My 30 year career in sales and marketing included owning a service business. Following that I consulted with over 177 clients on programs like organization. These experiences gave me extensive experience with filing systems.
In researching for a new information product, I felt overwhelmed by thousands of documents. As a small business, you face this challenge too. The following are some of the documents you have in your company:
- Sales letters & marketing copy
- Proposals & quotes
- Employee records
- Vendor communications
- Customer records
- Accounting records, including banking and credit
- Blog posts and website pages
There are two different types of filing systems each business needs: physical and electronic. These tips focus on computer files.
To organize most files, develop a filing scheme. For instance, I have one directory for Publishers. Under that, I have a folder for Published Articles where I store ones I submit. This way, the majority of files can be found quickly and easily.
Tools to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed with Your Documents
Despite the best planning, occasionally something gets misfiled or belongs in multiple folders. That’s when software tools can help you keep track. There are four major solutions for PC users:
- Windows Search and Windows Explorer
Microsoft makes it easy to find files. Save your document in the folder you expect to find it in, e.g. Service Comes First, Inc.’s folder. Then right click on the file name and select “Shortcut.” Drag the shortcut to your Products file. Then if someone remembers you created this custom product but not the name of the client or of the product, your employee can use the shortcut in the Products folder to find the file.
OneNote Link Option
When you have a major project you are working on, like a white paper, you can create a sheet in OneNote, which is part of Microsoft Office, for each major activity. While you might have a file folder for all of the documents you are writing, sometimes you have something that doesn’t fit in it, e.g. a map link to the client, a case study done on another customer, or a report on New York Times Online. You can store them, including clippings or active links on that project’s page in OneNote. You can also keep links to all of your files or folders in Windows Explorer that you want included.
Although Windows Search can find documents based on words not tagged, you have a greater chance of finding them if you code them with tags (or keywords) using the primary topics you might search for later.
- Click on File.
- When File opens, go to the right hand column where you will find Properties.
- One of those properties is Tags. Click on “Add a tag” to enter your keywords.
With the huge amounts of information we track in a small business today, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Whether you’re dealing with physical records or computer documents, the most important thing is to have a structure or system for how you store documents. For computer files, it’s helpful to put a shortcut in a secondary topic directory to point in the right direction. Using these three tips will save you hours of frustration monthly.
More from this contributor:
First Person: The Value of a Small Business Filing System
First Person: How Information Overload Impacts Small Business Management
First Person: The Value of Small Business Systems