Pay yourself with peace of mind Print
Written by Charlene Wiggs   
Wednesday, 04 November 2015 02:35 PM America/New_York

Smart organization and time management mean less stress

CharleneWiggs-TheMastersMercantile (2)Retailers always want more time and money. The good news is that with organization and time management, you can have both. You will be able to spend more time with your customers, have better-trained employees, get your bills paid and experience less stress. How do you make this ideal a reality? Start with being deliberate in how you spend your time.

Begin your day an hour or two before the store opens. Even if you have a small staff and you spend a great deal of time working, this will give you some uninterrupted time to work on the business.

Organize your office space so that everything has a home. Looking for misplaced items is a time-waster! By starting the day with a clean workspace, you can move into the business of selling right away.

Keep in mind that email can be a significant time consumer. I recommend checking email at the beginning of the day, after lunch and at the end of the day.

Run errands on the way to your store and on the way home. Don’t leave the store to take the deposit to the bank or buy toilet paper. When you do leave the store, it should be for lunch to refuel!

Make sure everything—from the smallest task to the largest—gets scheduled. I use a planner our local newspaper gave out for free. It has large, lined squares where I can put my daily to-dos and check them off as completed. This planner is just for my tasks. Many people would rather put tasks in Outlook or on a smartphone app like OneNote or Evernote, and personal preference allows for any of these options.

Set deadlines for tasks and projects. Projects that have no expected completion date usually don’t get finished or even started! Also, although it is sometimes necessary, if you add unscheduled tasks, then tasks that were already scheduled may not get finished on time.

Group your tasks by category:

1. Focused time. Aim to accomplish certain tasks when there is no possibility of interruption. Focused time can be spent on  tasks such as creating your marketing calendar, planning promotions, working on employee reviews and planning purchases. This work can be done off-site if possible or in your store office as long as your employees know not to interrupt with phone calls or questions.

I highly recommend that the main buyer enter and pay the bills during focused time. Even if you have a bookkeeper, work with him so you see the actual dollars going out of your store. This will curb unnecessary spending. When I started keying all the invoices into QuickBooks and printing the checks, I reduced my inventory spending by $35,000 in nine months.

2. Flexible time. This time is spent on projects like building orders in your POS, returns, displays, training, receiving, cycle counting, vendor appointments and phone calls. This is not time spent with customers.

3. Floor time. This time is scheduled for you to work on the floor with your customers. Don’t make phone calls or do flex projects during this time. You are the face of your store, so it is very important to build relationships with your customers.

Along with grouping your tasks in this way, put them on white boards in the following categories:

Ordering schedules. This includes electronic and faxed/emailed schedules. Employees will be able to view when product is coming in for special orders and restocks. This will limit questions the staff needs to ask and save time in ordering.

Recurring tasks and employee assignments. These are tasks such as cleaning the bathroom and windows.

Projects. These include holiday planning and displays, resetting fixtures and carpet cleaning.

Special events. Author signings and workshops are examples of special events.

Shopping lists. Take a picture of your whiteboard at the end of the day so you can pick up needed supplies on the way into work the next day.

Catalogs. Keep vendor catalogs under the back counter in alphabetical order so you can always find them easily.

Communication log. Keep a small notebook with you or jot ideas into your smartphone as you think of them. Check  your communication log often so the task can move to the corresponding task list.

Returns. Other than the fourth quarter, make it a practice to handle returns every week. Put all vendors on your schedule so that their returns get done once every three months. This practice also frees up cash.

Cycle counts. Count product categories throughout the year instead of once or twice a year in an entire store inventory. Cycle counting can be done during the normal workday instead of during off hours. On-hand quantities tend to stay more accurate because product is counted more often. Incorrect inventory can lead to lost sales.

Since implementing these strategies at my store, I am more organized and less stressed, and my employees are as well. Knowing what the plan is every day makes for a happy and productive staff.

Employ these ideas to get organized, and see the benefit of saving time and, likely, money. Where will you start? 

Charlene Wiggs is the owner and managing partner of On The Third Day/The Master’s Mercantile in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.