On this week’s episode of the Wealthy Woman Lawyer Podcast, we speak with Trivinia Barber, founder and CEO of Priority VA, a virtual company that helps match busy business owners, including attorneys, with highly skilled and experienced executive assistants.
“Just because you can do it all doesn’t mean you should. With companies like ours, when you can hire someone for fractional assistance, not just an assistant who’s going to be there for 40 hours a week, but be there for you at key times, you’re able to really outsource the things that you need to do, but without the burden of having to fill time for someone 40 hours a week,” says Trivinia.
We chat about her journey to creating Priority VA, the benefits of working virtually, as well as:
- Why an executive assistant is different from other VAs
- What an executive assistant can do for you and your business
- The tools Priority VA uses to help successfully match firms with the right executive assistant
- Developing the skills to work with a growing team
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Davina Frederick: Hello and welcome to the Wealthy Woman Lawyer Podcast. Our mission is to provide thought-provoking, powerful and practical information to help you in creating your own sustainable wealth-generating law firm without overwork or overwhelm so you can live your best life.
I’m your host, Davina Frederick and I’m here today with Trivinia Barber, founder and CEO of Priority VA, a virtual company that helps busy business owners find the best highly-skilled and experienced executive assistant for them. Trivinia also is the creator of The Diary Of A Doer Podcast, where she interviews business owners, thought leaders and influencers who share next steps to help her audience grow their businesses. So Trivinia I’m so glad you’re here today. Welcome.
Trivinia Barber: Davina, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Davina: Great. So tell us a little bit about your journey to creating Priority VA.
How Priority VA Was Conceived
Trivinia: Yeah, well, we have to actually take a step back one decade probably before. 17 years ago, I was working in corporate. And I used to tell my bosses all the time that I could do everything that I was doing from home. And no one ever believed me until I got pregnant and I was going to take five months of maternity leave off. And then all of a sudden, they were like Trivinia, do you remember that work from home idea that you had? And I started working from home a couple of days a week.
You know, during maternity leave, I worked. And what they found was that I could get as much if not more done, because I was working when I wanted to work, when I was at my peak performance. And so I did that for many years. And through other children and adoptions and all of those things, I started working more at home, less in the office. And that worked for a long time until they got bought out by a national company and they wanted me to come back in the office. And at that point, I was like, I’ve been doing this for years. I don’t want to come back into an office.
And so I started getting my own freelance clients. And that went great, just serving as an executive assistant working virtually for them. And then I got connected with a couple of high profile entrepreneurs. They started mentioning me on their podcast, and my phone started ringing. I’d get random Facebook messages or emails from people saying, Can you be my assistant too? And that’s when the entrepreneurial light bulb for me went off.
And I thought no, like, I don’t have any more time to give, right? But what you really want isn’t me, you want someone that you can trust. And so Priority VA was born from that. I started matching entrepreneurs with an executive assistant at that point for five hours a week. And I started to realize that if I could get someone that they could trust and help provide the training that that person needs so that they could execute at the level that I was executing, then they could get traction in their business. And Priority VA started seven and a half years ago and we’ve been matching entrepreneurs ever since.
Davina: Oh, wow, wow. That’s a wonderful story. I love that. And I think your story, a lot of women will relate to it, connect with your story because I know so many women when they become mothers, life changes and they start really questioning, you know, what it is that they, how they want to live their life and what they want to do when they have children in the picture.
And I think it’s interesting because right now, you know, as we’re recording this, everybody’s still on lockdown, although I think they’re kind of loosening up a little bit on some state orders. But, and so we’ve been kind of forced to this virtual life in this virtual world. And I think that the people who’ve already had an established virtual business really have been able to maintain in a way that people who’ve never even considered it before have maybe struggled with it. What do you think?
Trivinia: Yeah, absolutely. You know, the thing that always comes to my mind, especially now as we’re seeing all these people going remote and working from home for the first time, is that just like when I was, you know, 17 years ago, and I was feeling this pull of, did I want to be a good mom or did I want to be a good employee? And I felt this desire that I could do both. And it wasn’t one or the other. I didn’t have to choose, you know, being a great mom or being a great worker or business owner or whatever.
And so the answer is like, yes, and. And I think that’s what this COVID thing is showing us is that for many people who wondered can I still be a good parent? And can I still get my job done and provide value to the company that I work for? I think they’re seeing that the answer for a lot of us not all, but a lot of us the answer’s yes. And so I think that as we’re navigating this remote landscape, it’s going to be easier for some companies to embrace this as the future that maybe some of them won’t go back to, you know, $20 a square foot office rent, right? I mean, they’re gonna say this might actually work.
Davina: Right. Well, it’s kind of interesting is I’ve had conversations with some of my clients who are women law firm owners and, other women law firm owners. And it’s interesting to see the different sort of responses. I spoke with the one recently who said, you know, I’ve realized that I, my team is going back to the office, but I am going to start spending more time working from home and working for my virtual office because I find that I’m so much more productive and I get so much more time. And so she’s really looking at ways to incorporate that into her business when she goes back, you know?
Trivinia: Yeah. And then there’s the flip side, though, of some people are like, please, when can we go back?
Davina: I know, exactly. Well, and that’s been the conversation we were having too about her team and some of them just are like, I’ve got to go back and I’ve had more than one attorney tell me this. They’re like, you know, I’ve got team members that just don’t function well at home. And I think part of it is, right now, you know, being an unusual circumstance, they’re not ideal circumstances because those parents who are working from home also have their children there and their spouse there.
And, you know, but what you and I know is that, you know, there’s a period of time when your kids are young, you may experience that. But as they get older, they get their routines, they get into school, and you can easily, you know, formulate a schedule that works for that.
