Derek Gallimore speaks with Kristel Kuit, CEO and founder of Headroom Assistance. Headroom Assistance focuses on providing remote executive assistants to administrative teams.
Headroom Assistance is based in Amsterdam and caters to not only to companies around Europe, but also in the US. Kristel started the company from her own background as an assistant.
From her perspective, Kristel recognized that “education and flexibility was becoming increasingly important, for both companies but also for the workforce. And that is exactly what Headroom helps with.”
“I often had to train myself. Next to that I also was often in the office without my manager being present because [they were] either in meetings or traveling internationally. So for me it felt really inflexible to be there and also often not have enough work,” she recounts.
So I’ve really started the company [to show] that this is really a profession, right? It’s really a trade.”
What are executive assistants?
Kristel describes the role of the executive assistant. “You support people who have very high demanding jobs, [and their] skillset is not to be super organized, to take care of administrative stuff. And this is where you come in as an assistant.”
Kristel draws parallels between executive assistants and the traditional secretary role. She describes the latter as being “really specific for one layer within the company. [They’re] also a gatekeeper-type of role, assisting the big bosses behind the closed door.”
She notes that it’s still the same nowadays, but “With COVID, the remote work accelerated, and it’s not necessary for EAs to be in the office as much as it used to be.”
“So this is where outsourcing becomes very interesting, right? Because you don’t need somebody full-time in-house, but you still would like to have [that] support to manage your inbox or calendar or travel or take notes during important meetings. [And this is] where you see an increasing demand for assistants.”
Chief of Staff
Kristel also brings up the concept of the “chief of staff,” which for her is “a type of role where you’re really an extension of the CEO of the company.”
However, she sees little difference in practice compared with the role of executive assistants.
“What we are seeing is that a lot of chief of staff also get administrative tasks to handle…[they’re] often brought in to look with people stuff or to organize the calendar of the CEO.
So for me it’s still a little bit blurry. Okay, what is it exactly that the chief of staff does that’s different than the role of an executive assistant?”
Headroom’s structure and solutions
Kristel outlines the Headroom process.
“With Headroom, you don’t get one EA, you get a dedicated team of EAs to avoid a single point of failure.”
Recalling her past as an assistant, Kristel remarks there was “total chaos” whenever she would come back from her days off due to there being no support for the people she assisted.
“So we want to offer that at Headroom, and that means continuous support on a daily basis for how much or how long you need it. And you need a little team for that.”
According to Kristel, Headroom Assistance sees a lot of growth with their model.
“Almost every company that I know of is looking for good assistants, and [there’s] a lot of people [who] don’t really understand the profession that well… and I think there’s really an opportunity for that.”
She also credits the “human connection” aspect of their structure, not just with clients but also within teams.
“And the role of an assistant, [it’s very] intensive, can be very sensitive. So it’s very difficult not to bond with that person that you work closely with. And we value that. So what we see is that our customers are actually with us for a really long time.”
Remote work and global employment
Kristel is supportive of implementing remote work and outsourcing, acknowledging the Philippines as a pioneer in the concept.
“[Then] you have the entire globe as a potential workforce right? Versus just being limited to that specific geographical area.”
“You have the best of both worlds. So I think it will become increasingly important also because the next generation will be used to working like that. You have a lot of CEOs or young CEOs running their tech startups from Bali, and they’re loving it.”