Episode 207: How to Have a High-Performing Assistant with Tim Francis |

How to Have a High-Performing Assistant with Tim Francis

If you run a business, you know it’s tough to get out of the weeds and find time to work on the stuff that really matters, especially if you’re a solo entrepreneur who can’t delegate to staff. These days, you can easily hire a virtual assistant off the internet. However, it can be difficult to find someone reliable and trustworthy enough to take care of personal tasks, like managing your inbox or booking travel on a credit card. My guest for this episode number 207 is Tim Francis

Tim is someone who has thought a lot about assistance, delegating, and the most efficient way to run a business. After achieving success at a young age, Tim was hit with a rare illness which left him crippled for three months. The illness forced him to start again from scratch and rethink his entire approach to business. The result was two innovative new businesses, Great Assistant and Profit Factory. Tim is a master when it comes to hiring, managing, and delegating tasks to assistance. 

So if you employ one or you’re thinking of employing one, the knowledge he shares today will have a real impact on your business’s bottom line. We’ll also be discussing plenty of handy tools you can use to streamline the management of your team and your business. And Tim will reveal some powerful insights like why you should only hire assistance in your own time zone. There’s plenty to dive into. So let’s get started. Shall we?

Transcript

Tim, it’s great to have you on the show.

Thanks for having me.

Let’s talk about assistants and how to get a great, high-quality assistant. Somebody who can take stuff off your plate, doesn’t need to be babysat, high value, ROI focused, and all that good stuff. What’s the secret?

I’d love to do that. How about this: Can I give you my three quickest strategies for delegating to an assistant? That way if someone doesn’t get a chance to listen to the whole episode, at least they got value in the first 90 seconds.

Sure.

My very first and one of my best strategies is to actually not use email to communicate with your assistant. That actually applies to not only to your assistant but to any team member that you’re working with. Email is just a wasteland in terms of being a huge time waster. Very distracting for us and our assistant. You want to use some in-team messaging machine or app like Slack. I’m not huge on Slack. I think it’s kind of disorganized and it’s tough to retrieve things. We’ve used Convo before with great success. Even something like WhatsApp is better than using email.

My second strategy is that it can be very time-consuming to sit and write everything out that you want your assistant to take off your plate or if you’re trying to train them. A tool that’s quite popular, maybe whoever’s listening to our episode here today has already heard of it, is a tool called Loom.

Loom allows you to record your desktop, and the second that you finish the recording it gives you a link that you can send to somebody else, then they can just watch your recording. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so video screen recording really speeds things up. Because you can narrate on top of it, you can verbally say what it is you’re wanting to get done and that speeds things up tremendously.

There’s still some room for written procedures down the road, but in the beginning, that Loom approach, we find it to be much quicker. It’s free, downloads directly onto your desktop, then you can install as a plugin to Google Chrome.

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The third strategy that I’ve got is where to get an assistant and what to pay them. That’s one of the most common questions I get. A lot of folks have tried going overseas for $4 an hour. They’ve tried dabbling here and there, my former self included. I’ve hired people in India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Jamaica, probably even more countries—I can’t even think of all of them—as well as the United States and Canada.

I will tell you, no question in my mind, hands down, the best value for our dollar, to get the kind of an assistant that can predict what it is that you want to be done, take things off your plate, that you don’t need to babysit, kind of the assistant you described just a minute ago, is to get someone based in a similar or same time zone, similar or same culture, same first language. If someone’s in Australia or New Zealand, get someone from Australia or New Zealand. If you’re based in the United States or Canada then get an assistant that’s based in the United States or Canada. Canadian assistants are great for American businesses and vice-versa. It’s more of a regional thing, culture, and language.

When you get someone like that, you can get that kind of talent for $17-$20 an hour. I don’t mean someone inexperienced, I mean people coming out of corporate America. We’ve helped hire over 250 assistants just like that now. If you don’t believe that it’s possible, some of the stories that I could share of how assistants, project managers, and operationally-minded people are willing to leave corporate America so that they don’t have to do the grind of commuting, they don’t have to spend money on childcare, parking, fuel, nowhere near as much on wardrobe. Sometimes just the lifestyle of office politics and climbing the corporate ladder, it’s just exhausting for a lot of people.

Incredibly, 96% of Americans are looking to work from home part-time, and 67% of Americans are looking to work from home full-time. That is how much of a crush there is for people who are looking to leave corporate America, professional America and govern America to come and work from home in legitimate opportunity. Not just data entry or filling out surveys from home, but people that want to make a difference, be the right-hand person to an entrepreneur just like us and really make a career move out of it for $17-$20 an hour.

They blew me away when I discovered that. I’ve been hiring my own executive assistants, my right-hand people, and I’ve had a few now, from exactly that scenario for six years, and it completely changed my life. Those are my three quick strategies. Hopefully, that’s super helpful for everyone listening.

It is, I’m sure and we’ll dive deeper into that. Can you tell us a bit more about how your life was transformed by up-leveling your assistant? Going from somebody out of a third world country or whatever to having somebody who’s in that same timezone as you or similar timezone, similar culture, language and all that, and what awesome things you were able to achieve because of this?