Trivinia: I think what we’ve missed, really, because many of us just got thrown into this, right? We’re like, as of Monday, we’re working from home folks. And I think we lacked the setting up the infrastructure to make it work. Right now, we’re homeschooling seven-year-olds who don’t understand how to use Google Classroom and that throws a wrench into it.
So for those who have maybe tried working at home during this pandemic, and they’re like, never again, don’t necessarily cut it out because I think if you build in routines and structure, I think it can become a possibility. But what fun times we’re in to even have the opportunity to still, you know, earn a living and contribute to the bottom line of our families and get work done and serve our community. It’s a unique time.
Davina: Yeah. And I the tools that are available now too. I imagine from 17 years ago, a lot of the tools you had when you had that work at home environment are, it’s a lot easier now because there’s so many tools available and so many companies like yours out there to help people get the resources they need to be able to work remotely, right?
Trivinia: Yeah. When we started, my biggest expense was printer paper because I had a fax machine and I would get faxed so many things that I would be working on. That was my biggest expense. And now, you know, my largest expense is, you know, internet or something. So it’s pretty interesting how things have changed.
Davina: Oh, yeah. The cloud and all of the document sharing and all that kind of stuff has made it just so much nicer. And of course, I love all of, I have been a big fan of Zoom for a long time and used it in my business, you know, for the last seven years. And then, you know, now it’s people are starting to get adapted to it.
And I love that because that’s gonna make it a lot easier for me to get people to hop on a Zoom call with me because so many people now are being exposed to it. So, but we’ve all, what we want to talk about here is we want to talk about maybe as a busy business owner, law firm owner, you’re still working in your office and you want to work in your office, but you want to expand your team and that’s something that you can really help with, right?
Tactfully Growing a Virtual Team
Trivinia: Yeah, you know, we’ve been able to place a lot of different types of business owners, whether they were physicians or lawyers or speakers or authors with remote executive support. And, you know, when we started, we were doing all things to all people. If you wanted a graphic designer, I would find them for you. If you wanted a podcast editor, I’d find them for you.
And what we really realized probably four years in, is that the clients that stayed with us the longest that had the most success and that were actually getting that traction that I talked about were the ones that hired executive assistants or project managers or a roll that is sort of conveniently, it’s kind of a buzzword right now called an integrator, right? Those were the rules that seemed to do the best. And it was for a variety of different niches, right? It wasn’t just the online business owner or the entrepreneur. It was even brick and mortar stores or people like, you know, lawyers who have law firms and physicians who are actually practicing medicine.
And so what we were able to see is that anyone who’s looking to grow and scale a business needed support but they didn’t necessarily need a 40 hour a week, you know, secretary or assistant sitting outside their office saying, you know, Mr. Jones, we’ll see you now. What they needed was someone who can be very precise, very efficient at helping them do the things that they either weren’t good at, didn’t know how to do or didn’t want to do so that they could really make time to do the things that they were created to do, right?
And I think that’s the case with a lot of the lawyers that we’ve worked with, is that just because you can do it all doesn’t mean you should. And with companies like ours, and there are, you know, dozens of them out there, when you can hire someone for as a fractional assistance, right? Not just an assistant who’s gonna be there for 40 hours a week, but be there for you at key times, you’re able to really outsource the things that you need to do but without the burden of having, you know, to fill time for someone 40 hours a week when you’re maybe just starting out or you don’t have that much work.
Davina: Right, right. Talk to me about the executive assistant because this is what you’re helping people find are these executive assistants. So talk to me about what an executive assistant can do for someone. Give me some examples maybe from your, how your clients are using your services.
Trivinia: We joke that executive assistant means everything and anything. Because often the role of an EA ends up being more of a strategic partner, right? They are the right hand of so many of our clients, but some of the areas that we find them really thriving in is in what we call the role of the stabilizer. And if you think of, you know, a triangle, right? That base of the triangle, that’s what keeps that shape stable. And a stabilizer in our business is typically managing you, your email, your calendar, your life, the projects that you’re working on.
And so in relation to a law firm, they might be handling, you know, the calls that are coming in of people that need to see you, making sure that your calendaring, that you’re meeting your deadlines, right? That you’re processing and filing your orders the way that you should. Different than maybe a law clerk or a paralegal because they’re really focused on taking care of you, the individual, not necessarily only, you know, the cases that you have coming across your desk, but you as the human making sure that in some cases that you have date night.
You know, I had someone write back to us when we asked for a testimonial. And we said, you know, what is the best thing that you found after working with your assistant for, you know, these nine months or whatever? And they said, it was the thing that I didn’t realize I needed, and hiring an assistant brought back date night for my wife and I. And I just like, wow, I didn’t realize, right? But the assistant played the role of taking care of the whole person, not just the business aspects of what that person, that gentleman had going on in his life.
And we sit down with our clients and we really look at what is what do we want their whole life to look like, right? What do we want their ideal week, their ideal month to look like? And then we kind of reverse engineer that as an executive assistant to ensure that you get what you really, really want. And I think that’s the crux of it, right? If you come to any assistant and you’re really honest about who you are, how you show up and what you really, really want in life, then that is their number one goal to ensure that you get it.
Davina: Right, right. I love what you said about taking care of the individual because I work with so many women, law firm owners who, we work on growing the law firm and we’re always, they know that they’re going to need a paralegal, they’re gonna need a couple paralegals, they’re going to need a legal assistant, they may need some associates, you know, an associate or, you know, so they got a real clear idea on, in their law firm what they want.
But the key that I often find missing, and it’s always, of course, this is typical women who put themselves last, right? Is someone who is just their assistant. And it’s so fascinating to me because, I mean, I’ve worked in the, in business a long time. And I’ve met so many men who they all have secretaries. They all have assistants. Used to call the secretaries, now it’s assistants, right?
