Hiring an Assistant: Three Female Entrepreneurs, Three Sets of Needs
When a female entrepreneur is ready to hire help, delegating to an assistant may seem more cost-effective and less complicated than hiring an entire team. While working with a team yields great results for most entrepreneurs who choose to do so, an assistant can provide an extra set of hands immediately and a link to a team in the future. An assistant can handle some of the daily tasks the entrepreneur doesn't have time for, such as listening to voicemail messages, checking e-mail or running errands. Also, an assistant can help an entrepreneur stay on schedule and can act as a sounding board. In the future, an assistant can act as a liaison between an entrepreneur and her team.
A recent study from Jane Out of the Box, an authority on female entrepreneurs, reveals there are five distinct types of women in business. Based on professional market research of more than 3,500 women in business, this study shows that each type of business owner has a unique approach to running a business and therefore each one has a unique combination of needs. This article outlines three of the five types and provides tips for each one to consider when hiring an assistant.
Merry Jane business owners typically are building a part-time or "flexible time" business that gives her a creative outlet (whether she's an ad agency consultant or she makes beautiful artwork) that she can manage within specific constraints around her schedule. She may have a day-job, or need to be fully present for family or other pursuits. She realizes she could make more money by working longer hours, but she's happy with the tradeoff she has made because her business gives her tremendous freedom to work how and when she wants, around her other commitments. About 19 percent of women business owners fit into this category.
Because a Merry Jane business owner has many responsibilities in addition to running her business, she might consider selecting an assistant who has the confidence to work independently, and the knowledge to make the right decisions for the company and to handle the business details so Merry Jane can exercise her creativity. Merry Jane enjoys a smooth-running life, so a detail-oriented assistant who can keep the different aspects of the company in order will prove helpful as well.
Merry Jane-run businesses often do not generate enough work to justify hiring a team, but as the entrepreneur's circumstances change and she evolves into a different type of business owner, the business may grow, too, requiring more sets of hands.
Professional skills and experience Merry Jane should look for: customer service, financial knowledge, marketing knowledge.
Personality traits Merry Jane should look for: confidence, detail-oriented, decision-making capabilities, flexibility.
Tenacity Jane is an entrepreneur with an undeniable passion for her business, and one who tends to be struggling with cash flow. As a result, she's working longer hours, and making less money than she'd like. Nevertheless, Tenacity Jane is bound and determined to make her business a success. At 31% of women in business, Tenacity Janes are the largest group of female entrepreneurs.
A high percentage of Tenacity Jane-run businesses are young - less than four years old. In many cases, a Tenacity Jane business owner has knowledge in her craft or skill, but not in running a business. Also, Tenacity Jane business owners tend to lack focus; while their boundless passion results in many wonderful ideas, their businesses cannot support all those ideas at once. Keeping both of these issues in mind, a Tenacity Jane business owner would do well to hire an assistant with experience in business particulars (whether it's marketing, budgeting or planning), and with the ability to help Tenacity Jane hone her passion into a particular area until the business grows enough to sustain another bold vision.
Professional skills and experience Tenacity Jane might look for: business planning knowledge, marketing knowledge, planning skills.
Personality traits Tenacity Jane should look for: focus, confidence, reality-based thinking.
Accidental Jane is a successful, confident business owner who never actually set out to start a business. Instead, she may have decided to start a business due to frustration with her job or a layoff and then she decided to use her business and personal contacts to strike out on her own. Or, she may have started making something that served her own unmet needs and found other customers with the same need, giving birth to a business. Although Accidental Jane may sometimes struggle with prioritizing what she needs to do next in her business, she enjoys what she does and is making good money. About 18% of all women business owners fit the Accidental Jane profile.
Because Accidental Jane so enjoys her freedom, she (like Merry Jane) might want to look for an assistant who feels confident enough to make decisions on his or her own, and who doesn't necessarily require traditional employment in an office. Also, Accidental Jane should hire an assistant with whom she enjoys working, even if the relationship is entirely virtual or by phone, because she deeply values all of her working relationships. Accidental Jane's assistant must be customer-friendly because Accidental Jane business owners value their working relationships and because their companies typically thrive on repeat business and referrals.
In the future, if Accidental Jane chose to hire a team, her assistant must be capable of managing that team so that Accidental Jane could maintain her time freedom.
Professional skills Accidental Jane should look for: great customer service, the ability to work independently, excellent communication skills via e-mail or phone, managerial skills.
Personality traits Accidental Jane should look for: confidence, loyalty, a self-starter.
In many cases, hiring an assistant can provide a female entrepreneur with innumerable benefits, especially when the business owner takes the time to carefully select an assistant with the business skills and the personality to fit her needs precisely.