Emily Morgan and Eileen Coombes help teams create the freedom to do more and make most of their time and energy.
In this episode of The Leader Assistant Podcast, Emily and Eileen share their career journeys from assistants to executive and founder roles at Delegate Solutions. They also talk about communication tips for working remotely and more!
What we know matters, but who we are matters more.
– Brene Brown
CONNECT WITH EMILY AND EILEEN
- Emily on LinkedIn
- Emily’s book, Let it Go!
- Eileen on LinkedIn
- Delegate Solutions
Emily Morgan helps leaders and their teams create the freedom to do more of what they love and increase their impact. She is the founder of Delegate Solutions, a delegation company, and the creator of the “Delegate Freedom System,TM” which has helped thousands of busy entrepreneurs master delegation and finally reclaim their time.
The author of Let It Go!, Emily speaks nationally on the topics of delegation, remote workforces, and entrepreneurship and has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, Inc., HuffPost, The New York Times, and NBC News. Her company continues to rank as one of the fastest-growing companies in Philadelphia.
With over 15 years of experience in training and development, project management, and organizational and strategic vision, Eileen Coombes is passionate about helping others make the most of their time and energy. She enjoys streamlining the workload to create effective processes which leverage leaders. She is energized by taking a big vision, breaking it into achievable, bite-sized goals and bringing that vision to reality.
She values life-work integration and helping people create and maintain the balance they crave.
Eileen holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and holds a masters degree from Bowling Green State University. She resides in North Carolina with her husband and two children.
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Eileen Coombes 0:00
Hi, I’m Eileen Coombes, and today’s leadership quote is from Brene Brown. What we know matters but who we are matters more.
Podcast Intro 0:13
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants
Jeremy Burrows 0:28
The Leader Assistant Podcast is brought to you by goody. If you’re starting to think about holiday gifts for your team like I am, goody is a game changer. They have amazing gifts that people will really love including brands that give back to charitable causes. As a longtime executive assistant, I’ve always been nervous about holiday gifting season. But thankfully, goody’s platform lets you send one gift or hundreds at the same time without ever worrying about shipping details. Can I get an amen? With goody your gift recipients provide all their shipping info, and they can even swap out your gift for another option if they prefer. It’s free to start gifting and you can get a $20 credit when you sign up. Oh, and if you mentioned you heard about goody from The Leader Assistant Podcast, goody will add an extra $10 credit to your account. Go to leaderassistant.com/goody to start gifting today. Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s your host, Jeremy Burrows. And this is episode 193. You can check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/193. That’s leaderassistant.com/193. And today I have the privilege of speaking with two amazing former assistants, mostly former assistants, and business leaders at delegate solutions. So Eileen Coombes, and Emily Morgan, Eileen and Emily, thank you for being on the show.
Emily Morgan 2:11
So happy to be here.
Jeremy Burrows 2:14
Awesome. Well, I’m gonna kind of jump back and forth and ask you each different questions. But let’s start with you. Emily, tell us a little bit about first where it What city are you in? And a little bit about how you ended up being an assistant back in the day.
Emily Morgan 2:34
Oh. So I’m in Philadelphia, and I started my professional career, I guess when I was in college. And one of the interesting parts of my story is that I lived in Alaska for a few years. And I was I did a year of college up there and I was wanting to come back to Philadelphia, I got a job at the University of Pennsylvania, where I ultimately graduated from. And while I was going to school there, I was working there full time. And I was working as an assistant. So I was supporting lots of different Dean’s and you know, executive level, you know, staff and stuff at the university. And I got to go to school there for free. So I was able to get an Ivy League degree for free. And learn that I was really great at admin work and I really discovered you know, my own heart for helping others and supporting others. And so that’s always been where I come back to professionally.
Jeremy Burrows 3:40
Nice. What was your you said you lived in Alaska, how long? Three years, three years? What was your favorite part about Alaska?
