Small Business Organization: Where Should an Entrepreneur Start?

small business organization

Small business owners and entrepreneurs face the challenge of wearing ALL the hats. With or without team members, we are responsible for making or doing the thing we sell, answering the phone, responding to emails and incoming inquiries, and handling sales and marketing and bookkeeping and taxes, to name a few.

It’s no surprise overwhelm creeps up for so many of us, especially when managing it all.

Of course, setting up and maintaining organized systems and processes will help. There is no harm or shame that comes from it. And yet, I realize many business owners are not organized at all. So, in this article I’m talking to the people who need a little help with organization, or those looking for ideas and inspiration to improve or update their systems.

A little history, first…

Growing up, I found my inner organizer early. At a very young age I would spend my days reorganizing my bedroom closet and all its contents, or pulling everything out of my dresser and sorting it all in order to maximize each drawer.

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With each organizing project finished I gained a pinwheel of benefits. Not only did I feel better about my newly optimized space, I had purged and eliminated items I didn’t need or want any longer setting aside a giveaway or garbage pile, put them all in their place so I could find them easily in the future, and ended up feeling like my things were streamlined, fresh and new. It was always a win, win, WIN!

Today, I get the same feeling each time I sort through paperwork filing each piece away into my cabinet or I decide it’s time to look through and purge my garage, cupboards, drawers, storage boxes, or closets.

I mean, who wants garbage and “stuff” just lying around, stacking up, collecting dust, and taking up precious space?

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"How do you do it?" - Consistently!

Often times I hear the question “how do you do it”, or statements like “I just don’t have enough time”. While I am admittedly a naturally organized person, I’m also a firm believer that every business owner must setup systems that not only make sense and work for them, but processes that are easy to maintain so their business and time is efficient.

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A few areas of business needing organization:

  • Paper/Physical Files
  • Digital Documents/Files
  • Accounting/Bookkeeping
  • Schedules/Calendars
  • Email
  • Contacts: teams, clients/customers, networks, partners
  • Products/Services
  • Production/Processes
  • Shipping and Delivery
  • Sales and Marketing
  • HR and Teams
  • Customer Service
  • Office/Business Supplies
  • Resources, Books, References
  • Projects

However, this is just a beginning and you may find other areas. What you’ll notice though, is each item on that list has additional areas that likely spider out and require further organization.

So, where do we start? The Filing System!

I’ve found that when a business is first launched, it is your filing system that requires immediate attention and intentional thought. Business documents, banking and receipts, and service, product or client files start piling up early, so starting with strong systems in the beginning will help you grow and manage it all more efficiently.

It wasn’t until my 8th year in business that I found a system produced by a client and friend who has been a brilliant Professional Organizer in the Portland, Oregon area since 1999 when she founded Restoring Order. Vicki Norris has a paper management system that makes perfect sense and is easy for anyone to setup and maintain.

Last year I took on the task of updating all my files using Vicki’s system and let me tell you. I thought I was pretty organized, but her filing system categorized everything in a way that is brilliant for every single person and file, business or personal.

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Her 'Filing Systems That Work' course taught me a new way that is easy to implement, made perfect sense, is easy to add to, and easy to use.

It took me 2 full days to complete updating 4 file drawers of filing systems I already had in place, but it was worth every minute. Today, my new paper filing system not only makes sense to me, it also works for my husband, his business, and our household.

Interested in learning more about Vicki’sFiling Systems That Work’ course? You can find the DVD available on her website here, but hurry. I've just confirmed that as of this posting there are only a dozen left in her inventory!

HINT: Use code PROPEL to get 50% off of her $99 offering! TOTALLY WORTH IT!

This offer and my adoration of Vicki aside, no matter what system you use, make certain it is intuitive and easily maintainable, and remember that record keeping is a vital piece of your business.

Ok. So, how do you handle all your receipts, invoices, and bookkeeping?

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When it comes to tax time, how you keep your financial books in order will be the difference of have an easy or a time-consuming preparation process.

Likewise, keeping receipts organized and a bookkeeping system current will support your decision making and goal pursuits, not to mention your income and expense management and reporting.

A bookkeeping system like Quickbooks, Wave or Freshbooks can be inexpensive and will help you keep track of everything your financial systems need. I especially love Quickbooks Online because it allows seamless management between me, my bookkeeper and my CPA.

My personal system involves an 9x12” envelope where I tuck every receipt, invoice and statement for each month. Once they are scanned and sent to my bookkeeper, the envelope gets filed away for 7 years.

Schedules, Emails and Contacts, oh my!

The next crucial area of small business organization I find is managing our time, the people we meet, and the communications we make.

These days, phones have the ability to keep us organized on all these levels. Yet, I’ve found that many people haven’t taught themselves how to use the calendar or contacts apps in any way that makes sense or helps you keep information straight.

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Only two years prior to Propel launching in 2009, had the first iPhone been released, so technology, as you can imagine, has improved and grown rapidly over these past years.

Today, we can connect a Gmail, Microsoft, Yahoo, Aol or other email accounts and most of those have an associated calendar system which will sync across devices.

Encouraging you in your endeavor to manage the most efficient business you can!

 - Jamie

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About Jamie Teasdale

Jamie Teasdale founded Propel Businessworks, a small business development company, in 2009. Since then, she has been lending insight and creativity to businesses all over the U.S., giving them the tools they need to plan, promote, and prosper.