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Tips on Office Management

Set Priorities

  • Use a paper-based, electronic or computerized list to keep track of your tasks, instead of relying on your memory. A list will give you a clear idea of what you need to accomplish.
  • Which tasks could you handle another day? If you would face no consequences by moving a task forward, move it ahead another day or another week.
  • Know the difference between important and urgent. Important means a task needs to be done while urgent means it must be done immediately. Knowing the difference between the two will make prioritizing easier.
  • Realize that you can't do everything. This will help you to realistically prioritize your tasks.
  • Determine if postponing the task would affect other projects you are working on. Tasks and projects can have a domino effect. If you do one task, yet fail to do another, you may have wasted effort on the first task.

Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

  • Be aware that, in a small or family-owned business, special favors to family members and friends de-motivate employees and set a bad example.
  • Think twice about offering a contract to a supplier who is a relative. Award contracts on merit.
  • Avoid letting family members borrow company vehicles, and don't allow your sister to ask the company computer wizard to set up her home office.
  • Don't put family members on the payroll if they're not working in the company or can't make a real contribution to the business.
  • Think of the future. If you hope to seek investors or go public, dealings with family members outside the business will be questioned.

Choosing a Location for Your Business

  • Find out if local zoning laws permit your kind of business at the site that you desire.
  • Make sure the site has adequate public services-such as water and sewer services, trash collection, adequate drainage, and police and fire protection.
  • Determine if there's adequate, affordable transportation. Can your employees get to work? If you're a manufacturer, are trucking services available?
  • Consider the surrounding community. If you're a high-end retailer, for example, are there sufficient high-income households nearby to support your business?
  • Look at the other businesses in the area. Decide whether or not having direct competitors will be helpful.

Creating an Office Where You Can Work

  • Locate your office in a quiet location where you won't be distracted with passers-by. Locate your office in a space you love.
  • If you have to share an office, make space for two desks and two sets of files and supplies.
  • Situate the workspaces to allow each person maximum quiet and minimal distractions.
  • Project your office's needs for the next year and acquire equipment and furnishings accordingly.
  • Your office will grow. Purchase systems and furniture that will allow for growth or add-ons.

Paying Yourself

  • Don't pay yourself so much that you cripple your company or so little that you trigger IRS scrutiny and penalties.
  • Understand how your company's legal structure affects your compensation and taxes. Your salary and bonuses are taxed one way; distributions to you as a shareholder are taxed another.
  • Find out what the market rates are for CEOs in your industry and your size of business. Your trade association can help.
  • Seek advice from the best accountant and lawyer you can find.
  • If you were paid little or nothing in the first years of your business, don't be ashamed of compensating yourself well when the business is successful. You've earned it.

Preparing for Disaster Recovery

  • Recognize that your business can suffer a natural disaster. Small businesses the world over have been affected by disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and fire.
  • Develop your recovery plan before disaster strikes. Make sure everyone in your company is familiar with the plan and knows what steps to take in emergencies.
  • Have adequate insurance. You'll need coverage not only for property damage and loss (including inventory), but also for business interruption.
  • Draw up a list of telephone numbers for all employees. Assign certain employees to call others if disaster strikes. That way, you can learn who is all right and who needs help, and you can quickly communicate instructions about your business.
  • Don't forget your computer system. Keep backup programs and duplicate records (accounts receivable, client information, and the like) at a different, safe site.