Monday, October 1, 2012

Answering Reader Mail

Aside from this blog, I also write over at under Hollywood Executive Assistant. These are the two latest questions I answered. Happy reading!

1. I work at a travel and event planning agency. We are a great resource for Executive Assistants (we have several that we work with currently) booking high level travel globally but I am having trouble reaching out to the right people. Any suggestions?

Believe it or not, while some EAs do hold tremendous power, because travel is a very expensive and uncomfortable aspect of business, many executives or companies are very specific on what is or isn't allowed and which airlines they will or won't fly. Unlike catering or gifts where the EA has a lot of decision-making power, travel is usually dictated by the powers that be. Most large companies have in house travel department or a pre-approved vendor and agency list. Smaller companies are so poor they use Expedia, Kayak, or Southwest Airlines. For event planning needs, the EA, admin assts, HR, and Facilties and Operations usually chip in and help. Large companies have depts dedicated solely to event planning and they only hire vendors for red carpet, lighting, catering, and furniture. You will have a bit more luck if you truly have a niche company with helicopter or private jet rentals since there is less competition. It's best to reach out to the EA, CEO, and the travel or vendor dept. What I can share with you is why and how I choose my vendors and which ones make a great impression.

1) Make my life easier.

Business happens at an ungodly fast and slow rate. Decisions needed to be made 2 weeks ago and I'm scrambling for an answer, a decision, approval, and the money. There is also never just 1 plan, there are at least three or five. It's hard for vendors to make exceptions and to hang in there, but when they do, I love them. It's not uncommon for you to get a deposit, then the full amount at the event or even after the event. Or maybe you go the extra step. For example, maybe if I needed car service, but my boss needs his morning coffee, you'll have the drive get the coffee at Starbucks for us first before pick up and charge us for it so my boss doesn't have to go in and wait in line. Sure, you're a travel company, but helping out in little ways makes all the difference.

2) Personalize the experience.

Realize anyone that uses your services is a connection to more business. Or anytime you are out and about a party, everyone there is a potential client. I once went to a new restaurant and got such impeccable service it was almost weird. The host greeted us by name and asked for everyone else's first names too. The GM of the place was summoned and shook hands with each individual. They took my coat and folded it neatly. They came to check on us a lot. The strange part is, I was not there for a business mtg at all, but they did that with all of their customers. And as an event planner and EA myself, I will remember that venue. It was obvious they wanted to give that "Cheers" feeling where everyone knows your name. You can offer to take out potential clients to lunch so you can give your sales pitch then or offer to come in for a mtg to their office.

3) Offer an introductory free samples or a great discount.

A lot of the times when we don't choose a vendor it's for outer lying reasons like the vendor is too far, it's not the right theme, we have too many people or too few people. Price does matter too, but for us to even consider a vendor we usually want to find someone that serves our immediate needs. We also keep a list of vendors we always want to use or consider for the right party, event, or meeting. This is why you should give free samples or a great discount and keep in touch with clients at least once a year via a personal email. For a travel and event company, perhaps you can offer the highest priced service or menu at the 2nd highest pricing level instead. Or drop off an assortment of desserts that you would serve at a party that would feed 10 people so all the decision makers could try it. This will help you get your foot in the door and be on people's minds once the right event comes along.

4) Make your company searchable.

9 times out of 10, whenever I need to take care of task, the first thing I do is Google it, look for it on Yelp, or look on LinkedIn. Then I call and email every vendor. The first who gets back to me and who is the nicest, most timely, reliable, and reasonable will be my first choice. It's very shocking when I reach out to a company and NEVER hear back, even if I try again. Other times I will get a response 2 weeks later when my event is already over. Timing is everything.

5) Don't just seek out EAs.

Travel and event planning is handled by admin assistants, dept assistants, coordinators, project managers, production assistants, producers, production coordinators, wives, estate managers, nannies, personal assistants, husbands, managers, directors, executive producers, and associate producers. At every company, there are probably a few people you could reach out to. Cast a wider net!

2. I recently saw a job posting for a large TV entertainment company seeking EA. I have never actually been an EA however, I have experience in costumer service, private aviation, etc. What is the best advice for someone looking to apply as a first timer?

1) Focus your resume on your skills/talents vs the job title/chronology. You want to highlight how similar your skill set is to what they are seeking. Whatever bullet points and items they list that you do well, lift those sentences verbatim from the job description and put them in your resume.

2) Temp while you look for a job so you can say you have executive or admin assistant experience and within entertainment. Call every single temping agency in town. Most major companies also have one on site already.

3) Ready my blog to make sure you want to work in entertainment and for an executive. There's nothing quite like it out there!

4) Try to network or search online for that job posting on other sites or thru other people. Sometimes you can figure out which company it is and tailor your cover letter and resume or find the HR or hiring manager's email address online.

5) Be prepared to take tests. Sometimes companies will give you tests on Word, Excel, Grammar, Listening, Logic, etc. There are about 10 different types of tests out there.

6) The largest obstacle you will face is the catch 22. You need experience to get the job, but you need the job to get the experience. Aim for entry level work where you only need 1-3 years of experience.

7) Get on LinkedIn and make sure you have an online presence that is professional. It will help you brand and sell yourself better and network!

As always, I usually tweet any new posts I have. And anyone can email me questions and I respond only via this blog, not to your personal address. It usually takes me 3-4 days to answer.

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