As a PA, you need to expect the unexpected and prepare for the un-prepareable! Just last week I was booking some flights for my boss to attend a conference in Seattle and he asked me to book him a hire car. I noticed that his NY driving licence had expired so I ended up spending the rest of the day working out how to renew it by post! (not as easy as it sounds)
A few years ago I had to source a specific bottle of wine for a client, and ended up having to get it shipped from New Zealand!
It’s things like this that can take up your whole day at the drop of a hat, and you’re expected to deliver results whilst keeping the rest of the team happy by doing all their expenses on time and making sure that there are enough pens in the stationery cupboard!
So how can you still do your job well when something like this comes up? Well, I’ve been in the business for many years and have built up a strong contact list of all kinds of people/websites that can help with all kinds of things. From the events company who can plan that last minute client event, to the specialist gift shops, and the executive travel company who, even though they’re out of policy to use normally, can sometimes work their magic on that flight my boss simply MUST be on.
I also make sure to keep in favour with all the other assistants, both at my company and at the companies of clients. It’s always tempting to try and palm off booking that client dinner to the assistant of the other Director, but you should always, always, ALWAYS offer to do it if you possibly can. There will be times that you can’t because you’re literally up to your eyes in expenses or writing up minutes, so make sure you’re always in a position where you’re owed favours. You don’t want someone to be claiming their favour from you when you’re already so busy you’re wondering if it might make sense to just sleep at the office tonight.
Finally, you should always plan ahead. I know that sounds stupidly obvious, but you’d be amazed at the number of times I hear people asking their assistant to order some more notepads because there isn’t any left, or a boss asking his assistant to book somewhere for lunch (when the appointment has been in his diary for days). I try and earmark a Friday afternoon for going through all the diaries for the following week (sometimes the weeks following as well if I have time), filling up the printers and photocopiers with paper, checking all the stationery, and trying to clear out some of the expenses if I have some piling up. Of course, sometimes this will be easier said than done, but if you get into the habit of it, you’re not going to get into the office on the Monday morning with your boss on your case to get a load of documents printed out for his 9am meeting, and asking where he’s meeting John for lunch.