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The glue that holds it all together

When is it time to hire an office manager/administrator? Right now!

January 04, 2013
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If any of you are at the point of considering whether bringing an office manager or administrative manager into your business is a good idea, the answer is yes!

I’m not attempting to answer the specific question as to when might be the right time, but as to whether there is value in the position, I again offer a resounding yes!

It’s hard to imagine how we get by without the office manager/administrator who is in charge of all things “back office.”  As our clients grow and reach that point where a full-time office administrator is justified, I look forward to the conversation about why paying more per hour for a seasoned administrator is a better option than paying less per hour for someone who does only bookkeeping.

For those of you who already have this person in your organization, you know the value they bring. They’re the one who makes sure the bookkeeping entries are completed on time, the payroll is accurate, invoices are sent, accounts payable are followed up, and perhaps most importantly — they hold the owner and other managers accountable for the inputs, decisions and assignments for which they are responsible.

I know in the Violand Management Associates (VMA) organization our director of administration is the one who makes it all happen. She is the organized one, the person who can sit with us when we’re designing a new class or webinar series and create the checklist of all the items that need to be completed. Her constant communication and “reminders” are largely responsible for tasks being completed on time.  It seems that hardly a day goes by when there isn’t something added to the list of things to be done.  I say bless the person who is able to keep track of all of this — the due dates, priorities and who is responsible for what.

While the right hire always starts with someone who is a good fit for your organization and culture; someone who has the motivation, ethics, work habits and energy to do what needs to be done, there are career experiences that prepare a person to be effective in the office/administration manager role:

Time in a corporate environment
While “big business” isn’t for everyone, there are key elements in the typical corporate environment that do a good job of preparing a person to be an office manager:

  • Living with time constraints and meeting deadlines — When you have large numbers of people working on the same team or project, you need to complete your tasks on time or jeopardize the overall result. Timeliness is key not just for this employee, but for those whom they will be holding accountable.
  • Process focused — Large organizations tend to be process focused. There is a right way to do things and a wrong way. You learn the skills required to define and document the process, follow the process, identify opportunities for improvement and implement changes in the process.
  • Communicating with and coordinating groups of people — Given the scale of the organization, you are frequently dealing with groups or teams of employees. Effectively communicating, using productivity tools like Outlook, Instant Messenger and others, and using creativity to get the necessary people together in a timely manner, are valuable skills.

Working in a small business
Life in small business is very different from the corporate environment in a few key ways. An employee who has experienced these differences avoids the culture shock that can otherwise be challenging.

  • Broader range of responsibilities — By definition, there are fewer people in a small business, so everyone wears more hats. Your office manager will be dealing with a wider range of responsibilities than experienced in a typical corporate position. Your candidate should be a person who welcomes the challenge, as opposed to being overwhelmed.
  • Compensation and benefits — Larger organizations typically offer higher levels of compensation and benefits (healthcare, 401(k), vacation, etc.) for a comparable position than a smaller business.  Employees who have experience in larger organizations should understand that their compensation expectations will probably need to change.

Given the above considerations, one of the most valuable characteristics in an effective office manager is the experience, maturity and confidence to be able to hold the owner and other executives or managers accountable. There will undoubtedly be a period of time spent “learning the ropes” for a new person in this key position, but my advice to the owner is, early on in the process, emphasize to the manager your expectation that they exercise their authority to hold all employees accountable for reports, information, projects and other deliverables.

The office/administration manager is truly a key role in your organization. Having a high-performing employee in this position will help you and your entire management team to be more effective. They truly are the glue that holds an organization together!

Tom Cline has a 28-year background in sales, marketing and operations. He is currently a business development advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA) where he works closely with business owners and their key management staff as both a business consultant and an executive coach. To learn more about VMA's services and programs visit www.Violand.com or call (330) 966-0700.

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