Back Office Essentials

Last Updated Oct 24, 2008 1:39 AM EDT

If there's one thing that can get in the way of a smooth running enterprise, it's the lack of an organised back office.

Sadly it's not unusual to see a business that fronts up well yet is a disaster behind the scenes.

Here are my five back office essentials. See how you stack up:

1. Always be ready for a new client
It's all well and good to be marketing and networking, but meaningless if you're not fully prepared to accept a new client.

Always have blank files at the ready; welcome letters drafted; contracts and agreements in draft form and invoice templates set to go.

2. Start as you mean to go on
Get things off to the right start by taking and staying in control. Make sure you explain fully what you'll deliver and when.

Giving a new client cause to chase you up is not a good look.

3. Have help at hand
What are you going to do if the breadth of a new assignment expands rapidly or if additional work lands in your lap?

Don't automatically take on work that will prove a burden. Instead, be ready to recommend other service providers. Or outsource to a trusted ally.

As small businesses we need to have a strategy to accommodate these situations. What's yours?

4. Be clear about money
If you frequently find yourself in uncomfortable financial situations, it's almost always due to a reluctance to confront the mechanics of money.

But it's simply not enough to tell your client how much you charge and leave it at that.

When will they be billed, is it at the beginning or the end of a project?

What are your terms of payment?

What happens if the original brief changes and more/less work is required?

Get the language right and this angst will dissipate.

5. Keep everything physical in order
If it takes you an age to lay your hands on a file when your client calls, the anxiety this causes will be sure to come across in your voice.

Keeping your back office tidy and well-organised ensures the engine of your business runs smoothly. After all, you may intend your finished canvas to look beautiful, but if you've left the lid off the paint overnight you'll not be creating any masterpieces.

So how do you shape up? Post a comment and let me know.

  • Robert Gerrish

    Robert Gerrish is a coach, author and professional speaker and the founder of Flying Solo (, the Australian online community for solo business owners.