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Life-changing is accurate. That’s not an exaggeration or hyperbole in the least. In 2008, I’d read The 4-Hour Workweek and that’s when I took my first plunge―that’s 11 years ago now. I took my first plunge into getting an assistant and I thought I was set. I thought, all I need is an assistant, apparently overseas they’re very affordable. The ATM in the sky is just going to start raining down money down on me because of how successful I’m going to be, right? Isn’t that how it works, rights?

Right. And then I read the book too and I’m like, oh my goodness, I’ll go to this GetFriday, the site or the service that was mentioned in The 4-Hour Workweek, and that was atrocious. I actually wrote a blogpost back in 2008 about my experience hiring a terrible assistant. No, actually I dodged that bullet. That’s right. It is so long ago, I’m trying to remember the whole story. I’ll include a link in the show notes, by the way, to this blog post. It’s pretty funny. I picked apart their grammar. They couldn’t even respond to a prospect who wants to potentially give the money with proper grammar response. That doesn’t bode well for me, using their service. It’s pretty crazy.

By the way, listeners, the way to get to the show notes is super easy. It’s getyourselfoptimized.com/ and then the episode number, in this case, episode 207. So, getyourselfoptimized.com/207 will take you right to the show notes. It’s got a full transcript of this episode, all the links, all the resources, and everything that we talked about in this show. If Tim comes up with a great YouTube video or something, we will even embed that as a YouTube video into the show notes.

And we will. We’ll make sure there are lots of super useful resources we share today so that folks are definitely upleveled—to use your term—by the end of the podcast. I am with you 100%. I went overseas, I thought it would be great. Very quickly, I had a few frustrating moments.

My assistant was actually great. She had great English, very smart, super eager to help but then there was this day when she just disappeared and I have no idea where she went. For seven days, I wondered and wondered and wondered, and nothing is getting done. After a week of being absent, she came back and started a flurry of messages. She says, “Oh my God, Tim, I’m so sorry. What happened is I lost all electricity and the internet,” and I said, “Oh, what happened?” And she said, “Well, there was a political dispute, and the representative from my neighborhood got in a fight with a political representative from another neighborhood and that other representative controlled the electricity and had it turned off to my neighborhood in dispute.”

At that moment, I was like, “Oh my God, I’m depending on my assistant and my assistant is depending on that political and infrastructure instability. This just isn’t going to work.” Regretfully, I let my assistant go. I say regretfully because she herself was actually awesome, and I said what every good, self-respecting entrepreneur says, “Well, I’m just going to do it myself.”

“If you want it done right, then do it yourself, right?”

“If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” Exactly. From there, I doubled down, instead of 50–60-hour work weeks it went up to 60–70-hour work weeks and that was fine. But as my business started to grow, at some point there were just no more hours in the day. I was getting really tired. On top of that, I had a bit of this Clark Kent-Superman dual identity thing going on because, at the time, I was touring as a drummer by night, and by day, I was actually investing in real estate. So, I was really busy looking at homes and deals and figuring out this whole game of raising money and all the rest.

That was my business in the very beginning. And then, a few unfortunate things happened, Stephan. First of all, the real estate market crashed in 2009–2010. I was up in Canada, so it’s just a little bit after the United States. I ended up losing around $100,000, mostly of other people’s money. My band broke up 20 minutes before going on stage at the Western Canadian Music Awards. We’d done fairly well to get that point but then we broke up 20 minutes before going on stage. I was really scrambling at that point, whatever I could do to make money.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, so video screen recording will speed things up with your assistant.

Wait a second. Your band broke up 20 minutes before going on stage at a music awards. Did you guys actually go on stage?

We still played the show. We did, but I’ll tell you what, it took us six years to get to that point and it was supposed to be a victory to be on that stage. I remember looking out and it was like the world was in slow-motion. The packed venue, people were dancing at the front, and it was just like a slow wave of people in the audience. There were industry people there, publishers, maybe labels. Who knows, right? This could be a big part of a big break. All of that was there and I just knew that nothing mattered because this was the last time we’d ever be on stage together. It was one of the most hollow victories and hollow feelings of my life.

I’m sorry to hear that. That sounds awful.

What made it worse was the story that I created around it, like this is unfair. The story is really where the pain is which is something I learned down the road. I lost the money, that was painful. There’s a speaker who came through my part of Canada who’s promising that he could teach anyone how to retire within one year. I thought that’s the right timeline for me. I’d like to retire within one year.

Why not six months, though?

Or six days, right? I approached the speaker at the end and asked him if I could help promote him, if I could be a mentee of his and he said, “Yeah.” I helped him out with his business for a little while. At one point he said, “Tim, if you’re going to pick this up to the next level, you should join my $20,000 mastery program, and we’ll really kick this up to the next level.”  I said, “Great but I’m already down 100, where am I going to get 20?” He said, “Well, if you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll figure it out.” Do you know what I did? I went back to my business community, I raised another $20,000, and I handed it over into this program.

Within the first few days of being in that program, I lost total confidence in that program. The problem is that it had a no refund policy. So now, he’s done $120,000 and I had no band, and I was working 80-100 hours a week. All of it just became too much, Stephan. When I saw in the news that this former mentor mine, who had taken the $20,000 for my program fee, and his business partner ended being the leader of a $12 million Ponzi scheme or pseudo Ponzi scheme. He ended up getting convicted in court, $250,000 fine, apart from holding securities for 20 years. It really affected a lot of people that I knew who had put money in. That was the final straw.

