Know The Real Business Players

Jim Luff
Posted on October 4, 2012
Whether you are working with a Fortune 500 company or a mid-size local company, executive assistants are the front line contacts for the accounts.

Whether you are working with a Fortune 500 company or a mid-size local company, executive assistants are the front line contacts for the accounts.

Landing a corporate account with a Fortune 500 company such as Chevron might be done through a competitive bid process, a presentation to executives or simply a call to your company for service.

But at some point, each method will involve the ultimate gatekeeper, someone with a title to be respected: Executive assistant.

Keeping a corporate account requires a solid relationship with those who place the orders and are responsible for the job being completed without incident. Whether you are working with a Fortune 500 company or a mid-size local company, executive assistants are the front line contacts for the accounts. If you make them unhappy, they will see to it that you are replaced. Don’t underestimate their power merely because they have the word “assistant” in their titles. Executive” counts for much more.

Building relationships
Servicing a major Fortune 500 company such as Chevron requires a relationship instead of simply taking orders. You must understand the needs of the company and have “open and flowing communication,” says Tina Teissere, executive administrative assistant to Bruce Johnson, a vice president of the company, ranked number three on the Forbes list. Teissere is responsible for arranging Johnson’s travels around the globe conducting business for Chevron.

Whether you are working with a Fortune 500 company or a mid-size local company, executive assistants are the front line contacts for the accounts.

Whether you are working with a Fortune 500 company or a mid-size local company, executive assistants are the front line contacts for the accounts.

Teissere believes that periodic face-to-face lunches or meetings are important to keep issues or problems from escalating. Circumstances that have arisen can be addressed and corrected or procedures changed. Teissere says she places value in the long-term relationships because of the ability to “fill in missing pieces” that might have been overlooked. For example, the relationship shared with my company, The Limousine Scene in Bakersfield, Calif., allows her to quickly forward airline confirmations by email without further communication for the ground transportation portion.

The only question remaining is whether the pickup location will be at the office or Johnson’s home, and she can simply say “home” or “office” in a quick response, since the addresses of both are on record. Despite Chevron’s vast size, business still comes down to individual people, and Chevron strives to develop working relationships with small to medium companies by creating personal relationships with service providers.

Weight on their shoulders
Stacie Martinez is an administrative assistant for Oxy tasked with handling travel arrangements for her unit (department). When booking travel arrangements, she makes sure that everything goes as planned and that confirmations are double and triple checked. Martinez said that having a personal relationship with a supplier makes her confident that she will not be let down and that someone she considers a “friend” from repetitive contact will have her back and make sure nothing goes wrong. When something does go wrong during travel, her job is to fix it immediately. A service failure could spell the end of the relationship. Yet in a solid working relationship, two-way dialogue is usually available to explain failures and try to correct the situation.

What they like
Contrary to what you might think, sending gifts to assistants is not always a good idea. Some companies prohibit employees from accepting gifts that might be considered bribes for business. Although you might want to send flowers, ask before committing a violation. On the other hand, to offer a complimentary limousine to an assistant on her birthday could be a nice expression if allowed, and it also gives the assistant an opportunity to evaluate your service from a business standpoint and experience the quality of service you provide her boss. What they really like is to make their jobs as simple as possible.

If the client wants Starbuck’s coffee in the car, don’t offer to meet her somewhere to pick it up. Offer to pick it up. If they need a recommendation on a restaurant, don’t just recommend but offer to make the reservation for them.

Always remember: Taking a little extra step on your part is perceived as a big stride on theirs.

A World Of Assistants

Assistants, no matter what other word might be a part of that title, play a valuable role in the business world. There are various types of assistants, such as executive, administrative or personal. Their job is to take care of hundreds of little details that make the life of an executive go smoothly. They are the worker bees of the business hive. You may receive an order one day from a P.A. and have no idea what they are referring to. This guide will define some common titles for people that order transportation.

Personal Assistant
Works at the convenience of an individual, handling personal arrangements, such as errand runs; appointments such as for hair-styling; recreational scheduling such as for golf rounds. The position is considered personal in nature, as it accommodates the non-professional needs and desires of the individual served.

Executive (Administrative) Assistant
Serve high-level executives. They usually possess a college degree and are tasked with high level oversight of the daily affairs of the executive they serve. Their voice, when spoken on behalf of the boss, reflects the tone, will and direction of the boss. An EA is the gatekeeper to an executive, primarily tasked with keeping his or her life flowing to allow for maximum productivity.

Office Assistant
Provides support in the office by making copies, filing, typing and answering phones. They may be used for errand running in some firms, and also may be given specific short term projects.

Marketing Assistant
Works in the marketing department of a company. Their job generally includes handling and arranging production schedules and coordinating contact with outside vendors for the assistant marketing manager, the marketing manager, or director. The marketing department might include work with TV, video, or other media productions.

Production Assistant
These assistants work in the film or television industry handling various aspects of production. They are often referred to as PAs and might be assigned to manage a particular segment of a show. For instance, a guest on a talk show might be managed by a PA for transportation to and from the airports and for the taping of the show, as well as hotel accommodations. PAs make sure guests are on the set at the proper times.

Virtual Assistant
There are two types of virtual assistants in our modern technology filled world: The first are true virtual assistants, such as “Siri” on an iPhone. Hopefully, you won’t have to take reservations from Siri in the future. The second type is a person that works from home as an assistant to many people that hire him/her to answer their phones and handle administrative business from a remote location. Small offices sometimes use virtual assistants to make travel arrangements.

Administrative Assistant
Takes care of administrative duties such as filing and typing, which is now mostly computer-related; answering phones; making appointments and arranging travel itineraries for an individual, or perhaps many individuals on a team or in a department. The position was once called a “secretary,” which is now considered patronizing and “old-school.”

Related Topics: business travel, corporate business, corporate travel, marketing to corporate travelers, VIP service

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Adir katzin

     | about 7 years ago

    Wow, really well written and informative. Bravo! this article has given me so much to go on and sets a high bar for industry best practices. You're Awesome Jim

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