Organizing Bookkeeping Records for your Business
Organized Bookkeeping Tips for Small Businesses
We’ve all been there. You’re on a conference call or in a meeting and everyone is kept waiting while you search through your pile of papers for that one business document you need. Overwhelmed and trying to provide your own business reception services?
One study shows that on average, a person spends up to 4 hours a week looking for documents. Getting your bookkeeping organized, and staying organized, is an easy way to save you time and frustration. Here are a few things you can do to improve your workflow and increase efficiencies with a meaningful bookkeeping records and file system for your business.
How to Maintain a Filing System for Organized Bookkeeping Records:
Setting-up your business accounting procedures and file system properly will save you a lot of time for years to come.
• Know what files you need to keep and which ones to toss. You do not need to hang on to all documents that come your way. Take a moment to review the content and toss or shred anything that is not relevant. As for how long you should hold on to your files, the IRS recommends saving your records for 7 years but for a more thorough understanding of record retention, visit IRS site: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Recordkeeping.
• Old files that you may need to reference in the future, but not on a consistent basis, can be boxed up and shelved or brought to a storage unit. Remember to keep them accessible to yourself or staff members who may need the files in the future. Don’t put them in high, out of the way places or store them in a facility that is not convenient to drive to.
• Divide your files by category. Separating folders by bills, customer files, receipts, manuals, etc. makes searching for a folder that much easier. You could also color code the folders to make it that much easier to spot what you are looking for. Anything that has less than five documents likely does not need its own folder and can be put into a “Miscellaneous” file. Review your “Miscellaneous” file annually to determine if there is need to make a file in the upcoming year for any particular vendors, customers, or others who may have increased volume within the folder now.
• Don’t overfill folders. Overfilling folders makes it much more difficult to find something in a bind. If you have a folder that is getting too crowded, consider creating sub folders. For example, if you have a folder called “Taxes” create additional folders called “Taxes 2012”, “Taxes 2013, and “Taxes 2014”. Sub-categorizing your folders will create more efficiency and less stress when you need to locate that one single document.
• File your documents as soon as you are done with them. Often people get into the bad habit of throwing files on top of the file cabinet insisting they don’t have time to file it now or they will do it later. A week or two later there is a large stack of papers to file. Take the few seconds to file your documents right away instead of taking 45 minutes at the end of the week. Keep a stack of blank file folders and a pencil close at hand. This is the perfect time to create or add to your filing system in a quick, efficient manner. You can go back at your leisure and create a nice file folder label.
• At least once a year, do a thorough clean out of your file cabinets. Anything that no longer has a use (old/former customer files, manuals for machines you no longer have, etc.) should be thrown out or shredded. Business owners who have a heavy volume of documents or confidential information which needs be shredded often find it useful and quite affordable to employ the assistance of an onsite shredding service. This type of service will come directly to you at a pre-scheduled date and time to provide you with a secure, safe way to shred your sensitive documents.
• If you think you may need a certain file down the road but don’t want to waste space, scan and save the file on your computer. You can accomplish this with the use of a home printer with scanning capability or a more sophisticated multi-function printer that will give you expanded functions for saving directly to a pre-determined folder on your computer or network.
Other Ways to Keep the Bookkeeping Records for your Business Organized
• Have a designated spot for incoming and outgoing mail and don’t let your mail pile up. To save time, sort your mail as soon as it comes to your office. Open all mail and deliver to the correct people and get rid of any junk mail. Don’t forget the importance of shredding junk mail that could contain sensitive information.
• Keep and clean and clutter free desk. Get rid of anything you don’t use or need, like to-do lists that have been completed or old pens that no longer work. A clean desk will bring higher productivity to your work day.
• De-clutter your storage space. If you have any old keyboards, computer monitors, printers, etc. that you have not used it the last two years get rid of them. They are taking up valuable space. Please be sure to recycle any electronics and waste that should not be thrown directly into the trash.
• Clean out your Rolodex. Trying to find the one business card you are looking for in a sea of unknown names is frustrating. Mostost likely if you haven’t called them within the year, you don’t need it. With the utilization of electronic contacts and address books, this same methodology applies. Take the time to keep your contacts current and relevant, regardless of what system you use to track them.