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Industry Commentary

Top Producers Use Assistants

Analyze need, duties before hiring

February 20, 2007


photo of Dave Hershman

One of the most important rules of synergy marketing is to determine which tools are more effective than others -- including assistants. You may have the best marketing plan in the world, but if you are spending your day stuffing envelopes and do not have the time to speak to customers as a result, you are unlikely to achieve your goals.

How can you tell if you need an assistant? If too much of your time is spent on tasks not directly related to the development of new business, you are a candidate for considering an assistant.

For example, if you have been meaning to keep in touch with previous customers and cannot, this is a major indication of need. Try making a list of your most important priorities. How much time are you spending addressing these priorities as opposed to keeping your head above water?

On the other hand, the need for an assistant may show up in other areas of your business.

Has a marketing or technology project you have been meaning to undertake for years -- but never get around to it? Perhaps you need to automate your office or build your database. Or perhaps you are looking to break into a new market.

If you have a goal to grow your business but never seem to find the time to implement the activities to reach this goal, you may very well need an assistant.

You can understand that the most successful businesses put systems and people in place to assure the achievement of goals. It is no secret as to why top producers have assistants -- not because their production requires such, but because they think like successful business people. Many times the assistant is hired before the production comes.

Does having an assistant make you a manager? If you work for a large company, your assistant may not even report directly to you. While this may seem like a drawback, it is likely that the company has systems in place that will help support an assistant.

On the other hand, if you are a self-employed real estate or insurance agent, your assistant may be your direct employee or an independent contractor who works with you. In either type of situation, it is imperative to develop a recruitment plan and job description for your assistant before you take the initiative to hire one. If you don't know what they are going to be required to accomplish, it will be much harder to find the right one. And much more difficult to implement your long-term plans.

Do you have to hire someone to have an assistant? The answer is no. You may hire an individual or you might subcontract with a company to accomplish certain tasks.

For example, instead of stuffing envelopes you might hire a mail house to accomplish this task. Instead of delivering flyers to offices, you might hire a flyer-delivery firm. Or, you might contract with a company to automate your office and then maintain these systems. As an example, this company may be responsible for setting up and maintaining your contact management systems.

The important thing to determine is what tasks and functions can be best accomplished by someone other than you and the most economical and effective way to accomplish these activities from the standpoint conserving your most precious resources of time, energy and money. If hiring and supervising an assistant utilizes more resources than the additional benefits they are adding, then the exercise will not help.

How do you determine your goals with regard to your assistant?

First we should return to the aforementioned priority list. Where are you falling short? What areas can be most effectively improved upon.

For example, if you are worried about paying for an assistant, there may be "low-hanging" fruit out there for the taking. Unfortunately you are too busy to pick this fruit. Your assistant should be required to go do some "picking" or should free up your time to reach these opportunities. If you are successful, then your income should rise to help you accommodate the extra expense.

On the other hand, don't get the impression that an assistant is always about more marketing. Sometimes the assistant is there to help you decrease your stress levels and/or to give you quality time with your family. The important thing is to determine your goals.

How to go about hiring an assistant?

First, determine what the assistant is going to be doing. This should be determined by a close look at your priorities as well as a look in the mirror.

For example, in the accomplishment of your job, what do you like to do and what don't you like to do? What are you good at accomplishing and what is not your "cup of tea"? You should be hiring to complement your skill-set instead of duplicating it. For example, if technology is a foreign word to you, then your assistant should have a strong technology background. If you don't like handling customer service calls, then your assistant should be good over the phone.

It is the determination of this necessary set of skills that will help you become more adept at hiring the right match. All too often we hire someone who is familiar but not a great match, even if they are a great "worker."

Not that you don't want to find a great worker and someone who is reliable.

The mirror exercise will also help you develop the list of responsibilities for the assistant. When you are recruiting, this list will not only help you find the right person, it will help that person determine whether the job is right for them. All too often we hire people and then they are disappointed with the position. This puts us into a cycle turnover that will assure us the position of assistant will not help us reach our long-term goals.

Where to look for an assistant?

The first place to look is right around you. Your potential assistant may be or come from the family or sphere of a previous customer, vendor, referral sources or a co-worker. It may even come from the competition.

The same exercise that is required for a great marketing plan, building and marketing your sphere is required for recruiting an assistant. Look at all personal resources and only if these are completely exhausted should you try the route of advertising.

What can you delegate to an assistant?

The exercises you went through to determine whether you need an assistant and what set of skills to go after will help you tremendously with the issue of delegation. Basically, what you may delegate will vary depending upon your needs as well as the rules of your industry. Licensing regulations may limit the activities of assistants.

Beyond the legalities, it is a good idea to determine what actions yield the greatest benefits in terms of the achievement of your long-term goals. In other words, what can the assistant undertake to free your time for more productive or even pleasurable activities?

As we discussed earlier, the assistant may also help you within areas in which you are not proficient or just do not prefer to undertake.

Whatever you decide to delegate, you must spend the time making sure the assistant knows what is expected (put it in writing) and is trained sufficiently to accomplish the task. When these two requirements are met, you should completely delegate and not stand over their shoulders and "micro-manage" their every move. Make sure delegation is accomplished completely and effectively.

How can I use synergy? There are many ways of integrating synergy into your plans for an assistant. The company or person you hire has a sphere of influence -- can you exploit such to increase your own sphere? How can you set up the compensation schedule to reflect this goal? Perhaps you are a loan officer agent and you work closely with an accountant. Can you share mailing lists and the expenses necessary to subcontract the work? This may not only lower your costs, but also make you more aware of opportunities to add synergy to your present activities.

In fact, finding an assistant from within your sphere may actually solidify and strengthen an existing referral relationship. Synergy rule number one states "every action should have another objective." Opening your eyes wider to opportunities in this manner will help you assess additional ways in which an assistant can contribute to your long-term success.

Dave Hershman is a mortgage industry author and speaker -- with 8 books and hundreds of articles to his credit. He also heads OriginationPro.com Mortgage School.
[email protected].

click here for more articles by Dave Hershman

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