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Hiring the Indispensable Office Manager

STRICTLY BUSINESSHiring the Indispensable Office ManagerChuck ViolandCleanFax MagazineAt last, after years of hard work, you have built your business to the point where you feel that you need to bring someone in to run the office. You have dreamed about this for years and you know the time is right.Although you don’t have a job description for this person, you pretty much know what you want them to do.They will balance your checkbook (although, rather than going back two years to the last time you had an accu­rate balance, you might give some thought to just opening a new ac­count), keep you organized, do your books, write letters to your customers for you, make the coffee, pick the kids up at school if they get sick, ride herd over your technicians, troubleshoot equipment problems over the phone, cover for you if you decide to sneak a little golf or fishing in during the day, handle irate customers, collect long­ overdue money, clean the office and wash the company dog. And, they are going to all this for just $6.50 an hour. What a deal! You hardly can wait to meet this person.Wait: there’s more. You can pic­ture the person you want to hire. If it’s a woman, she will have the looks of Heather Locklear, the compassion of Mother Teresa, and the business savvy of Mary Kay Ash (May Kay cosmet­ics). You might have to go up to $7 an hour.Okay, it’s time to wake up. This is 1998, not 1950. You can forget the coffee, the kids, and the dog. If you are lucky, she might clean the office, but don’t expect her to do the win­dows. Of course, if you hire the right person, taking care of your personal affairs wouldn’t be an effective use of her time or your money anyway.Here are a few tips to get you started on your search for the perfect office manager.Be specific about job duties. This is where a great many people in the industry run into trouble. Most of them have never run an office, and they have no idea what is involved in running a small business office. They have cleaned kitchen exhaust systems. They fig­ure someone who has worked in an office must know how to run an office. Wrong.Most people who have worked in an office know how to perform one or two functions in an office. They don’t necessarily know how to do all the things you want done in your office. Therefore, you need to be specific about what you want done. Make a list of the tasks your office manager will be expected to perform. A short list would include: Operate your bookkeeping soft­ware and generate income state­ments Reconcile your checking ac­count Answer your phone and sched­ule work – cheerfully Keep your filing system orga­nized Operate your database (customer list) software Prepare your quarterly tax re­turns Calm irate customers – cheer­fullyThe actual tasks are as varied as the job you are trying to fill. Take some time to think the job through, and make a detailed list of all the things you want her to do.Hire your spouse? Think twice. If you’re a male, married kitchen exhaust cleaner, you love your wife, and she probably loves you. Why complicate things by asking her to come to work for you? Your wife wants to make you happy, just as you want to make her happy. As a result, a lot of wives think the only way to make their husbands happy is to give in to their pleading to come to work and straighten things out in the office.I realize this issue is touching an emotional hot button for many wives reading this. Many of you are doing a great job working in the business, and you are happy to be there. For you it works, and that’s great.At the same time, simply being married to someone does not qualify a spouse to do the work required in the office. Yet lots of wives or other family members feel handcuffed to the business because they don’t want to disappoint (anger, alienate, not measure up – you pick the verb) their husbands when they know tonight they are going to go home with him.Your wife might bring far more value to your business as a non-em­ployed outside advisor than she would if she is caught up in the thick of things as an employee. In many cases, if the owners of business actu­ally would listen to the advice of their wives and then would follow it, they would have a lot fewer problems with their businesses.Before you ask your wife (or mother, sister, or cousin) to come to work for you, the two of you need to have a serious discussion about the requirements of the job, about her professional strengths and about her career objectives. Don’t be too disap­pointed or surprised if she wants to follow her own professional dream and lend emotional support to you as you pursue yours.Know your budget Start with the time budget. If your company is doing less than $300,000 per year in sales, you don’t need someone in your office full-time. In fact, you don’t really need someone full-time until you are pushing about $400,000 per year. Of course, this will depend on the type of work you do (a few large invoices or lots of small invoices), how efficient you are and the equipment your office person has to work with.Regarding pay: The cost of living in different regions of the country, the specific responsibilities you are set­ting for your office person, and the risk of having a substantial number of office employees hit their bosses up for a raise if they happen to read this prevents me from stating specific income ranges. Let me give you a couple of things to consider when you establish the salary scale.First, set your sights high. Keep in mind that this is usually the first point of contact your customer will have with your company. When a customer calls, your office person is your company. Therefore, you need someone who is strong enough to handle customer complaints, em­ployee crises and a generally disor­ganized and uncommunicative boss-you.Second, mediocre employees may be able to get lost in the shuffle of a large company, but you need an exceptional person in your office. The person you need in your office probably did not just graduate from high school. You need someone with some life experience behind them, someone who is strong enough to stand up to you. This person does not come cheaply, but a competent, full-charge office person is worth every penny you pay them.Now you have a few things to consider when looking for your in­dispensable office person.Reprinted with permission from Cleanfax magazine. For more information, contact: Cleanfax, National Trade Publi­cations, 13 Century Hill Drive, Latham, NY 12110, or call (518) 783-1281.This article appeared in the Third Quarter 1998 edition of “The Scratch Pad”Created on 2003-11-19 10:17:08 by Mike4PowerWash.comUpdated on 2003-11-19 10:19:45 by

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