It might seem like common sense, but for many business owners who are increasingly strapped for time, the records retention process can be one of the first things to fall behind, even though it’s integral to your company’s long-term success. In a nutshell, your company’s records are the most reliable way to prove growth and compliance. While you might say your company has experienced or is poised for exponential growth, you need evidence to back up big claims. Savvy investors (like the kind you actually want to business with) aren’t going to take your word for it alone. Nor will the government. So, what actually needs to be recorded, and how do you take the pain out of the process?
If There’s Money Involved, Keep a Record
A rule of thumb: any financial transaction conducted by the company should have an associated receipt. This includes vendor transactions, payroll, business purchases and sales. When it comes to record retention, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry: save everything to avoid missing important documents when the IRS, accountants or investors ask. We get it — piles of receipts are overwhelming. You’d much rather spend your time interacting with prospective clients, thinking strategy or testing new concepts than organizing every last bit of documentation your company retains. But before you fire up the trusty shredder, check out these three tips to help get your company’s records back on track.
Keep Personal and Professional Records Separate Set boundaries between personal and professional finances. Relying on your memory to determine where each transaction belongs is unreliable, confusing and can eat up hours of your precious time. In short, personal expenditures should come from personal accounts only, while business expenditures should come from business accounts only. Easy peasy. That way, you’ll have all electronic deposits, payments and other transactions recorded, neatly, in one place.
Explore Receipt Management Options Organizing receipts is easily one of the most cumbersome aspects of record retention. But, luckily, there are some pretty incredible smartphone apps designed to free up the time that would be otherwise spent sifting through piles of paperwork. Expensify is one of the leading apps for on-the-go business professionals: it allows you to seamlessly scan, upload and create easy-to-read expense reports.
Find a Good Vendor Management System Vendor transactions are a whole other situation. You and your vendors need to have a way to easily record all interactions. We recommend Bill.com as a comprehensive cloud-based tool to view and pay invoices. It also syncs with most accounting software. Your vendor can even set up their own personalized portal to send their invoices, cutting down on miscommunication or overlooked due dates.
Track Cash Transactions, Too
Some companies, specifically those in cannabis, conduct many transactions in cash. This can make records retention even more difficult, as there isn’t an electronic receipt generated automatically. Start keeping an audit log — even if it’s just a notebook showing how much, to whom and when — of any transactions and deposits as soon as possible. You’ll thank yourself later.
Save Yourself from Future Headaches
Record retention is a necessary responsibility for any company, no matter the size or the industry. Some record keeping is better than nothing; start off by downloading one of the smartphone apps mentioned above, start a spreadsheet or at a bare minimum, break out a notebook and pen to record by hand. And, remember, procrastination makes things worse. As dull as it can be, if you put records retention off for too long it only becomes a bigger and more complex task, taking more time to resolve down the road. Ultimately, your company might appear unprepared or unsophisticated to potential investors. Even worse, it could make you vulnerable to fraud or cause major headaches during an unexpected audit. As a business professional with an ever-growing list of responsibilities, it’s easy to sweep record retention under the rug. But if you’re not even sure where to start — and a mountain of receipts keeps appearing in your nightmares — it’s helpful to get an experienced, tech-savvy accounting firm on board to straighten things out.