As an entrepreneur, you wear a lot of hats. Even if you have a teammate or two, you’re likely juggling several key functions in your business. If you don’t get your business organized and superbly systemized, work is going to fall through the cracks. You lose time, clients, and money without excellent organization.
If you don’t believe me that disorganization in your business tanks your productivity and effectiveness, I brought data! According to Staples 2017 annual workplace survey, 53% of successful small businesses reported that their workplace was very organized, whereas only 23% of the small businesses that were struggling or failing could say that about their organizations. Also, among the business owners of the struggling/failing businesses, three-quarters of them believed disorganization impacted their productivity.
Do yourself a favor and get and keep your business organized. Investing some time now to get it together and put the right strategies in place will pay you back in time and money later. If you don’t know where to get started, here are my top 5 strategies.
1. Get Your Business Space Organized – Clean Up Your Desk and Office
“Outer order contributes to inner calm.” ~Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project
Do I really need to tell you that you have to get your shit together? Probably not, but I’m going to draw you a picture, anyway.
A disorganized space fosters a disorganized mind. Having clutter everywhere and spending too much time looking for things – both physical and digital – creates distractions and overwhelm. It results in time wasted searching misplaced items, falling behind on your schedule, and failing to meet deadlines.
But a clean working space equals a clean, clear mind – one that’s able to make decisions and move forward quickly. Reducing the clutter in your work area also enhances creativity while reducing stress and frustration. Finally, a tidy, efficient workspace both increases your productivity and improves focus on your priorities.
Execute this strategy in two simple steps.
Start with a Purge
Less is always more. Go through everything in, on, and around your desk and get rid of everything you don’t need. Also, deal with digital clutter on your computer, not just the physical clutter around your computer. Deep six old files you no longer need and clean up your digital desktop. Deleting computer files will not only simplify your life, but it will also save you time in terms of computer speed!
If you struggle to get rid of some items, put them in a container, preferably out of sight. Wait a few weeks and see if you still think you need them.
Give Everything a Home
Gather up everything that’s left after the purge and give each item a specific place to live. And again, this applies to digital as well as physical items. Come up with a standardized naming and filing system for your digital files, as well as an organized, physical filing system for documents. Clear off your desktop, keeping only those items that you really need to work effectively on your desk. Know where everything belongs.
2. Put Your Customers First – Understand Your Customers’ Needs
“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”
~Zig Ziglar, American author, sales expert, & motivational speaker
“Customers first” is not just a cliche, it’s essential for getting your business organized. Excellent client relations are the backbone of your business. In short, without them, you have no business. And their satisfaction with your business and its service correlate directly to your bottom line.
In fact, in a customer service study conducted by Oracle, 86% of the respondents reported they were willing to pay more for better service. In addition, 89% responded they would go to a competitor following a poor customer service experience. See? I let the stats tell the story for me again. Better service equals more dough, more moolah, more Benjamins! So, bad service means you lose clients. But you’ll also lose potential clients if you have less than outstanding service.
How? Word gets around, girlfriend. In fact, American Express conducts an annual customer service survey, and they found that, on average, we’ll tell 15 people when we’ve had a poor encounter but only 11 people after a good experience!
Here are my three top tips for staying organized in your business by putting your customers first.
Make It Easy to Work with You
Provide friendly, personalized service. Give them easy access to any information or help that they need. Create clear communication channels. (One way to do this is through your project management tool, which we’ll get to in a minute!) Strive to exceed their expectations and never miss a deadline.
Respond Quickly and Thoroughly to Their Issues
Now, of course, you want to avoid problems and issues as much as possible, but let’s be realistic. Difficulties, roadblocks, and challenges inevitably pop up from time to time. When your customer makes you aware of a problem, consider it a blessing. Why? Because it helps you identify areas for improvement and for getting further organized in your business. Their feedback points you to what’s not working and provides hints about how to fix it. Also, when you listen to and act on their requests and feedback, it shows that you value them and you’re taking them seriously. It increases their trust and confidence in you and demonstrates that you care.
Stay Dialed in to Their Wants and Needs
Ask for feedback and create a system to track comments, issues, and testimonials. Really listen to what your customers tell you and give them what they want. Identify what matters most to them and work to quantify the ROI of delivering it to them. When you actively ask for and respond to feedback, it will increase their loyalty.
I mentioned above that negative feedback points you to areas for improvement, but positive feedback similarly benefits your business. It, too, provides hints for increasing efficiency and effectiveness, plus it helps you focus on your strengths and what you should deliver more of. For example, use their feedback to improve your onboarding and your support processes. Finally, you can use customer feedback to improve your marketing. When you hear directly from your clients, you learn the specific language they use and then apply it to your messaging for maximum impact!
