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A small business consultant shares her top ten ways to help your business have it's best year yet!

Ten Ideas To Have The Best Year In Your Business
Debbie Gilster

As a consultant to small businesses, I have discovered that many of the complaints I hear over and over again have to do with organization.  The beginning of the year is an excellent time to get all aspects of your life organized, so why not start 2009 off on the right foot?  Setting up calendars, deciding on time off and setting up a financial system will reduce your stress throughout the year. 

Here are my top ten ideas for getting your new year off in a forward direction!

1. Set 3 major goals that you would like to accomplish for the year - These goals should be somewhat simplistic, but give you enough of a challenge. They should also take into account both business and personal needs. Goals help you stay focused on important tasks. This can be a mini business plan or a portion of your overall company strategy. Goals can include such items as getting a clear picture of your finances, creating a collection procedure, or spending more time with your family.

2. Plan now for how you will accomplish your goals - Planning now, early in the year, lets you spread the tasks throughout the months. Be realistic about your time. Not everything has to be done by March!

3. Update your planner for the entire year - Write down all important dates such as trade shows, conferences to attend, major shipment dates, family and employee birthday's and key family events. Include the major tasks needed to accomplish your 3 goals. If you haven't bought those refill pages yet for your planner go to your nearest office supply store right now.

4. Plan your time off - Decide how you will be taking some time off. This includes leaving early to watch your child's baseball game, a week off in your favorite vacation spot, or even several long weekend trips. Being well rounded and rested makes for a more productive worker.

5. Establish a process to handle the paper in your office - Getting control of the mounds of paper is the most prevalent problem in an office. Create a simple routine using Action Files (hanging folders or bins) to categorize paper into actionable categories such as Pay, Do, File, and Distribute. Don't forget to use the biggest bin of all, the wastebasket! Cancel those magazines you never read and request that your name be removed from mailing and distribution lists.
6. Get your overall office better organized - Take the time to properly set up your files, clean out drawers, and give every item in your office a designated place. Store similar items together near where they are used. Put things used often on the most accessible shelves and less used items on top or bottom shelves, or toward the back. Label storage areas and containers to aid items in finding their way "home". You'll be amazed how much better you feel when your office is better organized!

7. Automate the tracking of your finances - All businesses should know their numbers at all times. I see many small businesses who never really know until they prepare their tax return. Using a software package like Quicken or QuickBooks all year long makes the task a lot easier. Financial reports can then be easily printed so that better business decisions can be made during the year. You'll also save time at the end of the year preparing your taxes if you've been doing this all year!
Don't forget to create files with the major tax categories to hold the paper documents that are the backup to your computer entries.

8. Automate or delegate some of your mundane processes or procedures - Spend your time on those activities that will most benefit the company. Look for ways to automate using computer applications or even just simple forms. Delegate some of your tasks to others or hire an assistant. Remember, your time is worth money to your business, use it wisely.

9. Sign up for (or at least choose) a professional development seminar to attend - When you expand your knowledge or get excited about new ideas, your productivity goes up. Who knows, that seminar on organizational techniques may be the spark for your company's success.

10. Choose a charitable cause you can believe in and give to it
- Give of your time or your money or your talents. It's amazing how much you get in return when you give something away!

Don't let this list overwhelm you.  Simply take one step at a time and move through the ideas until you reach the end.  You'll be amazed at how simple your life becomes when you make even the smallest steps towards better organizing your life and your work.

Debbie Gilster is the Chief Productivity Guru at the Center for Productivity. The Center for Productivity provides quick and easy solutions to your small business operation problems.  If you find yourself overwhelmed with productivity issues, or just want some effective suggestions for better managing your time, people and finances, sign-up for our free newsletter "Effective Results" at

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