I often see the the office treated as some unwanted necessity. They’re viewed as the phone-answers, the mail-openers, and the go-fers. People refer to laying off people in the office as “cutting overhead.” It’s thought of as a group of uninspired people who only feel that they’ve done their job if they get in your way.
Which is totally screwed up.
The office, or rather, the whole administrative team, can be a force of nature. They can serve the company, make everybody’s lives easier, and set the prevailing company culture. They can help you understand the impact of the latest big decision, and help you make the next big decision. They can show you what happened yesterday, and how to change your behavior today. They can teach you things you didn’t even know you needed to know.
The administrative team of a company–whether it’s the polished accountants of publicly-traded firm or the handyman’s wife down the road–should be working on the following four things:
- Strategy is the primary occupation of a well-oiled financial team. Business is inextricably linked to money, and understanding money and its impact on future plans must be done to have any measure of success. Strategists see the big picture, understand possibilities, are creative and push the company forward.
- Efficiency is the ability to make things happen consistently and quickly, without fuss or drama. It’s the know-how to navigate complex regulatory regimes, the ability to make payroll seem like no big thing, the ability to make honest complexityseem simple. Efficiency eliminates friction between departments, and removes the drudgery from the people who make the money for the company.
- Control is the function that most people associate with the roll a bookkeeper or company accountant plays. This involves managing risk, preserving assets, and understanding security. Controllers set up budgets and manage expectations, and play a lead role in examining trends for undesired behavior.
- Education is the least obvious, but has the highest impact of the four activities. Education includes both teaching people within the company about the finances, but more importantly teaching people the “why” behind process and the “how” behind strategy. Educators take the company vision and make it a roadmap, showing the company the steps between here and there.
These are not elusive goals. These are things that you can begin working on immediately. Strike up a conversation with your accountant on your future plans, and press them for their opinion. Ask your bookkeeper how she intends to streamline quarterly tax reporting. Talk to your IT consultant about security. Think about who you could peel off from their “everyday” work to begin training.
Times and seasons and business and systems must change. Build a core group that understands these four concepts, and strives to make them better, and you and your business will be able to change both more quickly and safely.