Small Business Trends Radio

Organizing Your Small Business and Home Office

Below is the transcript of a Small Business Trends Radio Show episode featuring Liz Franklin, author of “How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson,” which was broadcast on December 19, 2006. She shares tips and insights on how to organize your business, pull new cash, productivity and time out of your existing business and increase productivity as a substitute for more time and money.

You can also listen to the show via the audio player at the bottom of the page.


Happiness is Organizing Your Small Business and Home Office

Anita Campbell: Hi and welcome to the show. I am Anita Campbell, of course, and I am your host here at Small Business Trends Radio.

If you want to learn how to bring in more cash, get more productive, and spend less time on your business so you have more time for the rest of your life, you are going to love today’s guest. She is going to discuss what it takes to get organized and I mean really organized in our businesses, in 2007. She is going to show us how getting organized will actually help us make and keep more money. Won’t that be nice?

My guest today is Liz Franklin. Liz owned her first business at the age of 15, was internationally published at 25, and has been a cubicle anthropologist, office organizer, public speaker, and business and comedy author since 1979. She is the founder of Miz Liz on Biz, and Author of the book “How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson.” Liz is also a contributing journalist to U.S.A. Weekend, the Dr. Laura Show, and numerous publications.

Welcome to the show, Liz. Tell us, how can being better organized increase your profits in a business?

Liz Franklin: Good morning, everybody. We have got so many different ways that we can increase profits by getting organized, but I’ll boil it down to two. I call them “inside” and “outside.” The inside way is through greater efficiency and getting things organized in the office so that you don’t lose money, whether it is expense and travel receipts, all the way up to filing taxes late.

The outside way of being organized is selling more with less effort, because you are not putting in that time that you used to spend looking for things and trying to get organized. So the bottom line is really streamlining.

Anita Campbell: Well I have to tell you, I really enjoyed seeing your book. I’ve got it in front of me, and the title is so wonderful: “How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson.” How many of us have felt like doing that?

Liz Franklin: It’s a last resort. We always say, “We’ll bring the matches.”

Anita Campbell: Before I jump into the nuts and bolts of getting organized, I do have to ask you, how did you come up with that name?

Liz Franklin: Oh, we went through 400 different titles, and asked everybody, and bothered and irritated everybody. Finally, I was at a women’s luncheon with about 200 women, and we were doing our 30 second introductions, and I stood up, and that one came out of my mouth, and everybody laughed “How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson” and they didn’t stop laughing for minutes. I said, “There we have our title.”

Anita Campbell: That’s great. Well, I noticed in the book that you talk about individuals having different organizing styles.

Liz Franklin: Yes.

Anita Campbell: And that there are specific organizing styles that each of us will follow. Can you tell us about those, and what does that mean for all of us?

Liz Franklin: Sure. Well, I didn’t invent this so much as my clients revealed it to me. I have been organizing for almost 30 years, and I would invent a system for Person A and it would work fine. Then I would show it to Person B and they would say, “Oh, this will not work for me.” I thought, “Hmm, something’s wrong.”

It took quite a few years, probably the first 10 to 15 years, before I started to figure out that different people organize in different ways. So I broke it down to six types. I’ll give you the first three, and later we can talk about the second three.

The first three are how we think and how we operate. You can think of left brain, right brain, or both. So, the first one I call “sparkle brain,” which is the very highly creative person who is good at decorating, and they are outgoing and bubbly, and interested in many things. The downside for these people is there isn’t much follow through, and other people end up having to finish their work for them.

The second kind is the opposite, the “linear.” These people are not multi taskers. They are very, very focused. They do one thing, and they will work on that one thing until it is done. They don’t want to be interrupted. They are not that outgoing, usually and the downside for them is not finishing on time.

Then we have the combination, which I call “cross dominant.” It means that one side of the brain is vying for dominance over the other, and these people are only about five percent of the population. They can do more than all the others put together. They have an overview and an entrepreneurial sense, and that is where your small business person comes in; but they think they are going crazy because they self distract.