I developed an illness on December 26, 2010, an illness called erythema nodosum. To this day, I still don’t totally understand it. What happened is the swelling started in my ankles, it went up to my knees, from my knees to my hips, and eventually into my elbows. Five days later, December 31, New Year’s Eve, I’m sitting there, I hosted a New Year’s Eve party and I couldn’t stand and I could barely walk. Within a day or two after that, we’ve gotten three medical opinions and I was diagnosed with erythema nodosum. The impact of that was I couldn’t walk or stand for three months. I had to move back in for full-time care with my parents. I had really no way to make money while being $120,000 in debt. It was a very dark and low time but it was also one of the greatest gifts that ever happened to me.

There was a day, it was in February of 2011 when I felt this warmth coming through my body. Imagine, I’m just laying there day after day, week after week, and suddenly this warmth comes over my body. I heard a voice and the voice said, “Tim, is this what you really want?” I don’t know if it was a second that went by or a minute or an hour, Stephan, time stood still. It was one of the most important turning points in my life because then the next voice that came was my own and it said, “Yes, this is what I want.”

At that moment, all these dominos started falling in my head, my heart, in my spirit, and I realized that I’ve been chasing fame and fortune when I needed to be chasing was mastery. Shortly thereafter, I came across a quote that says, “Hell is meeting the man I could’ve been.” In that moment, I just absolutely knew that in my lifetime it was imperative that I fulfilled my potential as an entrepreneur and also as a human being.

I’d already tried to get help by going overseas to get an assistant and that didn’t work, and there was no way I was doing that way again. But there was also no way that I was going to fall short on fulfilling my potential. Even though I didn’t have the money, I didn’t know what to delegate first, and I was really hesitant to let go of control―I was a control freak, a lot of entrepreneurs are―I took the plunge and I put an ad up on a website called hiremymom.com. A woman in Indiana who used to be a paralegal replied, then she became my assistant and she was my assistant for six years.

Having your own great assistant is your gateway to freedom. Click To Tweet

Wow, that’s a great run. That’s really good.

Incredible! I’ll tell you that one thing I realized in my earlier errors in hiring was I thought it was just all about who you hire. What I quickly realized once I started doing it right is getting an assistant is only part of the equation, keeping an assistant is a whole different ball game, and it really is three legs to the stool. You got to be able to build a hiring funnel to get a great assistant. Secondly, you got to be able to learn how to delegate and download what’s in your brain and lead them properly with the kind of work you want help with. Then thirdly, is how you manage them on an ongoing basis.

Another realization I had was that I really had this lottery mentality, that if I just get an assistant, everything’s going to be perfect. The reality is, after you get any new teammate, is you’re actually worse off. You’re worse off for the first few weeks because not only are you maxed out in terms of your own workload, you also got to find time to onboard this person. Make sure they’ve got an email address and a LastPass account, and make sure that they generally just know how to log into things and get operational. Then you got to train them. And then you got to get them familiar with all the people in your business, your product, and who your customers are. There’s a lot of familiarization that has to happen there and all that takes time, time for you to put in and also a time in terms of it takes a bunch of weeks before your assistant is actually a breakeven for you.

A breakeven, what I mean by that is, now your assistant is giving you back the same amount of time that you have to put into them to get them up to speed, and also for the amount of money that you’re putting in to pay them wages upfront. Now, they’re helping you to free up your time so you could do higher-level tasks and generate more revenue. Now, even financially, your assistant is breakeven for you. That was something that I realized that I just had the wrong approach.

After I got healthy again, I realized that I needed to be patient. Actually, one of the things I hated doing the most, which was coaching, managing, leading, and all the rest, was actually the gateway that I needed to double down on to really be able to accelerate what my assistant could do for me, and to make it so that my assistant understood my brain and how it works. So now, they could begin anticipating things and taking things off my plate. I stuck with that process and like a great investment, my assistant just became more and more valuable over time.

The things that my assistants started with were very humble. We’re talking about taking over uploading podcast episodes, uploading blog posts, and sending invoices to our clients. That was the very first three things my assistant took off my plate. Then, after that, as she got better and better, we were able to combine some of those tasks into projects. I would speak every single month at a hotel and we got to send invitations to people, we got to book to the room, we got to book the person who worked the front table. I was teaching my assistant each of those tasks and pretty soon I realized, I now have all those tasks that make up that project. Now I could just start delegating full-on projects to her.

I could just say, “I’d like to do a speech on July 12, can you make that happen?” She’d say yes and she would already know everything that there was to do because we’d taken care of all the subtasks. We kept working together and—no kidding—what my world looks like today with my assistant. I gave her a $31,000 budget and I said I’d like to have a big annual event where we invite customers from around the continent to come in. She did the entire thing and she came within 1.6% of the budget which was just amazing. She ordered every pen, every lanyard, every banner, every bit of food, catering, all the AV live stream, flights, accommodations. Everything. She took care of everything.

These days, she takes over things like my email inbox. I read and respond to probably fewer than 10 emails a week. When I travel, I arrive at an accommodation that she’s properly chosen, whether that’s a condo like an Airbnb or a hotel. If it is an Airbnb that I’m staying at, I’ll walk in—no kidding—I’ll open up the fridge, and the groceries that I want for the week are already sitting in the fridge.

