Improve office efficiency

Written by Deena Waisberg

Business growth is always a good thing, right? Not when your company grows out of control.

Business was booming for psychologist Joel Landau, owner of Toronto-based J.M. Landau Psychological Services. But with so much going on, he started to have difficulty keeping track. He couldn’t easily check if clients had been billed and if bills were outstanding; he needed a telephone system that accommodated confidential messages; plus, clients were crowded together on a couch in the reception area, with all the magazines and kids’ toys lying out. The office was running inefficiently. Something had to be done.

“[Business owners] can lose up to eight hours a week due to office inefficiency,” says Bonnie Culverhouse, owner of Toronto-based Procys, a process consulting and life coaching company.

Culverhouse worked with Landau to improve the effectiveness of his systems. She installed software (a customized Filemaker Pro database system) that tracks client information. With a few clicks, Landau can now quickly access notes about a client, visits, billing and payment. She set up a phone system in which an automated attendant directs calls to the correct psychologist’s private voicemail box. Finally, the reception area got a makeover. Culverhouse created proper storage areas, and chairs replaced the couch.

Landau has managed to maintain the system that Culverhouse established and the changes have allowed him to grow his business even more, he says.

How can you improve the efficiency in your own office? Culverhouse offers some suggestions.

Set up systems for the business you envision in five years. No sense buying software or installing a telephone system that you’ll need to replace the very next year.

Document your processes. Write down the steps for processes such as accounts receivable and filing so you can delegate tasks to an employee and know that they will be done properly.

File as you go. Don’t waste time rifling through a stack of unorganized papers or surfing through endless computer documents. Keep on top of your filing, both paper and electronic. Implement the two-minute rule: if a task will take you less than two minutes, do it the moment it lands on your desk.

Make equipment accessible. If you have room, keep the printer or photocopier right in your office if you’re the only one using it. Conversely, if a number of employees are sharing equipment, put it in a location where everyone can access it easily.

Remove clutter. Get rid of extra furniture, magazines and anything else that isn’t used on a regular basis. “If it’s in the line of traffic and it doesn’t have a use, then it’s creating chaos,” says Culverhouse.

Get help. Consider hiring part-time office help. You can generate more revenue as an entrepreneur than as an administrative assistant.

Read other pointers on How To contribute to your business success!

© 2003 Deena Waisberg

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