Ep 066

Why an Executive Assistant is the #1 Overlooked Role in Finance

With

Brooke Martin

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Inside This Episode

Today, I’m chatting with Brooke Martin – an incredible human being and very talented Executive Assistant who has worked with me for the past 3 years. While Brooke manages my calendar with exceptional skill, her impact goes way beyond scheduling. Brooke allows me to excel not just in my business, but also as a husband, father, and in every other aspect of my life.

In fact, here’s what she said on the pod…

My goal as an EA is to make sure that Brad shows up the best that he can. I want other people to look at our time together, however long it is, and say Brad was a better husband, he was a better father, he was a better founder, and teammate, because Brooke was his EA. I want him to be the hero to his family and the company. That’s really my heart, that’s my goal in this whole thing.

That is the type of person you want in your corner and I feel so grateful to have her in mine!

In this episode, we’re going to break down exactly what Brooke does for me, why this role is so critical to building a business, and how getting the right person for this role will completely transform how you do business and life.

Whether you’re unsure if you need an executive assistant, you’re actively looking to hire one, or you just want an inside look at how I work with Brooke and what a successful Executive Assistant does, this conversation is for you.

3 of the biggest insights from the Interview

#1 Why I believe the executive assistant is the #1 missing role in every financial services firm – but if you value your time, are seeking professional growth, and want a better quality of life, an EA should probably be your FIRST hire!

#2 What to look for when you’re hiring an executive assistant – Brooke outlines 4 key traits to identify as you interview potential candidates.

#3 How to manage your calendar and your inbox more effectively – these tips are huge time savers that will help you stop working on someone else’s to-do list and start working on your own!

KEY TAKEAWAYS: 

  • Why an Executive Assistant is critical to your business
  • What to look for in an executive assistant
  • The difference between an assistant and an EA
  • Hiring a virtual assistant vs in-person
  • Why it’s critical to set expectations
  • What an executive assistant actually does
  • Best practices for calendar and inbox management
  • Creating a culture where people stick around

THE PRIMARY GOAL FOR ANY EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT

EVERY FOUNDER NEEDS AN EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT

SET YOUR EA UP FOR SUCCESS

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE: 

PEOPLE MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE:

THIS WEEK’S FEATURED REVIEW

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MIC DROP MOMENTS WITH BROOKE MARTIN

  • I think as long as you’re really setting up that cadence for communication, whether that be text, Teams, email, however you prefer and you’re really staying in the communication, I think a virtual executive assistant can be a great thing for anyone.” – Brooke Martin

  • If you really want to have a culture that people are sticking around, really ask yourself, ‘How am I doing? Am I caring about people more than just what they can do for me and the company? Or am I really caring about people really on a personal level?’” – Brooke Martin

  • I want other people to kind of look at our time together, however long it is, and say, ‘Brad was a better husband. He was a better father. He was a better founder and teammate because Brooke was his EA.’” – Brooke Martin

Brad Johnson: Welcome back to another episode of Do Business Do Life. Extra, extra excited. We have our very own Brooke Martin here today. Welcome to the show, Brooke.

Brooke Martin: Thanks, Brad. I’m very excited to be here.

Brad Johnson: Well, this one was literally a request. So, we’ve had a number of internal conversations at Triad when it comes to the role of executive assistant, which is what you are on the Triad team to me, side by side in partnership. And so, we’ve had a number of our Triad members that are trying to figure out how does this role work. And then it was actually recently had a conversation with Dave Zoller, who was on the show a few episodes back, has become a friend. He’s like, “You know, Brad, you should really do an episode with Brooke. You’ve shared a lot with me that helped me on my EA journey.” And I think a lot of advisors out there would find that really valuable. So, I twisted your arm a little bit, Brooke, right, and made you get uncomfortable to share all your wisdom with everybody.

Brooke Martin: Yeah, I’m definitely excited. I think there’s a lot of value in just kind of sharing our journey and kind of the process that we went through over the last three years. So, I’m really excited to dive in and hopefully, this helps some other people.

Brad Johnson: Cool. Well, there’s one thing I know about you, Brooke. It’s like you have a servant’s heart. So, thanks for getting a little uncomfortable. I know you’re not the first one to grab a mic and hop on a stage. But this is really, this is a little bit of building in public. I know there’s podcasts out there that do this so we’ll kind of consider this one of those. There’s been a lot internally at Triad for those that have listened to this podcast where as we record this right at around three and a half years old. And so, Brooke was really, I had one other team member on my specific team when she first joined. So, she’s been here from the very, very beginning, starting out as a consultant, and then has now evolved into a full-time team member. And so, we’ll go through a bit of that journey.

But I think it’s important I’m going to set the stage, and then Brooke is going to have most of the value on this conversation but I do believe the number one missing role or hire in every financial services firm, like I said, “Hey, here’s a pretty blanket statement,” it would be the role of an EA, executive assistant, virtual assistant to what I would say is typically the founder. And I’ll share a little bit, early on, Shawn, my business partner here at Triad, we were fortunate enough that Michael Hyatt, who’s also a strategic partner at Triad and does some coaching internally for us, we were on a coaching call with him, and Shawn asked him the question. He said, “Michael, like if you were to go back,” and at this time, I think Michael’s team was over 40 team members. He said, “If you were to go back and say this was the first hire, who or what role would that be?”

And Michael didn’t even hesitate for a second. He said, “My executive assistant.” And he gave a little bit of reasoning. He said, “You know, when I look at it from the very beginning, as an entrepreneur, your most valuable asset is not actually money or capital. It is your time as a founder. And if you don’t have someone to help protect your time and your calendar and make sure you’re focusing on the most important activities inside of your business, you’re in trouble.” And so, I want to just lay the framework because this was back in like 2015 I was first exposed to this idea. And I remember somebody said, “Executive assistant,” and I was like, “What’s that even mean? What does that role do?”

