5 Tips for Organizing Your Back Office

Buried in Paperwork with Surrender Flat

Your business is up and running. You’ve got a product customers need, a service customers want. You’ve made some sales, you’ve hired your first employee (or 2nd or 3rd). You’re doing it! But, your back office is a mess. I’m not sure there is a business out there that can say its back office works perfectly. Nothing works perfectly. But, most business owners would probably agree that their back office needs work. Whether it’s getting invoices out on time, organizing and keeping track of receipts and paperwork, keeping up with insurance renewals, or just operating more efficiently, here are 5 tips that can help you improve your back office efficiency.

#1: Set a schedule for everything.

  • Invoice on Mondays
  • Pay bills on Fridays
  • Process Payroll on Tuesdays
  • Count inventory the last day of every month.
  • Review business licenses on the first of every month.

Set a schedule for everything you do in your back office and then stick to it. Do not let a day get away without completing that day’s task (or tasks).

#2: Use a system for tracking your schedule.

Whether it’s a recurring task in your Outlook Calendar, a monthly Excel spreadsheet, or a weekly checklist printed on your desk, set up a system for tracking your processing schedule. This does not need to be elaborate or cost a lot of money, just have a system in place that you can (and will) use for tracking what you are supposed to do and when you are supposed to do it.

#3: Set up a filing system you will stick to.

  • Determine whether it will be in folders, binders, or electronic. Everyone has a preference, so pick what works for you. Don’t try the next big thing – if it’s frustrating for you, you won’t do it.
  • Pick a system that will grow with you. If you want to start with paper folders because that’s the easiest to stick to, set it up so that when you decide to go paperless it will be easy to transition.
  • Be consistent with your files, using standard naming conventions, color coding, etc. For example, if you’re filing customer orders, track by name, date and order number, ABC COMPANY – 8.15.14 – 2014-52. Use the same naming convention for every customer, every time (changing the name of course!)

#4: File away every day!

Whether it’s electronic copies, documents in paper folders or binders, file everything away as you complete the task or as you complete the process.

  • Finish your invoicing on Monday, file invoices Monday
  • Pay your bills on Friday, file bills Friday.
  • Don’t get behind – you will never get caught up!

#5: Write up procedures for everything. 

  • Your schedule
  • How you process
  • When you process
  • How you file
  • Where you file

When you hire help for your back office, procedures will ensure everything runs efficiently during transition. Just because you write it down, doesn’t mean you can’t change it. Review, rewrite and update as necessary.

If you set up a system that fits your business and then stick to it, you’ll see improvements nearly immediately in your back office. You may never get to perfect, but any improvement is better than where you start!