Good Filing Systems

 
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Old 06-07-2008, 02:42 AM   #1
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Good Filing Systems


Well, looks like I'm going to be buying one of my houses (that was the plan all along but I wasn't sure there for awhile with all the builder bail out problems) and I'm going to be setting up a nice new big office in the 1000 sqft basement (an office just for me).

One of my biggest problems is a lack of office organization and good filing systems. I'm a nail banger turned business owner so I don't have any past experience seeing a real well laid out office and filing set up, plus that is always the thing that seems like it's not important at the time but can really screw with your productivity or waste a lot of time when you need something now. The result is a pretty unorganized and messy office now.

So I want to do this one right and I'm looking for a good book, video, tutorial, web site or explanation on good construction office organization.

Got any suggestions from those better educated than me in these matters?

Much obliged.

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Old 06-07-2008, 08:54 AM   #2
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Hi Wackman,

I'm the office manager for my dad's plumbing business. We have five trucks on the road and our work falls primarily under Commercial Tenant Improvements, Commercial New Construction, and Commercial and Residential Service.

When I began managing my dad's office his filing system was basically stacks upon stacks of papers on his desk. I basically had to create a system from scratch (creating Excel spreadsheets for various uses, switching A/P to Quickbooks, implementing practices with the bookkeeper, etc). I found in creating that system that it's really best when it's individualized, especially considering that what I'm doing might not make sense for your business. I have a business degree, but of course the real education is in the real world, so I can try to give you some tips and hopefully some of them will help.

Start with the basics. You need to keep track of:
1. Getting Jobs
2. Scheduling Jobs
3. Completing Jobs
4. Billing Jobs
5. Receiving Payment - Accounts Receivable
5. Paying Overhead - Accounts Payable (Utilities, Insurance, Supply Houses, Truck Maintenance, Payroll, etc)
6. Tracking Profit (Gross and Net)

My office is set up as follows:
Filing Cabinet #1 - 4 drawers
Drawer #1 - Active Jobs (Alphabetical)
Drawer #2 - Completed Jobs (Paid and Awaiting Payment) (Also Alphabetical)
Drawer #3 - Accounts Payable (Alphabetical)
Drawer #4 - Miscellaneous (I use this for Employment Apps, Vehicle and Equipment info, Supply Packing Slips, etc, none of which should have anything to do with A/P) (Packing Slips are by Month, everything else Alphabetical)

Filing Cabinet #2 - 2 Drawers
Drawer #1 - Accounts Payable - Personal (I handle my dad's personal bills as well)
Drawer #2 - Miscellaneous - Personal (Charities, whatever else he feels like having filed there)

A note on Accounts Receivable - I basically keep track of A/R by using Quickbooks.

Keeping Track:
1. Getting Jobs – Obviously you know how to do this! I just thought I’d let you know how I gather the Customer information and keep track of it. I begin by adding all pertinent information to a Job Status Summary. I then create a Job Folder and place it in the Active Jobs drawer under the appropriate letter. During the course of the job (we have quite a few T&M) I’ll put any plumber’s notes, packing slips, etc. into this folder to use later for Billing.

2. Scheduling Jobs – Using that Job Status Summary, my dad and I determine which plumbers we want on the job, and how long we estimate it’s going to take. We then go to our 2-month Dry Erase calendar and add the job. All jobs are color-coded according to priority as well, so if one of our bigger contractors calls us for an emergency, we know what we can move around to fit them in.

3&4. Completing and Billing. Once a job is complete, I create an invoice in Quickbooks, make copies, send the bill out, and place the copied invoice into the Job Folder I created (and all other information pertaining to that job) into the Completed Jobs drawer. When the bill is paid, I’ll make the necessary changes in Quickbooks and the Completed Jobs drawer.

5. Handling Accounts Payable (Business and Personal) - Okay, so the BILLS, when I receive them, are immediately keyed into a spreadsheet I created which has basic information (Date Received, Account Name and Number, Total Due, Due By). This summary is printed out regularly so my dad can look at it if he wants. However, what we pay attention to more is another 2-month Dry Erase calendar that I use to plot A/P payments. It makes it really easy to see day-to-day billing information without having to go to the filing cabinet all the time. I don’t know if you have a bookkeeper, but she’s really made life easy for us. I simply send her a list of accounts and check amounts, she sends me the checks, I send them out from the shop. We used to have her sending the checks, but we wanted more control over this aspect of the business.

