Help getting small business organized can really pay off

Succeeding in small business

January 06, 1992|By Jane Applegate

Every year it's the same old thing: You promise yourself this is the year you'll get organized, but you never follow through.

Small-business owners who take the time to do it themselves or spend the money to hire a professional organizer insist that it really pays off -- in profits as well as in reduced stress.

Why? Because every minute you spend searching for a lost file costs money by cutting into your already busy day. A messy desk not only thwarts productivity, but has a negative impact on your morale because you feel guilty about being disorganized, according to professional organizers.

Kathleen and D. Allen Lund, owners of the Allen Lund Co. in La Canada, Calif., knew they needed help organizing their busy, family-owned trucking brokerage. By chance, at a charity event, they won a four-hour session with Office Overhaul founder Beverly Clower. That free session prompted the Lunds to shape up the office, starting at the top.

"I wear a lot of hats around here," said Kathleen Lund, who handles most of the money and payroll matters for the 50-employee company. "Beverly separated all sorts of things I had mixed together."

Clower also wrote a detailed job description for Lund's new assistant and taught the couple how to delegate and make the most of their working relationship.

After organizing Kathleen's office, Clower moved on to Allen's office.

"Beverly set up my office with the theme, 'Keep it simple, stupid,' " said Allen Lund, who recently spent "big money" for 15 employees to attend a motivational seminar. He said after attending that session, he realized that it doesn't matter how motivated your employees are if messy desks and files hinder their productivity.

Clower, who works with many small-business owners, believes that the key words for 1992 are "streamlined and minimal."

"In these times, we are forced to come up with creative solutions, and the results will be efficient and less costly," Clower said.

One of the greatest obstacles to getting organized is feeling your situation is hopeless and that you are the most disorganized person in the world. Clower assures clients that millions of people are disorganized and that there is a solution. Once you push yourself to clean up your act, you will serve as a good example for your employees.

"Don't stop with the boss' office," Clower said. "Make it a company project for the beginning of the year. Begin by asking your employees for ideas about how to better organize office procedures."

Scheduling time for getting organized during the workday shows employees that you consider it a top priority. Try hanging a big calendar in a central spot and use it to mark down individual and group goals.

Another tip: To immediately reduce paper work, cut down the number of business forms you use. "And, who needs six kinds of letterhead in these trying times?" Clower asked.

Professional organizers usually tackle the paper pile-up first, designing simple filing systems and procedures to reduce the number of minutes you spend with each item. If you can't find important documents and are always feeling overwhelmed, you definitely need help, said Kay Kleifgen, founder of Organized Outcome in Santa Monica, Calif.

"If you spend the money to get organized now, you will save money later," said Kleifgen, who frequently finds undeposited checks when she is digging through piles of papers for clients.

Professional organizers charge between $40 and $100 an hour. They usually bid on a project based on the number of hours they believe it will take to finish. Most organizers also like to return periodically for "tune-ups."

To find a professional organizer in your area, contact the National Association of Professional Organizers at (708) 272-0135 in Illinois or at 1163 Shermer Road, Northbrook, Ill. 60062.

If you prefer to try organizing yourself, there are several excellent books on the market. Some of my favorites are by Stephanie Culp. Her newest book, "Streamlining Your Life," provides time-saving suggestions for work and home.

Her other books include: "How to Conquer Clutter," "Conquering the Paper Pile-Up" and "How to Get Organized When You Don't Have the Time." They are published by Writer's Digest Books and are available in bookstores or by writing to Culp at The Organization, P.O. Box 108, Oconomowoc, Wis. 53066.

"How to File and Find It" is an excellent 63-page booklet available for $3.95 from the Quill Business Library. Write to Quill Corp., 100 Schelter Road, Lincolnshire, Ill. 60069.

If you start now, you'll be ready for "National Clear Off Your Desk Day," set for Jan. 21 and celebrated by professional organizers across the country.

(Jane Applegate welcomes your letters and story ideas. Write to her at the Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.)

(c) 1992, Jane Applegate. Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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