How To Create Small Business Infrastructure
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How To Create Small Business Infrastructure

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This white paper is intended to give small business owners some key initial steps to creating business infrastructure around their operations.

This white paper is intended to give small business owners some key initial steps to creating business infrastructure around their operations.

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How To Create Small Business Infrastructure Document Transcript

  • 1. Is Business Infrastructure the Herculean Strength or Achilles’ Heel of Your Growing Company? A White Paper Equilibria, Inc. Page 2 of 15 Disorganization, inconsistency and task redundancy make up the Achilles’ heel of many offices and small businesses alike. In order to enhance your company’s chances of longevity, it is important to first recognize the Achilles’ heels and turn them into Herculean strengths. This white paper explores three common Achilles’ heels of many small businesses: Quicksand Construction, Paperwork Inertia, and the Electronic Abyss. Specific strategies and tips are provided to convert these Achilles’ heels into the Herculean strengths of Concrete Construction, Paperwork Fluidity, and the Electronic Sanctuary. Hercules and Achilles, two celebrated mythical Greek heroes, originated as half-god, half-human beings. However Hercules eventually attained perpetual life by receiving deity status, whereas Achilles remained mortal. What led to their diverse paths? Despite Achilles’ education and training, he was vulnerable because of his heel (Achilles’ goddess mother immersed her son, with the exception of one of his heels, into the Styx River hoping to make him wholly god.) It was on this vulnerable point that he was slain. Hercules, while faced with many challenges and obstacles, chose a life of toil and labor and ultimately achieved immortality. Every small-business owner starts off wanting to conquer challenges and face them head on, but some make it while others do not. The key is to manage your company for success and perpetuity, not short-term fire-fighting. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com
  • 2. Page 3 of 15 Organizational Infrastructure Just as you would never construct a building on quicksand, the same should apply to building your business. Unfortunately, for most small-business owners the concept of business construction is abstract and therefore is much more difficult to visualize. By creating a company organization chart that identifies not just the key players and their departments but their job tasks as well, you will have developed a concrete tool for structuring and managing your company. Strong businesses have a well-defined organizational infrastructure, regardless of the number of employees. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com Page 4 of 15 INFORMATION ACCOUNTING LEGAL TECHNOLOGY HUMAN RESOURCES MARKETING MANAGEMENT You can convert your company’s foundation from quicksand to concrete by following six simple steps: 1. On a sheet of paper, write an exhaustive list of all job tasks that must be performed daily to keep your company running smoothly. This should include everything from returning phone calls to preparing payroll. 2. Next, identify like job tasks. Then, on separate sheets of paper, write down the tasks that can be grouped together: scan receipts, enter information into QuickBooks, pay invoices, mail invoices, etc. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com
  • 3. Page 5 of 15 3. Assign a department name to each group of tasks and write it at the top of each page. Although you may not think of your company in this manner, almost every business has the following types of “departments:” Legal, Accounting/Finance, Sales, Marketing, Operations, Human Resources, and Information Technology. 4. Draw a line underneath the last job task per department page and think of who would be responsible for executing those tasks even if you do not have the staff or outside contractors currently in place. This step is key. 5. Using your computer’s word processing program, type brief job descriptions for each employee or contractor you identified making sure to include those job tasks previously identified in Step 2. 6. Last, assign a color to each department. Color association allows you as well as your existing and future staff members to quickly locate information. Choose colors that make sense to you and your staff. Because green is closely associated with money, it may not be a bad idea to assign green to any accounting or financial related information. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com Page 6 of 15 The end result should be the basis for your newly established organizational infrastructure. You can now use these departments and their associated colors to develop your company’s records management systems. A well-defined organizational infrastructure will answer the following questions: What needs to be done and who will do it? How is my company organized into departments? Which job functions will be outsourced and which will be performed internally (full-time, part-time)? Project time: Depending on the size of your company, you can complete this exercise in approximately a week if you devote about two to four hours per day until completion. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com
  • 4. Page 7 of 15 Paper Records Management System Paperwork, left unattended, can manifest into crowded desktops, overstuffed inboxes, and unnecessary furniture storage. As a small-business owner, you have to work the paper, not let the paper work you! The implications of paperwork inertia can be costly and can even lead to potential legal incriminations. Having a solid paper records management system is the way to ensure that paperwork flows into the proper storage place and that it can easily be retrieved when needed. You can convert your company’s paperwork inertia to paperwork fluidity by following these steps: 1. Write the name of each department of your company (from the organizational infrastructure exercise) at the top of separate sheets of paper. These departments will now become the main categories by which you will group your paperwork. Additional categories may be Hot File, Periodicals, CDs, and Catalogs. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com Page 8 of 15 2. Take inventory of all paperwork. Classify and record information (contracts, business plan, client files, invoices, etc.) onto the appropriate category page. For paperwork that you no longer need, consider shredding or recycling. 3. Using your computer’s word processing or spreadsheet program, type the information in a tabular, outline format where the main heading is the main category. Other columns should include: Naming Convention, Purging Cycle, and Archiving Location. The naming convention determines how paperwork is filed-- under a client’s last name, first name or business name? The purging cycle ensures that documents are reviewed at least once a year to assess their relevance. Determining the archiving location answers the question, can my files be retained in-house or off-site? Small businesses that retain large amounts of paperwork may consider off-site storage for information that does not need to be accessed on a daily basis. Investing in an off-site storage facility for $50 per month is quite cost-effective when compared to renting extra office space. 4. Count the total number of paper files per category to assess the number of materials you will need to create your new system. Consider the type of labeling system you will use. Office supply stores carry templates for file folder labels and tabs. The example below shows a labeling system for color coding files according to the main category and individual paper file names within that category. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com
