The Launch of PA Insiders – for PA to PA Recommendations

Merryl Futerman PA Access All Areas


Hi, I’m Merryl Futerman and I am one of the founders of PA Insiders.  Having worked as a celebrity PA for nearly 20 years, one of the things I love most about the job i never knowing what task is coming my way next. One of these unusual requests formed what would become the seed of PA Insiders. Let me explain. My boss bought an antique grand piano at auction for his country house. I needed to arrange delivery, but also for the baby grand that was there to be moved to the London property to make space. This in turn meant moving the art deco ship’s piano from the London home to a friend’s house in another part of the country. And so it was I spent several days researching, getting quotes, insurance, booking etc so that on one fateful day I had 3 pianos in simultaneous motion around the country. I was now an expert in piano removals. And yet would probably never need those contacts again.

This is often the way with us PAs – we have banks of knowledge which sometimes we only need to use once – a big office move, a one-off international conference. I was chatting about this with my colleague, Josephine Green, and she also pointed out how collaborative PAs usually are, happy to share their contacts and knowledge with other PAs. So together we came up with the concept of creating a place where PAs could share information with each other, and more to the point understand instantly the requirements – PA to PA recommendations. Better still, if it was online it would mean that PAs from anywhere in the country and even beyond could access it – and so the idea started to take shape.

It has taken over a year and been through many stages but we are delighted to be launching – a website where PAs from anywhere can search the database to find a supplier suggested by another PA, with their reason for recommending and relevant contact info etc. We are also great believers in networking, so there is a Conversation Wall where PAs can ask a question, share a great tip or post a picture, an e-card feature to send to someone to ask for advice about their city, or say ‘thanks for the help’, or just ‘I think our paths have crossed’. We have thrown in a competition and a regular poll for PAs to get involved in and tried to include everything we ourselves would find useful in our day to day working lives.

Our dream is a PA in Exeter having to plan a business trip to Glasgow for their boss, and simply by asking for help on the Conversation Wall and searching the database by city, being able to set the whole thing up in a few clicks – from travel to hotel to a great restaurant for dinner. Or needing a specialist piece of tech for a board meeting and having someone who knows exactly what to use and how to source it.

One of our key requirements was that the site be free to use for PAs and we’re very proud to have achieved this, but its success is now down to our members – by uploading their great suppliers, engaging in the conversation wall or responding to a poll. Do go and have a look – you can download the brochure on the home page before signing up. As all communication takes place via the website you can rest assured that only your name, company and city will be displayed on the member database.

There are approximately 65,000 PAs working in the UK, imagine the shared knowledge available to access.

Visit the website

Follow us on Twitter @PA_Insiders

The Assistant Toolkit

It has been a busy few months here at Practically Perfect PA. I have just finished the regional events and we are just adding the final details to Assist Travel. The first Practically Perfect PA eBook is available for everyone to download and I am just about to launch this year’s Industry Snapshot survey… So busy, busy! On top of all of that, we have opened up bookings for next year’s Assist Conference.

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The Assist Conference 2017

I am delighted to announce that we will be organising the Assist Conference again next year! This year’s conference sold out so I thought I would launch the event slightly earlier to give everyone a chance to book their place on the conference. It is taking place on Friday 24th February at The Hippodrome Casino in London and as you can imagine I am very excited about what we have planned! Here is a little more details on next year’s conference and why I think it is well worth you guys coming along!

The Assist Conference 2017

The Assistant Tool Kit

The theme for Assist 2017 is ‘The Assistant Tool Kit’. What is the Assistant tool kit? It is the bag of skills, competencies, qualifications and hard earned knowledge that you carry with you every day. It is your unlimited pool of resources, it is your never ending Mary Poppin’s bag of tricks. Every assistant has their own unique tool kit and during Assist 2017 we will show you how you can take yours to the next level.

With every event we organise, Assist 2017 is designed to support Assistants, to arm you with the skills you need to tackle some of the difficult aspects of the role and to make you succeed in this industry.

All of the sessions at The Assist Conference will be based around four important key themes that I think are really important:
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses: Your tool kit is packed full of unique skills and competencies. During Assist we will help you identify your strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Adding value within your organisation: How does your tool kit support your Executive and your organisation? We will show you the areas that you can add value.
  • What is in the tool kit of the future?: We will look at the fundamental skills assistants will require in the next five years.
  • Sharing best practice for assistants: Through best practice assistants can learn, grow and add new skills to their tool kits. We will share best practice throughout the day.

We will have a mixture of formats ranging from panel sessions to workshops, from roundtable sessions to keynote speakers. We will focus on best practice and learning from other assistants. Together we will look at how we can use the tool kit that every assistant has to improve ourselves personally and professionally.

We all have unique tool kits that have taken us to where we are today. We all have different experiences within the industry and we have personal goals that we want to accomplish in our career. But we also have a lot of  shared experiences that I really want to draw on and cover during The Assist Conference. I often talk about assistants being the superheroes of the office and I absolutely believe that we are.

So what about the content? Well, across a truly interactive and engaging day we will look at:
  • The need for a PA to be an all rounder
  • Knowing when to say no and when to ask for support
  • The need to be connected
  • Creating an “All Star” status on LinkedIn
  • It’s not just what you know, it is who you know!
  • The secret art of discretion
  • Confidence workshops
  • The tech in your tool kit
  • Developing the perfect partnership with your Executive
  • Identifying the gaps in your tool kit
  • Inspirational PAs who use their tool kits to push boundaries and move the industry forward

Building on the foundations of this blog the conference will provide a skyscraper full of fantastic content. There will be superhero PAs round every corner, practical ideas and best practice. Learning by doing will be the cornerstone of the Assist Conference.

Assist 2017 is not just for UK based assistants!

Obviously I would love every single one of you to attend, I know some of you are not based in the UK so that might be a little tricky – normally I would let you guys off. But, and this is a big but, at next year’s Assist Conference we will be live streaming the content so that those based outside of the UK can still have access to the conference. I will let you know all the details later this year!

Register for a place

On the website you can see an outline of the content, the key themes, and some of our wonderful speakers. We will be announcing more speakers and sessions over the coming weeks.

We have an early booking discount of £250 and you can register your interest right now! 

The future of recruitment for Assistants

At the recent Assist Conference we held a great panel session about the future of the assistant role. We asked Claire Grant, Head of London Talent at the new recruitment firm, specifically for assistants, Sidekicks onto the panel and she provided a great insight into the future of the role from a recruitment perspective. For those that couldn’t attend the conference, here are the thoughts of Jessica Williams, Founder (and former assistant) at Sidekicks… 

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Using social media to empower Assistants

When Nicky approached me to speak about my top tips for beginners at The Assist Conference I was truly honored.  I’m a huge fan of Practically Perfect PA and am loving the new look site.  Despite my passion for social media I haven’t always been adept at it and was a twitter virgin until The Assist Conference 2015.  It is never too late to add a new string to your bow and social media seems to be the way forward for the future Assistant.

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How to create an assistant handbook

On March 26th I joined some of the PA community’s most motivated and inspiring representatives at the annual Assist conference, speaking in a case study slot on “Future proofing your career”. One of the best ways to add value, progress, and drive change is by creating a handbook for assistants at your company. Having led the development of a handbook for two global organisations, my session focussed on the process from start to finish:

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Practical Project Management

After speaking at the Assist Conference Heather Dallas from Dallas Development has written a great follow up blog on her popular Project Management for Assistants session…

Taking on a project is a great way of raising your visibility and getting you the recognition you deserve.  You may want to volunteer to organise the office move, the Christmas party, run a training course for the other support staff or organise an event. 

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