Dan Bawden, owner of Legal Eagle Contractors in Houston, wasn't surprised when his office manager quit the day the 1099s were due. The office manager -- whose job description was defined under a few broad headings -- had been finding many reasons not to come into work, calling in regularly with excuses. "That's probably why she ended up leaving," Bawden says. "She worked two full days a week and it turned out to be a five-day-a-week job." Bawden and his wife, Konne, figured they -- and a few temps -- could fill in while they searched for a replacement.

The Bawdens soon found, however, that even with temporary bookkeeping assistance, they were struggling to maintain the systems that keep their business operating efficiently. "You're already running on the edge," Bawden says, "and suddenly you have this impossible set of tasks each day." As months passed without a new office manager, Bawden began spending less time with his normal sales and marketing duties and more time at the office "playing catch-up." He was sleep-deprived and on edge. "I did fewer estimates. And I started ballparking estimates to people."

Eventually, Bawden redefined the position to make tasks more specific and to attract someone with both bookkeeping and computer skills. He made it a four-day-a-week job, rather than two. He drew up a list of daily, weekly, quarterly, and long-term tasks, which now include the following:

  • Track four bank accounts

  • Monitor and order office supplies

  • Prepare payroll and tax filings

  • Maintain office equipment at two locations

  • Update Web site with new photography

Then he set out to hire for the job he'd created. He interviewed 20 people before deciding on someone. The new hire will also assemble presentation packages, rate lead quality, convert Outlook data to ACT, and track and maintain client contact electronically -- all "things I desperately needed help with." Now that the administrative functions are under control, Bawden hopes to have a quarterly newsletter ready to go soon.