And they think nothing of it. You have a secretary, you have an assistant. And because I grew up in business, you know, in the 80s, and 90s, so there was a lot of that, and it never occurs to women that maybe they just need an assistant for them. Like, maybe I just need somebody that can handle, you know, booking my travel, getting me from point A to point B, managing my schedule, just take care of me. Not the law firm, not the business, but taking care of my needs and what it is I need so that I can be the CEO of this business.
Trivinia: Well, you know what, the thing that sticks out to me is that, you know, people that are listening to this show, they want to build a firm and a life for themselves. And I think the key distinction here is the word and right? Because a lot of women especially, we feel like we have to choose. Do we want to build an amazing law firm, or a life for ourselves? Do we want, and if we will focus on that word and. If we want to build an amazing firm and a life for ourselves, it means that we cannot do it alone.
And like I said before, just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should, because you can keep all the details in your head and you can, you know, juggle a million different projects at once. It doesn’t mean that you should. And I think that as women, we struggle, not all of us, but I think that we struggle to put ourselves first in some ways, right? We will put our clients or our other partners or our spouses or children, whatever, ahead of what we really need.
And I have a client who has their assistant manage their personal email simply so that they could calendar all of your children’s school appointments and things, right? They, they’re the ones that make sure that they don’t miss, you know, the third-grade orchestra recital. That they’re there and then they’re not overbooked. And so that’s just one very practical simple way that an assistant can support you and help you. It’s like ensuring that you be where you say you want to be and that you’re not, you know, stressed out and making that choice. Like, they make it for you. We often call executive assistants, people think of them being a gatekeeper, right?
And you’re the one who’s outside the door sort of blocking someone from getting to you. Like nope, I’m sorry, you know, Mrs. Smith is busy right now. But I look at an executive assistant as the gateway. They help get your clients, your students, your family, your friends, whoever it is, they help get them what they need, when they need it faster. And if that’s you, great, They’ll get them to you, right? But they’re not blocking anyone from you. They’re just being a gateway to get the information where it needs to go faster than you can. And I think that’s a great analogy to look at it,
Davina: Yeah, that definitely, I completely understand that as a business owner myself, I get hundreds of emails a day. Hundreds. I have filters filtering them through and all that kind of stuff. And even though, even when you have filters filtering them through, though, some of them require responses, and some of them are, even with calendar leaks, people still want to coordinate things in other ways and all that.
And you still have to respond to that and go, here’s the calendar link and here, you know, and all those kinds of things take, they just eat away your time. They eat away at your, at the quality of your life, you know, just doing those kinds of tasks. Let me, let’s address kind of some of the concerns that business owners may have it working with a virtual executive system, and I think this is less, you know, people are sort of adapting and understanding that this can be a really good option for them.
But there’s still a lot of skeptics out there. I know we attorneys, we’re always a little more skeptical than the average bear. So let’s address some of the concerns. Trusting someone that someone else picked for me, you know, is a factor. Like, I didn’t go through an interview all of these people and come up with a person I think’s a good fit for my business. So what kind of processes do you guys use to ensure that you’re going to match up people that are a good fit to work together?
Trivinia: I often will use this example. And since we’re talking with lawyers, you guys I think, will understand this. You would not recommend that I go into a courtroom and defend myself, right? I can, right? I have that right. And I can represent myself, but you would say actually, you really need someone who knows exactly what to say, how to say it, what to do, right? What potholes to look out for. And so, you might be, Davina, an amazing attorney, but you have no idea how to hire someone, right? You know law.
And so this is where I tend to say like, no, come to people that are experts in doing the thing that you don’t know how to do, right? If you’re setting up a network of computers, like, you could fumble around doing that, but it’d probably be cheaper, faster, better if you just hired a network engineer to do that. And so similarly, when it comes to hiring, if that’s not a gift that you have, then hire someone who does have that gift to ask the right questions to vet the right person for you.
Because what we found more than anything in, you know, the seven years that I’ve been running Priority VA, is that what you think you need and what you need are often two very different things. And what people used to say to me, I asked someone one time like, what should my tagline be or sort of my Intro for what I do for people? And I was talking with this brilliant marketer, and he said, oh, yours is easy. You clone entrepreneurs. I was like, Oh, that’s brilliant. That’s sassy and it sounds cool. And that’s gonna make me a lot of money, right?
I’m gonna get a lot of leads from that. And I used it for about a year and then I realized, like, no, that’s the wrong tagline. I don’t need to clone entrepreneurs because if I’m cloning them, then we’re just duplicating all the problems that they have, right? You don’t need a mini-me. What do you need is someone to complement the weaknesses that you have. And that is going to help usher you into the gifts that you have.
And so one of the things that I think is really, really important when you’re looking at hiring is to have a process for doing it. And you know, we created a course for those people that are sort of like do it yourself. And no, I want to be responsible for who I come and bring into my fold. And so we have that. We’ve created a seven-step process that we lovingly call The Gauntlet because it’s hard on purpose. And we’re checking anything from personality, right?
We do a lot of personality profiling and test because we want to see not only how the person works, but how they feel. What they’re going to really excel at and what their intrinsic motivators are. And so we use personality profiles, but we are testing their character. We’re giving them, you know, scenario-based interview questions. We actually do role-playing interviews with our people. We’re putting them through skills-based tests, because as an attorney, maybe you only have a few different softwares that you’re using.
But I want to see like, what else can someone bring to the table that is going to make your systems and your process, you know, simpler, faster, better, cheaper. And so they’re, for us, it’s seven stages and it is incredibly challenging to get through our gauntlet. And so the assistance that make it through it’s sort of a rite of passage, right? We’ve looked at changing that over the years and the EAs on our team are like uh-uh, like don’t do that. I had to go through a lot of hoops to get on this team. Like, don’t give that away. And so the people that end up working for us, not only are they qualified.
