Blog How can Viva EAs help startups in <24 hours? Placemakr's story

How can Viva EAs help startups in <24 hours? Placemakr's story

Nov 16, 2023

5 min read

No matter what your pain point is, when startups have an executive assistant who’s a true A-player, they can see value in as little as 24 hours. This is Placemakr’s success story, one in which a single executive assistant changed the way two executives work in less than a day.

Table of contents:

  • This is why startups should hire EAs
  • Reach inbox zero in <24 hours
  • Reduce meeting overload in less than a day
  • How can you replicate this approach for two of your executives?

This is why startups should hire EAs

The best ideas are the ones where visionaries see a gap that nobody else is aware of and are able to merge it with impeccable execution, and that is exactly what Placemakr did. They looked at hospitality from a completely different angle and as a result, came up with the best of both worlds. Instead of putting you in an impeccable, yet not really homey kind of room, they offer apartment-like spaces with the comfort and reliability of hotels. We couldn’t agree more with the way they describe themselves: their accommodation is the smarter way to stay. 

This Series C startup has properties in Columbia, Nashville, New York, and D.C., and has a team of over 250 talented individuals who are making their brand expand in all the right directions. Placemakr’s quick growth prompted them to identify the need to find an executive assistant who could move as fast as Jason Fudin, CEO, and Bao Vuong, President, do every day.

One EA for two executives with wildly different styles

As a remote-first company, it only made sense for Placemakr to find a remote executive assistant who could be wherever Jason and Bao are at any given time.

After interviewing three different candidates, Jason and Bao decided that Francesca, an executive assistant based out of Guatemala, was the perfect fit. They needed someone who could adapt to their wildly different working styles and she knew exactly how to balance Jason’s straightforward communication style and outgoing personality, with Bao’s introspective approach and desire for less frequent one-on-one check-ins. 

Jason and Bao’s needs were as different as their working styles and Francesca made it her most pressing priority to deliver value in as little time as possible. She not only succeeded at that, but she made an impact on both her executives’ working styles in only 24 hours. 

Reach inbox zero in <24 hours

Bao Vuong is not only Placemakr’s Co-Founder and President, but he is also the de facto CTO and CHRO. This means he has a full plate all day every day. Move fast and break things may be a mantra for most startup execs, but for Bao, this is even more true. When you’re wearing so many hats, there’s no time to lose.

Startups see value in their EA in 24 hours

Address your pain points first

This is where his executive assistant comes in. Francesca is helping Bao optimize his time and resources in many ways. One of them stands out from the rest: she is an expert in removing distractions, such as keeping his email from overflowing. 

When Francesca got to know Bao, he told her what his priorities were as well as his preferred way of working and communicating. Thanks to the visibility and openness her executive provided, she could immediately spot pain points and struggles that, if solved, would make Bao’s work much more effective. That’s when she decided to take his inbox from 3,000 emails to zero.

Communication is key

Reaching inbox zero may look like an unattainable goal, too big to ever conquer, but Francesca, as well as all Viva EAs, are thoroughly trained to perform this task and give their executives some peace of mind. 

By analyzing, establishing clear rules, setting up filters, and compartmentalizing Bao’s email, Francesca flew through his inbox and on her first day on the job, managed to archive all his emails in a clear, organized, and systematic way. 

Don’t let your guard down

Even though this was a one-day process, Francesca needs to constantly monitor Bao’s inbox to prevent it from overflowing again. This means she needs to make daily executive decisions: what to archive, what to flag as important, and what needs immediate attention. If you’re thinking about delegating email management to your executive assistant, you need to establish clear rules and communicate your preferences transparently, so you can go from 3,000 to zero in a day or from nearly 30,000 to zero in one week.

Reduce meeting overload in less than a day

Jason was laser-focused on closing Placemakr’s Series C funding round when Francesca got onboarded, and for that reason, it took him a little bit longer to delegate high-impact projects to Francesca. But the moment he did, it took only 24 hours for him to see that he was spending his time on the wrong side of work – and that Francesca could make things better, easier, and more efficient for him.

Trapped in back-to-back meetings

Most startup executives spend a big portion of their time attending back-to-back meetings. There’s no doubt that some of them are of high importance, but when Francesca noticed how often Jason was in meetings and how little time he had to focus on his priorities, she decided to perform a calendar audit to shine a light on how Jason was spending his time. 

After a thorough analysis, she could see that 64% of Jason’s time was spent in internal meetings, which left him with a very small amount of time to allocate to more pressing matters. When she presented the report to him, he realized that he needed to re-adjust and shift his focus from meetings to critical work. 

Decline non-critical meetings

Now, Francesca makes the executive decision when it comes to canceling non-critical internal meetings. By re-evaluating the need for Jason to attend those meetings, they came to the conclusion that the CEO was invited to most of those meetings solely for visibility purposes.

The impact of skipping most of these meetings hasn’t affected the team. In fact, Jason didn’t feel threatened by this finding, but he entered a hyper-focused state and he is a better leader because he can now spend 50% of his time focusing on priorities: from outreach to customers to growing the business and being more present on team initiatives where he is really needed. 

How to decide which meetings it’s OK to cancel?

If you’re not sure how to decide which meetings are truly important for you to attend and which ones you can skip, our advice is to make your executive assistant the judge of that by appointing them as the first filter. If it’s a meeting with multiple guests, have your EA confirm with the person running the meeting what your role will be. If you’re there merely for visibility, have your EA attend on your behalf instead, take notes, and fill you in with relevant action items.

If it’s a one-on-one meeting, ask your direct reports to create a sync doc with a detailed agenda and do a round of async review prior to each session. Get your EA to follow up with them prior to your one-on-ones and make sure their sync doc has been updated. If not, they can cancel or reschedule the meeting.

How can startups replicate this approach for two execs?

There are executives with enough on their plate to get a devoted executive assistant, but our Viva EAs are qualified to fully support two executives without diluting their capacity. This is actually a great way for members of the ELT to collaborate by leveraging each other’s ideas on how to best utilize executive support.

However, there are best practices that these leaders must follow in order to get the best out of their EA without getting in the way of their counterpart’s utilization of the shared EA. This is our advice:

  1. Communicate effectively

    1. Establish open and transparent communication among all parties involved. Make sure both executives and the EA are on the same page regarding responsibilities, expectations, and priorities.
    2. Schedule regular check-in meetings to assess progress, provide feedback, and address any concerns or challenges. This can help in refining the working arrangement over time.
  2. Prioritize and set expectations

    1. Collaboratively identify and prioritize tasks. Determine which tasks are shared and which are exclusive to each executive. Focus on tasks that align with each executive’s strength and business function
    2. Discuss and set clear expectations for response times, work hours, and availability.
  3. Establish a routine

    1. Create a routine or schedule for when each executive will work with the EA. This can help the EA manage their time efficiently and ensure each executive receives the necessary support.
  4. Be flexible

    1. Insist on the importance of flexibility. Sometimes, one executive may require more assistance during busy periods. Ensure the EA is capable of shifting their focus as needed.
  5. Reinforce the importance of privacy and confidentiality

    1. Make sure the EA understands the importance of confidentiality even when working with executives from the same company. 

Francesca’s addition to Placemakr has had a positive impact not only on her executives’ work but also on their respective teams: 

Startups see value in there EA in 24 hours

Are you struggling with something but don’t know if getting an EA is the answer? Chat with our team and they’ll point you in the right direction. At the very least, you’ll walk away with some tips that save our customers hours each week.

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