Organizing Business Documents 101
You've heard me say it before, but I'm going to tell you again: A paperless office is a peaceful office.
If you follow my Top 10 Financial Tips blog series, you already know how to organize your financial documents. Today, I want to spend some time talking about business documents, and the why and how to keep your business house in order.
What do you mean by business documents, Beth? Like my contracts?
Contracts are top of the list when considering your business documentation. But there's so much more to consider, including:
Statements of work
Legal documents (Operating Agreements, LLC Documentation)
Onboarding paperwork for employees
In short, business documents include anything in writing that supports your business when things are going well, but more importantly, for when they don't.
Here's an example: Our client, a mid-size non-profit, laid off their finance director and hired us as consultants to clean up their books and prepare for their annual audit. Their files were in multiple locations. Online files were housed on Dropbox, Sharepoint, and a mysterious email folder that the finance director had maintained. Physical files were either stored haphazardly in his file cabinet or in piles around his office.
Every single one of these files were required for their audit.
Pulling their files together required a significant number of hours, that turned into weeks, and a hefty consulting bill from me at the end of the project.
Remember, organization isn't about storing away documents wherever you happen to find a space and forgetting about them; it's about function and productivity. Multiple locations both physical and online only create chaos, not order.
How do I organize my documents? What online tools do you recommend?
First and foremost, when it comes to documents that require legally-binding signatures, get yourself set up on HelloSign, which coordinates signatures between parties, in any order, or all at once. You'll see your documents progress with status notifications that keep you in the loop throughout, and when the document is fully executed, everyone gets a copy delivered to their inbox.
HelloSign also interfaces with apps you are probably already using, like Dropbox or Google Drive, making it an easy add-on to your current processes. There's also an audit trail feature that allows you to see when each party signed, so there is no mystery about who signed when.
For those who may not be ready to leap to e-signatures, a scanner is your next best bet for cataloging your business documents. The beauty of scanners is that they come in all shapes and sizes, from phone apps for small scan jobs to deluxe desktop models that crank through reams of documentation in minutes. Here are my recommendations:
Phone App: Dropbox Doc Scanner App: Available for iOS and Android, this app allows you to upload quickly and organize quality scans from paper documents, whiteboards, receipts, sketches, and more
Desktop Scanner: Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i: Compact and portable, the Fujitsu Scansnap's one-button simplicity means you can scan and save everything from business cards to legal-size documents.
Heavy-duty Scanner: Fujitsu fi-7160: Capable of handling everything from sticky notes, receipts, labels, hard and embossed credit and ID cards, this scanner is genuinely the Cadillac model of them all, yet still fits on a desktop. The automatic document feeder fits up to 80 sheets and scans 120 images per minute in color, greyscale, or monochrome.
How do I store my documents so I can find them?
Naturally, if you are saving files electronically, you'll want them stored safely. Many business owners default to their computer drive, but remember, backup files are essential. You don't want to dig out an old computer (like one of our clients did!) to find a crucial piece of information.
Cloud solutions like Google Drive or Dropbox are standard options, with Dropbox being my favorite.
My best tip? Use a standard naming convention! I've done this for years with both my business and personal files... An example would be: "YYYY MMDD Filename". I can't tell you how helpful this has made it to quickly drum up whatever document we are looking for!
The Bottom Line
Think of it this way: On average, companies spend $120 in labor to find one misfiled document. Is that how you want to spend your hard-earned money? Online management of business documentation will save you time and increase your bottom line. Knowing where to find critical information means you can address issues as they arise, making you more productive.
At Beth Blaney & Associates our top concern is providing small businesses and solopreneurs freedom from the number-crunching and office work that pulls them from their fields of expertise. We are dedicated to helping and empowering business owners!
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