 7.5 percent of non-revenue generating work off an executive’s desk and are now doing some of the revenue generating work too! You would have to add those dollars back to the company’s bottom line.

What does it really mean to be a business partner to your executive(s)? First, let’s talk about trust. It’s vital in your business partnership. Great EAs will tell you they know their executive well enough to speak on their behalf, but also know when not to speak for them. Building trust isn’t just about your executive feeling confident in your abilities; it’s about learning the specific boundaries and nuances of each executive you support and partner with. It’s also something that must be developed over time—you can’t expect it to happen the moment you’re hired. Be willing to put the time and effort into building mutual trust and the payoff will definitely be rewarding.

Trust is important, but the other factor that helps EAs achieve a business partnership: honesty. Some EAs struggle with this one because they don’t want to upset their executive by saying something in opposition to their viewpoint. Opposing views are not bad. Actually, it is the basis for great discussion and exploration of ideas. Understanding that this role is not submissive is crucial—you have knowledge to share. Share it with confidence and respect. However, is there a right and wrong way to share your ideas and opinions with your executive? ABSOLUTELY! It’s not black and white though. There isn’t a magic wand you can wave to give you the right communication tools at the right times. If you find yourself constantly questioning if you’re communicating effectively, you have many options to resolve that. Truthfully, we started with trust and honesty because effective communication with your executive requires a solid foundation. Aside from your relationship though, there are simple things you can do to become a more effective communicator. It may sound cliché, but learning to listen is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Communication breakdowns often occur because of misunderstandings. That’s something that can often be avoided by listening effectively.

What if I have everything clicking with my executive but I don’t feel like we share the same vision and goals for the future? Shared vision and goals are another critical aspect of the business partnership with your executive(s). If everything else is clicking, it may be a simple conversation about each of your visions to get you on the same page. Often EAs are privy to information that crosses their executive’s desk, which may skew perception or create a sense of uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to speak up! Having a shared vision and shared goals is essential to maintaining a healthy partnership.

What if the UBER business model becomes a reality for the profession? While we don’t have a crystal ball, we can tell you to take your skills and career to the next level now so if the UBER business model idea crosses your executive’s desk, the benefit/cost analysis becomes much less black and white. There is nothing wrong with talking about how much value you bring to your company. In fact, you SHOULD talk about it because we know you take great pride in what you do, so spread the word!


Take your partnership with your executive to the next level by attending IAAP’s groundbreaking new conference, EA Symposium. Register today!

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As Interim CEO at IAAP, Melissa leads IAAP’s amazing HQ staff team and works alongside the IAAP Board of Directors to serve the administrative profession.
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