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 you don’t 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
- For easy reference and benchmarking of activities
So, what records should you be keeping?
- Stock records
If you’re into buying and selling, the goods you’ve bought for sale are called stocks. Keeping a good stock record will help you know the quantity of goods and value of available goods. It will also help you calculate your profit in order to have a complete balance sheet.
- Personnel records
Your personnel can range from your virtual assistant to that freelance graphics designer who created your business logo on one side, or at the 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 labour act of your country.
Remember that one major reason you’re keeping record is for easy reference purpose, so don’t overlook the need for a personnel record even if all your hires are freelancers or just one person.
- Business communications
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 don’t forget to store the hardcopy in waterproof folder.
- Financial records
Financial records are quite broad. I will add 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’re good to go. You don’t need to punch your file before keeping it inside this type of folder.
- Box file
A box file is used to hold several folders. You can also use it to hold single files but you will need to punch the 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 security enabled cabinet if you store sensitive information in hardcopy.
- Tamper proof
Ensure that all your paper records are tamper proof. Don’t leave your filing area open to the public. If you have a large staff, make sure you grant access to only authorised personnel.
- Water, fire and mould proof
Make sure to use materials that water, fire or mould can’t destroy to prevent document damage.
Label all your files in the required format. You may use 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 so that ink doesn’t soil the paper. After labelling your files, don’t 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 as 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;
- Also save them in the cloud. Examples of cloud storage are Google Drive and Dropbox
While the preceding is not all there is to strategies of record management for small businesses, I hope it gives 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?