Celebrating Administrative Professionals: Remote Executive Assistant Ethan Bull
In this month’s blog series, we are celebrating administrative professionals who are also successful business leaders. You can be a successful administrative assistant, executive assistant, virtual assistant, or remote assistant AND a successful business leader. The Association of Virtual Assistants is proud to have had the opportunity to interview some of the best in the industry and allow them to tell their stories in their own words.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ethan Bull of ProAssisting.
Ethan Bull is a career executive assistant and director of administrative services who has worked in entertainment, advertising and healthcare. His 25+ year career began in New York City working on films, an entertainment agency and film studio as an assistant. He then transitioned to the advertising industry where he assisted the COO and Chief Strategy Officer. He ultimately led a team of 12 assistants supporting a group of 60 ad executives as Director of Administrative Services. He left NYC five years ago for Upstate New York as he and his wife, Stephanie, grew their family. In Upstate New York, he assisted the CEO of a $2B revenue and 16,000+ employee healthcare system. In addition to assisting the CEO, Ethan led a team of 80 assistants charged with supporting 240 executives throughout the five-hospital system as Director of Administrative Services. After two years, Ethan and Stephanie -also a career, top-level EA- realized they could use their talents and experience better by providing executive assistance to clients remotely through their business, ProAssisting.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Sure. I grew up in a small town in Upstate New York and my first job was working as a busboy in my father’s restaurant. Little did I know, but the hospitality lessons learned in that restaurant would be the foundation for my career of service and hospitality to the principals that I’ve worked with. Wanting to get away from the small town, I went to school in Boston at Bentley University and upon graduation, moved to NYC to work in film.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career?
An interesting story -from a long time ago- while working as a personal assistant in the film industry, I was personally assisting Nastassja Kinski on the film Town and Country. I was on set with her throughout her New York shoot and all of her scenes were with Warren Beatty. For the first week, Warren didn’t acknowledge my presence even if I was standing two feet away from him. However, throughout that week, he did notice how Nastassja leaned on my assistance while on set and off. At the start of the second week, Warren asked me to get him a diet Coke. From then on, I helped him out on set as well by getting drinks and snacks, informing him of the schedule or scheduling transportation back to the hotel when they wrapped for the day. What this taught me is that if you do your job well, people will notice and lean into you and your support more. I also learned that everyone, no matter how famous or rich, are just people too with a human side… they just take longer to form a level of trust.
Looking back, what do you think made you stand out as an administrative professional?
I had an amazing boss at the advertising agency that really believed in great support, pushed me to do my best and expanded my responsibilities as my career progressed. She was instrumental in recognizing my ability to connect with and lead our assistant population and gave me the responsibility to do so.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Absolutely. I partnered with a Human Resource director when I was promoted to Director of Administrative Services and she opened my eyes to what she looked for in candidates, what questions (and why) she asked in interviews, how she handled interpersonal issues and staffing issues and how she dealt with the office politics to make sure that we were able to adjust staffing to meet multiple -and sometimes divergent- requirements.
Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. How will you be celebrating Administrative Professionals’ Week?
While I do appreciate Administrative Professionals’ Week from the standpoint of getting our principals to take a moment to reflect on the support that we provide, I do shy away from placing too much emphasis on this one week or expecting anything from our principals. This year in particular with COVID-19 changing all of our worlds, I do want companies and principals to acknowledge that executive and administrative support is critical support for them and their business and to not view us as expendable in the inevitable hard times that are yet to come.
When you think of a stellar admin, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
My wife, Stephanie, is a top-level EA who continually amazes me with her poise, interpersonal skills and selflessness when supporting her clients. Her example continually pushes me to do my best for my own clients and our business.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
On a moment’s notice, I had to get my boss from NYC to LA and he had to pitch early the next morning and needed to sleep. He didn’t believe that I could get him into first or business class service since everything was coming up sold out, so I decided to check flights from JFK to Sydney Australia with a stop in LA… found one with a couple of first class seats. I got him one, he took the flight and then just departed in LA. FYI, you’re not supposed to do that per the airline policies, but he did, and we won the account.
What would you say to someone just starting out on their assistant career?
I would say to someone just starting out that if you perform your job at a very high level, you can take your own pride in that work without any outside “thanks” or encouragement. Just having that inner sense of pride from your work can fuel your success. Keep your own score so you’re not relying on anyone else to.
You are a person of great influence. Do you have any words of encouragement to share with our readers?
There is a difference between providing service versus providing hospitality. We are in a hospitality position, so it is useful to differentiate the two. Service is something you do to someone while hospitality is how you make someone feel.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m active on LinkedIn and you can check out our remote executive assistance company, ProAssisting, here: www.proassisting.com
Thank you so much for celebrating administrative professionals with us!
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