So this is the kind of person I wrote the book for, to say, “No, you’re not going crazy.” If you can learn how to use these different sides of your brain and set up a system that gives you more of an overview of your business, you will have a lot more fun and you can delegate more, and more appropriately and therefore get a lot more done. It works.

Anita Campbell: So you feel then that many small business owners are the cross dominant type?

Liz Franklin: Yes, and it is very interesting how this kind of shook out. Again, I didn’t invent it. The cross dominant being the visionary, these are the people that say, “Oh, I’d like to start a business. We make wonderful frisbees or widgets, so let’s go out and have a business.” Well, sometimes they are prepared to do business, and other times they should stick to manufacturing widgets.

So what usually happens in a business, and you’ll hear this a lot, most businesses don’t last more than three years. I think those are the people who maybe are not cross dominant, who got into it not realizing what was involved. So if a person is a visionary and they do a lot of different things, they are probably cross dominant.

Let me give you some examples of famous personalities. A famous “sparkle brain” would be the Goldie Hawn character or the Robin Williams character, that is jumping around, talking a lot, but you wouldn’t want them hooking up your Internet for you. The “linear” personality is not much noticed, because they like to stay behind the scenes. An example there would be a scientist, perhaps a Madame Curie, someone who doesn’t need the limelight.

A “cross dominant” is one who just seems to have a bigger world, like Oprah Winfrey or Leonardo da Vinci, with all the interest that he’s had. Did you know he invented contact lenses 500 years ago, and wore them?

Anita Campbell: No.

Liz Franklin: I mean that takes a visionary. That is just the most amazing thing. Interested in helicopters and anatomy that’s the kind of person that you don’t go and tell them what to do. They’ll tell you.

Anita Campbell: Absolutely. Well, I know we are going to be talking a lot more about small business owners and entrepreneurs later in the show. I wonder, if you had to pick out just a couple of things that you would say a small business owner really needs to focus on, based on the cross dominant style or visionary style that they have, what would they be?

Liz Franklin: Good question. I think the answer is streamlining. Focus on developing what I call a central headquarters, or one place to go for everything. Think of a wheel. In the center of the wheel is the hub. All the spokes are the interests. So a person can be interested in so many different things; photography, travel, the business, the family, everything.

At the hub of the wheel for the business needs to be a system that they have in place, or that they are getting in place, so that the whole thing doesn’t spin out of control. So I would go with the central headquarters.

Anita Campbell: OK. Now, you have talked about “tapping your inner organizer” to make your organizing projects easier. What does that mean?

Liz Franklin: This is a real fun one. When I was a child, we used to play this game at the dinner table. My dad, who was literally a rocket scientist, would say, “Hey everybody, what color is a three?” We would all shout out different answers. He would say, “How does Friday smell?” Again, we would be laughing and shouting out answers. I thought everybody played this game.

Years later, when I became a speaker, I would ask this question, and about 60 percent of the audience was very excited and happy, and shouting out different answers. The lesson, of course, being there is no right or wrong answer when you have a preference. About 40 percent of the audience were shaking their heads saying, “Oh, my gosh, she’s crazy!” and I thought, “Maybe I better do some more research on this.”

I began looking and looking and it took years. I finally found the word “synesthesia,” and it means, “The unusual linking of emotions or feelings through thought.” For example, if I say, “What color is a Wednesday?” Anybody in our audience might say, “Well that’s easy. It’s blue.” Somebody else might say, “Green.” That person is a synesthete or has synesthesia, which is an unusual link.

If you are driving and looking for an address and you have to turn the radio down or off, that means there are too many links going on, so you are a synesthete. I use this to help people link up with systems that will work for them as opposed to just some system that I might recommend. It makes a big difference.

Anita Campbell: Liz, I am actually on your website right now and it’s

Liz Franklin: It’s MizLizOnBiz.

Anita Campbell: Oh, I see I noticed that you have a link to what you say is a free, funny test that will tell you more about your specific organizing style. Tell us about that.

