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Career Story: Jack-Of-All-Trades At A Small Forensic Research Lab

Jack-Of-All-Trades At A Small Forensic Research Lab

Job Title: Accounts Manager And Business Development

Type of Company: An applied research and development company that specializes in particle analysis. Our principal customers are government intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Education: BS, Clothing & Textiles, Michigan State University •• MS, Instructional Systems Design, Florida State University

Previous Experience: I served for seven years as an officer in the U.S. Navy, working in personnel, computer programming, database analysis and middle management. After discharge from the Navy, I served in the Coast Guard for nearly two decades, working in areas as diverse as search & rescue, personnel, acquisitions, performance consulting, instructional systems, strategy development, middle and senior management.

Job Tasks: The company I work for at the moment is a small, private lab with six full-time staffers and contracts to several scientists and government agencies. In such a small operation everyone's got several responsibilities and I act as both accounts manager and head of business development.

As the accounts manager, I pay all our salaries and bills, audit employee expense reports, create and track orders for major purchases (equipment and furniture, mostly) and create and track customer invoices. I also pay our quarterly estimated taxes and manage our company's 401(k) retirement program.

My business development duties require me to contact potential customers (federal agencies, state and city law enforcement departments, and major U.S. companies whose manufactures have been pirated or counterfeited) and find the people in charge there who might be interested in the services we offer. Having done that, I will often set up briefings by our chief scientist and follow these up with thank-you letters and any further information that the prospect has requested. I also write prospectuses outlining the ways our company can use forensic particle analysis to solve corporate problems, and these, hopefully, help our managing director to clinch contracts.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is working with Excel, manipulating numbers and formulas to help manage our contracts. I also like working with Quickbooks to create invoices, set up payroll, pay bills, and reconcile our bank accounts. In short, I like the numbers side of my job: numbers are either correct or they're not.

Business development is another story; it involves twisting the arms of people at other organizations and trying to interest them in hiring us. And even when I get someone interested, there is always the problem of money... and budgets.

Job Tips: Accounts managers have to like details and numbers. But business development is almost indistinguishable from sales and you have to be willing to try and try again and not get especially frustrated when the contact you've made doesn't bite at the bait you've held out. You've also got to be tactful and willing to listen.

Additional Thoughts: If you're the kind of person who likes many different kinds of work, a small company may be very good for you. I get to do both detail-work and people-oriented work in my current position. The type of work I do doesn't require a college education, but it does require good work skills and habits. It's extremely important for me to get all my work done, whether it's creating detailed invoices or writing several pages of proposals. And in a small company everyone has to show up on time and stay late and work weekends if the project requires it. There's no room for slackers in a place this small.

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