It can take just moments for fire, flood or thieves to wipe out years of hard work, asset accumulation and stock. But it can be months before you realise the full extent of the damage – and even longer to recover – if you don't have a detailed and up-to-date inventory list encompassing business asset including equipment, as well as stock.
It's fairly easy to name your business's key assets – you'll probably think of the premises, and the tools and technology that you handle every day.
But what about those items that aren't necessarily right in your face and that you accumulate over time? Signage, cleaning equipment and office supplies such as staplers and labelers can add up to a significant investment if they all need to be replaced at once.
Because they are not handled or used every day, it can take time to realise they were stolen or destroyed. But this doesn’t make them any less significant to the running of your business.
Not having these items can hamper your efforts to get back up and running quickly. And this – minimising the interruption to your business – is where a detailed and up-to-date office inventory list is important.
Make a stressful time that little bit easier
Having a reliable inventory list will help you to get back up and running quickly in the event of a fire, flood, storm damage or theft.
Right away you'll be able to check off exactly what you've lost, prioritise spending on replacements, and complete your business insurance claim in a smoother and speedier manner.
A thorough inventory can also help you avoid being underinsured in the first place.
While it might seem trivial to record the purchase of some office cutlery, a laminator or storage boxes, when you're starting again from scratch all of these things add up.
“While it might seem trivial to record the purchase of some office cutlery, a laminator or storage boxes, when you're starting again from scratch all of these things add up”
Getting started on your inventory list
A bare basics office inventory will list each item, the brand, the product name/number, its purchase price and purchase date.
Preferably you'll also have an in-situ photograph (even better if it's date-stamped), and note down serial numbers or distinctive features.
To make sure you don't leave things off the list, consider starting in one room and working your way around the premises systematically (don't forget cupboards, drawers and other storage spaces). Or you can record items by category – start with electronics and work through to furniture and fixtures, for example.
You can also check through past bank statements and records of business expenses, and take a video as you walk through the office.
Maintaining your inventory list
Once your list is up-to-date, treat it as a living document – every time you purchase, replace or discard an item, update your record.
An office inventory can be as simple as a list or a spreadsheet, but it should be backed up offsite, of course, or it could be lost at the same time as the inventory it records. Google docs or Dropbox make this easy, and mean you can give permission to anyone in the team to keep it up to date.
But there are high-tech, user-friendly platforms available these days – many, such as Sortly Pro, are paid subscriptions for businesses – which streamline the process and guide you through to lessen the chance of missing those less-thought-of categories.
If you have an accountant, they may keep a fixed asset register of plant and equipment for you (so they can calculate depreciation and for preparing your balance sheet/statement financial position).
For more advice on the tools and tech that can help you keep your inventory list up to date, check in with your accountant.
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