And so, I think that’s where some of you may be, if you’re listening right now, that might be where you’re starting, and that’s okay. But if you really think about it, there are a few things that got in my way in the early days. And then I’m going to hand this over to Brooke and we’ll kind of share some of the journey and go back and forth. But in the early days, I think 2015, so I would have been 35 years old. I had a small team of five or six. And I was sharing some of my problems, which were calendaring. And just like you think about do business, do life, the balance of actual work and then getting where you need to be as a husband or father or mother or parent, in my case. And so, as I was kind of getting tugged on both sides, I was like, “I can’t win on either side.”

And that’s where this kind of came to is really who is the person that controls your time and make sure the most important stuff is on your calendar? And at that time, I didn’t have somebody that did that. And the other thing that got in my way is like I’m a farm kid. You know, I didn’t grow up with some business executive as a dad. And so, I never put myself in a place where I’m too good for this or this task is below me. But it was getting in my way because I had my hands in. And so, Michael’s framing of a true executive assistant is side by side. That’s like on the org chart. It’s a partnership. It’s a team. And, Michael, I love how he framed this to me. He said, “You will have all the intentions in the world of showing up to this meeting on time or to date night on time. The problem will be the execution because you’re getting eaten alive with all these tasks.”

And I’ll share a real-life story and then, Brooke, we’re going to kick it to you. But if you’ve experienced this, I’m just going to air my dirty laundry. I’m not proud of saying this but I actually had to leave my own wife’s birthday party one time to go buy her a birthday present. This has been years ago. Thank God now. But I literally showed up at the house and I had been running so hard that week, I had completely forgotten that it was her birthday party that night, and I had no birthday present. And her family was there, and I said, “Oh, I forgot I needed to go run this errand real quick.” Everybody knew why I was leaving, and that’s embarrassing. You know, when you’ve got somebody you love and that you want to prioritize and you show up and you’re dropping the ball.

And my commitment was I don’t want that stuff to happen again. I want to show up as a great husband, as a great dad. And so, we looked through a lot of really cool frameworks where you put the big rocks on first, the stuff that really matters, the family events, the birthdays, the dinners, the sports games, and then you retrofit business around that. And, Brooke, you’ve seen a lot of that. It’s evolved as we’ve gone but any just opening thoughts on that as we kick this off?

Brooke Martin: Yeah. So, I think if I was going to kind of start this conversation wouldn’t be what I feel like my goal as an EA kind of going off of what Brad just said, and then I kind of feel like it should be the goal of every EA. If my goal is to make sure that Brad shows up the best that he can as a father, as a husband, as a founder in every area of his life. And so, I want other people to kind of look at our time together, however long it is, and say, “Brad was a better husband. He was a better father. He was a better founder, teammate because Brooke was his EA.” And so, I think that’s my goal is to help him show up. And so, in all those instances that Brad is saying birthday parties, different things like that, I want him to be the hero to his family and the company.

And so, I think just kind of opening that up that’s really my heart. That’s my goal. And this whole thing was just to really help him to show up the best that he can. And really, Brad, just to partner with you and help you be the best that you can be in all areas. And so, I think just opening up, that’s the heart. Everything you just said is why I do what I do.

Brad Johnson: Well, and I joke with Brooke sometimes. Sarah and I both say this, so my wife, Sarah. I’m like, “Brooke, you make my marriage better,” because it is actually me creating the constraints on my calendar so I’m not sacrificing things that matter the most. And a lot of the time it wasn’t done purposefully. It was the whirlwind of, “Hey, the Triad members flying in. Can you do this dinner?” I’m like, “Yeah, sounds good.” And then I don’t realize that’s a birthday party that I’m supposed to be at. So, I know we talked about kind of air traffic control for my life a little bit sometimes, Brooke, but I want to hit one other thing. So, we were kind of telling the why behind it. And I’m sure many of you listening in right now, you’re like, “Oh, man, I’ve definitely been there,” where you have almost this sinking feeling in your stomach where you’re like, “Oh, I did it again.” And it wasn’t a purposeful thing. It was an overwhelm thing.

And so, but to get to why Brooke is such an incredible EA, first off, I don’t like to say she’s my EA or she’s my assistant. It goes back to one of the things that will get in your way as a founder of truly utilizing an EA the proper way is like freeing yourself up to give yourself permission to do it. And so, I never want to come across as I’m too good to run my own calendar. But the truth is, when I run my own calendar, I screw stuff up. So, if you want to fix the problem, you have to delegate and empower somebody else to own that. And they’re going to do a much better job than you, trust me. And for those of you out there because I know you’re listening, you’re like, “Oh, well, I prefer to book my own flights,” you don’t have a good EA. That’s why you prefer to do it.

When you have a great EA, they will do it ten times better because they can do it in the moment and they can be fully dedicated to it versus you cramming it between business meetings. And so, on that front, the giving permission comes down to a servant’s heart. And this is what makes Brooke so incredible at her job. She actually loves this stuff. It’s like she’s an Enneagram 2. And for those that have, if you haven’t, go back and listen to the episode with Ian Cron around Enneagram, but that’s a helper. Like, one of the things that charges up Brooke’s batteries is to serve others. And so, I think it’s really important to hire the right personality. Our Kolbes truly do complement all that. Brooke, kind of talk through that in a second.

But the biggest thing is when I know like that is a great day for Brooke is running alongside me and serving whether it’s on the business side or the life side. Now, it actually frees me up to say, “Hey,” when I get a text, “Hey, yeah, you want to book this?” “Absolutely.” I’ll make a joke, “Hey, Brooke said I can’t touch my own calendar. I’ll break it.” So, I’m going to bring her into the conversation so she can help coordinate calendars and say, “Is there anybody on your team she needs to connect with, or do you want her to just coordinate with you?” So, there is like some framing I think that’s really important so you don’t come across as an arrogant jerk. But once you get to that point, I will truly say it’s an amazing thing. And then it’s like, how much stuff can I get off my plate that I’m screwing up or I don’t have time for?”