6. Tracking Profit (Gross and Net) – Quickbooks, if I’ve done all of my paperwork properly, makes this task fairly easy. I keep very close track of this aspect of the business because it drives our T&M price decisions. I also do Profit and Loss Reports on bid jobs and compare them to similar jobs done in the past.


I think that’s it for now! Hopefully some long-time plumbers/contractors will chime in as well who might have some short cuts that I’m not seeing. And this being my first post, let me just assure everyone that normally my forum posts anywhere on the internet are 1 to 5 lines tops!

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Old 06-07-2008, 09:09 AM   #3
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Re: Good Filing Systems


nice caanan...i will add one thing...get a good high speed scanner, and scan all your docs into the 'puter...you can save them to CD's or external drives at the end of the year...

however, if you have a decent system of filing on your computer, they can be pulled up and printed out in a heartbeat...also keeps from having filing cabinet upon filing cabinet in the office...
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Old 06-07-2008, 09:13 AM   #4
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Re: Good Filing Systems


This is a little known fact...even to office workers. It really saves a lot of time if you are dealing with file cabinets and folders.
The Pendaflex hanging file folders have an indentation that runs horizontally accros the folder about 4 inches down from the top. If you fold at the indentation on both sides of the folder, the top area will lay out flat across the other folders in the cabinet. In short, the folder stays open making it much easier find and to put your paperwork back.
Just a little known fact...
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Old 06-07-2008, 09:22 AM   #5
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Quote:
Originally Posted by mahlere View Post
nice caanan...i will add one thing...get a good high speed scanner, and scan all your docs into the 'puter...you can save them to CD's or external drives at the end of the year...
ditto that
everything that isnt a downloadable banking or card transaction gets scanned and filed into respective job folder in QB
cash
contracts
received checks
etc

I scan with neat receipts and export to qb

try to handle receipts once, from pocket to respective credit card/checking acct folder for reconciling, I keep the downloaded/scanned/entered stuff in qb job folder for job costing
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Old 06-07-2008, 10:30 AM   #6
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Re: Good Filing Systems


do you like the neat receipts? i bought it a few years ago, never really got into it...plus it doesn't scan purchase slips from our vendors, and it's slow as hell...

but we scan everything...vendor quotes, invoices, etc...still don't have it down pat, but most everything can get put into one neat job file on the computer...then broken down into what they are..much easier to point and click then search through papers...
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Old 06-07-2008, 10:48 AM   #7
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Great additions made by everyone! I currently use a fairly slow scanner for the same purpose. I'm on the Neat Receipts website as I type.

Robie, I use Pendaflex, thanks for that tip!
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Old 06-07-2008, 11:17 AM   #8
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Re: Good Filing Systems


FYI- good first post Canaan...that's the way to do it, not come on here and ask a question, then get pissed because no one jumps right up and answers it in 5 mins...

keep it up..
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Old 06-07-2008, 11:36 AM   #9
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Quote:
Originally Posted by mahlere View Post
FYI- good first post Canaan...that's the way to do it, not come on here and ask a question, then get pissed because no one jumps right up and answers it in 5 mins...

keep it up..
Thanks Mahlere, I'm just glad I can be of some help. And heck, my first post already yielded advice that I will be acting on!
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Old 06-07-2008, 11:39 AM   #10
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Re: Good Filing Systems


I checked out the neat receipts website. As much as I love technology and stuff I cannot really see how this would be better. I actually have two scanners as part of my printer, I guess that would work as well but to scan receipts and vendor invoices seems like more work.
I do have my file cabinets and I can pretty much get to whatever I need in just a few minutes.
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Old 06-07-2008, 12:02 PM   #11
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mitch M View Post
I checked out the neat receipts website. As much as I love technology and stuff I cannot really see how this would be better. I actually have two scanners as part of my printer, I guess that would work as well but to scan receipts and vendor invoices seems like more work.
I do have my file cabinets and I can pretty much get to whatever I need in just a few minutes.
we scan them for several reason...we host them on a server, so anyone on a jobsite can access the information if needed...

