Behind the scenes your business records should be kept in order and accessible. When your records are organized you can access that information quickly and efficiently. Here is how you can put your documentation in its place.
The records you formed to create your business can easily be forgotten. Just as easily they can be required by your bank if you apply for a line of credit. Your accountant may want to review this information as well, so keep your corporate records in a filing cabinet for easy access.
Your corporate records can include a variety of documentation beginning with your articles of incorporation and your business plan. You might also keep licenses that do not need to be displayed in a public area. Meeting minutes, bylaws and other documentation related to the formation of your business should be included.
Agreements your business has made with vendors, suppliers and your landlord should be available at a moment’s notice. Include lease and equipment agreements, advertising contracts and marketing agreements with this file.
Whether you have one employee or 100 or more employees, detailed information about each person should be kept. Create separate files for each employee that includes their job application, resume, offer of employment, employee handbook and performance reviews.
Employee files should also include attendance records, W2 forms, letters of warning and termination notice. If you must terminate an employee, you want clear documentation on hand to show the various steps taken leading up to and through his leaving the company.
Keep your personal records separate from your business records. Your business records include your business bank account, including statements, cancelled checks, deposit slips, your bank correspondence, and related records.
Every business must should generate regular financial reports including cash flow analysis, balance sheets and profit and loss statements. Older financial documents including General Ledger accounts for previous years can go here.
Include sales agreements, purchase orders and forms you use for conducting business. Business receipts and statements will also go here.
With much of today’s business correspondence done through email, hard copies of documentation may be limited. What written documentation you do have should be kept including letters to customers, suppliers, advertisers and to the media. Letters, faxes and copies of other documentation not stored elsewhere can go here.
Your most important email messages should always be saved. You might also print out copies of your most signifiant messages and include this information as well. Consider backing up your email correspondence to a zip drive and storing that as well.
Create separate sections in a file cabinet to house most of your business records. Critically essential documents such as lease agreements, insurance information and contracts should be stored in a fireproof box. Consider moving some documents off-site, including anything that would be difficult to recover if your building is lost in a fire or a storm.
Even sole proprietors can get overwhelmed by the mounds of documentation and paperwork that are under their care. A sensible approach here is to set aside five to 10 minutes daily to file that information. Bills can be paid upon receipt or one day each week might be established to handle that. Make copies of your invoices and stamp these as “paid” before filing.
If you are overwhelmed by paperwork consider investing in business scanning software to keep record of your receipts and transactions. Some programs will also work with your accounting software program and will automatically categorize transactions for you.
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