Attention small business owners and solopreneurs. You need to keep track of the stuff that keeps your business running! The good news is, learning how to create an inventory system for small business is easy. The payoff is, even a simple system will keep the clutter under control and you from having to run to the store.
Yes, Even Your Service-Based Business Needs Inventory Control
If you work from home or if you have a service-based business, you might not think you need an inventory system. Since an inventory system is one of the Five Essential Business Systems, so, I’m pretty sure you do.
You might say, “But I don’t have a retail business. Or, “My sales are only digital. Why do I need a system?” You need an inventory management system to keep your business running. Don’t run out of ink, or business cards, or people to talk to.
You don’t need inventory management software or a barcode scanning system to be effective. You just need organization and a system.
How to Create an Inventory System for Small Business
Both service-based business and those that sell physical items need to keep track of and make space for items in the supply chain. (This is a great inventory system for solopreneurs too!)
— Office Supplies: Keeping a supply of the usual things is good. What are the supplies you use day in day out? How much of that item do you need? It’s handy to have one or two backups of some, but it took me 15 years to go through the one box of staples I bought.
Then consider the items you use less. Because you are likely working alone, paperclips are easy to keep track of. You may not need the same volume that you used to hoard in your cubicle.
There is no need to store special event items or things your rarely use. Since almost every store sells office supplies, it may make more sense to buy those items when you need them. That way, those items won’t be in your way or taking up space.
— Marketing Materials: Set up a spot to store your stationary, business cards and brochures. If you keep neat stacks, you will be able to see when you will need to reorder. As a bonus, you should be able to reorder with enough lead time to make any design changes. Don’t forget, your branded or proprietary forms count too.
— Deliverables: If you do you sell a thing, or some stuff, how do you package it? Where do you keep stuff until it sells? Is it convenient to package and deliver to your client or customer? Stack and shelve physical “stuff”. You may need to collate and box it too.
Don’t forget online inventory management too! Your digital products should be part of your small business inventory. Backup items that live in the cloud. Make sure they are properly stored on the membership site or auto-responder. Also, even though you won’t run-out of your digital items, you still need to keep track of how many you sell. This is handy for tracking your sales goals.
List your services and price them somewhere. Also, you should have a system for updating your digital content. Note how long your material will still be relevant.
Assets and Ideas
— Sales: You will need a steady stream of people to sell to. It may not seem like you prospect list is an inventory item, but you do not want to run out of people to buy the stuff you sell. You at least need a bunch of ideas about where to find more of those people when needed.
— Your Ideas: As an entrepreneur, you are going to have a lot of them. I suggest a notebook or computer file dedicated to keeping your ideas until the appropriate time to implement them. It can help you keep from becoming overwhelmed every time a new idea hits.
See you do need inventory systems. It might not look like stacks on shelves. Inventory is the stuff you sell. It is also the materials you need to make those sales happen.
A Good Inventory Management System is the Perfect Rotation System
One part of creating an inventory management system for your small business is item rotation. The premise is simple. You have a supply of things you use. Then, when you are down to the last one, you order the replacement.
If you define areas for each item, the rotation process becomes streamlined.
- Keep the current and in-use stuff the handiest. Say on the desk.
- Store the extra items nearby, but not in the way, like in a closet.
- The infrequent but regularly used items can be a little farther away. Try the top shelf.
When you define storage areas, you have a visual way to see when something is running low. You grab the last thing out of stock and add it to the reorder list. If you are selling items, manage your inventory turnover the same way. Store for sale.
Of course, it helps to have enough on hand to fulfill your purposes. Decide on a quantity level and where to get more when you do need more. How long it takes to get more is also handy information to have. You can keep this information on a cheat sheet for quick access.
Once you know how to create an inventory system for small business you’ll find managing your inventory is less time consuming. All of your supplies, marketing materials, and even your ideas are there when and where you need them.
A good inventory will help your cash flow too. You won’t over-order supplies and waste time running around for ink to print your latest best idea.
Don’t hesitate to apply these concepts to your whole house – they work the same way for all your stuff.