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About This Episode

Can you afford an executive assistant? 

 

The real question is: Can you afford not to have one? As a leader, most of us are moving a hundred miles a minute, going through the day at a blistering pace, with phone calls, meetings and important decisions every hour. 

 

Some entrepreneurs just getting started might consider having an executive assistant as an unnecessary luxury. But our guest today, Jason Pond – the CEO at Grizzly Broadband – knows that’s just not the case. He’s joining us to talk about the power of having an executive assistant, specifically how it can elevate your capacity and effectiveness as a leader, both personally and professionally.

1. Even if you’re a high-performing leader, you can’t operate your business from memory!

It’s okay to admit you aren’t perfect! You can’t do it all, and that’s why having an assistant is so valuable. You can leverage your VA to help you where you most need it. Usually, leaders start with areas like email and scheduling and then build from there.

2. Make sure your virtual assistant feels part of your overall team.

In other words, not only should they feel included, but your team should know that your assistant is an extension of you. They shouldn’t come to you about scheduling or other more simple tasks – they should be going directly to your assistant. When your assistant becomes part of your team in that way, you can do so much more from a production standpoint.

3. The virtual assistant option makes sense in today’s work climate more than ever.

The global pandemic in 2020, and the resulting work-from-home culture that developed, has made remote options even more appealing. That’s no different with having an assistant. Zoom meetings are easy, office space is expensive, and you can always get together in person when needed. Virtual assistants truly are the effective leader’s secret weapon.

Talk about what drove you to hire an assistant. Or, if you don’t have one yet, what type of factors would cause you to make that decision?
What are the most important things an assistant can do to help a leader?
What are some of the most difficult areas for you to delegate and let go? What would cause you to make the decision to delegate?

Delegation is not an easy process, but it’s worth it.

Jason Pond

It’s always important to be able to turn it off.

Jason Pond

Hiring a VA is a leap of faith that’s worth every penny because they are an extension of you.

Jason Pond

Stick it out.

Jason Pond

(01:28) Jason Pond talks about his company, Grizzly Broadband, and how it began. 

(02:46) When did Jason realize that he needed extra help – while in the process of building his business and going through an acquisition?

(05:58) What are some of the things Jason’s virtual assistant did in the beginning to ease some of his busyness?

(08:10) Jason talks about his process of letting go of some things, like email, and trusting that his assistant was handling everything.

(11:45) After a year of having a remote assistant, Jason talks about how things have changed and how it’s going. 

(13:15) “If I didn’t have a VA today, I would just be completely buried.”

(13:58) Virtual is now even more of a positive option for people because you don’t have to worry about office space. 

(14:53) One tip for leaders who aren’t sure whether they want a virtual assistant and whether they are ready to delegate. 

(17:11) Even if you’re a high-performing leader, you can’t operate your business from memory!

(17:58) Take steps to make sure your virtual assistant is part of your overall team. People should know your VA is an extension of you.

(18:25) This week’s one next step: Download this episode’s activation guide, our delegation inspiration guide, which is a list of 25 things an executive assistant can and often should do for you.

Jason Pond:

But making that jump, that leap of faith, is worth every single penny that you pay, because they are an extension of you. And that’s the nice thing about using BELAY and the professional virtual assistance is invaluable when it comes down to the amount of work that you can get done in a day and still be able to go home and enjoy time with your kids, your family.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to One Next Step, the most practical business podcast in the world. Helping you get more done, grow your business, and lead your team with confidence with tips and tools you didn’t get in business school. Here are your hosts, Tricia Sciortino and Lisa Zeeveld.

Tricia Sciortino :

Welcome to One Next Step. The practical business podcast that helps you run your business and make it stop running you. I’m Tricia.

Lisa Zeeveld:

And I’m LZ. Today, we have a special guest, one of our clients, Jason Pond, who’s the CEO of Grizzly Broadband. He’s joining us to share his business journey and how having a virtual assistant kept him from getting lost in the day-to-day minutia.

Tricia Sciortino :

I love people who are fired up about working with an assistant. When done right, an assistant can be an extension of who you are as a leader, and that’s an incredible thing. But I don’t want to share too much because we talked to Jason about all of this. So let’s get to the interview. Shall we?

