After a long, dark winter, it’s time to spring-clean your business. A chance to do an informal audit, to see where you are and just how you get there.
Making sure your business is performing at its best is an essential process. It’s a chance to build on successful processes, but also to identify practices which aren’t working as well as you’d like, and improve them.
Let’s start on your desk. Make yourself a cuppa, stick on some favourite music, and put aside a day to:
1: Spring clean your computer
Are you one of those people who likes to have dozens of folders on your desktop? If so, you’ll notice two things: your computer is a lot slower than it used to be, and you take ages to find the folder you’re looking for.
Clear your desktop
Now, how many of those files do you *really* need on your Desktop? All of them? Really? Okay.
Shortcuts on your desktop are much easier for your computer to handle than actual files. So, move all those files to your Local Drive (usually your C drive).
Arrange the files into relevant folders - for example; ‘Accounts’, ‘Projects’, ‘Contacts’, etc. Use whatever filing system works for you and your business - as long as it’s efficient, and you understand it - that’s fine!
Finally, you create a Shortcut for the folder, which will go on the Desktop (right click on the file, scroll down to popup menu to ‘Create Shortcut’. Easy peasy).
The files are now safely stored on your drive but you can still get straight to them through the Shortcuts. Also, they are now organised in folders - so you can find what you need more swiftly.
And your PC will be working just a bit faster, because it doesn’t have big, heavy files dumped on its desktop.
Some people like to have a Desktop with nothing on it save the Rubbish Bin, but that’s a bit too minimal for most. However, you should, simply for efficiency’s sake, reduce the number of Shortcuts to a workable minimum.
Update and scan
You probably have your computer set to automatically update its operating system, which is great. But they won’t necessarily be installed without your say-so. So, make sure you have all the latest updates installed.
Do the same with your Web Browser and any software that you use for your business. Then, make sure that’s a job you do regularly.
Not doing this could leave your computer vulnerable to attack. Having an insecure computer could be a disaster for your business. Also, if you have customer info in there, you may be violating your General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) responsibilities.
So, once you’re up-to-date, Scan for viruses and performance issues. There are lots of reliable places online to get help and advice about this, if you’re not sure which program to use. Most of the superior Virus and Malware tools offer free versions for you to try out. Find one you like - and use it regularly!
As well as keeping you secure, all of this will help ensure your computer works at peak efficiency - so you can too!
Backup everything - always
This is so easy to do - and so easy to *forget* to do. There are various software options out there which will back your work up as your going along - say, every ten minutes or so.
Anyone who’s ever written a long email, then lost it - or written an essay for school, then lost it - will see the value of this.
But it’s also a good idea to back everything up somewhere other than your main computer.
There are many options for backing your work up on The Cloud, for example, or you could buy an affordable external hard-drive. You can’t really have too many backups.
Your email inbox
As with all of these topics - there’s no definitive way to do this, you just need to do it the way that suits you and works for your business.
You might want to set up sub-folders so you can sort out your emails - folders such as ‘Invoices Paid’, ‘Invoices to Pay’, ‘Queries’, ‘Testimonials’, etc - can help you keep your Inbox manageable.
Does your Inbox fill up with subscribed emails from websites you visited once? If you never read them, Unsubscribe from them.
Do Notifications pop up every time a new email arrives - distracting you and demanding your attention? Switch them off. Then initiate a disciplined policy whereby you only look at your Inbox - and deal with any problems it contains - at certain key times. You’re a one-person-band, it’s unrealistic for your clients and customers to expect you to reply immediately. That said - make sure you *do* reply! Communicating clearly and regularly with clients can derail bigger problems further down the line.
If you built your own website - make sure that all the software and widgets are updated. Just like your computer, the smooth and secure running of your website relies on you keeping everything updated regularly.
Make sure that the content of the site is also up to date. Businesses change, make sure your website hasn’t fallen behind you, it *is* your shop window to the world, after all.