What? How did that happen?

Right? Isn’t that extraordinary? And she’s virtual.

So, she hired somebody to come in and deliver those groceries.

This is just how magical a time we live in these days. Getting the kind of assistant I’m talking about was not possible 10 years ago. That magic trick of my assistant, having groceries show up at a condo before I get there, that would have been possible but would have been very difficult and significantly more expensive 10 years ago.

These days, in a lot of cities, there are services like Instacart which literally will go do your grocery shopping for you and deliver it to your home or to the condo that you’re staying at. Amazon just bought Whole Foods, so now you can get Whole Foods through AmazonFresh. Each state, province, and city has different services available. I know my home city, Edmonton, Canada, there’s SkipTheDishes which will actually bring you a meal. If you want something from Chipotle, SkipTheDishes will actually go and pick that up. Down here in Austin, we have something called Favor. Favor will go that same Chipotle, except in Austin, and deliver it to your house.

Email is a wasteland for being a huge time waster. It’s a distraction for you and your assistant.

The delivery services that are available these days and the amount that you can get things brought to you, people buy so much on Amazon instead of going to Walmart. That’s just the way it is these days, and the degree to which you need someone physically present in your office or in your city just gets smaller and smaller with every single week that goes by. It’s very much a magical time that we’re in right now.

It is. When you said magic, I was thinking you pull a rabbit out of your hat sort of thing and everything, and then I think, TaskRabbit.

Exactly. It exists.

taskrabbit.com, I’ve used them to assemble furniture that we got from IKEA or whatever. I’m not going to put that together myself. Heck no.

Another great resource is care.com. You can find a lot of talent on there as well if it’s more of short-term stuff. I host dinner parties for entrepreneurs, so the next time you’re in Austin you’ll have to come and join the dinner party. In the last 1¾ years, we’ve hosted 30. This is no joke. We’re talking an entrepreneur dinner party basically every other week.

That’s cool. You know someone else who does that. I actually had him on my other show, on Marketing Speak. I have two shows because I’m a glutton for punishment apparently. I don’t have enough free time, I need to fill it up. In my Marketing Speak podcast, I had John Corcoran on and he’s got the Rise25 thing with dinners that he ties in with other bigger events like IRCE Internet Retailer, which I just went to that dinner, that was in conjunction with that. The Prosper Show, he does a dinner there with his business partner, Jeremy. It sounds like you’re familiar with them already.

Yeah, John and Jeremy. I was actually at a Rise25 Mastermind at one of the pivotal points that Great Assistant, my company, was created. We know each other very well. I actually donated a Great Assistant program to Rise25 to help raise some money for a young guy who was really looking to get an opportunity. Closely tying with those guys, dinners have been a huge part of my own enjoyment of life.

Also, I’ve been pretty powerful to bring people together in terms of business. Our dinner parties in downtown Austin, I always have them at my apartment here. More than once, I’ve actually been the last person to arrive at my own dinner. I remember flying in from Denver, I was speaking in Denver, and my flight touched down at Austin at 5:45 PM and the dinner party started at 6:00 PM. I jumped in an Uber, came downtown and I got to my own dinner party at [6:15] PM, I believe it was. When I walked in, not only were all the people there already. They were happy to see me. The entire apartment was set up completely to standard. We’re talking every napkin had been perfectly ironed and folded, every bit of silverware had been shined, absolutely everything about it was 10 out of 10. All the pictures on the wall had been straightened with a laser level. It was perfect, so all I had to do was just drop my luggage and then grab a glass of champagne and stand on the balcony and have a great time with all my guests.

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So now, you might ask, “How can a virtual assistant possible iron your napkins and straighten your pictures?” That’s where care.com comes in. We found someone on care.com who now acts as our hostess for dinner parties. On the days of dinner parties, she’ll come in at [4:00] PM and she’ll be the one to start flipping the space, shining the Schultz silverware, pulling out the drinks, and making sure the place is ready. Make no mistake, I had to give her guidance on what I want that to look like, which hopefully you and I today, Stephan, will have a chance to talk about. Surgeon in the Room, that’s a really powerful idea which we can talk about next.

But my role in anything is not set-up, coordination, maintenance, reporting, customer support, or tech support. My role is three things and three things only, which is the Surgeon in the Room which is the strategy, high-level skill, and high-level access. If you think about a dinner party, my job is to give the vision of what I want this dinner party to look like, pick the days that it’s going to happen, pick the location it’s going to happen, and pick the format. Is it just a conversation or are we going to have a speaker at it? Figure out the format.

As I get that figured out, now from there, I can tell someone else what I want to be done. Then, we can just rinse, wash, and repeat that winning format over and over and over again. I told Mandy, our present hostess, what I wanted for the dinner party. She shows up at 4:00 PM, she’s flipping the space, 5:00 PM we deal with a great restaurant called True Food and they arrive with all the food.

I love that. I love True Food Kitchen. Do you know who the founder is?

No, I don’t.

Dr. Andrew Weil.

Oh, no way! That is super cool!

I just him at a Genius Network Event earlier this year. He is so cool.

No way. Speaking of Genius Network, Dan Kuschell is one of our clients. Huge raving fan of Great Assistant. So, Mandy takes care of all that. True Food shows up at [5:00] PM. We actually had True Food show. Mandy knows how to plate the food just like True Food so it looks like it came from the restaurant. Then at [6:00] PM the first guests arrive, so I really only need to be ready by [5:45] PM–[6:00] PM.

