Customer Smith called you to get a copy of his purchase orders from the month before last before he places his next large order. Can you quickly retrieve and send them to him? You’re in the middle of a lawsuit with a bitter former employee and are asked to provide the employee’s disciplinary reports from last year. Can you pull these and get them to your attorney quickly? What if there’s a surprise financial audit? Will you be ready?
If you can answer yes to these questions, then either you are following a good document retention policy OR you got lucky! We certainly hope it’s the former! But if it’s the latter, we want you to be able to rely on a good policy that can be put to the test in any scenario from this point forward!
Let’s start with the basics. At minimum, a good document retention policy identifies what sorts of documents need to be kept, how and where they are stored and guidelines for what period of time they are kept before they are destroyed (if ever). Not only do you want to make sure you have a clear policy BUT that ALL staff are trained on the policy to prevent mishaps as best as possible. A good policy can also cut down on clogging of valuable storage space.
Here’s the thing- there is a no universal document retention policy that covers all businesses. There is no ‘one size fits all’. Different industries may have different mandates and certain local, state and federal laws may specify certain documents that must be retained and for how long.
There are some records all businesses should plan to keep forever. Some of these include: the Articles of Incorporation/ Organization; Financial Statements, Insurance Policies, Minutes, Corporate Resolutions, Deeds, Mortgages, Tax Returns and depending on the business, more.
As far as customer information, certain employee records, contracts and other important documents are concerned, every business owner should work closely with Counsel to ensure a policy is crafted that will take into account compliance with laws, risk management efforts and other factors.
So…do you REALLY NEED it? You absolutely do! Whether it’s Uncle Sam, a disgruntled employee, a state agency or a contracting source, you do not want to function on a haphazard retention policy or without one at all. These are the kinds of things small business owners take for granted or don’t spend time thinking about because they are so consumed with the day-to-day operations of the business. BUT failure to address this issue can ultimately HAMPER your day-to-day operations and put your business at risk. Protect yourself on the front end so that you will not have to worry on the back end! Contact us today to assist you!!!
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