CEO Series

We Ask M'sian Entrepreneurs If Personal Assistants Are A Luxury Or A Necessity

  • Personal assistants can lend a helping hand, however the impression in the past was that it was a luxury more than a necessity.
  • We spoke to four Malaysian entrepreneurs to get their take on having personal assistants. 

Becoming an entrepreneur requires hard work and a heavy time commitment.

While many companies follow a standard 9-to-5, 40-hour work week, entrepreneurs can find themselves working at odd times of the day, and often even weekends. While they might enjoy the hustle, it can take a toll on their personal lives as they have to sacrifice family time and personal relationships to concentrate on their business.

One coping strategy some entrepreneurs have used to lighten their workload is by hiring personal assistants to help them with most of the administrative work and personal matters.

However, hiring a personal assistant can cost quite a bit and some might think it’s not worth the investment and it’s unnecessary to hire one, especially if you’re just a startup—you’d think only CEOs of big companies have personal assistants.

Thus, we set out and talked to four Malaysian entrepreneurs to find out if they themselves think personal assistants are a luxury or a necessity.

Jessie Chong, Founder of Boozeat and Co-Founder Of Headspace

Jessie is no stranger to the startup scene; she has founded several businesses like Boozeat, an alcohol online store that delivers booze right to your doorstep and Headspace, a co-sharing space located in the heart of Subang Jaya.

At first, Jessie thought that having a personal assistant was more of a luxury status and ego booster rather than a necessity, until she decided to hire one herself.

In just one month of having one, Jessie shared that her personal assistant has helped her in many ways.

“She keeps all my timelines, projects, businesses, partners, team members, and a long list of working fellows, in check,” she explained.

“She frees up a lot of time that I never thought I wasted on for non-business matters.”

Her take on whether a personal assistant is needed or not is that it’s a much needed addition to any startup entrepreneur or CEO’s life and it’s not a luxury per se.

“If you hire the right one, they can do a lot more for your working life and a bit for your personal life; puts everything in order for you, reduces your anxiety attacks and increases your quality of sleep,” Jessie explained.

Adrian Sim, COO of EndlessFantasy

Adrian runs EndlessFantasy, a translation company that has over 80 novels and 150 chapters published daily.

Adrian recently hired a personal assistant to help with the business and her current jobscope now is compiling all the comments that are negative and sending them over to the respective leaders and following up on the progress of it.

“In my case it’s quite necessary as the amount of time freed up is quite worth it for me,” said Adrian.

He added that it’s sort of an investment as in the beginning when the personal assistant starts, you can’t expect them to pick up everything, but as time passes, he or she will pick up more things and it will be worth it in the end.

As for advice for entrepreneurs on when is a good time to hire a personal assistant, he explained that when you find yourself spending too much time on administrative tasks, you should start considering one.

Julie Ting, Founder of FLEX Learning Resources

Julie is an entrepreneur and although she doesn’t have a personal assistant, she believes that it’s necessary to have one so that they can help with everyday tasks.

As Julie’s developing several businesses that are expanding fast, she plans to hire 2 personal assistants in the future to be her right-hand man and left-hand man.

“For business matters, I need personal assistants to help me with preparing proposals, following up with different stakeholders such as writing emails or replying on WhatsApp, checking payments, doing some data entry or participant registration etc, so that I can focus on developing the training content and business development for other companies, since I’m into B2C and B2B.”

She further mentioned that a personal assistant is essential when a business is expanding or diversifying, especially if the entrepreneur is a woman who has her own children and husband to take care of—having a personal assistant will be a huge relief.

To get things done, Julie follows the 80/20 rule: Leave the 80% of tasks for the personal assistant to do, while the entrepreneur focuses on the remaining 20% that generates 80% of the business revenue.

“Doing everything by myself is physically tiring and mentally exhausting, I prefer to conserve my energy on what generates revenue,” said Julie.

Rizal Kamal, Founder & CEO of LOL Events

As the CEO of LOL Events, a company that specialises in making people laugh through their comedy shows that have been attended by over 200,000 people, Rizal doesn’t have a personal assistant as he sees it as more of a luxury now.

*Editor’s Note: The previous sentence has been amended with updated figures.

Although Rizal has considered getting a personal assistant for a while, he mentioned, “I don’t have a personal assistant or an executive assistant per se as at this point of my company, I just assign everything to all my staff.”

His company is currently a dozen strong so as for now he still thinks it’s a luxury. He delegates most of his responsibilities to the team and has the head of divisions to report to him.

Technology has also helped him with his daily tasks as he uses Google Calendar to manage his schedule and makes his own calls.

“Maybe if my company brings in RM20 million a year or more, I would consider,” he said.

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After hearing what the entrepreneurs that we interviewed had to say, it’s clear that to the ones we spoke to, hiring a personal assistant isn’t really a luxury—they see it as a necessity to get more control again over their time.

However, it also depends on what stage your startup is at as there seems to be less reason to hire personal assistants when you’ve just started. It’ll be more worth it to hire a personal assistant when you’re expanding or diversifying your business.

Also one shouldn’t hire a personal assistant just for the sake of it. Look at the workload that you have to deal with and weigh out the cost.

Just like what Adrian said, if you realise that you’re spending too much time doing administrative tasks that someone else can do, it’s time to hire extra help so that you can really focus on the business.

When it comes to those entrepreneurs that have personal assistants, it seems like they now have more time on hand to focus more on the business and their personal relationships.

As Jessie said, “Your work life is in much better order, your relationships, family, personal life will have an equal amount of your attention and you will then truly enjoy life.”

  • Read our previous piece where we talked to Malaysian founders about whether employees who screw up on social media should be fired here.

VP Asks is a series where we gather professional and public opinions on topics that matter.

Feature Image Credit L-R: Adrian Sim, Rizal Kamal, Jessie Chong, Julie Ting

 

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