No kidding, multiple occasions now, when I have been in town on the day of the dinner party, Mandy will be working away, the house cleaners cleaning away on the background and I’m sitting doing sales calls right up until 40 minutes before the dinner party starts. I’ve been sitting on a sales call, closing a deal, generating anywhere from $4000-$20,000 in revenue while I have a couple of teammates. They’re not internal teammates like Mandy’s an external contractor, and obviously the house cleaner, but they’re working at an hourly rate that’s very reasonable while I’m focused on closing a $4000 or $5000 or $10,000 deal.

That’s the exact snapshot is exactly the path, something that I saw when I was sick lying in bed. I had to identify where was the spread. Where could I put in $15, $17, $20 an hour and get $40, $50, $100, $200, $50, $5000, $10,000 back in return? A lot of people say, “Oh, Tim, you appear on Forbes every month, you’ve spoken at NYU, you’ve got 17 members, you charge $1000 an hour when you do private CEO consulting—which is different than Great Assistant. But when I do the consulting, it’s $1000 an hour—obviously you have an assistant because you’ve got this business” What I say to people, “Thank you for your kind words and compliments,” you’d never realized this but it’s actually just the opposite.

The reason that I can charge $1000 an hour is that I got an assistant back when I was charging $40 an hour. It’s not that I made the $1000 an hour first, then got the assistant. It’s the assistant that actually was a major part of the gateway for me to get to where I am now. We had Ryan Levesque at dinner a few weeks ago. He and I over dinner were talking about how crucial just the second that you can afford an assistant, even part-time, even to do simple stuff, it is one of the greatest accelerators that you will ever install into your business. The first thing to focus on if you don’t know the basics of marketing or selling and you don’t have a product to sell, don’t get an assistant. Make sure you got a way to make money first, but as soon as you’re making—it’s different by industry—even just $100,000 a year, really you got to be thinking about getting an assistant ASAP.

This is how it goes. This is the positive profit loop. I was no longer in real estate, obviously, that got wiped out. I didn’t have my band, that got wiped out. But once I could start to move my elbows again when I was laying in bed, that was the first thing that came back in February or March, I could type again and I could use a laptop.

My friend, Mark, I didn’t really know what he did, but I just knew he had an internet company. It was just magic. Customers just appeared out of thin air and bought things off his website. One day I called him and I’m like, “Mark, how does that happen?” And he said, “People find me on the internet,” and I said, “How does that happen?” He said, “I use a thing called Google AdWords,” and I said, “What’s that?” And he said, “You do this thing in Google, you log in, you pick some words to advertise on, you pick some headlines, and you spend some money when someone clicks, and hopefully more people click and buy from you than you spend on Google.” 

Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords by Perry Marshal & Bryan Todd

And I went, “Okay, so hold on. Total strangers, you’ve never met before and you still have never met, there’s a stream of them just going down a river, and Google AdWords is like a bridge that goes over the top, and your ad is like the fishing line that you throw in the water and the headline is the bait. Is that kind of it?” And he said, “Yeah. More or less.” and I was like, “Oh, my God! How do you do that?” He said, “You should read Perry Marshall’s Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords. It’s $95. You can buy it off this site.”

Yeah, I’ve had Perry on my other show, on Marketing Speak.

Very cool. Very good guy. We’ve shared the stage a couple of times now. We put on an event called the 80/20 Summit in San Diego. That’s actually the event that my assistant put on that she came within 1.6%. It’s really cool now to share a stage with Perry when a while ago, I had no idea what Google AdWords was. Things have come a long way which is really great.

Here’s the thing, I didn’t even have the money to buy his book online for $95. I was that broke. And so my friend Mark said, “Tim, don’t tell anyone this, but I’ll just give you my login information. Of course, here I’m telling thousands of people through this podcast, but I’ve also told Perry in person and we’ve come to terms. We’re good on it now. I’ve spent some other money with him. I think he’s okay with it.

I studied that book and then I just said, who can I volunteer with? My dad has a trucking school and I realized that he probably wasn’t using Google AdWords, so I asked him. “Hey dad, can I just try this out? Would you give me $300, $400 a month just to see if I can get some action?” And he’s like, “Sure. Go for it.” No kidding, in the first year I generated 1383 leads, I think it was, for his trucking school and he was so blown away. It totally blew away anything he was doing in the Yellow Pages, newspapers or anything else, and he said, “Do more of that.”

Along the way, I also learned about landing pages, lead magnets, email sequences, that kind of thing. I remember waking up seven months after I could walk again, my eyes opened, I was back living in my townhouse that I owned in St. Albert, Canada, and my eyes opened, I looked at the ceiling and it just hit me. My first thought of the day was, “Oh, I now have seven clients all paying me $40 an hour to do marketing for them. I guess I have an online internet marketing company. Oh, okay great.” I just did the next thing, the next thing, the next thing until one day I just had a company.

Along the way, I went from charging $20 an hour to $30 to $40, and it was around this time that I was like, I really need to get an assistant to help me out here. I hired my assistant from Indiana, from hiremymom.com for $15 an hour for just five hours a week, and she took those five hours off my plate.

