Small Business Operating Documents

Operating a small business means that you will need to have your own company documents that proclaim your professional status.

If you operate a small business, you naturally want to cultivate a professional image while not spending tons of money to do it. This can be tricky, since everything associated with doing business costs quite a bit these days. However, there are some shortcuts you can take to develop an expert image that won't cost an arm and a leg.

1. Design your own stationery. You can buy discount or clearance computer paper at any business supply store or outlet. Make it simple, not fancy or extravagant, in off-white or pastel shades. The effect should be simple and stately, not garish or brash. Using MS Word or another software program, experiment with the font, ink, and proportion sizes to center your company's name at the top, or move it to one side. Below the name in smaller print should come your address and contact information. You can design a logo to arrange this information, and then use the logo for your business card and other documents as well.

2. Create labels or make envelopes to match. You can buy matching stationery envelopes from the office supply store. Then have them pre-printed from a local graphics artist or do it yourself with a personal hand stamp that you can order. Another option is to print labels with your return address in logo format, or you can always print one envelope at a time, as needed. Prepare both large (9x12) and letter-size envelopes as well.

3. Use your newly designed logo for other personally made forms for office use, such as memorandums, invoices, and fax transmittal sheets. Keep a supply of several forms on hand. When the logo starts to fade from too much copying, you may want to re-do your logo or letterhead or farm it out to a local printer if it doesn't cost too much.

4. Create excel spreadsheets, or another type, for charts, graphs, and business accounts and records. Name these and store print copies in files by the same name. You can use a smaller version of the logo in the corner or at the top if you prefer.

5. Phone pads, note pads, and other office forms can be created by using the logo as indicated. You will need order forms, billing statements, receipts, and bank statements that reflect your company's image. You can also design a Website or start a newsletter to get your company's name and image out into the community. You want customers (and even potential customers) to associate your logo with your name so they will remember it for the future.

Keep colors, sizes, and designs consistent when possible. Buy from the same supplier for this reason, or match as closely as you can when your current supply runs out. You may have to switch to another item number or supplier if the items no longer match to avoid looking unprofessional. In addition, you will need to get plain bond paper for other types of forms and writing, along with file folders, a rolodex, and storage boxes or cabinets for supplies and files. Keep plenty of paper on hand, as you will need to keep good records for future reference.

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