Quick Tip—Staying Neutral

September 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

deviantart.comDid you ever think about all the personalities we have to deal with in a day? Everyone has an agenda, even if it’s only to get you to respond to him or her. But when it gets dicey is when you have to placate a client/boss even when you don’t agree with their thinking. What do you do?

First of all, as personal/executive assistants they don’t pay us for our opinion and, depending on the boss, it’s dangerous to give one. Its human nature to want to be heard, confirmed and not wanting to hear anything to the contrary.

My best advise (and one that has served me for 25+ years) is don’t agree, don’t disagree, but be tactful and diplomatic when someone voices their opinion and wanting you to confirm them, say “I see how you could feel that way” or “I totally understand what you’re saying.” That way I’m not lying, I’m validating them, and my truth is I do see based on their personality why they feel the way they do.

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The Art of Moving

February 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

Any Extreme Assistant with the-art-of-movingany experience has moved a household. It should be ranked in the 10 most stressful experiences because is not for the faint of heart. But it can be made easy…yes I said easy…with detailed organization.

Simple steps can help you be clear with expectations and the final results. Here’s how I start:

  • Know what is going, staying, being donated or sold.
  • Photograph each item as such (going, staying, donate, sell) and if possible, move all sold or donated items out of the house before the move.
  • Walk the new property and know what the principal calls each room. This is very important for your move.
  • Before packing, make sure items are tagged to those rooms.
  • Make sure no box leaves until it is marked for the appropriate rooms. (You have no idea how much easier this makes the move-in process.)
  • Upon move-in make sure each box goes into the appropriate room before anything gets unpacked. Before the movers leave make sure they finish the job correctly so you’re not lugging boxes around. (You’d be surprised how many boxes are still left in the wrong rooms.)

Now, there are even more detailed ways of doing this, depending how Type A your principal is. For example, I have photographed each cabinet (before packing) and had each box contain that cabinet ONLY. I printed the photos out so on move-in, those unpacking knew exactly what stayed together. You use more boxes but it guaranteed that items went back exactly as they were before.

What was your best move? Let me know about it. And leave me comments and questions that I will be happy to answer. Until then–

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Countdown To The Holidays-How to Minimize Stress Series

December 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

December—It’s all about the delivery (and last minute gifts)
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Countdown To The Holidays-How to Minimize Stress Series

November 16, 2014 § 1 Comment

November—It’s all about the gifts

Last month we spoke about the importance of your lists and getting answers so this month you can move forward and implement those decisions.

Hermes Corporate Gifts

Hermes Corporate Gifts

This month it is all about the gifts—purchasing, wrapping and planning how to get your gifts to the recipients.

Do yourself a favor and first read my blog about how to choose gifts and which type of gifts to give (Better To Give Then to Receive—Gift Buying Tips http://wp.me/p1SRiE-1J) so you get information I didn’t rehash here but it’s just as important to your holiday attack plan:

First—Decide what to get each recipient

If you’re buying for your employer’s gift list you have some options: 1) Bring in a corporate gift buyer or personal shopper. They will make an appointment and presentation. A store like Tiffany’s has a Corporate Gift Department or any sales assistant in most Beverly Hills boutiques (insert your high-end shopping district here) or department stores would be happy to do this for their store; 2) Ask your employer to specify what to get people on their list; 3) At the very least, get an approximate budget and ask them to give you an idea of what that person likes (Favorite colors? Favorite authors? Do they like to cook or entertain? Approximate age? Wine person? Hobbies? Anything feedback will be helpful to you.)

Next—

Hit the computer and the streets. Shop with the intention of having all gifts before Thanksgiving, which allows time for returns and before your shopping mobility is severely hampered by the masses. Get in the stores early. Wear comfortable shoes. Map out your route and pay for parking with security so your packages are safe. Get your shipments early. You’re okay too if you get it done by Dec. 1 but it takes serious prioritizing of what gifts go out first. Sign up for Amazon Prime. It’s worth the money.

