Stay On Schedule: Tips to Stay Organized as a Small Business Owner

Running a business is full of complications, especially for a small business owner who has to build their entire infrastructure from scratch. Big businesses seem to have everything perfectly organized into departments, with each position perfectly set up for anyone to step right in and know exactly what needs to be done and when. Small businesses, on the other hand, can feel much messier and harder to handle. Feeling overwhelmed trying to juggle the world at once? Here are our best tips to stay organized and get ahead of your business operations. 

Using Software for Small Business Management

Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean all of your operations have to happen on pen and paper. There are a lot of business software solutions available that are scalable to any business size, large or small. Here are a few types of business software you can use to turn your juggling act into smooth sailing: 

  • Task Management: Have a lot of little projects to take care of that change from day to day? Task management software helps you set up a task for yourself or employees, collaborate through your assigned parts, and track the progress easily.
  • Accounting: Quickbooks being one of the most well-known, accounting software helps you track sales, expenses, taxes, vendors, and create the legal paperwork you need for all of it. Once your business is bigger than a one-person startup, you’re going to want accounting software.
  • Inventory: Inventory tracking is especially essential if you’re selling perishable goods. Nothing will turn a customer away from a place faster than expired products on the shelves, so make sure you have something to remind you to rotate your merchandise.
  • Payroll: If you have more than two or three employees, you’re going to want a real payroll system. Payroll software gives employees a sense of security in their pay and makes it easy to accurately track hours and salaries.
  • Website Management: Every business needs a website, period. However, not every small business owner is going to be able to build and host their own website. Luckily, there are plenty of website hosting services that make it easy and affordable to create and maintain a fully functional website for any industry.
  • Scheduling: Whether you’re planning shifts, customer appointments, vendor meetings, or internal meetings, you need a system in place that shows what is happening and when, in a way that everyone can access. Scheduling solutions can be as simple as a company google calendar and still get the job done well.

Effective Ways to Use a Personal Planner

Whether you’re keeping track on your own pocket planner or a cloud-based calendar, keeping track of your week shouldn’t be a major task in of itself. Here are a few tips for small business owners to manage their schedules with a planner or calendar to reduce stress, not create it: 

  • Keep It Simple: Especially if you’re using a pocket planner, you have limited space to work with, so stick to what’s important and keep it short. Just give a brief name, time, and if necessary, the place of what you need to remember. Many planners also come with notes sections that can give you more space to elaborate if you need to, or make notes like grocery lists and to-do lists, so you don’t clutter up your calendar area.
  • Consistency Is Key: Check your planner every morning and update it every week. Taking the time to do so will make sure that it is always accurate and therefore more useful to you. After all, an empty or incomplete planner isn’t going to give you the week-at-a-glance you need to make scheduling decisions later on.
  • Categorize: Colors are a great way to separate different types of events, such as personal, medical, and business calendar items. Online calendars have many options for separating your event types, but personal planners can be organized just as well with different highlighter or pen colors.
  • Keep It Accessible: A planner doesn’t do you any good if you can’t reference it as needed. That means if you’re using an online calendar, you want to have a corresponding phone app. If you’re using a planner, you’ll want one that is convenient to carry around and use. Planners with pen loops are especially useful because then you can easily make additions throughout the day without having to use your phone to take notes and update the planner later.
  • Be Transparent: As a business owner, your planner process has one more step, and that is to inform your employees when you will and won’t be available. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to make your entire itinerary available for everyone to read, just make sure you’re updating your employees on when you’ll be out of the office or generally unreachable during operating hours.

