The secret to being indispensable

The business of executive support is always changing, with technology and outsourcing encroaching on a once-thought stable job. Tiffany Murray’s experience reveals how to future-proof your role.

When the family has been farming for six generations it’s hard to imagine doing anything else – but that is exactly what happened to us. For 165 years the Murray family had been living off the land at Cappeedee Station, a 7000-acre wheat and sheep station 200km north of Adelaide.

Eight years of drought had made farming unsustainable and so the decision was made to move to the city. It was a tough period for our young family of six, but the change certainly helped us grow. After trying a few different careers, my husband Angus and I noticed a gap in the home styling industry and started Dressed for Sale in 2014.

Today Dressed for Sale is the largest home styling business in Australia and I believe some subtle yet key aspects helped us grow to what we are today.

Embrace change

Don’t be frightened of technology or artificial intelligence. Now more than ever many roles are transitioned into others or made redundant. Embrace the technology and master it. Become the keeper of it and you will have future-proofed your job.

I had an EA who was constantly upskilling and looking for better efficiencies. She was constantly thinking of how to save time and money. Own operational efficiency and champion change.

Develop your personal brand

Everybody is on a career trajectory. Make sure that everything you do digitally represents yourself in the most professional manner. You are a brand and you are constantly marketing yourself. Own your brand. More and more people are being recruited through digital platforms such as LinkedIn. Keep your profiles up to date and don’t be afraid to blow you own horn. All platforms are relevant so be selective with who you are friends with and what you post. You are always on display, selling yourself to your existing employer as well as potential employers.

Be yourself, back yourself

Don’t model yourself on other people. Be ahead of trends and the game – be the best at what you do so people trust you. A lot of people doubted that we would survive as a business. Work hard and work smart.

Get a mentor and do your homework – especially on the digital side of things. Find a motivation to push beyond your comfort zone. For us, having four little mouths to feed was a great motivator. You can’t expect others to trust you if you don’t trust yourself.

You can’t control the market, but you can control yourself

So many jobs are becoming redundant – you can’t control that. If you can tell that outsourcing is occurring in your workplace, don’t be afraid to look for somewhere that appreciates your quality. I had an amazing EA that when I asked her to buy some filing folders, didn’t just place it them on my desk, but filed it away in my draws.

In our office we like to practice ‘Kizukai’. This is a Japanese practice about anticipating the needs of others and delivering it before they have even asked. Go the extra mile – a machine can’t replace that.

Ask yourself: What next action will make money?

In the course of a day you will have a list of things to do or a routine. Have a look at that list and identify the highest payoff activity. Not only will this give you a sense of achievement, you will have completed one of the most important tasks for the day while you are still full of energy. Think about what will make your business/office better. Do it first.

Put forward you best energy signature

I once dealt with lawyer who had the most annoying tone in her voice. It made me not want to work with her. Some EA’s are very protective of their bosses and that’s OK – just don’t sound like a bouncer on the phone. Be polite, be helpful. Fake it if you have to.

Be vibrant in every situation and you will also find that your day will go faster as well. Remember – don’t hide behind emails. Pick up the phone and make the call. People remember and gravitate to positive, cheery people. You are a front-line billboard for your company so represent it well.

It’s OK to make a mistake

Sometimes you may find that you’ve made a minor error. Cut yourself some slack and don’t dwell on it. Be nimble and move onto the next task. Stop for a moment and think about that one person you know who seems to always be in the midst of a crisis. We all know at least one. No one likes a drama magnet, so stay calm and focus on making your boss’s life better. That way you will be noticed for the right reasons.

Learn to delegate

In 2015, I remember coming home at 11pm and the house was a disaster zone. Our business was taking off but we hadn’t perfected the work-life balance. After a brief meltdown I thought about how other successful people managed to do it. So I got myself an EA which has been an absolute lifesaver. It’s OK to ask for help.

If you are in a position where you are leading others, remember to invest in your staff. The better trained they are, the more you are able to delegate. Look at your team and assign tasks according to a person’s strengths and relevant skills.