Does it seem to you as if you see a lot of articles about decluttering your home? Have you seen articles for Boomers about the concept of death-cleaning done early and often? Or those about decluttering your business – usually around the new year? Still, few of us deal with our files and storage and stuffed desks unless forced to do so. I just spent some time watching a small business forced into such a ‘clean up’ by an unexpected relocation. It was tough and it was painful. Who knew that there were files from 10-12 years ago in so many places?

Disorganization costs you time – and money.

Sure, it is hard to take the time to fix your systems. This is not exciting work but it can be critical. Get it scheduled a little at a time and move forward.

You need a solid filing system, automatic back-ups, and some external resources to cover your data and info if your system fails. I know that, you know that. But several years ago my own system failed and the back-ups were old and I did not have the data for my online software subscriptions handy.

Do it yourself or hire some help to get your systems organized. Install those malware/virus programs and set them up to run regularly.

Be sure to talk with your accountant soon, if you have not already, about the many new tax law changes which will impact your business this year.

Every business, however small, needs a system, whether a simple book-keeping application or a more complex one. But you also need to understand and use it. Go for training. Or hire someone to help you set up your own chart of accounts and understand what your system can do for your business. Your ability to manage your cash flow is critical to your success.

And your tax returns are far easier with a good system. So is your planning!

Yet… last month it was a long-time owner whose bank account was overdrawn before he realized he had not seen his book-keeper much and his employee was not entering things correctly. Before that it was a CEO who had not made payroll on time – again; but thought employees should understand good intentions! And don’t even ask me what happens to firms which do not pay employee tax withholdings on time – think locked doors, seized bank accounts.

Employees and Freelancers:
How are you hiring and paying for services your business needs? Do you have employees? Independent contractors? Contractors or consultants? Interns?

Tax laws as well as labor laws contain a lot of traps if you do not pay attention to what you are doing when you bring in the help you need. Often solopreneurs and small organizations hire extra help or expertise on an ‘as needed’ basis. Check out IRS guidance here: IRS info for small-businesses/self-employed

Make a schedule to clear up your office or workspaces. If you have employees, get everyone involved. Go for casual dress and bring in pizza to help.

Do I really need both paper files and computer files on every client since I started my business over 20 years ago? No, but until recently I had them.  Do you have a similar issue?  Clear it out.  For stuff you simply do not need anymore – whether equipment or supplies – donate to a non-profit or offer via Freecycle.

If you need to keep files for certain periods, which all of us must, then make sure you have them in a format you can access. This may mean electronic access updated to current formats for older materials. Or it may be that you should note on each box of ‘stuuf’ when it can be disposed of.

What’s in desk drawers? Closets? File or other cabinets?

I had a small business client who filled an entire dumpster and freed up space to sublet! You could use yours to expand.

None of this seems fun. Much of it may be hidden enough you can ignore it for now. Still a good purging of all these areas and traps is a smart summer project to help your business thrive!