3 Quick Tips to Organize Your Home Office

Congratulations! You finally took the plunge and started your own business. All of the sudden sayings like: “The buck stops here” and “This is where the rubber meets the road” have new meaning. Being your own boss has tremendous benefits, but also has its frustrations. However, if you organize your business right from the start, you can avoid getting bogged down in small details and focus on making money.

Any business can be broken down into three key areas:

1) sales/marketing

2) administration and

3) accounting/taxes.

Proper organization starts here:

1) Sales/Marketing

Any way you slice it or dice it, business boils down to the exchange of products or services. A product or service is sold to a client or customer in return for cash thus generating revenues for a company. The more revenues you produce, the more profitable you become. Therefore, the life blood of your company is your clients or customers. If your customers like your product and service they will keep coming back, but if they don’t – “adios”. It may come as a surprise to you, but the price of a product is not the most important factor taken into consideration by your customer whenever they decide where to purchase their products – as evidenced by successful companies like Nordstrom. How you service them will be the key to your success. Ask yourself these questions: Are your customers getting their products timely? Are their orders properly filled? Is it convenient to order products? Are their concerns and questions addressed timely? Do you make your customers feel important whenever they call or place an order? This is extremely important because “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Organize your client list so that all their key information such as contact name, address, products ordered, etc., are available at your fingertips. Use programs like Microsoft Outlook to set up complete client rosters that you can pull up quickly whenever a client calls. Take the time to enter in all pertinent data including birthdays, spouses and children names, if available (Hint – your clients will remember you better if you add personal touches like sending birthday/anniversary cards). Log in by date important correspondence such as your client’s specific product or service concerns and pricing changes. Microsoft Outlook has various input screens that are easy to navigate – use them to your full advantage. Also maintain a “paper” file for each client. All correspondence should be filed chronologically.

2) Administration

Maintaining a well organized office is crucial to your success. At any given time, documents or files should be easily accessible. Use well-labeled manila folders to arrange all your important documents. If possible, original documents that are extremely important should be kept in a fire-proof file cabinet (can be bought used at much lower prices) or a safe deposit box at your bank. Very Important – Set up a dependable back-up system! Hard drives do crash and files do get destroyed. If possible maintain a back-up file off-site, just in case of a fire or theft.

3) Accounting/Taxes

Unfortunately, accounting is a necessary evil. No one wants to sit around punching in journal entries. But if you don’t properly account for all your business transactions, you’ll never know whether you’re making money or losing money. Additionally, you can lose out on great tax deductions if you’re missing adequate documentation. No matter how small your business is use an accounting package such as Quicken or QuickBooks to record all your accounting transactions – trust me, your life will be much easier come tax time.

Good accounting packages are simple to use, reasonably priced and will automate many accounting procedures such as reconciling bank accounts, processing billing/invoicing and preparing financial statements. If you’re planning to get a loan from a bank, you will need to prepare company financial statements – you don’t need an accountant to do it for you, the accounting software can produce nice financial statements. Additionally, using accounting packages will organize your accounting records for tax purposes such as filing tax returns and Form 1099s. If you are using an outside accountant to do your tax work for you, better organized records will reduce your accounting fees drastically.

Maintain individual accounting files for accounts receivable and accounts payable. Keep all your invoices and receipts organized by year.

Being a business owner requires you to wear a lot of different “hats”, but fortunately today there are many tools available to make your job easier. We at MsFiscallyFit.com will keep on the look out for the best stuff available and we would also love to hear about great tools you have found so please e-mail us at: infomaster@msfiscallyfit.com with your suggestions.

(originally published 2/6/2000)

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