Tip 1) Don’t get caught up in the store shopping for your gifts. Take a photo and keep moving. Stay focused on your mission. I’d always overspend in stores I couldn’t afford and usually could find the item cheaper online later.

I hate the mallWhat else to plan for in advance?

Gift boxes—You need containers for every gift you buy. The only exception is a bulky child’s toy (i.e. bicycle), which can get over-wrapped in a red holiday bag. Pay for gift-wrapping whenever possible or go to somewhere like Box City and buy white gift boxes (not brown) to wrap. Higher end stores wrap for free, include a gift receipt or label and will indicate whom your gift is for with a post-it on your wrapped gift so you can attach a gift tag later. Always ask for boxes when you buy gifts. You can order gift boxes at www.uline.com and you can return what is not damaged. You can also drop off all of your gifts somewhere like Paper Source in Beverly Hills but prepare to pay a premium.

Shipping boxes—If you are not hand-delivering your gifts, then you will need shipping boxes but these you may not have to buy. A little planning ahead makes the difference. Remember last month’s master gift list that indicates who is getting their gift hand-delivered vs. shipped? Here is where that column is handy. First determine how you are shipping to each recipient and the size of the box you need based on the gifts you bought. Shopping online? Often you can re-use the Amazon box the gift came in – just take ALL old shipping and bar code labels off first. Can you use a flat rate box from USPS? Just purchase and you can cram them full for the cost of the box (not the weight like other shippers). If you’re shipping Priority with USPS, those boxes are free. Fed Ex and UPS have free boxes too for certain types of shipping. Make sure you open your shipper accounts, do your labels online so your packages are trackable. Online accounts save your contacts for next year. Then call for pick up!

http://www.fedex.com/be/shippingguide/packaging.html

https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail-flat.htm

http://www.ups.com/content/us/en/resources/ship/packaging/forms.html?srch_pos=2&srch_phr=free+boxes&WT.svl=SRCH

Tip 1) If you ship Fed Ex ground within your state most recipients will get their boxes the next day (if you ship before Dec. 1). Don’t pay for next day shipping before then.

Tip 2) After Dec. 22nd even if you pay for next day delivery it won’t arrive then, no matter what they promise and you pay for.

Tip 3) I have found Fed Ex to be much more reliable than any other shipper out there and you can reach live customer service operators.

(More on shipping in next month’s blog.)

Green options—Another option for gift boxes is putting a gift in a re-usable container like a lidded basket or holiday tin. Then you only have to tie a beautiful ribbon and tag around the container. Gift bags with drawstrings can be nice as well. Quality wine bags with ribbon are simple, elegant and a quick go-to gift. An envelope with a bow can contain a gift card with minimal packaging.

http://www.papermart.com

Your Wrapping Tools—Ribbon, gift wrap, gift tags, packing material, tape and scissors are necessary tools. If you are not good at wrapping, hire someone who is. (Hint: Bubbly wrap or loosely wrapped packages are considered badly done.) Give them a workspace and their own tools. Don’t by less materials hoping to save money. There’s nothing worst than not having everything you need and having to run out to finish a shipment. Just use it next year or share your excess. My favorite resources are:

www.papermart.com

www.papersource.com

www.kelleypaper.com

Tip 1) Forget the pop-up hand tape contraption-when you’re wrapping quantity it just gets in the way. Use a tape dispenser that is weighted so you can grab and cut tape with one hand.

Tip 2) Real two-sided satin ribbon is so much easier to work with, so much prettier and cheap when you buy in bulk.

Tip 3) Only buy ribbon in two sizes, 1” (for smaller packages) and 3” (for bigger packages).

Tip 4) Buying plain red, gold or silver paper with green, blue and red ribbon has you covered for Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. Don’t bother with patterned papers (considered tacky for adult gifts).

Tip 5) Tie on Tags vs. Stickers—Stickers are tacky and your employer’s high-end friends know this. Tie on tags are best and yes, a real pain too!

Tip 6) Remember to use the word “Holiday” vs. “Christmas” on tags and cards to be respectful of everyone’s traditions.

