bookkeeping, office management, paperless

Going Paperless

One of the biggest trends in business right now is to go paperless. It is one method to cut costs and boost efficiency. But is this method of file management even possible for you and your business?

It would be nearly impossible to completely eliminate paper from your business. So, what are some of the easiest areas to introduce paperless and automated practices? The first and most obvious area is your accounts receivable. How many invoices and statements are you printing and mailing to your customer?  This can be unnecessary when most, if not all, of your customers have an email account and might be willing to receive online invoices? If you are already running QuickBooks Desktop or Online, the email feature is very user-friendly and doesn’t cost you anything on top of your subscription. With your QuickBooks Online subscription, you can also receive free bank ACH payments directly from their bank to yours. This payment is applied directly to the invoice and entered into QuickBooks as a deposit. Once the invoice is sent, you don’t have to do anything more. Talk about a time saver! I can’t say enough good things about QuickBooks Online. I truly think it’s the best accounting software available right now.

Next, your accounts payable can be looked at. You probably receive most of your vendor invoices in the form of a paper invoice. Some of your vendors probably offer online invoicing. You also have the option, through your bank or even your accounting software, to pay your bills online. This creates a bank ACH, saving you money on checks, envelopes and postage. Not to mention the time it takes to create all of these. If you have monthly recurring payments, you can set the payment as such and not have to worry about it again.

If you are a service-based industry, you probably also keep miscellaneous customer information on hand. This type of information can very easily be scanned into your computer, if you regularly back it up, or to a cloud-based server. I, personally, do both.

Most of your bank, credit card and other loan accounts offer online statements. Take advantage of this! You will be notified by email when a statement is available, and you can save it in the proper location on your computer. You can always print it when necessary.

Any business will have other documents that can be scanned, such as; insurance documents, licenses, banking information, etc.

Let’s talk logistics. For scanning purposes, I use the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500. I find that this model is user-friendly and fast. There are smaller and more affordable scanner options, such as the Portable Fujitsu Scanner or this Portable Brother Scanner. For my cloud storage, I utilize Microsoft OneDrive. I have 1TB of storage through my Microsoft office account. That is A LOT of storage. On my computer, this my OneDrive show up as another folder, just like my regular document folders. Just to be on the safe side, I also back up my computer regularly using an WD Elements 1TB External Hard Drive. This is a manual process, but once it’s set up, all it takes is attaching the hard drive with a USB cord and the process will begin automatically. I keep my hard drive in a fireproof safe, so it anything were to ever happen, my documents would be stored in multiple secure locations. Some business might prefer a cloud-based automatic backup system. This is a great choice for many, but tends to be a little more costly. If you have a service-based business that exchanges a lot of customer documents, you can also subscribe to a cloud-based file sharing program. ShareFile is a good choice, but there are many options to choose from. With ShareFile, you can upload files as you go, or just ones that are request by your customer. It creates a simple customer portal, and they can send you documents as well. This is ideal for working with sensitive documents, so you aren’t having to password protect the documents for security purposes.

The only way for this to really work for your business is if you and your employees are committed to the process and have policies and procedures in place. You might spend a week or even a month, depending on the scale of your business, planning and preparing. You’ll need to decide who will assume the responsibilities; such as online bill pay, online or email invoicing, scanning, etc. Also take the time to ensure that your online file and naming system is simple and easy to use. There is nothing worse than having to search all over for a file. I recommend naming every file by the customer or vendor name, the document description and the date it was received. If you are truly committed to paperless, you might also consider spending some time scanning old documents. This will be a good way to clean up files.

Keep in mind the end goal. Easily accessible documents, employee efficiency and reduced costs. Win-Win-Win. I offer a discount on QuickBooks Online for all of my customers, as well as scanning services! Just contact me through the website or email me to get started.

Be sure to check out my other blog posts, like my Facebook page Patten Bookkeeping Services  for more information!

Thank you so much for stopping by and I wish you the best!


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bookkeeping, office management

Filing System Management


It’s that time of year again. The year-end hustle. You’re trying to find all of your tax documents, when you SWORE to yourself last year that you’d stay on top of them.

So maybe you didn’t exactly stay on top of the piles. Here’s a little filing system how-to guide to get you caught up and ready for the new year.

