How to make the business case for an EA
Startup executives claim to experience significant value within just one week of working with their executive assistant from Viva. This is the promise we keep to all our customers, but how do you measure the impact of that value and build a solid business case?
What factors should be considered?
It is crucial to comprehend the value of your investment in hiring an EA, as it enables you to gain an understanding of how the support you receive translates into tangible returns. Whether it’s the first EA you hire or expanding your team of admin support, allocating the investment and substantiating the costs will provide more clarity regarding the impact of the support that your executives receive.
Table of contents:
- Why are startup executives hiring EAs?
- What are the investments required to hire an EA?
- What are the returns of hiring an EA?
- How to calculate the ROI of an EA
- How to increase your ROI?
Why are startup executives hiring EAs?
Simple reason: they aim to boost their productivity.
A driver of success throughout the story of humanity has been the division of labor and specialization of focus/tasks. This holds true for fast-growing startups as well. There is a reason why a COO deals with operations, and CMO deals with marketing strategies. Having each role take on specialized tasks enables them to work as a team towards a greater goal. These tasks can be further specialized.
It’s why you hire a technical product manager to lead a specific aspect of building your product instead of asking your CPO to lead it. Your CPO might be able to do it (along with a little bit of everything), but will they be the best person for the job and the most productive use of labor? Probably not.
Similarly, without admin support, the entire team is burdened with administrative tasks and distractions due to the absence of support for the leader, ultimately impacting the team’s overall performance.
Specialization enhances efficiency and productivity by minimizing context switching and optimizing the use of time. It’s not just about budget allocation but also strategic allocation of resources and abilities to ensure their optimal utilization.
Implementing a technique called ‘division of labor’ involves assigning a designated team member (an EA) to handle administrative tasks. This approach has a ripple effect throughout the company, benefiting the entire team with improved workflow prioritization and having a proactive team member orchestrating it in the background.
What are the investments required to hire an EA?
There are several investments when it comes to hiring an EA. Most people would look at the salary, but recruitment and retention come with their own costs. In times of returning to the office, companies also understand that every employee represents a cost in technology, office, and perks.
The cost of recruiting a manager ranges from $30,000 to $45,000 per hire. For a sum this high, recruiting costs shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re after cost efficiency.
When hiring an in-house executive assistant, there are several factors to consider:
= Yearly investment in the role. A conservative assumption leaves this figure at approximately $160,000/year. At Viva, it costs 50%+ less to hire the same high-caliber talent with a fixed investment of $60,000/year, with no extra costs because our team takes care of the rest.
Additionally, hiring in-house typically spans 2-3 months from the moment your team makes a decision until you find the right candidate. With Viva, we are ready to onboard an EA within 24 hours. This is possible because we pre-hire in advance of customer demand, ensuring that we have readily available staff to support you right away.
What are the returns of hiring an EA?
We’ve divided the measuring of ROI into two categories: financial and non-financial benefits.
1. Financial benefits
By reducing time spent on non-executive level tasks. Our EAs save their executives at least 2 hours a day, enabling them to have 20% more meetings with prospects on a weekly basis. Every hour that an executive saves is another hour spent on product, sales, customers, engineering, and other crucial activities that contribute to driving growth within the company.
- What does this look like? One of our customers from a Series A startup in New York City highly values their executive assistant as she holds them accountable in their priority meetings and handles emails from the team and stakeholders efficiently. Their EA “put in place my calendar from the very first week, restored my sanity, and freed mental storage”. They’re referring to the regained time and successful management of their calendar. **
By making administrative tasks less expensive. Instead of having these done through a C-suite’s or VP’s paycheck, it’s done with a budget allocated towards an EA.
- What does this look like? To measure cost savings, calculate the executive compensation package and multiply it by the percentage of time savings.
Reduced stress and burnout
EAs support executives in meeting deadlines, leading to reduced stress levels. Your EA constantly reminds you of upcoming events and deadlines in both personal and professional settings, ensuring nothing is missed. Knowing that competent support is in place gives executives peace of mind. If executives experience high levels of stress or burnout, their productivity may decline, and they may even consider quitting. Subpar performance comes with invisible but significant costs to a business. Additionally, the expense of replacing an executive is substantial.
By delegating administrative and operational tasks, leaders set themselves up for success by reducing the likelihood of burnout. Startups are increasingly addressing burnout as a major issue, with YC Combinator backing Quan, a company that utilizes AI to predict employee burnout.
Last year, Clockwise raised $45 million in a Series C round to help teams combat burnout using AI. Their technology focuses on improving calendar management and providing executives with more time for growth-oriented tasks.
Proper admin management support is crucial for maintaining productivity and preventing burnout. Alongside AI tools, executive assistants effectively reduce workload and prioritize tasks for startup executives.
- What does it look like? An EA may remind you that you cannot have dinner with clients in three weeks because it coincides with your upcoming board meeting (which you verbally agreed to) while you’ll be in NYC.
- Your EA may also remind you about your child’s upcoming birthday and assist you in ordering a special gift so you can have it on time. The cost of this benefit is measured as yet another item that the executive no longer needs to worry about forgetting — allowing their cognitive energy to be focused elsewhere (e.g., being more present at the birthday party having peace of mind because their EA has things covered).
When EAs are helping drive their executives’ productivity through their organizational skills, growth inherently happens. This growth renders an increased valuation. EAs are also great allies when planning board meetings and funding rounds.
- What does it look like? By saving at least 20% of the executive’s time, they should render an increase in productivity that leads to better metrics to showcase during their next funding round.
2. Non-financial benefits
Executives claim to feel more energetic and less tired after working with an EA from Viva because they help reduce decision fatigue.
