One of the most important administrative responsibilities small business owners face is keeping accurate and current records. Not only is it critical for assessing opportunities and risks that can affect your company’s profitability and the potential for growth, it’s also necessary for ensuring legal and regulatory compliance.
Here’s a list of some commonly required records businesses need to maintain. While this list is not all-inclusive, it will give you a good idea of the basic items you need to track and keep in your possession.
- Accounting records (Expenses, Income, Invoices, Customer payments, Transaction records, Tax filings, Bank and Credit card statements)
- Contracts (with clients, vendors, partners, etc.)
- Purchase orders
- Licenses and permits
- Employment applications
- Vehicle mileage logs
- Articles of Incorporation or Certificate of Organization (depending on your business’s legal structure)
- Operating Agreement
- Annual Meeting minutes
- Trademark, service mark, and patent registrations
- Inventory logs
Software programs (such as accounting tools, sales and customer relationship databases, inventory software, etc.) alleviate some of the work but remember they all require some manual attention to make sure information is logged and entered correctly. If information is missing or inaccurate, you (not your software) are ultimately responsible for the integrity of your records.
Also, make sure you back up your digital data. Many cloud-based software applications provide backup of the data you’ve entered, but your computer files (Word documents, Excel files, etc.) should be backed up, too. Consider backing up your data on an external hard drive AND through a cloud-based data backup service such as Carbonite or Mozy.
Consulting with professionals who specialize in taxes, accounting, and business law can also help ensure you meet regulations and requirements. If you find it difficult to dedicate time to maintaining good records, you might also consider transferring some routine record keeping tasks to a trusted and capable bookkeeper, virtual assistant, or a consultant. To locate reputable professionals in your community, consider asking a SCORE Coachella Valley mentor for recommendations.
Visit coachellavalley.score.org to look at the profiles of the mentors and find one with experience that you are looking for or you or call (760) 773-6507 to be matched with the right mentor. SCORE mentoring services are free and confidential. SCORE is a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Their mission is to help small businesses in the Coachella Valley become successful. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.