Running a small business today holds plenty of excitement for those who prefer a fast-paced environment, but there can be a few downsides for those owners who have not thought through the processes they need to keep their business functioning efficiently. One of the worst hazards is the idea that the world of business has become paperless. While it may be true in many different ways that the amount of paperwork has been cut down, there is still plenty to go around for each business currently trying to make a profit. Figuring out how to organize paperwork for efficient order fulfillment, billing, record keeping, and even payroll can make the difference between profit and loss.
Taking in Orders
While there are a few small businesses today that have completely automated ordering and billing, many more have unique products that require lengthy descriptions or information for processing. Taking in orders manually is not necessarily bad when it means profits, but losing paperwork at any point can become a disaster. Each order should be recorded in at least two copies, and one should be routed to the department that will process it while the other should remain where it can be monitored by the person who took the original order.
While some businesses handcraft each item they sell, there are those that do production runs for larger customers. Filling an order might take several days, but the person responsible for ensuring it is complete should have a ready copy of the order for the purpose of checking for all components to be in place. Once everything has been fulfilled, it is time to move on to shipping the order to the client.
While offices have done their best to go paperless, the shipping industry still has its own requirements for paper. They will need a shipping bill that they will most likely supply, but the shipment must have an inventory. It is expected that the shipper will affix it to the box or crate, and many companies will refuse to take anything without paperwork. While there are some businesses where the customer will pick up their order, even they should receive a copy of what is in their package. A copy of the order might be acceptable, or the small business could generate a shipping inventory from their records. Keeping a copy of that with the order paperwork is generally part of the completed order when it goes to the billing department.
Once order fulfillment is complete, there are a few other steps the paperwork will need to go through. Some companies collect the payment for their services or products before an order is processed, but there are those that reverse the process. Clients expect to be sent a bill in a timely fashion, so keeping tabs on finished orders is important. Knowing how to organize your paperwork to ensure billing is done correctly can make the difference between showing a profit or being faced with a loss. Even though there are plenty of honest clients out there willing to remind a company to send a bill, they may eventually find another company that is more efficient.
General Office Procedures
All of the above steps deal with only one facet of a small business, and general office procedures should include organizing paperwork to make the process as efficient as possible. Many small companies have found business walking out the door when their lack of organization makes them look sloppy to customers who wonder what other corners are being cut.
Supplies and Deductions
In addition to order fulfillment, supplies are often necessary to keep a business running. Even the most paperless offices of today generally require at least a few pens and post-it notes for messages and doodling while thinking up an incredible sales campaign. Everything that goes into running a business is considered a supply. Not only should they be paid for, but the receipts should be kept on hand because they can be deducted for tax purposes. For these reasons alone, organizing paperwork can be profitable.
A Good Flow
There are plenty of ways a small business can be thrown into chaos when the paperwork is not where it should be, and it can even strain efficiency, customer relationships, and profit. It is important to ensure a good flow of paperwork to get where it needs to be, but figuring out how to organize paperwork has often been one of the more difficult tasks for small business owners. It might take an entire day or weekend, but setting up a cohesive system is the best way to manage the business and keep the profits rolling in.
Any company where an order has been lost will know the chaos it can cause, so figuring out how to organize paperwork to facilitate orders without issues is a prime concern. Take a look at where the orders come in and where they go once they are ready for processing. Place labeled boxes at each station where an order should be, and point them out to every employee handling paperwork. It is a good way to ensure everyone knows exactly where the orders should be during their trip through the company, and it could also point out better pathways that could make the entire operation more efficient.
The Filing Dilemma
Every piece of paperwork will eventually have to be filed and kept for a number of years. The filing dilemma has often been a stopping point for small businesses. Some of them have handshake agreements with other small companies, and their file might just have a first name. While everyone who started with the company can find it, the new people just hired are ripping their hair out because they believe the paperwork has been lost. Filing everything under the correct name and business name is just one more way of keeping the paperwork under control and organized.
Electronic Filing Systems
Modern computers do just about everything a human can do in an office, and keeping the paperwork from becoming an issue is one of them. For those who do not want to give up precious office space for banks of filing cabinets, electronic filing systems are the modern way to store receipts for taxes and other purposes. They fit quite well into the company’s accounting computer, and even the backup does not take much more than a drawer in the desk. They can save hours of work when trying to find important files, and they can be indexed under many different topics or headings.
Keeping Track of Everything
A small business owner has many duties, and one of them is keeping track of everything. Looking at the electric bill to make sure it is correct, ordering the same paper everyone agreed was useful for taking notes, and even being responsible for making sure the company’s internet connection remains active are all part of the job. No task is too big or small, and each one might come with paperwork attached to it. Learning how to organize your paperwork as a small business owner might seem to be a hassle, but teaching employees how to work with it correctly can save time and money.
Finding systems that work in more than just providing directly for customers makes a business more efficient, and it can boost the bottom line. Many small businesses have found they are drowning in countless pieces of paper because there is no effective way to keep it where it needs to be, and losing it through mismanagement can cause endless issues. Overhead has never been a fun part of any business, but the running of a good business does have minimum requirements. For those who want to see their small business thriving with plenty of work to keep their employees busy, getting organized for efficiency can make their business boom.