|Paper, paper, paper. It�s everywhere in a small business, from customer invoices and expense receipts to your licenses and annual tax returns. Without proper management, these records can gradually proliferate into a monumental mess, making it difficult to find what you really need amid the clutter.
Don�t get caught in the business records runaround. In just 60 seconds, we�ll give you some guidelines for culling that plethora of paper down to the essentials.
0:59 Know What You Need
Some things like copies of your business tax returns, licenses, incorporation papers and capital equipment expenses should be preserved indefinitely. Keep any tax-related documents (expense receipts, client 1099 forms, vehicle mileage logs) for a minimum of seven years.
Organize a your business records in a single, secure, easily accessible location�a file cabinet or subdivided box. This will make the information more easily retrievable, and help you track changes in your business over the years. Also, maintain a summary list of your file contents, particularly if you store little-used back-up information separately.
0:37 Secure the Irreplaceables
Papers that are difficult or impossible to replace should be kept in either a safe deposit box or a fireproof safe. Placing those documents in plastic covers will help protect them, and�more importantly�prevent you from accidentally giving away an original copy. Keep the key or combination in a secure location. Tell two or three people (e.g., key employees, family members) how to access this information in the event you are unavailable when it is needed.
0:26 Look Before You Scan
Scanners and PDF formats makes it easy to convert paper records to more convenient digital media. Depending on the type of document, however, a digitized version may not be acceptable for certain uses. It�s also a good idea to store your digital records on backup disks or CDs. Make a separate backup copy of these records for storage in your safe deposit box or other secure off-site location. Update all backup versions on a regular basis.
0:15 Make Regular Reviews
Don�t let your receipts and other business records pile up. You need only a few moments once or twice a week to route your paperwork to the proper location. Allowing these documents to accumulate for �later� only creates a larger, more intimidating chore, as well as the temptation to simply stuff it away in a box for �much later.�
0:04 Shred It!
When the time comes to purge records from your business, use a shredder to ensure that no sensitive information falls into the wrong hands. Your local office supply store likely offers many low-cost, compact shredders that will easily attach to your office wastebasket. This simple investment will go a long way in safeguarding you and your business from identity theft, and other risks of misplaced documentation.
Brought to you by SCORE �Counselors to America�s Small Business