I then turned around and used the same five hours and actually went to my marketing clients and I said, “Hey, all along, I’ve been doing Google AdWords for you and I just know that our success would be so much better if we had a custom landing page. It would take me about five hours to do it at $40 an hour, that’s $200. It costs you $200 but I could create a landing page and I’m certain our success would go up,” and my client said, “Sure.”

So, off I went, I did it, it worked, and with the $200 they gave me, I did not buy a new pair of shoes. Instead, I took that $200 and I gave it to my assistant. I said, “You’re working for me five hours a week, let’s make it six.” So now I had a little more time.

I would take my six hours a week and I would go to my current clients and I’d say, “Okay great. We’ve done Google AdWords for you and we’ve got this custom landing page. You know what would really help us get a lot more action would be if we had a lead magnet. That’s going to take me about 20 hours to create at $40 an hour, that’s $800, but I really think it’s going to make a huge difference. Are you in?” and they all said, “Yes.” So, I said, “Okay, perfect.”

I took that money and what did I do with the $800 times two or three clients that said yes? I did not go to Disneyland. What I did is I gave the money to Sarah and I said, instead of working for me six hours a week, let’s make it 15. So she did, and what did I do? I just kept going back and forth and back and forth. Not only was I getting more client work at $40 an hour, but I was also attending more and more classes which then allowed me to do more for my clients. I could actually solve bigger problems and I could now raise my consulting rate which then gave me more time and more money to give to Sarah until she was working 25–30 hours a week.

At that point, now I had time and money and headspace that I could now go and participate in higher-level masterminds and higher-level courses. Now I could charge more because I was helping businesses that had bigger revenue. This positive profit loop just kept going back and forth. I just did that for a few years and I watched $40 an hour become $50, $100, $250, $500.

I then started doing higher-level stuff like understanding how to read financials and project management. Basically, turned myself into an interim COO and that’s the kind of work that I can now $1000 an hour for. It’s because I can help direct the destiny of an entire company, and with those skills, in one engagement I found $472,000 in profit in 74 days. You can charge $1000 an hour when you’re making that kind of difference in a business.

Along the way, the recommendations I was making for my consulting clients, especially in the latter part of my career, almost every single time, my number one, two or three recommendation for a CEO is to get a great assistant. They’re just so bogged down in the low-level work that they’re stepping over $100 bills to pick up a penny. When they say, “Oh well, I got to do the five minutes here, 10 minutes there,” and end up dying a death by a thousand papercuts and then these opportunities.

That’s why I started the Great Assistant. It’s because I saw as I was working behind the scenes of companies over and over again how crucial this hire was. I knew the huge difference it made in my own business and of the available options out there. There were a lot of companies that could help you get an assistant, but nobody was really committed to the idea of keeping a great assistant. The stick rate out there is between 40% and 50% to hire hourly workers in America, and our stick rate hovers between 85% and 95% because we’re not just focused on getting an assistant, we’re focused also on the delegation and management piece which is what helps you to keep an assistant for the long haul.

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And the upscaling, right? Keep training the assistant to get better and better and take on more skills and more capabilities, right?

100%. You got it.

I interviewed Trivinia Barber. Do you know Trivinia?

I do.

Priority VA. They do some of that too, with the upscaling and training their army of VAs. Let’s talk a bit about how you stack up in comparison to the competition like Trivinia. By the way, one of the things that really made a difference for me that I learned from Trivinia, actually it was at a 90 Day Year event, if you’re familiar with it.

Todd Herman.

Todd Herman, yeah. He is also a guest on the show. Great guy. Known him for a while, through a mastermind, in fact, through Taki Moore’s Black Belt. I was at a 90 Day Year live event and Trivinia was speaking and she talked about “stop delegating tasks and delegate outcomes,” and that was a game-changer for me. So, wanted to share that on this episode. You’ll hear it too, listeners, if you turn on the Trivinia Barber episode which is a great one.

That sounded exactly what you did with signing a $31,000 budget to Sarah. Giving her that kind of ability, to do whatever was needed and just make it happen. When you expect more, you get more, typically.

To expand on that idea, I think there are actually four levels. It’s not just delegating tasks or delegating outcomes. There’s simple tasks, simple decisions, hard decisions, and outcomes. A simple task is delegating. Can you please send this invoice for me? It’s super simple. Basically, it’s a five-step SOP, very simple. A Standard Operating Procedure, someone could just read it, do it, and they could have no previous ability or knowledge of your business and they would be able to it. That’s a simple task,

A simple decision is something that now requires some familiarity with your business a little bit, and with you. It takes just a little bit more for an assistant to be able to help you with that level. Something like booking a hotel for you. If you’re going to travel somewhere for a mastermind and you need someone to help you just book at some accommodations. There’s a little bit of “if this, then that” and there’s a little bit of a hierarchy of is it more important that it’s in the price range or is it more important that the location is really close to the venue. There’s a little bit of decision-making to be made there.

Believe it or not, booking flights is surprisingly complicated if you’ve ever tried to delegate that. Is it more important to you that it’s direct? Is it more important to you that you can pay with points versus paying cash? Is it more important to you that it is a certain time of day? Is it more important that you’re on the aisle versus the window versus the middle seat? Is it more important that you’re with certain carriers or not certain carriers? You don’t want to be with an airline that’s going to drag by the back of your neck down the aisle kind of thing. And then, of all those different factors, which are more important than others and if this, then that. It’s actually really complicated to have someone book a flight for you. That would be an example of a hard decision.

