ProTem Blog

The Role of an Admin Assistant

Many small business owners have asked me “What does an admin assistant do?”

That’s when I realized that some business owners don’t distinguish between revenue generating tasks and non-revenue generating tasks. Simply put, if an activity is not helping you generate revenue then it should be performed by someone else.
Clearly, time is at a premium when you’re running a business, so ask yourself: “Is this the best use of my time?” Hiring a freelance administrative assistant is the perfect solution. It allows you to focus on key tasks and delegate everything else.

Here are some examples of tasks that can be handled by your administrative assistant:

Emails and Phone Calls – handling routine phone messages and making decisions based on their importance; managing emails that are routine correspondence and flagging urgent emails for immediate attention.

CRM and Contacts – setting up CRM pipelines and milestones and ensuring contact information is up to date.

Presentations – formatting and reviewing presentations to ensure a uniform look, and proofreading to catch mistakes.

Web Research – Investigating and researching subjects on the Internet including potential customers, strategic partners and competitive intelligence gathering.

Office equipment – coordinating the maintenance and repair of office equipment including computers, printers, copiers etc.

Website – serving as the main point of contact for inquiries; monitoring the site to ensure company information is updated and accurate, and being the liaison with the web designer.

File management – maintaining and organizing Dropbox and similar filing systems to ensure you (and others in your organization) can find important documents.
Delegating these tasks to your administrative assistant will save you valuable time. It will lower your anxiety and allow you to focus on things only you can do for customers.

The File Pile

There are many great articles out there with tips on how to organize your office, but what about that stack of paper waiting to be filed? No one really likes having to deal with it, but below are a few tips for mastering the beast.
Sort the Stack - ask these questions:

1. Who generated it? If the document came from someone else, toss it. It’s the originator’s responsibility to manage their files.

2. Is it a lost page? If it’s a single page that is out of context, toss it. It’s of no use to you without background information.

3. What version is it? Dispose of all draft versions. Keeping previous versions only serves to confuse people.

4. Is it an unsigned contract? Signed contracts are the only versions that matter.

File the Keepers
Now that you’ve whittled the beast down to documents you want to keep, file them so that the information is readily accessible. Don’t file the same document in more than one location. Like draft copies, this serves to confuse and becomes a problem when one version is updated but not another. And this is the perfect time to scan and file your documents digitally so you can shred the originals – no more paper!

Avoiding this Task
In a perfect world, we would be able to focus on one thing at a time before moving on to something else but unfortunately, life isn’t like that. Put aside time in your day or your week to review documents that have not been filed. Do not wait a month – the stack can become too overwhelming and you’re back at square one. Better yet, keep a scanner at your desk or your assistant’s desk so that scanning and filing can be done right away.

Did you tell your Admin?

If you Google “communicating,” the top five items that appear are:
  1. Open Meeting
  2. Emails
  3. One on One
  4. Use Presentations
  5. Communication via Training

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
— George Bernard Shaw

There are many ways of keeping your assistant in the loop, but I’m not referring to the tools used to communicate as much as what is communicated. It’s been my experience that most people in an organization believe they communicate well because they:

  • have an ‘open-door policy,’
  • send out regular emails, and/or
  • hold regular meetings.

Those are all well and good; however, they don’t always address the day-to-day things that make a job easier. According to a 2014 survey by, poor communication was the number two reason people don’t like their jobs.

It’s harder for colleagues to be proactive if they don’t have line of sight on the overall picture, even for something as familiar as travel. Booking flights and hotels is easy. Knowing the reason for travel and who you’re meeting can impact the itinerary and allows your admin professional to prepare meeting material, liaise with local colleagues and prepare location-specific information.

Keeping colleagues in the loop is as easy as holding casual, focussed discussions that are collaborative. Put aside time each day to ensure your administrative professional has a fuller picture of your priorities and don’t forget to listen also - discussions go both ways.

I'm supposed to do what?

The day I told my husband that employment with my last company had a definite end-date, was the day that he suggested I start a virtual assistance company. The year spent working toward launching ProTem Executive Assistance was very exciting; stressful, but exciting. Caught up in the busy-ness of a new venture, ensuring all the necessary pieces were in place, I didn't think of the things I would need to do that I was uncomfortable doing - like blogging.
There we were at Tim Horton’s, computer on the table, brainstorming eight ways to promote my business and, not for the first time, he mentions blogging. I have never been a good writer. I can put thoughts down with no spelling mistakes, but that doesn’t make it riveting reading. So I did what anyone would do – I Googled it. There’s a great article at about the structure of a good blog, but I was looking for what Google couldn’t offer – a subject that I was comfortable writing about.

An idea came to me while walking my dog. Actually, I was having a conversation with myself, going over everything that happened this year, arguing with myself about stepping outside of my comfort zone, when I opened the voice notes app on my phone and started recording. Using voice notes is perfect for me because it allows me to think out loud and put raw thoughts down to organize later.

So, lesson learned: don’t forget to use tried and true methods to get you there, especially when attempting something new. And here it is: my first blog.