I think that, you know, we have to have three things, I believe, when we’re hiring, what most people do is they hire based on availability, right? The first person is like, yep, I can start next week. An interest, right? Yeah, sure. I like law. I’m interested in what you do. And affordability. I’m cheap, I can start soon and I’m kind of interested in what you do. And where I tend to lay is that I would like people to hire based on passion and on purpose and on proficiency. I want them to be passionate about what they’re doing in their business, right? serving you, what you’re doing and the clients that you serve and the problems that you solve.
And I want them to have a purpose. I don’t want you to have a cog in the wheel, right? Just another minion who’s doing the things that you don’t want to do. I want them to truly find fulfillment and purpose by being your right hand, by serving you, by, you know, answering that email at 4:30 in the morning when your flight got canceled and you need to totally scramble and change things. And then, of course, I want them to be proficient in what they need to do for you. But proficiency is last on my list because I believe we can teach skills, I cannot teach character.
Davina: Right, right. And something that he said really struck a chord with me, because I had hired a virtual assistant who, and I had a couple different ones, but one of my frustrations was is I was looking for somebody who was excited about my business, who is passionate about what I was trying to help my clients accomplish. And because that makes such a difference when somebody has people on their team who really want to help you further your mission, because that’s going to be, that passion is going to be a whole different ballgame than somebody who’s just sitting there trying to fill up their time so that they can bill you for it, right?
Trivinia: Yeah. Collecting a paycheck is very different than contributing.
Davina: Yeah. And I want people to feel good about the work they’re doing when they’re working with me, so they like it and they’re excited about it. Do you know what I’m saying? Because then they’re gonna want to stay with you, and they’re gonna want to get better at it.
Skill isn’t the Only Factor in Finding the Right Fit
Trivinia: Well, for those of you who are looking to hire and you’re listening to this show, you’re like, whoo, maybe, maybe it’s time, if you’re gonna do it on your own, I would just encourage you to ask any applicants just to get a better sense of who they are and what lights them up. Ask them what pisses them off and ask them what breaks their heart and ask them what problem they solve, right?
And if they can align those things, what frustrates them, what breaks their heart and what problem they solve, and if they can align those three things in the work that they just might be able to do for you, they’re going to be excited to come to work every day, even on the days when it’s hard and it’s, you know, just endless motions and filings and just a lot of, you know, copy and pasting types of things. If they can know that they are serving and that they are solving a problem, you’re hitting the nail on the head when it comes to building a team that you can trust.
Davina: Right, right. I remember one time I had somebody who was helping me. She was a virtual assistant. She was, had technical skills, but I was talking about planning my next retreat, and she responded with a sad face emoji. And I was, that was it for me. I was like, you know, if I’m talking about something that I’m trying to get a lot of momentum and energy around and positive energy around. And the person who’s supposed to be helping me with it, instead of say, Oh, yay, that sounds like fun. I can’t wait. Let’s get started. Sent me a sad face emoji. And I was like, wow.
And so it was, okay, We’re done, you know? So it’s that part is, that piece is very important. And I think that people often when they’re hiring, they get so focused on skill. Can they use this program or can they, you know, what is their experience in this or that. And some of those things are, you know, obviously important if you’ve got, you know, if you’re doing legal work, and you want a very specific type of skill, that’s important, but you can’t neglect that. The people who have to cultivate the best teams are the ones where everybody on the team loves their job. And they love the company and the culture. And there’s more to it than just the money piece, right?
Trivinia: I think the question to ask yourself when you’re building a team is who do you want with you in the valleys when it’s really hard, right? Business is slowing down and you’re not exactly sure. I mean, this COVID is a perfect example of, you know, who do you want with you when you’re up at 4 am? You’re like, I just don’t know what to do. And then who do you want with you on the peaks too? Who do you want celebrating and clinking that glass of champagne of like, I can’t believe we won this case. I can’t believe we did this. I can’t believe we are bringing in a new partner.
And if that person can be the same person, then it’s like, you know that you know that you know that you have made the right-fit hire. But one other thing I want to address, Davina, Is that, who is going to work for you right now might not be the person who’s going to work for you three years from now. And that’s okay, right? I’ve been on teams as an executive assistant where I was great for four or five years, but then I couldn’t get them where they needed to go.
And maybe they couldn’t help get me where I wanted to go. And so we’ve got to be okay that right now, the right fit right now does not mean it will be the right fit forever. And I think that we can sometimes get really disappointed when we have a teammate that maybe moves on or that isn’t, you know, kind of meshing or clicking as well as they once were three or four years ago. And that’s okay too. You know, I think we can’t lock ourselves into like, this is my forever fit. It’s just your fit right now and be okay with that. And if you can get a few amazing years of success, and then you can help usher someone into their next role, then that’s a win too.
Davina: Right, right. I often tell my clients, how long do you want your business to last? I mean, like, what’s your endgame? Do you want a 30-year business? A 20-year business? A ten-year business? Because if you do, then you have to get comfortable with people flowing in and out your business, both clients and team members because there are a lot of people that are not going to be people who stay with you for 20 years or whatever because their needs change or something in their family situation changes or they’re no longer the right fit for you because they can’t grow with you, you know?
And you have to get comfortable with that and not take it personally because so many feel like failures when a team member doesn’t work out. They feel like they failed, they don’t know what they’re doing. I can’t do it. They won trust anymore. It messes with their ability to trust. And then they are reluctant to hire again.
