Mary Marsh founded Aim2Assist in December 2014. Over the course of her long, successful career in business, she had become all-too-familiar with the difficulties encountered by startups and small enterprises in hiring and affording in-house support staff. She was inspired to start a company that could help talented individuals wishing to work remotely from home — or from anywhere.
Prior to Aim2Assist, Mary owned and operated Industrial Design and Drafting Services, a mechanical, structural and electrical engineering services firm, which she founded in 1996 and ran successfully for over 21 years. Before then, she was the executive assistant to the heir of Dow Chemical, where she provided support to board members Rodman Rockefeller and Edmund de Rothschild.
Drawing on her professional experience, as well as the strong work ethic she learned growing up in a large middle-class family, Mary built Aim2Assist from the ground up. Although at first she wore all the “hats” herself, the company has grown significantly under her leadership, and today the corporate culture continues to echo her values of hard work and dedication.
Mary and the team are committed to serving the best interests of their clients and contractors, an aim they view as inextricably linked to their own success. With the mantra “be the example you desire to see” as her guiding principle, Mary takes great pride in sharing her determination and passion for high-quality service with all of her associates and customers.
Where did the idea for Aim2Assist come from?
My background is in structural and mechanical design engineering and was also my first business venture. I contracted design work from professional engineers out of Pensacola, Florida from 1996 thru 2016. My workload was cut in half beginning in 2009 due to the recession; it became necessary to find additional work to make ends meet.
In the 1980’s, I was the executive assistant to the heir to Dow Chemical for four years and still possessed the skills required to perform EA work. Needing to continue working remotely from home, I began searching for executive/administrative assistant positions online; I was hired as a virtual assistant contractor for what is now one of Aim2Assist’s competitors.
I loved their business model and did very well for just over a year until they went in a different direction – one in which I was not in agreement. Many EAs left and eventually, I was one of them. Knowing and believing I could start my own virtual assistant company, I single-handedly founded, bootstrapped and launched Aim2Assist in 2014.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Aim2Assist is still relatively new and we’re small. Currently, we have 20 contracted virtual executive assistants and three executive team members; myself as CEO, a CFO and CoS. We also have a contracted Digital Creative Director who handles all of our marketing efforts.
As CEO and Founder, I wear a few more “hats”; sales/client acquisition, human resources (including hiring), client happiness and innovation. Currently, my day starts with a very productive stand up, each morning, with my CoS. We go over my calendar and any other tasks/projects we need to work on each day. We also spend a few minutes reflecting on a faith-based daily devotional which helps us to stay focused and ever mindful of our core values.
A typical day includes reviewing resumes as we are always in hiring mode, fielding potential new client inquiries, performing wellness checks with current clients, client procurement and the day to day management of the executive team. I use Google calendar to block out time for all the things and setting reminders so I don’t lose track of time. Taking short breaks – getting up and walking around every couple of hours helps me to regain focus when brain overload seeps in.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Most of my ideas come at night when I’m trying to sleep and my brain won’t shut down. I’ve learned to keep a notepad on my nightstand so I can jot down quick notes or I will not remember in the morning.
Ideas are always discussed and brainstormed with the three of us – the executive team. We’re all so different, personality-wise, but like-minded and most always, on the same page with creativity and skills in different areas. It’s always interesting, not to mention educational, to bounce ideas off each other as the others frequently see things that I don’t see or view differently. Some ideas are squashed simply because we’re just not there yet. Most ideas have come to fruition or are still being discussed. It’s great to have these fine folks, who are trusted implicitly, to work with and bounce ideas off of every day.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Oh, the trend toward remote work and virtual assistants as opposed to in-house assistants, of course! The savings alone is huge; currently as high as 82% per year, depending on your location. Pre Covid, the trend was moving in that direction, although slowly. Virtual assistants have been around for 20 years or so. Since Covid and the increasing need to work remotely, the trend is growing at a faster pace. We’ve seen huge increases in website traffic, inquiries and, as well, sales. We’re excited for the future and what comes next!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I never give up… no matter what happens. When I started my company, I knew the odds were stacked against me – I was sure to fail. I refused to believe that and kept pushing myself every day for the first few years. When you believe in yourself and what you’re doing, you work harder and commit to success. I do this every single day… and it works!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t believe everything you see or hear; there are always at least 2 sides to every story.
