Find classy strippers, buy rocket fuel and create a Powerpoint presentation for Madonna, PAs told

If you thought being a personal assistant was all boring admin, fielding phone calls and buying sandwiches, think again. Time Etc, the virtual PA service, has just revealed some of the quirkier requests from its high-powered clients.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
If you’ve read The Devil Wears Prada – or indeed watched it (Meryl Street was really rather good)  - then you’ll be familiar with the Herculean tasks assigned to the long-suffering personal assistant of magazine editor Miranda Priestly. But it turns out that it’s not just fictional PAs that are called on to achieve the nigh impossible. According to Time Etc’s revelations, some of the UK’s top executives (they remain anonymous, of course) have made some very colourful requests over the past few years. And we’re not talking dry cleaning…

One PA was tasked with booking a seat on Virgin Galactic’s first flight into orbit for her space-mad boss, while another was asked to research a top class stripper for a birthday party. One client with two left feet asked his PA to book private dance lessons for him and a group of his male friends, so they could hit the dancefloor at their friend's wedding without embarrassing themselves.

Other weird and wonderful requests include organising insomnia classes for a European royal and organising a shipment of politically sensitive documents to Rwanda. One PA was asked to jazz up a Powerpoint document that was due to be presented to the Queen of Pop herself, Madonna. And another assistant reads film scripts for her client, and makes calls on whether or not he should invest in the films.

Some of Time Etc’s clients have rather particular - or even, peculiar - tastes. One PA spent an afternoon trying to locate a particular brand of sun cream and arranged for it to be shipped to Dubai, while another was told to find and book a table at a restaurant that served kedgeree. One client even asked his PA to source and order some rocket fuel – and no, his name was not Dr Evil.

Penni Pike was Sir Richard Branson’s executive assistant for 32 years and now mentors the Time Etc team. She has had her share of challenging requests: ‘Being a personal assistant often requires pulling rabbits out of hats,’ she says. ‘You are quite often required to pull off the seemingly impossible, calling on your contacts or your own initiative to make things happen. I once had to find Richard a Christmas tree at very short notice. Sounds simple, but it had to be delivered to a yacht moored off the coast of Cuba!

Well, MT will say this of being a PA to this crop of eccentric executives: at least no two days will ever be the same...

Time Etc provides virtual PAs to entrepreneurs and business executives.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

35 Women Under 35 2020: Nominations open

Management Today's 35 Women Under 35 showcases the country's rising stars in business. Here's how...

Practical steps for breaking silos

Briefing: Adam Williams, former CEO of influencer marketing agency Takumi, shares what he learned about...

The Power 50: Proof that you can be a part-time CEO

Just a few years ago, executives were reluctant to admit they worked part-time for fear...

The 9 worst things a leader can say

Actions may speak louder than words, but words can still drop you in it.

Why you overvalue your own ideas

And why you shouldn't.

When spying on your staff backfires

As Barclays' recently-scrapped tracking software shows, snooping on your colleagues is never a good idea....