Trivinia: Yeah. I look at outsourcing, hiring, delegation, all of this stuff, it’s like working out, right? When we first, if we’ve been sedentary for years, and then you start working out like, your body is going to hurt. And it’s going to take you five seconds to pop up from a burpee instead of two, right? It’s going to hurt and just like working out, you’re flexing a delegation muscle and you’ve got to tear that muscle to build it up, right? You’ve got to feed it good fuel, which is like making sure that you’re developing your own leadership skills. Because let’s face it, most of us are not good bosses. We’re good at what we do.
And so we need to also be invested in our own personal growth, listening to the shows like this, right? That are going to help feed us with good, valuable information that’s going to help us shift our thinking just 1%. We’re not saying you need to totally, you know, 180 and be a different human. But we need to also constantly be working at getting 1% better and what we do. And the thing was turnover. I had an assistant who worked with me for five years and I remember telling her I want to have an assistant that I can turn over the keys to my business and just have them run it.
Have them ultimately be CEO and then I can go talk about some other things that I’m passionate about. And she was like, Yes, you know, amazing. And then five years in, we just, everything was fine, and it was fine, but we were both kind of not okay with fine anymore, right? We wanted more for ourselves. She wanted to go spend more time with one of her kids who has special needs. And I wanted to kind of go at warp speed. And so we weren’t a fit anymore.
And it was sad. I remember having told her years ago like, I don’t want to run this business without you. Like, if you ever leave, I’m done. I’m just calling it quits. And then it came time for us to separate. And I was excited for her that she was going to get to do what she wanted and that I was going to get to have a different team member that had a new fire and energy so that we could go and, you know, create, we’re creating a community for executive assistants now, right?
Where anyone can have their EA come be a part of this community and get encouraged and empowered and equipped and feel like they’re engaged with. And she wasn’t, she don’t want to be a part of that. But my new team member is like on fire for that, right? And she’s so excited and so turnover’s hard and it hurts I think it can bruise our confidence sometimes. But, you know, sometimes it can be the exact sort of switch that we need to kick us into a new gear that we had maybe lost sight of.
Davina: Yeah. I’ve often had conversations with women law firm owners who are experiencing a lot of growth and people that were, you know, that have been a of member their team used to be a great fit for them are no longer the best fit for them. And it takes them forever to pull the trigger and make that decision to release that person and let them go on to something else that may be a better fit for them.
But after they do, the relief. You know, then they start, then they’re like a whole new person. They’re like, Oh, my God, like the angels are singing now and the trumpets are flickering, and they’re going what took so long to do this, right? Because times it’s just, it’s our emotional connection with people and we feel responsible for their wellbeing and their emotions and it’s learning to separate and go, this is my responsibility and that’s your responsibility.
And sometimes, you know, people are going to have different drivers and different needs and things like that. And your, it’s not your responsibility to do that. In fact, it’s insulting to continue to think that they’re not going to thrive anymore in your organization because you’re kind of burned out on them but you’re keeping them from going to thrive in another organization by sort of emotionally keeping them there, you know?
Trivinia: Yeah. There’s a gentleman that I follow, his name is Robert Glazer, and he’s just a great leader. And he did a talk on why we should be ending two weeks’ notice. And I encourage anybody who’s sort of at that point where they’re like, I’m kind of over this person or sort of think that it’s time to move on to go check that out and listen to it because it helps you develop a plan to get your teammates where, your employee where they really should be without sort of that guilt of I’m letting this person go.
It’s actually you’re helping set a trajectory for them where they can be most successful, even if it’s not with you. And we should want that for anyone on our team, right? We should want as much success for them as we do for ourselves. And if it’s not with us that they can get that, then I agree with you, it is our responsibility to help them get there.
Davina: Yeah, and well, it’s really unfair. If you’ve already made the decision that this person has no place to grow in my organization, I’m not really thrilled with them, they’re not going to get a raise, they’re not going to get a promotion, they’re not going to get, you know, you’ve already made that decision. It’s selfish, then to hang on to them. I want to go to something else you said earlier, which was about leadership and not being born leaders. It’s one of the skills that I work with my clients on developing that I think is so critical is leadership skills. Leadership, and separate from that, management, right.
And, you know, we just sort of think that just by virtue of the fact we start a business that this makes us a leader, and it’s not really the case. And we need to develop skills, and particularly as we grow from being a one, two, three-person business to being maybe four or five, you know, 10, 15, however many people you want in your organization, right? You have to become the person to lead your organization at that level, right? And that’s not something that happens overnight. It’s a process like everything else.
So I want to ask you because one of the things that I found was a challenge when I first started working with virtual assistants, was I realized it just holds a mirror up to me and just said how bad I was at managing somebody else’s time, managing other people, leading them, whatever, you know? Because I’m so used to it’s all in my head and you know, right? So it took me a while to learn how to work with a team and learn how to articulate what it was that I wanted. So what do you do? Because I know, part of your process is you’re really helping people develop those skills and learn how to work with your executive systems, right?
Facing Ourselves is the Hardest Thing We Will Ever Do
Trivinia: Yeah, you know, it’s I love that you said it was holding up a mirror because I’m working on a book right now. And that’s actually one of the things that I talk about is that, you know, we end up typically working with three tools in our business. Most of us walk around with a magnifying glass, right? We’re looking for problems. And when we find them, they are magnified 10 times, right? And instead, I believe that as owners, we need to really first look in a mirror. Facing ourselves is the hardest thing we will ever do.
Facing the fact that maybe I’m not as good of a leader or a manager or a delegator or a communicator as I thought I was, right? You might be incredibly great, you know, in front of the courtroom arguing your case, right? And in many cases, especially for attorneys, you guys are looking at the facts and the analytics and the, you know, everything is sort of with judgment, and that’s your job.
Davina: And problems are our business. Issue spotting, spotting issues and problems is our business.