An outcome would be like I described. It’d be like, book this dinner party, produce this report. Anything, just take care of it. Here’s the thing, I think there actually is a place and a time to be able to use an overseas talent for $4 an hour, and that’s on any task that is a simple task and it recurs on a daily or weekly basis. Something like data entry, basic photo editing, if someone’s got an Amazon store, for the repurposing social media content, and it’s very straightforward, no decisions to be made, just a simple task. We don’t know if those assistants will always stick around as long, at least in my experience. You don’t want to give them something that’s going to happen once a year because you don’t know if they’re going to be here next year. Anything that recurs daily or weekly, is a simple task, I would say, absolutely. Let’s go overseas. Let’s make that very inexpensive. That’s the way to go.

If you’re going to start getting up into simple decisions, hard decisions, and outcomes, or anything that is recurring more monthly or yearly, anything that’s in that territory of the quadrant, don’t even think about going overseas on that. There’s an isolated circumstance or two where it could work, but if you want to stack the deck in your favor, just stay to your similar or same time zone, similar or same culture, same first language.

In terms of how we stack up, I think a hugely overlooked part of all of this is billing. There’s a lot of companies out there that will charge you $39 an hour and they’ll keep the assistant for themselves, and then they’ll turn around and pay the assistant $19 an hour. You’re actually being overcharged by 100%. It’s like double the fee. In my view, why don’t you just hire the assistant directly and in that case, you’re paying $19 to the person who’s expecting $19 an hour. You’re now able to get someone, pay them their full amount. If you look at that difference, just for round numbers, let’s say the assistant is making $20 an hour, if you’re paying a middleman $40 an hour for that person, that extra $20 doesn’t sound that big until you start realizing if you hire that assistant 10 hours a week, and you’re overpaying by $20, that’s $200 a week, that’s $800 a month that you’re overpaying by. On top of the $800 you should pay, you’re paying another $800, and it never times.

Often times companies that have middlemen pricing like that, like temp agencies and whatnot, if that’s the billing that they’ve got, they’ve also got a startup fee and they oftentimes have a break-up fee at the end. The total lifetime cost of that assistant ends up being tens of thousands of dollars more which I just don’t think is right when it comes to helping entrepreneurs who are working super hard to just to do their best and make their dollar count. I get a little passionate about that.

It makes sense. I had looked at some companies that operate in that manner because I am always looking for more assistants to make sure I’m not overly reliant on one assistant for something important. It’s a single point of failure problem. You’re probably familiar with BELAY. That’s their motto, I think, upcharge for every single hour, and you are reliant on them having a relationship with the assistant and keeping them happy and retaining them. InboxDone is another service that has a similar model, but it’s more like a monthly retainer basis, a set fee for the month. I tried them out and for me, it didn’t work. Are you familiar with InboxDone?

Yeah. I don’t want to comment too much on competitors out there. I don’t want to sound like I’m ever tearing into them. Maybe it’s my Canadian self, that I just don’t like to say things a certain way. Everybody you’ve mentioned I’ve heard of and either knows the owner or you know. I’ll speak to principles, if anything.

Something that gets advertised a lot is, “Have your assistant negotiate your cellphone bill for you,” and “Pay them on a permanent basis so you have to pay as little as possible.” If you want to go that way, that’s fine but that is not the gateway to getting freedom and getting your time back because where you really get your time back is when you can work with one person, one assistant, over and over again, and ideally they’re on your team. They’re not on someone else’s team and then just rented to you. The companies that sit as the middleman, your assistant isn’t actually your assistant. Ultimately, their check comes from someone else. If they’re dealing with multiple different clients, there’s every possibility one of those clients gets really big, monopolize that assistant’s time and now you got to start completely over from scratch with someone new. You completely lose the momentum and that is where the secret is.

We want to make a long-term commitment, if not on paper then at least in our heads, to an assistant and we want that assistant to be wanting to be an assistant. We don’t someone that’s just looking to create their own business of 50 different assistants and you’re just one of the billions of clients they work with. We want someone who wants to be an assistant, they’re excited to work long-term, and somebody who could build that relationship because it’s only when you build a relationship and momentum with someone, you’ve got that base, that now you start getting that flywheel effect and you get the compound interest.

If I had to tell a different assistant every month how to do our dinner parties, I would never get any leverage. I would never get anywhere and I might as well do it myself. But because we’ve got the same person who does the dinner parties every single time, we don’t even have to ask questions. She doesn’t even have to say a word to me. She could open the door, start working, then at [6:00] PM, I could pull my head up from my desk and I could be ready for the dinner party. 

We’re so afraid of making a commitment when in fact that’s the very thing that’s going to make a big difference. Obviously, committing to someone who’s underpowered, disinterested, not the right Kolbe Index, not the right personality, not the right cognition. Obviously, you don’t want to give it to the wrong person, but if you get the right person in spot to be your great assistant, you want to commit fully to those people because they are your gateway to freedom.