1. First Things First. Organize your documents. Separate your piles into piles. This will take some time and work!

The categories I recommend you begin with are: Income (deposit details, deposit slips, check stubs, credit card reconciliation) , Expenses (bills you’ve paid, receipts and check stubs), Financial Documents (bank statements and credit card statements, loan documents),  Employee Documents (current and past W-4s, singed employee handbook, applications, resumes, performance reviews, disciplinary actions, etc), Business Documents (licenses, EINS, incorporation documents), Planning Documents (operating agreements, marketing plan, big ideas, etc), Retention Documents (Tax Returns) .

If you are a Farmer or Rancher you might want to add: Cattle, Sheep, Livestock or something similar (keeping track of your numbers and their location) and Fields (location and current planting status).

You’ll also have invoices that are yet to be paid by you or to you. An easy to reach set of files on your desk is a good place to add your “Accounts Payable” folder and possibly your “Accounts Receivable” if you have only a few documents for this file. Otherwise, include Accounts Receivable with your other folders in an easily accessible drawer, preferable eye-level or the top drawer.

2. Next you will need to organize the smaller piles into folders and a fling cabinet. I recommend you buy a high-quality filing cabinet that locks and has plenty of room to store current documents and extra room for future documents. For my bookkeeping business, ranching business and personal documents, I use a large 4-drawer filing cabinet because I knew I wouldn’t grow out of it.

You’ll want to label each file. I prefer to use the Avery File Labels- you can download the template from Microsoft Word. Within your Income and Expense Folders, you will separate these into sub-folders. I find that organizing these sub-folders chronologically works best for most business and individuals. So within each Income and Expense Folder, create folders January-December. The Financial Documents folder will generally have sub folders along the lines of “Checking, Savings, Credit Card, Loans, etc” and within each of those you will indicate the specific account, i.e “1st Bank Checking”, “Cabela’s Credit Card” and these folders will be organized alphabetically, with the documents organized chronologically in each folder. Within the Employee Documents folder, I recommend you create a file for each employee with their individual employee documents.  You may have only a few documents for your Business Documents folder and can file them all together alphabetically or you can make sub-folders, whichever seems to work best for you. The same can be done for Planning Documents. Lastly, you’ll probably come across documents that need to be retained, including previous years’ tax returns and the corresponding work papers and documents. For the exact retention guidelines, you can visit Montana Secretary of State website or Internal Revenue Service website. I recommend these stay in your filing cabinet for at least three years after which they can be moved to storage throughout the rest of their retention requirement.

Keep in mind, if this is all happening in December, it will make the most sense to double your Income, Expenses and Financial Document Folders. One set for this year and one set for next.

3. Now that everything is filed and organized, you will want to create a workable filing schedule in order to keep everything filed. Along with your easy to reach files on your desk an inbox is essential. I’ll walk you through your daily, weekly and yearly paper clutter and filing schedule.

Daily: Sort Mail an Emails- Add bills to Accounts Receivable, Add Documents that need filed to Inbox, Receive Payments like you normally would.

Weekly: File everything in Inbox. If the document doesn’t have a place, make one! As your bank statements and credit card statements come in, be sure to reconcile them. This process is unbelievably easy to do on QuickBooks Online. Just give me a call if you would like to hear more about setting up a new file or transferring your old QuickBooks Desktop file to QuickBooks Online.

Yearly: When all of your documents have come in for the year (including bank statements, etc), you will want to move your Income, Expenses and Financial Documents to a Tax File to be given to your bookkeeper or tax preparer. At this time you can also move tax documents older than three years to storage. Make sure to mark your storage boxes clearly on all sides and the top. This will save the hassle of wondering what’s inside later. Also check your storage and determine if any of those documents are past their retention date. I also recommend you cull your employee file- any employees who weren’t employed with you for the last two years can be moved to storage. The same can be done with yearly business licenses. Don’t throw these away, but its safe to file them in storage.

4. The last recommendation I’ll make is to begin converting your files to electronic files. This process is very easy to do with a scanner of your own, Fujitsu ScanSnap (mine is the ix500) is a great product to use for this. A lower cost option is the Portable Fujitsu Scanner or this Portable Brother Scanner. My office also provides scanning services if you would prefer to outsource.

Comment with any questions you may have.

Happy filing and hopefully not PILING!

– Michelle

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