It’s five minutes before the most important meeting of your career, and you just need to print the million-dollar contract, but where is it? Google Drive? OneDrive? An email attachment? A folder on your PC? A USB stick? Is it a document, an image, or a PDF? Are you about to lose your business because you can’t find your documents?
If you need to improve your business document management, here are some tips on how you can do it.
Choose a Business Document Management System
The first step is to choose the right system. It should be secure, searchable, able to handle multiple types of files, and ready to scale up as you grow your business. There are many systems available, including secure servers, cloud-based services, or open source management systems.
Naming and Organizing Files
Each document should be given a name that easily identifies it even before you open the file. You may also want to include the date in the file name.
Each management system should have a system of clearly labeled and nested folders, so that it is clear where each document is supposed to go.
Choose a procedure for handling outdated files, and decide whether such files need to be destroyed or archived. When saving electronic or paper files, move them to folders labeled with year and subject, or simply labeled “old.”
Handle Email Attachments
When so much communication is done by email, attachments can get lost in the system. You can manually download every file as it comes and then save it in the proper location, or you can use email management software that will download and file these documents for you.
Track Paper Documents
If you have files full of paper documents, consider whether to convert these to a digital format. According to a survey sponsored by Xerox, small business employees spend an hour each week just finding paper documents, and it costs over $2000 per year to manage and store them. Converting paper documents to electronic formats will allow you to add them to your file system and make them searchable.
If you decide not to scan documents, you can create electronic indexes to describe where the paper documents can be found. Alternatively, if you scan documents, but also keep the hard copies, add a note to each electronic copy to say where the paper document is stored.
Preparing for Tax Season
As you organize, make sure you can find important tax documents, including receipts, profit and loss statements, and last year’s tax return. You will also need records of your deductible expenses, such as mileage, travel, office supplies, or legal fees. Some documents, such as travel receipts, might need to be scanned. This will also prepare you for the possibility of being audited.
Choosing a business document management system will help you organize your paperwork for in-house work, or outsourced tasks such as bookkeeping. If you would like help with your bookkeeping or tax document preparation, contact us to learn more about our services.