Trivinia: Exactly. And so when it comes to people, I think one thing that I can encourage any of you guys to do, especially when you’re working in building teams, is to ask yourself, Is this a people problem or a process problem? And most of the time, I’m telling you, 80, 90% of the time, it’s a process problem and not a people problem. And so if we can stop looking at it through the lens of, you know, Sally doesn’t know what she’s doing, I can just do this better myself, then work on the process. Because if we can fix the hole in the process, then anyone can do it. Sally can do it, Sarah can do it, Bob can do it.
So that would be sort of my first line of defense for people is to stop blaming the people and look at the process. But also look in the mirror and see how you show up. And be really honest. You know, one of the things that we do as we’re building teams is that I ask so many unconventional questions of the clients that we serve to get them really thinking about how they show up. Like what do they do when they’re pissed off? Like I throw pens. It’s completely immature. It is dumb, but that is what I do. If I’m frustrated, I throw a pen.
That’s why I work in an office by myself, so no one has to see it. I have to get really honest and I articulate that with my team is that, you know, I might say something in Slack. I use curse words and I might throw a curse word in Slack and I’m not cursing at the person. I’m just cursing at the situation. So I can’t have someone on my team that’s going to be super sensitive and be bothered by that, right? I am a big fan of a personality test called the enneagram. And what I have found over so
Davina: What is it? What does it? Repeat it.
Trivinia: It’s called the enneagram. Enneagram. And I found over the years that I cannot work directly with a one on one assistant who is a two on the enneagram. They are helpers. They are kind, they are considered, they’re the ones who’s gonna, like make sure I eat and that I’m in bed on time. And they’re gonna, you know, arrange the snacks when we get together. They’re amazing humans, but they are deeply sensitive.
And I am an eight on the enneagram which means I am the challenger. I’m the one who’s always like, I’d make a great lawyer, right? I’m always like, pointing out the problems and I’m glass half empty. And I have realized I can’t manage the sensitivities of a two. It’s just too much emotional effort for me to be like everything’s okay. How are you doing? You having a good day?
Davina: I worked with a virtual assistant once who had that too. And she was so sweet and so kind and I’m like, and she’s so got on my nerves.
Trivinia: I’ll run you over, right? I’m going 97 miles an hour, and you’re asking me to hold to go to like 22 miles an hour so that you can feel loved and heard and cared for. And not, I appreciate that and I believe that that is my responsibility as a boss to care for you the way you need to be cared for. But what I realized for me personally, is that I simply did not have the emotional bandwidth to do that. And so I need to have someone on my team that can kind of keep pace with me, right?
And so for me, a one is a great person. The one on the anagrams are very driven, they kind of are perfectionist, they want to get it right, and so they match the intensity that I bring. So knowing yourself is really really good to help you become a better leader and then knowing who you need to have around you.
And that’s why firms like us that help match you, we take all of those things into consideration. Not just, you know, do they know Excel and Outlook really well. Like, that’s irrelevant to me. I want to know how they’re going to work with you and how they’re going to push you to be a better leader. So that’s, yeah, that’s kind of how I look at it.
Davina: Yeah, yeah. I love that. I love that. I’m a big fan of personality tests too. I’ve taken so many and it really gives you great insight into who you are. And some of those things are painful to look at. When you’re looking at them you’re going Oh, wow. Yeah, that’s true. That’s really accurate, but I sure wish it wasn’t.
Trivinia: Well, it’s that idea of holding up that mirror to ourselves. And then that gives us the ability to then take what I would call the third tool, which is a flashlight. Then we can like see the whole landscape, right? We can see where we’re going, what we need and who we want alongside us. But we can’t do that just looking through a magnifying glass. And we certainly can’t do that if we won’t look in the mirror first.
Davina: Right, right. I love that. I love how you made that very concrete for us so we can really see it. And I see this. It’s so powerful because with attorneys, with business, I’ve always wanted my clients to separate, you’re an attorney but you also are a business owner. And those are two, they require two different skill sets. And you can use some of your skill sets as an attorney to be in your business when you’re growing your business.
But you also need other types of skill sets to be the CEO of your business. And I love your, when you were talking about the magnifying glass. Because that, oh my gosh, that’s so true. If we’re training issue spotters, man, we’ve always got a magnifying glass out because lives depend on it in our business as lawyers, lives depend on it, livelihoods depend on it.
So we have to not miss the details. But where there’s a danger of that is getting into the catchphrase I use is if you ever say I’ll just do it my damn self, then you definitely are the person who needs to develop some CEO skills because high achieving women are, we’re doers. We work for the grade, we get the grade and then when you’re running a business it’s not about getting graded anymore. There’s no other outside person who’s grading you. There’s only what do you want to create.
Trivinia: Yeah, it’s why I named my podcast Diary Of A Doer because I believe truly that as women, we are wired to go, go, go, go go. And the challenge, the solution to this challenge for me, is to bring people alongside me that are going to check out my blind spots. They’re going to raise the flag, right? And hold me accountable to who I say I really want to be and where I say I really want to go because I believe truly we cannot do this alone. You can, it’s true, you can for a while, and then you’re going to burn out. And then your marriage is going to dissolve.
And then your kids are going to be frustrated and in therapy, right? We can continue to like, do it all. But it is going to be at the expense of our sanity, it’s going to be at the expense of our relationships, perhaps or the risk, the expense of a partnership gone wrong because we refused to bring people into the fold. And I think the most vulnerable thing that we can do is to raise our white flag and say, I can’t do this alone. And I need help. And I’m willing to look in the mirror and see where I kind of need the support to be who I say I want to be.