- What does it look like? Prioritization of appointments. Your EA is able to defer meetings, turn them into emails, and prioritize them daily. Besides being time-consuming, they involve dozens of decisions that cause decision fatigue by EOD
Sick/Personal days support
Whenever executives need to take a sick day, EAs can take care of their appointments and meetings.
- What does it look like? With one simple message, “I’m sick. Can you move my meetings, please?” An EA can attend a meeting on your behalf, listen and take notes, and follow up on action items when it can’t be deferred and it’s not confidential.
Our customers feel so supported that they’ve mentioned taking a vacation without their laptop because they trust their EA to handle all communications and tasks while they’re OOO.
- What does it look like? Your EA plans to leave your calendar empty for your vacation and becomes an open communication channel for everyone who needs to reach you while you’re away. Instead of just having an OOO automated message, they take charge of your email, prioritizing urgent matters and allocating time in your calendar for your review after your return to the office. This helps you have a productive return without feeling overwhelmed.
When executives start meeting deadlines and allocated time to meet with their teams, their leadership improves because it builds trust.
- What does it look like? All of the team’s emails and messages are being addressed, making them feel heard and considered.
- Your EA can plan team engagement activities (either virtual or in-person) and keep you connected to your team through socials and anniversary/birthday/special milestone reminders.
Instead of reacting to a problem, you’ve prepared for it. Having a proactive partner helps executives solve issues quickly and in clever ways. It implies that you’re a step ahead because your EA is a step ahead.
- What does it look like? Your EA proactively seeks other options for some of your software subscriptions and finds ways to save money while still getting all the essential features.
EAs are an open channel that the team can use to reach the executive. EAs can delegate and prioritize messages to the executive in a streamlined way.
- What does it look like? You’re having back-to-back meetings all afternoon, and team members need to reach you to ask your opinion about an engineering feature. At the same time, there are 20+ more incoming messages that need your attention. Your EA is able to prioritize these messages and set them on a task list so you review them in order of priority and even delegate tasks to other executives.
Increased focus & reduced context switching
meaning more headspace for deep work. The impact is noticeable because the executive is able to complete more tasks that drive growth. Instead of just finishing three priorities, they could get through 5 by EOW because two of those priorities are handled by the EA.
- What does it look like? Instead of completing a task in 5-minute chunks, executives can take 30 minutes to be deeply focused on task completion. While in the background, an EA handles all incoming communications and needs from other teams by prioritizing, delegating, or deferring tasks.
How to calculate the ROI of an EA?
To calculate the ROI of an EA, we consider the executive’s salary, the company’s valuation, and the percentage of time savings.
Since a software startup is usually worth 5x to 7x times its revenue (a conservative figure for an uncertain 2023), we are using a time valuation multiple to indicate that an executive’s time is also similarly worth 5x to 7x times its salary. We used 6x as a middle ground for our calculation below.
CEO’s salary: $200K a year.
CEO’s valuation multiple on their time: 6x times their salary = $ 1,200,000
EA Time savings: On average, our EAs save 20% of their executive’s time. In Viva’s Enhanced plan, they can provide full-time support to 2 executives.
A Viva EA supporting two executives, each earning a salary of 200K a year, delivers an 8x ROI. For 1:1 support, the ROI is 5x. We have published a comprehensive article about finding the optimal ratio for executive support and identifying individual needs.
We have used conservative salary figures and standard percentages for time savings, although these can vary based on industry and the extent of work delegated to the EA.
While this formula is useful for cost allocation, our experience shows that non-financial benefits are highly valuable to executives working with Viva’s EAs. For instance, this example of proactiveness got us a 10/10 NPS score from one of our customers:
My EA goes through my mentions in Slack and finds whatever I need help with. She chooses the ones I need most help with and proposes solutions. She understands what my priorities are.
I was very skeptical in the beginning, even about getting an assistant, because I’ll have to explain everything, and maybe the work won’t be good. It was the opposite. She grows with the role. There is nothing that I’m missing. If there is, I’d tell her directly, or she finds out before I know.
–Executive from a Series C startup
Benefits like these are highly valuable and help startup executives gain back 2+ hours in their day and complete more projects.
In addition to this, fast-growing software companies have executive assistants on their teams. It speaks for the case of EAs and growth:
- Snowflake with a valuation at IPO of $33.2B with a team of 30+ EAs.
- Atmosphere raised $213.7M recently in a Series D round. Their team works with 3+ EAs.
- Harness raised $425M in a Series D round with a team of 8+ EAs.
- Notion raised $343.2M in a Series C round with a team of 9+ EAs (some of them from Viva).
- Starburst raised $414M in a Series D round with a team of 7+ EAs.
- Apollo.io raised $151.3M in a Series C round. Their team has 3+ EAs (some of them from Viva).
How to increase your ROI?
At Viva, we prioritize maintaining an ROI above 500% for full-time support, ensuring a minimum of 20% time savings. Our Customer Success team works diligently to make sure our customers experience a significant impact on their productivity.
- Feedback: our Customer Success team consistently seeks feedback from executives. These are turned into action items for their EAs with the objective of constantly improving their support and learning new ways to perform. At Viva, we have an urgency mindset that drives our efforts to provide value and show improvement as fast as possible.
- Aid on professional development: this keeps the EA skills up-to-date with the skills executives require from them and learning new tools or abilities specific to their industry. Think of it as an ongoing learning process, similar to an AI system gathering information at recurring intervals.
- Proactive problem-solving: our Customer Success team stays ahead of issues so that executives don’t even have to deal with them. Oftentimes, they won’t even know about them until they have been resolved. This gives them peace of mind while keeping them in the loop through effective over-communication strategies.
Book a call to learn more about Viva’s mission of 10x-ing productivity for executives in startups by providing top-quality talent within 24 hours. Our promise is to always guide you towards the most productive solutions for your company, enabling rapid growth.