Owners of small to medium businesses are faced with decisions every day. What clients do you take on, and which do you decide not to take? How many physical and digital assets should you keep, and which are contributing to office clutter and mental distraction? It’s important for businesses to stay agile, adaptable, and ultimately, lean.
But how can you do this?
Decluttering Physical Stuff for Your Good
If you feel like your business is stuck in a rut, part of the problem could be what you’re keeping around the office. One of the pitfalls of running a business is that you feel like you need to keep everything. After all, it’s important to be diligent to keep the proper records.
Disposing of records/paperwork
However, if you’re keeping your records beyond seven years, you’re probably holding onto something you don’t need. For tax purposes, you need to hold onto tax records anywhere from three to seven years (most recommend seven years). After that, it’s unnecessary to hold onto them. The same goes for accounting information.
All employee records should be kept, although how long you keep them varies depending on what type of employees you have. The minimum for keeping employee records is three years, although some employee records should be kept on a permanent basis.
Insurance policies and legal documents should be kept for 10 years after cancelation/expiration.
Electronics and decor
Curious about assets not related to paperwork?
- Computers have a lifespan of 5-8 years or longer
- Tablets last 5-7 years
- Phones last 3-5 years
- Info on other digital device life spans
- Every 5-10 years, you should consider replacing your office decor
Ask yourself: am I still using this? Does it still do what I need it to do? If something no longer serves its purpose, you can happily Marie Kondo it out of your life.
Creating Digital Breathing Room for Yourself
A lot of digital assets are required for business owners. You’ve got multiple email accounts, a CRM, and a number of other digital assets you need to keep track of. If you aren’t diligent about it, your inbox can quickly become a no-man’s land of spam messages.
To beat the clutter, here are some of the things you can do:
- Create a weekly habit of deleting emails you no longer need
- Don’t forget to unsubscribe to newsletters/mark them as Spam
- Update your CRM every year
If you’re a graphic designer, you may be wondering, “Yeah, but how long do I keep all these project files on my computer?” To tackle this question, we first need to ask: do you have a specified timeline in which you’ll keep their records in your contract? If not, you should! Expect to keep project files on hand until anywhere from six months to a year after you’ve delivered the finished project (just in case they’ve got last-minute requests or edits).
You’re welcome to keep them for longer than that (or add them to your portfolio), but that’s not necessary for most clients.
And Now the Tough One: Clients
Speaking of clients, how do you decide which ones to break up with? If you’ve been a business owner for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the following scenarios:
- The client that is accidentally underpaying (you underestimated the scope of the project)
- The hard-to-please client
- The family/friend client
- The client you outgrew
There are actually a few options available to you here. In fact, you don’t even necessarily have to fire the client – you can put them in a position where they can choose whether they want to continue receiving your services.
- Provide advance notice of a price increase (you don’t have to give a ton of info).
- Manage expectations. (Be clear that, starting a specific date, you will no longer be able to offer X service. If you don’t mind doing it, name a price for compensation that would make it worth it to you. If you want to stop offering the service altogether, just tell them that you are aligning your services to fit better with your brand’s new direction.)
- Offer a trade with the client if you’re interested in a mutually beneficial setup.
- If you just want to let them go, provide some notice and part ways as amicably as possible.
It can be tough to let go of a client, but it’s sometimes necessary. Use these tips if you’re not sure whether you want to let go of a client or whether you simply need more compensation to justify keeping them. This approach enables you both to get what you want. If they quit, you benefit from added availability, and if they stay, you move forward with the ability to justify keeping them on.
Keep Helpful Updates (Like This One)!
Speaking of keeping things, we hope you’ll keep us around. Here at Matcha Design, we strive to provide practical and fun tips for business owners! Check out our blog for more helpful tips.