Managing a Promotional Calendar

If you’re running your own promotions, you need to plan ahead. Promotions take time to put together, publish, and time to run their course. At the same time, you want to be flexible to take advantage of ongoing trends. Feeling overwhelmed yet? Here are our top tips to help you keep on top of your promotional calendar: 

  • Plan the Year in Advance: Start with the holidays, then fill in around them. How are you planning to prepare for your Thanksgiving sales for the coming year? How about your Fourth of July promotions? Once you have the basics set up, you can fill around them with other promotions and marketing campaigns.
  • Keep Your Options Open: When planning social media and blog posts not related to holidays, try making a list of options you can use and be prepared to shuffle things around if something comes up later in the year that you want to use instead.
  • Schedule Your Prep: While you may be planning a year in advance, you need to make sure you schedule time to actually create the marketing materials, order the promotional giveaways, and promote your events. Make sure to schedule your prep time when planning your yearly marketing calendar.
  • Use Templates: Not everything has to be done by scratch. Create a general template for your commonly used marketing mediums such as social media, blogs, fliers, etc. Doing so will save you time and energy when creating your marketing campaigns and allow you to maintain a sense of uniformity in your marketing strategy.

How to Delegate Tasks Without Losing Control

Have a lot on your plate, but you don’t want to give up control of your operations? Many business owners will avoid delegating because they’re afraid that if someone else is in charge of parts of their business, they’ll lose track of what’s being done and eventually lose control altogether. But delegating doesn’t have to mean letting go. Here are some tricks to delegating effectively without becoming lost in the noise or becoming a control freak: 

  • Promote People You Trust: Your business is your baby, and it’s understandable that you don’t want to let just anyone hold it. If you don’t trust someone to do a good job, don’t promote them to a management position. Only when you have complete faith in your team can you feel safe delegating.
  • Set Expectations Early: If there are non-negotiables in how you want something done, make that clear as early as possible. Once someone has adjusted to doing things a certain way for a company, it can be hard for them to change it. Similarly, work hard to understand what your managers expect from you.
  • Create Checkpoints: Don’t lose track of your projects just because someone else is handling the details. Establish what deliverables you expect to see and set aside time to go over them as they are available. These checkpoints allow you to keep tabs on a department or project’s progress without micromanaging every action.
  • Schedule Time to Talk: If you want to stay up to date on your different managers and employees, set time aside to meet with them and go over progress, concerns, needs, and just get an overall understanding of where they’re at.
  • Listen With an Open Mind: While it’s normal to want to have everything done your way, if you don’t have a plan laid down, you need to be open to how others will accomplish something, even if it’s not exactly how you would have done it. More people means more ideas, which means there’s a lot you can learn from your managers just as they can learn from you.
  • Use a Team Mentality: No business can grow and thrive with just one person doing it all. You need your employees, and they need you. Build trust and respect for them and you will be amazed at what they can do for your business.

Building a Healthy Work/Life Balance

Employees aren’t the only ones who need a work-life balance. While your business may be your baby, all parents need a break to develop themselves as individuals. If you’re not taking time to enjoy other hobbies and interests, you’re putting yourself at serious risk of business-owner burnout, which is bad for you and your business. Here are a few ways to make time for yourself without feeling like you’re ignoring your business: 

  • Organize Your Business: Yes, that’s literally what we’re talking about, but the fact is that all of this is essential to making time for yourself. When your business runs efficiently, you should feel safe stepping aside for some me-time.
  • Set Boundaries: There are hours of operation, and hours when you can work on your business. Outside of those hours, you have other responsibilities such as family, friends, other hobbies, and just enjoying life.
  • Schedule Your Me-Time: If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. Your personal time is essential to staying healthy, which has a direct effect on your ability to run your business. Think of it as “owner management” time and make it happen.
  • Use Your Resources: Do you have good employees, a strong system of business software, and a schedule that covers several months? With that set up, you shouldn’t feel bad about taking time away from the office to at least once a month.
  • Let It Go: Sometimes to really get that vacation you wanted, or to fully embrace time with your family, you need to close your business for a few days or let your manager step up in your place. Let go. Take that break. Your business will still be there when you get back.

Want to learn more about how to make time for self-care as a business owner? Check out our blog article on business owner stress management

Organizing your business is more than just trying to keep everything from falling apart. Organizing means planning ahead, finding new resources, and getting help. When your business is truly organized, you’ll have more time for yourself and more time to help your business grow. Start with our tips to stay organized and find your own way of bringing order to your small business management. 

Katie Yelisetti

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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