One of the most useful tools for a new business owner is the planner. If you are starting up a new store or business, buy a simple notebook (one with pockets and dividers), and save yourself needless worry and disorganization. This notebook will become your bible so carry it with you at all times. Whether you are in a meeting with your contractor or with your accountant, you will have the necessary information at your fingertips. Remember, that disorganization can lead to missed deadlines, and missed deadlines will cost you extra money.
Organization is crucial, since there are a myriad of tasks to complete for any business start-up. First, divide the notebook into sections. To keep track of details, you will need a separate section for each of the following: Finances and Registrations; Suppliers; Trade Shows; Marketing; Staffing; Store Layout; Inventory Plan; Merchandising; and Office and Storage Area. You will also require a section that contains a calendar or “week at a glance.” If the notebook is equipped with pockets, you can file brochures, design samples, measurements and the store’s layout plan.
Next, transfer pertinent contacts, addresses, and telephone numbers to your planner, and include your bank, accountant, contractor, small business development office, realtor or landlord, suppliers, City Hall, utilities, and the local media.
Now, you should complete check-lists for each of the sections. Check-lists are invaluable, and will prioritize your “to-do” lists. (For example, there is no point in requesting a merchant services account, if you have not set up a business account at a bank.) Under the “Finances” section, the check-list might include:
- Secure capital (that is, secure money!) – Visit Bank; See Loans Officer and bring along your business plan.
- Seek alternative funding – Cash in RRSPs; Use credit cards; Solicit family; Re-mortgage house.
- Open a business/commercial account at bank, and order cheques.
- Open a Merchant Services Account. You may need two accounts.
- Apply for Business Registration; Name Registration; Business License.
- Visit insurance companies.
- Hire an accountant.
You will find that your check-lists may change from one day to the next; nevertheless, the check-lists will assist you in the overall plan. Check-lists keep you focused and on track. Add timelines and deadlines to the “week at a glance” calendar, and you will find that you can: schedule meetings ahead of time; complete research ahead of time; prepare answers for your contractor ahead of time; and maybe, complete projects while waiting for the electrician to arrive at your business.
Most importantly, if you feel overwhelmed with the dozens of tasks that loom ahead, concentrate on one section of your start-up and tackle one task at a time. Don’t fret about upcoming challenges, but focus on the task at present.
The most important benefit of creating and maintaining the business planner is that the process itself both organizes and teaches you how to operate a business. Because that is what a small business owner does – prioritizes dozens of tasks, schedules appointments, makes decisions. At the end of the day, instead of being overwhelmed at the long list of challenges ahead, focus on the long list of accomplishments and the many tasks that you have completed!
A simple notebook will save you time and money. A simple notebook will ensure that you do not miss deadlines. A simple notebook will ensure that you become an organized, focused, and confident business owner. A simple notebook can save your sanity!