It’s inevitable. Your business gets busy, you get overwhelmed, and then it happens: You make a mistake. You send an email to the wrong client, mess up an order delivery date or forget to buy more supplies before you run low.
At best, these mistakes can be embarrassing. At worst, they delay earning the profits you need to grow.
But with a bit of critical thinking, you can design and implement systems to help your business run more smoothly. If you’re a solopreneur, you can use these strategies to get organized as well.
Systems translate tasks and notes that may exist only in your mind into a process that can be replicated by any member of your team — without you watching over their shoulder all the time.
1. Email templates or canned responses
Do you find yourself answering the same email inquiries over and over? If you tend to send similar responses, you can save a lot of screen time by creating and saving email response templates. If you use Gmail, you’ll use “canned responses,” found in the Labs tab of your settings, to prepare these.
Canned responses don’t replace you as the author of your emails — instead, think of it as a pre-written email you can customize for each response you send.
By anticipating the type of response you’ll need to send, you can prepare a set of email templates to save you precious moments of your busy day. Even better: If you bring on an employee or hire a virtual assistant to help tame your inbox, they too can use these pre-written emails to formulate responses on your behalf.
2. Instruction guides
Sure, you may sit down with a new employee to show them step-by-step how to complete a task. But do you have a document they can refer back to if they have a question? Is there something you can pass on to the next employee once the one you just taught moved on?
Documenting your process for completing essential tasks can save you time both when it comes to training your team and also if someone on your staff is away from the office for any reason. Instead of scrambling to figure out how to cover roles, your process guides may answer employee questions before they even arise.
Instruction guides are best saved as editable, shared documents (think Google Docs or Dropbox files) that can be continuously update as technology and your team evolve. Encourage your staff to update these documents as they see fit.
Are you always reminding your closing manager which tasks to complete before they turn off the lights and lock the door? Stop trying to remember it all, and start making checklists for your team. These could be checklists for daily to-do items, security measures, social-media monitoring or any other task that includes a lot of details to remember.
Creating a replicable checklist that can be signed off each day or during each shift can help develop accountability and among your team — or for yourself.
Never forget a billing due date or an ordering deadline again. Create a calendar of important business dates, and connect it your email system. Set calendar alerts to be delivered via email with ample time before your deadline or meeting date. Don’t rely on scribbled notes for dates, times, locations or things you need to bring. Put it all in one place, and let your calendar do the work.
Are your deadlines, such as billing due dates or ordering cutoffs, recurring? Anticipate these dates in advance, rather than filling in the details each month. Many calendar applications make it easy to repeat events each week, month or year.
Feeling disorganized? Want you spend less time doing the same small tasks in your small business? Contact a SCORE mentor for advice on how to improve your systems.