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Purging So You Can Grow
January 1, 2010

The New Year brings an opportunity to get rid of things that are holding you back from success. This will give you time, space, and other resources to help you grow in 2010. Here are some key areas in which to clean house and create space for new opportunities.

Cleaning files
Are your file cabinets bulging? Are your e-mail files out of control? With January designated by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) as Get Organized Month, now is the time to look things over and get rid of unneeded communications and papers. According to statistics posted by NAPO, the Small Business Administration estimates that 80% of filed papers are never referenced again, and The Wall Street Journal estimates that the average U.S. executive wastes six weeks each year searching for important documents lost in clutter.

Obviously, some papers, such as employment records, customer communications, and receipts for tax purposes, must be retained. But articles, clippings, and other papers may be taking up space and wasting your time when you need to locate something important. Some of this paperwork can be scanned into your computer or stored in files offsite so you don't have clutter around you.

Caution: Do not delete e-mail that you are required to save for business reasons. Generally, this includes anything related to customers, employees, pending lawsuits, government regulations, and other topics outlined in your e-mail policy and procedures. You can, however, sort e-mail into designated files or use special storage applications to make it easier to navigate your electronic correspondence.

If you need professional help with organizing, find assistance through NAPO.

Firing customers
Remember the old 80-20 rule that says you get 80% of your revenue from 20% of your customers. Even in this economy, now may be a good time to cut loose the customers (probably from that 80% pool) giving you trouble. You may also want to jettison those who no longer fit your business. Key targets for purging include customers who: 

  • Take up more of your time than their revenue justifies (they aren't profitable for you).
  • Are tardy in paying their invoices.
  • Are no longer in your target market; you've outgrown them or changed your business model.

Be sure to handle the "firing" in an appropriate manner so you don't create disgruntled customers who might bad-mouth your business. Consider a polite communication to the effect that you can't properly service them and wish them well, or simply refuse to accept their future business.

Refining your offering
You may be carrying products or offering services that no longer make sense -- they aren't profitable or no longer fit within your business model. Take a long and hard look at what you are selling and consider streamlining your offerings. Consider:

  • What it costs you to offer a particular product and service to determine whether it continues to be cost effective. A service, for example, may not be costing you money to offer it, but it may be taking up time that could be devoted to a more profitable service.
  • How the product fits within your overall marketing efforts. It has been suggested, for example, that the success of the iPhone results in part from the fact that there is only one model, which makes the product more recognizable. Research in Motion, the company behind BlackBerry smartphones, offers a number of models. While BlackBerry is still a recognizable brand, the number of options could dilute consumer attention on any one in particular. In recent months, BlackBerrys have outsold iPhones, but there's only one iPhone, which is what keeps Apple's product iconic.


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