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How to declutter your small business operations

Editorial Team

7 min read
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Happy New Year from Clover! It’s that time of year when it’s traditional to examine past performance and lay out goals to help your business thrive and grow in the year to come. Periodically evaluating and refreshing your business strategy can help keep you sharp, identify consumer trends, and stay ahead of the competition.

This is a great time to focus on how to revitalize different aspects of your business, starting with your business operations. How can you streamline and declutter your operations to run more efficiently?

Marie Kondo’s popular Konmari decluttering method entered the zeitgeist in 2016 and continues to clear out closets and spark joy in homes around the world. Konmari isn’t the only decluttering approach: the Minimalist Game, the Four Box Method, and the Packing Party are a few others that all aim to help individuals get rid of “stuff.” While these methods were originally designed to declutter the home, merchants can apply the same basic principles to running a business.

The turn of the decade, after a busy holiday rush, is a great moment to expand your usual business analytics with a value-driven approach to running a tight ship. Reflect on what inspired you to start the business, reconnect with your passion, and take steps to make any changes you need to going forward into the new decade.

How do you streamline in business?

Streamlining in business is a bit different from cleaning out the closets in your home. The goal of evaluating different areas of your operations is to apply the principles of decluttering to run your business more efficiently and remove friction points that cause stress throughout your workday.

The basic rules of decluttering vary by method, but there is one overarching principle. Instead of deciding what to get rid of, decide what it is you want to keep. Gregg Schwartz at Forbes encourages you to go back to your original vision for the business: “If you had to design your sales funnel today for the first time, starting from zero, what would it look like? How long has it been since you updated your sales call scripts, your company mission statement, or your elevator pitch?”

Through this lens, you can decide what systems, practices, and tools are working well—and where you need to reevaluate. Maybe your payroll system creates more headaches than it solves. Or maybe your logo no longer represents the brand you’ve grown into. Every part of your business is on the table, from how you organize your stock room to the uniforms your employees wear. Throughout this process, take a step back and ask, “How does this help me get my job done?”

5 Steps to Decluttering Your Business

Ready to dive in? Start with these five steps to clean up your operations and find pleasure in running your business.

1. Create a process.

Start organizing by… getting organized. Begin by deciding on the goals and priorities for your overhaul. Identify the areas of your business you feel can be improved and set the order in which you are going to approach each challenge. Think about your biggest pain points in a typical business day. If you’re a retailer, you might consider your inventory management, floorplan, staff scheduling, and payroll, as well as your e-commerce site.

2. Visualize the endpoint.

What does success look like at the end of this process? Possible goals might include: less time spent on payroll, an easier way to communicate with employees, or better inventory management. A salon owner, for instance, may look at her original vision for the business and recognize that she’s spending too much time managing appointments, and not enough time getting to know her clients. Her original vision for opening the space involved creating a community where stylists and their customers could socialize, exchange beauty tips, and destress during appointments. Instead, she’s spending too much time sending appointment reminders, scheduling her staff, and billing.

Reverse engineer how to achieve your goal before getting your hands dirty with the work of actual change. Do your research—the solution could be as simple as adding Schedule by Homebase to your Clover POS. Or, it could be more involved, like changing your store hours or launching a loyalty program. Put every solution on the table before taking action.

3. Dive deeper into your business.

Whatever you do, be as thorough as possible. If you’re going to evaluate your payroll, evaluate every single aspect of your payroll before moving on to something else. This includes—reporting, accounting, hourly scheduling, taxes, and anything else connected with your payroll system. The biggest danger in starting this kind of overhaul is doing 85% of a task and then stopping. It can leave businesses in a lurch, customers stranded without their desired products, and employees confused. Seeing your tasks through is crucial to the success of this process.

4. Do you still love it?

Take stock of your emotional connection to certain areas of your business. Reflect on why you started this venture in the first place. Most small businesses are a labor of love: tap back into that feeling to fuel your motivation and continue to serve your customers well. As you streamline try to do so with positivity. It may mean you end partnerships with certain vendors; if that’s the case, do so with gratitude, thanking each vendor for growing with you this far. “Whether you’re cutting ties with a client who is no longer a good fit, getting rid of an outdated brochure, or changing some aspect of how you do business, be grateful for what you’ve discarded and be thankful for any new opportunities,” writes Forbes.

5. Tidy by category.

Declutter experts recommend you tidy by category: clothing, paper, or kitchenware, for example. In your business, this applies to specific business practices. Payroll and reporting is a good place to start, as finances tend to be a common source of stress and profit-loss. Scheduling is also a good one, as few business owners find pleasure in organizing staff schedules.

Let’s say a doctor’s office is trying to reduce the long waiting time patients face when visiting a clinic. The office manager might add new communications and scheduling tools to make it easy to bring in doctors who are on call. Or, they might dive into appointment analytics to see how long, on average, a patient spends with their caregiver. Clover’s reporting and analytics tools can offer deeper insight into where time is lost throughout the day, and how to make it easier to schedule more efficiently.

A clothing store might be having trouble managing their inventory. The store owner could look at their store layout to see if it’s easy for customers to find what they’re looking for. They might dive into their ordering schedule to see if they’re ordering too frequently or in the wrong quantity. Or, it might take re-organizing the stockroom to make it easier for employees to keep inventory moving and meet customer demand. Go through every step in the process to find ways of improving the sales process, create upsell opportunities, and reduce waste.

Summary

Decluttering your business is a great way to get focused and drive better business results. It allows you to reconnect with the passion that inspired you to start this venture in the first place. And, the process of streamlining helps ensure you continue to grow sustainably for years to come. The goal is to find joy in your business: as the cliche goes, do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

Decluttering is a practice that can—and should—be iterative. If you can’t get all of this done at once, not to worry. Revisit what inspired you to start the process throughout the year and make adjustments to keep your business running like a well-oiled machine. Stay tuned for more posts about how to refresh, rethink, redesign, and reconsider your business as we enter the new year. Happy decluttering!

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