Q & A with Jan Jones: Part 6
Jan Jones is the author of “The CEO’s Secret Weapon How Great Leaders and Their Assistants Maximize Productivity and Effectiveness”. The book debuted at #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in the Office Management Category. It has received widespread acclaim from executives and executive assistants worldwide. Jan spent 20 years as an esteemed international executive assistant to well-known business people, including personal development icon and author Tony Robbins. Jan is passionate about the executive assistant role and continues to champion the profession through speaking, mentoring and offering timeless, practical advice that is relevant to the day-to-day role of the executive assistant.
Want more from Jan Jones? Check out her Q & A Series: Part 1–Part 5!
How Did Your Experience as an EA Influence Your Career Growth Opportunities?
FlyPrivate: For 20 years you were an Executive Assistant for several high profile business professionals. You then started your own business. Is it an easy transition for EAs to start their own business?
Jan Jones: I wish I could tell you I had a plan and I could lay out the steps for everyone to follow, but that’s not how it happened. My final role as an executive assistant was working for Tony Robbins, the world-famous personal development icon. I actually didn’t have any plans to quit that job and start a business, but the opportunity to start a business came my way and I took it. When people found out I had left Tony, they started calling and asking me to work for them. I had some extremely lucrative offers but they would have required me to relocate, so I turned them down. Before long I was introduced to author Michael Gerber, the small business guru, and I was privileged to serve as his exclusive representative for 10 years. So it was a natural progression that I found myself evolving into a speakers bureau which sends business experts and celebrities to speak at events around the world.
Starting a business was something I fell into, much like my career as an executive assistant. It was not my ambition to be an assistant when I was thinking about a career. It evolved over time and I’m glad it did because the EA role has enabled me to earn a living in many parts of the world, as well as giving me a breadth of experience and access to high places that few other professions can provide. I urge EAs to truly grasp the extraordinary opportunities this profession can offer for long term career development.
The reason opportunities came to me is because I had a reputation for excellence – working with Robbins, working with Gerber, people who knew me in those roles sought me out. So if there is a secret I can share with EAs it is be known as someone who is at the top of their game, because then people can’t help but notice you for all the right reasons.
I’ve said it repeatedly, much of the reason I’m successful in my business is because every day I use the skills I learned as a high level executive assistant. I go to extreme lengths to produce results for my clients just as I did for my bosses. I don’t easily take no for an answer and I follow up meticulously. Things don’t get dropped or overlooked. I keep my commitments and people know they can rely on me to do what I say. I gained a reputation for all these traits when I was an assistant.
I hope I’m not giving the impression that starting and succeeding in your own business is an easy transition from EA to business owner. The going hasn’t always been easy. You need an appetite for risk. There are times when you will be flush and times when you will be skint. You need a good product, the ability to market yourself, find good projects, be a good negotiator. You must be able to cope with uncertainty and weather the highs and lows of business cycles and manage cash flow. It takes much more than being a capable administrator. Another secret for EAs is establish networks and keep up the ones you have. Don’t burn bridges. Business is about relationships. Whether you remain an EA or start a business, foster relationships, grow your connections. Get out of the virtual world and into the real world of real people. Develop your social skills and the art of conversation. Broaden your interests.
Jan Jones: Well, I am an assistant at heart and I can say categorically that the reason I’m able to function successfully in my business is due to my background as a high level EA for so many years. But I’m also a business owner so I know what a business owner needs from an assistant, and I was able to marry the two in this book. As an assistant I was fortunate to be exposed to successful entrepreneurs, learning from them, absorbing their habits, learning calculated risk-taking, learning to trust my instincts, learning that everything that related to the business was my business. I had to know the business inside and out if I was to represent my bosses seamlessly and make important decisions on their behalf. I never said ‘this is not my job’. I never said ‘no’ to my boss. That would have been unthinkable. Everything was always an opportunity to learn and showcase my boss in the best possible light.
When I started my business, I was disappointed to find many famous executives had poor quality assistants. Obviously, these executives did not know what to look for in an assistant. When they don’t know what to look for, odds are high they won’t know how to effectively utilize a top assistant either. My book evolved out of my desire to not only help executives to hire correctly and work effectively with their assistant, but also to help assistants learn what they need to do to step up their game. These skills will be there for you if you venture out on your own.
©Copyright Jan Jones, 2015 “The CEO’s Secret Weapon”
Visit Amazon to purchase Jan Jones’ new book and visit her website: The CEO’s Secret Weapon.
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