One of the biggest challenges of small business owners that I work with is managing the multiplicity of duties that are necessary for running a small business. With all that is required of a small business owner- it is no wonder that many business owners work 12-16 hour days, 7 days a week.
With all this activity, it is essential for the small business owner to create a system for organizing their life and work. Many articles have been written about creating filing systems that help track information and documents; however, in my experience, unless filing systems are individually tailored to the lifestyle and habits of the worker-they simply do not work.
In this article-I would like to offer an alternative to traditional filing systems to a model that complements the personality and lifestyle of the individual worker. The ultimate goal in this article is to illustrate how putting into place some structure will help increase efficiency and hence productivity.
One such case example is a recent client of mine, Tony, a manufacturer of home improvement products who came to me requesting help with organizing his office. Tony’s main complaint was not being able to find information he needed in a timely manner and wasting a lot of time looking for information.
One of the first things we did was to set up a filing system based on categories that made sense to Tony. The first file was a “To Do” or “Action needed” file to capture that information that needed action. We created a “To do” list form that itemized the tasks, completion/due dates, and parties involved so that Tony more consistently met deadlines. This “To do “ file also stored his daily phone log, and printed email request for proposals/quotes that required a detailed response.
Second, was a “Project” file, grouped by project, oftentimes listed by customer name which included his current project plans, goals, important emails, estimates, and any pertinent reference information for the project.
Third was his own “Personal” file that included information about his health, disability and other insurance and benefits, as well as his current certifications.
Fourth, was a “Travel/Expenses” file which included bills/receipts (to help him keep track of all work related expenses) in addition to meeting notes, and travel directions.
Fifth was a “Vendor” account file that had detailed information on his vendors including rates, contacts, product manuals, and merchant agreements.
Although Tony had a software program that tracked customer order information he reported that he needed their contact information more accessible while traveling. To that end-we were able to transfer his customer information from his software program to his handheld PDA device so he could better communicate with his customers. In addition to the information stored in his software program, we were able to consolidate information stuffed in Tony’s desk, his wallet, written on calendars, or on the back of business cards.
We also helped Tony manage information from all of the online accounts that he had established.
I cannot tell you how many of my customers do not have a system for organizing their online account information. It is not uncommon to have different passwords and account names for various online service providers, and much time is wasted trying to find the correct username and password for each.
For Tony and others- I have created a simple Excel form which is to be used each time an account is established to reduce the stress and wasted time involved in trying to find information related to these online accounts. You can create this form on your own, or contact me for a copy. The form has the following headers: Provider, Account Type, Domain, Username, Email, Password, Created Date, Expired Date and Cost. This form can be kept in one of the above mentioned files (preferably in a locked drawer). It can also be stored as a digital, password protected file on your computer. In Tony’s case, because he prefers not to use the computer-he opted for a printed, hard copy of the form that he could fill in by hand each time he establishes an account.
By taking the time to set up an individually tailored system for organizing himself- Tony has reported feeling much more productive, less stressed out, and more in control of his projects.
If you found this article helpful, and would like to set up a free initial consultation-just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (781) 956-9999 to set up an appointment.