The following article originally appeared in the September 2015 edition of The Myers Report newsletter published by the firm.
Modern Office Management – 1970’s Style
By: Jane M. Myers, Esq.
Today, technology and management ideas become obsolete overnight. On the other hand, there are solid business practices that will always survive the test of time.
We recently came upon a booklet packed with “innovative, break-through” ideas guaranteed to ramp up office productivity . . . in the 1970’s.
Many of these “new” concepts felt like the creators of the hit series Mad Men read the booklet and then wrote their scripts for the show. References to “girls” in the “typing pool”?? Encouragement to try cutting edge technologies such as the speaker phone and electric pencil sharpener??
Some of the tips would obviously be impossible to carry out today. Can you imagine voluntarily setting aside an hour each day when you don’t use your phone? Most of us can’t be apart from our cell phones for more than a minute before we start to panic and twitch with separation anxiety. Or imagine setting aside one full day each week – a personal “quiet day” – just so you can work uninterrupted?
And yet, some of the advice is tried and true. For example, always say thank you to your clients and customers – let them know you appreciate their business.
Here are some of our 1970’s pamphlet favorites:
- “Set aside one hour each morning and/or each afternoon when no calls are received. This will do wonders for increasing the productivity of your office. During such hours, the receptionist should merely advise the caller that you are not available at the moment but should be able to return the call soon. Similarly, one day per week should be set aside as a ‘quiet day’ in which you can work without interruption.”
- “Our firm has a typing pool wherein any girl in the pool can switch her headphones to the endless dictation tape of any executive. This is done with a switch matrix located in the typing pool, where any executive can be connected with any pool girl.”
- “A speaker phone attachment is inexpensive and has a number of advantages. While the telephone call is being placed, both hands are free and the executive can be doing something else while the phone is ringing and while he is waiting for an answer.”
- “I edit my draft letters and other writing in pencil (usually No.2 ½). My secretary used to spend lots of time sharpening them, because I like sharp pencils! Finally she bought me an electric pencil sharpener, which I placed on the credenza behind my desk. Now I sharpen my own pencils and don’t waste her time.”
- “Weekly or monthly meetings frequently involve much time wasted by many because a few come late or not at all. A meeting fee of $10 payable only to those who arrive on time can work wonders in eliminating this problem.”
and . . . the Enduring
- “We serve our clients and customers well and we assume they are only interested in the result of that service. But, we forget to let them know that we appreciate their confidence and the opportunity to work with them. The solution is to express our gratitude. Say ‘thank you’ by phone or letter. Send a separate message so that the impact of the ‘thank you’ is not diluted by the importance of another message.”
- “Don’t use big words when you write. Your clients and customers don’t; you don’t when you talk. But when lawyers write, they often think they have to use big words.”
- “Have a suggestion box in which employees can submit ideas for improving the firm. Reward good suggestions with money bonuses or extra days off – this idea can ultimately be worth its weight in gold to any business.”
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Our verdict on the 1970’s “success tips”??
We’ll take a pass on the typing pool idea and the “no phone day.” But, as Jim and I are about to celebrate the 10th year of our law firm, we want to express our gratitude for the many, many opportunities we’ve had to work with some truly wonderful clients and colleagues!
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Please note that this article is intended only as a general discussion and that it should not be taken as creating an attorney-client relationship or as legal advice with respect to any particular person, business or situation. Circumstances and the applicable legal principles vary and you should consult with an attorney and/or other professionals regarding the facts of your particular situation.