Liz Franklin: That’s right. Anybody can go to This is what we were just talking about with the personality types and how we pick things up.

Then the second three — I promised you six. I actually gave you four. So I’ll give you three more for a grand total of seven. The first three we talked about; sparkle brain, linear and cross dominant. That is how we think and operate in our working day.

The second three, and this is very important, are how we pick things up or how we access. This is actually the part I learned first. Different people want to go through their offices and find things in different ways.

The first one is visual. This is the “Out of sight, Out of mind” person. “If it’s not in front of me it doesn’t exist. I’ve got stickies around the monitor frame and everything else.” For these people I set up a system that is highly visual with colors and large signs and so on.

The second one is a spatial.

Anita Campbell: Liz, I’m going to stop you right there because we have a break coming up. I’d like you to stay with us. We have a lot more with Liz Franklin, author of “How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson,” about getting your business organized for 2007. Come back right after the break. I am Anita Campbell.

(Radio Break)

Anita Campbell: We’re talking today with Liz Franklin. She’s the author of the book, “How to Get Organized without Resorting to Arson.” We’re talking about how we can get organized in our businesses in 2007. Right before the break, Liz, you were talking about the three different styles for how you find things and I believe you were on the first one, which is the visual style.

Liz Franklin: Right. Now, I know this sounds a little like I’m going far a field, so please bear with me. This is the most important part of organizing, and that is to find out what is your preference for access. So we talked about the visual people, who need to access visually.

An example is one of my clients, who insisted that her urgent material be in a red folder, and I found out she hated red and would never open the folder. So we found a color that she would access and use. So the visual is very color based.

The second one is the spatial, and these people don’t really care how their space or office or room looks. They are more interested in whether they can put their hands on things.

The third kind is the chronological, who wants things organized by time, date or money. This is the person where, if you go into their office and say, “Could I please have the notes from last Tuesday’s meeting,” they can go to a pile, pull the notes from the center based on where they were in the chronological pile, and hand them to you.

So it is really fascinating, and I find that if I don’t test for this, the person will let me go ahead and set up a system, and never really give me the true feedback that it may not work for them.

So here is a quick quiz that everybody can hear, to find out which is their access type.

Pretend for a moment that I have lost my keys, Anita, and I am asking you to help me find them. Everybody can just say their answers right out loud. “Oh no, I’ve lost my keys! What should I do?” What would you say?

Anita Campbell: Look for them.

Liz Franklin: “Look for them.” OK, so that would put you in the visual, because you are referencing eyes and looking.

If a person said, “In your pockets,” or, “Look in your purse,” or some emphasis on location more than the word “looking,” that would be spatial. Or “Retrace your steps,” that’s a spatial.

If they say, “When did you have them,” that’s a chronological. It takes a little more testing, but for anyone who is listening and would like to set up their own system, if you are chronological, strictly the dates and numbers are going to be your cue.

I worked with one person, who didn’t care for the colors, and we set her system up with cues like, “When I need more business look here at year end” you can hear the dates or “for the Monday meeting.” It wasn’t necessarily Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but it was triggered by her need to find things by when they were going to occur, and that’s the access type.

Anita Campbell: I assume that you can actually display a little of each of these, though, can’t you? Or do you always just fall into one of these categories?

Liz Franklin: Oh, you’re exactly right. That is very insightful. Everybody does have all three. What I find is that we have one that’s predominant. So I was talking to one gentleman who said, “My wife doesn’t like the way my home office looks, but I don’t care.” So I suggested that he get some shelves, be they bookcases or shelves on the wall, and get various bins. They could be baskets, they could be plastic bins, and name them with his projects.

Then he could put all his paperwork into the bins. When he is working on a project he can pull that down and work on it; when he is done he could put it away. So this would satisfy both of their access needs — her visual need to have it look nice, and his spatial need to have it tucked away and still be accessible.

