The most important tool for the small business owner

So you might think this is your computer or your cell phone. Maybe it’s your email or your social networking sites. I would say that none of these is correct. The most important tool for any small business owner is:

41xn6ak7n8l_sl160_Your day planner.

In an age of technology, many people have gotten rid of the day planner, instead using some type of electronic calendar. As a small business owner, you need a paper day planner for a number of reasons.

1. If you run a business where you are billing clients after the fact, a day planner can help you keep track of your billable time so you won’t forget later.

2. If you use your phone as your calendar, it’s much easier to talk to a client and write in a day planner at the same time than trying to talk to a client and type things into your phone.

3. Most small business owners keep terrible mileage records and mileage is one of your best tax deductions. At a little over 50 cents a mile, those miles really can add up to a serious tax deduction. Having a day planner helps you keep track of everywhere you’ve been each day. If you are really good, you’ll remember to track your miles in the car. If not, you can always google your  mileage when you get home.

4. Day planners are great for jotting down small expenses. Many times if I go to lunch with a colleague or client, I’ll write it down in my day planner along with the amount. For many expenses, like meals, you need to have a record of who, what, where, why and when to take a deduction. All of that can be put into your day planner.

5. Unlike a computer or cell phone, your day planner will not crash on you or run out of battery life. You can keep it with your tax records in case you are ever audited and you’ll look like a pro.

The key to running a small business is record keeping. The key to good record keeping is the right day planner. That can differ depending on your type of small business.

If you travel a lot or see many clients each day, make sure you purchase a planner that has enough space to write everything in. I like the planners that have a monthly display and then two pages for each week. This allows me to schedule appointments in the monthly view and put notes in the weekly view.

Make sure the planner is a good size that is convenient to carry around with you. Mine is small so it can fit in my purse. That way, I know I always have it with me.

Make sure you always carry it with you. If you don’t have it, it’s not very useful.

Since the end of the year is quickly approaching, start looking around for a new planner. Look  at lots of different options. Many stores will start discounting them soon. Amazon already has some pretty good day planner deals. Avoid the office supply stores. Their prices are not  very good on these things.