Emily Morgan 3:51
Um, the energy up there, you know, it’s different kinds of people, and they sort of live life on their own terms. So like as an entrepreneur, I was like naturally drawn to that. I think the scenery doesn’t hurt either. But I don’t miss the cold although here in Philly, it gets cold too. So yeah, just like totally different way of life up there.
Jeremy Burrows 4:13
Nice. Did you hang out in any igloos?
Emily Morgan 4:18
I lived in Anchorage so it was right on the water. And then part of the time I was there was on an island called Kodiak which is like a temperate rainforest climate, believe it or not so very damp. itself. It’s so Alaska is like a big head with a beard coming off and Kodiaks kind of down here.
Jeremy Burrows 4:37
Nice. Awesome. I’ve always wanted to go there. My dad got to go a long time ago and that’s on my bucket list. All right, well, let’s switch over to Eileen. Eileen, tell us about what city you’re in. And how did you become an assistant back in the day
Eileen Coombes 4:55
so I am based in Raleigh, North Carolina. So little bit aways from Emily. But my first assistant role was as a college student working for a department at my university, I almost got fired from it because I wasn’t proactive enough because I didn’t know. It was a good learning experience. But I really didn’t step into a formal executive assistant role till I joined the team at delegate solutions. Part of that I’d worked in higher education, and I had assistants who reported to me, but I wasn’t the assistant. And I ended up there because I needed a change. To create a better life work balance for myself, I had little ones I wanted to be home more, and I wanted to work virtually. And knowing that I loved the administrative pieces of my roles at the university, it just made sense for me to take those skills and transfer them into an EA role, though, it ended up being a really great fit. And almost eight years later, I’m still at the company. So and I love that I hold on to one client don’t because I love the work I do for her. And I think the work that assistants do, it matters. So
Jeremy Burrows 6:10
nice. Nice. So switching back over to Emily, what is the delegate solutions? How did the idea come about? And why did you why did you launch the business?
Emily Morgan 6:23
Yeah, so I mentioned I’m in Philly. And I was at one point commuting in and out of Philadelphia, and really was about to have a child and it was kind of like, alright, this is not going to work. For me, this is not what I want for my life. I wanted to have more flexibility. And so I was like on an interview with this woman, this random interview, and she was like talking about how she had a virtual assistant. And I’d never heard of that. So I’m thinking to myself, wait a minute, like I could be an assistant and work at home, like, what is this. And so I’m pregnant, and I’m googling and learning and was like, Hey, I could totally do this. So I had my son and started delegate within about six months, and was working, I guess, part time being a mom and starting the business. And it got so busy. Within about a year or so that I had to leave the job, the job came in as one of our first clients. And then Penn came in as a client, like my old boss at UPenn. So if you read my book, like the first page of my book is dedicated to my boss at UPenn. Because he was like, one of those people in your life who’s like, you know, that person changed the trajectory of my life and like a really impactful way. So he’s one of them, because he gave me a chance when I was in Alaska, gave me a great job at Penn when I moved back home. So that’s how it all started. It was really out of my own sort of selfish need to create a better situation for myself, and my son.
Jeremy Burrows 7:56
Nice and around. What year was this? That you started
Emily Morgan 7:59
2007. So it was like, right, as the recession was starting. And I always say like delegate was born in a recession. And I feel like, we’ll do fine if there is a recession, because I think people need what we do in either type of economy. So you either can’t find talent, or you can’t afford talent. And so we kind of fall as a catch all in the middle of that.
Jeremy Burrows 8:24
Wow. So that was that was actually before the whole Well, that was long before and a lot of ways the whole remote work. trend. So was that? Did you find that you were having to convince people that remote work was okay.
Emily Morgan 8:41
Oh my goodness, endless soapboxing. Endless having to explain advocate for, you know, until like maybe a few years ago, you’d say virtual assistant. Nobody knew what that meant. Right? And then COVID happened. And then suddenly, it just changed everything. And for us, it really impacted us because our team was mostly moms. And so now they had kids home, which we sort of had to adapt to. And then it changed our talent pipeline a little bit also. But it was just this transformational moment for virtual companies in general. I think, like we were already so far ahead of everyone, because we had already built the company to run this way. So it’s really interesting.
