Mary’s Business Rules

Or…How to Become a Force to be Reckoned With

By GGTW Co-founder Amanda Epp

There’s a lot you can learn about life and business just by paying attention, and this was never more true for me than when I got to work with a woman named Mary. Mary was the office manager at my last job who was a force to be reckoned with. First of all, she never accepted anyone’s BS. Ever. This was a tough feat in an office of predominantly young male developers who were super picky about food, temperature, lighting, and the beer on tap.  Yet she did it all flawlessly, and managed to keep us all fed, hydrated, safe, and paid. That’s a big deal! Not only that, but she also knew how to throw amazing company parties, with plenty of activities for the little kids and lots of food and libations for the adults. Oh, and she even helped us rescue a kitten that was abandoned in the alley behind the building one morning (just so you know she wasn’t just “all business” and hard-core).

I learned early on that if you paid attention and figured out Mary’s basic business rules, she loved you.  And if you didn’t follow them, you would quickly discover that you were–let’s say–in the wrong column of her “naughty and nice” list. While initially that may sound harsh, it really isn’t. I’ve discovered that Mary’s rules have proven to be tried and true, and can be applied anywhere and with anyone. They work whether you’re at a successful start-up that’s growing by leaps and bounds every year like we were, or you find yourself at an older company that maintains its status quo quarter after quarter.

In short, Mary’s Rules taught me a lot about how to survive in business, and for that I am very grateful. So what better way to honor her than by sharing some of her wisdom with you? Keep reading to learn five of Mary’s Business Rules, or as some of us called them, ways to NOT to get onto the office manager’s (or any other coworker’s) $hit list. 


Get to the point quickly.

Get to the point, and quickly! Respect your office manager’s (and all your coworkers’) time. Don’t be the employee that stops to chit-chat forever.  Say hi, have a quick conversation, but save anything else for the right time (like at lunch, the gym, or after work). Office managers especially have a lot of work to do, so if you notice them suddenly start to shred anything with your name on it as you talk about your pet cats, you’ve overstayed your welcome.


Kindness and gratitude won't kill you.

Kindness and gratitude won’t kill you. (In fact, try to make it your MO and see what happens!) Often times office managers are glued to their desk, so offer to get them a cup of coffee or a snack, or pitch in where you can. At our office for example, we would answer the door whenever Mary was in the middle of something that couldn’t be interrupted (like convincing someone to pay an overdue bill). She showed me that someone’s job isn’t better than anyone else’s just because of its title, and I recognized all she did to make sure we had what we needed every day. So say thank you! Office managers like Mary work hard to make sure you get paid. Let them know how much you appreciate it.


Impress the gatekeeper.

Always impress the gatekeeper. Office managers are not just the first line of defense for the boss. They’re also the ones who size potential employees up at first glance when they show up for interviews. Be polite, be kind, and treat office managers and receptionists with respect. If you’re rude to the person who greets you at the company where you want to work, everyone will wonder who else you’ll be rude to if you land a job there. We always took Mary’s opinion seriously. If she had an opinion about an job candidate, we would know about it immediately.  She would come to the back of the office to warn us (“Watch out for that one!”) or send us an instant message (“Your guy is here and his socks don’t match.”) She even let us know if she thought an applicant was good-looking, since most of us were single at the time! 🙂


Don't be a doormat.

Don’t be a doormat. Mary was a master at holding people accountable, and she taught me not to take any crap. If the developers didn’t turn in their timesheets at the appointed time, she would yell reminders to them across the office to make sure everyone knew about it. And if the vendors messed up?  She would get right on the phone to explain how they could and should mend their errant ways. Now, I admit that maybe her delivery wasn’t as professional as it could have been, but she definitely always got the point across. People quickly learned to get in line, respect deadlines, and keep their promises. 


Pull your weight.

Pull your weight. There really is nothing worse than a coworker you can’t rely on. Don’t be that coworker. Everyone will figure you out eventually, but there’s probably someone like Mary in your office who will find out right away. Our Mary could walk through the office once or twice and pick out who was working hard and who was hardly working. And then she’d tell someone who needed to know about it…matter of factly and to the point, in her usual no-nonsense way, but the message would be clear. Trust me when I say you do not want to be the employee she found slacking off.


So, as you venture out to Go Get The World, remember Mary’s Business Rules, and you too can become a force to be reckoned with…or at least avoid some major problems. And if you have some tried and true business rules, tell us about them!


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