Top 5 Tools for Small Business Organization

Top 5 Tools for Small Business Organization | by Sycamore Street Press

Behind The Press is a blog series by Sycamore Street Press’s owners: Eva and Kirk Jorgensen. In it, we share our experience with letterpress, paper goods, running a small business, and work/life balance in the form of tips, how to’s, and more. We hope you enjoy! – K&E

Admittedly, we are not always the most organized people. We try to be. We LOVE having everything in its place. Sometimes it seems like there’s just not enough time in the day, though. And then we think about how much time we’d be saving in the long run if we could just put things in order. It’s a catch-22.

Well, this past year we decided that was it. Time to make some real progress.  And it’s incredible how making a few small changes has really helped things run more smoothly! We still have a lot of plans to implement. But we’re happy with how far we’ve come, and are committed to keeping up and getting better.

If you’re a small business owner like we were — never feeling like we had the time to get organized — we hope this post can help you out. (And no, we are not getting paid for this post. We just use these organizing tools every day and love them!)

1) Google Drive – We used to trade long emails back and forth with the rest of the Sycamore team. Photo shoot plans, design brainstorming, production schedules, etc… Inevitably, we’d have to search through mountains of emails to try and find the one with the correct attachment for a certain project. Now, at the suggestion of a couple of our team members, we just create the document in Google Drive, share it with each other, and file the documents into folders. So simple. It’s great to be able to find all of that information in one place, that we can access it all from any computer or device, and that they won’t be lost if a computer crashes.

2) Google Calendar – Even if the only thing we had to do all year was to plan for and exhibit at our annual trade show — The National Stationery Show – this app would be worth it. We’re big fans of paper (obviously) and both love our little Moleskine planners. But they just weren’t cutting it anymore for the business. We needed a calendar that could be updated frequently (without an eraser or White Out) and that everyone on the Sycamore team could access. We got a lot of suggestions from colleagues, but when it came down to it, Google Calendar is free, simple to use, and it gets the job done. We plan months in advance and have a color coded system set up. (Production tasks in cobalt, events in yellow, PR in coral, etc…)

3) Dropbox – When our daughter Ingrid was 6 months old, our computer crashed. Inconvenient, but not a big deal, we thought at first. We had Time Machine set to automatically back up everything on our computer to an external hard drive. Well, it turns out that there was a disconnect between iPhoto and Time Machine. So we lost pretty much all of our photos. From the first 6 months of our daughter Ingrid’s life, and from the 6 years prior to that — ever since we got our first digital camera. We were devastated. (There may have been a crying fit ending with someone flinging themselves across the bed with a loud, slobbery moan. Not saying who.) Luckily, we was able to retrieve a few off of an old laptop and discs. But literally, it was just a handful compared to the thousands that we lost.

Obviously, this couldn’t happen again. Enter Dropbox. We signed up, downloaded the software, and began backing up all our photos. We love that we can access it easily on our computer’s hard drive itself, or from the “cloud” on the dropbox website from any computer or device. We’ve since started using it to back up all of our product photos, design files, etc… It’s also great for sharing files — high res photos with members of the press, Illustrator files with manufacturers, scans of drawings with other members of the Sycamore team, and more.

4) Quickbooks – We can’t tell you how many creative small business owners we’ve talked to who confess that the bookkeeping for their business is pretty much non-existent. And yes, we made the same mistake. Every year, we’d sit down with print-outs of our bank statements, categorize everything with highlighters, and then send it all in one big Excel spreadsheet to our accountant. He’d get it sorted out and make sure we were legit with our taxes, but that was it. No profit and loss statements, no monthly reports, nothing. Organizing our business finances was always a big dark cloud looming over our heads. Something we knew we needed to do to really grow our business, but dreaded with our very souls.

As of a couple of months ago, though, we are leaving that big dark cloud behind! And it feels sooooooo good. To get started, we sat down a couple of different times with our accountant to ask his advice. Then we bought Quickbooks, set it up on our computer, and hired someone to do bookkeeping part-time, along with other office duties. Let’s face it, the two of us were never going to be organized enough to do it ourselves. We figured that in the long run, it was worth the expense of hiring someone. By being able to see regular reports, we can start to see so much more clearly where the money is coming from and where it is going. It’ll make a big difference in our business planning, and will be a key to helping us grow.

If you don’t want to hire someone in-house to do this, you could have your accountant do it for you, or hire an independent bookkeeper. Or, you could show us up and do it yourself.