So, Brooke, when it comes to just what I would call the psychology or let’s call it the assessment test, I know we do Kolbe and Enneagram, what sort of things would you be looking for if you’re a founding advisor out there looking for a great EA or virtual assistant?

Brooke Martin: Yeah. So, I think the thing that’s the most important is you definitely want somebody who’s trustworthy. And so, when you’re in the seat of being an executive assistant, you come across a lot of confidential information. And so, I think really making sure you have someone who is trustworthy that is going to be okay seeing that kind of information. And because that would probably be the main thing. The second thing would be attention to detail and high follow-through. And so, those kind of Kolbe assessments, as Brad mentioned, are really awesome. So, Brad is high quick start on the Kolbe. I have really high follow-through scores on the Kolbe. And so, we complement each other really well on that. So, you’re going to want to look for somebody who does have that high follow-through to do all the details behind the scenes.

As Brad mentioned, Enneagram 1, which are a lot of the organizers, planners, attention to detail, and then also the 2s, which are helpers. I have a lot of one wing as well on the Enneagram. So, kind of looking for those are really great Enneagram numbers to look for. And then the other thing Brad mentioned earlier too, is you really want to find someone who has a heart to serve, who’s servant-hearted. And because a lot of our job as EA is doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes things. And so, you really want to make sure that you have somebody who’s okay doing the things that maybe aren’t noticed. There’s a lot of things that I do that Brad doesn’t even know that I do, but I’m orchestrating all this stuff behind the scenes and Brad just shows up and he doesn’t always see all the things that I do.

And so, I think you want somebody who’s okay being maybe not in the spotlight. And that’s, as Brad said, that’s my heart to do that. And so, I think finding someone who’s going to be okay with doing that, a lot of the behind-the-scenes things and really has a heart to make somebody else, as I said earlier, the hero of the story. Again, I want to make Brad show the best that he can and help him in that. So, I think just making sure that you’re hiring somebody who has that heart and those skill sets. And then the other thing I would say is just really making sure you have someone that complements some of your weaknesses. And so, again, just looking for those assessments, whatever assessments that you’re using in the hiring process that really complement kind of maybe things that you as an executive maybe struggle with or they’re in your drudgery zones would be really helpful.

Brad Johnson: Love it. Confidentiality, I’m glad you hit that because we’ll get to this later but inbox management is one of the things. So, for those of you that aren’t just overwhelmed by calendar but overwhelmed by the amount of emails you get on the daily, which who isn’t these days? If they’re in a founder’s inbox, they’re going to see everything. They’re going to see personnel issues. They’re going to see finance stuff. They need to see finance. If they’re going to do some of the bill-keeping and accounting stuff that ideally you want them to do. And so, that was one of the big pieces of the interview with Brooke is like, hey, number one, my gauge is, is she operating at a professional enough level to be able to handle that?

And then I’m actually documenting that in the hiring process of there’s a confidentiality clause like, “Hey, don’t do this, this is grounds for termination.” And that’s good for Brooke to know that when she joins, right? Like, you don’t want to surprise somebody down the road and they want to know what they’re signing up for. So, let’s get to and I don’t know if now Brooke might be. I know we’ve done some really cool coaching with Ann Hiatt, where she almost talks about like different levels of an assistant. Executive assistant it’s like the top level side by side with the executive. But you want to walk through that? That might be a good framing for like who might be the right person for them at this stage.

Brooke Martin: Yeah. So, one thing we definitely learn from Ann Hiatt, just the difference between just an assistant and an executive-level assistant. And I think the main factor and the difference between those two is an executive assistant is really able to speak on behalf of the executive and even step in and kind of do maybe meetings or different things on their behalf. And so, an assistant can do a lot of the calendar management and things like that. But if you’re looking for an executive-level position, you’re really looking for someone that can speak for you in a lot of different instances. And that takes time. That wasn’t something that Brad and I felt comfortable doing from the get go or anything like that. It took time. And I think after three years we’re really getting to the point where I’m able to do that for Brad.

And actually, just recently, Brad was double booked in a meeting. He already had a meeting and some of the team needed him for something else. And I was able to kind of step into that meeting, speak on his behalf. There are some conversations going on and I was able to speak, “Hey, guys, like this is something that Brad and Shawn want us to push forward. We need to rally around the vision of our founders and let’s make it happen.” And so, I was able to step into that instance and really speak for what I knew Brad was going to say or would say in that instance. And so, I think just finding someone and, again, it takes time but finding someone who’s comfortable in that and speaking for you is kind of what sets an EA apart, I think.

Brad Johnson: So true. And I’m so glad you put in there it takes time. You know, when you started, you were truly hired to be in an executive assistant role. But I do believe there’s one word that it takes. It’s trust. It’s trust for the executives to hand off and say, “Hey, I’m okay with this level of information,” like if it’s inbox management and then it’s trust for the team to your point, Brooke. Like, if Brooke would have come in day one and all of a sudden like Brad’s not in the meeting and you’re like, “Here’s,” it just wouldn’t have gone over well. So, I do believe a great EA you cannot rush this process. There needs to be like a growing into it and it might be, “Hey, 75% of this could be an assistant role and then the last 25 is truly elevating to that executive level.” Any other thoughts there on the difference between what you would call an assistant versus an executive assistant before we move off that topic?

Brooke Martin: I think kind of what we already talked about, but I think the main things are just the level of I think an assistant you can definitely do a lot of the tasks, but I think the main thing that you said, the running beside the level of confidentiality and those kind of things really are the differentiator between just an assistant and someone you’re bringing into that level of leadership.

Brad Johnson: Cool. All right. So, now we’re kind of giving you all the lay of the land. So, the other thing, and this is for Shawn and I, we had some differences because Shawn has Logan on his team. That’s his executive assistant. She’s a rock star. But one of the things, Brooke was virtual and still is virtual today. So, we can talk a little bit about virtual versus in-person. My take and Shawn might answer this differently, there’s very little Brooke cannot do for me virtually. Like, even I look at some of the proactive stuff, how she shows up. She’ll see like, “Hey, Brad’s got a tight launch. It’s only a 30-minute break. He’s not going to have time to hop out and grab lunch.” She’ll say, she’ll drop me a Team’s message to say, “Hey, Chipotle is on the way.” And the cool thing is she knows how I want it ordered so she doesn’t even have to ask. And it will just show up.