Lisa Zeeveld:

Oh my goodness, Jason, I have been looking forward to this interview. I’m so excited. I’m a huge fan of yours, so let’s just get down to business. I’ve got a couple of questions for you. I want our listeners to know about you, too. Not only are you just an amazing guy, but you are also an amazing entrepreneur, so tell us a little bit about Grizzly Broadband.

Jason Pond:

Grizzly Broadband was founded two years ago, and its intention was to acquire another company. My wife and I founded Grizzly Broadband summer of 2017 and started an acquisition process, which took a little over six months. We finally acquired a company in Hamilton, Montana, in January of ’18, which came with 16 employees at the time. We’re now over 20. We’re close to 25 employees, team members and one virtual assistant.

Lisa Zeeveld:

That’s awesome. Quite a bit of growth in two years and taking six months to go through an acquisition, so that’s super impressive. I can only imagine that with the busyness of getting the organization up and running, in addition to trying to really focus on your family and be a great family guy, there had to be some sort of tension in all of that. I know that a lot of our listeners are going through the same thing. When was it that you realized that you needed extra help with all that busyness?

Jason Pond:

My wife and I actually started talking about it six months in. We came across BELAY through the EntreLeadership podcast. I would say, I think, I reached out in August of 2018 initially, actually it was September remembering, two years ago. We reached out to start the conversation and start seeing if an assistant was the right path. My wife and I knew I was very busy with our leadership team, plus I think the entire time I’ve been in the company, I’ve held another leadership position, also, through one of the other teams until we get the proper leaders in place. We’ve been through some cycles, and my wife knew there was just certain things that I was not good at, for the short of it, needed help with.

Lisa Zeeveld:

I’m glad that she was telling you that, not too many people could hear that from just anybody.

Tricia Sciortino :

Well, did you get to a place where you kind of hit critical mass or was there a turning point? It sounds like there was a season where you just decided you needed to make a decision to make a different move and do something different.

Jason Pond:

Well, I can tell you that the current season we’re in is very appreciative of having an assistant. But what was happening was we were coming up on the end of 2018 and knew that I needed some help with calendar. I needed some help with email. It was getting inundated. I was one of those guys that I don’t like more than a hundred emails in my inbox, and I know Tricia, you like even less.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Oh, I’m like a hundred is a lot. Whoa.

Tricia Sciortino :

One screen, whatever fits on one screen. Is it like 25?

Lisa Zeeveld:

25, yeah.

Jason Pond:

What would happen was I’d sit down and I would spend half a day sorting emails and dealing with stuff. I would occasionally miss calendar items. I was horrible about putting stuff on my calendar and just working off of memory. But as we get older, it seems our memories get worse.

Tricia Sciortino :

That’s never a good idea for a CEO.

Jason Pond:

That’s kind of where we decided to bring on an assistant. I actually hired an in-house assistant to start with, and that ended up being the wrong decision. It did get me a start, but when she left after just two months due to complications, we then decided that I needed a better assistant, and that’s where we reached out. We said, “Okay, let’s go to the professional level and get a BELAY virtual assistant. We signed on with BELAY and started the virtual assistant late March, early April of ’19. I’ve got the same assistant the entire time, so it’s over a year.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Wow. Wow. Well, I mean, we kind of agree with you. Not kind of, we really agree with you, that virtual assistants are the way to go, but I didn’t want to sound too biased, and I definitely don’t want this to be a sales pitch. I would love to know, what are some of the things that your virtual assistant really did for you in the beginning to kind of help ease some of that busyness and that pressure that you were feeling?

Jason Pond:

She started taking on all of my email and then all calendar scheduling, at least that was coming in by email. Some of the local scheduling, I still handle even today, and I mess it up more often than not, just to make it clear that I’m still not good at the calendar. She helps to get email organized. That was one of the big ones, was being able to go through. We’ve been through a couple iterations over the time, thanks to Tricia and I think even Lisa, maybe your Fireside Chats. One of those came out and I said, “Oh, we should switch to this.” Then my assistant, my VA, watched that Fireside Chat also, so she got the how-to-do-it. Then switching to using Google Tasks, that’s been a big thing for us.

Tricia Sciortino :

We love that little secret.

Jason Pond:

Yep.

Tricia Sciortino :

Yes, Google Tasks is great.

