I once visited my old friend from university, Sabrina, a successful and progressive lawyer based in Sydney, Australia. I had been to her office several times and called her countless times. I noted with some disdain that the receptionist never seemed to answer the phone, and when I arrived, she seemed to be on a permanent lunch break.
So, one day, I asked Sabrina why she bothered to hire her in the first place.
“Well,” she said, grinning a little playfully, “I don’t have one. She literally does not exist. That’s why you keep missing her.”
What? A large firm of solicitors with no receptionist or a secretary?
“No,” she explained. “We did a study and found out that the phone was never for her and our clients almost never came here.”
I was perplexed.
After our conversation, the story never left me and it kept on popping back on my mind like an recurring itch. So, one day I asked our secretary, “What do you not like doing?” She went on to tell me that she had to put up with some telephone calls from people who wanted an answer and that they were mad at her for not giving them tax advice when I wasn’t available. And, she added (with a flick of her wrist as well!), “I hate filing.”
When filing went away in our paperless office, and creating reports was turned over to software programs that could automate them almost effortlessly, I thought, “Maybe I can do without her.” At her suggestion, we put the phones on ‘night mode’, moved her into a position where she ensured we had all the electronic data before we started year-ends, tax returns and the like. All while, leaving her desk at the front so she could greet incoming clients.
It took some time for our clients to get used to the change. One mused how “unprofessional” it was not to have a receptionist. Guess which one he was?
It was the same guy who got cross at her for not giving him tax advice! What we ended up was someone who was 85% chargeable and 120% recoverable, all from a previously mostly unproductive source! Profit!
So what is the lesson that I learned?
Look for productivity from all your sources. You will likely find it in unusual or unexpected places.