3. Get Your Business Priorities Organized – Clarify Priority v. Urgency
“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower, army general and 34th president of the United States
To get and stay organized in your business and move it forward, you need to identify what you should not be doing, in addition to what you should be doing. That is, proactively focus on your most important tasks and don’t get sucked into reactively handling urgent tasks all day long.
Did you know that the matrix below is actually called an Eisenhower box?
Popularized by Stephen Covey in the 90s in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this matrix provides a simple yet effective tool for making decisions and working more strategically. So how do you use this tool to get organized in your business?
Focus on “Quadrant 2” – Important but Not Urgent
The key here is to first identify all of your tasks and place them in the proper quadrant of the matrix. Next, focus as much energy as possible on those that are important but not urgent.
Now, often we have to first deal with the tasks in Quadrant 1 because they are both important and urgent. But one problem occurs when we’re constantly working in Quadrant 1 and reacting all the time, instead of proactively focusing on Quadrant 2, which includes items that are important but don’t need immediate attention. Often, these items, such as upcoming client projects, will eventually become urgent. But if we wait until they are urgent to do them, we rush and we can make mistakes – plus, we’re stressed out.
Seriously, Get Out of Quadrant 1 and into Quadrant 2
Another problem with neglecting Quadrant 2 is that some of the items are tasks that could be put off indefinitely, such as exercise or personal development. Going to the gym or finishing that business book you started can always be put off until “tomorrow.” But then your health suffers and you miss out on knowledge to help you grow your business. Get ahead of your Quadrant 1 tasks so you can spend more time in Quadrant 2.
Delegate, Automate, or Eliminate
Delegate or automate Quadrant 3 (not important but urgent) tasks if possible. And if it’s not possible for your right now, “contain” these tasks, such as checking messages, to 2-3 small windows of time during your day. Do everything you can to minimize your time here.
Eliminate tasks in Quadrant 4. Stop doing these tasks. Immediately. Quadrant 4 contains distractions, busy work, and other time wasters. Just don’t.
Beyond the Matrix
Take your Quadrant 2 tasks and get them into your project management tool and scheduled on your calendar. Then use time blocking to lay out your days, weeks, and month to based on those priorities.
4. Get Your Team Organized – Know Who’s Doing What
“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”
~ John C. Maxwell, American author
Now that you’ve sorted your tasks into the four quadrants, you know where you need to focus and where you need to dial it back. You’re tossing Quadrant 4 tasks right out the window. Neither you nor anyone else needs to do those. But as noted above, Quadrant 3 tasks are those that could be delegated. They may still need to be done, but that doesn’t mean that they need to be done by you.
For example, yes, you need a social media presence. But someone else could set up the scheduling for you, freeing up some of your time for Quadrant 2. If you have a virtual assistant, delegate those tasks to her. But make it very clear to your team about which of you is doing what, as well as how to perform those tasks to your standards.
Also, if you don’t (yet!) have someone to hand those tasks off to, it’s not a bad idea to start tracking the amount of time you spend in Quadrant 3 and documenting how you perform those tasks. This will help you delegate them to a VA when you’re ready. And in the meantime, do you best to automate as much of Quadrant 3 as you can.
5. Get Your Projects Organized – Pick a Productivity Tool
“Trying to manage a project without project management is like trying to plan a football game without a game plan.”
~Katherine Tate, American political scientist
Finally, getting organized in your business absolutely requires an effective productivity tool for managing your tasks, your projects, and your team. The right productivity tool for your business will ensure tasks are completed, projects and finished on schedule, and that you’re effectively communicating with your team and your customers.
Are you a Trello person or do you prefer Asana? Or maybe Infinity or Airtable is more your jam. Whatever your tool of choice, commit to it and learn its ins and outs to leverage it to your best advantage.
Plus, as I alluded to above, these tools are great platforms for communicating progress and expectations to your team and customers. Invite them into your tool and use the tagging capabilities to communicate on tasks and progress. That way, communications around a given a task will be attached directly to the task. Everything’s in one place and it keeps your email from getting junked up!
Back to Quadrant 2
Getting and staying organized in your business is a Quadrant 2 task. It’s not urgent (yet!), but it’s highly important. The time you invest in organizing your business now will come back to you tenfold in time management and efficiency over the long haul. Don’t put it off until it is urgent – and you and your business are drowning. Clean up your desk, focus on your customers, stick to priorities, get clear on team responsibilities, and capture everything in your productivity tool!