"I just saw them, where did they go..."
"I put them in a pile for you, hmm now where is that pile..."
“Let me check with my assistant, maybe she knows where they are..."
As a profit improvement manager and bookkeeper, my clients would offer the same excuses every year for why they couldn't find the papers or forms necessary to close their year and file their returns. I kept searching for solutions to help them get organized, but phone calls and emails were not working.
And then I had an epiphany – I needed to organize my clients.
I started with a KISS (Keeping it Simple Stupid). When the next year-end organizers were sent to my clients, I included a bright colored 9x12 return envelope with a note asking them to capture all year-end documents in the envelope as they came in the mail.
The results were beyond my expectations. Since the envelope was easy to find, the majority of my clients dumped their year-end mail right in. It was a breeze to reconcile their books with the paperwork corralled into one place.
I was excited. If this worked, what else could I do that would not only my life easier, but also simplify processes for the busy business owner?
My next plan grew from a stack of paper. Offices seem to have paper everywhere. Many times I've been told there was an “organized” filing system, only to find piles in corners, under the desk or on a chair. I invested in file folders (colored, of course) and labels. From each business’ financial software, I printed labels, and yes, I placed them on folders – customers (green), vendors (manila), bank accounts (blue) and credit cards (yellow).
Each label included the next calendar year and the name. Not only did the clients receive a useful year-end gift, but they had an easier time staying organized the next year.
Snail mail; pile after pile, it just keeps coming. The solution to the mail piles is to sort and process it daily. Recommend that a 15-minute meeting be placed on your clients’ calendar each day to sort the mail. Try to remember that old saying, “touch each piece of mail only once.” Assist clients with establishing routines to segregate the mail for immediate processing or to be handed off, and then hold them accountable for the process. One client told me he was having cash flow issues, only to find that six weeks of mail – including checks – was sitting on his credenza.
Now every discovery meeting is not just reviewing financial records and learning about needs and wants, but also reviewing filing and workflow systems.
Linda Brown is president of Spire Business Inc., which works directly with entrepreneurs’ to improve their company’s profitability. For more information, visit www.spirebusiness.com or email her at email@example.com.