Ancient Philosopher, Theophrastus understood time as an accident of motion that could not be stopped or reversed. He said that wasting time was the most extravagant and costly of all expenses.

Whenever I speak at events, I try to clear the day to hear as many of the other speakers as I can. It helps to keep my finger on the pulse of what is going on in the marketplace and ensures I am not contradicting something another speaker is saying. One particular speaker this week gave me an ah-ha moment but more from what he didn’t say than what he did.

He asked the audience to compose an elevator pitch. You know the drill – introduce yourself in one minute and sum up what you do in a creative and interesting way.  There were several responses from the audience. None was wrong but not one person said what I think is at the crux of the role,

‘I give my executive back time to do what they are best at!’ 

Because that is what is at the heart of it all. The business pays you to make sure that every hour of your executive’s time (and consequently the company’s money), is spent in the best way possible. You free up their time by taking on the process, and detail and research needed to ensure that they can get on with being supersonic in their roles.

And every hour saved drops directly to the bottom line. It is crucial that you understand your worth if you are going to prove your ROI (return on investment) – an exercise that is becoming increasingly important as businesses review their support functions.

The great entrepreneur, Jeff Hoffman, tells a story about an eminent heart surgeon friend of his, Carl.  Jeff went to visit him one evening and Carl was working at his desk.  He asked Carl what he was doing, to which Carl responded, ‘Doing my calendar’. Jeff was incredulous – ‘But aren’t you worth $500 an hour?’ he asked. Jeff says that if you don’t have an assistant then you are an assistant. Just think about that for one moment. In effect, Carl was paying his assistant $500 an hour.

How many things does your executive do for themselves that you could be doing for them?

How could you be saving your executive and your business time?

A company I recently did some consultancy for took all of its highest-level assistants and upskilled them by giving them full days of training with various other departments – finance, marketing, sales, research and development. The assistants could then choose to do 6 weeks in the department of their choice in order to really understand how to best support their executives. They are now able to support at the very highest strategic level and the result has been a 28% increase in productivity from the executives. Now that is quantifiable ROI.

The point is this – you can dress up what you do any way you want but what the company and your executive will want to know is what is in it for them and for the business.

Saving time is the greatest gift you can give them.


Lucy Brazier, OBE is one of the world’s leading authorities on the administrative profession. Author of ‘The Modern-Day Assistant: Build Your Influence and Boost Your Potential’, she is the CEO of Marcham Publishing, a global force synonymous with world- ... (Read More)

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