28/10/2010

By David Bloom, co-founder and CEO, fd unlimited

The role of the office administrator is one of the most important in any fast growing SME (Small and Medium Enterprise). They are the oil that makes the engine work. Once a business starts generating revenues and taking on staff, there are many daily, weekly, monthly tasks that need doing that ideally should not be done by expensive Executives. You don’t want your Head of Finance opening post, filing, completing HR forms and changing the light bulbs if you can help it.

Often companies scale without giving enough thought to the impact poor administration and weak process can have on getting stuff done.

Just as important as the administrator is the processes they must follow to support the business. They go hand in hand. There is no point having incredible systems if there’s nobody around whose primary responsibility is to traffic cop them and unless you’re extremely lucky, you can’t expect an administrator to set them up in the first place.

I’ve seen some situations where processes are so robust and understood by all, that interns doing 3 month secondments at a cost of £0 can take on much of the administration function. They learn heaps and get exposure to many areas of a business and the business gets bright, free resource — win win!

Here are a few tips and tricks on back office process for a small SME once you have your administrator:

Give the administrator a bunch of accounting responsibilities: You don’t need to be trained in finance to raise a sales invoice, raise a purchase order, and process a purchase invoice. As long as instructions are clear and process defined, there are many accounting tasks that an accurate administrator can take on, far cheaper than a more expensively paid finance person.

Open all the post and distribute: Every day, the mail should be opened by the administrator, date stamped as a record of when it was received and distributed to the right person. Employees should know that all mail will be opened unless it is marked ‘Private & Confidential — addressee only’

Expense claim processing and allocation: For those sales guys who travel a lot and build up significant amounts of receipts, the administrator can take on preparing the claims as well as processing them. Care should be taken not to ‘dump’ on the administrator. Outside of Sales, the CEO and heavy travellers, staff should prepare their own expense claims.

Invoicing and collections: Raising sales invoicing and collections are more good examples of a process that needs to be well defined but once in place can be easily managed by the administrator.

Arranging meetings: The moment you begin to hire a few executives, lots of time is wasted organising meetings. Technology is great but even today organising a meeting for 3 executives who are out of the office on different agendas can take an age. Regular meetings should be in the online diary shared by all but one offs should be organised by the administrator. Without an administrator, it can be like herding sheep without a dog and whistle.

Travel organising: An account should be set up with an official company travel broker and this relationship should be managed by the administrator. Individuals making their own travel arrangements wastes their time and stops the business from getting group discounts by booking through the same source every time.

There are many other tasks that fit into the administrators remit. You get a very cost effective resource and for the right ambitious individual, it’s a wonderful insight into how a business operates as they get to deal with everybody. Throw in a bubbly personality, and they become the tribal fire that everyone respects and gravitates towards.

If you’re not of a size yet where you can afford an administrator, you might want to think about a virtual PA. Please see fd unlimited's virtual PA service for more information.

fd unlimited provides high calibre and cost effective part-time, interim and full-time Finance Directors, Financial Controllers, Finance Managers, Board Advisors and Back-office Services to dynamic companies with aspirations for growth. Our network allows us to match your need with the right resource, in a matter of hours if needed. Find us at www.fdunlimited.com


Join us on