A quick glance at your calendar and you’ll see that you’ve doubled booked your 2pm time slot. As you look up from this oversight, an employee approaches you about a late paycheck. In the process of investigating the delayed check, someone asks if there is any more paper for the printer. While you scrounge for paper, someone takes your conference room reservation and now you’re stuck find a new meeting place. As the CEO you should be focusing on tasks like product design and fundraising, not daily minutia of administrative tasks. What can you do to prevent yourself from becoming this overwhelmed?
Office managers are the unsung heros of a company. They keep track of all the little, but extremely important details that add up quickly when no one else is paying attention. They make sure the ship runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis. They make everyone else’s lives easier, so the team can focus on the work at hand.
Prominent venture capitalist Mark Suster went so far as to say that after companies raise a Series A round, the first hire should be an office manager. His reasoning? You’re misallocating your executive and engineering teams’ time with administrative tasks.
“Your single most valuable asset in the early days is your senior team and presumably nobody is more valuable than the founding team. And you’re bogged down in expense claims, booking hotel rooms, scheduling meetings, dealing with a leaky toilet, processing payroll, ordering computers, etc.”
The decision to hire an office manager might not be as cut and dry as Suster’s advice. Not every company has the luxury of raising $5 million in venture capital. If you’re on the fence as to whether or not to hire an office manager, here are six signs that your company needs to hire one immediately.
You’re Spending Too Much of Your Time on Administrative Tasks
The days of an entrepreneur are a constant rat race. You can’t just be busy; you have to get stuff done. Your schedule is filled hustling between product team meetings, to discussing security measures with your engineering team, to updating investors, all while trying to squeeze in a few emails in between.
Your time is precious. If you find your attention shifting from these important tasks, and onto non-growth focused assignments, you’re misusing your time. It’s easy to fall into this trap, because you’re busy. But you’re not dedicating enough time and brainpower to the most important part of your business: growth.
Your day must be filled with tasks that move your company forward. Optimizing your onboarding flow, adding a new product feature, or experimenting with a new marketing channel; these are tasks you must spend a considerable amount of time on. Stop and ask yourself if you’re too busy for these responsibilities because you’re bogged down by tasks that aren’t driving sales or user growth.
The Office is Literally Falling Apart
Offices aren’t something you just forget about after signing the lease. It requires constant attention. If your air conditioning doesn’t work, someone has to take the time to find a repairman. If someone’s chair breaks or a conference room display has a malfunction, someone has to take care of these issues. It can’t be the CEO.
Ignoring these office annoyances doesn’t solve the problem either. The problems will compound and increase in severity. Not addressing the need for conference room scheduling software, the missing meeting room iPad, or the sputtering refrigerator will lead to unproductive employees. They will be arguments for the conference room and team members will be spending precious time to clean out the broken fridge. An office manager can nip all these problems in the bud and keep your office running smoothly.
CEO’s Calendar is a Mess
It’s far too easy to agree to a meeting without checking your calendar. Especially at the end of a call, when you agree to a follow up call the following Friday at 2pm. It just makes sense in the context of the situation. Minutes later you realize you have another meeting at that time and have to sheepishly email asking for another time slot.
When you’re juggling internal team meetings, your own daily task list, and then outside meetings and obligations, your brain will explode. Even taking the time to update your own calendar seems like extra, unnecessary work. If you’re feeling this pressure and it’s affecting your performance, you need to get help. An office manager can easily help manage your calendar and ping you when you need to be in a meeting or on a conference call.
Office Is Never Being Upgraded or Designed
Perhaps you’ve just moved into your new office space. As you toured the empty facilities, you envisioned a modern conference room, a playful game area, and a dedicated meditation room. None of these design ideas have come to fruition because you’re running at 100 miles per hour to keep your company moving forward.
An office manager can take this burden off your plate. You shouldn’t overlook your office design; it’s important to team morale. Coming to work in a plain, concrete box will get depressing. Assign the office manager to run point on office design and upgrades. They can help research different options and present them to you so you are still involved, but not spending too much time vetting all your options.
Onboarding New Hires Has No Process
If you don’t have an office manager, there’s a good possibility that you don’t have an HR department. It’s not uncommon for a new hire to walk in on Monday and wander around because no one has told them what to do. Paperwork needs to be filled out, a desk must be assigned, and equipment must be distributed. These aren’t tasks for the CEO, who is leading the team with her vision.
Outlining a simple onboarding procedure and assigning the office manager to lead new hires through it will has a positive impact on the company. New team members will feel more welcomed and existing employees won’t be scrambling around trying to figure out what to do.
What To Look For in an Office Manager?
Ok, you’ve made the decision to hire an office manager. As outlined above, the office manager role wears many hats and is an important member of your team. It’s not as easy as putting an ad on a job site. It’s too important of a job to hire the first warm body to fill the position. It’s critical that you look for specific traits that will let you know this is an exceptional candidate.
When you’re looking for your ideal office manager, find someone who fits this criteria:
Has Prior Experience - Teaching someone how to be an effective office manager is time consuming. Find a candidate who has previous work experience as an office manager to reduce the onboarding time.
Understands the Position - Candidate understands that their primary responsibilities are to make everyone else’s lives easier.
Supremely Organized - The office manager has the ability to multi-task and has a process to do so. A busy CEO can make calendar mistakes, an office manager can not.
Outgoing Personality - The office manager is going to be tasked to interacting with many people on a daily basis. The air conditioning repairman, potential clients, new hires; there is always someone who needs attention. This person has to be able to communicate in a positive manner with everyone.
Responsible & Trustworthy - There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the office manager position. Intimate knowledge of the CEO’s day, handling petty cash, and paying vendors are just a few of the responsibilities. There’s too much delicate information with the job to hire someone you don’t trust.
Determined and Enthusiastic - An office manager might not be an office manager for life. It’s a position people can ascend from. A determined individual who enthusiastically solves your team’s problems will translate to a promotable, long-term employee.
Don’t overlook the office manager position. There are numerous blog posts about hiring your first VP of Sales or a 10x engineer, so it’s easy to fixate on those hires. But no one at the office can function at full capacity if the responsibilities of an office manager are being shared by the team for an extended period of time. Make your company better by hiring an office manager.