May 13, 2024

How to take a break from your business 3: Organise your shared spaces

While you’re taking a break from your business, you want everyone else to be able to handle whatever comes their way. Otherwise, you’re not really taking a break, and they are never learning to do without you.

The first step towards that is to make sure everyone knows where to find the information and tools they need to do the job, such as the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) list we mention last time.

So, if you haven’t already got a central, shared space set up, on your own server or on the cloud, do it now. Call it something really obvious like ‘Look Here First’ or ‘Central Stores’ or ‘Enquire Within upon Everything’ – whatever will make it a) recognisable as the place where everything goes, and b) memorable, so nobody has to ring you up and ask where it is.

You’re going to put a lot in here over the next few weeks, so it’s a good idea to make things easier to find by subdividing the space further. Have a folder for FAQs, another for Process Descriptions, and another for Props Templates.

It won’t hurt to set up corresponding physical spaces too – as physical folders or boxes in a cupboard or filing cabinet.

There are two reasons for this.

The first is simply to have a physical backup in case you lose internet. Trust me, I was glad of it when our server got struck by lightning one weekend.

The other is to make it feel easier to experiment and change things while you’re working out exactly how you want your business to work.

Many years ago, on what was my second software project, we needed to think about version control. The deadlines for the project were extremely tight, and we were a team of 4, so our boss decided that rather than risk using new-to-us, untested-by-us, off-the-shelf software, we would go low-tech:

We put up a whiteboard where everyone could see it, and drew 4 columns one under each of our names. Whenever we were working on a module of the software, we wrote it’s name and the date in our column. From then on, nobody else was allowed to work on that module until it had been erased from the whiteboard. Once we’d finished working on the module, we renamed it to a new version and rubbed the name off.

It took a couple of iterations of learning by doing to perfect this system, but once we had, it worked beautifully for the rest of that project.

The point of this story? Sometimes it’s better to design how you want things to work using low technology tools. It takes less setting up, so people have less invested in it and so are much happier to change it to make it better.

The other kind of shared space to think about right now, is the one that will enable everyone to easily access each others’ projects to see where they are at in your process. Because you do have a process, even if it isn’t yet formally written down.

And again, at this stage, it doesn’t have to be an electronic space or a piece of software. You could use project folders or cards with a set of clearly labelled intrays, or even boxes.

As well as being low-cost, this has the added advantages of being very visible, and allowing you to experiment until you’ve nailed your unique process. Once you’ve done that, you can go and look for software to specifically support your way of doing things, rather than forcing your business to conform to what the average (aka “one size fits none”) does.

If you do want to set up software, start with something very simple (and free), like trello, and make sure everyone has access to it.

And that’s it, for now.

Next time, you’ll set the foundation for everything else going forwards, and spell out your promise of value.

Discipline makes Daring possible.