For a small or medium-sized business the office manager is the glue that holds everything together. They need two racks for all of the hats they wear. They are the owner’s representative to the employees and the employees’ representative to ownership. Having eyes and ears in the back of the head is critical as the owners depend on the office manager to know and and understand all of the nuances and underlying issues that are happening at any given time.
In short, in a small business the office manager has to be everything to everyone.
Trying to write a job description for them is a difficult task that could span pages. Things they do (depending on the office):
Bookkeeping (Account Payable)
An office generates a lot of bills. Rent, insurance, vendors for everything, and countless credit card charges. Employees are also going to be submitting expense reports that they appreciate being addressed in a timely fashion so that they are not accruing interest on their personal cards for business expenses.
Being consistent with bookkeeping is important to be able to stay on top of the business rather than being buried under it.
Billing (Accounts Receivable)
Getting invoices to the clients (and getting them paid) is hugely important. Without cash the business can’t run.
It’s All About the BenjaminsPuff Daddy
There is a surprising amount of finesse required when billing and following up. A lot depends on things that were not included in a contract but were spoken of, alluded to, and expected. That is why it is so important to have a relationship with your clients.
Clients are the lifeblood of a business. If you do not have people paying you money to do what you do then you do not have a business. While the office manager usually does not provide the product or service you are selling they are one of the faces of the company and probably interact with more levels of the client’s organization that anybody. They keep the pulse of the relationship and are the frontline on fires.
Pretty much every business requires the services of other businesses in some capacity. If your core product or service requires that then it is important to cultivate a good relationship with that vendor from both a pricing and service standpoint.
Hiring and Firing
Finding job candidates and screening them might fall to different people depending on the department where the opening is. Doing all of the paperwork once somebody is found usually falls to one person.
Firing is unpleasant, needs to be handled carefully, and also involves paperwork. When it happens it is probably best handled by the office manager as the department head might be too close to the person or problem and could complicate the situation.
Payroll and Benefits
I have yet to meet the person that enjoys doing payroll (though maybe firms like ZenPayroll will change that). The same can be said about dealing with insurance companies (I haven’t tried it but have heard good things about Zenefits). Those frustrating tasks will inevitably fall to the office manager at a small company.
Vacation Time (Coverage)
There are a few reasons why most companies track vacation time. Accrued vacation time creates a liability on the balance sheet (needs to be paid out when somebody leaves), to make sure people are not taking more than their benefits specify, and finally to make sure that too many people are not taking time off at once and thus leaving the office short staffed. In larger companies that might be handled by a department manager but in small businesses it falls to the office manager.
Every office needs supplies from coffee to pens to the two types of paper (printer and toilet). A business usually needs to grow pretty big before a dedicated supply person is hired. Until that happens the task is usually delegated to the office manager.
Everybody loves when the office provides lunch (except the person that has to organize it). While not a thankless task it is usually the person paying for it (the boss or owner) that gets the credit.
Office parties, like office lunches, are often taken for granted by both employees and ownership. If you have ever planned a wedding or other large event then you know how much work goes into it. All of it is above and beyond the day to day work you are doing.
Unfortunately after those office lunches and parties there is usually some cleanup that needs to be done. Often employees do not give it a second thought as it is not part of their job description. When the last person has had their piece of birthday cake it will be the office manager who cleans up.
As we have said the office manager fulfills a lot roles so good psychology is important. You have to be a mother/father, sister/brother, wife/husband, cheerleader, good guy, bad guy, indifferent, etc. depending on the situation. Understanding how people will react to your words helps you shape what you are going to say so that you are fulfilling objectives while sparing feelings.
These are all tasks that an entrepreneur does when they start a business and makes their first few hires. It would often be in their interest to make an office manager one of those hires in order to free up their time to build the business rather than run the business. (And in the meantime check out StartOpz to help manage all of this.)
So, hire a good office manager and treat them right! You will be glad you did.