Leader in the recruitment of assistants
Marina Egorova, CEO of Smart and Talented
Seven years ago, only directors of large corporations had personal assistants. But today it is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for all entrepreneurs - such a specialist will relieve them of routine, build processes, and help them grow faster. Marina Egorova decided to create a market for their recruitment and training from scratch, and today her company Smart and Talented finds assistants for everyone: from Forbes businessmen to producers, bloggers, and even families.

We asked Marina about how she managed to build a company that is a leader in its field, as well as to successfully enter foreign markets, in particular London and Dubai. Specially for the column #Case.

The Smart and Talented company appeared in 2016. Its founder, Marina Egorova, had previously worked as an assistant to top executives for nine years, and then became a project manager in a furniture company, eventually rising to director. However, at some point she realized that she wanted to create her own business.

Since her experience and expertise was in the assistant field, that's what she decided to dedicate her business to. And over the next seven years, her company grew to four areas: recruiting all over the world, the School of Assistants, a unique closed PA Club, and annual professional conferences.
First client - straight from the Forbes list
Marina didn't have much money at the start. Only her salary for the previous month - 2,200$. And savings - about 2,900 $. Of that, she spent 300$ on the website, amoCRM fees and business cards. And in order to have enough for 4-5 months of life, while the business is promoted, she reduced household expenses to a minimum.

She was lucky: a friend worked as a lawyer in a group of Forbes-listed companies. The business owner was just looking for an assistant, and the friend recommended Marina. She arrived, had a chat and completed the order. And so well that the client immediately asked her to find an assistant for his CEO as well. The girl earned 3,600 $ on these two jobs.
The first order immediately set the bar. A personal assistant in a large company is practically a right-hand man, a manager who influences business results. Recruiting such specialists is a long and complicated process, and not everyone can cope with it. But Marina could do it. For several years, she only recruited for directors of large companies for vacancies with salaries from 860 to 2,200 $ .
The trend is changing: an assistant is no longer a luxury - everyone needs one
Modern business people have come to realize that the first thing to hire is not a manager, but an assistant. It is he who will help recruit other employees and build processes for growth. In addition, almost all such specialists can work online from anywhere in the world.

There are still millionaire bloggers who are looking for assistants to shift organizational issues to them. There has been a demand for junior assistants for simple tasks among marketers and producers. Even assistants need assistants - top professionals earn a lot and want an assistant for small errands for 285$ to get the job done more efficiently.

Another unusual category of demand has emerged - families where both parents work in their own businesses or corporations. They take on an assistant to handle household chores: travel, kids, shopping, ordering, moving.

Marina saw that the demand for assistants was growing, but she specialized in closing expensive vacancies and did not know how to work massively with the middle and low-cost segment. She had to get creative to tap into this market.
It took two years to create a methodology for recruiting middle-paid assistants
During 2021, the company did not take inexpensive applications with a salary of 290 $ or more. It was unprofitable - for vacancies with simple tasks will come a hundred irrelevant resumes. The specialist will spend a lot of time on them, but will earn many times less than usual. And it is expensive for the client, because Smart and Talented has two payment models: 1.5-2 months' salary or 20% of annual income. That is, for finding a specialist on a salary of 430 - 1000 $.

For two years, Marina and her team have been thinking up a profitable model for recruiting inexpensive assistants. In the end, they developed their own technology - a multi-stage funnel with a unique system of screening and testing of basic skills to quickly remove those who are not suitable.
So they launched a new direction - PA Express. Vacancies with salaries of 290-860 $ are now closed in 10-14 days. The service costs from 500 $ and the client receives resumes of five candidates. The direction has shot up: a person gets an inexpensive taste of what an assistant is like, he gets the habit of delegating. And then after two or three years, he can come for a more expensive recruitment.
International recruitment exceeded expectations
Smart and Talented started closing vacancies in other countries a long time ago - the first assistant was transferred to Oman five years ago, and she is still working there. And now there are already more than 40 client countries in the database. Marina herself lived in England for two years and promoted the company - she started with one recruitment in London, and then people started to learn more and more about her and order services.

For the last three years she has been looking at the recruitment market in Dubai. In February 2022 she flew for two months and actively promoted Smart and Talented services. She made PA Express her UTP: candidates from Russia can do quality work, know foreign languages, and are inexpensive. As a result, between April and May, the number of vacancies in Dubai exceeded Russian demand.
The closed PA Club can do the impossible - for example, find Ilon Musk's contacts
Marina also started gathering a community of assistants from day one. Now it is a closed PA Club chat room of 1800 professionals, where you can ask for help on any complicated issue. For example, a boss wants to find contacts for access to Ilon Musk - the girl wrote to the chat room and got an answer in 6 minutes!

Here's another case from the category of "impossible": the director wanted to launch a bottle of wine into space and then give it to a friend for his birthday. Through connections at NASA and Roscosmos, they found out - you can send anything to the stars for about $30,000. Dreams come true.
The chat room is open to students of the School and assistants by subscription. For the former, participation is free, while the latter must pass an identity check, confirm their place of work and pay a subscription fee - 345 $ per year.
Crises have expanded service lines
Pandemic was the first crisis. Marina was stuck in England and could not fly out of there, she did not know what to do. All applications dropped, the employees' salaries had to be cut by 50%. We survived by picking up other jobs that we had not worked with before, such as accountants.

The second crisis is the consequences of the February events. Until April, there was a lull and a drop in demand. Marina decided to expand her services again. As a result, a new Executive area was added, where top managers are recruited. It has its own recruiter and already has several successful cases. And there was also an IT direction, which was packaged into a separate new brand, TEEMS by Smart&Talented.
Tips for entrepreneurs
Marina advises listening only to yourself and believing in what you are doing. Gather a team of those who are better than you, can argue with you and show something new, beyond your thinking. Because otherwise you won't jump above your head. And you also need to build quality systems and services right away to make it easier to scale further. Grow the company as if you wanted to sell it in a few years - all processes and regulations should work smoothly without you