  • 5. Page 9 of 15 5. Determine the optimal storage solution for your files. Hanging files with file folders that are placed in lockable, fireproof cabinets work well for paper files whereas binders and magazine holders work well for magazines and newspapers. Desktop files can also be used to house current project or Hot File information. 6. Print your paper file outline and share with staff members © Copyright 2008. Equilibria, Inc. responsible for maintaining the system and anyone else who needs access to the system. This will ensure that people know when and where to find information without having to rely on one person. An effective paper records management system will ensure that paper-based information is stored and retrieved quickly, consistently and with little effort. Having information at your fingertips is critical to regulatory compliance and decision making. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com Page 10 of 15 A great paper records management system will answer the following questions: What types of storage units are needed to house the records and what is the process for creating, naming, storing, purging and archiving a document? Who will be responsible for maintaining the system? Which information is public (available to all employees) and which is private (restricted access)? Project time: Depending on the size of your company, completing this task will take about one month to inventory, set up and transfer files for approximately eight file drawers worth of information, provided you are able to devote about two to four hours per day until completion. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com
  • 6. Page 11 of 15 Electronic Records Management System Although a 100% paperless operation may not be realistic, a concentrated effort can certainly be made to substantially reduce the amount of hard copies within your office by instituting an efficient electronic records management system. Along with electronic records storage comes the increased risk of losing data, which means that you must take even more measures for protecting documents in the event of a hard drive failure, fire, flood, or theft. You can establish boundaries for your electronic records management system and avoid falling into an electronic abyss by following these steps: 1. Write the name of each department of your company (from the organizational infrastructure exercise) at the top of separate sheets of paper. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com Page 12 of 15 2. Take inventory of all electronic documents. Check files in networks, hard drives, external hard drives, flash drives, CDs, DVDs, FTP (File Transfer Protocol) servers, and other remote or offsite storage locations. In your search, determine whether or not you need to keep the document. Record the names of files you intend to keep onto the appropriate department page and be sure to record the current location. Delete documents you no longer need; ensure they are also removed from secondary storage locations that deleted items normally transfer to (i.e., the recycle bin or the “Deleted Items” folder in Outlook). 3. Using a word processing or spreadsheet program, type the information into a tabular, outline format where the main heading is the main category. The other columns should include Naming Convention, Purging Cycle, and Archiving Location. 4. Assess the kind of storage equipment you will need by reviewing the number of electronic documents to keep. Depending on the requirements of your company, this may mean setting up a company network or an FTP server. Consider whether or not restricted file access needs to be set up. It is very easy to inadvertently delete a file, change its content, and create several revisions. Restricted file access ensures tighter control over who has both read and write capabilities within your company in accessing information electronically. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com
  • 7. Page 13 of 15 5. Begin setting up the main folders and necessary sub-folders onto the hard drive, network, or FTP server. Using the inventory/outline list that you’ve typed, transfer the electronic documents to their new main folder or sub-folder. 6. Print your electronic file outline and share with your staff members in charge of main- taining electronic files and anyone else who needs access to the new system. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com Page 14 of 15 Depending on the volume of electronic documents your company must retain, you may consider investing in a document imaging software solution. Once your documents are organized and categorized, a document imaging specialist can offer a more permanent, archival storage and protection solution to increase the security and speed in locating your company’s electronic data. A great electronic records management system will answer the following questions: What type(s) of data backup system will you use? Remote? External hard drive? FTP server? What is the process for creating, scanning, naming, storing, purging, and archiving an electronic document and who is responsible for maintenance? What information is sensitive and needs to have restricted access? Which information is public (available to all employees) and which is private? Project time: If your company has roughly 1,000 e-files to inventory, organize, and transfer to one location, you can expect to spend at least one month in setting up your new system, working at least four hours a week. © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com
  • 8. Page 15 of 15 Small-business owners simply cannot thrive without the help of trained staffers and documented systems to facilitate manageable daily operations. This effort to create a rock-solid business infrastructure is a marathon and not a sprint. Only through habitual exercising of the steps mentioned above can your company achieve the golden egg of longevity and become the Hercules of its industry. This white paper, written by Alicia Butler Pierre, originally appeared in the Atlanta Bar Association’s magazine. Alicia is an Efficiency Engineer with Equilibria, Inc. and may be contacted by: Phone: 1.888.636.5999 Web: www.eqbsystems.com LinkedIn: aliciabutlerpierre Twitter: EfficiencyEngr Email: info@eqbsystems.com © Copyright 2008, 2010. Equilibria, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.eqbsystems.com