Friday, June 29, 2012

SOP Friday: Front Office Roles and Responsibilities

We've discussed Service Manager and Technician Roles and Responsibilities. Your front office is also critical to your success. With very small companies, this role will be played by the owner for awhile. But it needs to be handed over to someone else as soon as possible. While these tasks are extremely important to the company, they are also easily handed off.

As a rule, the owner of a small IT shop is not going to be a pro at bookkeeping, billing, payroll, etc. The boss keeps these chores, in part, because he doesn't trust anyone else to do them. But these tasks take up a significant amount of time, and the boss is much more productive at sales or technology than at word processing.

Just as everything begins with one boss, everything in the "front office" begins with one person. But there are three types of role that person will perform. Maybe, if you get big enough, you'll hire all three. But in the beginning they will all be in one person. The three key front office roles are Office Manager, Bookkeeper, and Administrative Assistant.

The office manager basically runs the place. The bookkeeper handles most of the finances. And the admin does all the little stuff that just needs to be done. For most of us, these three will be one person. In fact, when I talk about my "$200 Miracle" hire, that's the all-in-one first hire Office Manager, Bookkeeper, and Administrative Assistant.

In my businesses, the first hire is now always an all-in-one assistant. As we grow I eventually hire (actually, the office manager hires) an admin. I have never grown so big that the Office Manager and Bookkeeper roles have been separated, but that would be the next step. If you outsource payroll, you may never need to have these separated.

Here are some general activities for each of these roles. Again, these will probably be assigned to one person for some time.

The Office Manager Role
- Sort, open mail
-- Invoices
-- Checks
-- Bills
-- Payroll
-- Contracts
-- Ads
-- Other stuff
- Misc. Paperwork (e.g., rebates from the office supply store, vendor co-marketing forms)
- Set up client meetings (road map meetings and other)
- Accept packages, match shipments received with Purchase Orders and client "will call"
- Verify that all Hardware, Software, and Materials have been properly charged to clients
- Coordinate direct mail campaigns (monthly & special projects)
- Run the office: Communicate with the landlord, janitorial company, alarm company, etc.
- Hand out security codes as needed
- Make keys and manage getting keys to and from employees
- Process new clients into the system
- Process new employees into the system
- Handle all personnel matters (along with the owner/manager)
- Process all business-related paperwork (for corporation, partnership, etc.)
- Send anniversary cards, etc. to clients

The Bookkeeper Role
- Enter bills to be paid into Quickbooks
- Pay bills
- Deposit checks
- Send invoices
- Enter payments into Quickbooks
- Produce invoices for Manager to review (in PSA)
- Synch PSA with Quickbooks
- Print checks for Manager to review
- Collection calls if needed
- Process payroll
- File taxes (city, county, federal, income tax, sales tax, ewaste tax, business licenses, reseller permits, SUI, FUI, SSI, OMG!, etc.)
- Work with accountant or enrolled agent and owner to properly file state and federal taxes

The Administrative Assistant Role
- Filing / sorting
- Mail things, ship things
- Cut, fold, staple, stuff, etc. – papers, flyers, mailer, whatever
- File invoices and other paperwork per distributor (e.g., Ingram and Synnex)
- Get the mail
- assembling handouts
- Misc. Research projects
- Typing
- Update forms, checklists
- Photocopying or scanning
- Make coffee
- Run errands: Fill the owner's car with gas, get lunch for in-house meetings, shop for supplies, etc.
- Inventory office supplies
- Prepare sales folders
- Empty garbage and recycling (If each person is not responsible for doing this and you do not have a janitorial service.)
- Clean the office (If you do not have a janitorial service.)

If I missed any chores you have in your company, please enter them in the comments.

You Need An Assistant!

If you are a one-person shop, you are doing all these things. Or you are failing to do all of these things, which can be very stressful. Many things (including bookkeeping) can be outsourced to some degree. But lots of things can't be outsourced. Someone has to work with the landlord, manage contracts, sort the mail, pay bills, etc.

These jobs are often scattered throughout the the day/week/month and so you don't see how much time they take. But look at that list and imagine how much more work you could do if you were not doing all this administrative stuff!

The first step in handing off these chores is to complete this list. What else needs to be done in your business? Add it to the lists. Then sort them in the order you most want to hand off to someone else. That will help you develop a "training" for handing off each task.

When you get the right office manager, everything in your business will run better! In addition to all of the things listed above, a good office manager will take care of a thousand "little things" that never seem to get done. The place will be better organized. All company communications will be smoother (internally and externally).

As I've said before, I would make an assistant my first hire. You'll have more time to go do sales or billable work. And you'll be able to delay hiring a technician for quite a while . . . as you become more profitable.

Your Comments Welcome.

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About this Series

SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at

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Next week's topic: Time Sheet Submission and Approval


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