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Records in a Shoebox
Dear Professor Bruce:
I run a small carpentry service. I’ve been keeping my records in a shoebox and I know I should be better organized. What do you suggest?
Many small business owners will need to first consider a manual recordkeeping system. They should create a page for recording revenues and another page for recording expenses. Each page should have various columns to list each type of revenue or expense. Each column on the page should be manually totaled, and if necessary, carried forward to another page. The totals can then be used to prepare financial statements and tax returns.
Other small business owners know how to operate a computer. For some of them, a simple spreadsheet may be sufficient to record receipts on one page and expenditures on another. In that case the spreadsheet can be programmed to add the columns without requiring the business owner to do that.
If you do not own a computer, check with a friend or relative to see if they can provide help to you.
For more advanced users there are some reasonably priced accounting software packages that offer simple record keeping solutions. Quickbooks is a good place to begin your search for accounting software. Peachtree and Microsoft offer competing products. Each program will allow you to prepare financial statements and other reports directly from the data entry you provide when recording your revenues and expenses.
Beyond that you may want to talk to an accountant. According to Joe Rosenberg, CPA (Florham Park, NJ), many small business owners are challenged by the transition from the shoebox to a computerized record keeping method. Training is essential to understand software. Check with your local college for continuing education classes in accounting software.
How do you find a good accountant to assist you? Ask around for referrals. Then make a call to the accountant and explain that you are at the early stages of your business. Determine the costs associated with the accountant’s services. If you cannot afford it, you can contact the SBA, SBDC or SCORE to see if they can help.
Training is essential to understand software.