Put those ducks in a row
Whether you want to make a real commitment to being better organised, or have found yourself in a dusty rut and lacking the passionate fire you once had for your small business; shaking things up and working on the admin that comes with enterprise will reignite energy levels and relieve an unexpected load off your mind. By making a handful of easy tweaks now to your day-to-day working environment, your business will feel slick and organised in no time at all.
Start simple, get some stationery
Kick off with the small stuff. The fundamental building block of running any kind of smooth business is making sure you have a stash of easily accessible pens that actually work and aren’t half-chewed. Even in this hyper-digital age, the power of a beautifully flowing ballpoint will always be reached for over the pressing of keys in a note-taking emergency.
Like the first day of the school term in September, refreshing your stationery stock sets you up with the right ‘down to business’ attitude, as well as giving a jolt of motivation and inspiration. Whether it’s a shiny new pack of post-its, a truckload of staples or a pleasingly blank diary, anticipating what you’ll need day to day will be an unexpected weight off your mind during busy months.
Besides, no one wants to spend their time constantly scrabbling around for a paperclip.
Goals, goals, goals
Writing out goals for your business? How groundbreaking.
We get it’s a cliché and done to death everywhere you turn on eCommerce blogs. But it’s a cliché for a reason. Setting yourself goals helps measure where you want to get to personally and professionally in the next 12 months. Jotting them down reinforces their job as an achievement yardstick to help keep a focus on when the tough days take their toll. And to remind you why you are doing what you are doing. They don’t have to be framed on a wall or publicly displayed, just keep them somewhere reachable for you to glance over in both low and high moments – the notes app on the majority of smartphones is one of our favourite options.
Even if your goals seem mountainous and near-impossible, the trick is to break them down so they appear less abstract. Start off with your big end of the year goals, then chop into quarterly milestones, smash it further into monthly targets and then go explicitly granular with a ‘must do task’ every day serving as a shuffle towards what you want to accomplish.
Attack the niggle list
We all have this list. A list of non-urgent-boring-but-probably-important-things-to-do. Quieter trading periods are actually the perfect time to crack on with sorting out stacks of sloppy filing, phone calls you keep meaning to make to suppliers or industry colleagues, checking that all your links work and lead to the correct place on your website, digitally archiving old stock photos and collating all login details for all systems into one handy but secure place (future you will be incredibly grateful for that when there’s one password attempt left from panic-guessing your way into a software you HAVE to access in that second).
It’s a slog. It’s dull. But clearing your plate of these types of need-to-do-niggly-jobs at slower stages of the year will free up more headspace to fill with ideas, plans and exciting strategies to get stuck into when business ramps up again.
Integrated wall calendar
Keeping an eye on the bigger picture as a whole whilst getting on with the smaller everyday jobs can be like spinning plates. Deliveries are coming in this week, that trade show is next month, new marketing materials need to be printed by August and what’s likely to trend in the news that you could peg your business on (Wimbledon anyone?).
Integrating key dates plotted out in one visible place will ease the madness of trying to remember to juggle everything. We suggest a good old fashioned wipe-clean wall calendar and a handful of whiteboard pens. Assign one pen colour to shipment dates, and then payment schedules, advertising activities and social/zeitgeisty events that will crop up throughout the year.
Just like the wall calendar, set yourself up with a scheduling calendar for your social media posts – pencilling in notable events, holidays or theme ideas as far in advance as you can. This will give you a top line view of what’s approaching at a glance and help shape your platform’s content to fit the social vibe at a particular point.
Better yet, take a chunk out of keeping up with the demands of social media and sign up to a social media management tool. Most have a scheduling feature which allows you to write posts, save them and then allocate a date and time for when you want them to be published on your channel. Hootsuite is incredibly user-friendly and great for introducing beginners to the world of social scheduling.
Scope out the competition
‘Know your enemy’- Sun Tzu
Ok, another company offering a similar product or service to you doesn’t exactly equate to ‘enemy’ but the principal Sun Tzu is trying to get across here applies to business. A light competitor analysis can feed into critical decisions on your company’s direction later down the line.
Have a good constructive nose at your competitors. What do you like about the way they conduct themselves? What do you not like? Comb through their website, maybe buy a product so you can experience what their (and potentially yours) customers feel. Dive into their social channels, how are they engaging and interacting with followers? What type of content are they producing? Are they doing anything different that you could learn from? Borrow elements of the best bits, make it better and repackage for your own business. For clarification, directly copying someone else is never a good idea. Use them as an influence, yes please go ahead – but never outright imitate.
Tidy space, tidy mind
From hot mess to hot desk, planter and pen holder £30 is a small price to pay to feel this level of organised-smug.
Take some time to carve out a practical, neat and clean workspace for yourself. Chuck out the tatty scrap paper with doodled corners floating around your desk, test that your pens still work (see the point about stationery), honestly ask yourself what you essentially need to keep around and what you can clear out. Once finished, give your work area a wipe down with disinfect and a nice smelling polish.
Consider what kind of environment you thrive best in as well. If having a slice of natural light juices up your productivity batteries then do everything you can to move your work area nearer to a window. Source a chest of drawers to put bits away in to keep your area tidy, pick up a set of shelves, perhaps bring in a bit of green to your desk in the form of a robust plant for cleaner, oxygenated air (succulents, cacti, Japanese peace lilies and jade plants are hard as nails). But if you want a challenge, give keeping an orchid alive a go.
Kit yourself out
Forget the financial squeeze, now is the time to spend a little replacing old, slow and broken pieces of business-essential kit (phones, computers, tills, cameras, the office kettle). Not only are we in a retail age where sales happen twice (if not more) times a quarter, the likelihood of other priorities jumping ahead of the money-spending queue in the next couple of months gets higher and higher as the weeks wear on. Before you know it another year will pass and you’ll still be struggling to write out invoices on a laptop older than most YouTube stars. MoneySavingExpert has cracking tips if you’re in the market for new electricals.
Dump the cyber junk
A digi-detox that is great not only for your work life but your personal one too. The most straightforward approach to blow away the cobwebs is unfollowing and unsubscribing to people, brands and online junk that chips away at you ever-so-slightly each day. Things like opting-out of promotional emails you keep intending to remove yourself from, unfollowing a humble-brag Instagram account or muting a well-meaning but annoying acquaintance that constantly spams your social feeds. Spring-clean who your brand is following on all The Socials as well. You may have set these accounts up years ago and followed a bunch of random users who aren’t quite relevant to you now. Reassess what type of profiles you’re giving your precious follows too.
Go on your customer’s journey
Put yourself (or a couple of close friends if you don’t trust yourself with being ruthlessly objective for this exercise) in your customer’s shoes and take a walk through what type of journey they go on buying from your business.
Is your website easy to navigate from a customer’s point of view? Are products clearly described? Are your images of a high quality? What impression does your brand give to someone viewing it cold? Once you’ve had a good poke around in a customer’s mindset make a dummy purchase. Is it easy to input payment? Could you add another option? Being brutally honest, is it as smooth of a journey as it could possibly be for a potential customer? If you (or your helpers) notice a few things that don’t quite work, do not beat yourself up over it. Running any kind of enterprise is a learning curve and absolutely everyone makes mistakes. Reviewing your customer experience on the regular forces refinement of operations and stokes up the pace of your business’s progression.
If you’re on a roll to tend to other areas of your small business, have a scan of 10 Quick Marketing Tips for Instagram to ramp up your social game.