How Ethan and Stephanie Bull Built Fractional Executive Assistant Firm ProAssisting

PARTNER CONTENT By APG

PUBLISHED: November 8, 2023
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With remote work becoming more commonplace, there is a growing market for remote executive assistants (EAs), who provide an elevated level of service to their principals compared to regular virtual assistants. As such, two experienced EAs, husband-and-wife duo Ethan and Stephanie Bull, have leveraged their more than 35 years of combined experience to create ProAssisting—a fractional, remote EA support firm.

Prior to founding the company, the Bulls resided in New York City, where they were both high-level EAs supporting C-suite executives. In 2015, with their second son on the way, the couple decided to move to Canandaigua, New York—Ethan’s hometown—to raise their growing family. Ethan took a job in nearby Rochester as an EA to the CEO of a large healthcare company. He was also director of administrative services for them.

Meanwhile, Stephanie was a stay-at-home mother, but she says a friend told her about a globe-trotting consultant who was looking for a remote EA, and Stephanie took the opportunity. Soon after, Ethan left his job in Rochester. Instead of looking for another job, the Bulls decided to take the path of entrepreneurship and started ProAssisting, harnessing their extensive experience as top-level EAs to executives at major corporations in the U.S.

Future-proofing executive assistants

ProAssisting sought to fill a gap where the service and capabilities of a virtual assistant drop off and those of a full-time, in-house EA pick up. Unlike other remote assistant services, ProAssisting has two main differences. First, it doesn’t charge by the hour, but by resources. The number of clients each EA supports is limited to a maximum of three. This allows the EA to provide full-service support, and the client pays fractionally, as opposed to employing someone full-time.

ProAssisting was launched in its current form as a provider of fractional EA services. The firm plans to debut the ProAssisting Academy, an educational and career training program designed for career-minded EAs who want to future-proof themselves for the rest of their professional journey.

“We started the ProAssisting Academy after seeing what artificial intelligence could do,” Stephanie says. “It solidified in our minds that we executive assistants must future-proof ourselves by providing a higher level of service, so as to be relevant and valuable in a world that’s increasingly being dominated by artificial intelligence. The service side of our business involves partnering clients with great assistants, and it is complemented by the education side, through the ProAssisting Academy, which trains those great assistants.”

What makes a good executive assistant?

Ethan says the work of an EA involves a higher level of partnership with their principal. They are more involved in both personal and business aspects of their principal’s lives, being a trusted confidant and the go-to person to get an answer, as opposed to putting that question on the principal’s plate.

“For us, a good executive assistant has a type-A personality, achievement-oriented, organized, competitive,” Ethan says. “They keep track of all the details and think outside of the box. They also have a service mindset that rises to the level of hospitality. Their strong work ethic makes them highly care about their work product and they understand that their main role is to give their principal back time.”

The performance multipliers framework

In their book, The 29-Hour Work Day, the Bulls discuss five performance multipliers that encompass the work of an EA. These include being a business partner, a chief of staff, a project manager, an assistant/scheduler and a personal assistant.

According to Ethan, explaining an EA’s job to a layperson can be hard and saying “I do a little bit of everything” does not provide value. However, using the performance multipliers framework allows principals, assistants and third parties to define the EA’s job more concretely and puts them all on the same page.

For example, being a business partner means the EA can sit in for their principal at a meeting, representing them and taking notes. As chief of staff, the EA can assign tasks to the principal’s other employees. As project manager, they can lead in organizing company events, such as holiday parties. As an assistant/scheduler, they typically handle the principal’s calendar and organize their email inbox. Finally, as a personal assistant, the EA can help the principal and their family plan their vacations by booking flights and handling other logistics.

“There is also a hidden sixth performance multiplier,” Ethan says. “This revolves around emotional intelligence, soft skills and work ethic. The EA applies their talent in those areas to raise the service of being an executive assistant to a level of hospitality that matches how five-star hotel concierges serve their guests. An executive assistant provides that same kind of service but takes it a step further because they have all the inside information about the principal.”

Photo courtesy of ProAssisting.

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