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SCORE's Top Office Management Tips

Keep your office running smoothly by following SCORE's office management advice.

5 Ways on Setting Priorities

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Realize that you can't do everything. This will help you to realistically prioritize your tasks.
  5. Determine if postponing the task would affect other projects you're 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.

5 Tips for Successful Debt Collections

  1. Assume that most people are honest and want to pay you. Treat customers with respect during the collection process.
  2. Try to find out why a customer isn't paying. Has he fallen on hard times--a lost job or ill health? Or, is he withholding payment because your product was faulty or your service was poor?
  3. Keep a customer's total payment history in mind. If she has paid on time over the years, don't jump on her with a collection call the first time she's late.
  4. Be a good listener. When you understand the situation, you can come up with solutions that'll help the customer get you paid.
  5. Remember that friendliness will help a customer want to pay you first.

5 Tips on Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

  1. Be aware that, in a small or family-owned , special favors to family members and friends de-motivate employees and set a bad example.
  2. Think twice about offering a contract to a supplier who is a relative. Award contracts on merit.
  3. Avoid letting family members borrow company vehicles, and don't allow your sister to ask the company computer wizard to set up her .
  4. 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.
  5. Think of the future. If you hope to seek investors or go public, dealings with family members outside the business will be questioned.

5 Tips on Choosing a Location for Your Business

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

5 Tips on Creating an Office Where You Can Work

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

5 Tips on Good Vendor Relationships

  1. Get to know your suppliers. Use new technology for communication, but don't forget the personal touch of a phone conversation.
  2. Consider your vendors as a part of your team and treat them as such.
  3. Make sure they understand your needs and expectations.
  4. Show appreciation for good service or for a new product that's just right for you.
  5. Pay on time. If you can't, let your vendors know right away and work out a payment plan. That's when knowing them personally will be invaluable.

5 Tips on Becoming More Efficient

  1. Don't start your office organizing by shopping for containers. Survey what files and books you need to store, measure them, then go to the store.
  2. File, Act or Toss papers and e-mails instead of letting them pile high on your desk. You should be able to make a decision immediately as papers cross your desk.
  3. Take advantage of electronic devices such as e-mail, PDAs and database file management to categorize work.
  4. Choose the calendar system that's best for your organizational style, and stick with it. If it's computer-based, back up, back up, back up!
  5. Manage your time ruthlessly. In a sense, it's what you're selling.

5 Tips on How to Be Sure You're Adequately Insured

  1. Assess your company's needs. Property-casualty coverage isn't enough. Consider a broad range of coverage, from business interruption and consequent loss of revenue to product liability and wrongful termination.
  2. Shop around. Ask several agents to evaluate your insurable risks and listen to their ideas.
  3. Don't buy on price alone. Check or your library for the insurance provider's standing with A.M. Best Co., a company that rates insurers.
  4. When you're expanding, ask your agent if you need an endorsement to your policy.
  5. Search the internet for more small-business insurance information. A good place to start is , the site of the Independent Insurance Agents of .

5 Tips on How to Stop the Work Pile-Up

  1. Discard old magazine, books and articles. The information is probably stale by now anyway.
  2. Maintain a list of sources (actual and potential) by topic. If you need the information again, you can contact your source and get updated information.
  3. Minimize duplicates of documents. Keep the original in a plastic sleeve to prevent damage and one copy on hand for easy circulation.
  4. Keep files current. Retain only the final version of letters and proposals. After all, the old versions primarily contained material you decided not to use!
  5. Streamline supplies. Get rid of bulky, space-taking supplies you don't use. Post a list of basic supplies on the inside drawer or cabinet door to remind you of what you do need.

5 Tips on Equipment

  1. Keep in mind that leasing equipment instead of buying it can help you manage your company without tying up funds needed for working capital. You can use the equipment to make while you're paying for the lease.
  2. Use leasing to help you meet objectives that might otherwise be out of reach. Instead of giving a deserving employee a raise, one cash-strapped entrepreneur instead more cheaply leased a new car for the employee.
  3. Be aware that monthly payments are often tax deductible and may offer a larger tax break than you would get if the equipment were depreciated.
  4. Do the math. Leasing is a form of borrowing, and usually the interest rate is higher than that of a commercial bank.
  5. To find a lessor, look in the Yellow Pages under "Equipment Leasing" or "Leasing Services." Some banks offer leasing services.

5 Tips on Paying Yourself

  1. Don't pay yourself so much that you cripple your company or so little that you trigger scrutiny and penalties.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

5 Tips on Preparing for Disaster Recovery

  1. Recognize that your business can suffer a . Small businesses the world over have been affected by disasters such as , tornadoes, floods, , tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and fire.
  2. 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.
  3. Have adequate insurance. You'll need coverage not only for property damage and loss (including inventory), but also for business interruption.
  4. 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.
  5. Don't forget your computer system. Keep backup programs and duplicate records (accounts receivable, client information, and the like) at a different, safe site.

Brought to you by SCORE , "Counselors to America's ."

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