but mostly because we'd have an office of nothing but filing cabinets if we didn't...
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Old 06-07-2008, 12:51 PM   #12
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Re: Good Filing Systems


what do you do with the actual pcs of paper? What about backups if something gets lost?
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Old 06-07-2008, 01:51 PM   #13
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Quote:
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what do you do with the actual pcs of paper? What about backups if something gets lost?
we file them in storage...we have redundant storage with our server (we don't host it), we also copy the files directly from our computers to cd's, and the papers get filed in bankers boxes in storage (usually every 30 days or so)

we have more backups than backups...
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Old 06-07-2008, 02:11 PM   #14
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Re: Good Filing Systems


does Neat Receipt file it under a separate folder or within QB?
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Old 06-07-2008, 02:32 PM   #15
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Quote:
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does Neat Receipt file it under a separate folder or within QB?
I don't know...i haven't used it since i got it...it really doesn't do anything for us.
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Old 06-09-2008, 12:34 AM   #16
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Thanks for the replies, especially to Canaan. Your post was helpful.

I was hoping there was a book or something, ya know "construction filing 101 and 102" that could let me know I'm on the right track. Many times I've self learned something and created a decent system just to find out how the truly good do it and have to scratch everything I'd created in favor of the better system.

If I'd discovered it early on I'd have saved a lot of time.
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Old 06-09-2008, 12:59 AM   #17
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Well, you had me until #5. I was very impressed with your tasks up until that point. Why don't you just key in the AP invoices into QuickBooks directly as soon as they are received? Why bother with the Excel Spreadsheet?

Then to review what bills to pay, you print out the AP aging report and then "pay bills" in QuickBooks.

I would recommend purchasing computer checks (body, stub, stub or similar), send along the check and sone stub to the vendor (invoice number will be listed on the stub and be sure your vendor account number is listed in the memo field of the check. The third part (other stub) should be stapled to your copy of the invoices being paid, then filed in your "paid bills" file. You can print labels for the vendor Paid Bills files from within QuickBooks, print a label for the vendors you use often, then create labels using Word for the letters of the alphabet (A Misc, B Misc, etc) for any bills paid for vendors that you don't use often.

One thing I really feel strongly about is that the paid invoices for jobs get filed in "paid bills" file folders and not job folders. It's so hard to find mis- filed invoices if they aren't filed by vendor. The job folder can contain a job report that lists all the bills paid and you can go look in the vendor paid bill files if you need to see the original copy.

Remember to review job reports as often as possible for items posted to the wrong job, or wrong item code. Also watch for the need to do progress billings if that is approriate for your business, or deposits on jobs.
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Old 06-09-2008, 02:28 AM   #18
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarah9910 View Post
Well, you had me until #5. I was very impressed with your tasks up until that point. Why don't you just key in the AP invoices into QuickBooks directly as soon as they are received? Why bother with the Excel Spreadsheet?
I have to agree with Sarah. You seem to be making unnecessary work for yourself. You've paid for Q/Bs and its capabilities. Seems best to me to use them to their fullest and not reinvent the wheel in Excel.

Wack, to be honest with you, you're the one that will have to decide what will and won't work for you. Its best to consider how your paperwork flows and how you look for older papers to decide on how your filing should be laid out.

Check out this older post for a synopsis of how we handle our filing in the office.
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Old 06-09-2008, 08:05 AM   #19
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarah9910 View Post
Why don't you just key in the AP invoices into QuickBooks directly as soon as they are received? Why bother with the Excel Spreadsheet?
Honestly, my answer is ignorance. Before I had come to manage my dad's office I developed a paper system for my previous employer (their budget wasn't exactly friendly to a more streamlined workflow, go figure!). The spreadsheet process just sort of came with me and I didn't think to switch it to QB. I believe I will now!
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Old 06-16-2008, 10:02 AM   #20
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Re: Good Filing Systems


Canaan: I offer a free QB Q & A session (90 min) each month. This month's is this week. You should attend, it may help you utilize the program more. Hopefully Nathan will let me post this, (I couldn't send you a private message) I used to advertise on this site to get more of you to attend this freebie. I only get one or two people each session, which would be good for you because more of your own questions can be addressed with fewer people attending.

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