My mother is 93 and living in a rest home. I’m not terribly happy with her situation and I’ve been reading Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal” looking for better options for people like her. I was surprised in the first few chapters to find some similarities with business information systems.
A structured electronic filing environment works better than having a ‘bucket’ of items that you search right through to find the item you want
What does this mean and what is the difference?
Sarah recently gave some advice to a couple of clients and asked me for my thoughts. She suggested that electronic filing is CRUCIALLY about “levels of access” – designing your folder structure around “security clearance levels” works best. So you start by working out what is “confidential inner-management ONLY” (e.g. Strategy & Planning), what is
Recently I met with a small business management consultant who told me quite sincerely that the only things small business owners were interested in were their product or service, marketing and finance.
I can’t disagree with that but I was intrigued that his thinking seemed to me to be closed to other important aspects of managing a business such as the people who help to make the product or deliver the services, how to use web sites as a marketing tool and of course how and where to store the information relating to the products/services, the marketing plans and the financial information.
As a business owner, you don’t have to be fully involved in every part of your business but you do need to know about all the things that make your business tick and make sure someone makes it all happen.
For small businesses it makes a lot of sense to use the expertise out there in other small businesses. There are specialists like Blue Dot Human Resources out there who can help you with managing your staff, for example creating employment agreements, understanding holidays legislation and even doing the day-to-day administration.
Recently the NZ Herald reported on research that found 50 per cent of SMEs in New Zealand “did not have a website and nearly 20 per cent were not using any online tools at all”. It was suggested that here was a huge marketing opportunity lost. I would suggest that before SMEs have a web site they understand what technology they need to run their business in the most cost-effective way.
So when you’ve got all that sorted, you can buy my eWorkbook or ask me for help to organize the information in your business systems so you can find what you’re looking for in an instant.
You can read about more hints and tips to improve your business in my free eBook; and even more if you download the eWorkbook that gives you a full set of instructions on how to set up a filing system for your business.
Judy Owen has been working with businesses of all sizes and complexities for more than 20 years to improve and streamline the access to their business information. She and her team can show you how to reduce risk, improve productivity and increase profits with good business systems and processes in your business.
As I’ve been searching for inspiration to add to my blog. I ended up searching Google and found some interesting things about record keeping for small businesses.
Firstly I can tell you there is heaps of advice on how to manage your financial records for tax purposes. Just type in “small business record keeping” and you’ll see what I mean. For example
This is all good and helpful. But there is so much more to managing the information in your business than the financial stuff. That’s important obviously, because if you don’t file your invoices and receipts and you don’t keep track of your finances then you can get into deep trouble – and fast. Oops – its tax time again!
Relying on your accountant is not the answer. Only you know exactly what’s going on in your business and you need to know where you have stored the important information so you can find it when you need to.
But what about your staff – where and how do you store the information about them? Do you keep personal files and employment agreements in a place where this information can’t be seen by anyone not authorised to see it? Do you keep paper files or is it all held in your computer? If you have a flood or fire, or a big earthquake, what will happen to your business information?
Do you have marketing and advertising material? A business plan, health and safety plan for your business? Where and how do you keep all this information?
It’s because there is so little out there to help you keep your business information shipshape that I started writing to help people like you. Check out my earlier blog posts or download my free ebook for more help.
Recently I’ve been working with a small group of people who manage the records for a medium sized business. As soon as I arrived they made a point of telling me that in their newish building, they were located in an area with no view while their IT colleagues were on the other side of the building with views to open spaces and water. This is somewhat typical of attitudes towards Records and IT teams and happens in a lot of organisations.
Locating the records team in this way relegates the idea of records and filing to the days of fling clerks in basements when no-one but he filing clerks knew what information was in what file.
Today it is widely recognized that records are everyone’s business and everyone needs to take responsibility for filing the information they create.
However it is still seen as tedious and nobody really wants to ‘do filing’. They’d much rather someone else did it for them.
Not so easy in the electronic age when individuals can create many documents or spreadsheets or presentations on a daily basis. Everyone needs to know where and how to file their e-docs.
This is where a structure for filing documents is so important. When you go to save a document or spreadsheet or a photo even, you need to find a place for it so you can find it again. It’s also useful to file your document with other items on the same or similar topic.
A ‘Google’ type search on your documents will work if two conditions are present:
- you have allocated keywords from a standard list to each document so when you search using a particular keyword, you will find all the documents on that topic
- there are not too many items to be searched.
This approach is fine in a newish business when there are not many documents but falls over as more and more items are added to My Documents or a shared drive when it takes longer to search through them all or the search engine stops working because of the load.
Even in larger businesses where there might a person or group of people with responsibility for records and filing, their role is more to establish a process and system for you and everyone else to use to file items. They don’t ‘do filing’ except for the items they create themselves.
The other benefit of doing your own filing – electronic or paper – is that you will remember what categories you have used and you will know where to look for items when, at some later date, you go looking for a document that you know is there somewhere, or that you need in a hurry, or if you want to re-use some information you’ve already created.
Re-using existing document is a marvelous productivity booster – but that’s a story for another day.
School holidays are often a challenge for working parents. The juggling of who stays home on which days or what activities the kids can go to that don’t require parent participation can take up a lot of energy and discussion.
For those who work from home, it’s even more challenging.
If you don’t already have your email under control or your piles of papers in order now is not the time to try to get some order into your home office.
Leave it till school is in again and then set aside some time to think about what systems and processes you need to set up or improve so that by the time the next school holidays roll around you’ll be sorted and can enjoy some time with the kids.
Meantime Vanessa has some smart strategies for managing a home business during the holidays that you can put into practice right now.
I often walk past people’s desks that are cluttered with paper, food, empty coffee cups etc and wonder how they manage to work in such a mess.
I’ve also seen what the desks of high achievers look like when they’re busy. I’ve noted some of their habits and share them with you here.
- Start the day by planning what you expect or hope to achieve by the end of the day. This can be a written list or just a mental note.
- Check your emails before you start your first activity or task. Deal with them as appropriate (see Good Habits around Email). Check emails again at lunch time and again late afternoon if you need to.
- Turn off email alerts do you don’t get distracted mid-task.
- Gather the information you need for the first activity and get going.
- As you complete a task, sort out the related papers and bin or file them. Save and close down related electronic files, emails and applications.
- Mentally prepare yourself for the next piece of work. Take a break – grab a coffee, fill your water bottle. Go for a walk and get some fresh air – even 5 minutes round the block works wonders to clear your head.
- Stop whatever you’re doing 5-10 minutes before you need to leave. Spend that time tidying your desk, closing down desktop applications, binning and filing papers. Taking this time will set you up really well for the next day.
By now you’ll be dissing this blog as fairy tale land. You’re thinking how can you possibly focus on tasks when there are so many interruptions in the course of your day – how do you deal with phone calls, people stopping by to chat, not to mention meetings etc.
How can you stop work a few minutes before you leave when it will only take you another few minutes to finish off what you’re doing. (That’s a hard one that I really really relate to. I hate leaving a job before it’s finished. But I have learnt to manage that over time).
Maybe you can leave a bit later, catch a later train or bus. Bit more tricky if you car pool or have to pick up a child from day care or similar.
So I suggest you use these ideas to work out how you can create a habit that works for you.
PS – My desk isn’t necessarily tidy at all times during the course of a day. I do clear the papers and close documents, web pages etc when I complete a job. And I do tidy my desk at the end of the day. It makes such a difference in the morning to make a fresh start, even if I’m finishing off something from the day before.