I recently asked colleagues how they, their families, and their businesses were faring during these difficult, unprecedented times.
I offered that there may also be some increased opportunity in all this. In response, a few folks were concerned about how to market without seeming opportunistic.
It’s always interesting to me when people worry about “taking advantage of the situation.”
It hints at the apology women are always making for being in business, and the apology society in general makes for wanting to be paid for the helpful and valuable services they provide to those who need them.
But let me ask you this: If you are in this to help people, how is that taking advantage of them?
Are you lying? Are you cheating? Are you stealing?
I’m assuming your answer is no to all these.
Then why on earth are you apologizing for being in business and wanting to provide good, honest work that HELPS people?
This hints at the deep-seated money issues we have and the work we must continue to do around our money issues and professional self-esteem.
Because here is what I can tell you for sure:
People who have always been running online businesses are the least impacted right now during this pandemic. For many/most, it is business as usual. They are still working with clients, creating output, and providing value. And those folks STILL want and need administrative support no matter what. Your support is the backbone of their business, the infrastructure that holds it together and keeps things humming along, running smoothly, and moving forward for them!
There is an untold number of businesses RIGHT NOW who are looking to radically adapt to more online ways of working with clients and creating even more opportunities to help more people that don’t require face-to-face work and interaction (other than video conferencing perhaps). THEY NEED YOUR HELP AND INSIGHT NOW MORE THAN EVER!
It is not taking advantage by being ready and available to help those folks who are seeking support in these ways!
They are lost. They don’t necessarily know what they need or how to find or perhaps even articulate the kind of help they need. They may be overwhelmed with the situation right now and going in circles about where to even start.
This is an opportunity to be of service to them, a guiding light.
That is why it is always your job to know not only what they want, but what they need; to make yourself visible for them; to explain and illustrate some of the many ways you can help them; and to let them know you are out here, ready and poised to HELP them get through this and create an even better business than they had before.
You are not a taker by being in business. You are a giver!
Remember that and it will change your perspective and how you present what you have to offer.
Love to you all! This is not a bed of roses, but we WILL get through this and it is an opportunity for growth for all of us.
Recently, a colleague shared an excellent article about saying no to unnecessary meetings and respecting our own time more overall. (You can read the full article here.)
I definitely share the author’s sentiments and have written versions of the same message myself many times over the years. (This, for example.)
It’s so important to remember that as service providers, we are running businesses. We are not gophers for clients to do with as they please.
In fact, we have a duty to protect and preserve our important business resources (e.g., our time and energy) and use them most efficiently and effectively so that we can continue to help clients and do our best work for them. A business won’t survive otherwise.
As such, it is up to us to set our own policies and expectations in clients around how and when meetings work as well as what the communication protocols shall be.
Those aren’t things that are up to clients to dictate, and they should not be expecting that as a matter of course.
It reminded me of the time I ran across someone who was very young (no work, business, or life experience to speak of) and brand new in our industry whose first client had her attending all “team” meetings by phone every single morning.
At the time, she defended it and could not be convinced otherwise that it was not her role as a business owner to have clients require her to attend their regular, daily internal meetings.
Eventually she wised up and learned (the hard way) that business owners are not employees, and it most certainly is not any client’s place to “require” you to do anything. 😉
I was also reminded of one of my early clients whose belief that “the customer is always right” was killing her. She came to dread working with her clients because of this unhealthy belief system, and it was creating an existential crisis in her life.
How could she make her living if she was beginning to hate dealing with her clients? She loved her work, just not everything they were “requiring” her to do, particularly when it came to endless meetings.
She was a solopreneur making over $1 million a year. That’s not the kind of money that’s easy to walk away from, but at the same time, her clients were running her ragged and she was miserable. Something had to give.
So I thought I would share the story of how I helped her shed this mindset and the steps we took to turn things around in her business so she could enjoy working with her clients again and not quit her business.
It’s a good example of how we, as Administrative Consultants, are so often in a position to guide and advise clients as a natural extension of our administrative support, expertise, and experience.