And that is like one of the happiest moments, Brooke. I tell you this a lot but like when an executive assistant can get to the point of proactively like getting ahead of the problems versus reactively, that’s when you’ve really started to hit your stride and sweet spot. But the cool thing is she can do all that virtually with today’s technology, DoorDash, all of that. Brooke, what are your other thoughts on like virtual versus in-person assistants or executive assistants?

Brooke Martin: Yeah, I think it comes down to preference. So, if you’re a person that you need to literally put something on someone’s desk, then you may need an in-person but Brad does really well with communication. So, I think that’s the key. If you’re virtual, you have to be able to communicate. You have to have a good relationship in terms of communicating to make it work. And so, I think as long as you’re really setting up that cadence for communication, whether that be text, Teams, email, however you prefer and you’re really staying in the communication, I think a virtual executive assistant can be a great thing for anyone. I think the main thing is, like Brad said, there’s a lot of things that pretty much anything that Logan can do, I can also do for Brad, but it takes a little bit more thought.

And so, if I need to print something for Brad, there’s obviously technology that I can print things virtually. There’s different things. If he has a launch going on, I can’t physically hand him his lunch but I can ask someone in the team, “Hey, his lunch was just ordered. Can you please take it to Brad in this meeting?” So, I’m proactively all the time kind of thinking ahead, “Where is he at?” If I need assistance in the office, there’s enough people to kind of help me do some of those things. So, I think it can definitely be done. You just have to think ahead, as Brad saying, be proactive and kind of get a few people on in the office that can assist with things that you can’t physically take. But other than that, I think the majority of things can be done virtually.

Brad Johnson: So, one of the things you do really well, Brooke, and just as you’re listening in out there, if you’re trying to figure out, “Hey, could I do this virtually or not?” I found almost nothing that Brooke can’t do virtually. And so, to her point, just thinking how most firms work, most of you have some sort of reception, Director of First Impression, somebody kind of a man or woman at the front desk. That’s a great teammate if you end up going virtually. I know oftentimes Brooke will message Jana, who just sits right outside of my office, to say, “Hey, I just printed a couple of things. You mind grabbing those and dropping those to Brad?” or, “Hey, lunch is showing up.” So, it’s kind of the in-person handoff there and makes that work really well.

Really other than that, I can’t think of much. I would say there are two other things to think about virtual versus in-person, your office setup for meetings. We have a very virtual-friendly office because we’ve got a number of remote team members at this point. So, if you have a virtual EA or assistant, and there’s no way on their side to actually be part of meetings, that is something you’d want to think through. I think since COVID, many of you are doing meetings virtually. So, I think a lot of these problems have been fixed. And then also, I think the other thing you did really well, Brooke, was you kind of conformed to the best way that I communicated as an executive. If you would have come in and said, “Hey, I only do emails,” it would not have worked. You know this is about me now. My great communication would have been not-so-great communication.

And so, for us, what works really well the during office hours Teams or some of you are on Slack just an instant messaging file sharing which is basically up here on a separate screen during my day. So, I can basically see things popping up. If it’s important, Brooke can get pretty much instantaneous feedback, and then anything that’s an emergency. We truly do do business, do life. I try, Brooke. And I know there are times if I’m out traveling with the family or something, but I really try to protect Brooke’s outside-of-office-hours’ time just as much as she tries to protect mine. But if it was an emergency, really text has become like our, “Hey, need an answer on this,” outside of office hours or if I’m running around the office to meetings or something. Any other thoughts on just communication things or things to think about virtual versus in-person before we move on from that one?

Brooke Martin: Something that I just had a thought with what you said. I definitely, I’m obviously not on call 24/7 but I think the thing about being a great EA is I’m aware of where Brad is and where the family is, and what’s on their calendar. So, even if it’s on the weekend, I know I need to check him in for a flight and that takes me all of two minutes. So, it’s being proactive to know where he is and where the family is because I want him to be able to show up and not have to worry about details, be there, present with the family, or on the work trip, or wherever he is. And so, I think that’s really a key is, no, I don’t have to work all the time but I am fully aware of the majority of where Brad is and what he’s doing and what the family is doing. And so, I can proactively do some of these things behind the scenes even if it takes me a few minutes over the weekend or something because I want him to be able to show the best that he can.

So, I think that’s key is kind of finding someone who maybe he’s okay with because there’s going to be an occasional checking into a flight on a Saturday or something like that or their family is going out to dinner and he may get a text about a reservation. And so, just kind of thinking through someone who that may be an upfront conversation that you want to have with them. Are you okay with these every once in a while kind of things? Because I think in order to be a great EA, you have to be aware of where the executive is and where the family is.

Brad Johnson: Couldn’t agree more. And I think that’s a balance that Brooke and I have now gotten better at. And there have been times where maybe I’ve screwed that up or even Brooke, like in a way to serve probably doesn’t turn off like when she should, right, to be home with her family. And I really feel like we’ve started to get a great balance there. But prime example, we did a family trip to Disney and Brooke had a kind of heavy workload that weekend because it was kind of like checking in FastPass sort of stuff so that we were like not wait in lines all day. And like I was so grateful for that but that was also like a little bit of the sacrifice of that day. So, I think the biggest thing to think about, number one, have that conversation upfront.

These are the expectations you want. And if you hire an assistant and you’re traveling on the weekends occasionally and they’re not cool with that, then you need to make sure that they know that before you hire them because they’re not going to be around long. But the other thing I think as a founder that’s really important is in partnership, put yourself in the other person’s shoes like they have a life too. They have a family too oftentimes. And so, if you’re sitting there just pinging them every Saturday and Sunday with like whatever pops up and you’re like completely helpless, unless they signed up to work 24/7, they are not going to be around very long. And I have seen some people with EAs in our space that kind of run them off because they’re so demanding and they’re so like all over the place that it’s like herding cats.