You mentioned Kolbe. That’s a great assessment to run on pretty much any staff person, not just your assistant, to see what their scores are. We’re running short on time so I want to ask you a quick, lightning round, a couple more questions. Let’s say Sarah gets that $31,000 budget and she nails it, gets everything right and does a great job, rinse and repeat, year after year. What if Sarah leaves?

If Sarah leaves, there are a few different things that can help. First of all, we want to do everything that we can to make sure that she doesn’t. Part of the answer to this question is actually how you handle the situation before it comes up. Does that make sense?

Making sure that you’re managing that assistant tightly, not tightly in the sense of micromanaging, but I mean every single week you’re meeting with your assistant for at least an hour. Every single week. Even if they’re only working 15-20 hours a week for you. Making sure that you’re talking to them regularly if their role is still fitting their goals. If they’re doing really well, making sure they’re getting raises. Find a way to meet them in person as soon as you can. Find a way if you happen to be in their city, in their state or something, take a little side trip and from there, meet them in person or fly them in to see you for a week or a few days or something. All of those leadership management “let’s be on the same team and build a great team together” steps do wonders to make sure that you never have that day come.

If that day does come, there are a few different things you can do. Number one is, my assistant has an assistant. For a while, I was at the single point of failure place, I was. There’s no question about it and sometimes you just got to accept that as a risk for a little while. But then we got Sarah an assistant and that really helped reduce the risk and candidly reduced the pressure on her. She could take a vacation if she needed to. If she was sick, she could take a day off. That’s hugely important.

Don't micromanage your assistant, but manage them tightly and wisely. Click To Tweet

And thirdly, because I do realistically face this exact question and challenge, I have an off-ramp process. I’ve told any assistant I’ve ever had since I started doing it the right way, if you ever feel like you need to move one, please let me be the first to know, not because I’m going to try and change your mind, but because it would mean the world to me. Instead of a two-week notice, we could have a two-month notice. You could actually be a part of us getting our next assistant in place. I tell you, having your old assistant train the new assistant, whether it’s an additional assistant, like you have a second, third, fourth assistant or whether it’s a replacement assistant because you’re replacing your primary assistant, that is one of the biggest shortcuts you will ever come across in business.

That’s great. We are out of time. If somebody wanted to work with you and get some help with hiring an assistant or even the $1000 an hour consulting, where should they go? I guess there are a couple of different websites depending on what they’re looking for, right?

Right. First of all, some really great free resources that folks can see. We ended up not talking about the Surgeon on the Room today, but there’s a great video for that. There are some great delegation tips, a tool called 360 Delegation. There’s also a PDF people can get, it’s 100 Tasks You Can Delegate. If you’re looking to stimulate your thoughts are on what you can delegate, and you can go to greatassistant.com/toolbox and you can download all that for free right there.

If you’d like to speak with someone from our team, we have discovery calls available that are no charge. If you want to use that time with one of our consultants around creating a plan, if you just want to spend 30–40 minutes to come up with a plan of what your road map could look like to getting an assistant, they’re happy to sit with you on that at no charge.

If you want to talk specifically with them about hiring our company to help you get an assistant, they can spend the full 60 minutes with you and they’ll do that at no charge. You could do that by going to greatassistant.com and then simply click to schedule a call. You’ll see that we have a couple of different folks on our team who got spots in their calendar available to talk to you. In terms of the $1000 an hour consulting, that would be something completely separate. Just email me, tim@greatassistant.com. I can tell you more about it that way.

Okay, perfect. Thank you, Tim, and thank you, listeners. Now, get off your butt and put some of this into action so that you get some of your hours that are not your highest best use off of your plate and onto an assistant. We’ll catch you on the next episode of Get Yourself Optimized. This is your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.

Important Links

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

☑ As a CEO, I should hire a great assistant who is dedicated and willing to work long-term to help me with day-to-day tasks in growing my business. 
☑ Hire an assistant that has a similar time zone, culture, and first language. This will help us stay on the same page and achieve my goals more efficiently. 
☑ Practice delegation and avoid micromanaging my staff. Bag a few delegation tips from 360 Delegation. Tim also recommends checking out a PDF called 100 Tasks You Can Delegate.
☑ Refrain from using emails as a form of communication because it is a productivity drag. Use communication tools like Slack, Convo, or WhatsApp instead.
☑ Video saves time when delegating tasks. Use apps like Loom instead of writing down instructions in a long email. 
☑ Build a hiring funnel that can help automate my hiring process. This will help me systematize the task of finding great employees.
☑ Meet with my assistant for an hour every week via Skype or in-person. Maintaining an open line of communication will help me focus on long-term goals and staying on the right path.
☑ When my business starts to grow quickly, consider hiring an assistant for my assistant.
☑ Develop a healthy, professional relationship with my assistant. Make them feel that they are valued in the company and that I care about their personal well being.
☑ Visit www.greatassistant.com for more tips on how to hire a great assistant that can help me scale my business.

About Tim Francis

Tim Francis is the Founder of Great Assistant, which helps Entrepreneurs get an effective and affordable Assistant who takes over the minutiae you hate doing so you can get back to the work you love. Tim and his team have now placed over 200 Assistants. Tim’s own Assistant, Sarah, has been with Tim for 5 years, handles 98% of his email inbox and has allowed Tim to focus on bigger opportunities such as appearing on Inc.com, Forbes.com, and appearing as a guest lecturer at NYU in New York City.

 

 

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