5) Freshbooks - It took a few tries to find an invoicing system that clicked. We signed up for Freshbooks over a year ago and have loved it for many reasons. It’s all cloud based, which makes it easy to manage orders while traveling with our laptop/iphone as well as accessing our account from multiple computers in our shop. It is simple and convenient. We have linked up our merchant account so that when a wholesale client receives the email from Freshbooks, they can view/download their invoice as well as pay their invoice by credit card. The other feature we really like is the report generator. We can easily generate reports showing total revenue by client or item number in any given parameter of time.

Obviously, there are many different tools and programs out there that can help small business owners get organized. But these are our favorites — the ones that have really helped us.We hope that one or all may be of some help to you, too! And if you have some tips or tools of your own to share, we’d love to hear in the comments below! – Kirk & Eva

The three images in this post are sneak peeks of Sycamore Street Press’s new gift wrap  and fox card collections debuting this spring!  See all of our other paper goods in our shop

31 Comments

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  1. Lauren says:

    Thanks, Eva & Kirk for sharing your small biz tips! Super helpful for a girl who is just starting her own business :)

  2. Nic says:

    What great advice Eva! I just got Quickbooks and have been trying to find the time to get it all started and I am hoping I can manage it myself. I’ve never heard of Freshbooks and may give that a look too!

  3. lori says:

    Thanks for the great advice! Will definitely check out Freshbooks! :)

  4. Melanie Burk says:

    THE PENGUINS!!!!! Love these!!! Great, great blog post!

  5. Chelsey says:

    Great list! I also LOVE outright (I use that instead of quickbooks)and it makes bookeeping so much easier!

  6. I agree with – love and use! – all of the tools on this list. One other tool I cannot live without as a small business is Passpack. There several variations of this available, but having a place where I can store all of my important, links, create strong passwords and share them with people on my team has been hugely helpful in speeding things up and providing access when getting ‘down to business.

  7. TJ says:

    Okay, these designs and your blog are absolutely adorable!! So happy I stumbled across your site today :)
    xo TJ

  8. Jennifer says:

    Nice tips, I was wondering/curious why you don’t use Quickbooks for invoicing too? I currently use freshbooks but would prefer to just have one accounting/invoicing software but looks like you guys use two. Do you think you could eliminate one or the other?

    • Eva says:

      Good question, Jennifer. You could use one or the other if you prefer. Just in the past couple of weeks, Freshbooks announced that they will be able to start syncing with your bank account, which it couldn’t do before. But we’ve found that Quickbooks is a more sophisticated accounting program and our accountant prefers it. We could use it for invoicing, too, but we prefer the simple interface of Freshbooks for that. So for us, we use both.

  9. Rina Kusuma says:

    Thanks Kirk & Eva for the tips.
    I’m starting up my organic food online shop.
    This is very helpful because I don’t have any experience about running bussiness. This is really lifting up my spirit.

    Best regards,
    Rina Kusuma

  10. Miss Venga says:

    Great advice guys, even if people start to think in terms of this kind of organisation, its a good start. We all need that little shove from time to time! MV x

  11. caitlan says:

    This is such a helpful post! Thanks for sharing your advice. I am using Google Drive and Dropbox but hadn’t heard of Quickbooks so might give that a go! x

  12. Silkie says:

    Great suggestions, I use QB’s and dropbox already but am certainly going to try the others too…now to find the perfect software/technique that will help stop the creative mind from wandering off task when there’s too much to think about!!!

    • Eva says:

      Yes, that would be a great invention, wouldn’t it!?

    • Kate says:

      Amen to keeping on task! With two businesses (one B2B, the other B2C, intermeshed with similar concerns) and several volunteer duties, I have a problem with “how did I get here, and what was I really SUPPOSED to be doing?!”), I think we need something that dings us every 5 minutes: “Are you accomplishing what you set out to do today?” Let’s call it Taskmaster and use a logo with a whip!

  13. Stacie says:

    Great article on these easy-to-use resources for businesses like us photographers out there!

  14. Clare says:

    Thanks for these tips esp regarding the cloud. I feel a bit weird about documents being “up there” but it clearly works. As for quickbooks, I’ve worked this for other people and my folks use it too. It’s really useful for finding out information about how your business is working and keeping tabs on supplier and customer payments as well as invoicing too. I love your paper goods. Well done.
    http://www.cordelicious.org

  15. Lizbeth says:

    Thanks for sharing! Got inspired and tackled some much needed organization. :)

  16. Lucy says:

    What a great post! Thank you so much…I am actually planning on getting Quickbooks and (gasp!) entering all of this year’s info before year end so that my bestie/accountant can do the taxes more easily and so that I can start of 2015 in an organized manner. My only dilemma is that I can’t figure out if I want the desktop version or the online version? Any preferences?

    • Eva says:

      Hi Lucy, Sounds great! We use the desktop version of Quickbooks because it is more robust. I’d talk to you friend/accountant to see what she recommends. Good luck!

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