Ignore The Office Manager at Your Peril

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In a small business, office managers are likely to handle purchasing, human resources and even information technology.

In many cases, unless you direct your sales and marketing approach to the office manager, you may be talking to the wrong person. Or, by ignoring the office manager, you could end up alienating someone who influences the purchasing decision.

A recent Staples survey highlights how crucial it is to understand the role of the office manager. Over 8,000 office managers responded in the Staples survey listing the job functions they performed. Those functions go well beyond stereotypical notions of clerical work.

As an example: almost 75% of the survey respondents said that in addition to being the office manager, they acted as their office’s human resources manager. So if you have a human-resources related product or service — such as temporary employment services, benefits, background checks, HR software, payroll services — the office manager may be playing an influential role in any purchasing decisions. In fact, the office manager may be the main decision-maker.

The survey results square with something that small business expert Andy Birol told me in an interview a few months ago. He listed “ignoring the office manager” as one of the top five mistakes when selling to small businesses.

See the Staples office manager survey results here.

11 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

11 Reactions

  1. That’s a good thing to keep in mind for a lot of people. You really have to watch what you say and do at work.

  2. It is interesting that the Staples research does support what many of us already knew. . .the office manager plays a pivotal role in the daily runnings of small business. An important fact that is not to be overlooked.

  3. This is just another reason that vendors should cater specific products/services to small businesses and market those products differently than they would to large enterprizes.

  4. Small office = wear alot of hats. I am the IT manager, HR manager, Controller, and Office Manager. Makes the job more fun.

  5. In a small office, a person’s responsibilities will often pile on faster that her title. She might have been hired as the receptionist, but may be acting as the account manager for some overflow business. Vailpm has some great insights on this trend.

  6. This topic rings too true to me. I used to be the office manager for a veterinary practice for over 7 years. I always made it a point to be present when the supply reps came in. If I was not in at that time, I was left out of the loop. The doctors would not pass things on to me & assume I knew about new items or medications. It is very important to always keep the office manager informed. Remember; they are there to help you, the business owner.

  7. Not only must you be sure to cultivate a good relationship with the office manager, you should always be cognizant of the role all administrative assistants play in today’s corporations.

    They are much more than gatekeepers to power. Admins literally run companies, and have informal unwritten, but quite real power.

    Treat them with due respect and they can help you get the ear of an executive, get an invoice paid quickly, and a host of other favors. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also in your best interests.

  8. Office managers play a big role in any business. Many are taken for granted and their role is sometimes not truly appreciated…so be nice. They can open many doors for you.

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