Just because you are running a small business that doesn’t do half as much trade as a multinational, it does not mean that you do not have to be as strict with your paperwork. Of course, the full range of requirements may be different for a small business when compared to a large one, but this does not negate the need for a certain level of record-keeping.

Not only do well organized records help a small business to demonstrate that they are as professional as a larger company, but it enables them to meet legal and tax regulations.

Fortunately, there are ways in which a savvy business can organize their records, one of which is by using open source document management.

This digital system of record-keeping will help ensure that your business is always organized.

Out with the Old…

It may seem easy to use the old, well-used arrangement of filing papers in a cabinet under a system,such as sections of the alphabet grouped together in particular drawers, for example, A – D, E – H etc. If this is what you have always done and it is what you are used tom there will be little motivation to change. However, while this system may initially seem to work, it can quickly fall apart when people who do the filing get lazy or don’t know what they are doing.

A filing cabinet can get full, messy and disorganized, which is no good for running a slick business.

The first step in pursuing the process of creating an organized business is to recognize that there is a different way of doing things, and be willing to let go of the old way.

…In with the New

Once you make the decision to maintain your records in a more efficient manner, the next step will be to decide on what new system you intend to use. Now there is no point in swapping one manual method of record-keeping for another, so don’t even think about it!

Instead, you should consider electronic file management software in order to help organize your records. Keeping records in a digital format will give you greater flexibility in the use of the documents, while keeping them safe and secure.

You can review different software options to find the one that is best for your business, and you should consider what benefits they can offer you. For example, if you need to be able to transfer documents by email, save them in different formats, or create different folders, you must first determine whether the software that you are considering offer these.

An electronic system will be able to cope with a very large volume of paperwork, which will make it suitable for a small business. However, it is still worth checking whether it can only hold a certain quantity of data, or whether there are any other restrictions.

Check whether it will be able to be easily used alongside your existing software, and whether the security that it offers meets your needs as a business.

You will be able to dispose of all the filing cabinets and physical paperwork once your electronic filing system is fully up and running.

Get Ready…

You will need to prepare your hardcopy documents in readiness for transferring your manual record-keeping system to an electronic one. This is one organizational step that will lead to a more streamlined form of organization that you can continue to use in the long-term.

Make a decision about how the transfer is going to take place, such as whether it will be done in date order, alphabetical order, or by file reference.

Even if it means creating physical piles of paperwork, make sure it is all in order – it will be worth it in the end. Maintain a dedicated space for this process for the duration of the transfer so as not to get things mixed up.As part of this procedure, take the opportunity to review the documents to ensure that they are complete and contain all the necessary information that makes them useful.

If you discover any documents that are useless or have been retained inadvertently, you can dispose of these at this stage.

This must be undertaken as it is necessary to scan all the documents so that they can be uploaded to the electronic system that will demonstrate the progressive and orderly nature of your business.

Make sure all employees are warned ahead of time so that they can make any necessary preparations for their work by accessing any records that they might need.

…And Go

Consider the needs of the business and select a period for the transfer when you know that there is a lull in the need to access the records. Issue another warning to all affected parties to reiterate that the transfer will take place, using a method that they are most likely to see.

Undertake the transfer by uploading the records, completing a check after the first few to ensure it is being done correctly. Once you confirm that the upload process is working as it should, continue to work by following the order that you previously decided on. Work carefully and methodically to complete the process fully. Avoid deviating from this to negate the risk of getting the paperwork confused and accidentally missing or duplicating scans.

Finish Up

Creating digital files in which to store records will be a further way in which you can organize your business. Learn more here on the Entrepreneur about organizing your business. For example, you can create files within the software by department so that all the documents within them relate to the specified department.

Do some more extensive testing by opening multiple documents to ensure that you can view them properly. Attach electronic records to an email and send it to trial this process to ensure it works as it should and that the document received by email opens properly and can be clearly viewed.

Ensure that everyone that requires access to the records will be able to do so, which will mean creating individual accounts.

If you intend to do so, you can proceed to securely destroy the paper records either by using a reputable service that will collect the documents or by getting to know your shredder really well!

If you run a small business, you may be working in every aspect of it, from operations to accounts. However, this does not excuse being casual about your paperwork. By implementing an efficient document management system, you can maintain your paperwork properly without having to worry about it. You will find yourself capable of meeting the requirements that arise as part of running a business when it comes to storing records.