And so, I do think there needs to be an intention upfront on your side of like this is a two-way street of behavior. And I feel like, Brooke, we’ve gotten like to a pretty cool place. Like, we kind of know, like, “Hey, sorry. This Saturday is going to be a little heavy. Are you okay?” And I know that’s been learning for both of us. Any additional thoughts there? Because I think you’ve seen it. You’ve seen some like EAs that have been run off and that’s super frustrating on both sides.

Brooke Martin: Yeah. And I think you can do something like, I know for Brad, there’s times where it helps him unplug at home if he can get things out of his mind and kind of download. And so, there are things like Slack where maybe the AI is not getting notified until they go into it until they open Slack. So, there are ways that you can download things where maybe it’s not pinging them on their phone or things like that. So, if you’re a person that needs to be able to download on a Saturday or maybe at 6:00 on the drive home there is different notification settings and things like that, the EA can set up to where there is that ability to download but it’s not urgent, something that’s urgent. So, you can definitely think through processes there. So, really accommodate both.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. And I think it’s not just an EA thing. It’s for your team. It’s for your whole team that you’re leading. So, one of the things we’ve gotten better at over here is like Teams is during business hours. That’s the expectation of answering. And so, Brooke was on vacation recently for about a week, and I made the commitment, “Hey, I’m not going to blow her up with text so she can unplug.” And you did a Disney thing with the family. I think I sent one text and then I was like, “Shoot, that should have been the Team’s message,” right? And so, I think that’s just really important is what are the communication lines at what hours and at what urgency. Other thing I want to hit is, for me, when it comes to do business, do life, Sarah is my partner in life, my wife Sarah. And honestly, like I don’t think you can just say, “Oh, she’s just at home.” Like, so much of life as an entrepreneur is business and how that bleeds over.

So, I really don’t think there’s a way to separate the two. I think it’s true integration is the answer. And so, I was having a conversation with Clayton, one of our Triad members. I think we actually covered this on our episode. And we talked about the mistake of not including your spouse early enough in this conversation. This was my second or third time hiring an EA by the time Brooke came on. And so, I knew upfront Sarah needed to be on board because I see her as an EA to Sarah as well. And so, I think for those of you out there, if this is a true integration, you need to bring your spouse into that conversation. They need to be part of that hire. And I know, Brooke, during your interview process, Sarah was a part of that. She’s like, “Okay, cool. Yeah, she seems great.”

And I know that’s been hugely helpful because when it comes to coordinating work and life, Sarah runs the family calendar at home and you’re checking with her, “Hey, how’s the family calendar look?” before you’re booking on business. And there’s almost like little checkpoints you hit before things get on my calendar. So, what thoughts do you have for those that want to make sure they’re integrating the spouse into that hiring process too?

Brooke Martin: Yeah. So, just like you said, so I have a process. So, if any of the team members come to me, maybe there’s a trip that Brad needs to go on. Maybe there’s a dinner that someone is trying to schedule. So, my first line of defense is I’m going to look at the calendar and Sarah has invited all the family things to your calendar. And so, I can see when the kids have games, I can see when you have date night, I can already see all those things. I can proactively say, “Hey team, this date is not going to work. I already know this kid has a game at this night. Can we try for this night?” So, that’s kind of my first line of defense. If it is something that’s maybe it’s urgent, it is something that’s really important to the business, I’ll go to Sarah before booking anything.

And again, if I see nothing on the calendar, I’ll still check with Sarah before I get scheduled because there may be something I’ve missed, there may be something that’s not on the calendar. So, my first step one is to check with Sarah before a trip, a dinner, anything that’s going to be during family time. So, over the weekend or at dinner, I’m going to check with Sarah first. And then I’m proactively for Sarah so there may be a night where I see two kids have sports. So, there’s two different practices. And Brad would normally help transport one of the kids at night. So, if I know Brad is on a trip, I’ll send Sarah an invite that says, “Hey, Brad is not able to help with the kids tonight,” just so she has a reminder on her calendar, “Hey, I need to get childcare. I need to get another mom to help with transportation or whatever that may be.”

So, I’m proactively trying to let her know. And Brad may have something going on. And then I’m also inviting her to calendar invites for dinners or anything like that. That way it’s on her calendar. It’s on your calendar, Brad. And there are no questions about what’s going on. And then also, Brad, you and I and Sarah, we have our text thread. So, if something comes up and I do see a conflict, I’ll kind of leave that up to you, guys. “Hey, Brad, the team is asking you to be at this. I know I see this on the calendar and kind of let you and Sarah talk about it before any decisions are made.” So, those are kind of the processes that we go through. So, making sure to check the family calendar, check with Sarah before booking, and then bringing any conflicts to you guys just to make sure that you show up where you need to for the family.

Brad Johnson: Awesome. And this is why Brooke makes marriages better, ours specifically. And I do know some of you listen to this podcast with your spouses. So, if you’re out there as a spouse, I think this is really important. If you consider, “Hey, does an EA make sense for us?” I mean, think about all the frustrations and things that happen when family calendars get messed up with work calendars. That by itself is worth an investment into a role like this in your firm. That’s where I see a lot of frustrations typically happen between spouses when it comes to this business that we’re all in. I want to hit one thing that I think is really important because it kind of goes back to that servant’s heart, Brooke, and before we get into kind of the tasks that you own.

And this was something that when I look through it from a business coaching angle, we talk about what an hour of your time is worth. And that is the one finite resource that we all have, whether it’s Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, billionaires out there, or the rest of us, we all have the same amount of hours in the day. And now the question is, how do we use them to maximize value inside of a business or value at home? And you had talked about so Jim, who’s Michael Hyatt’s EA that we’ve done a lot of cool coaching stuff with him inside of the community as well, you’d said he’d said something about an hour of your time that really hit home. So, do you want to share that just as a mindset to think through?

