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Tips for supporting a high-profile executive

Debbie Grimshaw is Executive Assistant to Phil Jones, Managing Director at technology company Brother UK. She is an active member of the Manchester PA Network and was runner up in 2014’s PA Contributor of the Year for National PA Day. Here, she gives her top tips for supporting a high-profile executive.

“There hasn’t been a more exciting, yet busy, time to be a PA/EA. The role has changed significantly over the last 10 years and continues to change, reflecting the more wide-ranging scope of duties as the right-hand person to the organisation’s leader.

“As a result, the need to stay very organised, connected and efficient is key. Modern leaders use different tools and are more mobile, meaning you have to adapt new methods of working and use the right platforms, tech and hacks to stay on top of things. Here’s some of my tips for running the busy executive office of a high-profile person.

“1 Evernote shared folders allow us to collaborate in one electronic workbook and sync up across multiple devices. This is essential when organising last-minute events, when things can change very quickly.

“2 Colour code appointments in the diary. Given the large amount of time Phil spends outside the office, his diary is constantly moving and very fluid. Coding the calender gives an immediate reference point as to his movements and need for travel arrangements.

“3 Use a web-conferencing application. The ability to hold a quick face-to-face conversation when reviewing something important is key. Modern technology now allows this on iPhones and iPads on the move. We can fire up an on-line conversation instantly, meaning we can be really flexible.

“4 Keeping an eye on his Twitter feed is key to ensuring that I’m up to speed with the external messaging, people he meets, or places he goes so that any actions can be highlighted quickly.

“5 Plan ahead. When we sit down each Monday we look up to six months in advance on forward travel to optimise the best deals. This saves us a lot of money in the long term and allows us to secure the best offers with our agents.

“6 Go digital. As Phil is on the move a lot, I digitise information for him to pick up on the move using scanners to scan into Evernote or straight to his e-mail.

“In addition to looking after a busy person, we also have a bustling organisation and my role means I work with a number of teams on a daily basis. We want to work as smartly as we can and use a lot of our own technology to run efficiently. My secret weapon is my label printer, which is used for pushing high volumes of address labels – particularly handy at Christmas when cards go out to everyone in the company.”