10 Keys to Use Technology to Manage Small-Business Records - dummies

10 Keys to Use Technology to Manage Small-Business Records

By Barb Howe, Abshier House

Small-business owners everywhere have embraced technology to manage their records, whether it’s scheduling appointments, creating correspondence, recording business operations, processing payroll, tracking inventory, or more. While businesses have not gone “paperless,” they have recognized the advantages of using technology to keep organized. If you’re still chained to using paper, it may be time for you to use the following ten keys to rep lace the paper with electronic files.

Use Outlook to keep track of appointments, tasks, and projects

The paper calendar that goes everywhere you go is helpful, but have you tried using the Calendar feature in a software program? With a computerized calendar, you can enter an appointment once and set it to repeat daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, and you can set automatic reminders — tasks you can’t do on your paper calendar. Here’s another bonus: With software such as Outlook, all of your staff members can share calendars.

Scan business cards and transfer their info into Outlook contact lists

Are you tired of having to plow your way through your Rolodex or a huge stack of business cards to find a phone number or email address? Well, you can step away from whichever version of this nightmare you face. How? Run each business card through a scanner that includes software to convert the information on the card into the Contact list in Outlook. Then you can find the information you seek with a Find operation.

Convert documents into Adobe .pdf files

MS Word has an option for saving files as. pdfs. The process is painless. With an open Word document, choose FileSave AsSave as type, and click on the dropdown arrow at the far right. Scroll down the list, highlight PDF, and click Save (beside Cancel at the bottom of the box).

What’s the big deal about pdfs? You no longer have to worry about whether someone has the right version of software to read your file. Any computer with Adobe reader can open any .pdf file.

You also can scan letters, invoices, ads — any documents that will fit your scanner — and save them as pdfs. Just make sure that you set the scanner to the .pdf file type before you scan the document.

Create masters of documents used frequently

When you frequently use essentially the same letter but with minor changes, keep a master file of it on your computer. Then when you need the document, open your master document, make the changes, and print the document. Remember to save the file with a different filename so that the master isn’t changed.

Use accounting software to create invoices and purchase orders

You don’t have to thumb through filing cabinets full of invoices or purchase orders anymore. Use accounting software such as QuickBooks or Sage 50 to create those documents. You may need to print and mail documents to a customer, but the actual file will stay— not in space-hogging filing cabinets— but on your computer where finding an invoice is a matter of typing a few keystrokes.

Automate time cards, project billings, and payroll processing

You can replace punching in and processing time cards with electronic clocking in and processing payroll. Think of the time saved and the errors avoided. One employer says that his company cut payroll processing from 6 hours to 45 minutes by using time card software. Now that’s a major feat.

And if trustworthiness is an issue for your business, you can purchase a software program that requires each employee to place a finger on a scanner when beginning and ending work hours! This fingerprinting sounds like a sci-fi movie, doesn’t it?

Track inventory electronically

If your small business involves inventory, using technology is the only way to go. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software enables your company to keep an accurate record of inventory, fill orders more quickly, ship orders seamlessly, and bill accurately because everything is tracked by computer. You can manage all those processes, using labels and numbers on your computer screen.

Record purchases and product details about assets in a spreadsheet or database

When you purchase equipment or other assets, record the purchase and product details in a spreadsheet or database. With all the information at your fingertips, you can contact the vendor with any issues or quickly tally your assets for a financial statement or respond to a request for asset information from the bank.

Make tax time a piece of cake

When all or most of your records are on the computer, preparing taxes is much easier and more accurate than transferring data from a hard copy documents to the computer.

With all your invoices or purchase orders in an accounting software program, you just run a report and —voila! —the software gives you the total of invoices or purchase orders for the year. The same is true of payroll, inventory, and assets. You can retrieve anything you’ve systematically stored on the computer when you need it.

Back up files

An additional advantage of using technology to manage your small-business records is that you can back them up — save them to a computer in another location or a flash drive, for example.

Why is that so important? The most precious computer asset is the data it holds. Keep an extra copy of that data so that you never face the dismay of lost records. You rarely get advance notice that burglar is going to steal your computer, a fire is going to melt it, or it’s just going to die.