I was at a business meeting recently where the speaker talked about the power of lists and how they can help improve the efficiency of business operations.
My first response was “duh!” Everyone knows lists can help you stay organized. Then, I began to realize that is the first mistake busy people make regarding lists. You know that you know what to do, so you think you don’t need a list. The problem is you are so busy you forget to do things on your “mental list.”
There is real power in writing down your list of “to do” items and checking them off one by one.
For me, there is a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day to see what I have crossed off the list. So I began to think of the lists every small business owner should have and what should be on them. I started compiling lists in the areas most business owners have the most trouble with on a regular basis.
The accounting list
When thinking of an accounting list, a million items popped in mind and the fact the list will depend upon the business. I just wanted to mention the basics that should be on the list.
First, you will want an accountant who has the technical and communication skills to top your list.
Next, you should include all taxes you need to pay and what date they must be paid. Most businesses have a monthly list of taxes that need to be paid, including sales tax and payroll taxes.
You might need a daily list such as checking your bank account balance, the daily sales, your accounts receivable balance, accounts payable balance, etc.
Human resources list
For those who have employees, you may consider a separate employee file checklist.
The employee file checklist would include a job application and/or resume, a properly filled out I-9, W-4, G-4, Georgia New Hire form, the employee’s hire date, and a signed document that shows they have read necessary company documents such as the employee hand book and performance appraisals, just to name a few.
The social media list
This is a new list for business owners who use social media to communicate with their customers. This list would definitely have to be a daily list.
It would probably go something like this: Check Facebook four times a day, send out a Facebook message once a day, tweet twice a day, check my RSS feed and write or read something for my blog.
A security list
This is a list that business owners rarely think about, but should. This is a long-term list that will help business owners protect their assets.
This could include a variety of items from security systems that monitor the building, insurances that protect assets and employees, credit checks of customers, computer anti-virus software, buy-sell agreements, non-solicitation letters for key employees, disaster preparedness, etc.
Very seldom do owners think in terms of a security list.
In short, creating checklists for you and your employees is a part of creating “good systems” in your business. It’s a way to begin to create a company that will be more readily transferable when you get ready to sell it. Lists allow you to transfer your knowledge or key employees’ knowledge into a format that will help train others, as well as make sure what needs to get done is done.
Lynn Vos is area director of the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at 912-651-3200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.