When I first started working with small business owners to improve their filing systems, I thought the focus would be on developing systems and processes for organising paper files and electronic documents.
Very soon however I found that a lot of people wanted help to their email under control and I expanded my expertise to encompass email. One client had over 5000 email messages in her inbox. She was so overwhelmed that she didn’t know where to start to deal with them – so she just left them to build up and tried to ignore them.
With my help and encouragement we set up folders for different types of email (by sender, by subject etc) and created rules to move new mail directly into these folders. Then the client could see her email more easily and was able to deal with the messages in smaller groups. Within a week she had deleted more than 2000 messages and was well on the way to managing her email.
More recently I’ve become aware of issues people have with their home office. In fact I’ve just finished working with three clients, all of whom initially sought help with specific issues around storage of their office paperwork. During the course of our discussions, they have all realised that they had started out with their home office using furniture from around the house or from secondhand shops.
These women have very successful businesses but they sense that their office space does not portray themselves as they would like. Even if they don’t have clients visiting their office, they want to feel professional when they are working out of their home office.
So what have they done?
One has begun turning what is effectively a converted bedroom into an office that looks much more professional and less like a bedroom simply by replacing some of the furniture that she had ‘found’ in other parts of the house with office furniture.
Another has replaced her dining table and student desk that she used for her laptop and work desk with and box on the floor for her files with an L-shaped desk and purpose built hanger for her vertical files.
The third realised that although she had been in business for a number of years, she didn’t really have good systems and processes for storing her papers, and even her stationery. She was always scrabbling around looking for something and getting frustrated. She is now developing systems and processes for her office so she can find what she needs when she needs it.
These are examples of a business idea that had a very narrow focus at the beginning and that, as a result of client feedback, has spread into a wider range of services than I ever imagined. I’m listening to those clients and enjoying the challenge of working in this broader space.