04 Aug

Funding Masterclasses Part XVII: Record Keeping

 

Funding Masterclasses Part XVIIWhether you are running a business, defining a specific project plan or preparing an application for funding, you will need to keep records. Some records you have a legal requirement to retain (and you’ll face a fine if you don’t), other records may help you know more about your business. And unless you are truly a solo operator relying totally on yourself, it is very likely that at some point someone else will become involved with the business, and having accurate records will help them quickly get up to speed.

Records that we suggest you keep include:

  • Customers – who, when, what and how, any contracts
  • Suppliers – who, when, what, volume, invoices
  • Sales and income, business expenses, bank statements
  • Market research and competitor analysis
  • Employees personal details – name, address, next of kin, job application/certificates/ references, right to work in UK, PAYE/pension, sickness and holiday records, petty cash
  • Workforce equality data profiles eg age, gender, ethnicity, etc
  • Press/publicity – press releases, media stories, leaflets, advertisements
  • Benchmarking data to establish baseline against which to monitor progress eg sales figures, number of staff, turnover, cost of sales, unit sales (and keep the workings out so you can replicate)
  • VAT records (if VAT registered) and insurances (public liability, professional indemnity)
  • Applications for funding – arranged by funder
  • Licenses and agreements (eg software)
  • Leasing or hire records eg vans and mileage

Remember that if you are retaining any personal information then there are legal rules on what and how to store, which may include registering with the Information Commissioner as a holder of personal data.

Whilst it is sensible to keep details of your customers to help you monitor your business, these records can only help with marketing if they are current – so you may need to undertake a regular (annual?) data cleaning exercise. Ensuring records are up-to-date will take time, but will ensure that your marketing efforts aren’t wasted due to out of date contacts. And there are laws governing what information can be used for direct marketing purposes, regarding opting in and opting out. So be careful. Good practice indicates that any marketing materials should include details of how to stop them being sent ie an unsubscribe button on email updates.

Once you have decided what records to keep, you will then need to give consideration to how – which is where being organised and managing the information comes in – which is in the next blog. If you require assistance on what records to keep, our qualified advisers can help you. Please contact Sophie Price on 01837 658643.

Being organised – the importance of managing information

Whether you are developing your business, defining a specific project plan or preparing an application for funding, you will be encountering lots of information.

Some you will be creating, some you will be locating and some you will be sharing – and it is very easy to become overwhelmed. When everything was done with paper, it was relatively easy to keep comprehensive records – as long as you had access to a typewriter and/or copier. The rise of computers has, on the surface, made things easier but in practice, a lot more complicated, as it offers the ability to retain everything.

The trick is to know what format is appropriate for what, and have a system that works for you. It may sound a chore to do, but being organised can demonstrate to a funder or bank manager that you are a safe pair of hands for their investments.

If you intend to only need to keep electronic records, ask yourself:

  • Will any one else need to access? And how will they do it?
  • What security to I have in place?
  • How often should I back up?
  • Do I need a bespoke or off-the shelf system?
  • How will I manage version control and how will I arrange?
  • How much storage capacity do I have?
  • Will I be able to access when I need to? (top tip: if you are applying for EU funding it is likely you will need to keep records for seven years from project completing – so keep old versions of software!)
  • When do I delete/destroy?

If you intend to keep hard copy only, ask yourself:

  • Will any one else need to access? And how will they do it?
  • What security to I have in place?
  • Are effective printing facilities accessible?
  • How should I organise?
  • How much storage will I need?
  • When do I delete/destroy?

If you intend to keep both electronic and hard copy, in addition to previous questions:

  • Have I decided what gets filed in what format to avoid duplication?
  • Am I disciplined enough to keep both systems up-to-date?

The mixed option is often the one most used, but fails if there isn’t consistency and discipline in approach. If you require assistance to organise your information, our qualified advisers can help you. Please contact Sophie Price on 01837 658643.

Liz Abell signature

Liz Abell
Managing Director, the DR Company

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