A place for Everything and Everything in its Place

Post date: Aug 2, 2014 5:09:51 PM

Most of us have heard this old adage but perhaps we don’t believe in its wisdom. As you start out in your business venture, particularly if you are a small business, don’t underestimate the benefits of efficiency brought through order.

Many business people – in fact many people - lose hours of valuable working time just LOOKING for things that are misplaced, missing or just plain lost. Value your time by setting up systems that will serve you well and save you angst and frustration when you need to find something.

Even though much of our modern world is digital, there will still be paperwork – and there must be paperwork – for your business venture. In my own business of Administrative Systems and Decluttering, I have met many clients who are brilliant at whatever they do – teaching line dancing classes, running a B&B, training sales people, landscape gardening – but they are not so gifted in administration. Many family enterprises have been started by the man of the house who expects his wife to do the bookwork – I’ve helped rescue a few marriages that have been under the pressure of this expectation. Not every family business has someone to whom systems and order come naturally!

A good leader is one who recognises their areas of weakness and gets someone else in to do the job!

Meanwhile, if you can’t find someone to help (and you can’t pay my travel costs!) logic is the order of the day and you need to set up systems that are logical for YOU so that you can find everything quickly.

Where to begin….

When I took a ‘Start your own business’ course, I realized that any or all of the other attendees could be my clients - but not yet! It is not until business gets going that you find out what needs to get sorted. For the most part, as I write, I am assuming small businesses without bookkeeping software or staff. Let’s start with getting the money in – an important basic, but unbelievable how many small businesses are lax about prompt invoicing. For some readers, quotations will be part of your service – both verbal and written. Keep a record of it either way. If it’s verbal then note it in your smart phone or your notebook with the date the client and the amount, along with whatever detail is needed. If you produce printed quotes, start with a QUOTES folder in your computer filing and name each document by client. Don’t keep multiple versions of quotes or you will have trouble remembering which was the final one. If you haven’t got easy access to your files, then print out a copy of the quote and file by date or in an A-Z file folder by client.

Invoicing will need several systems. A spreadsheet to track and number invoices – all invoices must be given a unique number and dated. As well as date, number, client name and amount, you can add further columns for analysis and to track payments or flag up the need to send statements. It goes without saying, this will need regular attention if you want to have income!

If the spreadsheet system works for you then filing copies of all invoices by number is the easiest in most cases, unless you have a small number of clients and it is more efficient to file them by client.

Again, on your computer, set up a folder for invoices and name each one by number and client or anything else that is logical to find. They don’t need ‘invoice’ in the title if they are saved in the correct folder.

Both the ‘Quotes’ folder and the ‘Invoices’ folder should be in a FINANCE folder. Use a ‘tree’ method to name and organize folders. For example ‘parent’ folders might be: Business Planning, Finance, Legal (including insurance, licences etc.), Suppliers, Marketing. These then would have sub folders – for example Marketing might have: Networking, Advertising, Logos, website content, Social Media etc.

If you are keeping paper filing then use the same titles and sub titles in the filing cabinet. While each business may have particular needs, most have the same basic set up.

Emails will be best managed in a similar manner, set up folders and have a logical home for emails, using the flagging and other aids that your program supplies.

There is so much more, but these basic starting points will help you and don’t delay setting up and then using a system as it will save a lot of time and headaches in the long run.

There are a lot of helpful tools and videos on line, particularly for using software – just search for what you need.

In almost all of the cluttered and chaotic offices and homes that I have help sort out, making a ‘home’ for everything is the starting place. People waste so much money buying ‘more’ of items they have already got in stock. Use drawers, shelves, boxes (preferably clear) and LABEL them so you can see at a glance what is what!