Jeremy Burrows 9:29
So when did you start realizing okay, you know, you said it got busy. When were you like, Oh, crap, I need help. Like, I need to hire. I need to hire more people. I need to build a team. I’m assuming it was just you at first, right?
Emily Morgan 9:44
Yeah, I mean, I was. My story is I was raised by teachers. I have an English degree. I knew nothing about entrepreneurship, nothing about business and I barely knew how to be an assistant. It’s just what career path I had like followed. So Oh, it was, it was a really interesting time because I was like sort of discovering myself in a way because I’m like getting really entrepreneurial. At that point, I was like, going through a divorce a few years later. So it was like a really pivotal time in my life to sort of rise to the challenge of figuring this out, because it was like, how I was going to support myself. And so like, I would have subcontractors initially that were working with me that were like, other virtual assistants. And that’s how we, that’s how we started. That’s where we came from. And then a few years into running the company, I went to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business program. And in that program, I really started to understand that, okay, there’s a really specific way that we do what we do, we want to be able to ensure people do it, the way that we envision it. And the only way to do that is to have employees. So then we move to this employee model, and just been scaling out from there.
Jeremy Burrows 11:00
So you had by employee mean, w two employees, not just a bunch of contracted assistants.
Emily Morgan 11:08
And I think, you know, we’re the only firm that salaries, full time employees on our team. So most other firm models are like a matchmaker situation where they’re like, Oh, we’re, we’re gonna find you the perfect assistant. Like, that’s not what we’re selling. We’re selling a proven delegation system with a great team that helps you implement it.
Jeremy Burrows 11:34
So when did Eileen come into the picture?
Emily Morgan 11:39
If the company, my son is 16, so that’s how I always know how old delegate is so 15. So halfway through Eileen, and Eileen is on our leadership team, so she helps make really strategic decisions about things like FTE is and how that’s all going to work. And for a stretch of time, she was running the whole service department. So she’s been like every seat within the company.
Jeremy Burrows 12:04
By myself. I was gonna say, How did you find her?
Emily Morgan 12:08
She applied I, as you’re telling your story, I’m sitting here remembering interviewing you in your old job in the office, like, totally flashback?
Eileen Coombes 12:17
Yep, I had my blazer on. And I was my office, was sitting in my office at the university. So.
Jeremy Burrows 12:24
So Eileen, how have you? How’s the experience been? And where did you are? When did you realize that? Okay, I’m a leader in this organization, or I had the opportunity to become a leader. And, you know, yeah, what, how did that come to fruition in your career?
Eileen Coombes 12:47
I am. So I probably naturally step up to certain things often. And when I came to delegate, I was like, Nope, I’m just gonna be an assistant, I have no, I had supervised a team of 20, I had a large staff at the university. And I was like, No, I want no part of it. I just want to come in and do my job. Because I was focused, I was in 1099, employee, a delegate. At that point, I was only working part time, I wanted to be able to balance things. But I took I took naturally, I think, to the roll, and then Emily and other members of our leadership team, were asking me to share what I was doing with other members of our team. So I started creating little training videos and what have you, which is a really natural, instinctual thing for me because I came out of an education background I taught at the university. So I, that was a very natural thing for me. So I started training our team. And and and then it slowly progressed from there. And I went from team trainer, training every new trainee that came in and working with team members who might be struggling, then running the service department, so overseeing our, our entire group of assistants and making sure our process was down and people were representing the company the way that we intended. So it’s been a fun journey. And now I’ve shifted, and I’m helping build our training area of the company to help with our people that were trading at an external level. So a lot of fun. I love that it brings my education background into it, because that is a passion of mine. So I love teaching and mentoring and coaching.
Jeremy Burrows 14:26
So yeah, tell us a little bit about what delegates doing. As far as are you training assistants? Are you training executives? Are you helping both? What’s that look like?
