“I know it’s here somewhere.” “I’ll have to get back to you about that.” “Where’s that _____?”
Sound familiar? If so, chaos has crept into your small business – and is probably busy spreading throughout your organization like a virus. Disorganization and confusion are irritating, but they’re also just plain bad for business. Think of it as a formula, if you like: chaos increasing equals profits decreasing. What to do? Control chaos by applying these basic office management principles:
1. Establish office management routines and stick to them.
Routine tasks need routine procedures if you want to stay organized and keep things running smoothly. Set up routines for handling paperwork and office systems. For instance, every piece of paper that comes into your office should be handled once, acted upon, and filed – not haphazardly piled on a desk. Office systems, such as computers, will need both administration and what I call panic mode procedures. When the system crashes or a computer-related piece of equipment fails, everyone in your office needs to know who to call and what not to do (such as try to fix the problem themselves). These data management articles provide helpful tips for everything from office filing systems through computer backup procedures.
2. Set up clearly delineated responsibilities.
Good office management depends on people knowing who is responsible for what – it’s people who are accountable who get things done. What would happen, for example, if the purchasing for your small business was done by whoever whenever? Would you be able to find a paper clip when you wanted one? Or print off a report when you needed to? Putting one person in charge of ordering all equipment and supplies solves the problem and keeps things running smoothly. It’s the same with (computer) systems administration. You need to have one person responsible for the security of your computer system and keeping track of things such as accounts, passwords and software. Otherwise, chaos will proliferate.
3. Keep records – and keep your business records updated.
Keeping records sounds like the easiest part of good office management – until you consider the need to keep those records both accessible and updated. But my first rule for controlling chaos will help you get a grip on this; make updating records an office routine. When you get a new customer or client, for instance, it only takes a moment to enter him into your contacts database. Then it will only take another moment or two to update the record after you’ve spoken to him on the phone. (Note, too, that thanks to the new Privacy Act, records of customer permissions will have to be kept and customers need to have access to their records. See What You Need To Know About PIPEDA for more about complying with the Privacy Act.)
4. Take a walk through your office and have a sit.
Is your office an example of space management or space mis-management? When you walk through the office, do you have to detour around obstacles or run the risk of tripping over something? When you sit down at a desk, could you actually work comfortably there? Are things logically arranged so that the things that you would use most at the desk are closest to hand? There are a lot of things crammed into offices nowadays, from printer stands through filing cabinets. For good office management, you need to be sure that all the things in the office are arranged for maximum efficiency – and maximum safety. The Basics of Small or Home Office Design provides tips for safely meeting the power, lighting and ventilation needs of your office space.
Continue on to the next page for more tips on good office management.