A good assistant can change an entrepreneur's life, but keeping one from fleeing in frustration requires skills that entrepreneurs sometimes lack. To make the relationship work, you must:
1. Set a regular Monday meeting. "It's all about making sure that the entrepreneur weaves the assistant into their world," says Steve Armstrong, of Kelly Services, an executive-assistant staffing company. "Sometimes they get so wrapped up in their thoughts that all their assistant sees is the taillights."
2. Give up calendar power. If you don't let an assistant do his job, you are beyond help. Jeff Taylor, the founder of Monster.com, learned that lesson when he nearly lost his assistant, Kaycee Langford, on the day she was hired in 1995, by disappearing for a few hours and not answering his cell phone. He now lets her in on his location at all times, even when he's playing hooky. "Giving myself over to an assistant is one of the hardest things I've done," he admits. "You're used to doing everything yourself. Now she's in charge and gets upset if I touch my calendar."
3. Let them spruce you up. Melba Duncan, who runs the Duncan Group, another placement firm, once worked for an investment banker who cursed too much. So she made him deposit $5 in a jar every time he swore. "He became more aware of how unpleasant it was and it strengthened our relationship," says Duncan. She stayed with him for nine years.