Julie Perrine is the Founder and CEO of All Things Admin
Can we start with a little background information? Where are you from and what is your current role?
I was born and raised in the Midwest on a farm in Iowa. I am the oldest of four girls in my family. I attended college in Texas and lived in Pasadena, California for about three years after my husband, Todd, and I got married. We’ve been in Iowa now for more than 19 years. In 2005, I left corporate America and launched my virtual assistant business. In 2009, I founded All Things Admin, and I serve as the founder and CEO of the company today.
What is your work background?
My first jobs were on the farm – driving tractors, baling hay and babysitting my sisters. During college, I worked at the front desk of a campground booking reservations, checking campers in and out, selling merchandise and other customer service details. I loved that job!
After college, I worked for a national craft and fabric store chain as their craft department coordinator, and then as a receptionist for the corporate headquarters of a company based in Pasadena, California. I refer to myself as an “accidental admin” because this was not the profession I chose at first. I didn’t even know what a career was. But over time, it became a profession I love. I advanced up through about every possible job title an admin can have before landing in the executive suite as the executive assistant to the president of a national telecommunications company.
Executive Assistant was the most prestigious position I’d held up to that point, and I was working for the best boss I’d ever had, but the work environment was toxic. The company was going through a bankruptcy. There were issues with workplace bullying. The day-to-day work environment was awful. Then my executive decided to retire.
In January 2005, I left the corporate world and launched my virtual assistant business. I’ve been a business owner ever since. As I helped my clients launch and grow their businesses, they needed more permanent, onsite assistance. So I helped train their new team members and get the right procedures in place for a smooth transition. I also helped many clients develop training programs and become published authors. All of these experiences, combined with the discovery that I loved to train admins, led me to launch All Things Admin in the summer of 2009.
You are best known as the The Procedures Pro. Where did your interest in this aspect of the role come from?
I’ve held a lot of different admin positions throughout my career. And only one had a procedures manual before I arrived. So, whenever I was being trained, I took careful notes and converted them into procedures and checklists. Then I could refer to them when needed or give them to someone else if I was going to be out of the office. To me, it just made good business sense, and it made me look like an organized genius anytime someone saw or used my procedures binder. I liked that! I never left a position without leaving an administrative procedures binder for the next person — even if I wasn’t going to train them.
When I became a virtual assistant, and started helping business owners establish their companies, procedures became even more vital. They helped ensure that everyone on the team was doing things consistently, and providing the same levels of service.
I was supporting a lot of startup companies that sometimes had issues with cash flow. My goal was to make them as self-sufficient as possible in the event they couldn’t continue to use my services for any reason. Procedures were not a replacement for my services. Instead, they were assets that kept my clients’ and their customers’ best interests at heart.
When I launched All Things Admin, administrative procedures was one of the main topics that drove traffic to the website. My team and I heeded the call and developed a full line of procedures templates, e-books, tools and training to support admins globally on this effort.
Do you have Assistants, and if so, do they use your procedures?
Yes, I have an assistant and a virtual team that use procedures. In fact, this summer, we even have an intern who has joined our team for a few weeks. She’s actually recording the details of what we’re teaching her so she’s creating new procedures as we go.
If you’ve heard me train on procedures, you know one of my mantras is: A handwritten procedure is still a documented procedure. It doesn’t have to be perfectly typed to qualify as a procedure; it just has to be readable enough for someone else to accomplish the task. When you have time, you can always type them up or make them look nice. One of our summer projects at All Things Admin is to make our procedures beautiful, so our intern will be helping us catch up on that, too.
Your website www.allthingsadmin.com is a mine of information and templates for assistants. How did you come to launch this business?
As I helped my clients become published authors and online trainers in their areas of expertise, I realized that I could do the same with my administrative knowledge. Throughout my career, I had numerous executives and colleagues tell me that some of my systems and templates were the best they’d ever seen. A lot of times we assume others know what we know or do things the way we do them, but that’s not the case. When you can identify the gaps, and what you’re doing differently that has a positive impact, there’s an opportunity to share that with others and help them do it better, too. Identifying the gaps, and creating tools, e-books, training and resources to fill them is what inspired a lot of what is on our website today.
I’m always encouraging admins to explore the career boosting benefits of blogging partly because it was a catalyst for the creation of All Things Admin. I set up my first blog and talked about topics I knew challenged admins. I used it to share my knowledge in tiny tidbits on a weekly basis. This helped me develop an audience, build a database of subscribers, and eventually launch an entire business dedicated to admins. You never know what impact a blog post may have on someone who needs the tip or resource you just shared. The more you give, the more you receive. Blogging has been proof of that for me.
What are the main changes you have seen in the time you have been in business?
Technology – more specifically, staying on top of it – definitely tops the list.
Social media specifically has exploded since I got into this business almost 10 years ago. One of the primary reasons I engaged with social media early on was because my clients didn’t want to figure it out themselves. But they needed to understand it in order to grow their businesses. So I learned as much as I could, as fast as I could, and started managing my clients’ social media presences. I’ve watched social media evolve from a novelty to a chaotic mess to a strategic focus for most companies. It continues to evolve, and people are gaining a clearer sense of how to use it for specific needs.
