I recently got new office furniture. Of course, this meant having to pack up my entire office, empty my desk drawers and store the boxes where everybody else wouldn’t be tripping over them.
This all had to happen right before I went on vacation. And the day I came back, not only did I have to be able to function with taking phone calls, finding a pencil and booting up my computer to read my email, but I also was giving a workshop that afternoon. So the whole process required quite a bit of planning. I couldn’t bury the important stuff in a box with scrap paper, old phone lists and the other detritus that builds up when you’ve been in the same office for 12 years.
The first few days were a struggle. I brought into my office the key boxes that held items I knew I’d need to have quickly. It seemed like I was forever shifting boxes to find the one that held my phone book, then stack that box so I could find my scissors, then into another for my personal items — like ibuprofen — that I really needed about then. But as the days have gone on, I’m determined to keep only things that I use on a regular basis. Old files? Gone. Computer discs? Don’t need them. Two-year-old articles on marketing? Outdated. Now I’m feeling the joy of a clear, clean, efficient physical work space. The next mess I’m going to tackle is in my technology.
My first goal is to be less of a tree-killer, and that means getting my computer desktop organized. It used to be that any article I was interested in, I’d print it off, then add it to a pile and never be able to put my hand on it again without going through multiple boxes. So now I try to either save it as a file on my desktop or bookmark it. But I can see that I have to come up with a better plan. My desktop has so many icons on it that it looks like a Scrabble game gone wild. My favorites and bookmarks menus are so long that by the time I scroll to the bottom I’ve forgotten what I was looking for. So, I’m vowing to come up with a system that will let me access my electronic file cabinet quickly and intuitively.
My next objective is to get a smartphone. One of my co-workers has one, and she is linked to our Outlook mail and calendar system. So instead of calling her while she is out of the office at a meeting, I can just send her an email and know she’ll be able to read it as soon as it’s convenient. She can look up websites while meeting with a client at their business. The GPS function helps her find an address. I want all that.
I can also start taking advantage of the many webinars available to help me do my job better. It used to be that most of my professional development was spent traveling to conferences and attending workshops. Now I have access to webinars from our state SBDC on topics like the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) energy review program for small businesses, or tips for starting a food business. Even if I can’t participate live, all these topics are available to me in a shared resources file online. For small business owners, there are online presentations and webinars galore at the sba.gov website and the irs.gov website.
How is technology helping you operate your small business? What can you do, or add, to make you more efficient and better able to serve your customers or clients?
The New York State Small Business Development Center offers individual, confidential counseling at no cost for people with new or existing businesses, as well as other workshop opportunities.
Sarah O’Connell is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College. She is a former small business owner and lifelong Northern New York resident. Contact her at email@example.com. Her column appears bi-monthly in NNY Business.