Tip 7) Keep track of the gifts you’ve bought and keep them secure. I always had a designated closet or office that locked at holiday time. The cleaning crew or others were not allowed in. Otherwise, things have a habit of growing legs and walking off. And for some reason, no one will fess up to seeing an iPod prancing out of the door.

Tip 8) Keep your receipts in one place. Even if it is a Ziploc, keep all holiday receipts together. People will come to you and want to return/exchange their gift, (especially if you’re buying from the boss and they don’t want him/her to know.) Give it to them but keep a copy of the receipt for your employer’s tax accountant with the recipient’s name on it and mark business or personal. You don’t want them thinking you bought yourself a new iPod!

Tip 9) Buy Red, Silver & Gold Sharpies for the holidays. They come in very handy for tags and gift envelopes.

Looking Ahead at December—

Shipping off your gifts—plan to do this no later than the second week in December. Prioritize all perishable gifts to go first since people leave to visit relatives a week before the holidays and offices close.

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My related blogs—

Better To Give Then to Receive—Gift Buying Tips

http://wp.me/p1SRiE-1J

Last Minute Giving on a Beer Budget

http://wp.me/p1SRiE-33

Countdown To The Holidays-How to Minimize Stress Series

November 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

October—It’s all about the lists

This month it is all about the lists and getting answers you need to make the Holidays happen. The foundation of any good Holiday season is an accurate list. I’ve listed what has helped me for 25+ years, things you may want to consider to have your lists rocking and rolling. And yes, you don’t need one more thing to do, but if your lists are clear it’s a lot easier to get extra help and delegate what needs to be done.

Gift Master Database-Assistants Holy Grail

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 4.50.25 PM

What comprises the list categories? The key is to make this a quick reference for years to come. Your list should contain:

  • First and last names
  • Category for relationship (vendor, family, staff)
  • Gift decision (or card only) this year/last year
  • Who is buying the gift (you or your boss)?
  • Gift card message
  • Shipping or hand-delivery?

Remember, you need these answers for every gift you give.

Who’s on the list?

  • Family/Significant Others– (This year–did someone have a baby, get married, die or divorce?) Make all changes before giving the list to your employer
  • Work Related Folks—Make sure you have a crew list or project lists of those who your boss worked with this year and ask, “Who do you want to add from that list?”
  • House Staff—Housekeeper, Butler, Nanny, Driver, Chef, etc, etc…
  • Vendors (home and office) make sure to give your boss a list of those who regularly service their home and office—mail person, water delivery, gardeners, handyman, pond, pool man, newspaper guy, etc. These are people that are not staff, but are outside vendors who service the house/office regularly. Will they get a gift card? A check? A greeting card? What amount? Does your boss lunch at regular restaurants? Does the Maître ‘D get a holiday tip? Your go-to Starbucks employee? You might get a little crazy here but a comprehensive list is best and your boss can always delete them. Hopefully, they will appreciate you bringing people to their attention since this is the time of the year the real ballers show their gratitude for the special service they’ve been getting all year, and want to continue to get.
  • Offices—Don’t forget the office personnel where your boss frequents: Doctors, lawyers, PR firms, accountants, and the assistants you deal with regularly? A group gift sends a message that is appreciated all year long.

Greeting Card Master Database

It is usually safe to assume if they are on your boss’ gift list, they will want to send them a card. My clients usually have two card lists—1) Business holiday card and, 2) Personal holiday card. Make sure you are clear on which one for each person on their list.

But wait, there’s more!

  • Make sure the addresses are correct and current
  • How formal does your boss go? Mr. & Mrs. or just first and last names? (If first names, find out significant other’s proper names now).
  • Determine: card design; greeting sentiment; hand-signing or printing?
  • Who is printing the card? What is their turnaround time? (Card should go out the 1st week of December.)
  • Is it a photo card? Make the appt. for the photos shoot now.
  • Buy the stamps and laser labels and possibly get the envelopes early from the printer so you can start addressing them. Make sure you’re clear on the return address you’re using on the envelopes-home or office?
  • And if you’re using Paperless Post or similar online service, get those emails now.

