If you’re in real estate now, it seems that assistants are everywhere. Administrative assistants are the most prominent, and that’s what this post is about. It’s tough for me to use such a polarizing headline, but I hope it got some peoples’ attention. Let’s take a look at the term “assistant” and what it means to our industry.

To maximize your effectiveness as a buyer’s agent (or any agent role) you should do your best to identify your specific strengths and execute your strengths to the benefit of your business. But what about your weaknesses? Should you be spending time to “shore them up” to make you a better agent? By most expert views, no, you shouldn’t be wasting time doing this.

This is where an “assistant” comes in. By hiring someone whose strengths balance your weaknesses, you become more effective because you’re not forcing yourself to do things you’re no good at. Your clients now receive better service, because more of their process is covered by a professional working in their area of expertise.

This causes a problem for me, though. Throughout real estate, the common term for these professionals is “administrative assistant.” As the title says, I despise this name and I think most people should stop using it.  Let’s look at how dictionary.com defines “assistant.”

The first definition doesn’t look that bad, does it? The second definition really chafes me, though. “Subordinate,” or “secondary” are words that I take great issue when considering the work of the administrative professionals on our team. However, I believe that many in our industry do believe their assistants are secondary or subordinate to them.

The work that our Transaction Manager and COO perform for our real estate team is not secondary or subordinate in any way to the selling members of the team. The functions they perform are every bit as important as showing homes and writing contracts, because they are facilitating the completion of necessary processes for our clients.

When I observe local agents, there are always those that churn through administrative help every few months. They’re typically the ones at the team meeting telling everyone how excited they are about their new “assistant,” and how he’s going to “take so much off my plate.” This illustrates an attitude that is destined to fail, because they are viewing the administrative role as secondary--someone to take the garbage that they simply don’t want to do. Chances are this agent hired quickly and found someone they felt good about personally, but have no idea what their true strengths are. What they really need is someone they can trust with important work while they are finding more business.

The reason this attitude of hiring or having an “assistant” is a problem is that most agents aren’t willing to trust their administrative professional to truly be part of the client process. If they see a function as “important” then they won’t hand it over to anyone else. Without trust, the initial helper relationship can never grow into true teamwork environment, and the hire will fall apart.

I hate the term assistant not because of how it sounds, but because it demeans a very large, important part of our industry by deeming them “secondary” to other industry functions. It’s time for all of us to recognize the important roles administrative professionals perform in our client successes. Agents that can’t trust someone enough to get out of the “assistant” or “secretary” mindset will not grow their business at the rate they desire.

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