How to Choose an Administrative Consultant
7 Steps to Finding the Perfect Fit
As a savvy business owner, you know you can’t do everything yourself. Whether you’re capable or not, you understand that your time is best spent on activities that grow your business and generate revenue. By taking certain administrative tasks and functions off your plate each month and allowing an Administrative Consultant to handle them instead, you free yourself to focus on just those roles that are the best use of your time and energy as the CEO in your business.
Administrative Consultants are THE administrative experts. They specialize in providing clients with ongoing administrative support in one-on-one, collaborative relationships. But how do you determine who is truly skilled, qualified and committed to their own business and yours? Below are some practical points to consider and questions to ask as you go about the selection process.
You can tell a lot about a business by simply taking a look around their office. It is neat and tidy or messy and unkempt? Is it inviting with helpful, welcoming touches or is the client’s comfort only an afterthought in an uptight, impersonal atmosphere? Since Administrative Consultants run their businesses virtually, their websites become their virtual “office” so consider these questions as you take a look around:
- Is the site hosted on their own domain or a freebie service?
- Is it well-designed or at least well organized and coherent?
- Does it look like they care about their “office” appearance and regularly attend to it?
- Does it present a polished, credible business image that instills your trust?
- Was there some thought put into providing you with helpful information and resources or is it all about them and not you?
If the Administrative Consultant didn’t care enough about investing in her own business and presenting you with a professional image, how serious can she be about your business?
An Administrative Consultant’s website, marketing materials, business processes and interactions with you should all be active demonstrations of the skill, competence and professionalism you are seeking. For example, a website can yield critical clues as to the Administrative Consultant’s skills and competence. If the site is littered with typos, misspelling, sloppy writing and improper grammar, punctuation and formatting, don’t expect that she is going to provide you with any greater skill or attention to detail should you decide to work together.
Experience & Commitment
You want to look for an Administrative Consultant who is actually IN business to best serve your needs and expectations. If an Administrative Consultant only freelances or dabbles in this work on the side, that lack of business commitment can definitely cause you many headaches, wasted time and an all-around unsatisfactory experience. This is often manifested as longer turn-around times, lack of continuity, poor communication, conflicting priorities, interrupted progress, and long or inconvenient periods of unavailability.
Likewise, anyone can slap up a website and call themselves an Administrative Consultant. However, the only thing that qualifies someone for this kind of business is actual skills and experience gained in the real world workforce. Unless you enjoy being someone’s guinea pig, beware of anyone who has no background or experience in administrative support. Some questions to ask include:
- How long has she been in business?
- What was her background prior to opening her business?
- Does she view her business as a chosen profession she is committed to for the long-haul, or is it something she is only doing on the side to earn a little extra money?
- Does she have well-thought out policies and business standards that will support you in working and communicating together effectively?
Testimonials are an Administrative Consultant’s “references,” and a successful, experienced Administrative Consultant will have a few of these on her website. Once you are in active consultation, she may also be willing to provide you with the names and contact information of happy clients who would be willing to speak with you.
Of course, there are lots of accomplished Administrative Consultants who might be new in business, but not new in their expertise. Keep an open mind toward the Administrative Consultant who is still in the stage of obtaining clients and testimonials if all other indications point to her being well-qualified and great to work with.
Most Administrative Consultants provide a complimentary consultation as this is a vital part of the process in determining a mutually beneficial fit. You naturally want to find someone you can work with well and who offers a professional level of skill and service. Once you find a site that instills confidence and piques your interest, simply follow whatever instructions are provided to get your consultation scheduled.
Look for an Administrative Consultant who gives some indication that she will be professional, responsive and easy to work with. In making contact, take note of these clues:
- Does she respond to your inquiries in a timely manner?
- Does she answer the phone professionally?
- If she uses a service, are the messages handled professionally?
- Is she on time and prepared when you meet for the consultation?
- Does she follow-through exactly as promised?
How well the Administrative Consultant guides you through her consultation process can tell you a lot about what it will be like to work with her. Not only do you want someone who is masterfully skilled and can provide superior service, you also want someone who demonstrates excellent business sense, especially since she will be instrumental in helping you in your business. During the consultation, information you should expect her to cover with you include:
- Significant time asking about your needs, goals and challenges.
- A clear overview of how she works with clients and what her values and expectations are for working together.
- What support she provides (as well as what she doesn’t).
- Her support plan recommendations (or how that will proceed).
- A discussion about fees.
- What the next step is.
During the consultation, listen for cues that tell you this is someone upon whom you can depend. How professionally the Administrative Consultant handles her own business correlates directly with how well she will handle your work and business relationship. Some things you should pay attention to include:
- Does she appropriately take the lead in guiding you through her consultation? If not, that may mean a lot of hand holding and a lack of initiative in the future.
- Does she ask lots of questions about you and your business? Are those questions smart and purposeful? This demonstrates an expert’s understanding that this information must be obtained before she can determine how she can help.
- Is she confident and articulate? This tends to indicate someone who is competent, knowledgeable and will be proactive in supporting you.
- Does she inspire feelings of comfort and trust? Listen to your gut.
- Do you feel a good connection and chemistry? You have to fit together well on a personal level before anything will work at the business level.
- Is she an engaged and active listener? If not, ask yourself if someone who interrupts often and doesn’t listen well is someone you would enjoy working with.
Administrative support is an ongoing collaboration, a “partnership” so to speak. That means it’s a two-way relationship. And you naturally want to find someone with some chemistry whose personality and style is compatible with yours.
For this reason, many Administrative Consultants provide an “About the Owner” or “Meet Me” page on their website as a way to share important aspects of themselves with prospective clients. It’s intended to provide you with a little glimpse into their personality, life and belief systems with regard to their work and supporting clients.
This information can be helpful in determining whether you share similar values and sensibilities and want to talk further with a particular Administrative Consultant. Since you will be choosing each other, make an equal effort to get to know the Administrative Consultant by reading that page.
Administrative Consultants generally charge anywhere from $35 - $100 per hour, although many who only work with clients on monthly retainer offer a simple monthly fee for a package of support instead of charging by the hour.
This is not the type of service you want to price shop—it’s too important of a role. Certainly, we all are interested in getting the best value we can. But we’ve all heard the saying “you get what you pay for,” and this is very true in the Administrative Consulting profession as well.
Take yourself for example—you know you aren’t the cheapest, and you wouldn’t want to be. You know that delivering quality and expertise comes at a price, but the value of that caliber of service extends far beyond mere dollars, and, in turn, saves your clients money.
You know this. And the same is true with Administrative Consultants.
You will find Administrative Consultants who charge very little—so little, in fact, that they can’t possibly be running a profitable, sustainable practice, one that’s going to be around long enough for you to depend on. Inappropriately low rates also signal a lack of business sense, which most often translates to poor quality, and lack of skill and experience. The consequence of hiring an Administrative Consultant who falls in this category is that your investment in her is unstable and ever at risk.
Administrative Consultants who don’t price their services profitably quickly begin to fail their clients. In their last gasps, they may end up taking on a day-job or more clients than they can handle just to break even, becoming overwhelmed in the process. To cope, they might turn to subcontracting much of your work out to others which typically results in longer turn-around times, less availability, and inconsistent service, delivery and quality of work.
You want ability. You want someone you can work with well. You want great customer service. You want your work cared for by the person you intentionally chose to handle it. And you want someone who is going to stick around.
So look for quality and value—it’s an investment that will literally put money back in your pocket.
So How Do You Get There?
You start by seeking the service of an administrative expert, of course! Find an Administrative Consultant today and go from struggling by yourself to getting things done and enjoying