Business is down a little, bills seem to be piling up, and you’re still running around everywhere. Employees are asking for more money. You are under a lot of stress and pressure. Those are the times when you wish your business was more organized.

The answer to minimizing pressure and, at the same time increasing the efficiency of your business, is to organize all aspects of your business. If you had a form for performance appraisals, for example, you would be able to address an employee’s demands for more pay in a fair and accurate manner, instead of viewing it as one more hassle.

Carrying out the duties of management can be much more routine if all the common functions of a manager were simplified. Let me give you a couple of tips on how to do just that:

  • Plan your day by scheduling what you need to get done and follow the schedule. I know many important things crop up during the day, but you must prioritize your activities and stick to your schedule. Most of those daily “emergencies” wouldn’t surface if you were addressing many of the common problems with all the information available. Others would disappear if you had policies and forms to solve most of the expected events, from employee absences to last minute check requests.
  • Carry a black book, not the kind that I had in my youth with young ladies’ names in it, but an effective planning book. I have been using one for several years and I really like it. The schedule book helps me organize my day so I accomplish what I need to do and not waste valuable time.

Some managers use an electronic system with a palm-size computer to do the same thing I do. That’s OK too. I just happen to like the hand-written approach. Whichever you pick, having an easy way to organize your daily activities will boost your productivity and eliminate much of the frustration you experience when your attention is demanded from many different people.

The Right Forms: The success of any business depends upon efficient management. Part of that efficiency is handling routine matters quickly and properly. Franchises that run smoothly are good examples of this policy. They have almost every necessary action reduced to a standard procedure. Usually those actions are also accompanied by a form.

Everybody hates extra paperwork, but good business forms don’t fit into that category. They save time by making matters routine that would otherwise require special attention every time some common event occurred. For example, how does your company record employee absences, tardiness or requests for vacation? What about customer complaints, requests for checks or employee performance reviews? Is each treated as a special event? Taking the time to handle each situation on an individual basis, and sometimes resolving them in a different way, requires more time than you have available. It may also expose you to some legal liability when employee policies are inconsistently applied. Consistency is a good management strategy and protects you legally.

The labor laws we have to follow dictate consistency and record keeping. The only way I know how to ensure a high level of consistency and good record keeping is to use well-designed forms.

Check Request Forms. How many times have you heard, “I need a check for ...” No doubt the need is, in most cases, legitimate and often immediate. However, that’s not any way to maintain control of your business. Issuing checks in a hasty way, possibly forgetting to attribute the expense to the proper expense category, can quickly lead to a loss of good accounting records and circumvents a built-in control system that your accountant set up.

A better way to issue checks is to use a check request form. That way, every check issued has additional information recorded, such as the address of the recipient, federal tax I.D. numbers, etc. Plus, the check is approved by a manager, instead of issued so quickly that no one can question the transaction.

The same approach can be used for checks that are, for one reason or another, returned to your business. In some businesses they sit around in a drawer or file somewhere and no action is taken on them. It’s your money. There should be a follow-up procedure. A check return log, which shows the date of the returned check and action taken after it is returned, helps you get that money in your account faster.

  • Purchase Orders. Purchase orders (POs) are a good example of another form your business should be using, regardless of its size (they are not just for large companies). If you are going to have any control over purchases in your business you need POs. Tracking purchases is easy, and purchases that shouldn’t be made are usually caught. Fraud is minimized too.
  • Quality Forms. If you are going to use forms, using quality forms can produce even greater benefits. How many times have you seen an employment application that was a third generation photocopy of a form the company had apparently run out of, so they copied a few of the remaining ones? Those forms give prospective employees a negative view of the company you are trying to get them to work for.

Quality forms have the company logo on them and are professionally designed. They should have a neat, crisp look. Your company’s image is at stake here, so make the forms attractive as well as functional. People notice.

Keeping Track: One of the biggest challenges companies face in dealing with forms is keeping track of them. A blurred employment application is an excellent example of this problem.

Someone probably forgot where the master was. I’ll admit it, for years I would order forms and then ask where we had the form printed when we ran out, and it was a mystery. Finally I set a new policy where we would either create original artwork for all of our forms internally, or obtain copies of the original artwork and keep them in our files. (After all, we paid for it, didn’t we? So why didn’t we have it?)

When we started putting them on computers it was still a mystery as to where the form was located. What file was that? What directory? It was always frustrating. Now, we have control of the files because we use codes.

A technique many successful companies use is a file code — the small print at the bottom of the form, which reveals exactly where the form can be located on the company’s computer system. If more forms are needed, a master can be printed and copies made without a delay. These codes don’t interfere with the use of the form and allow the appropriate office personnel to recall the file whenever they need more of the forms. Quality and efficiency in handling forms is the result. It works well in large companies, and it will work well in your company. There will no longer be an excuse for running out of forms or using smeared copies.

Winning With Forms: Organization will make or break a company. You can attract employees or watch them quit, all depending upon your company’s ability to stay organized. Forms allow you to maintain a high level of organization. They save you time and make your job easier, plus they reduce legal liability. They have been so instrumental in the success of my business that I eventually assembled all the critical forms in a computer package and continue to update them. For managers today, quality forms like these can make the difference in how effective they are at doing their job and how successful their company becomes.