Eileen Coombes 14:37
It’s both so we’re focused on visionaries and their teams. So the business leaders and the teams they work with. So we our bread and butter is delegation. We want to help create a culture of delegation across the companies because we know that’s what will help them grow and scale. And so Emily’s book kind of created the maybe formalized the foundation we are had these tools in place, but it really brought them all together for us. And so we train. We offer courses right now primarily to business leaders on delegation. But then I have been doing a lot of team training and coaching for teams that want to improve how they’re working together in that realm. And so we’ll turn on delegation, and then I would say sort of delegation, adjacent topics, topics that really support their delegation journey. So time blocking, those kinds of things that have an impact. So we’re also doing
Emily Morgan 15:31
growth groups, you can speak on that one, I lean a little bit too.
Eileen Coombes 15:36
Yeah, we just launched our element. So we have an elevated admin community, which is just like a free group that meets monthly, it’s admins whose support admins type of thing. But we just launched what we’re calling the elevated admin growth group. And so it is a group of assistants we come together each month, it’s a three hour mastermind type setting, where they can share ideas and learn from each other. But we always have some sort of training or learning topic as well, that helps level up the skill sets that we’re trying to live up to in our in our roles. So right now we’re focused on the delegation journey in particular, but it’s a fun, it’s a fun group that we’ve just started.
Jeremy Burrows 16:17
Awesome. And, Emily, how did you or when, and how did you get the whole book idea? And yeah, what was that whole process? I you know, I’ve written a book. So I know what it’s like, I know how painful it is. But what was the impetus for writing the book?
Emily Morgan 16:36
Peer pressure? No, I mean, it was we already we’ve been always so content heavy. So like, with my English background, you know, writing comes really naturally to me. And it was just a matter of sort of, what kind of book do I want to write? What kind of format do I want it to be? And I did a program with scribe, and work to put together the book with them. I wrote the book, but they had this great program called Guided author, which helped me sort of flesh out what the Table of Contents would be. And then so then I went and wrote the book. Then they do the editing, the proofing the cover, design, layout, printing the whole thing. So I just had to write the book. And then I did the audiobook. I recorded that on my own this summer. So now we have it in all different versions.
Jeremy Burrows 17:37
Nice. Yeah, I actually use them as well. It was great to partner with them. Describe? Yes, great. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, my friend of mine had used them few years ago and recommended, and it was so nice to just be able to focus on writing the book, and let them deal with all the other stuff.
Emily Morgan 17:57
What you know, too, if you don’t have a resource like that, like, it’s just a lot of moving parts to figure out on top of like, I just want to write this book and get it out there. You know?
Jeremy Burrows 18:07
Yeah. Cool. Well, how so? How big is your team now? And how many? How many assistants are on your team? And how many clients do you support?
Emily Morgan 18:18
Um, we have about 50 employees right now. And hundreds of clients. I don’t know the exact number. But, you know, we work only with entrepreneurs. So there’s a very specific type of person that we typically work well with. And they’re established entrepreneurs with teams. That’s who we refer to work with, because we like to come in and not just support one person, but how can we support others in the company to really build this momentum of a culture of delegation?
Jeremy Burrows 18:53
Nice. And what would you say is, I’ll ask this question to both of you. We’ll start with Emily, what’s your number one tip for communicating with like ongoing communication with a remote executive? Or if you’re an executive or remote assistant? What’s your number one tip for staying connected? In the remote work world?
Emily Morgan 19:24
Um, I feel like we do this really well. I don’t know if there’s any better way to do it than how we do it. We use Slack. And we use Zoom. So all of our meetings are always on video. So we’ve been really strict about that, so that we’re seeing each other. We do weekly huddles with our teams, so the whole team shows up. And there’s a format format that we follow for that we do weekly. They work in small teams, so they have weekly zoom meetings together. What am I missing? We have monthly team trainings we have state of the company which is coming up at our company where we kind of share where we’ve been where we’re at where we’re going. So there’s a lot that we do probably more than you would see in a regular office setting simply because we’re remote, just to keep the relationships going. But Eileen has been working on a ton of fun stuff. So I let her share more. Nice. Well, I
Eileen Coombes 20:22
won’t say to answer that question like, to me that that visual, being able to see each other makes all the difference in a remote setting, otherwise, you can definitely feel isolated. But when I think about what’s most important, when we’re communicating with the entrepreneurs we support, it’s having real clarity around their vision and where they’re going. And if we don’t have that, that face to face doesn’t matter, almost because we’re just kind of out in the abyss trying to figure it out. So we work really hard with the entrepreneurs, we support to make sure we’re really clear on the direction where they’re headed. Because otherwise, nothing else matters, you know, in terms of communication.
