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Discussion How do you stay organized?

Discussion in 'Business Management' started by White Haus, Jan 25, 2019.

  1. White Haus

    White Haus Formally known as RJPW..........

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    One of my main goals this year is to use my time more efficiently every day. We all know how quickly a 12 hour day can disappear when you're wearing 6 hats and bouncing back and forth between interruptions and putting fires out.

    I know there is tons of info online about time management etc - I'm more interested in having a conversation with people in the industry as I'm sure we all experience some of the same challenges. From dealing with quotes, new orders, inventory, running equipment, quality control, sales, customer service etc - there are a lot to bases to cover especially when you're a smaller company and don't have team members for each position.

    How do you keep your day organized and chaos-free? Do you have any tricks/systems/apps/etc that you couldn't live without when it comes to running your business? What is working for you right now and what would you like to improve on?

    Things that work for us so far:

    -Morning review (Ideally the production schedule should already be mapped out from the day before)
    -Weekly review (Plan the week and come up with a realistic idea of what we're looking at)
    -Smartsheet software (We use this for our job board, production schedule, misc spreadsheets)
    -Creating & documenting systems for everything we do (This is, and will continue to be, a work in progress - but is one of the most important steps)
    -Outsource when possible (Vector Doctor, designers for more complicated projects, 4over, local installers etc)

    Areas where we can improve:

    -Turning down projects that aren't a good fit (this is hard, but getting easier)
    -Prioritizing requests - Quotes/New Orders (most of the time it's the customer that yells the loudest and is the biggest pain in the a$$ that gets served fastest - that part needs to change)
    -Dedicating at least 1-2 hours a day where I'm "unavailable" to work on business development and new business

    I'm sure there are more but I thought I'd get the ball rolling with a few ideas. We've definitely come a long way of the last couple years but still have a long way to go before the company is truly a well oiled-machine.

    Hopefully we can get a conversation going and share some valuable information for all.

    Thanks in advance for any contributions to the discussion.

    Cheers,

    Pat
     
    • Like Like x 1
  2. SouthEastMIsigns

    SouthEastMIsigns Member

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    We use an online software called Trello to track our jobs. Each job gets a card that moves through various boards (estimating, sales, design, pre-press, production, etc) You can color code each card based on the type of project (cut vinyl, digi print, laser engrave/cut, screen printing, embroidery, etc.) and you can add multiple colors. You can assign and remove different employees to the cards as the projects progress. It's very simple and intuitive and they have a great mobile app, so I can monitor or make changes in the field. It has a ton of other features, but these are the basics. It's been a great tool for us.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
  3. Chriswagner92

    Chriswagner92 Member

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    I use Airtable, it's free and does pretty much the same thing, like a database/calendar/spreadsheet. It's pretty cool. We're in the same boat of trying to get organized and improving all around this year.
     
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  4. ColoPrinthead

    ColoPrinthead Swollen Member

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    I keep a legal sized note pad with notes of everything that comes up throughout my day and review it regularly; I take it with me anytime I have any planned interaction with co-workers and it keeps me from missing insignificant projects that important to people but not high on my mind as more challenging projects. I have everything dated and I retain these notes when the pad is full so I am able to reference the past should I never too.

    I could get a tablet for work, but I like paper.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
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  5. ddarlak

    ddarlak Trump Hater

    I do the same thing, when the page gets filled up with crap and a bunch of stuff is crossed off its time to transfer it to a new page.

    I tried going digital with this but nothing beat a stack of legal pads!
     
    • Agree Agree x 3
  6. fuzzy_cam

    fuzzy_cam The Granbury Wrap & Sign Guy

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    We moved from Airtable to Trello. Trello is much bettter.
     
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  7. Chriswagner92

    Chriswagner92 Member

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    I've tried Trello, maybe just not long enough... I find the Kanban style a little weird, but airtable has that as well. I find Airtable more intuitive, but i'll give Trello another shot.
     
  8. White Haus

    White Haus Formally known as RJPW..........

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    I also work off hand written lists and find it's the fastest/easiest way to get stuff out of my head and into reality.

    The only part I struggle with is prioritizing that list. I usually end up jumping back and forth and adding more things that I cross off.

    I have found that once I have my list written down on paper, I can quickly transfer it into a spreadsheet which then allows me to move the tasks around as the priorities change throughout the day. (Maybe that's a clue there....that I shouldn't change my priorities on the fly so much)
     
  9. fuzzy_cam

    fuzzy_cam The Granbury Wrap & Sign Guy

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    I probably should have added 'in my opinion' to that, but our whole shop was happy with the transition.
     
  10. WhiskeyDreamer

    WhiskeyDreamer Professional Snow Ninja

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    For both business and personal, I use a planner. The weekly schedule is on the left and there's writing space on the right. I use the writing space for vendors and outsourcing notes. A full yearly calendar at the front where I mark deadlines and other dates. Notes section in the back for working on goals.

    In addition to that, I would suggest you start setting a timer when you're working on a specific task. If it should only take you thirty minutes, set a timer. Stop when the timer goes off. Most of the time we can gain back lost time simply by forcing ourselves to do the tasks at hand and not get sidetracked on something else. You know, like Signs101.
     
    • Hilarious! Hilarious! x 1
  11. White Haus

    White Haus Formally known as RJPW..........