Brooke Martin: Yeah. So, this is something, as Brad said, that Jim Kelly taught and I thought it was really awesome to a way to think through this. So, if you say your hourly rate is maybe it could be $100, it could be $150, could be more, so whatever you feel like your hourly rate is if you think about if you’re doing your own calendar, if you’re doing your own travel, if you’re booking your own flights, all these little things, you’re essentially paying an executive assistant, you’re paying someone that much money to actually do that task. And so, a lot of times you can get someone for a lot cheaper that can actually probably do it a whole lot better than you can. And so, just thinking through, can I be doing my time focusing my time somewhere else and get someone a lot cheaper that can actually do it better than I can? So, just kind of thinking through what is the value of my time worth, and can I get someone that can actually do it better probably?

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Here’s a quick eye-opener for those of you watching or listening in. Literally, take your revenue from last year as a founder, whatever that number is, and then just divide it by 2,000. That’s 40 hours a week if you took two weeks of vacation. By the way, if you work less than that and take more vacation, then do that math. But basically, annual revenue as a company divided by hours you showed up and worked at the office, that will give you a very simple what is an hour of your time worth. We have one Triad member. Every time he’s in front of a room at a seminar for one hour, it’s $40,000 an hour. So, if you put that into context, as far as the amount of revenue that can be generated from one hour. And I heard this said one time in a coaching session. And this is no disrespect to the role. It’s if you don’t have an executive assistant, you are the executive assistant.

And so, if you think about it, if I’m a part-time calendar person, if I’m a part-time inbox person, think about how horribly you actually do that job. You don’t do it well so it’s not serving your team. It’s not serving your clients. And it’s hurting you and your growth potential because you now have, based on the example earlier, you now have a $40,000 an hour EA. That math doesn’t work when it comes to business either. And so, I think that’s one way to look at it, to give yourself permission. And the other thing that’s been just an eye-opener to me, based on my experience, there’s like less than 5% of our industry that has an executive assistant in their firm. Maybe even less than that. Now, go look at a Fortune 500 CEO and it’s almost 100% of them have an executive assistant.

So, if you’re trying to go from financial advisor to business owner to eventually CEO, basically you’re missing a key pillar in that equation. And so, I think that’s an interesting framework to start to look through. So, Brooke, now let’s go to what do you actually do. And as I think through, like when you first started with me, what was some of the most valuable tools or resources where we kind of laid the framework to allow you to do your job at the highest level on a daily basis, the one that always comes to mind for me is the executive summary because that’s to me kind of like extracting kind of some of the DNA out of me so you can do your job at the highest level. So, should we start there? Is there anywhere else we should start?

Brooke Martin: Yes. I can quickly list some of what I would say roles or tasks of an EA, and then we can kind of go into that where to get started with the executive summary. So, really quickly, I think, as Brad said, calendar management kind of coordinating between the family and the work life, inbox management, travel planning. A lot of times, an executive is going to need help with project management, to-do management. An EA is able to really step in and do like meeting notes, agendas, a lot of that prep work so that the founder can really show up for success wherever there need to be. A lot of sometimes personal assistant with maybe birthdays, holidays, different kind of things like that. And then like I would call like accounting expense reports, receipts, things like that. So, those are kind of what I would say is kind of the top five or six things.

And then if I were to say where to start with, so you’ve hired an EA, where do I start? As Brad said, what’s called the executive summary is the place that you want to start. And we actually got this from Michael Hyatt and Jim Kelly. Basically, it’s Brad’s wife on a spreadsheet. And so, this is where when you start with an EA, the EA is going to want to interview the executive and get all the information. So, this is kids, their kids’ birthdays, their spouse’s birthdays, kids’ shirt sizes, just anything you can think of for the family front. This is travel preferences. So, where do I like to sit on a plane? What are my favorite airlines? How do I take my lunch? Like, just anything you can think of that would set the EA up for success. And that’s kind of the go-to.

So, anytime I’m booking something, I’m ordering lunch, a lot of this I have in my mind after three years but when I was starting, that was really helpful because I would just go to one place and have all the information that I need on Brad, on the family, and then I was basically set up for success. And so, that’s where you would want to start. I think the second thing is you’re going to want to have some sort of password-sharing software. And so, that may be LastPass and maybe 1Password, whatever you prefer. But really setting the EA up for success to have airline accounts, maybe DoorDash accounts, hotel accounts, anything that they would need to book on your behalf. And so, you’re going to want to and have some sort of password-sharing software. I think the third thing that you’ll want to do is really sit down with the EA and communicate your ideal week.

And so, this is really helpful when you get started because you may have a certain time that you like to take lunch. You may have certain days of the week that teams that you like to do. So, maybe for Brad, he likes to do podcasts on Fridays, so I know to schedule the majority of those on Fridays. We do a lot of internal meetings on Mondays, external stuff, Tuesday, Wednesday. So, just kind of knowing what the ideal week looks like and that can evolve over time but just having a framework when you start to kind of know, “Okay. This is how I’m going to start setting up the week.” Brad likes to do the first hour of the day as kind of like a morning startup ritual. And so, we don’t schedule meetings unless we need to, the first hour of the day and the last hour of the day. So, really just kind of interviewing and getting a framework for the ideal week is really key.

And then the last two things I would say when you’re getting started is setting the EA up for success with the team, and then on the home front. And so, what I mean by with the team is you’re really going to want to set the EA up for success with the team and kind of letting them know, “Hey, guys, I may have managed my calendar beforehand but from now on, go to this person.” And any time that may take a little training with the team and that sometimes people have tried to kind of go back to Brad but Brad does a really good job of, “Hey guys, make sure to loop in Brooke,” and just really setting the EA up for success with the team like, “Hey, guys, I trust this person. They’re okay to be looped in on XYZ,” and really setting them up for success is huge like from the get-go.