Perhaps it will inspire some ideas in your own Administrative Consulting practice on how you can further help clients.
This client was a high-end gala designer who conceptualized, produced, and executed the theme and experience of major fundraising events (think multi-million dollar budgets for $5,000+ a plate balls).
One of the pitfalls of her business was that she was constantly being sucked into endless group meetings with the local boards/committees of these events, sometimes two or more times a week.
And she absolutely hated it.
These meetings were such an unnecessary time-suck and complete waste of productive time.
They ate up far more in travel time and preparation than the meetings themselves, which would sometimes last over two hours.
And more often than she’d prefer, they turned out to be merely bickering sessions between board/committee members who couldn’t agree on anything. What did they need her there for?
Worst of all, attending all these meetings utterly stifled her creative energy—the very thing she was paid big bucks for!
This client was amazing at what she did. It’s a unique form of art in and of itself.
But while she knew what she was doing when it came to her talent, she had no previous business experience or training so dealing with clients, setting boundaries, and managing expectations was all new territory for her.
Since she had no frame of reference, she just assumed, like a lot of new business owners do, that the “customer is always right” and whatever they want or ask is how she should be doing things.
One day as she was getting ready and lamenting to me over the phone about having to go to yet another one of these dreaded “dog-and-pony shows” as she referred to them, I asked her, “So why do you keep going? Do you realize you can say “no” to these meetings? YOU are the artist, not their employee. If they want to work with you, they need to conform to how YOUR service works, not the other way around.”
This was an epiphany to her!
She was this amazing, sought-after designer, and it had never once occurred to her that she could refuse to indulge in these endless, ridiculous wastes of her time; that it was, in fact, imperative for her to do so from that moment forward or she wouldn’t be any good to anyone, least of all herself.
How could she do her best work for these clients if she allowed them to deplete her?
And if she didn’t put her foot down and start respecting her own time and energy, they certainly weren’t going to either.
Having done this in my own business and having helped a couple other clients by that time in this area as well, I outlined some of the things that could be done that would make a dramatic, positive difference in her business and how she worked with clients.
She resolved right then and there that she simply could not go on as she had been and asked me to help her.
First, since this was project-based work above, beyond, and different from (i.e., not included in) the monthly retainer she paid for my administrative support, I determined an upfront monthly flat fee for my consulting services. I estimated that we would need 3-4 months to fully implement everything.
Through a series of weekly phone calls, we explored and documented the specific issues she wasn’t happy with in her business. During these calls I provided suggestions and helped her see how we could rectify the issues she was experiencing by clearly identifying her standards (e.g., what values were important to her around money, work, clients; what she wanted for her business, for herself, and for her clients) and then implementing policies and procedures and creating tools that worked in support of those standards.
Our work together involved:
Making a list of the problem issues that were making her miserable and inhibited her creative flow.
Creating a picture on paper of what she wanted her business to look like, how she ideally wanted things work.
Formalizing her standards and values around these things on paper.
Helping her visualize and map out her client and creative processes and the practical steps involved, and charting this out on paper.
Fleshing out and formalizing new and improved policies and procedures and incorporating them into her client contract.
Creating a “client bible” (a/k/a Client Guide) that shared with clients her values around the whole client experience and preserving her time and creative energy with smart policies and procedures so she could do her best work for them. This guide worked as a tool that further educated and informed clients and set and managed their expectations about how she worked with clients, her communication protocols, the different stages of her design process, the specific kind and number of meetings that would be involved in her process, as well as what was expected from the clients themselves. For example, with regard to the dreaded meetings, the new protocol that I suggested and she agreed would be perfect was that beyond the initial consultation or two, she did not work or meet directly with boards or committees once she was engaged. She required clients to appoint one to three people that she would be working directly with from that point forward, with one of those people being her primary contact and liaison. This required boards and committees to work out their ideas and disagreements among themselves first on their own dime. This saved her a lot of angst and was a much more efficient and effective process for all involved.
Besides needing to stop the cycle of endless meetings she had allowed her clients to expect, we also identified that how and when they were expecting to communicate with her the rest of the time (i.e., ringing her any time of day and night!) was another one of her problem areas.