Anita Campbell: Now, I’m going to ask you a question that I think might seem obvious on the surface, but I’m not so sure it is. That is, we think we know what organizing is, but what is organizing not all about?

Liz Franklin: Good! Organizing, to me, after all these years, is not just cleaning and is not just filing. If we look at most of the TV shows that are out there, they are about decorating, so I like to say that it’s also not decorating.

I believe that organization really is a system change at the core. For example, it could be anything from the software you use, to renovating the entire office to make more money.

You can see that just moving things around or redecorating would not necessarily increase income. So I look for a change at the core. I want people to know that if they call an organizer and have someone come in to organize them, speak up. If it seems to you like things are merely being rearranged, and it is not really going to make a difference, speak up.

By the same token, I always say, “If a high school child or a person could help you organize, then you really don’t need an organizer. You just need a file clerk or an assistant.”

Anita Campbell: Hmm. Well, do come back and join us after the break. We have got a lot more with Liz Franklin. When we come back, we are going to be talking about specific tips that you can use to organize your business. So join us for more about getting organized in your business in 2007. We will be right back. I’m Anita Campbell.

(Radio Break)

Anita Campbell: Welcome back, I’m with Liz Franklin, Author of “How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson,” and we’re talking about how we get organized so we can be more profitable in our businesses in 2007.

Now Liz, you’ve told us about the different styles for getting organized. How do we actually start getting organized? What steps would you recommend we entrepreneurs take?

Liz Franklin: All right, let’s get down to the meat of it.

First of all, I want everybody to go to a website called and download the demo. This gives you a picture of what I was talking about with the wheel and the hub in the center. File Maker is a system I recommend for all business owners, because it ties together all the parts of a business.

We were talking earlier about having a central headquarters. Most businesses run on information. If you have six or eight or two places to go for your information, you’re going to have repetition, duplication, mistakes, and so on. So I strongly recommend this program, and I’ve been using it for over 15 years, to get everyone to put their data in one place. And then you can send out — whether it’s mailing labels, or emails, or whatever you want — from your central core data.

So one of the main things about organizing is to know what you have and what you need. For example, where does your money come from? You might think it comes from your product or your proprietary information and it does, but that’s secondary. You’ve got to do what I call “starting with one,” and that is your customer database.

So unless you have customers to sell your product to, you’re not going to have a business. Start collecting that information, and then storing it in File Maker. It’s the best one I found. It is going to give everybody a good fix on where their information is and then how to manage it from there.

So, most of us have computers. Most of us are using technology. If you’re not, if you’re still at the paper stage, or if you haven’t been able to afford a computer yet, the easiest way to get organized, and I’m talking now specifically paper, is to put a sticky on each piece of paper with a verb of what you must do, and the date, when you must do it.

For example, imagine a stack of paper on one side of you, and you pull a piece over, and you say, “I’ve got to fax this by the 20th, I’ve got to pay this by the 30th,” and each piece of paper gets a sticky. Now all the papers are on your right, and it’s what we call “verbed” or “stickied.”

Now you can sort those out by putting all your calls in one stack, all your faxes in another or you can sort them by date. This is another thing File Maker does beautifully. It ties the paper into the actions that have to be taken.

One of the questions I’m asked often is, “How do I know when to put it into the computer, and when to just leave that piece of paper as it is?” I separate these out as one shot tasks and projects. Anita, if you have something to do that you can do all at once, like make one phone call and it’s done, or send one fax and it’s done, that’s what I call a one shot.

If you have a project and it has bits and pieces, like a Website, and you need to get content from here, get some of your royalty free photos from there, that’s a project. That’s when I will put it into the computer or I’ll create a bin, like I talked about before. So that’s our starting point.

Anita Campbell: Then what do we do?

Liz Franklin: Then, I organize mail by chron. We talked earlier about the access types. I know it seems a little silly at first, but it really comes out to be true. For people who are visual, like you, who want to be more organized, the best trick I’ve got is to become more spatial.

