Business Tips

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How do I store items that are infrequently used?

Storing Supplies

There should always be one central location where your office supplies are stored. The best location would be a cabinet centrally located to all office stations, or located in your file room. You want them to where everyone can easily access supplies, but they are out of sight so your clients/ customers can not see them. The cabinet you choose to store your supplies in should be kept organized. Make sure you don't just throw things in the cabinet. You need to actually take the time to make sure all the pencils are together, all the paperclips are together, all the printer cartridges are together and so forth. It's a supply closet you don't have to be anal about the organizing process; you just have to be tidy. Having an organized tidy supply cabinet will allow easy access to the supply you need when you need it.

How can I keep client information readily available?

Contact Data

Contact data is very important to everyone, not just the business professional. Keeping current information allows us to find necessary contacts at a moment notice. We all need a system to keep this data easily accessible.

COMPUTER DATABASE: You can track your contacts by placing the information in a database. All computers come with basic programs you may use for this purpose, or you can purchase your preferred software for this purpose. It is important the data stays current. Review the data on a regular basis, update by inputting new contacts, changing or adding as appropriate to current contacts, and delete the contact when no longer required. Make sure you back up your data to prevent loss.

HANDHELD DEVISE: If you are using a handheld you most likely input the information promptly upon receipt, this includes updates and changes. However, you should still put yourself on a weekly or monthly schedule that allows you to review the current contacts and make any adjustments or eliminations necessary. It's crucial with a handheld that you back up your information on a consistent basis (daily for heavy use, weekly for lighter use); this allows you to replace the information if the handheld is lost or stolen.

ROLODEX: Many of us still have a good old fashioned rolodex on our desk! These too require regular maintenance. Make sure that the business cards you simply stuck in the rolodex are filed appropriately for easy access when you need it. If you don't like cards from floating around loose: a) transfer by hand to a rolodex card, or b) simply staple the business card to the rolodex card. If you are opting to affix the card make sure to staple it on above the groove marks, this will allow easy flow in the rolodex.

How can I make sure people know how to operate something?

Efficient Instructions & Procedures

How many times have you told your coworker, employee, or better yet your employer how to do something? It gets tiresome and burdensome to continually explain how to do the same task. You just want to scream sometimes! There is another option. Writing out instructions and procedures allows you to have easy access when you need to provide same to another person. Thereby, saving your vocals for more important screaming later!

The best way to write out instructions and/or procedures is to make a rough list of everything you want included. Then you can go back and arrange them in the proper order for completion. Keep in mind that you don't want to overwhelm any set of instructions. So be organized in your process. If you are writing out a job description you can include all tasks that need to be completed, this is not the same as writing out actual task instructions. Thereby, write out a description of how to complete said task separately from other tasks. When writing task instructions be specific and clear throughout this set of instructions/ procedures to cover everything that you want, that is required and make your instructions as cohesive as possible. Once completed go back and reread your draft. It's very important that you are clear and cover all areas per task that need to be included. Watch for grammatical errors to prevent confusion. Once you are done, you can repeat this process with another task.

Once you have written out your instructions/ procedures place them in a folder, or a three ring binder for easy access.

Why should I use just one Planner?

The importance of: Your calendar system

Everyone should have a well devised calendar system. I discuss methods for calendar development in my book, “Organizing For the Business Professional.” Everyone whether they admit it or not, relies on a schedule. In the business world you must maintain a calendar to follow and keep on schedule. If you are a business professional there is no avoiding using a calendar.

Today, there many calendar options for you. Old school - paper calendars are still sold and purchased by us the consumers. New school - techno calendars are more widely used in this day and age. It doesn't matter if you use old school or new school methods, if you are comfortable and have system that works for you is what’s important. You can debate until the cows come home which is better inputting and backing up being safer versus using a paper calendar that can't be accidentally deleted. The bottom line is using a system, any system that gets you where you need to go on time each time is what matters.

Find the right calendar system for you. Make sure to implement and follow the calendar system you establish.

How do I make sure I have only updated information?

Keep Records Up-to-Date

In business we find that changes are inevitable. Keeping up with them is a chore. However, it is essential to keep current. By doing so, we are able to keep our business moving along smoothly.

Failing to keep up might just bring us to a grinding halt. Thereby, you might want to consider devising updating rituals for your business records.

To devise rituals all you need is:

(1) Make a list of all records in your office that may require updating (e.g. Procedural Manual, Disaster Plan, Tax Related, Maintenance Schedule, Rolodex, BlackBerry, Employee Handbook, so forth).

(2) Decide how often each one needs to be reviewed and revised.

(3) Make a schedule for updating, for instance, you might want to update your Procedural Manual every six months, or you might want to update your rolodex monthly. Whether you’re updating weekly, monthly or annually make sure to schedule these events on your calendar.

By keeping those important records up to date you’ll find another efficient method to keep your business running smoothly.

What can I do to organize my business start up?