Here again, she had the misguided and detrimental belief that she had to be constantly accessible to clients on demand. She thought it would make them “like” and appreciate her more.
But being too available, she realized, was backfiring and actually had the opposite effect of causing them to have no respect or regard for her, which definitely was not her intention.
We set that right by establishing formal communication standards, policies, and protocols that clearly informed clients about her client hours and what forms of communication were acceptable and when.
This was something she hadn’t done before whatsoever!
Going through this process helped her see even more clearly how she was not respecting her own time and value and, therefore, clients weren’t either.
She realized where she was being too informal when it came to certain polite boundaries, and too lax in charging for other things, as well as simply not charging more profitably overall.
It helped her see where she could be charging higher fees and more intentional in how she worked with clients and doing things in a way that worked with HER creative process.
Toward the end of this realigning/re-centering process, we identified areas where my monthly administrative support could be further utilized to help ease even more of her burdens.
For example, with the newly identified and mapped out client-onboarding process we put together, we could clearly see steps that I could take on for her that would free up more of her time and attention such as the contract-signing and payment process, dissemination of the client guide, answering initial client emails and questions, and setting up and administering client files and accounts.
(This increased workload, of course, warranted an increase in my monthly administrative support fee.)
By engaging in the effort to change what wasn’t working for her, she took a stand for:
her own self-care,
doing work that was up to her professional and artistic standards, and
what she needed from clients in order to accomplish those objectives.
She learned that by setting clear boundaries and parameters, she wasn’t saying no to clients (something she was extremely averse to doing previously), she was actually saying yes to providing them with the best experience and outcomes possible.
When clients had a better understanding of the boundaries and protocols expected, they became much easier and happier to work with, and were much happier with her and what she created for them.
The consequence of our work together was literally life-changing for her:
She realized that “being nice” and forever agreeable to meeting after meeting was not benefiting her or her clients.
She hadn’t realized before that clients only had meeting after meeting because they didn’t know any better either. Her taking charge of her own business and processes gave them the leadership and guidance they needed (and unknowingly craved) from her as the professional in the relationship. The happy, unexpected byproduct was that they saved themselves all that wasted time and energy as well.
By better respecting her own time, it helped her also gain more respect for the value of what she created for clients.
She ended up having more time to take on more ideal projects and do even better work for the clients she served.
She increased her fees and kept better account of work and value for which she should be charging.
Because she wasn’t stuck in endless meetings any longer, she had more time to go on the soul-enriching trips around the world that fed her creativity which, in turn, benefited her clients.
And, perhaps most importantly, her joy and happiness returned which further fueled her creativity and excitement for the work.
I hope this helps you see how you, as the person who provides your clients with administrative support and expertise, are in such a perfect position to also be of help to them in improving and growing their businesses.
I have worked with and observed far too often consultants who simply don’t have the administrative skill and expertise to execute their ideas for clients (much less had anyone like you who could help them do that, hint hint).
As someone who is intimately involved in and familiar with your clients’ businesses, you can be so much more effective in not only sharing advice and ideas for improvements, but also implementing those changes and incorporating them into the administration of the business overall.
It’s why we are Administrative + Consultants. 😉
I have a LOT more to teach you on this.
When you learn how to do all these things in your own business, you can also do them for your clients.
One blog post isn’t going to do it, though; it’s just not an adequate medium for that kind of learning.
My best advice is always to get my entire system because each piece is an integral part of the overall picture. You can’t fully learn one area with the absence of the others.
If you are only able to start with one piece, however, my Pricing & Packaging Guide will show you how to understand and map out different work and revenue streams in your business and how to present and provide that kind of additional support to your clients (and how to make more money yourself doing it!).
Any questions, shoot me an email. I’m always happy to help where I can. 🙂
Not sure where I first came across this quote, but it’s a sentiment that always bear repeating.
To an extent, value is relative. Which is why it’s important to work with the right, well-chosen clients, clients who need what you have to offer and will therefore appreciate (i.e., value) it more highly.