So let’s say, for example, that you’re looking for something. You know it’s on yellow paper, maybe you’re trying to get more organized for next year, set up stations: locations in your office, or on your desk, where you always have that kind of thing. For example, I’ve created a bin called “I’m awaiting a response from someone.”

Whenever someone says I’ll have to call you back with the information, or I’ve emailed them and I haven’t heard back yet, it all goes in one place. So stepping up from visual to spatial means you have places for things, and next time you’re saying, “Well, I haven’t heard back from so and so, but I need that paper,” you go to the “awaiting response” bin. It saves so much time.

If a person is more spatially oriented, they already know where things are, but they want to be more organized, they could become more chronological. The person who’s chronological knows that you can’t mess with the budget. It’s thus and so and that’s all it’s ever going to be. The deadline is the deadline. Dates and times are hard and fast. Now you can become more organized by saying, “OK, when do I need to do something?”

Not just that I need to do it, or where it is, or that it’s on yellow paper, but when? Ultimately what I do is create stacks of things by “when.” I have a stack of stuff I have to do today and a stack for tomorrow and next week. Here’s the funny part, when I’m traveling, I will just make two stacks before I leave. Everything I have to do before I leave and one that can wait until I get back. So the best organizing is switching to a when based system, or a date based system.

Anita Campbell: Now you mentioned File Maker at as a tool to use.

Liz Franklin: Mm hmm.

Anita Campbell: Are there other technology tools you would recommend? Or how do you feel about this, for instance: every time I turn around, it seems there is either a new online calendar program, or a new to do list program that you can download for free. Are those worth the time? Or what would you recommend?

Liz Franklin: Well, that’s why I mentioned File Maker as my favorite, because I don’t have to use any other program. I can create … and this is what I like, and let me go back to what most people are used to. If you think of an Access type database or any type of database where you can type in name, address, and phone number, those are the basic database systems. What I like about File Maker is that it gives me much more freedom. If I want the address box on the top right, and I want it to be yellow, I can do that.

So what’s important to me, and not just that I can get to the information, but I can use it for more than one thing. For example, I created a box in my File Maker database called “Action.” What is the action to be taken? I can type in there “Call in January.” Then come January, or the end of December, I can go to that box, and I can say, give me everybody I said to call, and boom, I’ve got my action list right there. They tell me .. I’ve talked to some people at File Maker, they tell me it’s not a bookkeeping system, but I’ve even been able to use it for that.

So the answer is: pick one system, like File Maker, that you think is the absolute best. You can tell I think that one’s the best. Use it as much as you can, and then you won’t need other calendar systems and other database systems. You have one place to look. I also back all my data up to a small hard drive. You can get 80 gigs, 100 gigs, on a hard drive that you can fit it in the palm of your hand now.

For example, if the office burns down, I can go to any Kinko’s, plug in and because I got the software on there as well I can still access my database in case of emergency.

Anita Campbell: So, your computer can walk around with you in your purse or your pocket?

Liz Franklin: It is the hard drive. So even if my computer melts, heaven forbid, in fire, I can take the hard drive itself and go anywhere with that and it can hold so much more than a Blackberry.

Anita Campbell: Now, I know that we tend to think about disorganization as being caused by, let’s say, a weakness?

Liz Franklin: But it’s not.

Anita Campbell: What is it caused by?

Liz Franklin: Disorganization, to me, is caused by two things. One is, like, anything I am going to learn. Let’s say I want to go learn to speak Japanese. If I do not know it, how I am going to know it. I think of organization as being new information. The other thing that trips us up is we are still repeating information from 1950s. For example, have a place for everything and always keep it there. Our world moves so much faster now, that we really can’t operate that way.

I think the definition of organization has changed. I just boil it down to one word and that is “access.” Can I get to what I need when I need to get to it? That is why I have talked about taking the hard drive with me wherever I go. I really think it is important for the person to define what it is to them. I go through this in my book. I would ask people, “If I had a magic wand, what would be organized for you?”