Davina: Right. And I love it when people evolve to the point where, and I’ve seen this happen, with some of my working some of my clients, and even those that are just in my community is that they shift to a point not only if they can’t do it, but they don’t want to anymore. They don’t want too many more. And I think that’s really the key thing is when you can sit here and go, you know what, I’m just getting the life sucked out of me by trying to manage this email account or by trying to manage the schedule or deal with these little, these piddly sort of details that I don’t want to deal with those.
I want to deal with, you know, the thing I’m passionate about, which is that, you know, maybe for people for attorneys that may be taking the cases that they want to take that really stimulate them intellectually, you know? And they can focus on that and focus on that strategic thinking for their business and for their clients and get somebody else to help manage these details and somebody who realizes that they are integral to the team, you know?
Why it’s Selfish Not to Focus on Your Gifts
Trivinia: Yeah. I often, when people are saying, you know, I, anybody can do this. A monkey could do it. I’ve heard, you know, a lot of derogatory things about the work that executive assistants do. Cameron Harold is a friend of mine. And he said it best when he said if you do not have an executive assistant, you are one.
And I think that that’s really important for us to realize. Some of the work that we do that we think is busy work or we think is just, you know, administrivia stuff that’s, like pointless, is some of the most important work that needs to be done in our business. It just doesn’t have to be done by us. And I think recognizing that and honoring that, right? That piece too.
It doesn’t mean that their work is, you know, a EA’s work is any less important. It’s different, but it’s also incredibly critical. And if that work can free you up to do what you were created to do, then I feel like it is incredibly selfish of you to withhold your gifts from the world because you don’t want to pay for an assistant or you think you can do it better or faster or cheaper or whatever it is. You’re withholding the gifts that were putting you to the people who desperately need it.
Especially, I don’t know if you know this, Davina, but my brother is facing the death penalty right now. I sure as hell do not want his attorney checking random emails, or, you know, trying to scout schedule things. I want him figuring out everything he needs to do to support my brother, right? And so this work that you’re doing is massively important. And anything that is keeping you away from that work, it’s selfish of you to not allow someone else into your space to do it alongside you.
Davina: Right, right. And, you know, so many people talk about time management. Time management. I struggle with time management. And they could, you can give them every tool. I’ve written countless articles on time management for my community. And really, it’s not about time management, though. It’s about priority management. Priority management. What is the highest and best use of your time? And those other things need to be done. I mean, you always have somebody who needs to pound the nails into the boards, you know, for the, to create the structure, right?
You need other people doing that. But if you’re the architect, then it’s about your vision, right? And you don’t need to be the one doing that. But you still very much need that because if you don’t have those people who are there doing the construction and doing the work and building and all that kind of stuff, then it’s just a vision. It’s just a dream. It’s just an idea. And it doesn’t become anything until it’s created.
Trivinia: Well, and more than anything, I think that lawyers understand probably better than any other types of clients we’ve ever had, the value of their time, right? You guys know,
Davina: You would think. You would think. There’s mindset issues around that as well but yes, theoretically.
Trivinia: Right. So you would assume that you guys would really embrace that and understand the value of your time. That you shouldn’t do it all, that you can’t do it all and that if your time is better spent, you know, researching something for the case, instead of, you know, calling someone back to tell them the date that they’re supposed to be in court, like, those types of things are keeping you away from the work that is not only going to fill you up, but it’s also going to impact the lives that you hopefully got into law to impact in the first place.
So yeah, we stink at prioritizing in our lives. I think as women, like, we won’t prioritize eating right or exercise or sleep in many cases. And I think that this is where having an assistant to help you help, keep you accountable to the things that you say you really want to do, right?
And just hold up that mirror gently when they need to be like hey, you said this was really important to you and I want to help you achieve your goal of XYZ. And I think that when we work in a silo alone on our island, we can give ourselves all sorts of excuses. But if you will be vulnerable and open up and allow a teammate to come on in and work alongside you, they’re going to help keep you in line, you know, to help you prioritize what matters to you and the clients that you serve.
Davina: What if you got 10 hours back? If you got 10 hours freed up a week, what could you do with it? What would you do with it? I mean, that’s a powerful question.
Trivinia: Exactly. And we have clients sometimes that will tell us, I don’t think I have 10 hours of work that I could give to an assistant. And I often jokingly but very seriously say, then you’re not working hard enough, right? If you can’t find 10 hours of things that you should not be doing in your business, then you’re not working hard enough to grow your business.
And 10 hours can mean that you make it to the violin recital. 10 hours can mean that you bring back date night. It can mean you workout three times a week. it can mean that you have time to meditate, right? It doesn’t only have to be work-focused that you’re getting 10 back, right? It can be personal as well.
Davina: Right, right. I want to kind of go back to what we mentioned earlier, and I’m not sure, I want to get a little more clarity on it, is one of the biggest challenges that a lot of people have in working with a virtual assistant, virtual executive assistant or anybody who does virtual work for them, is it requires a lot, you have to think about what you want. You can’t just do things on the fly. You can’t yell, hey, so and so who’s sitting outside your office, to this do that, which isn’t the best technique anyway.
But you have to organize your thoughts, decide what you want. Oftentimes you have to share information and give them information. And that takes time to do and it can feel burdensome when you just go into, you know, I’ll just do it myself. It’ll take me some seconds, but it’s gonna take me, you know, 30 minutes to give her all the information, so is up or whatever. What do you say to that person? And also, how do you, how does your, do you have a system that’s set up to help people do that? How do you work with your clients to help them learn how to work well with an executive assistant?
Trivinia: Yeah, great question. So a few things that we do. The first thing we do is something we call the Priority Project. And it’s really mapping out what are the first three projects that we want to have the two of them tackle together, right? Mapping out what success looks like. What are the next sort of objectives that need to happen in order to get this project off the ground? And then we’re volleying back and forth with the client, with the EA all the time, checking in on how things are going.
