Small businesses don’t have very large structure or the staffing. That can be a strength—they’re not weighed down by bureaucracy or the operational costs that have brought even multinationals to their knees. They adjust well to economic fluctuations and can respond very quickly to opportunities.
But this kind of flexibility has a downside: small businesses can become very disorganized, especially at the peak of their workload. Here are some tips.
Document, document, document
Not that you need three signatures to get something going, but an email thread can certainly save you a lot of trouble in the future. This is especially important for giving out tasks. Instructions can be forgotten or misunderstood in the heat of things. Write it down, and you’re more likely to get your message across.
Don’t give tasks without a timeframe
Sometimes, in our rush to meet the bigger and more pressing deadlines, little tasks fall through the cracks. The problem sits, forgotten, until it grows into an emergency. Result? You’re always cramming, or missing opportunities simply because someone didn’t do the legwork.
Avoid this by giving timeframes for every task. You and your staff may not be able to tackle that task right away, but you can schedule it, or be able to outsource it.
Set clear policies
If you notice a problem keeps reoccuring, then it’s time to set a policy that prevents it from happening again or sets clear consequences when it does. For example, is there a maximum price that your sales people can spend when taking clients out to lunch or dinner? Or how long do you work on a possible client before dismissing it as a dead-end?
Ask employees how to improve procedures
You may have set procedures at the beginning, but do innovate. Workers may have found faster and easier ways to do things. Asking for their feedback makes them feel like valued members of the team, and also gives you real information on what works and what doesn’t.
Organize in files, not piles
Things that are lying around—whether they’re papers on your desk or documents on your desk top—will be lost or ignored. Organize into folders and label accordingly. (Read about using Dropbox to share files.)
It’s good to check in on projects, just to find out if things are going according to deadline and maybe even brainstorm on how to overcome obstacles or delays. People do what you inspect — not what you expect.
Photo from toptechreviews.net