Jeremy Burrows 21:05
What about for delegate solutions? What’s your five year or 10 year plan? Like you want to support, hire more resistance? Do you want to get more in support more executives? Do you want to do a lot more with the training and build that out as a large portion of it, what’s kind of your vision.
Emily Morgan 21:30
So our vision is all about giving entrepreneurs back time. And so there’s sort of a key metric that we are building towards, it’s our B hag, and it’s a compilation of our service, our training, and God knows what else we’re going to do to help people free up their time. So, you know, we’re aspiring towards just a master goal of time freed up for leaders. I’m really excited about the work we’re doing on the training side. And I’m also excited about a lot of ideas that I have for the service side, and that we’ve gotten from a lot from our team members to that have a lot of great ideas of things we can do. But you know, we’re a very regimented group, we run on EOS. So, you know, we’re 90 day sprints, we have a 10 year vision three year, one year quarterly, like it’s pretty regimented for for an entrepreneurial company, but it’s what keeps us healthy and strong, I think is we’re all on the same page of where we’re going, what does it mean, that we’re getting there, you know, metrics and
Jeremy Burrows 22:41
yeah. So really appreciate you guys being on the show. Cool, cool story with Delegate solutions. What’s one thing you know, just imagine 1000s of assistants listening to this, while they’re doing dishes, or driving to work or whatever? What’s one thing that you would want to leave with them today? or encourage or challenge them? With today? And I’ll start with Eileen?
Eileen Coombes 23:10
Oh, gosh. Um, oh, you had to start with me. And I wasn’t ready.
Jeremy Burrows 23:21
Emily’s ready, let’s do it.
Emily Morgan 23:24
Um, I would say that your work matters. And your work makes other people better. And I just remember, like, when I was an assistant, and I mean, probably heard this story, like many times, but like, when I was an assistant, I was like, I love being backstage, like, I love all the, you know, making it someone else, you know, making someone else really successful. And I always thought like, that’s where I would stay. And then when I really sort of discovered and I’m an entrepreneur, like, it was a total reversal. So like, you know, just believe in what you’re doing believe that it makes a difference believe that. You know, your work is as important to the person with all the big ideas, because without the execution that you bring that skill set, nothing gets done, or nothing gets done well. So, like, take a lot of pride in what in what you’re doing. professionally.
Jeremy Burrows 24:19
Yeah, we’ll say.
Eileen Coombes 24:21
Yeah, I mean, I’ll probably echo a lot of what Emily said, but I always think back when I was leaving graduate school, our professors told us if you make friends with anyone in the office that has to be the leader, they make everything happen, which is probably what your work resonates with me, Jeremy, because at the end of the day, they’re the glue keeping everything together. And so, Assistant the work assistants do it was really important to elevate and leverage the businesses they work for and not they shouldn’t take that for granted, because it’s heavy and important work. Well said,
Jeremy Burrows 25:00
very chat. Awesome. Well, where can people reach out and find out more about delegate solutions?
Emily Morgan 25:08
Yeah, Delegatesolutions.com. And all of our info is on the webpage. If you head over in the navigation, there’s a drop down for training. And that’s where you’ll find a lot of the stuff, the newer things that we’re working on in the training and development side of things that we’re really excited about.
Jeremy Burrows 25:28
Perfect. And I’ll put the all the links in the show notes at leaderassistant.com/193. And yeah, Emily and Eileen, thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you.
Unknown Speaker 25:49
Please leave you on Apple podcast.
Unknown Speaker 25:58