My years working as a photographer taught me many lessons, some I learned on my own, some I learned from others. I’ve written about one of my photography mentors, Jon Peters, but he was a mentor about small business as much as anything. He also loved his label maker. He labeled everything and numbered duplicate items. “Typewriter 1″ “Typewriter 2″ and so forth. In the photography world, many of us work with back up, some of it is exact duplicates of an item, flash units for example. In my days shooting events, weddings, parties, etc., I used Vivitar 283 flashes and at a time I owned 5 of them. From Jon I learned to not only label them with my name and address (to keep other photographers from taking them as theirs – these were commonly used flashes) but to number them. If one of them was giving me problems, I could note, check flash 3. In our world as trial consultants we have tools of the trade also. Though the work is really an intellectual analysis of the case, having anything to analyze means traveling with lots of “stuff” whether it be paper (forms and surveys) or equipment (cables, video cameras, tripods, etc.). Thus, from the beginning of Magnus, I have insisted that all equipment (including extension cords, clipboards, etc.) which goes into the field be labeled with our company name, and some form of numbering when there are multiples of the same item. This has helped in many ways, for example, when a hotel says, “that is our extension cord” we can demonstrate that it is one of ours. When there is a problem with a cable or camera, we can isolate it and test it later. It also helps assign staff and equipment – for example, we can tell a Research Technician, take camera 2 and tripod 2 to the next room. It provides a specificity otherwise missing. And, finally, it has allowed us to ensure that we have all of our gear repacked at the end of a session and to know that we are going home with everything we took with us. Simple tools sometimes have big ramifications.
I am an extremely organized person. I believe one of the keys to my success is my level of organization. I like my office to be organized, including all of the equipment I co-own with my spouse/business partner, so that it can easily be accounted for. We take inventory of all our office supplies and technical equipment to ensure everything is present and ready to go anytime we need it. Some of our employees have been better than others with regard to their organizational skills. The employees who are skilled at organizing vast amounts of equipment, surveys (that contain important data, vital to me in the preparation of the clients’ reports), office supplies, and other aspects of our collective work on behalf of our client are more valuable to me than the employees who, for example, throw expensive A/V cables into a suitcase in their hurry to leave the facility where we are working, leaving them in a tangled mess upon their arrival to our office. We had an interesting situation recently, in which our Research Associate had to leave a research day prior to its conclusion. Having planned this in advance, one of our other employees was present to take over after her departure. Although this other employee had unpacked all of the equipment we used on the research day, he was unable to re-pack it in the carrying cases from which it came, creating considerable confusion, not to mention a huge time delay, when it came to our departure from the room where we had conducted the mock trial. Evidently for this person, and many others as well, the act of taking “thing 1″ out of case 1 was insufficient to provide any information about where to put it when it was time to leave. David’s organizational techniques are great tools, but only if the tools are meaningful to those who must use them.