Top 5 Tools for Small Business Organization
Behind The Press is a blog series by Sycamore Street Press’s owners: Eva and Kirk Jorgensen. In it, we share our experience with letterpress, paper goods, running a small business, and work/life balance in the form of tips, how to’s, and more. We hope you enjoy! – K&E Admittedly, we are not always the most organized people. We try to be. We LOVE having everything in its place. Sometimes it seems like there's just not enough time in the day, though. And then we think about how much time we'd be saving in the long run if we could just put things in order. It's a catch-22.
Well, this past year we decided that was it. Time to make some real progress. And it's incredible how making a few small changes has really helped things run more smoothly! We still have a lot of plans to implement. But we're happy with how far we've come, and are committed to keeping up and getting better.
If you're a small business owner like we were -- never feeling like we had the time to get organized -- we hope this post can help you out. (And no, we are not getting paid for this post. We just use these organizing tools every day and love them!)
1) Google Drive - We used to trade long emails back and forth with the rest of the Sycamore team. Photo shoot plans, design brainstorming, production schedules, etc... Inevitably, we'd have to search through mountains of emails to try and find the one with the correct attachment for a certain project. Now, at the suggestion of a couple of our team members, we just create the document in Google Drive, share it with each other, and file the documents into folders. So simple. It's great to be able to find all of that information in one place, that we can access it all from any computer or device, and that they won't be lost if a computer crashes.
2) Google Calendar - Even if the only thing we had to do all year was to plan for and exhibit at our annual trade show -- The National Stationery Show -- this app would be worth it. We're big fans of paper (obviously) and both love our little Moleskine planners. But they just weren't cutting it anymore for the business. We needed a calendar that could be updated frequently (without an eraser or White Out) and that everyone on the Sycamore team could access. We got a lot of suggestions from colleagues, but when it came down to it, Google Calendar is free, simple to use, and it gets the job done. We plan months in advance and have a color coded system set up. (Production tasks in cobalt, events in yellow, PR in coral, etc...)
3) Dropbox - When our daughter Ingrid was 6 months old, our computer crashed. Inconvenient, but not a big deal, we thought at first. We had Time Machine set to automatically back up everything on our computer to an external hard drive. Well, it turns out that there was a disconnect between iPhoto and Time Machine. So we lost pretty much all of our photos. From the first 6 months of our daughter Ingrid's life, and from the 6 years prior to that -- ever since we got our first digital camera. We were devastated. (There may have been a crying fit ending with someone flinging themselves across the bed with a loud, slobbery moan. Not saying who.) Luckily, we was able to retrieve a few off of an old laptop and discs. But literally, it was just a handful compared to the thousands that we lost.
Obviously, this couldn't happen again. Enter Dropbox. We signed up, downloaded the software, and began backing up all our photos. We love that we can access it easily on our computer's hard drive itself, or from the "cloud" on the dropbox website from any computer or device. We've since started using it to back up all of our product photos, design files, etc... It's also great for sharing files -- high res photos with members of the press, Illustrator files with manufacturers, scans of drawings with other members of the Sycamore team, and more.
4) Quickbooks - We can't tell you how many creative small business owners we've talked to who confess that the bookkeeping for their business is pretty much non-existent. And yes, we made the same mistake. Every year, we'd sit down with print-outs of our bank statements, categorize everything with highlighters, and then send it all in one big Excel spreadsheet to our accountant. He'd get it sorted out and make sure we were legit with our taxes, but that was it. No profit and loss statements, no monthly reports, nothing. Organizing our business finances was always a big dark cloud looming over our heads. Something we knew we needed to do to really grow our business, but dreaded with our very souls.
As of a couple of months ago, though, we are leaving that big dark cloud behind! And it feels sooooooo good. To get started, we sat down a couple of different times with our accountant to ask his advice. Then we bought Quickbooks, set it up on our computer, and hired someone to do bookkeeping part-time, along with other office duties. Let's face it, the two of us were never going to be organized enough to do it ourselves. We figured that in the long run, it was worth the expense of hiring someone. By being able to see regular reports, we can start to see so much more clearly where the money is coming from and where it is going. It'll make a big difference in our business planning, and will be a key to helping us grow.
If you don't want to hire someone in-house to do this, you could have your accountant do it for you, or hire an independent bookkeeper. Or, you could show us up and do it yourself.
5) FreshBooks - It took a few tries to find an invoicing system that clicked. We signed up for Freshbooks over a year ago and have loved it for many reasons. It's all cloud based, which makes it easy to manage orders while traveling with our laptop/iphone as well as accessing our account from multiple computers in our shop. It is simple and convenient. We have linked up our merchant account so that when a wholesale client receives the email from Freshbooks, they can view/download their invoice as well as pay their invoice by credit card. The other feature we really like is the report generator. We can easily generate reports showing total revenue by client or item number in any given parameter of time.
Obviously, there are many different tools and programs out there that can help small business owners get organized. But these are our favorites -- the ones that have really helped us.We hope that one or all may be of some help to you, too! And if you have some tips or tools of your own to share, we'd love to hear in the comments below! Also check out my Stationery Business classes on atly.com. - Kirk & Eva