13 Record Keeping Tips

Record keeping is extremely important to the success of every business. Small businesses that keep good records are more successful in the long run.

Micro business owners should focus on simple record keeping.

Here are some great tips to help:

1. Use duplicate checks.

2. Separate your personal and business checking accounts.

3. Do not mix personal and businesses expenses.

4. File your receipts by category, not date.

5. Use the memo line of a check to explain the expense.

6. Keep a mileage log, even if it’s just a calendar with the destination noted. Look up mileage using Google Maps or Mapquest.

7. Keep a calendar of appointments.

8. When buying equipment that you will use for longer than a year, make note of the date and total price including sales tax and shipping. Your accountant will need this information to calculate a depreciation deduction.

9. Estimate the business-use-percentage on items that are both personal and business such as Internet usage, or cell phone usage.

10. Count your inventory at the end of the year.

11. Keep records of income such as sales slips, deposit slips, and invoices for services.

12. Use a petty cash account and balance it frequently.

13. Get a W-4 form from every independent contractor you hire before paying them. A W-4 form records their legal name, address, EIN or SSN, and is needed at tax time.Record who paid you on your bank deposit slips. Use carbon-less copy deposit slips.

Looking for record keeping software? See my post on Record Keeping Software and find the option that best fits your needs.

Carol Topp, CPA

The Best Software for Record Keeping

Record keeping is vital to the success of a micro business, but what software can help the busy micro owner keep good records? The best system is the simplest one that business can get by with. Sometimes a simple paper system will suffice, but some micro businesses need a computer spreadsheet or software.

Start with a simple spreadsheet

Microsoft Excel or the free Open Office Calculate programs work well for keeping records for  thousands of micro businesses. Business expenses can be categorized in columns to make tax preparation easier. Totaling income by month, by customer, or by product is quickly accomplished. You can get a little more sophisticated and use multiple worksheets for each month that flow into an annual summary sheet. The spreadsheet is a powerful tool because of its simplicity and flexibility.

Personal Money Management Software

Some micro owners find that personal money management software like Quicken can work well for record keeping. Although these programs were not designed for business use, these may already be familiar software from your personal life. They are very intuitive because they look just like a checkbook register and they will generate simple reports showing income and expenses.

But personal finance software cannot create invoices or bill customers, record payroll, record sales tax, or track inventory. For those business-like functions you’ll need accounting software.

Small Business Accounting Software

Accounting software such as Quickbooks works better than personal financial software if you send your customers forms such as invoices, receipts, or statements for progress billing, or if you manage inventory. Accounting software can:

  • Print checks, pay bills, track sales & expenses

  • Reconcile bank accounts
  • Create estimates, invoices & reports
  • Track employee time and calculate payroll withholding
  • Generate reports
  • Download credit card & bank transactions
  • Track inventory and set reorder points
  • Create business plans, budgets & forecasts

Start with the simplest method you can for keeping your micro business records and graduate to more sophisticated systems as needed. A good CPA can help you set up an easy to use system whether on a spreadsheet or using software.

The important thing to do is to keep good records.

Carol Topp, CPA

Why a Business Might Fail

My virtual friend, Meredith Curtis (she interviewed me about my other website HomeschoolCPA.com here) has a blog series titled Focus on Your Finances

In this post, Starting Your Own Business Part 1, Meredith discusses why a business might fail.

Warning: She offers straight talk that some people may not like, but she speaks from more than 10 years of experience in running her own small business and backs up her observations with several verses form the Bible.

I have seen these three things cause businesses to fail.

Self-Government

“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28 NIV).

A business owner without self-control will not be able to run her business effectively. Self-government is simply the ability to run your own life well, control your emotions, manage your time, manage your money, maintain healthy relationships, and follow through with personal plans and goals.Without the ability to manage yourself, you will not be able to manage a business.

Scheduling

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NIV).

Hard work is required to get a business off the ground. Hours and hours of work must be scheduled into your life without taking away from the priorities of family, church, and time with the Lord. If you cannot prioritize and schedule your life, you might let important things in your life and new business fall through the cracks.

Administrative Abilities

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4 NIV).

Bookkeeping, accounting, record keeping, and other administrative tasks have always bored me, but I realize their importance in a successful business. You not only risk trouble with the Internal Revenue Service  (IRS) and other government agencies, but you can find your self in trouble with customers, employees, and vendors if you are not careful.

How about you?  Are you self controlled, in control of your schedule and able to handle administrative tasks? You may not be perfect in all those areas, but running a micro business can be a great way to learn those skills!

The lessons you learn by running a micro business will help you  later whether you open another, larger business or work for an employer. So, don’t be afraid to start if you lack some of the skills mentioned.

You can learn while you earn with a micro business. You will not fail!