That said, at a fundamental level, if you don’t value what you have to offer (and price it accordingly), no one else will either.
Does this resonate with you? I’d love to hear why.
Just because you can do everything doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
People who are new in business don’t tend to understand this at first. They are too eager and excited to get those first paying clients.
But once you have more than one client, you begin to get an inkling of this truth: you don’t want to bog yourself down doing too much stuff and trying to do every. single. thing. for clients.
You’re going to come up against a wall of overwhelm real quick if you don’t get clear and focused about what you do (and what you don’t) in your business.
Keeping your focus on who you cater your support to and what you do for them is key.
I see a lot of people in our industry really enamored with the idea of doing anything and everything.
It’s an idea they are hit over the head with when they first enter the industry at large, almost as if there is something virtuous about it.
NOTE: It’s not virtuous; it’s misguided. In fact, I am here to tell you it is keeping you from providing a superior level of administrative support and service that clients will pay well for. Doing every little thing is keeping you small and under-earning.
Most of the people who come to me for help in our industry are those who fell for the BS of doing anything and everything only to realize later just how much it is keeping them from being able to develop their business, from making more money, from having time for a life, and from having a business and clients that actually make them happy.
Sometimes there’s a bit of “savior complex” rooted in this notion, which also isn’t good for you or your business (or ultimately your clients).
Sometimes it’s a lack of professional self-esteem (which is, again, common in people who are new in business). They don’t yet have a sense of confidence in their value and think they need to “prove” their worth by offering to do anything and everything.
Most of the time, though, the folks trying to do anything and everything are those who have not chosen a target market (which is simply a field/industry/profession you cater your administrative support to).
That’s how the cycle starts.
When you don’t know who you are talking to, it’s difficult to find a direction and form a clear idea of specifically what you do and how you help.
That’s because having no clear idea of who you are talking to forces you to think in a manner that is too broad, vague, and generic.
And so they end up offering anything and everything they can think of that might be of value to someone, somewhere (anyone? pretty please?).
What ends up happening, though, is you become a garbage disposal that clients toss any old thing at, making up their own rules and expectations in your business in the process.
This is what Seth Godin calls being a “meandering generality instead of a meaningful specific.”
When you get specific about who you work with (i.e., target market), you’ll be able to more quickly, clearly, and specifically identify exactly what you do and don’t do that helps clients.
(HINT: And that’s NOT everything and the kitchen sink.)
Here’s an example of avoiding the constant busy-ness of certain work that keeps you from really developing your business into a more powerful revenue and freedom-generating machine.
I’ve long advocated that colleagues never manage any client’s email in-box:
You are not their personal, on-call employee/assistant. (What, do they need you to wipe their ass for them when they go to the bathroom, too? Look, there are just some things that grown-ups need to do themselves. You didn’t go into business to be someone’s lackey, did you? You can get a job for that. Just say no to work like that. It’s not the kind of thing you need to be doing in business.)
You have enough of your own emails to manage to take on anyone else’s; and
In-box management is drudge work that will keep you in the reeds on a daily basis, never able to get beyond the busy-ness to work on higher-value, big-picture stuff, both in your business and theirs.
This is a good example of “you don’t have to do everything to be of value” because even though in-box management isn’t something you do, the time you free up for clients by doing the other things you DO do allows them to better manage their own in-boxes.
What you can do instead is share your tips, advice, and guidance with clients on how to better manage their own in-boxes.
You could do that by writing an ezine article and/or blog post, creating an info product for purchase, putting together an instructional video or DIY email training, or perhaps do a paid online class a couple times a year.
(And by the way, inviting people to sign up to your mailing list to get any one or all of these will help you grow your list and continue to keep in touch and nurture those relationships.)
Dealing with it like that, you are providing additional value without bogging yourself down in that kind of work.
You don’t have to do everything to be of value. Let that sink in.
(If you need help finally choosing a target market, get my free tool that helps walk you through the process.)
I think the idea that very commonly travels around our circles that we should be “one-stop” shops is dangerous.
Dangerous in that it sets you up for failure and mediocrity.