Listen first, then listen more; really hear what’s being said.
Think first, then think again – it will save you from making as many bad decisions.
Set goals but be flexible; things don’t always work out the way we plan.
Commit to working hard for the things you want; anything worth having is worth the effort.
Be kind to yourself and others – you never know what someone else is going through.
Do the right thing even though it’s usually the hardest thing.
And finally, trust God. When He closes a door, He opens another, better one.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Humans are not really rational beings. Thought process is mostly emotional, including mathematics. I found 99.99% will refuse to believe so. The ones who will accept fall within the margin of error.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Consistently create the best experiences for our independent contractors and our clients. Without happy contractors, we won’t have happy clients so we concentrate on providing an exceptional remote working environment with some perks that are unheard of for most contractors.
Frequent check-ins with our clients are key in ensuring all is well, allowing us to get ahead of major issues by correcting minor issues as they occur. Many clients will not complain until things become problematic. Reaching out to them every 2-3 months avoids most issues.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We focus obsessively on creating an amazing experience for our clients by consistently providing a premium service. Only 2% of the candidates that apply actually get to call themselves Aim2Assist Virtual Assistants. We truly only contract with the best of the best. This strategy provides us with referrals from our current clients which is 95% of our business. Referrals are golden – they produce the best, long term clients.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In our first year of business, an HR Software company proposed to partner with us. We would use and recommend their software to our clients for a percentage; they would recommend our virtual assistant services to their clients for a percentage.
We were so convinced this would work, we put 10 potential candidates through our contractor hiring process and promised they’d have full time assignments within 2-3 months. The software company’s payout agreement compared to the amount they expected from us would have financially destroyed Aim2Assist within 6 months; we declined their offer.
We had 10 contractors expecting assignments and we had no work for them. Needless to say, most were very unhappy with us and we didn’t blame them. We learned not to “count your chickens before they’re hatched”, so to speak, and after a period of licking wounds, we recovered. Lesson learned.
This business is tricky when it comes to hiring contractors to fill potential client needs; it’s hard to predict when or how many clients will sign up for services. It’s a balancing act for sure and in time, you begin to instinctively gauge what you’ll need and when you’ll need it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
We’ve considered expanding our business to include USA based customer service call centers. I think all of us get frustrated with customer service reps for various reasons such as lack of experience and expertise, inability to understand their respective languages, etc. As C-level executive assistants, we feel our contractors would provide a higher level of service in this area.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A 3-month BarkBox subscription (for heavy chewers) for my weiner dog, Rufus. Rufus is nearly 2.5 years old now and annihilates every toy he’s ever received. We had BarkBox for over a year but had to cancel from all the fuzz he ingested; feared it would eventually cause him problems. He LOVED his BarkBoxes! He’s very smart and understands probably more than I even realize but when his BarkBoxes delivered, he knew they were for him. For Christmas, I decided to get a 3-month subscription of the heavy chew toys in hopes he’ll not completely shred them within 5 minutes! His December box is on it’s way – he is going to be so excited!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
SLACK! I don’t know what I’d do without it. With all of Aim2Assist (and it’s clients) being remote, it’s a must have for real time communication. I use it to set reminders for myself several times each day. If I can’t answer a message from someone on my team, I can set a reminder to answer it on a specific day or time. I use slackbot for celebrations, i.e. birthdays and work anniversaries and other apps for integrations such as google calendar and 1Password.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Seven Evolutionary Levels to Profound Selling” – Glenn Roller
I’m currently about 3/4 of the way through this book but am finding it extremely helpful. It takes you through the seven steps beginning with the self-absorbed salesperson and ending with the enlightened salesperson. Each level takes you deeper into the layers of selling and into the layers of an individual, as well, exposing specific steps to growing an understanding of selling and one’s self. It is profoundly life altering.
What is your favorite quote?
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -Theodore Roosevelt
- Plan your day, including breaks
- Trust your team
- Never give up
- Commit to excellence
- Focus on repeat clients and referrals
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.