Small businesses are the engine that drives the U.S. economy. Employing 55% of all workers, 28 million small businesses account for 54% of all sales in the country today. And the future of small businesses is bright: they have created 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970’s and have increased in number by 49% since 1982. When compared to their much larger counterparts, this success stands in even greater light: mid-size and large businesses have eliminated four million jobs since 1990, while small businesses have added eight million new jobs.
Wow! These are some pretty impressive statistics. Small business owners should take a moment and congratulate themselves for all of this success. But they shouldn’t take very long; it takes a lot of organization to run a small business. Indeed, those that succeed often are the ones that are the most organized. With better organization, a small business can focus on strategic initiatives and its customers.
So, with 2017 underway, now is a good time to get better organized. The following are eight ways to do so:
- Declutter. An important starting point is to get rid of the clutter. Like people, businesses accumulate clutter. Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo provides individuals with a set of recommendations on what they can do to become organized. It boils down to two overarching things. First, put your hands on everything you own and determine if they spark joy. If not, get rid of it. Second, once you have narrowed down your belongings to only those that bring you joy, put every item in a place where it’s visible and can be easily accessed (and returned).
In addition to helping small business leaders with their personal lives, the above also translates to the business. They need to determine what tools, activities, partners, and even customers are critical to their business, eliminating those that aren’t important. Then, for those you keep, you need to ensure you fully optimize them.
- Digitize and Organize Paper Files. Physical papers can pile up very quickly. The same is true when it comes to electronic files. A great starting point would be digitizing all of your physical paper work. But that is only half the battle. You must make sure it is well organized and can be searched based on your business requirements. This could save your organization up to four hours for each employee. There are various cloud-based options available.
- Use Cloud Storage and Sharing. Tapping cloud storage and document sharing and collaboration can save valuable time emailing documents back and forth. It also can help you clean up personal storage for every employee.
- Email Management. Email can become a huge time synch for any business. There are a few things that small businesses can do to ensure their email communications don’t drain productivity and become distractions: a) turn off email notifications on both your computers and smartphones, b) configure your inbox so that email is prioritized based on your highest priority tasks, c) create email whitelists and blacklists, d) set aside time for email versus other tasks (and use a timer), e) use rules in your email client to sort, flag, move, or organize messages, f) checking email on your smartphone can save your significant time on your computer, and g) stop subscribing (or unsubscribe) to the messages you don’t read.
- Take Digital Notes. Unless you have a photographic memory, it is impossible for you to remember everything. Digital note applications such as Evernote or Google Keep (just a few of the options available) make it possible for small businesses to take notes while they are on the go on their computers and smartphones. In addition to being stored, these notes are searchable. Stop rummaging through your paper notebooks by switching to a digital note application.
- Implement Accounting in the Cloud. Simple, intuitive accounting software from the cloud is a must for any small business. The upside is that there’s a plethora of different options from which to choose. There are a number of reasons to use an accounting solution hosted in the cloud: a) data is always up to date and it won’t be lost as a result of a disaster (viz., no backups required), b) you access and use the solution from any number of devices, c) multiple users can access the information in real time and make business decisions based on it, d) upgrades to correct deficiencies in prior versions and or to launch new functionality aren’t necessary (as compared to traditional on-premise accounting solutions), and e) customer support is fast and easy.
- Project Management. With the number of cloud-based project management tools that are available today, no business should manage projects on spreadsheets. These project management tools help ensure projects are managed efficiently while facilitating collaboration across all members of your team.
- Meeting Management. Most businesses cite time wasted in meetings as their number one challenge. Makes a lot of sense. Businesses spent a significant amount of time in meetings. The following are 10 things that you can do to ensure your meetings are productive:
- a) know your objective
- b) involve the right people
- c) establish individual roles and responsibilities
- d) keep time
- e) change your scenery
- f) avoid PowerPoints unless they are needed
- g) provide entertainment and education
- h) meet face-to-face when possible
- i) shut off your laptops
- j) spell out the takeaways and assign responsibilities.
Don’t wait for more of 2017 to pass by. Reap the benefits of organization by getting you and your business organized today.