Tips for implementing structure and improving productivity within your business.
John Rampton is an Entrepreneur, Writer, Full Time Computer Nerd, Founder at Due, a company helping startups invoice their clients online. Follow him on Twitter @johnrampton
Startups are somewhat paradoxical in nature. We have the power to develop powerful, revolutionary ideas and products, but we often do so in a state of creative chaos. And while many are breaking the mold with these ideas, disorganization can have dire consequences for a company. A single disorganized, mid-level employee can cost their company over $10,000 in lost productivity annually.
How can we, as startups, approach “getting organized” when we thrive on the flurry of creative energy that brought our companies into being?
It’s not about changing who you are, but employing some simple tools to help things run more smoothly.
Store Your Knowledge
An organization-based problem common among startups is insufficient information sharing. Too often, critical knowledge is warehoused with individuals, whether just in our heads or in unshared files. When that person is away – or if they choose to move on from the position – it’s possible that this important information can be lost. That’s why you need a content management system (CMS).
There are a wide variety of CMS programs on the market, and many double as customer relationship management (CRM), a vital aspect of running a startup. Knowing each customer’s quirks and requirements allows a greater number of team members to work effectively with them, rather than limiting effective client work to single representatives and prevents data loss, one of the worst possible consequences of poor knowledge management.
Build Your Schedule
Though startup employees may not work 24/7, as many people believe, we do tend to be somewhat scattered. Or rather, we work long hours with hyper-focus, and little in the way of a set schedule. Using a program to organize your employee shifts more clearly can help you get more done, even if it means holding people to shorter hours. In fact, this can help prevent the worker burnout that’s so common among startup employees.
It’s especially important to use scheduling software with your team if your company offers flextime options. When staff members use flextime to meet other needs, you may find that you’re missing staff in key areas or that you’ve scheduled meetings at a time that doesn’t accommodate critical individuals. Flextime can be an attractive benefit, but you need to track it if you want to keep your operations running smoothly.
Focus on Flow
Finally, it’s important to recognize that startups get their name from the fact that they’re still young businesses. We’re still figuring things out and that means we need to keep a close connection to the development process. What a good flow looks like for each company will, of course, vary, but tech tools can give you an advantage on this road.
The types of programs that will help keep your business on the development fast track are workflow management and automated testing software. These types of programs help your team to save time by cutting the dead weight of daily update emails and manual code testing.
Why test every program by hand when there are systems that can spot code problems for you? Once you invest in development, you’ll wonder how you got anything done before.
Once you’ve instituted organizational measures within your company, don’t forget to backtrack and review your practices on a regular basis. It’s easy to become lax with record keeping and data management as the months go on, and regular auditing can reveal any gaps.
Remember, although the term audit conjures up images of the IRS and can create a general sense of terror, the word really just means to take account of practices. That can mean reviewing financial accounts to make sure money isn’t missing, but auditing your CRM system can reveal missing client information or other internal data. If an audit reveals missing information, you’ll also know what practices you need to review with your staff members.
Disorganization is costly. Even if you think your startup has all its parts in order, take some time to consider what some added structure could do. Time not spent searching for customer information, troubleshooting problems coworkers already know the answers to, and developing new products instead of endlessly testing them is time you could be profiting from.
This article originally appeared on Startup Grind.