The promise of a new year can give us an opportunity for a fresh start. One way that small business owners can get on the right track for 2018 is to examine better ways to get organized.
A 2016 survey by Office Depot showed how important workplace organization can be:
- Of the small business owners surveyed, 83 percent reported that “an organized office is a vital part of their business.”
- 63 percent believe that being organized is connected to profitability.
- 75 percent say disorganization “reflects negatively on an employee.”
For businesses that have a relatively slow or quiet beginning of the year, taking the time to analyze the overall organization can be a worthwhile project. Here are a few ways to approach workplace efficiencies.
It’s one of the primary contributors to office messes. Paper is an everyday necessity for many businesses (at least those that can’t go with a bold paperless strategy). Yet a desk or office with unwieldy stacks of documents can be alarming for employees or clients to witness. This could be a sign that it’s time to go back to basics, and make a paper plan that makes simple sense. In a story for Inc.com, Kenny Kline advises narrowing paper down to three bins: one for incoming documents, one for pending paperwork that requires action and one for paper that can be digitized. “Digitizing files is an incredibly effective way to cut down on office clutter,” he notes.
Kline also suggests using colored folders to make filing easier: “Assign each color to a different category (blue folders could contain client contracts, yellow folders could contain financial info, and so on). Moving forward, whenever you’ve processed papers from the ‘new’ or ‘to be addressed’ bins, promptly place them in the correctly colored folder. This will save you precious time whenever you need to locate files in the future.”
Clean up your email
Just as scattered paper can be an office distraction, so can disorganized emails. Some people let their inboxes pile up to ridiculous proportions, thanks to the constant flow of promotional emails and newsletters that no longer hold any interest. For a small business owner, this pileup can be counterproductive. And the more that these emails collect, the more chances there are that an important email might be missed, and that can be dangerous. As Nellie Akalp writes for smallbiztrends.com, “If your email inbox has become a catchall for every email you’ve received over the past years, it’s time to clean house.”
“It is possible to manage your email inbox so you only see the messages you still need to deal with and everything else is neatly archived for safe keeping,” she explains. “Start with a clean slate by filing away everything you no longer need to respond to. Next, tame the level of new emails you get each day by unsubscribing to newsletters or other subscriptions you no longer read. Create specific folders where non-essential emails go automatically, so they don’t interrupt your daily flow.”
Though it would be smart to always discard unnecessary items as soon as they become obsolete, a quick peek into any business’ storage closet might show that it’s easier said than done. The same goes for businesses that are run from the owner’s home. Look for regular opportunities to cut down on clutter, as Madie Hodges advises in a story for Kabbage.
“Take some time every quarter to go through all the things in your office and find the things you don’t need or use,” she says. “Sort these items by type such as old and unusable office supplies to broken equipment, including phones, computers, and printers. Many electronic items can be donated to stores like Best Buy and the office supplies can be upcycled or recycled through companies like Terracycle and locations such as your city’s recycling center. Even though you’re cleaning out your home business, you can reduce environmental waste, too.”
Technology can offer numerous ways to improve a business’ overall organization. The flexibility that goes with cloud computing — from not needing to have servers in-house to employees having access to work files regardless of their location — is worth exploring. Adam Fridman writes about the benefits in a story for Inc.com.
“Since most cloud platforms offer multiple access across various platforms and mobile devices, small business owners can manage their business from anywhere, at any time,” he says. “In addition, the flexibility has an indirect cost saving benefit to the small business. Owners could opt for employees to bring their own device and install the cloud app for access, or plug-and-play via the web. That is one less piece of equipment that a small business owner has to purchase for an office or employee.”
Setting clear goals
This has more to do with strategy and vision than physical objects or technology. A small business owner who sets clear goals and stays motivated in the pursuit of those goals can help keep the business organized and keep employees engaged. In a story for Forbes, Neil Patel writes that “Super organized entrepreneurs review their goals every day.”
“Keeping your goals front and center allows you to weave through the chaos,” he says. “It’s an introspective process that helps you hack at extraneous details. It can reveal what is important, what is a waste of time and what you should do about it all. To instantly bring organization and clarity to your life, review your goals often.”
Focus plays a large role here, and Patel emphasizes working on “the one thing that will move their business forward.”
“A simple way to usher organization into your life is to just do it,” he says. “Every day when you wake up, resolve to do at least one task that will move your business forward. Doing so will organize your thinking and your priorities. It will give you a clear and coherent vision for the success of your business.”
A business’ organization issues may become glaring when tax season approaches. Thrashing about for documentation will only add to a business owner’s stress, so it’s smart to put a premium on keeping detailed records from day one. It also helps to seek professional advice from an accountant, so that the business qualifies for all appropriate deductions. Caron Beesley emphasizes the importance of accurate records in a story for the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“This is a common problem for small businesses and often leads to missed opportunities for reducing your taxable income for the year,” she explains. “Make sure your expenses are reconciled, tracked and supported with receipts (the IRS requires it). Spend time each week to review your accounts — receivable, payable, credit card transactions, cash flow, etc. If your business is growing, consider accounting software (which synchronizes all your financial transactions and activities in one centralized dashboard) or retain the services of an accountant.”