Dangerous because it’s rooted in employee mindset.
Dangerous because it stems from an underlying lack of healthy professional self-esteem that who you are and what you do is ENOUGH.
And dangerous because it teaches clients and others to devalue the expertise you ARE in business to provide.
It is ENOUGH to be in one business, not a million different businesses at once (i.e., administrative support… not administrative support AND web design AND graphic design AND bookkeeping AND marketing AND social media AND writing/copywriting, and any and every other hat you can find to put on).
That BS is something employers pulled on their admin staff because they could get away with it (i.e., dumping every kind of work and role onto them beyond their job description without any promotion in title or pay).
You don’t need to carry that wrong and negative influence over into your business. And you shouldn’t.
Because you are not a human garbage dump.
Because business and employment are not the same thing.
And because running your business and working with clients as if you were still an employee keeps your business from really flourishing.
It is ENOUGH to keep your eye on your one focus and discipline.
In that way, you beat mediocrity and can be the very best you can be at the particular thing you are in business to do.
Trying to diversify and be all the things to every body keeps you unfocused and dilutes the time and energy needed to do any one thing particularly well.
People who specialize in mediocrity don’t make the big bucks, are tired and scattered all the time, and never gain traction in their businesses.
You DON’T have to solve ALL problems for clients. You only have to solve the problem your business is set up to solve.
I recently had a contract client who could no longer afford to pay me the regular contracted amount because of a slowdown in her business so she asked that I drop my price about $200 until she was back on her feet. How should I deal with that? She’s been my client for 3 years and she’s always paid on time and every penny. I agreed to the cut but not sure for how long. Any words of advice? —KP
It sounds like this is a good client with whom you’ve had a happy, healthy business relationship thus far.
It also sounds like this client is paying some sort of monthly fee, if I am surmising things correctly.
And there’s no reason to throw all that away.
BUT there’s also no reason why this client’s financial woes should be your problem. Especially since you aren’t sure how long it will continue.
There IS a compassionate, client-centric way you can offer to help this client out during what I assume is only a temporary predicament without sacrificing your own business needs and well-being.
And it starts with this handy phrase: You don’t get what you don’t pay for.
That’s obviously not very client-centric the way it’s phrased, but the solution in its meaning is, very simply, to take something off the table.
What that means is, if you are selling hours, take $200 worth of hours away from their retainer. Only work up to the number of hours they have paid for.
If they can only pay for 15 hours instead of the usual 20, then they should only get 15 hours of support, not 20.
Alternatively, if you are using my value-based pricing methodology (which is a faster, more effective way to make an impact and give clients more readily apparent, targeted results), take a $200 task/function/role away from the monthly support plan.
Have a conversation with the client, identify what the most important functions are to their operations during this financial lean-time, and then offer to remove/temporarily suspend a $200 value task/function/role that is least necessary and will have the least impact on their continued smooth functioning and profits.
Give them two or three options of what could be removed for $200 less a month, and let them decide which one to sacrifice.
It’s also possible during this discussion that the client realizes even more the value of what you do for their business and decides to find the money to keep paying your full fee for full services to continue.
If this were me, I would also be curious about the reasons for this client’s financial down-turn.
If they were open to sharing, it’s possible I would have some ideas and insights on what we could do and where we could focus our work to create some new/fresh revenue.
Perhaps you even saw this coming, but the client had previously been resistant to exploring your ideas, trying something new, or doing things a little differently than they were used to that might have helped them improve financially. They might now be a bit more receptive to hearing you out.
I would, however, certainly expect to be paid for any additional work/consulting I provided. It’s up to them to decide where their priorities are.
No reasonable client would expect you to work for free.
And despite any client’s best (or unrealistic) intentions, they don’t have a crystal ball no matter what grand promises they make.
So the best policy is to go about things in a way that serves your business interests.
Keep in mind that you have an obligation to safeguard your financial well-being and business profitability not only for yourself, but for your other clients as well.
It doesn’t serve them for you to be giving away time, energy, and work for free to someone who isn’t paying fully for it.