And stay tuned for November’s blog next week—It’s all about the gifts!

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Quick and Easy Tips to Organize Yourself

October 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

The single most important trait of any good assistant are good organizational skills. ThinkstockHaving systems and following through with them alleviates your mind and remedies needless anxiety. Let’s face it, you have enough to worry about.

When you are moving every minute of every day, responsible for hundreds of details, managing others and making sure your boss is not encountering any hiccups, do you really want to stress over remembering where you put that phone number on that slip of paper? How many of you have woken up in the middle of the night sucking in all the air in the room because you just remembered something you forgot to do?

Here’s are my personal Top 5, Cannot Live Without, tips to stay organized:

Tip #1: Write down everything. Use the same book and keep it with you ALWAYS. This way there is no doubt where your notes are. I recommend a book that fits into your laptop bag or purse.

Tip #2: Make yourself an end-of-the-day plan for the next day. Make this list while your priorities are fresh in your head because I guarantee you, there will be new “surprise” items to deal with in the morning. This will keep you from forgetting those holdover items.

 Tip #3: Before quitting time, transfer your daily notes into your appropriate systems. Phone numbers written down hastily in shorthand that only you can read should be put into your contacts or onto call sheets with their full name; to do’s should be put on the list for tomorrow; and tasks that were completed should be crossed off.

 Tip #4: A status email should be sent to your employer at the end of the day. This should include calls they still need to make or return, appointments for the next day, vendors who may be working at their home the following day, papers to be signed; and anything else important you were not able to communicate to them during the day. This list is a big help to you as well. Note—Never assume it got read by your employer, but you can read it to them in the morning and it’s a great CYA move.

Tip #5: Keep a “hot” folder that has all the paperwork you need to deal with immediately. Even if items carry over to the next day or week, you know where to put your hands on those that are most urgent.

While the brain is an assistant’s most valuable asset, give it some much-needed help! Trust in your processes so that when you cannot remember, you know where to look.

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Have You Been Replaced by a Twenty-Year-Old?

May 19, 2014 § 1 Comment

whatsnextI am finding more and more people my age, who have been assistants for years, wondering “now what?” “Is that all there is?” “I can’t work for someone 1/2 my age,” and even worst, “but I can’t afford to retire.”  This is a common and very real situation. But like most of us, unless you trained to be a doctor or lawyer or entrepreneur, there is an expiration date for your career. The newer Hollywood types are hiring the younger assistants who they can better relate. You would think they would want experience over youth, but I have found that is not so. I repeat, as the needs of older people are winding down, most new employers are younger and want someone who they can relate to. And frankly, if you’ve been an assistant for five-plus years and are a quick learner, you have what it takes to navigate the needs of celebrities or a younger employer because they don’t know what they’re missing.

When I talk to my fellow assistants, many of us wished we had put aside more savings or taken advantage of other opportunities that came our way. The real problem for Americans is that when retirement comes knocking, we can’t afford to retire. If you worked for individuals instead of corporations, you may not even have a 401K or pension plan (pension what?).

So my advice is no matter how young you are, set up your own retirement plan by cultivating talents you have now that you can make a business out of later. Start doing the business (on the side) and while you have a safety net. Here are some thoughts: Do you create amazing parties; find cute and unique party favors? Do you handle gift buying and have sales people in all the top stores as resources? Do you have a list of the top vendors in your city to use? Do you edit or write for your employer? Do you organize your employer? How are you at booking travel and setting up unique experiences for your employer? Light bulb alert! Any of those things could be a business.

The playing field is more level than ever before for new business owners due to the receptivity of online businesses. No longer do you need to pay rent for a brick and mortar store. Now people do everything online. So I strongly recommend that while you are employed, figure out what your exit strategy will be and work towards that. While the people we support are wealthy, we are not. Get a plan in place and make that a priority—remember to do something for you.

Do you have an idea to transform into a business? Please share it by leaving a comment.

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