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What's It Like to Work as an Office Manager at a Startup?

Office managers are at the organizational heart of the office and do whatever they can to make sure the workplace runs efficiently.

Startup offices are naturally magnets for chaos. Projects are changing all the time; visitors, investors, and customers are coming and going; events are being planned and canceled so many times it could make your head spin. That’s why hiring a competent office manager is a top priority for many startup leaders. Office managers keep the office running smoothly so that all teams can stay focused on driving the company forward. If the office manager does their job right, everyone has what they need to be productive, whether that’s a dedicated workspace, free-flowing coffee, delicious snacks, or freedom from distractions of visitors/phone calls.

Without an office manager there to take care of workplace upkeep, managing those responsibilities would distract the other team members and cause the whole office to be less efficient. It might even end up diverting one of the founders’ priorities. The office manager is a rock that keeps the workplace functional, efficient, and most of all organized. That’s why hiring managers are super particular about who they trust their office operations with.

What Does an Office Manager Actually Do at a Startup?

Manage the office

This one’s a no brainer. The main responsibility of an office manager is to do whatever it takes to keep the office afloat. The office manager should devise systems for mail organization, phone messaging, filing, and visitor tracking. The office manager is also responsible for making sure supplies are ordered on time as well as making sure food/coffee is always accessible. Finally, the office manager should also make sure the office is neat and free of clutter.

Greet visitors

The office manager is often the first person someone visiting a startup will encounter. They’re the face of the organization to the outside world. As such, it is the office manager’s responsibility to warmly and professionally welcome all visitors to the office. It is important for the office manager to answer any and all questions, show visitors where to wait, and to offer them water, snacks, or coffee.

Plan office events

The office manager is also often the startup’s point person for inter-office event planning. There’s no better person to round up the different teams and make sure everyone will be available at a certain day on a certain time. If there’s an office party or a team off-site, the office manager will usually book accommodations, arrange flights, and figure out a time that is best for the team.

Take care of administrative responsibilities

Oftentimes the office manager will be tasked with keeping track of minor accounting matters such as bookkeeping, payroll, and accounts payable or receivable. Many times the office manager is the point person for dealing with different third party administrative services. Other administrative tasks assigned to the office manager include HR tasks such as onboarding and even internship management.

What Are Some Qualities of Successful Office Managers?

The best office managers are inquisitive, friendly, and proud of their work, but above all else, office managers need to be organized. Tasked with keeping track of appointments, deadlines, and dates, the entire business can rise rise and fall with how organized and on top of it an office manager is.

Another prized quality is the ability to read and respond to social cues. Scheduling and rescheduling meetings without angering third parties requires a certain level of written professionalism, social maneuvering, and tact. On a similar note, it’s also crucially important that an office manager is confident and knows when to say no to someone’s unfeasible idea, even if that someone is their direct boss or the president of the company.

Lastly office managers need simply to “Get Stuff Done.” While this final responsibility is the most ambiguous, it’s also one of the most important, particularly for office managers who work at startups. In order for office managers to succeed in a startup environment, they have to leave their egos at the door. No problem is too small and no project is too big for them to knock out of the park. The best office managers tackle projects logically and are expert multi-taskers who can prioritize requests appropriately.

What's the Growth Potential of an Office Manager?

Because office managers interact with every part of the business, there’s an especially high potential for growth. Office managers can make one of their current responsibilities a full-time job, transitioning into accounting, recruiting, or even event planning. As they serve as the face of the office, they can also very easily transition to a customer service or community management team. Finally, the fact that they’re often dealing directly with company leadership makes them perfect for business operations or special projects. If you want to be exposed to a broad range of departments, securing a job as an office manager is a great way to invest in your career.

While startups are often made up of a ton of different moving parts, office managers have the unique benefit of being exposed to all of them. They’re the heart of the office and they help ensure the success of every other department. An organized office manager enables an office to run like clockwork, and at a startup, efficiency is money. Good office managers are unusually hard to find, and if you’ve ever spoken with a big picture CEO, a detail oriented office manager can be the most appreciated employee in the whole building. The office manager role, while not being easy, can be one of the most rewarding positions at a startup and can be a great entry point to many other functions within the company.

Looking for an office manager job at a startup but don’t know where to start?

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