And then the last thing is setting them up for success with the family. And so, if it’s, like Brad said, interviewing with the spouse or setting up a meeting to where the spouse is able to say, “Hey, these are my priorities. This is how I prefer to be communicated with. I prefer if you email me about stuff, I prefer if you text me,” and just kind of setting up that cadence of communication with the spouse and the EA, too. So, I think if I were to get started, those are kind of be my steps on training with and getting started with the EA.

Brad Johnson: Brooke, this could be a three-hour thing, so we might have to do a part two of this, but so much went through my head. On the first thing, I would say, so most great founders in our space, salespeople is how most of you kind of got into this space, which typically means you’re a high quick start. You’re a very verbal, relationship-based person. That also tends to mean you’re super low follow-through. And it kind of that’s drudgery zone for you. And so, just even when Brooke said, “Hey, let Brad do this,” and then I put the to-dos together. If you think about how this can work beautifully, like you think about, “Hey, I’ve got this thing that needs to be a meeting.” Now, I can quickly say, “Hey, Brooke, okay, here’s the four team members I think need to be on there.” And then, “Hey, can we put together a brief agenda so we now have a template so that these meetings are actually useful and action comes out of them.” And then we’ll say, “Hey, here’s the keeper of the agenda. Here’s the timekeeper to make sure we stay on time.” And then here’s the clear action items we want to make decisions on.

And so, now Brooke can actually document that in the meeting. Clear action items with clear ownership of those action items and time-bound. So, if you’re one of those firms which, by the way, we’ve been guilty of this, you get basically meeting to death with no execution. That’s a great way where Brooke’s a high follow-through. She’s just boom, boom, boom. And Enneagram 2, she’s helping, she’s serving, so it’s basically checking both boxes. The other thing that she went through, Brooke, was like that ideal calendar, the ideal week. We call it the big rocks, put the big rocks in first. The other thing Sarah and I have done is we’ll do an annual meeting. So, as you wrap up a year, preview the year in advance, okay, here’s the birthdays. Those go on the calendar, here’s the Christmases, here’s where we’re going to be at this one and that one. Here’s family vacations. Here’s Sarah’s volleyball season and she coaches volleyball. So, that’s a really busy time during our lives.

And so, we’ll start to proactively put the big rocks in the calendar in advance and then retrofit the business stuff around it. And what I’ve found many advisors fall victim to over the years, it’s the exact opposite. It’s the business becomes the big rocks and then it’s try to fit in family wherever is left. And oftentimes it’s an afterthought and it’s sacrifice. So, the, “Oh, can’t get to the kids’ game because I already have these three trips.” And so, that has been huge for us. And then so much. But let’s, oh, we need to give away. Brooke, are you cool that executive summary? I think we make that a give. We’ll just do a blank one with kind of some of those because I think that can be huge for everybody. So, we’ll make that a give to this episode. If you’re just now tuning in, it’ll be in the intro. So, go back and listen to the intro and we’ll tell you how. Our time is short here.

So, do you want to hit kind of what I would say the next level down of like here’s the stuff you own on the daily for me? So, like inbox management, calendaring, and just kind of maybe give them a quick preview and then we might have to come back for a round 2.

Brooke Martin: Yeah. So, we can definitely hit the calendar management I would say a couple of best practices there and then a couple of best practices for the inbox management. So, I would say if I were to give you maybe like kind of the top three things for a calendar, I think definitely making sure that you’re not booking things back to back. And so, we do a roll, we do 25-minute meetings and 50-minute meetings. And so, that’s really key to make sure that Brad is not being back-to-back. And sometimes things go over but I try my best to not schedule anything back-to-back and give him some buffer time. And then I think, again, going back to the ideal week, just really understanding what the themes of the week would look like. So, maybe it’s what days you like internal meetings, what days you like external meetings, and just kind of really helping to protect that time.

I know when you’re an EA, you get bombarded with so many different requests for time, but really helping to protect. I think the main goal of calendar management is to really protect the time. And to make sure that Brad is really set up for success throughout the week. And so, definitely just making sure that that’s a party. And then on calendar management, and another thing that’s really important is making sure that it’s prioritized for you and your EA to communicate during the week. And so, Brad and I have our Monday, and that’s really important to us to kind of talk through the week. We look ahead and we really have that time every single Monday morning to prep for the week. And so, I think kind of just adding that meeting cadence between you and your EA of when you’re going to meet and communicate and plan things is really, really important. So, that’s kind of my thoughts there but I can go into inbox management if you have any other thoughts.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. I think and unfortunately, we have to wrap in like 2 or 3 minutes because there is so much here that we could go into. Let’s maybe hit inbox management and calendaring. I feel like those are the two that tend to be at the top of most advisor’s lists. They just kind of eat them alive. So, maybe walk through how we went from like Brad was in his email all the time to Brooke taking that over because I feel like there was a progression there.

Brooke Martin: Yeah. So, we try to and we also got this from Jim Kelly and Michael Hyatt but we try to get it to where there’s only three to five emails that Brad needs to answer a day. And so, my goal for the inbox is to make it as easy as possible for Brad when he does have time to go into the inbox to really see the important things that he needs to answer. And so, how I do that, we have a system. We have a reply folder. So, I have a separate folder so I read every email. If there’s junk mail or things that I need to clear out but I have a reply folder to where I put any important things in there. And that way when Brad does have a few minutes to go into his inbox, he knows where to find the important things. And if it’s something that I feel like it’s urgent, I’ll Teams him, “Hey, there’s this email that needs to be responded to.”

And so, again, I’m making it as easy as possible for him to get in there. And then anything that’s maybe just something he needs to read, it’s maybe a company email or just something that he needs to be aware of, I’ll leave in his inbox and then let him read it before it’s archived. So, that’s kind of our system, again, three to five emails in the reply folder. And then I’m just helping him be aware of anything that’s coming in that’s urgent.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. And I think really our goal is if you think about it, email. I heard it said once. If all you do all day is hang out in your inbox in your email, basically, think of email as somebody else’s to-do list. So, if all I do is manage my inbox, I’m basically spending my full day on other people’s to-dos. Not that some of that stuff isn’t really important and urgent, but basically it’s going to keep me from executing on things we need to do to push things forward here at Triad. And so, really, Brooke’s goal is less than five and I’d say most days it’s less than that, emails that I personally need to reply to. And a lot of this we borrowed from Michael Hyatt and Jim Kelly. She will say, “Hey, Brooke jumping in here on Brad’s behalf. He’s tied up for meetings the next couple of hours. So, just wanted to get back to you.”

