Think back to when you started your business. One of the first things you did was to develop a set of basic forms, contracts and letterhead. These sales lead forms, customer surveys, proposal templates, invoices and purchase orders have been reused hundreds, if not thousands, of times. They have become not only an essential part of how you conduct business but also the basis for one of your most valuable investments, your template library.
As time has passed, you likely have made changes to your templates and, somewhere along the way, started to save them as electronic files. Many of these files might be used only to print paper forms. Others likely serve as the master copy from which a string of client- or project-specific files are made.
If you are a Microsoft Office user or are considering becoming one, you have a more efficient, less error-prone way to create, manage and use these templates.
Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003 includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and Outlook. These products come with a set of standard templates and wizards that are saved to your computer when you install the software.
Microsoft's standard templates offer everything from marketing brochures to proposal and invoice samples. Within each product, the templates are organized to make it easy to find the one you need. Each product offers a variety of default templates that are appropriate for the product's intended use.
Word is a great tool with templates for creating a variety of basic forms, contracts, proposals and more. The standard library consists of wizards and templates that facilitate the creation of fax cover sheets, meeting agendas, memos and letters. Its wizards walk you step- by-step through a series of pages that help you create a document. You are prompted to enter key data into fields that will then populate the document.
Consider Excel for your financial needs. Its standard templates include invoices, purchase orders, income statements and expense statements. PowerPoint, Word or Publisher can be used to create company brochures, marketing materials, statements of work or even your own web pages. For project management needs, Project offers project templates and wizards. It even includes templates specifically designed for construction projects.
Some wizards and templates come with the ability to link to your contact lists or other Microsoft applications, allowing you to automatically incorporate client or subcontractor names and information.
If you have Internet access, you can easily download additional templates from Microsoft's Web site (www. microsoft.com/office) by clicking on the "Templates" link. The even more specific options here include forms in Spanish, customer satisfaction surveys, time reports, work incident reports, and even templates provided by the Service Corps of Retired Executives. You can also obtain forms and templates from Professional Remodeler online at www.housingzone.com; click on "Business Tools" and then "Web Worksheets." Available tools include employee evaluation forms and production checklists.
Once you've downloaded these templates, you can easily modify them to suit your own specific business needs. Modify the format and fonts; add your logo, address and contact information; create fill-in options; copy the body of your existing templates into one of the downloaded files and then save them to the template directory. The possibilities are endless — and simple.
The bottom line is that there is a large knowledge base available from a variety of sources offering tools and templates to save you time while incorporating industry best practices. Why not leverage these tools by browsing through the Internet? If you find some that you really find helpful, key me in by sending me an e-mail. I will share your suggestions with our reader community.
|Dave Taraboletti is chief operating officer of Montecito Property Company, which specializes in condo conversions, rehabs, property development and apartment management. Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.|