What tools do they need? Are they missing systems and process so that we can help get those things in place to create a cadence for the work that they’ll do together? You’re right. It’s not, you know, hey, Sarah, can you come in here real quick? It’s not that when you’re working virtually. It is in the fact that you can use a tool like Slack, right? And just shoot them a message or use something, I use an app called Loom, LOOM.
And they just yesterday released an iOS and Android version of it. So I’m so excited. But you can snap a quick video to your assistant and say, I’m leaving a meeting and I need you to do this, this, this and this. And then can you just ping me back when you’re done, right? So communication becomes even more critical. And it does require you to slow down. And this is where clients can sort of be like, I don’t have time to train. I don’t have time. And I often tell them like you’re doing that thing anyway, yourself right now.
So why don’t you just open up Loom, it’s my favorite app, open up Loom and record a video of yourself doing whatever that thing is, whether you have an assistant right now or not? And just put that little link to the recording in a Google Doc. I use Airtable because it’s pretty. But you can even just put it in a Google Sheet or a Google Doc or something. And just start logging the things that you do repetitively because this is the thing that most people need to get really honest with themselves. That thing that takes you five minutes, or this will just take me two seconds to do it myself, right?
We say that all the time. The time it takes to do something, that five minutes versus the time that it takes to actually get it done, two weeks, right? Because you keep putting it off because you got interrupted, because you’re busy, because you forgot. That is what we need to pay attention to. And if we would just take the time to record the process once and show our team how to do that thing, then it’s forever off your plate. Yes, it’s gonna take you five minutes to do it yourself and record the process.
But you recorded once and then you just got that five minutes back every single time you have to do that thing. And that’s how we got to start. Looking at outsourcing and delegating. With a virtual team, it takes work. And I am not going to lie to anyone and say like, Oh, it’s just as easy as working in an office, because it’s not. It takes more intentionality. It means keeping the weekly meetings that you have on your calendar not blowing them off. It means allowing and empowering your executive assistant to run those meetings for you.
So they’re asking you the questions, you’re giving them the answers, it requires you to be decisive and that takes work. And that’s where you do need, you know, podcasts like this to help you grow in your leadership. You need to have someone like Davina in your corner to help you be the person you say you want to become because it does take work. But I promise you, it is so worth it to have a teammate whether they’re in Ohio and you’re in California or if they’re sitting outside of your office, it is so worth it to have someone with you when you really need them.
And It just, guys, the whole purpose of owning a business is to create opportunity for other people, right? And ourselves. Whether it’s the clients that you’re serving to help them navigate a bankruptcy or it’s the employees that you’re bringing on to help them feed their families. And all of that takes work. And if we wanted easy, we wouldn’t have got into business. You can just go be a lawyer at another firm and not be looking at creating your own, you know, business. So it is hard and I think that we
Davina: Yeah, I agree with you on, and I tell people that all the time. I’m like if you can’t step into the business owner part, then, you know, and if all of that aggravates you and you don’t want to do it, then why are you trying to have a business? I mean, you know, because you can make a good living, working as a lawyer for another firm, you know, it does take that effort. And you guys help to have systems set up that help people communicate in ways with their executive assistant.
Trivinia: Yeah, we do. And we have some that are requirements, right? Because we do believe that, you know, consistent communication is really important. And others are negotiable. What tool you want to use is a to you. The cadence of your conversation, you guys are going to find what works best for you. We’re going to tell you what we have found that works for hundreds of clients that we’ve worked with. And then you and your EA will develop the system that works best for you. But the great thing about it is that these men and women who work on our team, they know how to do the thing, right?
Like what they don’t know is how to do the thing for you. And that, it takes us this understanding and this getting to know you. We have this email that goes out that says the honeymoon is over, right? So there’s this period of time working with each other where it’s like, oh, this is great, and it’s fresh and it’s new. And, but then it comes time where it’s hard and it’s frustrating. You’re like, oh my gosh, what am I doing?
And you’re going to have that just like in any relationship, right? Your partner starts leaving the cap off the toothpaste, well, your assistant might do something that’s gonna frustrate you too. And all it takes is just a regular commitment to like get back in line. We call them calibration meetings. Like, let’s just recalibrate. Just recalibrate just like you would your car and then get off and running toward the next thing. But yeah, systems and process are huge and that’s why we’re just a big proponent of them.
Davina: Yeah, yeah. Well, this has been wonderful. We have had a nice, good long conversation. So I want to wrap it up here and get you to tell us how we can find out more information about you and Priority VA and how we can follow the Diary Of A Doer Podcast if we want to.
Trivinia: Yeah. So priorityva.com is the best place to reach us if you want to find out about us, our systems, our process, sort of who we serve and how we can show up best. Priorityva.com for that, and then you can check out Diary Of A Doer at trivinia.com. That’s my first name, trivinia.com. And we’re on iTunes and Stitcher and all of that stuff and really get a behind the scenes look of what it’s been like for me to build a seven-figure business not knowing what the heck I’m doing.
Davina: I love it. I love it. I’ve listened to some episodes of Diary of a Doer and it really is a really good podcast. And I’ve listened and taken notes on some of the people that you’ve interviewed. And, you know, I know you’ve had some, I noticed some of your clients, Sunny Lenarduzzi being one of your clients.
And if you don’t know who Sunny is you need to go look on YouTube because she is a fabulous Youtuber and she actually teaches people how to do that. That was one of the people who caught my attention. So you’ve got some really good guests that show up who offer some wonderful insight into business and life. So everybody check that out.
Trivinia: Thank you so much.
Davina: Thank you for being here today. It’s really been great. I’ve enjoyed it so much, Trivinia.
Trivinia: I appreciate you.