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    Thanks for the info guys, good stuff so far!

    What about more specifically how to prioritize those tasks/orders/quotes? Not necessarily which software you use, more just how you pick and choose the order to attack things.
     
  12. One thing I found to be quite helpful was to have a list of time-wasting issues -- searching for customer or prospect telephone number, searching for old computer files, searching for tools, etc. -- during the busy production seasons and then work on solutions for those time-wasting activities in the slow season. This process helped identify bottlenecks and solutions.
    A 4'x8' dry-erase white board strategically placed helped everyone see at a glance what needed to be done next.
    Simple solutions often are the easiest and best.
     
  13. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Highlighter markers. I have yellow, pink, green and red. They're transparent, so you can read everything underneath. Red is urgent, yellow is coming up soon, green is whenever..... and pink is for the ones that are, well maybe not important and when we get to it, we get to it. Not really, the pink is for finished. I used to use colored pencils to star them, but the highlighters are seen and noticed much faster. Also, the red and yellow go on our black(green)board for everyone to see the progress of jobs from start to finish.
     
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  14. Sindex Printing

    Sindex Printing Member

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    I honestly look at ways to improve it every day. I have to keep to the same system every time. If that system gets broken things get missed. I understand I do have a smaller operation compared to some of the other people here.

    A little description on my responsibilities and jobs I'm responsible for are. Estimating, pre press for offset printing and digital printing, vendor relationships (including price negotiations), inventory and supply ordering, job scheduling, customer development, equipment maintenance and repairs, design, and operating everything from the 2 color offset press, copiers, large format printers, and laser cutting/engraver.

    I have found what works best for me. I show up a 6am (3 hours before openeing). In this time I get production planned out. First I turn on all the equipment that I have scheduled to be used for production and do all the morning checks of the equipment.
    Second I pull all the print ready jobs into the different job controls and rip software.
    Third load and line up all the different media and stocks to start production and make sure all the work orders are with the the area where they will be produced.
    4th I start production. Usually the copier, large format, plotter, laser, estimating, and I save the offset printing until my first person comes in a 9:00.
    I stop my personal production at 1 to 1:30. Do any estimates that came in during that time. Order materials and stock for new orderes.

    I have a full time book keeper and front office person. Amazingly organized, honest and a quick learner.

    I do have someone that comes in at 9:00. He is a very experienced in large format and graphic design and does a great job in finishing the jobs from offset and digital printing.

    My last person comes in at 10 that does all the errands and deliveries.

    I have been lucky enough that I have had over a 15% growth each of the last 3 years. Just by refining what was already in place.

    The biggest thing I found that has helped is putting in place a system that flows with the shop layout.

    I treat every customer that orders the same way. If they think they can yell and scream to get the job done faster they will find someone else to do business with. I set this by before the first time the customer places and order I make sure they understand I will do everything in my power to make sure they get the job on when we agree to it. By doing this I have gotten a great customer basis including 18 other printers, 14 non profits, and over 450 retail customers.

    The hardest thing is setting time aside to work on the business not just in the business and this is where I get caught.

    I am working on an ecommerce site to help so customers can reorder extreamly easy and having them being able to get instant pricing on new jobs and make it even more efficient on my end. I have made the mistake on working too much on one aspect of the business at one time and tried to change too much and made it very inefficient.

    My biggest tool I have is my cell phone. I can remote in and do anything from it. From getting pricing for estimates to doing art changes. I am always willing to listen to suggestions that people have

    Hope some of this helps
     
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  15. Chriswagner92

    Chriswagner92 Member

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    I think that is the biggest hurdle we face at our place. Everyone here is oldschool and set on paper and pencil. It's hard to change peoples ways when whatever system in place is working well enough to not cause any big problems.
     
  16. ColoPrinthead

    ColoPrinthead Swollen Member

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    Gino at his desk
    [​IMG]
     
    • Hilarious! Hilarious! x 3
  17. gabagoo

    gabagoo Major Contributor

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    I do the same and also run appointments through outlook to get the warning bells. I think the best strategy is to learn just how much you can do in a day and remember you always get those days when you just don't get as much done as you plan for a varied amount of reasons. I basically work alone now so I am not managing other people which throws a whole new curve into the mix
     
  18. Trello is fantastic. Saved us so much time, I especially love the calendar feature
     
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  19. Stacey K

    Stacey K Getting Back in the Game

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    I work alone. I start at 6, I organize my production for the day then work on estimates. By 8 I'm ready to move around and get to work on production. My alarm goes off at 1 so I don't forget to place any orders for materials I may need. The last couple hours I finish up whatever needs to be finished. Some days nothing gets finished, some days I get 3 days of work done in one day.

    My only assistant is Alexa. I yell at her at home and at work. She add's things to my shopping list, my calendar and my to-do list. I pull those lists up at work, at home or if I'm shopping. She reminds me of my most important tasks throughout the day "Alexa, remind me at 1:00 to call client XX". She's a real time saver for me and I don't have to pay her - it's either pure laziness or pure genius...depends who you ask ;)
     
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  20. DerbyCitySignGuy

    DerbyCitySignGuy Very Active Member

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    We use Asana (and Harvest for time tracking when necessary), plus some proprietary software for job tracking between locations, plus dry erase boards.
     
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