Sometimes I hear, “I would make more money.” Other times I hear, “I would know where to find things.” Other times, “I would have a bookkeeping system that works”. It is a little different for everyone. I think it is most important to define what it is to each of us before we try to accomplish it. There is a bit of disservice that is going on with defining organization as either filing, which to me very basic stage one kind of organizing, or to define this as decorating as we talked about before. I think that goes much deeper than that.

Anita Campbell: Now Liz, we are coming down to the last several minutes of the show and I want to make sure that we can recap with the specific tips and advice that you have for business owners. So I am going to ask you two different sets of questions, but let me just tee them both up.

The first is, what would be your top three or five or whatever number of tips you would have specifically for entrepreneurs and business owners for getting organized in the first place? Then the second question, after that one is done: once you’re organized how do you stay organized?

Liz Franklin: Very good. Writing everything down here .. what are the top two tips?

I think, start with the paper, because your paper is going to tell you what you need — your paper and your objects. If you try to impose an existing system on your office, it may or may not address what you need. People say, “What do I need in my office?” I say, “Let’s go with what you have.” You may have a lot of paper. The next person may have a lot of books or CDs or carpet samples or who knows what. Start with the paper and the items and let them tell you what you need.

Then, because the paper will very much direct you, you want to look at what the paper, if I may be so bold, what the paper is telling you to do. Is it saying you need to get your bookkeeping system organized? Is it saying you need more sales? Is it saying get your addresses input into something like File Maker? It will tell you what to do. That’s when we put the sticky on, when we write, “What am I supposed to do?” Am I supposed to pay, file, fax, email or what? Then, look at the bulk of it.

If you have a huge pile of reading to do, but not much bookkeeping or filing or other things, you are learning “Oh, jeez. I had that kind of spread out and now that it’s consolidated…” This is another way to say organized. “Now that it’s consolidated, I can see that I really need to buckle down on my reading.”

So it is the paper, it is the action and when it has to be done, and it is the bulk of the material. Then, and only then, should a person go out and buy containers — whether they’re bins, or bookshelves, or whatever. The bulk will tell you what to buy. Then, if you work it by location, where I am going to be sitting when I need this, then you know how to set it up.

As far as how to stay organized, I think if it is done right, it is done once. It may take weeks or months to do it, but think about if you take your car in for repair how often you want to go back with that same problem? Not at all. So, organizing, properly done, to me is organizing that is customized to you, Anita, to your visual preferences and you should never have to do it again unless you start a new business or move your office.

Anita Campbell: Great advice.

Liz Franklin: Thank you.

Anita Campbell: Well in our last minute or so, would you please let us know where we can find you online and what is on your website, as well as where we can find the book?

Liz Franklin: Sure. Everybody take a look at There is a page to buy the book or they can go to any Borders store, Amazon or any bookstore and ask for “How to Get Organized without Resorting to Arson.” I also recommend you check out the website I was talking about, File Maker. Download the free demo because it is absolutely beautiful and will answer a lot of questions that we have brought up today.

Anita Campbell: I notice on your website that you have got other resources, like a little quiz that I mentioned early on. You have other things on there as well, right?

Liz Franklin: Right, a lot of fun stuff and the book itself is funny. I have a cold today, so I’m not being funny, but we have a lot of humor in the book and I think it helps people to have a little humor while they are getting organized.

Anita Campbell: It is. I can attest to the fact that it is a very humorous book, starting all the way from the title to the last page in the book.

Liz Franklin: Thank you.

Anita Campbell: Liz, I want to thank you so much.

Liz Franklin: Oh, thank you!

Anita Campbell: Thank you for being with us. Liz Franklin, Author of “How to Get Organized without Resorting to Arson.” We’ve had a great show today on getting organized in our businesses and I know we’ll all be much better organized in 2007. I am certainly going to take some of your tips and put them to work in my business.

Thanks so much for joining me today. I’ll be back after the New Year with more programming on Small Business Trends Radio. Thanks so much. I’m Anita Campbell.

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Small Business Trends LLC, 2006

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