Is there a reception area and quite a few office spaces where you work, or is it a small office with just one room? Regardless of the size of your office, when a client comes to visit, he or she is seeing a side of who you are as a business person. If your office is neat and organized, that says something about you. If it is in total disarray, it says something completely opposite.
Many times I hear people say "I work best this way, I know where everything is"?¿ or "I hate to file, I save that task for last."?¿ A client will look at your work habits and decide if this is the way you are going to handle their business. Co-workers will become very resentful if they have to pick up the slack because you aren´t carrying your weight by letting the filing that everyone accesses pile up.
Recently, I stopped by an insurance agency to sign some documents. This agency is owned and operated by one person. The office is very small, with one room and probably a storage room and bathroom in the back. Located in a very nice area of town, there is great potential for walk-in traffic. However, there is one huge problem"?¦I could not even walk without stepping over piles of papers, books, and even toys — and this is not an exaggeration. There were half-dead plants on the bookshelves where the books on the floor should have been. I noticed piles of paperwork everywhere and I honestly wondered how she even stayed in business with her current clients, much less take on any new business.
The agent apologized several times during our meeting for being so slow because she had trouble locating some of the documents I was there to sign. I was on my lunch hour and what should have taken only a few minutes took well over an hour. The reason for her messy office was that she needed help and hadn´t made the effort to look for anyone yet. This is such an inefficient way to run a business and it does not leave a positive impression on clients.
There are several things one can do immediately, and at a relatively low cost, in order to make an office look presentable (even if you have underlying cleanup to do) to clients. Whether you have a one-room office or several offices with a reception area, when a client steps through that door, the atmosphere should be inviting. Aesthetically speaking, there should be absolutely no notes or photos taped to the walls, this is what bulletin boards and frames are for. On the front desk, there should be nothing more than a telephone, a computer, and perhaps a plant — that´s it! The trashcan should be hidden underneath the desk and cords should be tucked away from sight.
There should be nothing on the floor, period. This means no boxes full of archived files, no computer parts, nothing. Take everything that is within view of the front office and box it up until you have time to go through it.
My suggestion for catching up on past due filing and staying caught up is that you hire a high school or college student who is eager to make a few extra dollars. This is not only good experience for the student, but it will relieve you of the burden. I do not suggest that you spend your private weekend time working at the office unless it is only initially in order to get organized.
Later on, I will go into further detail on specific organization techniques. For now, just pick up the phone and call your college student neighbor"?¦you´ll be glad you did!
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
~ Thomas Alva Edison