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In my opinion, says Carl Reader, a PA is a very valuable and worthwhile investment, though it is rare that very small businesses can justify it. However, when it does become a viable option for a SME, if used wisely, it can be a truly great way for an entrepreneur to manage their time effectively. The early years of an enterprise can be unrelentingly busy, and an effective PA can make an incredible difference to an SME, its processes and time management.

However, for an effective PA relationship to work, there has to be absolute trust on both sides. There’s no point hiring someone to be your PA if you’re going to do everything yourself anyway, or if you’re not going to give them the access they need. Trust that they will filter phone calls, book things and do whatever is expected of them, and don’t chase behind after them checking up. They need to trust that you are relying on them, and that you’ll let them do their job.

The next key thing to consider is your business’s systems. There must be robust processes in place. How do you do things? Is this definitely the best way? If this isn’t considered and the systems are faulty, there’s always the risk of a PA just replicating the mess that the entrepreneur set up, defeating the object of hiring a PA.

Good systems, however, can be invaluable. One way my PA has helped increase my personal productivity is through my email system. Like most, I found that I became a slave to the inbox. As much as I knew that I should turn my email application off, and only log in a couple of times, it never happened. So at server level, I redirected all emails to my PA. This meant that she could reply to them and deal with anything urgent that didn’t need my input far quicker than I could. She forwards the emails to me once per day, unless anything is urgent in which case it will arrive sooner.

How has this helped? Massively. It’s removed the ramp-up time required to get back into a project. But perhaps more importantly, it’s allowed me to consider my email sending habits and use my time more productively.

A good PA or VA can make a transformative difference to your personal and business productivity, saving you time, hassle and peace of mind. While it may be an investment, the likelihood is that if you can afford it, it will be worth it.

Carl Reader is the author of The Start Up Coach, co-owner of dennisandturnbull.com