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The Perfect Pitch

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Organizational Tips

By Patricia L. Fry

People often start a business with a good idea but never achieve their goals because they lack a vital element of success: organizational skills. Meet three successful entrepreneurs who manage to keep their lives and their workplaces organized, and find out just how they do it.

Andrea Gold is president of Gold Stars Speakers Bureau in Tucson, Arizona, a company that provides speakers, celebrities, seminar leaders and consultants to corporations and associations around the world.

Gold has favorite high-tech and low-tech methods of keeping organized. She uses ACT!, a database and contact-management software program from Symantec Corp. that works like a calendar, and she uses a spiral-bound notebook.

"I schedule all my calls, meetings and to-dos on the computer," Gold says. "But business owners must have the discipline to follow through with scheduled calls and actions. If you don't connect with the customer, you don't have a business."

To eliminate the clutter of those paper scraps that plague busy entrepreneurs, Gold suggests recording phone messages, thoughts and other reminders in an ordinary spiral notebook. "It's the most inexpensive, simple and dramatic way I've found to stay organized," Gold says. "If you're looking for something from weeks ago, it's still there. "

Ellen Wessel is co-owner of Moving Comfort, a manufacturer of women's high-performance athleticwear in Chantilly, Virginia.

Wessel uses three basic methods to stay organized. "My life is basically on Pilot," says Wessel, referring to a handheld, computerized organizer from U.S. Robotics she says is many generations beyond the Day-Timer.

According to Wessel, prioritizing is vital to organization. "You may have to micromanage the little tasks, but you need to have a very clear view of your long-term objectives," she says.

Wessel's most difficult organizational challenge is keeping her desktop piles in order. Her remedy? "I throw things out," she says. "I've decided that I don't have to know everything. If it's really important, I'll hear about it. I had to get over the guilt of feeling like I have to read everything that comes to me."

Linda Field is the owner of Field & Associates, a homebased marketing and public relations firm in Houston with two employees.

"I'm more productive if I don't have to witness my backlog in the form of stacked paper," Field admits. "To do my best work, I hide everything in file cabinets except the project at hand. When necessary, I buy more file cabinets."

Field and her employees work from homes she says, for greater productivity. "Our biggest challenge is knowing what the others are doing, and our best organizational tool is ACT!--a contact management program we can synchronize by modem so everyone in the organization has access to the same updated information."

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This article was originally published in the January 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Perfect Pitch.

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