An army of virtual assistants (VA), who are instructed by some of the UK’s most high-powered entrepreneurs and business executives, have revealed some of their more memorable tasks.
Perhaps the most outrageous request was when one client asked his assistant to dump his cowardly son’s girlfriend on his behalf. And another assistant, who was initially instructed to do some light social media work for a client, was called on to compose a “dance track”.
One VA was requested to write the descriptions for the lingerie a client was selling through a retail website, while another was asked to source clothes using pictures in Vogue as inspiration, so her client could buy them for his wife and daughters.
A very specific request was for a VA to research and compile a list of all the zoos and wildlife centres in the USA that keep sloths.
One couple, with an American bride planning a UK wedding, asked a VA to research British suppliers of canned pumpkin because pumpkin pie was to feature at their wedding reception. The exact brief was to find an appropriate recipe, work out how many pies – and consequently how many cans of pumpkin – would be required for 70 guests, find a minimum of five suppliers, and make a comparative spreadsheet with a breakdown of the can prices, delivery charges and links to the products. As far as wedmin goes, that’s pretty thorough.
Time etc’s virtual assistants are also frequently requested to complain on their clients’ behalf. One such occasion involved complaining to a seafood restaurant that gave a client food poisoning, to a clothing shop after a jumper got damaged when it was dry cleaned and to Gucci about a custom-made suit that wasn’t tailored to a client’s exacting standard.
Penni Pike was Sir Richard Branson’s executive assistant for 32 years and now mentors Time etc’s assistants. She said: “People forget that assistants aren’t just hired to help with work-related tasks, because it’s the life admin that distracts from running your business or doing your day job.
“One of the most memorable tasks I was given was to leap out of a helicopter carrying Richard and I in order to read road signs for the pilot who had forgotten his map. The best thing about the job was the variety – turning up for work and thinking you were going to be filing and, before you knew it, you were helping with the launch of a hot air balloon. Great assistants expect to take on all sorts of jobs.”