Business Documents: How Safe is your Companies Future ?

Business DocumentsWithout records you could be finished!

As you read this, take a look around.

Is your office smart and tidy and are all your business documents filed away where they can be found quickly. No? I thought possibly not.

I know it’s hard to live with, but all our company documents must be kept for a minimum of six years and sometimes a lot longer. It’s a legal requirement and HMRC and other statutory organisations can demand to see them at any time.

There’s some good stuff in there

Not only are we all forced to keep these records they actually do contain useful information. There are records of customers and products passed insurance policy details that in some cases can save you a fortune when defending a claim many years after the event.

I’m sure you would agree that they must be kept but in what format. Large businesses have had this problems sorted for a good number of years originally using microfilm and now scanning to electronic format.

A Bit of History

If I may digress, we have been making documents smaller for a long time now. The seige of Paris in 1870 was the first time that some clever person tried shrinking the data. Ordnance maps of the city were photographed several times to reduce them to small images and transported by pigeons. Once at their destination the maps ere returned to their full size and Voila, microfilm.

Anyway how does that help a small business person now ? I have visited many companies who have stored paper documents over years and years untill they had so many that it had become an insoluble problem. This is not something that you want to happen to your business.

Something lurking in the Loft

For most entrepreneurs that work from home the answer is to put the paperwork in the loft. It’s always possible to squeeze another box up there. That is until the day when all the precious records and a large piece of plasterboard ends up on someones bed.

It’s never too soon to make a start

I would strongly recommend that, whatever age or size of your business, you start to do something with your paperwork now. There are really on three choices:

  • Off site storage
  • Scan documents regularly yourself
  • Get a Document Scanning company to do everything for you

I think you’ll agree that storing documents with a storage company really requires no explanation other than to mention a little word of warning. Stored documents grow. They are rarely reviewed and shredded when they should be. I can remember my father saying that Colemans mustard made their money out the amount that was left in the jar, that you couldn’t get out, and storage companies make a lot of money from forgotten documents.

I have helped companies to audit their stored paperwork and find all sorts of ancient unwanted boxes. On one occasion this included lots of boxes of old sales brochures for products that hadn’t been produced for years.

A nice little earner for the storage company but a total waste of the clients money. So what else ?

Scanning Your own Documents.

This has never been easier. Low cost scanners are cheaper than ever and they connect via the USB port so no need for the old SCSI cards. Software is now cheaper than ever and with cloud based systems you can pay for the amount that you actually use.

Internet scanners enable you to scan direct to dropbox, evernorte of what ever you prefer without even attaching them to a computer. What could be easier ? The only thing to beware of is to ensure that you keep up with the daily scanning otherwise it can get out of control.

With this in mind I wouldn’t recommend that you get a fairly high-speed scanner say 40 pages per minute minimum. Any less and you will probably get fed up of waiting and end up not doing it at all.

What software do you need ?

There ar a lot of low-cost software products that will scan your documents straight in to the PDF format which is most favoured. These are available for £ 30.00 or so, depending on the features, and I will be reviewing some in the next post on this subject.

If like me you don’t mind doing a bit of the work but find the prospect of scanning a six-year backlog of documents more than daunting there is another way.

Bureau Scanning

This is the easy way out. You pay to have it all outsourced. they will do everything from collection to returning the scanned images and confidentially shredding the unwanted paper.

If you are worried about the cost i can give you some idea although it will vary depending on the type of document and more especially on th indexing requirements of your work.

For a fairly average type of scanning work you would expect to pay £ 40 to £50 per 1,000 pages. To give you some ides of quantities.

  • A bankers box full – 2,500 pages
  • A lever arch file full  400 pages
  • A filing cabinet drawer full – 3,300 pages

I hope that this gives you some idea and the confidence to do something about your paper situation before it overwhelms you.

Please don’t Ignore this warning

I would hate to think of one more small business getting into difficulties because of the paperwork problem. The time to sort it is always now as it’s one of those things that only gets worse the longer it’s left. For those who are planning a business start-up, I would begin planning your strategy now – it’s never to early to start.


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