A remodeling company owner recently nominated his office manager for an Office Manager of the Year Award that we at Remodelers Advantage present. On the application, he wrote: “Our office manager provides enthusiastic support for our entire team. She is an intelligent sounding board for all of our thinking and has kept a massive amount of detail under constant control. She has become an expert user of Master Builder and has led the company in upgrading systems to be more efficient and productive. Meanwhile, as director of first impressions, she charms the clients, leads them through the selection process, and delivers precise and complete documentation to field crews. We all love her and our days are brightened by her cheerful hardworking presence.”

Who wouldn’t love to be able to write that nomination? In it, the owner mentions numerous traits that I hear again and again attributed to the best office managers. I talked to one office manager who has consistently received rave reviews from the owners of the company for which she works.

Darci Mierendorf, office manager for Morris Builders, in Rockford, Mich., who got rave reviews in the same competition, describes the traits this way:

Be the eyes and ears of the team. “Even if I’m working on my own tasks” she says, “I listen to what’s going on around me. The more I am aware of the workings of the company, the more assistance I can lend.”

Truly love taking care of people. “I take it upon myself to be everyone’s caregiver, to make sure that they have everything they need in order to be successful,” Mierendorf comments. “For example, when [owner] Kirk is going on a sales call, I’ll make sure that he has a map and accurate directions, the lead sheet so he is familiar with the prospect, tape measure, and anything else he will need on site.”

Be organized and use systems to add predictability and consistency to the job. “I’m very good with both creating and following systems and procedures ... In addition to following these systems myself, I also am proactive in helping the owners do the same.” For example, Mierendorf will follow up after a sale to collect details about the meeting so that she can record next steps, agreements, and anything else that might help them all stay organized. “I’m not aggressive about how I follow up,” she says, “but I know that the more information we can record, the faster and more accurately we can move forward. This helps us close more sales.”

Be able to multitask and handle constant interruptions. “I keep a notepad on my desk to record tasks as they are given to me,” Mierendorf says. “It’s up to me to get them done in a timely manner and to know which takes priority. With one owner, I know that tasks typically need to be done immediately. With another, there’s often time to do it later. If I don’t know, I ask.” Because of the multitude of tasks, Mierendorf also says that office managers need to be fast-paced, in general. “I can’t put my head down to focus on one thing at the expense of others,” she says. “And I also have to be very careful to balance speed with accuracy. It does no one any good if it’s done quickly but not accurately.”

Have an attitude and personality that is upbeat while calm. “The person who is in this position has to have a pleasant, professional, upbeat manner on the phone or in person,” Mierendorf says. “At the same time, he or she has to be able to handle conflicts that crop up with diplomacy and confidence.”

While finding this superstar isn’t easy, your office manager is a linchpin to a well-run business.

And, by the way, the winner of this year’s Office Manager of the Year Award is Lynn Goodwin from McAdams Builders, in Kirkland, Wash.

—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage — helping hundreds of remodelers across North America build strong, profitable businesses. 301.490.5620. www.remodelersadvantage.com.

This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the December 2010 issue of REMODELING.