Have you ever found yourself struggling to find things in your work car/truck, having trouble remembering what job was next, or forgetting to check in with customers about payments or estimates? This post is for you.
Disorganization harms your business
There are all kinds of small ways your business can be harmed when you're disorganized. But there are a few major impacts you'll want to avoid.
Slows down your jobs
Finding tools and supplies for each job takes time, and is one of the easiest things to overlook when you're estimating how much time you'll spend on a job. It's so easy to make several trips to your vehicle looking for something, or digging through bins, buckets, or tool boxes, or even making several trips to a hardware or supply store, that most service businesses don't even count that as time on the job. That time adds up, however, and it multiplies when you have help on the job. If you know the most about your work and your jobs, and you spend 5 minutes looking for something you need, how long do you think it'll take the less experienced people who are helping you? You should always keep your vehicles, tools, and supplies organized so nobody is wasting time finding what they need to get work done.
Leaves a bad impression on your customers
There aren't many things that'll make a customer question their decision to work with you more than a lack of professionalism. When you're struggling to find your supplies and tools, or if you're always late to appointments, or if you just don't seem to have it all together, customers pick up on this. If a customer sees constant slow-downs getting things done because you're looking for some tool or piece of hardware to complete a task, they're going to worry about being billed for that time. If they take time out of their daily schedule to be available for you to show up for a job, and you don't make it on time—especially if it's multiple times for the same job—your customers will care. When you don't seem to have your thoughts already organized before you're discussing what needs to be done with a job, they're going to notice. All these things add up to how your customers judge you as a professional. Sure, they need help and have asked you to provide a service. But that doesn't mean they want you there for dinner. They want you in and out so they can get back to their lives. Even when you get the job done, if it's been a disorganized process that created frustration for the customer, they'll remember.
When a friend asks your customer for a recommendation of a landscaper, pressure washer, handyman, or whatever your business offers, you don't want them to say, "He got the job done, but it was a mess and unprofessional."
Your best bet is to be as professional and as organized as you can be. Customers will notice, and they'll recommend you to others based on their experience.
That out-of-control feeling
One of the greatest things about running your own business is that you're the boss. You call the shots, make the decisions, pick the jobs, and set the hours. Working in a messy environment, or having that feeling in your gut that things are out of control should are signs that things aren't very well organized. If you frequently find you don't know which customer has paid, what appointment is coming up next, or what jobs need customers to approve an invoice so you can get to work and earn an income, it won't be long before you hate running your business. Avoid that feeling by keeping organization of the entire business a priority.
So what can you do to fix it?
The good thing about there being a lot of disorganized people out there is that all the organized people are constantly trying to help them get organized. So thankfully, there's a lot of advice floating around. We've gathered some up, and tossed in a couple of our own ideas on how to keep you organized.
You have to commit
The most important thing we've learned ourselves and heard from our customers is that you have to commit to being organized. One slip up will lead to another, and another, and another. There are no excuses. Get your mindset right, and be prepared to treat organization as a constant work-in-progress.
Find the time to do it
Once you've got your head in the right place, you'll need to find the time to do it. Slow seasons or rainy days are great opportunities to spend time trying to figure out how best to organize your tools, machinery, and supplies. Simply taking the time to put everything back in its place when you're done helps keep yourself organized daily. It's easy to rush packing up after a job at the end of a long day—you throw everything in the back of the truck, or dump it all in the trunk, because you're ready to get out of there. Don't do it. Fight that urge, and you'll thank yourself later.
This one is hard for a lot of people. Sometimes the answer is as simple as spending money on an extra bin, toolbox, cord wrap, or something else that keeps your tools and supplies clean and organized. Invest in modular organization and small parts organizers. If you're in a construction trade, or just handy yourself, you can save money by handling some of it yourself. Work vans are a great example of this:
Ask for help
Sometimes when you're naturally disorganized and you've been working that way for so long, you can't easily think of better ideas for getting yourself and your work organized. Ask a partner, employee, spouse, significant other, sibling, or parent to help. They may have some out of the box ideas you wouldn't have thought of. At the very least, it's an extra helping hand to get organized!
Research what others are doing
If you have friends in the industry, ask them how they handle keeping things organized. YouTube is a great resource for inspiration and help. Don't be afraid to comment on videos or ask questions. Your industry might have an online community you can ask for advice, too. For example, lawnsite.com has a "Trucks and Trailers" forum that stays active with landscapers talking about their setups and how they keep them organized.
Keep the office organized too
Most of what we've talked about up until this point has been about organizing your gear and supplies. You shouldn't stop there. Keeping the back office organized is just as important—and when you're running a business, it's even more important.
Keep up with your customer info
If you're not using software to track customers, you probably should be. Keeping up with customer contact info, job information, and notes are essential to a small business. You simply can't keep it all in your head, and when you need it, you really need it. WorkWeek makes customer and job management easy, but there are plenty of other tools out there that get the job done. Find one, and start using it. And don't stop.
It's not uncommon to find service professionals that have totally forgotten to bill a client for a job. Don't let this be you. Software and apps are great at this, and if you choose a tool that offers reminders, it can take a huge weight off your shoulders. WorkWeek has you covered here, too—past due invoice reminders are automatically sent out directly to your customers until they pay for the job, so you don't have to remember to bug them for payment. We make it even easier for your customers to pay promptly with online credit card payments that are deposited right into your bank account.
Don't carry a day planner
Day planners were great before the advent of those tiny little computers we carry around in our pockets every day. Today, they're just not as useful as other tools. Imagine having everything in your planner, and leaving it on the roof of the car, or in the back of the truck—you'll be completely out of luck if something happens to it. Nobody makes a backup of their paper day planner. Schedule your jobs with software—yeah, WorkWeek helps you there, as well—and you'll easily be able to know what's coming up today, next week, this month, and however far in the future you schedule appointments. You can even use that info to send quick text reminders to your clients about an upcoming appointment.
We hope we've offered some helpful tips and advice on how to organize your service business from top to bottom. If you have any tips for us, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear them!