Jason Pond:

It’s been really good to get through there. Then she has also, one of the big things that she’s helped us with is, my interview process is fairly lengthy, not compared to some, but six to seven interview steps. I was really bad, because all of those candidates come in by email and just get filtered. I don’t pay attention to them. I have one critical step that I will, before I will even look at a candidate, they have to show some additional effort. I don’t take just a button click off of one of the hiring platforms that we post on, and that was getting missed. I was missing candidates. I was missing some of that stuff. She’s helped us get our interview process down, and really work through, and keep those candidates informed as to what’s going on, scheduling interviews. If you look at next week’s schedule where I’ve got two positions open, plus I’m running two teams right now on top of my leadership team, it’s a little insane.

Tricia Sciortino :

Yeah. I have a question. We have a lot of very overwhelmed, busy leaders like yourself. Sometimes all of us, we go through seasons of busy. We sometimes bump up against individuals who really have a hard time letting go of things like email. Where are you on the realm of that? Did you have no problem, just kind of going here’s my login and go for it? Was there any trepidation? How did you actually just step into trusting that process?

Jason Pond:

It took a little bit of time. When I say that, it probably took about six months to really feel that everything was being handled, because I was used to handling the important stuff really fast, but that meant I was always watching for new emails. I did turn email notifications off years ago. I stopped getting those to ding on my phone, at least, but I was always checking.

Tricia Sciortino :

I’m a victim of that school. I’m an email check-aholic, if that’s a thing. I’m an email check-aholic.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Is one any better than the other, because I do have notifications? Now, I don’t have the sound, but I do have the notifications. That way, I’m not constantly checking.

Jason Pond:

I was able to finally just turn it off. On the weekends, I don’t check my email, except for Sunday nights, and that’s just to catch anything that may have come in over the weekend that was pressing. The team knows if they really need something, that they need to pick up the phone and call or text me, that I’m not going to look at Slack, I’m not going to look at email over a weekend. I’m going to enjoy the time and spend it with my family. That has worked really well, getting some of those stressors taken out, knowing that people are responding. My VA is responding to some emails that are easy to respond to. She is starting to learn how to respond as me. I’m perfectly fine with that. In fact, I’ve had meetings that I’ve shown up to where I’ve had to go read the email threads to understand what I’ve actually talked about, because I didn’t know.

Lisa Zeeveld:

That’s great, yeah.

Jason Pond:

They were like, “Hey, it’s been great to talk to you on email. It’s great to meet you in person.” I said, “Yep.”

Lisa Zeeveld:

That’s when you know you’re winning.

Tricia Sciortino :

Yes, when they can step into your shoes on your behalf. That was always one of my goals with my assistant is that she could represent as if she’s me if she needs to.

Jason Pond:

Yeah.

Tricia Sciortino :

Okay. Fast forward, you’ve worked with Penny, your assistant, for a year. How are things today?

Jason Pond:

Things are great. We are able to communicate. We’re talking about increasing hours now.

Tricia Sciortino :

Yay.

Jason Pond:

We’re at early stages in the discussion. We’ve been easily hitting the 10-hour every week commitment that we’ve got right now and trying to come up with some other things. I posed the question with this whole pandemic going on right now, it has changed everything.

Tricia Sciortino :

Absolutely.

Jason Pond:

Even though we’ve had a very positive impact, because we’re a telecommunications company, everybody all of a sudden needed Internet home broadband service at their houses. Our sales went crazy, where other people are not so fortunate. With that has come a ton of extra load.

Tricia Sciortino :

Sure.

Jason Pond:

Also having a leader step down in the middle of this, we’ve lost a couple of people due to just fear, they just couldn’t do their positions anymore. That’s where having her do additional tasks and help out. She’s also done project proposals with us, put together some really good project work. I’m really good at writing out the details of the project, but I’m horrible at design work. She put together some really good graphic proposals that we’ve used in the past. Things are good today.

Jason Pond:

If I didn’t have a VA today, I would be just completely buried. I’m running two teams right now, because I’m trying to fill leader positions, plus my leadership team and still maintaining a home life where I’ve got to trade off, because my wife and I both work in the same company. She’s got to come to work half a day, and I’ve got to come to work the other half of the day so one of us can be at home, because we have kids at home that can’t go to school or are doing virtual schooling. All of our schools are still shut down.