So, typically once your team gets used to this and it will take a little bit of growing, they’re like, “Wow. Thank God Brooke’s here. I wouldn’t hear back from Brad for three days.” And so, it’s actually elevating the experience internally. Externally, Brooke can even get, she’s gotten to the point where she’ll draft what she thinks I will say. So, if it’s something that does personally need to be responded to by me, she’ll say, “Hey.” She’ll kind of, “Hey, I’ve got a couple of drafts in there.” I’ll edit it or maybe somebody goes by Robert or Bob. And so, making sure obviously it’s doing that relationship justice. But it’s been huge for me. And I will tell you, if it wasn’t for Brooke, I would look like a sloppy mess because I would just be overwhelmed and I just wouldn’t get back to emails.

And the other thing kind of comboing email with an instant messaging platform like Teams or Slack, to me, I found that to be really helpful because Brooke will just know like, “Brad might not even be able to get into his inbox until the end of the day. This is highly urgent. There’s something on fire.” She will Teams me or text me and say, “Hey, this is really important. Do we want to move this calendar or do we want to move this meeting that’s later today and escalate this one?” And so, I do think that’s been a learning curve for us. Not all meetings are created equal. Not all emails are created equal. And so, Brooke’s really as she started to understand the business a lot more, she kind of now has an intuitive sense of like, “Hey, this is high priority. Let’s make sure that this is in front of you and we’re taking action,” as opposed to waiting until the end of the day.

Anything on your journey that’s helped there, Brooke, just like actually understanding the business? You didn’t come from a world of finance. Just things that were helpful in that journey for you.

Brooke Martin: Yeah. So, I think, again, my goal is to, one, answer as much as I can for you, Brad. And if I can’t, if it’s something that the team is needing your approval on or something like that, I definitely try to get that in front of you as best as I can but my goal is to definitely answer as much as I can. And, again, that was a process of maybe feeling comfortable doing that. But I think another thing, Brad, that you do really well is you’re able to build me up to other people and say, “Hey, Brooke on my team is awesome. She’ll take care of you even better than I can.” So, a lot of that, it’s not someone getting a less than response because they’re getting a response from me. It’s you really building me up to be able to handle things for you and stuff like that. So, I think that’s really key. You do a great job about that. So, yeah.

Brad Johnson: Well, I appreciate it. I’m sure I’ve screwed it up a few times along the way too, but I do think that that’s important regardless of who the team member is, whether it’s an EA or somebody else. Elevating the trust and the expertise because the truth is Brooke would run circles around me when it comes to calendaring when it comes to inbox management. Those are not my strengths. And so, make sure there’s truth behind what you say but as long as you’re serving your team at a higher level or your clients at a higher level, that’s a great way. “Hey, Brooke’s awesome at this. Let me make sure you’re taken care of.” So, well, Brooke, our time is out. If you’re listening in, Brooke could teach a master class on this. So, you got the tip of the iceberg.

There’s a lot of technicalities behind the scenes, but if you want part two, just reply when this goes live. And we can always circle back for part two. That’s maybe getting a little bit more down in the weeds on some of the day-to-day. But, Brooke, you crushed your first podcast on DBDL, so thanks for carving out the time. This was fun.

Brooke Martin: Appreciate it. I had a lot of fun.

Brad Johnson: Well, good. Well, let’s close how we always close. What is Brooke Martin’s definition of do business do life?

Brooke Martin: Yeah. So, I think just giving a little context of my prior life. So, when I kind of closed the last chapter of my life before I came to Triad, I was an executive assistant for four years for somebody. And that was kind of a really painful ending to that chapter of my life. You know, I kind of found out quickly that I was only valuable as much as I did for that person. And so, my last two weeks I wasn’t communicated to. There was no thank you, anything like that. And so, coming to Triad was very night and day in terms of really feeling like I was cared about in business and in life as a person. And so, my heart, my encouragement to anyone listening to this, if you really want to have a culture that people are sticking around, really ask yourself, how am I doing? Am I caring about people more than just what they can do for me and the company? Or am I really caring about people really on a personal level?

And any time as amazing as Triad is, as amazing as working for Brad is, there are days where I’m like, “This is stressful. I don’t know if I can do this,” but what keeps me coming back every single day and why I can personally say figuratively, “Brad, that I would jump in front of a bus to serve you,” is because you’ve shown up for me and all these moments over the last three years like when my brother died and when another sibling was going through a really hard time and you connected with my kids over sports cars. And so, those are the moments of actually caring about people more than just the business, but caring about them in life, too. And so, I think that’s what makes all the difference to people.

And so, that would just be an encouragement too. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but just really care about people more than just their KPIs or their growth metrics like care about them as individuals and find little ways to connect with people and their family, and really care about them. And I think that’s the goal of DBDL. It’s finding a place in a culture where you feel cared about in all areas of your life. And so, that’s just my parting thoughts.

Brad Johnson: Well, Brooke, you’re making me tear up over here. That means a lot. So, thank you for sharing that. And you and James and your kiddos, you have an incredible family, so you make that part really easy. So, well, thank you so much for sharing. And the good news is this isn’t parting ways. We end the podcast and we’re still working together, so that’s what’s kind of fun. So, thanks for planning all out, sharing everything. And I know this will add a ton of value. So, thank you so much.

Brooke Martin: Thanks for having me.

Disclosure

These conversations are intended to provide financial advisors with ideas, strategies concepts and tools that could be incorporated into the advisory practice, advisors are responsible for ensuring implementation of anything discussed is in accordance with any and all regulatory and compliance responsibilities and obligations.

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