A typical business deals with numerous documents containing sensitive customer and company information.
Leaving these files unorganized may expose them to the risk of being stolen, damaged, or lost. When unauthorized people access your company’s private data, they can use it maliciously.
Therefore, you may want to implement strategies to help you organize and store your files safely and securely.
Aside from that, organizing your files saves space, enables quick access, and boosts your efficiency. With that in mind, here’s a startup’s guide to managing business documents:
A Startup’s Guide To Organizing Business Documents
1. Find Suitable Storage
When it comes to storing business documents, several options are available to meet different organizations’ varying needs. One commonly used storage option is physical filing cabinets or storage boxes, where paper documents are organized and stored in a secure and easily accessible manner. This method allows for quick retrieval and reference.
You could organize the cabinets or storage containers in your office, but a better option would be to have a dedicated storage room. Storing files away from your work area allows you to carry out your duties seamlessly and more effectively. It could be a vacant room or even a fully insulated shipping container.
When refrigerated shipping containers become non-operational, they can be repurposed as storage containers. They’re solid and durable, given the 100mm insulation, stainless steel interior, and fluted aluminum floor. Label every drawer, cabinet, or shelf to identify folders quickly.
Alternatively, you can opt for digital storage solutions like cloud-based document management systems or on-premises servers. These options offer numerous advantages, including efficient document indexing, enhanced security measures, remote access, and quickly scaling storage capacity.
Cloud storage, in particular, allows access to documents from anywhere with an internet connection while reducing the risk of physical damage or theft. Furthermore, document scanning services can help convert paper documents into digital formats, enabling seamless integration with electronic storage systems.
2. Determine The Documents To Keep
Deciding on the critical business files you need to keep is vital. Businesses should maintain various documents to ensure compliance, facilitate operations, and support decision-making processes. Some essential documents that a company should keep include the following:
- Financial records: This includes balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, tax records, and invoices.
- Legal documents: This category encompasses business licenses, permits, contracts, leases, partnership or shareholder agreements, intellectual property documentation, and legal correspondence.
- Employment records: Employee contracts, payroll records, tax forms, performance evaluations, and documentation of disciplinary actions should be retained.
- Business correspondence: Important emails, letters, and memos related to significant decisions, agreements, or contracts should be saved.
- Insurance policies: Keep records of insurance policies and claims, including property insurance, liability insurance, and workers’ compensation.
- Intellectual property records: This includes patents, trademarks, copyrights, and any related documentation.
- Compliance and regulatory documents: Maintain records of compliance with local, state, and federal regulations, licenses, permits, and certifications.
- Operational documents: Store standard operating procedures (SOPs), business plans, marketing plans, and any operational guidelines specific to the business.
Remember to consult legal and accounting professionals to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations and to determine the specific document retention periods required for your industry.
3. Destroy Old And Unnecessary Files
Destroying and discarding old and unessential documents is crucial to achieving an organized file system. After identifying the files to keep, review the remaining documents to identify those to destroy. Remember, not all old files are worth destroying. Some, irrespective of their age, can be helpful for legal requirements and keeping correct records of your firm’s activities.
Therefore, before destroying any document, ensure you have a file retention policy that describes the length of time you may keep a record before you discard it. After that, devise a safe destruction method to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing sensitive data. One of the best ways of doing this is shredding. In addition, shredding ensures less waste ends up in the landfill.
The same applies to electronic files. It’s best to wipe or degauss hard drives with backup tapes and storage media before discarding them. You can outsource help from third-party vendors to help you carry out safe data destruction.
4. Sort Your Documents By Type
Separating your files into different categories enables you to find them quickly when you need to use them. That way, you can increase your productivity by spending less time reviewing numerous documents to find the one you need.
Additionally, sorting out your physical documents enables you to identify those to keep or destroy and determine how to organize them for easy access.
Therefore, separate customers’ files, reports, billings, invoices, and other documents and put each in their respective cabinets.
5. Store Your Documents Chronologically
Another popular way to organize your files is according to the dates you created. Dates in documents can help you track your company’s operations and decisions.
Therefore, you can organize files from the most recent to the oldest to ensure the latest records are on top. Files that need frequent updating can be arranged depending on how regularly you use them or their importance.
6. Execute A Record Management Policy
Another significant step to take as a startup when organizing your business documents is implementing a record management policy. This policy will help you effectively store, recover, and secure the destruction of files.
It defines the documents you can keep, the retention periods, and how you can manage them. Some benefits of creating a record management policy include the following:
- It ensures that you and your staff can easily organize and access your documents
- It reduces the risk and cost of a lawsuit
- It safeguards your files from unauthorized access and destruction
- It allows you to identify the difficulties related to record management
- It helps you to improve the effectiveness of your operations
Below are critical elements of a sound record management policy:
- Purpose: This defines your management strategy, including the goals and objectives of your policy.
- Scope: This outlines the files to manage in your policy and those to exclude.
- Definitions: These are the descriptions of the most commonly used terms in record management, such as archives and records.
- Roles and responsibilities: In this section, you outline the responsible parties for enforcing and implementing the policy. You can also describe the person responsible for maintaining all your company’s records.
A functional records management policy helps you track your documents and have a clear plan for arranging and organizing them.
6. Educate Your Employees About Your Policy
After setting up an effective records management policy, you’d want to let your employees know about it. Teach them what record management entails, its purpose, and its advantages.
Next, let them know how you store files and who’s responsible for particular records. This way, you’ll ensure that all your staff are on the same page and understand what’s expected of them.
Organizing your company’s documents shouldn’t be overwhelming when you know the right approach. It starts by identifying the files you may need to keep and those to discard. Then, sort out your documents so you or anyone in your organization can easily retrieve them. Organization streamlines your company’s operations and improves customer satisfaction and retention, as you won’t keep clients waiting for long.
Therefore, implement the above strategies and get your files perfectly organized. Just ensure good storage space for physical files to avoid destruction by rodents and protect them from theft.