He’s so organized about it that everything is ready at the same time, no matter how many things he’s cooking or how many people are eating.
In the midst of my cooking troubles last weekend, I realized that, for many small businesses, this is what it feels like when they don’t have the basics in place.There’s confusion, extra work, missed deadlines, and almost always missed opportunities and additional cost.
In short, it’s all about the prep work.And whether you’re starting a new business or you’ve been running one for decades, here are three important ways to get your prep work working for you:
- Organize Your Contacts. No matter what your business, always remember that it’s people who hire you, buy from you, and refer you.For many businesses, contacts are the most valuable assets, so it’s critical to get them organized.
When I work on client databases, I begin by pulling together everyone the client knows, without editing people out.In my experience, anyone you know can refer someone to you, so don’t exclude them.
Find a system that’s easy to use and allows you to categorize each contact. I use Outlook.It’s simple to use, I can easily export my information when I need to, and it easily syncs with my iPhone and iPad.
Once your contacts are organized it’s much easier to keep in touch and build your LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers.
- Organize Your Work. One of the first things I do when I take on a new project or client is set up a folder in Outlook to store related email.
Next, I set up a folder on my computer to store all of my electronic files, and a physical folder for the rest.I even have a dedicated spiral notebook for each client or project (see more on that, below…).If the project is complex and has lots of moving parts, I keep a detailed project plan at my fingertips so I can jump from project to project quickly.
You don’t need to use my approach, but you do need to have an approach.Decide what works best for you and put it into action.
- Organize Your Financials. This one is a biggie so get professional help if necessary. One of my clients, for example, was having trouble tracking where the money was coming from.I suggested that he deposit each check separately to make it easier to match deposit records with invoices when reconciling accounts.
Keep a notebook in your car to record your mileage and take a few minutes to make notes on your receipts so you can efficiently deduct your expenses or pass them through to clients.Make the time to reconcile your bank and credit card accounts monthly or hire someone to do it for you.
Remember, while it may feel overwhelming at times to manage the intricacies of running a business, much of that stress is often due to a lack of clear and efficient systems.
Take the time to set yours up in these three important areas and you’ll have more time to do the work you love.
Oh, gotta go! Dinner’s on the table and (thankfully) I didn’t cook it! - Belinda Wasser