If you don’t already - it could be time to take advantage of GoDaddy’s website security features, such as our Free Website Malware Checker, our Website Security Service or our Website Backup facility. It might seem paranoid to protect yourself like this and, if you’re lucky, it’ll continue to seem paranoid - right up until the moment a Hacker takes over your site and blackmails you with it.
Your social media footprint
Assess the effectiveness of your Social Media feeds. Are you getting positive feedback from them? Are they generating leads? Have a look at what other businesses like yours are doing on Social - are there any lessons there you can learn?
If Social Media is starting to take up too much of your time - or the reverse is true and you can’t find any time to devote to it - you might consider using a Social Media Management Platform - such as Hootsuite - where you can see your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIN feeds all in one place, at the same time. You can also schedule your posts, to keep your feeds active during the day, while you’re actually hard at work earning your living.
2: Brush-up your business plan
When you’re elbows-deep in your business, staying up late, not noticing weekends, and generally dedicating yourself to fighting the good fight - it’s possible to forget why you’re doing it all.
Reminding yourself of your Business Plan can be a good way to check your progress. Are you on-course, or have you wandered from the path? Are you hitting your goals, or have your goalposts moved?
This isn’t a problem - unless you’re unaware of it.
Think about the long-term goals you set yourself - did you have a two-year plan, or a five-year plan? If so - how are things shaping up?
Now you’re in the midst, maybe you’ve realised that your business is different from what you expected - maybe the market has changed, or customers are valuing a service of yours that surprises you.
Are you in control of those differences, or do you feel that your business is getting away from you.
So, revisit the bedrock on which you built your business - to get an idea of what, exactly it is you’ve built. Is it what you expected? If not, how is it different?
These important course corrections can be the key to continued business success - and your happiness with what you do.
3: Productivity tools
The goal of any business is - generally speaking - to grow. Growth is good. But, as your solo endeavour develops into an SME (Small to Medium Enterprise) you need to put systems in place that help you ensure that jobs get done and clients get what they’re paying for.
It may be time to consider using CRM - Content Relationship Management.
Now, that three-letter-acronym mindset might be exactly what you hated when you worked for ‘The Man’ in that big company that made you want to go solo. But CRM *might* be a way for you to keep greater control of your solo business, while spending less time on admin.
- Contacts: CRM can help you manage your customer contacts. You can monitor how much clients pay, whether they pay on time, and what products/services they are likely to want from you.
- Meetings: Depending on the CRM you use, and how you use it, you could organise and streamline your diary - by scheduling meetings, both face-to-face ones and face-time ones.
- Sales: CRM allows you to monitor sales - So you can judge how effective your sales calls are, by recording success rates. It’s the only methodical way to learn from your mistakes.
- Marketing: CRM will help you segment your market - So you’ll have a better idea of what kind of customers purchase which services or products. Therefore, you’ll have a better idea of what to offer those clients in future.
4: Accounts Software
If you’re finding that the shoe-box full of receipts under the desk is somewhat suboptimal as an accounting system (which is putting it mildly), then you should look into Accountancy Tools.
These Cloud-Based platforms typically allow you to store receipts - from a range of sources - as well as making payments, monitoring cash-flow and helping you keep a firm hand on the finances of your business - without eating up too much of your time.
These tools can also allow you to forgo the expense of hiring an Accountant, by preparing your accounts for you. Or - if you’d prefer the reassurance of using a trained professional - they can furnish your Accountant with everything they’ll need to do your books far more swiftly and, therefore, more cost-effectively.
So, there’s a range of jobs you can perform to twang the wires and kick the tyres of your business. Some of them are jobs you need to do regularly - but probably don’t - others are worth spending time over just once a year - but they are all good ways to futureproof your business.
The spring is a great time to take the time - to simplify and clarify what you do, to refocus your efforts and to revitalise your enthusiasm for your solo adventure.