Record keeping is crucial to your business and even your career. When you keep records, you enjoy easy reference to events both old and new. Although, there are some documents that you do not need to keep, however, to reduce business errors or costly loss of data to the barest minimum, be sure to keep such papers or information in a temporary folder for a sufficient period of time.
Other reasons for keeping records are:
- For safeguarding the affairs of your business
- To put you in a good legal standing
- To keep the memories of your company for storytelling
So, what records should you be keeping?
If you are into buying and selling, the goods you have bought for sale are called stocks. Keeping a good stock record will help you know the quantity of goods and value of the goods you have for sale. It will also help you calculate your profit in order to have a complete balance sheet.
Your personnel can range from your virtual assistant to that freelance graphics designer who created your business logo on one side, or at least 5 in house staff who work with you in your business.
The information you may keep can range from contracts to employment letters, pay slips, non disclosure agreements, referee data, leave approvals, etc. This data varies depending on the type of work contract you have with the personnel or the labor act in your country.
Remember that one major reason you are keeping record is for easy reference purpose, so do not overlook the need for a personnel record even if all your hires are freelancers or just one person.
Business communication comprises of all messages that transpire between you and the players in your business. These include your prospects, clients, vendors, government agencies, suppliers, etc. This communication is crucial to your business, as such, you should keep a proper trail of all information you exchange.
If you communicate with an individual mostly via email, make sure each email has a trail that links one message to another. Save the important messages in an assigned folder, then add the folder to your cloud storage.
If on the other hand you communicate with another organisation via hardcopy letters, scan the letters and save them to your cloud storage, and do not forget to store the hardcopy in a waterproof folder.
Financial records are quite broad. I will add your monthly inland revenue filings, business revenue, expenses, and every other type of finance you deal with under this category.
There are mainly two formats namely electronic and paper records, that is, softcopy and hardcopy formats.
These are all your hardcopy documents that fall into either of the categories above. Have the following in mind when managing paper records:
A single paper of document is a file. You need a folder to store files of related category. There are some types of transparent folders that can hold up to 10 files. All you need do is just slide your document into the folder and you are good to go. You do not need to punch your file before keeping it inside this type of folder.
A box file is used to holder several folders. You can also use it to hold single files but you will need to punch your file for this to work.
This is where you keep your box files and you may also keep some types of folders inside your cabinet. Be sure to use a security enabled cabinet if you store sensitive information in hardcopy.
Ensure that all your paper records are tamper proof. Do not leave your filing area open to the public. If you have a large staff, make sure you grant access to only authorized personnel.
Water proof and fireproof
Make sure to use materials that water or fire cannot destroy to prevent document damage.
Label all your files in the required format. You may use a marker to number some files in the order the messages in them were exchanged. Just write the number in tiny letter, readable but not big such that the marker will soil the paper. After labeling your files, do not forget to tag the folder. A good material you can use is sticky notes of around 1.5 x 2.0 inches as the normal label is usually glossy and not recommended for long term use because the text you write on it might eventually wipe off.
These are mostly emails, email attachments and scanned documents. The following tips are important for handling electronic records:
- Always back up your documents in several locations.
- Scan your hardcopy documents and save them on your computer system and;
- In the cloud, examples are Google Drive and Dropbox
While the preceding is not all that there is to strategies of record management for small businesses, it will give you a good insight of business records and help you save time on filing and retrieval of important business documents.
What’s your business record keeping like?