Spring Cleaning Your Business

One of the origins of the annual spring cleaning has been traced back to the Jewish custom linked to Passover when families would remove any yeast bread from their homes as part of the celebration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt. In Western culture, the practice was more practical than processional. People welcomed the warm temperatures and longer days of spring by cleaning the soot and grime that collected in their homes during the long, cold winters. The annual rite has moved to the workplace and now spring cleaning your business is a good idea for many of the same reasons, and here are some expert tips that are a great place to start.

Start with Your Workspace

Before the digital revolution, spring cleaning your business meant cleaning out your paper files and filling trash cans – or recyclable containers – with dated or unneeded reports, letters, sticky notes and spreadsheets. Even though most of those documents are now stored on computer files, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) says it’s still a good idea to ditch those old items. It’s part of cleaning your workspace and can free up valuable computer storage space.

Cleaning out your digital space should also extend to ridding yourself of unneeded or unused internet sites or accounts. Over the course of a year, anyone who works online accumulates varying amounts of saved emails, favorite links or saved downloads. Spring is the perfect time to clear out that old stuff and make room for the new fiscal year.

“We set aside time to do both a physical and digital spring cleaning. Purging our office and re-organizing work spaces and storage closets leads to a more productive work environment. Digitally organizing, deleting and archiving files and folders that are no longer used removes clutter and allows for more efficient work. Un-enrolling your email from lists is a great way to spring clean your inbox,” Leila Lewis, of Be Inspired PR, tells the Huffington Post.

Starting with your workspace, both physical and digital, is a great way to start spring cleaning your business because it’s something everybody can do on their own and to their own standards. It’s also a good idea to tackle something that is easily achievable. In GoDaddy.com’s spring cleaning tips for small businesses, Tom Rankin, a staff writer at WordCandy, suggests taking on “one tiny problem” first to get the dust ball rolling.

Fluff Up Your Image

While you’re deleting old documents, it’s probably not a bad idea to consolidate those you need to keep and refresh those you use regularly. Stagnation in any business can take root by never changing regularly used company documents. While clients, contractors and customers may appreciate the character and stability of your business, giving your company documents a good fluffing every now and then is a good idea, especially when those templates are decades old. A new look on letterhead, invoices and contracts can enliven your company’s image for both customers and employees.

A corporate makeover of documents or image isn’t necessary each spring, but Entrepreneur.com suggests it’s not a bad idea for companies to freshen their appeal. This could include updating corporate colors or logos, or breathing new life into a staid mission statement. This is particularly pertinent to companies that are expanding or beginning to serve new markets.

Streamline Your Processes

While you’re cleaning your digital world, it’s probably not a bad time to consider removing any old work processes that are costing time and money. Consider automating inventory control, ordering, accounts receivable and payable, marketing and social media management. Dynamic digital business partners can provide solutions to automate all those activities which frees up retailers to spend more time with their customers.

“I think that things change quite rapidly, and if you don’t look at the business as a whole on a yearly basis, it will get stale,” Pam Greene, co-founder of Klamath Falls, Oregon-based Amcom Tax and Accounting, suggests to the NFIB. “It’s also a time to re-evaluate procedures. We do a procedural spring cleaning and see if anything needs to be updated.”

Streamlining can include everything from digitizing more of your documents to rid yourself of so much paper, to reorganizing physical work spaces that make sales floors or stockrooms safer and more habitable. Retailers who have expanded their businesses to offer new products or serve new clients could benefit from reorganizing their shelves in both their stores and storerooms.

Remove the unnecessary meetings from your calendars and reprioritize your time. You can even consolidate meetings if they can’t be removed. Whatever you do, just don’t let your calendar impact productivity.

Renato Libric

Founder and CEO, Bouxtie Inc.

“As we continue to grow, we are acquiring more and more production inventory. Much of this is spread out in several storage facilities, which gets logistically inefficient and expensive. We are now consolidating and organizing our inventory more effectively. The organization extends to our production vehicles, adding new wraps and installing desired tools for efficiency on site at productions,” Justin Lefkovitch, of Mirrored Media and the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), tells the Huffington Post.

While you’re considering streamlining and spring cleaning your business, it’s a good time to study time management. Doing a deep dive on where employees are spending most of their time can reveal inefficiencies and allow you to eliminate or adjust processes. A survey conducted by Harris Poll shows that U.S. employees at large companies spend only 45% of their time on primary job duties. Those employees spend 14% of their time monitoring email which 91% of the respondents use to communicate with their teams.

