Business spring cleaning in December

Jim Blasingame

Ever since the ancients eliminated cave clutter after a long winter, humans have done what Grandma called spring cleaning.
Businesses should take a lesson from Og and Granny and conduct their own spring cleaning, except on a different cycle, which is marked not by the spring thaw but by the calendar striking January 1.  And while Grandma did her cleaning after the thaw, businesses should complete theirs before the New Year. Here are some December cleaning examples.
Clean your workspace
Besides basic cleaning, even if you're not a pack rat, like me, you've accumulated stuff. 
And don't say you don't have a graveyard. Whether it's an old computer, printer or chair - even if it's not broken - if it hasn't been used recently it's worse than clutter, it occupies valuable space. So convert it into cash, give it away or a proper burial; just get it out the back door.
Clean your organization
If you have unproductive people whom you're convinced can't be redeemed, don't take them into the New Year with you.  The timing may seem insensitive, but it's just an unfortunate coincidence that the holiday season coincides with December cleaning. 
Of course, there is no good time to let someone go.  But you should think about helping your productive keepers start their new year with the best teammates you can find. 
Clean your customers
Organize customers by the most profitable As to the least profitable Ds. Worship the As, cater to the Bs, encourage the Cs and teach the Ds about self-service. And to have a really clean customer list you might even have to fire some customers.
Clean your inventory
Same song, different verse. Categorize inventory from the most profitable As to the least profitable Ds. Stock lots of As, some of the Bs, maybe a couple of the Cs, but never let one of the Ds spend one night under your roof unless it's paid for.
Then cut your losses and convert old inventory into cash to buy the most current inventory for the New Year.  In today's economy, a clean inventory requires management practices that make products available to your customers just-in-time, not just-in-case.
Clean your accounts receivable (A/R)
Take the hit on uncollectable A/R this year, and start January with a clean list.
Will these last two practices hurt your balance sheet? Probably, but the only thing a banker likes less than asset charge-offs is an inflated balance sheet caused by your lack of management discipline.
Write this on a rock ... Don't wait for spring. Start December cleaning today.

Jim Blasingame, creator and host of The Small Business Advocate Show
Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.

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