organization

5 Inventory Storage Solutions For Small Spaces

Is your inventory too big for its britches? And by britches, we mean the tiny warehouse, storage unit or hall closet where you're keeping your inventory. You need a storage makeover and the sooner, the better. When it's not in your budget to rent a bigger space, these space-saving ideas will prevent you from tripping on twelve boxes on your way to the back shelf. floor space

1. Move up: We don't mean upgrading to a bigger space—we mean using all of the vertical space you can to store and organize your inventory. Adding shelving to expand vertically could double or triple your useable storage space without adding a square foot to your monthly bills.

2. Use the whole shelf: Almost any shelving unit these days is customizable, so take advantage and be sure you're not leaving half a shelf empty (horizontally or vertically). If possible, give your fastest-moving products an easily accessible spot in the warehouse (for stocking and deliveries), where you won't have a road block of boxes waiting to be unpacked. A full assessment of your layout and the sizes of your products and boxes will be invaluable to mapping out the most efficient storage.

3. Out-of-season, out-of-mind: If a chunk of your merchandise is seasonal, move that to the least accessible place in your warehouse during the off-season (like those super high shelves you just put in!). If you're working with a very small space, consider renting a small external storage unit where you can keep the holiday merchandise or the summer pool floats out of your way during the rest of the year. Just remember to set a calendar reminder so you don't forget to haul everything out when the time comes.

4. Find a buddy: Not ready to upgrade into a bigger warehouse space? Try sharing with another business nearby.

5. Say goodbye to excess inventory: We've shared a few ideas on dealing with excess inventory in the past, but the important part is getting it out of your space to make room for inventory that moves. And hey, that's why Shopventory exists—to prevent excess inventory and help you better manage what you do have on hand.

Any other great inventory storage solutions to share? Let us know in the comments!

Clean Your Gmail Inbox

We were going to name this post "Spring Clean Your Gmail Inbox," so clearly you're not the only one procrastinating when it comes to spring projects. Better late than never though—and this guide is going to change your work life. Is email eating up half your day? Do you have an inbox so full of unanswered messages that you're ready to declare email bankruptcy? We feel ya. And we'd like to help you take back control of your inbox. Much like inventory management, solid email management can deliver extra hours in the day and totally shape up the way you run your business. inbox

1. Think of your inbox as a reception area. That's not where you keep the email—it's where the email waits. It's too easy to get sucked in for hours, so check it only a few times a day. If you have the self-control, shut down the email notifications from your phone so you can avoid distraction. You can always go in and check, but this way you're not disrupted by another promotional email.

2. Make labels. With the searchability of Gmail, it's easy to forget labels altogether, but two important labels help us organize our email: "Follow-up" and "Waiting." "Follow-up" is for non-urgent emails that require us to spend longer than two minutes responding. "Waiting" is for emails we've sent that require a response from someone else. We also set up labels based on Gmail's filtering options as well, but those will be different for everyone.

3. Clean house. Delete everything. Just kidding, sort of. Now that your preferred labels are set up, go through your inbox and delete, archive and label away. We suggest starting with the junk mail (unsubscribing as you go),

4.  Use the two-minute rule moving forward. David Allen's process involves working through your inbox, deleting extraneous emails (unsubscribing, muting and filtering messages as you can), responding to emails that require less than two minutes of your time, and then labeling and archiving the others. If something needs a longer response or simply requires more time to figure out, label it "Follow-up" and archive it for later. We find it useful to check email on the phone first (archiving and deleting with swipes is so satisfying)—then it's just the real meat left in the inbox when you get to your desk, to which you can respond without as much distraction.

5. Actually follow-up. Once you've cleared your inbox, it's so freeing... you'll wanna break out the champagne and call it a day. But you still have work to do. Time to go into your "Follow-up" label and get cracking—decide what messages are most important and work your way down from there.

Here's an example of how your new inbox should work:

You have five emails in the inbox (ah, only five—that'll be the day, right?!). One is an email from an employee, asking for info on next weekend's farmers market booth. One is a promotional email from a company you've never heard of. One is a neighborhood council invitation from the shop owner down the street. One is an incorrect wholesale invoice. One is your local website design company who needs to know what color scheme you prefer for the shop page. What do you do?

First, unsubscribe from the promo email and delete it. Then, check your calendar and respond to the neighborhood council invite. Decide on the eCommerce color scheme and shoot that one off too. You just breezed through three emails in record time. You know you won't have the info on the farmers market until this afternoon, but since you owe a response, stick a "Follow-up" label on that, archive it and go back to it later. Same goes for the incorrect wholesale invoice, since you'll have to look back at your order and make some calls before responding. More than two minutes to handle? Along it goes to the "Follow-up" archive. Easy as that.

boomerang

If you need more tools to make your email work for you, try testing out some Labs in Gmail to see what you like (specifically, the Mark as Read, Undo Send and Send and Archive buttons are great). Boomerang can also be helpful and complements the Follow-up/Waiting system. It's a software installed on top of Gmail that provides additional features. You can schedule emails to be sent later, return emails to your inbox based on criteria (like "if no one has responded in two hours" or "regardless," if you want to deal with it tomorrow and not today). We also love Mailbox, as we wrote about here.

How do you handle your email on a day-to-day basis? Let us know in the comments!

4 Free Money Managing Tools for Your Small Business

We scoured to the edges of the internet and found the four free money managing tools for your small business that would be tremendously useful for tracking expenses and getting a handle on your small business's bottom-line. Enjoy:

Mint.com

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Mint is a financial dashboard which allows you to manage and view your expenses, income statements and transactions. It has a useful planning tool to chart savings goals and provides feedback on credit cards or bank accounts that may be better suited to your priorities. When you input your financial accounts, Mint automatically categorizes all of your transactions and updates how they apply to your budgets.  Additionally, you can manage multiple accounts on Mint, which gives you the ability to have a dashboard for each of your stores.

Outright

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A bookkeeping tool that is similar to Mint, Outright calculates taxes and provides crisp profitability reports. Once you’ve inputted your bank, credit card and loan information, this app takes care of the excel hell that comes with generating sales and tax data. This app also helps with filing taxes, filling out your Schedule C sheet automatically based on your expense categories. To get some of the juicier features you’ll have to get Outright Plus, which is $9.95/month, but the app is worth taking a look if taxes give you a hard time.

QuoteBase

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Quotebase lets you create beautiful PDF quote files which you can email as attachments. This app can also be helpful to businesses with repeat customers as it organizes them into dropdown menus for easy distribution. An interesting element Quotebase implements is their multi-currency option, allowing users to charge in their local currency or that of their clients. This is especially useful for businesses that need to send out high volumes of quotes or deal with international vendors.

Expensify

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Expensify takes the complication out of collecting and organizing receipts by allowing you to scan receipts from a smartphone camera. You can also upload and email the receipts as email attachments. Ah, the sweet sound of organization.

+ 2 More (Paid) Apps We Think Are Nifty

LearnVest

LearnVest is financial planning made into a sport. You’re armed with the LearnVest app and given a CPA to coach you through the challenges which are set for you. If need the motivation to follow-through on your financial goals, this this could be a very valuable tool for you.

FreshBooks

This is a leading accounting software for small businesses. While it wouldn’t qualify as bookkeeping software, it tracks expenses, time takes online payments and can send invoices to your clients. FreshBooks starts with a 30-Day Free Trial and then paid packages start at $19.95/month.

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We hope that these suggestions help you stay ahead of the curve and keep the burden off your budgets. Let us know in the comments below if you’ve found other apps that help your small business with its money matters.