HTML skills are another one. They used to be something only the IT department or web developers needed. Now, I believe every professional can benefit from learning some basic HTML and web development skills – especially given all of the tools that require a basic understanding of HTML.
This year has been an extraordinarily difficult one for you and your family. What have you learned?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m the oldest of four girls. Two of my sisters got pregnant within weeks of one another and were both due to have babies last fall. These were the first grandchildren for my parents and the first children for any of my sisters. My youngest sister had a record-setting labor and delivery with complications that left us all with very raw and frazzled nerves. But ultimately we felt massively blessed that both my sister and her sweet baby girl, Ellyana, came through it alive and healthy. Ten weeks later, my other sister went into labor five weeks early, and the outcome was tragic. By a complete miracle, my sister survived the delivery, but her newborn baby girl, Emma, died within an hour of being born. In between those two births, my grandfather died. My husband and I were traveling internationally when it happened, so we were unable to get home in time for his funeral. Then, in January, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The past 10 months have been some of the most difficult and challenging of my entire life.
But I have learned and am continuing to learn some incredible things from these experiences. I’m learning how to grieve – a process that’s unique for every person. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. You just have to find your own way. Grieving is an ongoing journey that doesn’t necessarily have a firm end point, and that’s okay.
I’m also learning to stop comparing situations or circumstances. When it’s your battle, it’s the worst thing in your life. But you absolutely can’t add a value or rating scale to what makes your situation better than or worse than someone else’s situation. Comparing minimizes others’ situations and their personal battles and that is not wise or helpful for anyone.
I’ve been reminded that everyone is fighting personal battles. We may never know from what we see outwardly, but they are there. I’m much more willing to cut people some slack when they cut me off in traffic or behave rudely. It may have been all they could do to get out of bed and face the day ahead.
I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it, and accept help when it’s offered. I had a colleague offer to provide for a major need I had the week my niece died, and I accepted. It allowed me to drop everything and leave to go be with my family. It was something I may never be able to repay, and that’s okay, too.
I’ve realized that there is purpose in every single thing that happens to you in this life. Learn as much as you can from each and every one because you never know who you will be able to help later from what you learned in those moments – the good ones and the bad.
What inspires and motivates you?
Journaling. It’s one of the most inspiring and motivational activities I engage in. I have lots of ways and methods of doing it. But all of them collectively provide an outlet for capturing, developing, and researching ideas, and turning them into something I can implement or take action on. When I don’t journal, I always regret it later.
I also love to read, travel and take pictures. You can learn anything by reading. You can experience so many amazing things by traveling. And you can capture moments that bring you back to a specific place in time or inspire you in countless ways with photography. The combination of all of these things keeps me inspired and motivated.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
Starting my own virtual assistant business as a solo entrepreneur in 2005, and watching it evolve into a global training company has been the best part…so far. But I feel like I’m still just getting started. The entrepreneurial journey has been one of the most educational and stimulating career moves I could’ve made. I’m so glad I found the courage to take the leap!
What are the main challenges facing the industry at the moment?
Based on my own experience, and the feedback we receive from our subscribers, the biggest challenges are: doing more with less, staying on top of the constantly changing technology, getting the training necessary to handle increasing responsibilities, work/life balance, organization, and time management. Everyone is trying to make the most of the time they have, but they are overloaded with projects, multiple executives, exploding technology, an overflowing inbox, and a personal life they’d like to go home to at night. This makes it imperative that we become power users of the tools available, and continually work to develop the habits that keep us organized, efficient and on the ball. It’s the only way to succeed in this information age.
What advice would you give someone just starting out as an assistant?
Learn as much as you can about business. You don’t need an MBA. You can read a lot of great books, attend conferences, watch webinars, follow industry leaders and read their articles on social media. But it’s vital that assistants know how all of the departments within a company connect, interact and work to make the business money. The more you understand about how a business runs at every level, the more value you will add to the executives and teams you support.
I also recommend becoming a power user of the tech tools you use daily, specifically your email program, Microsoft Office programs and your project management tools.
Finally, develop your professional network and keep nurturing it. You never know when you’re going to need to it for support on a project, job opportunity, or just a sounding board.
So what’s next for Julie Perrine? Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Well, since you asked… retired in Tuscany doing nothing but writing books. Maybe that’s more like the 10-year plan… but a girl can dream.
The writing part is a reality now, though. I officially started on my second book, which has inspired ideas for additional books. So, I’m planning to do a lot more writing in the next few years. We will also be expanding our product line of career tools and resources for admins, as well as our training programs: the AdminPro Training Series and the AdminTech Crash Course.
Five years is a long time given the speed at which business moves today. Trends and market needs change quickly and our goal is to stay in tune with those needs so we can adjust to fill them. Whether that means we focus more on procedures, technology or something else entirely remains to be seen. Whatever it is, we’ll be right here continuing to connect administrative professionals worldwide to the training, mentoring and resources they need to be successful in the 21st century office.