This post by guest blogger Brittany Roark appears as part of our series Small Business 500.

tips for small businessOrganization is the most overlooked and undervalued tool in business today, yet by far the most effective and affordable. So why is it often our last priority? If you are like most small business owners, accomplishing a truly organized business can be overwhelming, or seemingly impossible. Here are five steps that can help you keep your small business organized: 

1. Define a system style

To design an organizational system that is effective, clearly define its individual style. Every person has different preferences when it comes to organization and workflow. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your employees, is crucial to developing the correct style for your business' organization system.

2. Condense

Less is more, especially when it comes to workflow. Multiple forms of storing and filing (i.e: paper, external hard drive, cloud) can scatter your focus. Choose one system that can be easily accessed from any location and shared with staff and clients as needed. If possible, go completely paperless and shed waste.

3. Integrate workflow

A daunting number of apps and programs promise organizational bliss; however, not all apps hold up their end of the bargain. Start by streamlining what you already have. Next, be selective in the tools you choose to add to your workflow system. Utilize programs and apps that can communicate with each other to eliminate additional work.

4. Simplify

Employees come and go, but the infrastructure of your organization remains over time. This is where simplicity pays off. Organization should be foolproof, and this requires consistency. Choose one system for naming and filing and stick with it. Here is an example taken from my business, BriCollective:

BriCollective
   -BriWeddings
       -2012
           -Client's Last Name, First Name
               -Collection Type (Wedding, Engagement, Etc.)
                   -DateTaken_LastName.CollectionType_File#

5. Create a back-up plan

Implement some form of loss prevention. Time is invaluable, so take all measures necessary to eliminate backtracking in the future. Use the “Rule of Three”: one physical back-up on site, one physical back-up off-site, and one back-up that is accessible at all times (i.e. dropbox).

In addition to owning a photography company, Brittany Roark is the Executive Director of Heart4Children Inc., an education based non-profit based in Houston, TX. She has spent the past 5 years working with non-profits and small businesses to develop organizational structures that create efficiency and increase profit. Her passion for effective business has taken her from Texas to Africa and everywhere in between.

 

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