Let’s be honest, you didn’t start a business because you have a passion for paperwork (unless you do have a passion for it and your business helps people manage their paperwork…).
All the same, small business administration is an essential part of running a company and it can have a real impact on your profitability.
Research conducted by Sage in 2020 found that only 42% owners claim they have always been good at looking after money.
This is evidence that even if you dread small business admin right now, with a little bit of time and patience, you can learn to boss it.
So, we’ve put together this simple business administration guide to demystify the processes you need to think about.
We can’t promise you’ll start loving business administration tasks, but you might find them a little less painful.
Here’s what the article covers:
- 1. Dedicate time to your business administration tasks
- 2. Daily business administration tasks
- 3. Weekly small business administration tasks
- 4. Monthly small business admin jobs
- 5. Annual small business administration tasks
What is small business administration?
Small business admin refers to a variety of record-keeping tasks that companies need to complete.
At the most basic level, business admin is about being on top of the money that enters and leaves the company and keeping records in the form of invoices, receipts and bank statements.
Some of these tasks are a legal obligation if you’re a business owner.
You must keep records of income and expenses, and you’re also obliged to pay your taxes to HMRC each year. Failing to do so could result in fines.
Other business admin tasks aren’t obligatory, but they can make your business run more efficiently.
Benefits of business administration tasks
If you fear filling in forms and are spooked by spreadsheets, try to remember that admin is your friend (and it’s possible to use small business software to automate some of your tasks too, which will save you time).
Here are some of the benefits of completing business administration tasks on time:
- Tells you how the business is doing (including how much profit you’re making).
- Helps you make better decisions.
- Identifies if you’re getting good value from suppliers.
- Means you reduce the risk of any small business legal issues.
- See which products/services are or are not selling.
Small business administration tips
Here’s everything you need to know about how to do paperwork for a small business.
1. Dedicate time to your business administration tasks
Make a date with yourself to complete the various administrative tasks you need to do. While it might be tempting to put these jobs off until later, you’ll save yourself more time in the long run by doing admin frequently.
Put a reminder in your diary for when you need to complete specific tasks and set aside the time to do each of those jobs. Different tasks should be done daily, weekly, monthly or yearly.
With practice, you’ll get much faster at completing them and admin will soon become part of your routine.
2. Daily business administration tasks
Each day set aside 20 minutes or so to complete some simple admin tasks. This includes things like:
- Checking your business bank account: Make a note of which clients have paid invoices and monitor your spending from one day to the next. If you use accounting software, the technology can track this for you automatically and provide reminders of when invoices are overdue.
- Recording expenses: Try to note down all payments you make each day and store your receipts somewhere safe (preferably digitally). If you do this daily, it’ll be fresh in your memory so it’s easy to remember what you bought. Put this information in a simple spreadsheet, write it down in a book or use accounting software to track this.
3. Weekly small business administration tasks
Other small business admin tasks should be completed on a weekly basis. You might want to set aside a morning each week for tasks like:
- Paying suppliers: Paying off your invoices regularly stops them building up.
- Chasing invoices: Every week check which customer invoices are overdue and send a reminder email to the client.
- Record data on a digital system: If you do your daily bookkeeping using a paper-based system, set aside some time to record all this information on a spreadsheet. If you use accounting software all this information gets uploaded and stored securely and you don’t ever have to worry about losing your files.
4. Monthly small business admin jobs
Try to set aside one day each month for bigger business administration processes such as:
- Sending invoices: You won’t get paid if you don’t send invoices. Accurately invoicing on the same day each month means you won’t forget to charge for work done in the past.
- Payroll runs: If you’re a limited company, you’ll need to pay yourself on a (usually) monthly basis. The same goes for your staff.
- Reconciliation: Bank reconciliation is about matching income/expenses on your business bank statement against invoices/receipts so you’ve got a record of what was paid.
- Manage inventory: A monthly stock take will tell you what stock you have in store and show you what is and isn’t selling.
- Administrative review: It’s worthwhile taking some time each month to check how the business is doing. Are you turning over enough money? This can then be used to tweak your wider business strategy.
- Performance review and planning: It’s helpful to spend a day per month looking at how the business has been doing, then creating plans and projections for the future too. By looking at the information you’ve gathered over the past month, you might notice seasonal trends, spot which customers are most valuable to you and decide if there are any products or services that just aren’t worth your while.
5. Annual small business administration tasks
Finally, there are several processes and procedures you’ll need to do each year. Set aside at least a day or two for these jobs:
- Self Assessment (if you’re a sole trader): The deadline to submit your tax returns is 31 January after the end of the previous tax year. You also have to pay your tax bill by that date. For example, in the tax year that runs from 6 April 2020 to 5 April 2021, you need to submit your tax returns digitally by 31 January 2022, and make your payment by that deadline too.
- Filing accounts and company tax return (if you’re a limited company): The deadlines for doing so depend on when your financial year ends and when you registered as a company.
- Review insurance: If you’ve taken out business insurance, review your annual premiums and shop around for better offers.
How to organise small business paperwork
You’re legally obliged to keep records of your business’s activities. At the most basic, you need to write all this information down on paper or use a spreadsheet.
But many companies today prefer digital record keeping since it’s faster and more secure:
You might want to use accounting software to do your bookkeeping. This can automatically take on more small business administration tasks for you.
You have to pay for these services, but they make admin jobs much faster.
Accounting software can save a lot of time when it comes to organising paperwork, ensures your records are kept securely and means everything is held digitally, which makes it much easier to search through.
You can find cash books in any stationery shop. You simply write down all sales and expenses each day.
You could store paper receipts in a folder or shoebox. You’d then need to hand over these receipts to your accountant, which can be time consuming (and there’s always the risk of losing them).
Today, most business owners prefer taking photos or scans of their receipts and keeping them digitally. It’s easier to search through them this way – and you reduce the chance of things getting lost.
The cloud vs local storage
When thinking about how to organise small business files, you can store your invoices, receipts and business records on your own computer, or use the cloud.
The cloud is basically a way of storing your files in a big data centre. You upload all your files over the internet, rather than storing them on your own computer.
The benefit is that even if you lose your personal computer, all your documents are stored securely online. Cloud storage usually costs a small fee each month, depending on the package you opt for.
You’re probably familiar with programs such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. There are lots of easy-to-use business admin spreadsheet templates you can find online to record your income and outgoings.
While they can be useful, spreadsheets do have their challenges when it comes to accuracy and manual data entry.
Admin help for small businesses
Many small business owners simply don’t have the time or inclination to do all their admin. And this is precisely why you might get someone else to do it.
Here’s a couple of things you can try:
Hire a part-time administrator
Experienced administrators and virtual assistants can manage all your admin tasks and find ways of running the business more efficiently.
Outsource to an accountant or bookkeeper
Small business accountants and bookkeepers are also able to process many of your admin tasks and ensure everything is done correctly and above board for HMRC.
They can also offer business administration advice.
Ready for small business administration?
At first glance, these small business admin tasks might feel like a lot. But with a little practice (and the use of software), they will soon become second nature and will take no time at all.
For more tailored advice on launching and running your small business, try our business readiness quiz today.
Editor’s note: This article was first published in April 2021 and has been updated for relevance.
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