13 Tips for Small Business Organization: How to Organize a Disorganized Business

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Do you struggle with small business organization? Are you a disorganized small business owner in denial?

Wearing too many hats is nothing to brag about.  Too many overwhelmed small business owners are proud of the fact that they’re doing it all.  While this seems to make you look or feel like a hero, it’s costing you time, money and ultimately customers.

Small Business Organization

Disorganization Kills Small Business Productivity

According to a 2018 Business Attitudes Study by Staples, disorganization appears to have a direct effect on a business’s success. In other words, small business organization equals profits

  • 53 percent of thriving/surviving small business owners describe their workplace as very organized, while only 23 percent see themselves as disorganized small business owners.
  • 1 in 3 business owners believe that workplace disorganization leads to less productivity
  • 3 in 4 owners with struggling or failing businesses believe the lack of small business organization has affected their company’s productivity

What the Experts Have to Say about Small Business Organization

Rather than just share survey results or tips from experts, we’ve collected the voices of real and recovering disorganized small business owners from across the country. We asked them to share their thoughts on how disorganization has impacted their business and what tips they have for other business owners.

“Your business should be a machine.” Says Says Joe Pardo from www.SuperJoePardo.com.  “Every step of the way should be an optimized process that enables business, not disables it. When you are disorganized you are saying to your team that it’s ok for them to be disorganized. Disorganization creates chaos and inefficiencies that will add up to be more costly than most will ever realize. Increasing your cost of doing business and competing in your marketplace.”

Krista Neher, CEO of Boot Camp Digital can relate. “There are so many small business owners that literally grow into disorganization.  It’s a natural function of growing the business. “With so many competing priorities and being accountable only to yourself it is easy to let things slip. Something is one day late. Then suddenly it’s a week overdue.”

“I shudder to think about how much business I lost by forgetting proposal deadlines and not getting back to clients when I said I would. Krista Neher, CEO of Boot Camp Digital “

Sometimes, there’s no way to avoid wearing all these hats and if that sounds like you, then your goal should be FOCUS! Small business organization is key to your success.

“But the issue is they are not seeing the big picture”says Syed Irfan Ajmal, Growth Marketing Manager at Ridester. He’s got a point there. The big picture or focus seems to be more on how busy you are rather than how efficient you are.  And being focused on your goals and efficient in achieving them is what leads to results.

What’s the impact of failing at small business organization?

“Being disorganized is a huge waste of time.” says Jenn Wells, Jenn is a graphic & web designer who helps nonprofits and ethical businesses create change through strategic design. www.jennwellsdesign.com.

Cristian Rennella CEO & CoFounder of oMelhorTrato.com, noticed that two or three people from the team were doing the same tasks without knowing it or that the same client was given different answers or that a client was offered more than once a significant discount!

Ultimately, there’s no getting around the fact that disorganization is slowly killing their business.

Disorganization kills productivity and costs money

“Disorganization can stifle productivity, decrease the engagement and morale of employees and harm customer relations. Any one of these left unchecked can eventually cost you customers, hurt the company financially and negatively impact growth.” 

John Moss, Managing Director at EnglishBlinds

The business owner sets the tone for the entire organization.  “When you organize yourself, you’ll start making money” says  Ashley Hampton, a licensed psychologist and business coach for professional women entrepreneurs.  It’s critical for the small business owner to recognize that their team is looking to them as a model.  So if you’re a disorganized and stressed out business owner, your team is probably feeling the same way and that drives inefficiencies.

How does a lack of small business organization cost you customers?

Being a scattered small business owner isn’t just something that impacts YOUR productivity. It also has an impact on your bottom line.  Disorganized businesses are failing businesses and you can see how this happens.

“Every mistake you make with a client is one more reason for them to leave and find someone who has their sh*t together.” — Jenn Wells, a graphic & web designer who helps nonprofits and ethical businesses create change through strategic design. 


In other words, you often look unprepared, which in turn gives the impression that you are not professional. While that might be an inaccurate perception, it could have a very real impact. A lack of small business organization affects the way your customer views you, your work, and the decision to rehire you or refer you to a friend.

How to Get Your Small Business Organized

1. Choose your priorities and focus on them

The key to staying organized is to choose priorities and stay focused on them. Your priorities will look a lot like goals; they tend to be less quantitative and more broad. For example your goal might be to grow revenues by expanding to new industries.

Pick one industry you want to focus on. Choose which marketing channels you want to prioritize or focus on and move on from there.

This means that if a project or opportunity comes up that goes against this priority, your first response should be no, not now. Add it to your list, but do NOT invest resources in it right now.

The biggest decision you have to make is whether or not this opportunity is worth shifting your resources from choices that you’ve made based on solid research.

2. Create a project plan and calendar

Your business plan or marketing plan is really nothing more than a project plan. So, take your plan and map it out on a calendar. Create a project plan for all the things you’re going to do.

Start with events that you are already committed to such as trade shows, conferences, webinars, product launches, etc.

  • Ask yourself “What did we do that made these events so successful?” This will trick your brain into thinking about what made a future event successful. Your brain will assume success and start creating a list of tasks that you will put on your plan.
  • Ask yourself what resources (tools, people, knowledge, etc) you will need to implement these tasks.
  • Break down each of these items into tiny little tasks
  • Put those items into a project management system

3. Use a project management system

Several of our small business owner respondents recommended some type of project management system. Asana and Trello were the most popular team project management tools mentioned.

