Whether you already have an office, are moving into a new one or are just moving into an office for the first time after working out of your home, the thought of setting up or organizing your office can be daunting.
We usually find ourselves swearing to “get things organized around here for the last time.” Let’s face it. It can be very difficult to find something we need, like customers’ paperwork, check deposits, time sheets and the many other mounds of paper our business generates. We perform this vicious cycle only to find ourselves repeating the same process the next time we cannot find something.
What is the secret to getting your office set up for the last time? The answer is all in the way you plan to organize your environment. In the following series, let’s discuss how to get your office set up and stay organized, once and for all.
#1 – Create A Business Organizational Chart
Let’s agree on this. When running our small contracting business, we cannot always afford to hire one person for each and every job in the company. For instance, the person answering the phones may help in the reordering of office supplies, the dispatcher may be in charge of giving out purchase orders, and your bookkeeper may also be your HR department. We all wear more than one hat when it comes to running our small business. How can you organize all of this?
Simple. Define your organization. Creating an organizational chart of all the many different jobs in your company will allow you to assign who is responsible and, even more important, accountable, for each job. This will end all “finger pointing” between employees when you ask, “Where is my part for Mr. Smith’s job?”
So the secret here is to think about what job function needs completion and then design a job environment or place to fit that job. The biggest mistake you can make is to hire someone first and then just give them work to fill up their day. Design the job and the environment and find the right person to fill it.
#2 – Draw An Office Map
You have probably heard how the best athletes use visualization techniques in order to help them hit a baseball, shoot a free throw or sink a putt. How can we hope to organize our office if we don’t know what it will look like in the end? Would you design a house without a blueprint? This is the principle behind this secret. Fail to plan and you are, indeed, planning to fail.
What can a map of your office do for you? It will help you visualize the end result you have in mind for your office space. Not just what you see but what you hear, feel, touch and, maybe, in some cases, even taste. After creating your organizational chart, you will know exactly how many jobs you will need to fill. The map or blueprint will simply help you see and plan where each job should take place.
For instance, if you know your dispatcher is going to fill in as service manager by checking in completed tickets from the field, then you might want to put him or her in a position away from the customer service representative
(CSR) room (which I recommend anyway), so they are not interrupted by techs coming to the shop to hand in paperwork. This allows the dispatcher to communicate with the technician and ask questions without disturbing the CSRs or interrupting them while they are taking a call.
A blueprint is nothing more than a physical drawing of the office from a bird’s-eye view. That’s right. Get out your pencil and paper to make your first rough sketch along with dimensions of the space and what will go in it. Any cabinets or counter space along with what goes on or in those spaces must be accounted for.
#3 – Do Addition By Subtraction
You only have two choices when it comes to space. You can add more space to your facility by adding on to your original building or build shelving or overhead cabinets, or use the space you have more efficiently by reducing, simplifying and eliminating what you already have by tossing it, selling it or donating it. Adding more space only creates more places to put junk you don’t need. Obviously, the last one is my favorite option.
I love donating excess office supplies and junk to an organization that can really use it – like a school. In some cases, I do admit that more space is justified as a company grows, although the last thing you want to do is create more expense for yourself by storing extra office supplies. Really, how many highlighters or Post-it notes do we need?
Pride yourself on placing value on a simplified environment with fewer things on the desks or file cabinets. Aren’t we all supposed to become more paperless? Question it this way. Would I inventory and resupply the stuff I have? Can I define how much I need of this and also how I would reorder it from a vendor? If you can’t answer the question correctly, get rid of it.
#4 – Outline Your Customer Flow Process
How does your transactional system work? Can you define the transactional cycle that takes you from the time a customer calls to the very end where you deposit their money in your account and everything else in-between? Essentially ask yourself, “How does this company work?” If you can’t answer that question properly, then you may even have a bigger problem than you think. Many businesses are incomplete when designing this process and leave it up to burned out employees to figure it out each and every time a crisis in the cycle occurs.
Create a simple flow chart of how your customers move through your company from the time they call in to book an appointment to the time someone files away their paperwork. By outlining this process, you will discover several other processes that will require outlining.
For instance, maybe send a thank-you card with a $25 off coupon to every customer who uses your services and a fruit basket to those customers who spend more than $1,500 with your company. You will need to develop a system determining which customers are spending more than $1,500, where you will purchase the gifts, who will purchase them, who is responsible for sending them, how they will be delivered and at what point you will send them.
By outlining your customer flow process, you will clearly see each additional process that needs to be in place in order for your office to operate smoothly and without continuous hand holding.
#5 – Prioritize The Work Of Each Job
Do you ever see employees in your office who are very busy but are still not organized or accomplishing anything? Simply put, what are the end results that each employee is trying to accomplish each day? What are their priorities?
Writing a job description for every position in your company takes months – even years – in some cases and is a tough task to undertake. So take it in steps. Start with prioritizing each position’s top-10 duties of the day, with the most important listed as number one and the least important as No. 10.
That way, if I were the CSR in your company, I would expect to see answering the phone as my number one task, while filing away tickets would be farther down the list. It’s not that I don’t want to see the tickets filed away. I just don’t want that to come before the booking of calls with customers, which is where you make the real money.
Start by having a meeting with your office personnel and deciding the job duties together. This way, everyone is on the same page. Make sure everyone has a copy of the list.
#6 – Bring Your Company Into The 21st Century
Do you always feel like you are the last one to hear about the latest gadget or software and that if you had only known about it, it could have saved your company thousands in lost productivity?
Technology is a great thing, when you have it to use. If you are still using dial-up, running on Windows 98, or haven’t invested in GPS for your technicians, then you are holding your people back from some of the great technological advances made in the past ten years and will probably lose money because of it.
These “gadgets” are not going away, and they are only getting better. Stop saying that you’ll wait until the next version comes out, after they work out all of the bugs. Silicon Valley is an expert at stringing us along by bringing out the latest and greatest technologies only after we have just purchased their last version, and they will continue to do so.
So start building technology into your annual budget to update your software and hardware and any other time saving, time management, productivity training resources available to you. The return on this investment will be great.
#7 – No Secret Systems
In all great businesses, the key benchmark is that all systems are transparent. Are there drawers full of things that only certain employees know about? What if that employee got sick or quit? How would everyone know what to do?
If you have seen or heard any of my past videos or audios or read any of my past materials, you already know that one of the main principles I follow is to have no secret systems in our company. This means that if it is good enough for you, it is good enough for all of us.
Any system that you develop or any procedural documentation you write should be easily accessible and available for all to see or hear at their job station. If you write scripts for CSRs, then each CSR station should have a script book clearly labeled with each script. If you are checking in tickets from technicians, then there should be a blowup poster on one side of your wall. This allows them to see what you expect of them and should include a blowup poster on the other side of the wall for how they should be checking in tickets. All systems and procedures should be clean, simple, instructional – and in plain sight.
Invest a little of your time each day to planning your “turnkey” office setup and you’ll soon find that you will have happier employees, which means happier customers, which means you’ll have a lot less stress and a lot more time on your hands.