In an early-stage startup, it's common wisdom that hiring should be constrained to engineers and designers for as long as possible. But it really ain't so. Founders should make an assistant part of their early team so that their time is focused on what matters. Delaying the hire, which means you're spending your time on low-impact tasks, is often driven by false humility (“I don't want to send the signal that I think I'm more important”) and overreaching frugality (“We need to appear ultra-lean to our investors”).

But consider these points:

  • Time is your scarcest resource. You should really only spend time on things that only the CEO can do. Delegate lunch ordering so you don't have to delegate the hiring!
  • You may not think an assistant will have enough to do, but that's because you’ve been doing it yourself. After all, if it were already a full time job, who'd be doing it?
  • Consider hiring an assistant once you have about 10 employees. Your time is a lot more contentious once there are people fighting for your attention.
  • Make them an executive assistant, not an office manager or receptionist. The right EA is happy to take on extra tasks to make everyone's lives easier; it's a sign of having the right personality.
  • Find someone who loves helping people first, and has a backbone second. Interview for an innate sense of satisfaction in making things "just right" for someone else, but then look for the balance of knowing how to say "no" to you and others when it's needed.
  • Especially in the early days, ensure your assistant is rewarded for helping the entire team.

When you're backed up by someone who cares about your performance as much as you do, it's not just your life that gets better. Things get better for everyone you work with. If only out of respect for them, hire an assistant early.