Homeric de Sarthe: “the event is a cut in the daily life of the executive assistants”
The Assistantes of Direction are personalities for those for the servants of the directors and their company. Homeric of Sarthe understood and dedicated a book co-signed with them Catherine Dzierwuk : “Agenda and Velvet Gloves” (Editions Publishroom). It is also the core business of YEMP to offer these women (and sometimes these men) its services to organize professional events! It was therefore natural to meet Homeric de Sarthe to learn more about this subject, their involvement in corporate events, and his own experience as an event organizer. Meet :
Hello Homeric, can you introduce yourself, your journey?
I am 29 years old and a path a little atypical: I came back in October 2015 in France after having spent 7 years in China. I created a first company that accompanied Chinese companies in France and French companies in China.
you have just co-signed with Catherine Dzierwuk the book “Agenda and Gloves of Velvet”, an immersion in the daily life of the executive assistants. Why this topic ?
The idea came to me 5 years ago. I had the chance to meet a great French boss, and I realized that if I met him, it was because I had sympathized by chance with his assistant. He is a very sociable person who says “yes” when it interests him, and after that it is she who makes the selection, the filter of the people that he has the time – or not – to meet. I thought, “It’s amazing the power she has in managing her time”! Who he sees, where he goes … what he almost eats! I inquired to see if there was a book on the subject, and I realized that nothing had been done. I talked about it, I was told “it’s bad, it’ll interest nobody”. At that moment, I had to go back to China. When I came back and I met Catherine during a meet-up, I told her about it, she liked it, and we went all the way.
From which universes / societies come the assistants whom you interviewed?
We met a professor in sociology who told us that in order to carry out a serious study, there must be at least 30 interviews conducted. We interviewed 35 executive assistants, from as diverse as the non-profit association in the region to CAC 40 companies through French technology nuggets …
Has your work been well received by this body of work?
We wrote the book by voluntarily addressing the bosses, because we wanted it to be the assistants who read it, and the feedback is very good. They are surprised – and surprised, since on the 35 we interviewed 2 men – that someone is interested in their job. They find that it is very relevant, many find themselves at different times of the book, without having the impression not to bring added value. They talk about it, they promote it, they are our best ambassadors!
What are the qualities of a good executive assistant?
We realized that the good assistants were extremely versatile and flexible, that they adapt enormously to their boss, their way of thinking, to organize themselves. It’s a bit of the “double” of the boss’s brain. At the opposite, a bad assistant drowns in a glass of water! A good assistant does not feel her environment: she controls and manages it for her boss.
What are the constraints of their job?
There are many: being able to manage priorities pragmatically and always have the interest of the boss and the company in mind. An interviewer told us that, from the day she became the assistant of a boss, she had many friends … except the unions! It can be the complaints office, the co-workers come to see them when they need something. There are also many emergencies to manage … They are asked for all or nothing!
What is your point of view on the “undisclosed” event part of their job? Indeed, the executive assistants are part of the organizers of professional events of which it is not the core business (as 70% of the organizers in France)
The event makes them feel good. In spite of all the organization of an event – stress, budget management, finding partners – it cuts them off. They do not reap the laurels when the evening goes well, but they like being able to do something different. Often, according to their professional development, the higher up the hierarchy, and the more there will be a tendency to withdraw the event. Some ask to keep it, others let things go. But if they are asked to do events and they do not have the time to do so, they will find the people to delegate and ensure that the maximum is done for the interest of the company and the boss.
You are an entrepreneur yourself and you work for a start-up (note: Bear, specialized in augmented reality). Do you organize events yourself? What do you think are the difficulties that can be encountered when doing business events?
We are lucky for Bear to have a big part of our teams in Montpellier with an Office Manager. She is not a management assistant but she takes care of the event. It asks us for ideas, suggestions, it absorbs a large amount of the work of event management. At the moment, it is also organizing our end-of-year event bringing together some thirty employees!
When I was studying in China, I organized events for 500 people on average, we rented boats sponsored by brands of alcohol or candy. We had 500 people disguised and we went for a river cruise in Shanghai, open bar all the cruise. The difficulties we encountered were at the level of communication, to find its market, and the organizational aspect and logistics synchronization. Finance too! when you are a small company and you have to make large installments, this is an important aspect that should not be overlooked. It was a great experience but it’s hard to enjoy the event ourselves because we have to put out the “small fires” that could light up everywhere.
You have just asked YEMP to organize the event to launch your book. Can you tell us more about this evening?
I am lucky to have a friend who owns a villa called The House in Issy les Moulineaux. A beautiful villa, on an island. He offered to take advantage of the house to make the book launch party. We of course accepted! With the guest assistants and their respective networks, we quickly arrived at a list of 70 people. When I met the YEMP teams, I discovered the platform, and there I was surprised by the ease, pragmatism and consistency of the tool. The room had already been found, but it was possible to select and select the caterer, the reception staff, etc. We could juggle in all categories, evolve his event while keeping the overall vision of what was going to happen. For me it was a great time saver. Regarding the purpose of this event, we deliberately avoided inviting the press, we wanted something intimate. Rather than an official launch, we wanted it to be an evening of thanks to the 35 assistants who agreed to participate. It was a great success, we were delighted, the participants too. They talked about it and it felt like sales the days after.
The preface of the book is signed Pierre Gattaz (editor’s note: the boss of Medef). Did you interview her assistant?
She is not one of the interviewees, but we met him. Moreover, they are several, it does not have that an assistant because it has an impressive agenda!
To finish: a remarkable memory of an event in which you would have participated?
The evening that I mentioned above and that I organized in Shanghai: as the boat left the port, we could not sell more places and fake tickets were circulating for our evening! I found myself at the dock, to allow real customers to get on the boat … at the same time, when you see 500 people disguised to party on a boat, you say
« in fact I’m not so wrong at the dock »
I also loved Les Espoirs du Management, an event that highlights initiatives taken by the internal teams of companies and organized by the association of the same name. It had struck me a lot because it was a group with a full auditorium, and the organizer had great people come. I was also lucky enough to be invited to the Women’s Forum where there was a lot of “fires” to put out – especially when we add the cross-cultural dimension of such an event!