Whenever the entire team is using the same tool, organized business owners could actually see how long specific tasks took and where there were challenges. This made inventory planning, tracking and resource allocation much easier.

Microsoft Office 365 was another popular tool that came up. “Office 365’s calendar is something I couldn’t be without. We have offices all over the world so time zones can cause issues if we aren’t organized. Colleagues have access to my calendar so they know when I’m free if they need to contact me which means the workload can be streamlined and I know exactly how my day ahead looks. – — Kashif Naqshbandi, Chief Marketing Officer at Anderson Frank

4. Schedule Everything

Disorganized small business owners are too optimistic about time and how much is actually available.  The downside is that whatever project you’re working on usually takes twice as long and costs twice as much. The key is to identify and eliminate “wasted time”.

Include a little buffer into your schedule.  If you set a meeting for 1pm — make sure that you include travel time and even a short break for yourself before your next call or meeting. That means that your schedule reflects 2 hours for the meeting instead of just one.

5. Motivate and Enroll Employees

One of the biggest complaints I hear from small business owners is that their employees or team aren’t as passionate about the success of the business as the business owner. Why are you more passionate? First, you have something at stake. Being successful will make you more money, allow you to achieve a personal goal — whatever.

Treat your employees as having a stake in your business. Do they want more money? Do they want time? What are their goals and how will reaching your goals help them achieve those goals.

Yes, it takes time to have these conversations, but the time and effort you invest with your team will pay off in spades.

Everyone loves to say that employees are a small business’ greatest asset.  So where does the disorganized small business owner fail? He is expecting his employees to motivate themselves.  “Keeping employees motivated and engaged is the primary role of the small business owner as a leader,” says Tom Wills, owner of UrbanFlower in Sydney, Australia.

Gallup estimates the cost of poor management and lost productivity from employees in the U.S. who are not engaged to be between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion per year.

“Unhappy employees who leave work at the end of the week feeling worn down and unmotivated, aren’t being their most productive”.  says Joseph Martin, http://hijoemartin.com, When employees are feeling the same way as the owner; disorganized, overwhelmed and stressed out, this naturally shows in their interaction with customers. And this ultimately creates a bad customer experience.

Here are a few tips on how to keep employees motivated and energized:

  • Be flexible with work hours. Sometimes time is more valuable than money.
  • Check in with employees. Give them the tools they need to be efficient.
  • Include them in implementing new efficiency processes.

6. Define a Process and Use It

If you’re one of the disorganized business owners out there – take heart.  Every one of the folks who shared their tips was exactly where you are.  In fact, being disorganized is a prerequisite for getting yourself and your business organized.

The key is to define a process and then set up systems to support it.  Sometimes business owners find value in engaging their teams, employees, and associates in the process. And sometimes they set the structure themselves.  Choose whichever way is right for you.

7. Audit your small business organization

“Start by looking at customer complaints and employee frustrations.  These are often red flags for inefficiencies where you can improve your process.”

— Dayne Shuda, Founder  https://ghostblogwriters.com

8. Have a common filing system to avoid miscommunication

“Every aspect of the business is in a different file, and everyone working on a given project, leaves notes and details there, along with a date and their name. Everyone in the company has access to all the files, this way we avoid pointless questions, everyone is up to date, and nothing is missed. The system even has functionalities where reminders flash in front of you if you forget something.” 

— Jane Wilson, Head of Marketing and Social for Fantastic Cleaners in Melbourne, Australia)

So much time is lost LOOKING for documents, data, and assets. Take the time to create a document management system. For example; how will you create folders, how will you name files, come up with naming conventions and processes that make it easy to find what everyone is looking for.

9. Put Your Process Documents in the Cloud

“The busier we got as a business the more things became difficult to manage. By moving over to the cloud, no matter where you are, what time it is or what you’re working on you have access to everything on your smart device. It also is a great benefit for businesses that have teams spread across multiple locations that can collaborate centrally with cloud-based technologies” 

— Damien Buxton, Managing Director, www.midascreative.co.uk

10. Use Google Docs to get everyone on the same page

Thanks to defining processes on the basis of which each activity is organized step by step, we were able to increase our productivity as a team by 24.1% (yes, AMAZING!).

— Cristian Rennella CEO & CoFounder of oMelhorTrato.com.

11. Be responsive to your customers

“A great solution is to ensure your support team is using a powerful online form that’ll collect important customer information, then send responses right to the customer support’s inbox.”

— Annabel Maw, Marketing Communications Specialist at JotForm, @AnnabelLMaw

12. Use a CRM to track customer conversations, requests and journeys

Did you know that the best way to double your sales is to track your customer interactions? Relying on your memory to move deals forward becomes unwieldy as you scale your business.

A good CRM doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You can even use Gmail as a CRM to start, and then grow into a CRM such as Nimble which is outstanding for consultants and relationship selling.

CRMs make it easy for you to create action steps and reminders that drop into your task lists and calendars so that you can move sales forward.

13. GET HELP with small business organization

Emily Tanner,  from The MLE Agency, recommends getting help in your business.  You can’t do it all yourself and putting too many things on your plate will just lead to more disorganization.

So, are you brave enough to put away all of your many hats?  The more organized you are, the more money you’ll make.  The investment is certainly worth it.

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