As promised, I’m finally diving in more deeply to the specific, nuts-and-bolts how-to of various aspects of how to be an effective Executive Assistant at a start-up.
Lesson one: The Travel Folder
My phone wakes me up at 4:42 am. Before my alarm, meaning that whoever is calling is important enough to override my Do Not Disturb setting. The day is not starting well.
Bossman’s voice is equal parts angry and tired, “I’m at the airport, but the flight I’m booked on isn’t today. It’s on the 14th of next month!”
My heart jumps into my throat. The mistake is not mine–the airline’s booking agent put in the wrong date by accident–but the responsibility for catching it is. And I have failed.
There goes my morning.
It is to save you from vomit-inducing moments like this that I am writing this blog post on the all-important Travel Folder.
What is it?
A travel folder is a physical folder full of travel documents that you put together for your exec (or anyone else whose travel you coordinate).
A given folder may include any or all of the following:
A master agenda
Print-outs of airline and hotel reservations
Ground transportation information or reservations
Maps to and from all locations on the agenda
Tickets, registration info, RSVPs, or formal invitations for events, parties, etc.
Contact info for people and places on the agenda
Any other documentation or information your exec may need or want during the trip
Why do you need it?
For two reasons:
During the planning phase of the trip you can quickly and easily reference what has and has not been done, as well as dates, times, reservation numbers, etc. That means you’re far less likely to make mistakes, and far more likely to catch mistakes made by booking agents, etc., beforehand.
2. Your exec never has to rely on having internet access, a well-charged phone, etc., to get the information they need during the trip. That means you are far less likely to have your workflow (or sleep!) interrupted by a stressed-out exec who is urgently in need of information.
How do you do it?
As soon as a trip is planned, label a folder with the destination and dates, and put it in a prominent place on your desk. Any old manila folder will do. No need to get fancy here. That said, I like to use different colors for different trip types, both for easy visual differentiation and to keep my desktop colorful. 😉
2. Print out a travel checklist and paperclip it to the front of the folder.
3. As you go down the checklist, print out each document and place it in the folder.
4. Once the folder is complete, remove the checklist and walk through it briefly with your exec. Then make sure it gets into their bag/briefcase/suitcase/whatever.
You may want to make yourself a copy of the entire travel folder to keep with you while your exec is away, particularly during complicated trips such as international travel or meeting-heavy trips with a lot of maps, etc. That way you can literally be on the same page at all times.
Stay tuned for lesson two, in which I tackle the bedrock of administrative assistance: scheduling!