Tricia Sciortino :

Yeah. Well, I guess that’s also a great benefit about the whole virtual assistant option, is that similar to you in telecommunications, is that virtual is now even more of a positive option for people, because you don’t have to worry about office space and can I get into an office? We’ve found that people making that switch or us being able to provide virtual services has really helped people who also need to go virtual.

Jason Pond:

We’ve been using virtual for even long before we hired a VA. I had a virtual… I’ve got a fiberoptic network designer that is in another town, and he works from home most of the time. He comes up and is boots on the ground one week a month, but he lives four and a half hours away, so he does everything. We’ve been using Zoom a lot prior to that. For us to be able to use the virtual assistant made sense, and it was easy to integrate. Most of my team knows if they need to get on my calendar, that they just get ahold of my VA.

Tricia Sciortino :

Awesome. If you could give one piece of encouragement or one tip to somebody out there who’s kind of on the fence, they’re not really sure if they should delegate, if they can delegate, what would you say to a leader who’s out there who’s got too much on their plate? Is there any encouragement or advice you would give to those leaders?

Jason Pond:

No matter how you look at it, it’s going to be hard. It’s not an easy process to go through, but it’s worth it every step of the way. You’ll run into times where you’re thinking that it’s not worth it. You’ll have that 30 days in, six weeks in, two months in. You’re getting that bill and you’re going, “Is this actually worth it?” Stick it out. Put the effort in, ask the questions to your VA. How can you help me? What else can you do? But making that jump, that leap of faith, is worth every single penny that you pay, because they are an extension of you. That’s the nice thing about using BELAY and these professional virtual assistants is that extension of you is invaluable when it comes down to the amount of work that you can get done in a day and still be able to go home and enjoy time with your kids, your family, or just your hobbies, whatever your fun is.

Tricia Sciortino :

Imagine you fit in a hobby, yeah, wow. That’s impressive.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Especially with as busy as you are, Jason. Do you actually have hobbies. I’m not sure.

Jason Pond:

I do, actually, yes.

Lisa Zeeveld:

That’s awesome. That’s good. That’s good. Oh gosh. Well, Jason, it has been a pleasure talking to you today. I am cheering you guys on. We are proud to support you and Grizzly Broadband. We are grateful for you spending some time today talking a little bit about how you use an assistant, how it’s provided relief and giving some tips to our listeners. We hope you have a blessed, amazing day.

Jason Pond:

Thank you. Thank you for the interview.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Thank you, Jason.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Wow, what a powerful conversation with a leader who clearly understands how to have a successful remote team. I loved having him here and learning more about his business and how he leads. No doubt our listeners felt the same. Hey T, all right, what’s your takeaway from this interview?

Tricia Sciortino :

Yeah, I actually really appreciated how he acknowledged that even as a high performing leader, he can’t operate his business from memory. And he realized that it was okay to find an assistant to help him. We cannot do it all. And he really has figured out how to leverage his virtual assistant to help him where he needed it, especially his email and his calendar at the beginning.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Yeah, I love that too. Such a great reminder that we don’t have to do it all on our own. It is okay to ask for help. Now that Jason has help he needs from his VA, he has the freedom to focus on other areas of his business.

Tricia Sciortino :

Absolutely. What was your takeaway from the conversation?

Lisa Zeeveld:

Well, I thought it was all wonderful, but I could say that well, my main takeaway was how he took steps to make sure his virtual assistant is part of his global team. He made sure that his team knows that they need him or need to get on his calendar, that they have to go to her, don’t go to him.

Tricia Sciortino :

The gatekeeper. That’s right.

Lisa Zeeveld:

He’s going to mess it up. He’s going to mess it up. And that’s huge when you have major assistant, a true extension of who you are as a leader, you can do so, so much more.

Lisa Zeeveld:

All right, guys. Well, you know what time it is. It is time for the one next step. Since we talked about how Jason works with his assistant, we want to give you a quick reference sheet of common tasks busy leaders delegate to their assistants. It’s 25 things you can delegate to an assistant today.

Tricia Sciortino :

It is a great resource, guys. To download it now, visit onenextsteppodcast.com for this great resource. Thank you for joining us today. We will see you next week for another episode of The One Next Step.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Start by making today count.

Speaker 2:

Thanks for listening to One Next Step. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or follow us on Spotify. Then, join us next time for more practical business tips and tools to help you get more done, grow your business and lead your team with confidence. For more episodes, show notes and helpful resources, visit onenextsteppodcast.com.

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