Alaska Small Business Development Center

View From the Lobby

February 1, 2016

When you think about a receptionist, administrative assistant, or office coordinator, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? From your side of the desk perhaps you simply see someone answering phones, tapping away at a keyboard, or running off copies for a member of the team. What else do you see and how do you perceive it? Let’s put you on the other side of the desk:

The lights flicker awake, not unlike the still-heavy lids of one of the first people to arrive in the building: you. Doors and drawers need to be unlocked and computers are ready to whir to life. The scent of freshly brewed coffee wafts throughout the lobby as you dutifully hit the “Brew” button to signal the start of another day. The front door begins to swing open and shut, revolving a shuffle of clients, employees, and leaders. Then it starts. Better bring those Mortal-Kombat skills along for the ride:

8:00 am      There are emails to respond to including surveys, inquiries, intake forms, and outreach emails which are all regarded as high importance. Expect the phone to continuously ring, or to ring at the most inopportune time. Remember to use your nice person voice, too. You’re the first point-of-contact for the organization. The mail is coming; it needs to be date stamped and filed. Is there a check in there? Better get that sent off to Fiscal. Walk-ins and guests, hello!

9:00 am      Process the online payment database for workshop and event payments. Mark those confirmed in client database. Room reservation requests need to be confirmed. The voicemail needs to be checked, good luck getting through them all uninterrupted. Expect appointments that are not confirmed on anyone’s calendar, to arrive and expect to be seen right away. Someone thinks you’re a lowly secretary. Resist the urge to react. Update and charge laptops for use. Is there a technology problem? Beg IT for help and mercy. Better yet, become IT.

9:30 am      Refresh the morning coffee. Process client intake forms and requests. Is this client not ready  to work with us? Confirm what their prerequisite track should be and what kind of resources they will need. Copy every conversation into their file.

10:00 am    Confirm appointments for the advising team. Those surveys that came in this morning need to be forwarded to the advisor who presented and any feedback needs to be responded to promptly.

10:30 am    Refresh the coffee. Is there a workshop happening this morning? Ensure the audio/visual equipment is set up and working correctly. When attendees call to complain they can’t hear, assist and fix the tech issues. That walk-in who needs in-depth answers to the function of the organization would also like a  gracious smile, never mind the phone is ringing off the hook. Keep things running smoothly and calmly.

11:00 am    You’re the first face or voice a person from the outside world comes into contact with for the organization, it is crucial to be helpful and try to assist them as best as you can even when they call you a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins and insult your intelligence. Keep it up. You’re doing great!

11:30 am    Stomach is growling. The phone rang when you tried to get a snack. Your coworker needs a shot of support and a dash of encouragement. You need a shot of support and encouragement. Someone needs 30 copies on the slowest copier; in color, double-sided, and stapled like 10 minutes ago. Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus on completing projects and to-dos efficiently.

11:55 am    The phone rings and you’re about to close down for lunch. Not until this client on the phone is satisfied you’re not.

12:00 pm    Time for a break and to mentally prepare for afternoon meetings and workshops.

1:00 pm      Emails. Intake forms. Walk-ins. Phone calls. Take two! Let the Fiscal department know if there are checks or cash to be collected by the end of the day. Mail is here to be stamped and filed. Coordinate meetings. Confirm call-in information for the meetings. Double confirm.

2:00 pm      Participate in a meeting or two and try not to panic at the thought of what is piling up on your desk and in your inbox. Keep an eye ahead for upcoming deadlines.

3:00 pm      You look up from your desk long enough to eye the person sneaking past you. Do they have an appointment?! Run them down and usher them to the front. Find out who they’re meeting with and then do laps around the suite to locate said person. IM/Phone call anyone? Nope, that’s too easy. You’ll have to track them down for their appointment the old-fashioned way.

3:30 pm      Tidy up the front area. Clean tables, restock reading materials. Water plants. Refresh water dispenser. Clean up the coffee mess left daily. Is there recycling? Take that to the back. Talk anxiety-prone co-worker off the ledge again this week.

4:00 pm      Finish any projects you attempted to start today, if possible. Process last-minute intake requests. Take a few more calls. Joke with a coworker. Clean up the kitchen. No, it is not in your job description but you end up wiping down counters, putting dishes away, and refilling the Keurig anyway. Check the voicemails one more time to catch any calls that overflowed.

4:30 pm      Someone has asked for a favor. Your brain is slightly maxed out and that’s okay.  Smile and hammer it out quickly. Happy coworkers. Happy organization.

4:45 pm      Copy and upload necessary documents to the database. Write out a to-do list for the off-hand items that are piling up. Prioritize and keep moving. Make copies of any materials needed for workshops or meetings for the next day. Check and respond promptly to emails one more time. Ask the boss if there’s anything you can help with. Find a way to help regardless of what he says. Take a moment to feel grateful for this job and these wonderful coworkers. Prep the coffee for the morning.

5:00 pm      Breathe out. It was another busy day filled with the regular to-dos, curve-balls, the odd client, and fun. Yes, this job  is hectic, but there is SO much joy. Turn down the lights, lock up and head home!

In today’s world, it is essential now more than ever to understand the fundamentals of your business or organization. An effective way to do this is to immerse yourself in the activities occurring from the ground up. You cannot truly understand the impact, stress, procedures, and safeguards that exist unless you experience it firsthand. 

Written by Harley Hedlund, State Office Coordinator (2016)

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