And don’t even think about letting this client pay on credit (a la “I will gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today”).
You won’t be doing them, yourself, or your other clients any favors by letting them go into debt to you.
If they are already in financial straights, owing you or anybody else more money is only going to bury them further.
Remember, you teach people how to treat, value, and respect you.
Lower your fee for this client if you want to help and keep them on your roster; just make sure you also take away an equal amount of work from what you provide them with.
And have another conversation with this client to reset the expectations around what they will and won’t get for the reduced monthly fee.
I also suggest giving the client a definite time limit on this special arrangement.
Give it a month or two and inform the client that you will need to review and discuss things again at that time to determine whether or not it’s still feasible/profitable/in your business interests to continue the arrangement.
If there’s no improvement in sight, you may even decide that, while you wish this client well, keeping them on your roster is no longer profitable for you.
If any of this is helpful, one way you could return the favor is by letting me know in the comments. I would truly value that.
And if you or anyone else has more questions on this, please feel free to ask in the comments, and I’ll be happy to continue the conversation and share my further insights and advice.
My target market is solo attorneys (specifically, those with a practice focus on business, intellectual property, and/or entertainment law) and believe it or not, even lawyers get writers block.
Pretty much everything they do involves writing so that can be a real business-killer.
And do you know what my clients tell me over and over is one of the most useful things I do for them?
Crazily enough, it’s simply starting a draft document or letter for them.
I set my clients up with their own branded templates for everything in their business: letterhead, envelopes, labels, pleading form, etc.
They could easily just open a template and start it themselves.
But quite often, because they can have so much other stuff on their plate at any given time, that simple step is too much for them to even begin and they get blocked.
So, whenever they need to start a complaint, write a motion response, reply to a letter, etc., they ask me to get the ball rolling. (Or, when I know one is needed, I just start one without being asked.)
And that simple assist of taking care of the back-end details so they don’t have to is what helps them break through the stuckness.
This is an example of why having an administrative partner is so useful to clients.
It’s not that they couldn’t do all or most of what we do for them themselves.
It’s that the mind plays tricks. It runs out of bandwidth when it tries to juggle too many details all alone.
With us as their administrative partner, we create a back-and-forth volley that helps them move through things step by step to keep their mind from getting overburdened and too ahead of themselves.
So it’s quite often the simplest of things we do that can have enormous positive impact and value for our clients.
You aren’t going to convince clients to pay your fees because you have taxes and bills to pay.
And telling them you are more affordable because they don’t have to pay for breaks and lunches is not compelling either. (When is the last time you heard any other business professional use that kind of bargaining to market their expertise?)
All that does is put them even more in cheapskate mentality.
Calling yourself an assistant results in the same.
Your value also has no relation to what you or they charge per hour. (And by the way, it’s high time you stopped charging by the hour anyway.)
Your value isn’t in how little they pay. Stop making that argument or you’ll forever be stuck with cheapskate clients who want everything for little to nothing.
Your value is in what they gain by working with you:
How many more clients are they able to work with? How much more marketing and networking are they able to engage in? How much more are they able to get done in a day, a week, a month? How much more free time do they have to brainstorm, develop their business, or plain live life?
Are they able to get those projects done that have been on the back-burner for forever? Are they finally able to write that book, complete that training program, or write that signature talk they’ve been dreaming of? How much have their revenues increased or have the potential to increase as a result? How many more dollars per year does that represent?
How do they profit in their life from working with you beyond money? How much easier and stress-free are their life and business?
How much are those results and accomplishments worth to them?
THESE are the things to be talking about, not “you only pay for time on task and don’t pay for office equipment, lunches, breaks or vacations.”
Do you see how silly and pedestrian the latter is in comparison?
Which do you think will excite potential clients more and fill them with the sense of abundance and possibility?
I popped into LinkedIn today and immediately came across a colleague’s post where she was sharing some client praise. Her client wrote:
“I’ve had 10 times more response from your social media design than I have from the one a graphic designer did for me and charged me 3 x the price.”