Marketing Plan : Organize Your Start-Up

Congratulations you are about to start your own business. How exciting. You have so much to do, so much to learn and lots of enthusiastic energy. It is important to write a business plan when starting a new business. The business plan will provide you with a lot of information you may not have realized you needed to know in advance. For instance, it has you write out a marketing plan, which is, one of the most taken for granted parts of the business plan. Today, with all the SEO, websites, blogs, social networks, we don’t feel marketing is that big of a problem. However, the marketing plan does more than help you consider what types of marketing you’re going to undertake. A marketing plan is also an analysis. It has you research and understand your own market. It forces you to look at your competitors, figure out sales strategies, and project your sales forecast. It’s a very intense plan. With this plan you can make crucial decisions on how to proceed with your business. To be organized with your start up make sure to consider the importance of your marketing plan and how it will help you keep your new business on the right track.

What should I have near the phone to save time?

Reception: Telephone Central

One of the most important stations in an office is the reception desk. In addition to being the person someone see's when entering an office, they are also phone central. The reception desk maintains all incoming communications. The reception desk controls where the call is routed, hands out all messages, maintains controls of solicitors, and acts as a front desk call guard protecting you from unwanted calls.

It's important that your receptionist is always organized. This area can become very hectic and it's important that your receptionist knows where everything is at all times. In order for this to happen her desk must be maintained, cleaned and well organized on a consistent basis.

A system should be developed and utilized that allows her to know at a moments notice where phone messages (mail, deliveries, etc) are for every person in the office. With minimal conditions by management the receptionist (if experienced) should be allowed to develop the system that will work best for her. Remember she's your phone central and it's important that she has control of the situation, allow her the freedom to develop and utilize a working system. If her system works great you should be pleased with the outcome. If her system doesn't work you can tweak it accordingly, while taking in to consideration her working style.

Keep telephone central buzzing without hang ups.

Why use colored paper?

Colored Paper

Use colored paper to distinguish copies or drafts from the original so they can be quickly located in a file. You can also use colored paper (choose one color e.g. blue) to separate divide sections of large document projects.

How do I keep business cards under control?

Managing Business Card Overload

In the age of technology there is one old school method that remains: the business card. No matter how much technology we own, we still purchase and hand out our business cards. Thereby, we gather business cards. Those cards come from everywhere friends, associates, clients, sales people, marketers (door to door), and those we choose to pick up.

Many people have stacks of business cards piled in our office. Why, because who gets a card, comes back to the office and throws it in the trash? The problem with disposing of business cards is that feeling we might need that at some time or another. So we simply keep every card we gather. This creates clutter, organized or not, it’s still clutter.

What should you do about that business card clutter? Honestly, it’s time to toss them in the good old waste basket. Yes, I’m serious. If, in fact, you have stacks of business cards, or over filled business card holders, or business cards stuffed in some basket or drawer it’s time to eliminate the clutter.

You may go through the business cards so you don’t feel you’re throwing out important information. Only keep those cards you REALLY NEED. This means you may only keep one business card per doctor, your pharmacy, dog groomer, favorite salon, so forth. Only keep cards of business professionals you use. For those professionals you don’t use, but are considering you may keep for one month. After one month if you haven’t used their service you probably aren’t going to. The ones you are keeping temporarily you may place in a business card holder just remember to clean that out monthly. The one’s you are keeping permanently transfer them to your handheld device and file the cards in your rolodex. Feel free to stop by contact data tip for advice on proper handling of the business cards you choose to keep.

For all those cards you have reluctantly agreed to toss out, go for it. Toss them out.

How can I save some money while starting up my business?

Do Legal & Business Research Yourself

In business it's important to know everything about what you sell or the service you provide. Additionally, it's important to know everything about how to run your business. Consulting experts is all part of business. You probably have an attorney, and CPA. These experts will provide you with their advice. However, at the end of the day it's up to you the business owner to make the final decision.

Educating yourself on your options, or to fully understand the advice you have been given is important and cuts time and expenses in the long run. There are many ways you can do our own research. We can access public library's reference materials, read books on the subject, or use online sources. Whatever option we use to develop our knowledge broadens our education and allows us to be better prepared to make final decisions. Your own research should only be used to broaden your education, support your decision, or to understand the advice you have been given. Don't replace the advice of an attorney or CPA by a self help book. Seek out both the expert and the research to help you make a fully developed and educated decision.

How can I keep my desktop clutter-free?

Organizing Your Desktop

Everyone has their preferred desktop style or look. Ok, I don't care if you have paper holders, or pen sorters on your desktop, as long as you are using them. If you are not using the "organizer" on your desk it's a waste of money and space. I also don't care if you have a picture of your family or a trinket that makes your work area more pleasant for you each day. The only key to the personal stuff is keep it minimal or it becomes clutter and is in the way of your daily productivity.

The most important advice you can be given on organizing your desktop is simple keep your desk visible. You can read more about this in Organizing For The Business Professional by RJ Morris. The book outlines the three simple steps to keeping your desk organized: 1) If you are not working on a file -file it back, 2) Never have more than one file open at a time, and 3) Clean up your desk at the end of each day.

Keep your desk top visible and your day will run smoother.

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Mary White