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How to Protect Your Home-Based Business Using a Simple Checklist

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Business owners often take care to track inventory items. But you also need to track fixed assets like computers, office equipment, hardware, software, and furniture.

“What did they take?”

That was the question that stumped me when my business was burglarized. Sure, I could see the big things that were missing – computers, printers, the TV and video game from the “window room” where our assemblers put the windows together and the window installers decompressed at the end of the day. Also missing were copper from the furnace of the salon I owned next door to the window company. And the furnace – the furnace was gone too. 

Even with that HUGE list of stolen goods, there were still little things missing that I didn’t notice were gone. And it would be weeks before I would remember them. Most of the time, I didn’t notice it missing until I needed the item. We weren’t missing pens and pencils here. We were missing thousands of dollars of software, software that we needed to install on the new computers we bought to replace the stolen ones.

Someone had looted my business and I didn’t even know what was gone.

Thankfully, we had business insurance from The Hartford (and our agent was fantastic), but if we had gone with a rinky-dink, jack-legged insurer, we may have been in for some drama.

Aside from having a great insurance company, there was one small thing I should have done to make the entire process far less stressful. I should have created an inventory of my assets.

What is an asset inventory (in the offline world)?

Very often business owners do a pretty good job at tracking inventory assets.  But you also need to protect fixed assets like computers, office equipment, hardware, software, and furniture. Fixed assets are the things you use in your business that may help you make money, but they don’t get converted to money. Why would you fixed assets like lights, desks and sinks?

Remember what I said about the furnace at my business? That really happened.  

Tracking your assets is actually a simple process you can easily implement and systematize.  After all, you’re just making a list of the things your business owns with serial numbers, dates of purchase and amount you paid for these items. Snap a few quick photos with a camera phone and you’re done.  

QuickBooks allows you to protect business assets by recording the serial numbers, purchase dates and notes about the items you own and their physical location within your business.  Google Docs has a few simple templates here. Tidyform.com has one here. You can utilize an inventory management app like Lettuce or Inventory Tracker or call in companies that will  conduct valuations of your business assets and inventory them for you.

If you are going to do inventory your assets manually, there are a few things you want to make sure you track:

  • Date and source of purchase – You may even want to make a copy of the store receipt to keep in a separate Asset file.  At the very least, you want to indicate the file in which the original receipt is located for easy access.
  • Product’s model and serial numbers
  • List any accessories and peripherals that came with your equipment.
  • Take pictures of each item to keep in your inventory file
  • Organize your list by room so that you can perform at-a-glance checks of your assets.

The worst happens and it’s always smart to prepare for the worst. We don’t expect bad things to happen and we don’t call them into our lives and our business. But they always find a way in. It’s always better to be prepared.

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