From the apparent value this client got, this colleague should have charged 3 x what she did. 😉
This is what I mean about people using our industry as cheap substitutes.
It’s so insulting for clients to rave about how little they paid, particularly when they know good and well what properly professional fees cost.
What this client said was the equivalent of shouting to everyone:
Hey, everybody, we’ve got a sucker over here! She practically gave away something that’s making me money and growing my business that I would have paid anyone else 3 times more for.
I have no doubt this colleague will eventually realize the value of her talents and start charging a more commensurate rate for the value that clients receive from her work… particularly if she keeps hearing “praise” like this.
With devaluing clients like that, who needs to earn a living from their work? 😉
Partnering is a word we use often in our industry.
Sometimes people (both in and outside our industry) don’t know what we mean when we use that word in relation to administrative support. They don’t understand why a partnering relationship is useful to them.
We’re actually talking about a few things when we use the term partnering:
We’re referring descriptively to the personal, one-on-one, ongoing relationship between two people (as opposed to an occasional, impersonal one where the work is a one-time or sporadic series of transactions with no deeper relationship than that).
We’re referring to fit and chemistry.
And most importantly and beneficial to clients, we’re talking about the sympatico, intuitive, shared body of knowledge and understanding that occurs when a client works with an administrative support partner in an ongoing relationship.
This is the only way to get to know and understand a client and his/her business at any deeper level.
The benefit and value of this, of course, is that clients get someone who “learns” them: who they are and how they think, how they like things done, what their frustrations and annoyances are, what their challenges and obstacles are, what their idiosyncratic workstyle is, and what their bigger picture goals and aspirations are.
It’s only in that kind of personal, ongoing relationship that an administrative partner can learn to anticipate her client’s needs in a variety of ways. As they get to know each other more and more, an administrative partner can work and think more independently on behalf of her client and complete work with that “big picture” context and understanding of the client’s business in mind.
The client then doesn’t have to repeat him/herself over and over to every different person and can feel more confident and at ease in letting go and allowing things to get done on his/her behalf.
This makes the client’s life infinitely easier, and he/she has more time to focus on other things.
By investing in the relationship for the long-term, clients eventually get someone who is always working in a way that supports their needs, their interests, their ways and their objectives in mind, just as the client would themselves.
The longer they work together, the more that knowledge and understanding grows, and the easier it is to work and do more together.
But that only happens within an ongoing, one-on-one relationship.
A cog in a wheel is just that — a cog.
A cog’s ability to think critically and act independently (which is of huge benefit to clients) is extremely hindered. The left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing (or only knows a very limited or isolated part).
Working in that context requires a lot more effort from the client, which can add to their exhaustion and overwhelm and burden.
It certainly doesn’t free up more of their time because they have to oversee and micro-manage all the myriad moving parts.
If they had an administrative partner, on the other hand, someone who takes on certain roles and functions accordingly, that is tremendously freeing for clients.
It’s important to keep in mind that clients don’t know everything and are often too close to their own businesses to see the forest for the trees (as we all are).
As someone who is able to get to know a client’s business nearly as well as they do themselves, by virtue of that deeper, ongoing relationship, an administrative partner can be immensely helpful and valuable to the client by being able to see and bring to attention those things which the client might not know or see from their perspective.
That said, we shouldn’t expect that clients already know and understand this value. They might think, I just need someone who will do what I tell them to do.
But that is a cog, a trained monkey — not an administrative partner.
That’s why it’s always our job as Administrative Consultants to help our potential clients understand how administrative partnering and working in a long-term, continuous — not transactional — relationship can be tremendously valuable to them.
Like any of us, so often it’s the case that they simply don’t know what they don’t know. So the more you develop and lead the client through your own processes, the more you define the roles and functions you can take on for them, the easier you make it for them to see and understand that value.
Flunkies and gophers are a dime a dozen. Their value and usefulness is also extremely limited. Clients don’t expect to pay them much more than that either. 😉
But that’s not what you are as an Administrative Consultant.
As Seth Godin so elegantly puts it: You are not a task rabbit. You’re a professional doing unique work that matters.