Sometimes streamlining includes eliminating unnecessary meetings. Often weekly get-togethers that begin with good intentions mushroom into a series of meetings that can consume a day. Productivity can be gained by trimming the meeting schedule.

“It seems like meetings start to pile up throughout the year. Every new project somehow turns into a weekly call, meeting or update. Remove the unnecessary meetings from your calendars and reprioritize your time. You can even consolidate meetings if they can’t be removed. Whatever you do, just don’t let your calendar impact productivity,” says Renato Libric, of Bouxtie Inc. and the YEC.

A regular checkup of your computer systems’ security protocols can save more than money. According to a Verizon 2017 Data Breach Investigation Report, 61% of data breaches in the United States hit smaller businesses. That figure was an 8% increase over 2015.

A UPS Capital report adds that:

Cyberattacks cost small businesses between $84,000 and $148,000

60% of small businesses fold within six months of an attack

90% of small businesses don’t use data protection for company and customer information

Check Your Locks

Much like changing a smoke alarm battery when daylight saving time turns to standard time, the annual business spring cleaning is a good time to inspect and, if necessary, invest in security systems. Without an up-to-date system, your store or company could be at a variety of risks.

Reorganize Your Work and Workers

Just about every do-it-yourself show on television nowadays offers tips on how to re-use and repurpose items you might have around the house into new and useful goods. While you’re considering altering your business processes, you might consider repositioning employees into jobs that better fit their skills or nature. Some of them might consider reassignment a fresh change of pace and an opportunity to better use their skills.

The annual renewal that spring brings to nature – blooming flowers and greening grasses – is also a good time to help your employees blossom by learning new skills or sharpening those they already have. Offering training seminars or time off to attend college classes can be a way to bring new energy to your business.

Spring cleaning your business can also include bringing on contractors or business solution partners who can offer a fresh perspective on your business and market. They can provide suggestions on how to better operate, or give you organizational or management tools that make doing business easier.

Rankin suggests “throwing an outsider” at your business to either simplify your processes or give you third-party feedback on how you might work smarter.

“Whether it’s bookkeeping chores, fulfilling an order, or dealing with customer support, get an outsider into your business and try and talk them through a task. Simply explaining your approach to common processes out loud is guaranteed to highlight weak points in execution, and the external feedback you get will identify easy wins you might never have thought of alone,” he writes.

Chelsea Moore, founder of BoxFox and YEC member, says hiring contractors or consultants, allows her to focus on the parts of her business that she enjoys. That means farming out certain aspects of her business to experts in those fields.

“Focus on what you’re great at (for me, that’s driving the big-picture vision of the company), and keep a clear head to go in and do that every day. Properly run business ops are key to growth, but it’s also key to know what you don’t know, and not waste your energy trying to fake it,” she tells Forbes.com.

There are many ways to get customer feedback. Highly digitized businesses can seek opinions through online surveys or internet and social media posts. An old school solution is adding a suggestions box at the checkout counter. Retailers can utilize the time they save by automating and streamlining their business by getting out from behind the counter and rubbing shoulders with customers.

Get a Clue from Your Customers

Along with seeking a fresh perspective from consultants, it’s a good idea to talk to the people whose opinion of your business means the most – your customers. Over time, retailers become a bit myopic about their stores, seeing them from the single perspective. Getting out from behind the cash register and seeing your business through a customer’s eyes can open your eyes to things that are both good and bad about your operation.

Get Your Hands Dirty

No matter how much you spring clean your business behind the scenes, getting out onto the sales floor or into the stockroom provides a view of how customers see your business. This can lead to everything from simple cleaning to reorganization of stock or departments.

Hardware Retailing has some suggestions on how to shape up your sales floor.

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Grab a rag.

Merchandise that’s dirty or sun-bleached isn’t very attractive.

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It’s spring. Get outside.

Utilize outdoor spaces to stage merchandise and make sure they’re clean before displays are created.

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Bathroom break.

Make sure your restrooms are kept tidy. Although it may not seem like much of a marketing tool, having clean restrooms can help keep shoppers shopping longer.

However you choose to celebrate the season, spring cleaning your business is a good way to start.

Brian Bullock

Author