10 ways to spring clean your business
This Missouri winter was a roller coaster of cold and warm; dry and ice. But when it was cold, it seemed to stay cold for long periods and we all spent too much time indoors collecting stuff (and pounds) we don’t need. Now that spring is here, isn’t it time to do some spring cleaning for your business, too?
- Clean up that inbox. Many people complain about the sheer volume of daily email and what a struggle it is to keep up. Most people also know what’s important and what’s not (the urgent one from your boss, perhaps not the one on your favorite TV show), but priorities can be a little hard to judge if everything gets dumped into one inbox. Get organized! Have all newsletters automatically sent to one folder; all alerts and notices to a second; personal email to a third; customer email to a fourth; supplier and distributor messages to a fifth; those from key employees to a sixth and so on. Yes, it may take an hour or so to set up, but it beats sifting through the wreckage of your inbox to find that grocery list your spouse sent you this morning or that potentially lethal customer message that came in after 6 p.m.
- Clean out your inventory. Weed through your inventory and get rid of damaged, aged or expired goods. Your product or service is your bread and butter. So taking the time to spruce up your inventory can make a huge difference in sales. This is also a great time to look into new vendors and products.
- Clean up your website and social media. Take stock of your online presence and remove the clutter. Your website is probably the first contact customers have with your business, so it must represent you well. Try to look at it through customers’ eyes. Is it easy to navigate, with a clean layout? Can they easily find and order what they want? Are recent shifts in your target markets, services or triumphs on display? Few things discourage online shopping more than a confusing website. And what about your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites? Are they direct, compelling and accurately reflect you? Check your links, too — all your links, on your main site and in emails, newsletters and other marketing material. Don’t worry so much about social media, where message and link obsolescence are expected. Better find the error before your customer does.
- Scrub your customer lists. Customer information changes when people move, change email providers, get a new job, married or divorced. Are your physical and email addresses still good? When was the last time you heard from a customer? There are numerous for-profit databases who will gladly double-check this data, but try free sites like Google, Facebook (which allows searching by email address) or whitepages.com (for physical addresses) first.
- Clean up your staff. When was the last time you took a good look at your people — who they are, what they do, how effective they are, how well they get along with you and with each other? Don’t start firing everyone in sight (unless there are genuine bad apples), but think about which roles are being filled well, which ones could be better executed, which ones are no longer crucial and which might need a redistribution of staff responsibilities or role definitions. Ask employees what is wrong, too, and listen. You may know your business, but those on the firing line are more likely to see the tripping points. You may even end up hiring more people.
- Dust off that business plan. Small business owners sometimes think their original business plan is useless because their company has succeeded. Au contrairé! Spending a few hours revisiting it once a year and updating it to keep pace with your company will provide the basis for and road map to success. Don’t have a business plan? Contact your local BDP counselor today.
- Batter up! Spring means baseball, of course. It can also mean winding things down and finding the next owner if you are looking to retire. Who’s up next? Do you have a candidate and plan to ensure the business you worked so hard to build will still be standing after you’re gone? If not, here are tips to help you get started and have can offer some succession planning assistance.
- Have that tough conversation. Are there tricky conversations you’ve been putting off? Maybe someone owes you money, didn’t live up to promises or an employee or partner is not performing? Spring is a good time to have such conversations. There’s more light and warmth and people aren’t quite as moody as in winter. This can also be an opportunity for them to share, too. Just make sure they understand you want to hear bad news and won’t retaliate.
- Ditch all that paper. Most of us hold on to paper documents for tax and other purposes. But is it really a good idea to have sensitive data, indeterminate records and sheer junk lying around? The IRS recommends you keep income tax returns and documents associated with records no more than seven years. So those boxes of tax returns, carefully itemized phone logs and receipts from 1995 — yes, this is a real case — are just gathering dust, mold and other allergens (see below) and making your life more complicated. Instead, use a scanner to scan these documents into your system then send them straight to the shredder. Financial services, merchant service aggregator and mobile payment firm Square says paper receipts alone account for 1.5 billion pounds of environmental waste a year.
- Clean your office. Yes, physically. Your business is your face to the world. Is it spic and span and inviting, inside and out — walls, floors, bathrooms? If you don’t have the time to clean, hire a crew. A clean place of business isn’t just good for sales and employee morale, it’s good for your health, too. Research now points to clutter as a stressor; and dust, mold and debris aggravate allergies, asthma and infections.
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