Friday, October 05, 2012

SOP Friday: Organizing Your Company Files and Folders

I was discussing some new documentation with one of my coaching clients. His staff had started documenting a process. I asked how it was going. He was very proud that the documentation process was started. Then he made the offhanded comment, "Now if I can just find where she put it . . .."

To which I said, "She put it in the only place that makes sense: \2012\Operations\Processes and Procedures and maybe in a sub-directory called Admin."

Here are a few tips that may help you organize all of your company data, including your documentation. This is how we organize things. You'll need to fine-tune for your organization. In general, you should have as few categories (folders) as possible, especially at the root level.

We start with a year. 2010, 2011, 2012, etc. In fact, I've already created a 2013 folder because I've got a few documents related to next year. Each year we copy over a few things. But for the most part, we don't move old stuff forward. This allows us to easily isolate each year's activities. But primarily it reduced clutter. We don't have old graphics from three revisions back in this year's folder.

Every time we need something from the previous year, it is copied (not moved) to the current year folder. That way we have everything we're using and none of the stuff we're not using. I admit we end up with lots of duplicates as files get copied forward. But disc space is cheap and I consider that just another layer of backup.

Note that the !Tech directory is also in the root. We're not talking about that today.

Then we have the following folders. See the sample folder layout at the end of this post. Most of these are self-explanatory.


The Clients folder contains previous clients (!Old), prospects, and current clients.

The previous clients would clients who left this year. They might also be older client that we did some paperwork for this year or had some communication with. Prospects are obviously that. You might also put prospects under sales. If you do that, you need to move the folder to this location when they become a client. Most of the prospect documents are either a quote or a report we did as part of the prospecting. So we rarely create folders for each prospect.

!Old and !Prospect folders start with a bang (!) simply to remove them from the alphabetical listing of client folders.

And then we have client folders. One per client. As a rule these folders are accessed by sales people, admin staff, and the service manager. Because this is so "open," please do not store client credit card information here. Personally, I recommend that you don't keep any client credit card information anywhere. But if you have to keep it, put it in a secured folder such as \Operations\Finance.


This is a place to keep marketing letters, graphics, handouts, PowerPoint slide decks, etc. Here's what the sub-folders contain:

\Adwords = Ad copy as well as Excel spreadsheet related to Google Adword advertising.

\Blog Fodder = Ideas and articles that might make their way into the company blog. You can also store graphics here if they're only used in the blog. Note that there's a sub-folder for posted articles.

\Campaigns = Information on specific marketing campaigns. This includes descriptions of the campaign, reports on effectiveness, letters, etc. Sub-folders for each campaign.

\Co-Marketing = Programs that provide you with money or other resources for "co-marketing" campaigns.

\Contacts - Mailing Lists = Lists you've bought or built. Might be CSV or Excel files. If you use a database, it can go here. If you have an online service such as Constant Contact, you'll need to export your user information from time to time. This is where you put that.

\Graphics = Any graphics you use internally or you have purchased.

\Handouts and PPTs = These are things you have created as "marketing materials" to distribute. Source files for post cards, business cards, etc.

\Newsletter = Your company newsletter. Whether delivered by email or postal service, this is where you keep the files.

\Press Releases = Press releases your company has produced. You might also keep a list of reporters and editors here.

\Road maps = Report templates related to client road map meetings. You might occasionally store a particularly good prospect or client report here. Note that actual complete road map reports for prospects are in the \Clients\!Prospects folder or individual client folders.

\Social Media Marketing = Information related to campaigns and activities on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.

\Video - YouTube = A place to store completed videos. You might also store some source materials here. But choose either here or the graphics folder for source materials so you have only one place to look for that stuff.

\Web Site = Your "live" web site staging area. Note that there's a sub-folder for backups. If you don't manage the web site source code, then this entire directory is dedicated to backups.

The Marketing folders are accessed by sales people, admin staff, and the service manager.


The Operations folder contains the files you need to actually run the company. Some or all of this folder may need to secured for owners and managers. Here's what the sub-folders contain:

\Client Memos = Communications sent to all clients (as opposed to individual communications, which would be in individual client folders).

\Finances = Information related to money. This includes Profit & Loss reports, tax stuff, the company QuickBooks file, etc.

\Forms = If you have forms that are standardized company-wide, this is where the originals live. Includes letterhead and fax forms for Word, credit card forms, and so forth. Every time someone finds that you need to create a form, put it here.

\Insurance = Information and communication related to all forms of insurance (liability, health, workers comp, error & omissions, etc.).

\Processes and Procedures = Your storage space for all company processes and procedures! This includes the last 60+ SOP Friday policies and all the other ones you've created over the years. Whenever someone creates a new company policy, this is where it lives.

\Products and Services = Information about things you buy. Software receipts, key codes, instructions, etc. You might potentially have sub-folders for larger or more important vendors.

\Sales = The sales department's sandbox. Includes quotes, templates, and other information related to actually selling your goods and services.

\Staff Stuff = Information related to employees. We have some processes here simply because they are so clearly focused on employees and I wan the job descriptions and hiring information all in the same place with the onboarding process. Strictly speaking you could argue that the onboarding process and related materials belong in the Processes and Procedures folder. I wouldn't argue with that.

Note that you also have personnel information here. So you need to keep this area secure from most employees.

The Operations folders are accessed by a select group of administrative staff, owners, and managers. Most employees have no reason to go here.

Additional Notes

Notice that last line. Most of the time, most employees don't need these folders at all. There are some things that end up as read-only documents for employees (such as forms). Those can be turned into PDF documents and put on a company SharePoint site or shared folder.

As far as implementation goes, you need to just begin organizing. You have to have some kind of organization now. Start by documenting that. Verify that there's a place for everything and everything's in that place. How do you know where it's place is? There's a very simple rule: It probably belongs in the first place you went looking for it!

Once you have a new strategy, start with a 2012 or 2013 folder and start putting things there. Be sure to set security so it is secure as well as manageable. Once you have the process started, you need to educate the people who will be using the new folders. This is easy since the primary rule is that copy (not move) files into the new folder structure. As people use files in their everyday jobs, the folders will grow to their natural size.

The first time you do this, you might also get in the habit of moving (gulp, yes I said moving) the original file to a root folder name "Older" or "Pre-2012" or something like that. That way you're sure that people are not opening the same file in the old and new locations.

Good luck. Have fun.

And let me know how it works for you.

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Top Level Folders

Secondary Level Folders
(within each "year" folder):
\ABC Client
\DEF Client
\GHI Client
\JKL Client
\Blog Fodder
\Fall Push
\HP - MS - Office
\Spring Microsoft
\Contacts - Mailing Lists
\Handouts and PPTs
\Press Releases
\Social Media Marketing
\Video - YouTube
\Web Site
\Client Memos
\QB Backups
\Processes and Procedures
\Products and Services
\RMM <-- e.g., LabTech, Level Platforms, PacketTrap RMM
\PSA <-- e.g., Autotask, ConnectWise, PacketTrap PSA
\Backup Vendor
\Staff Stuff
\Employee Onboarding Process
\Job Postings
\Admin Bookkeeper
\Sales Outside
\Tech I
\Tech II
\Mastermind Group

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About this Series
SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at

- - - - -

Next week's topic: Scheduling Monthly Maintenance and On Site Visits


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  1. Anonymous4:57 PM

    Your system would be easier if you did NOT keep re-filing past information by year. Except perhaps for certain types of correspondence and backup files, and in those cases the years go at the other ends of the tree not at the top. Also if information becomes replaced, use archives for the replaced, thus "time" is not the relevant filing category it is "most recent." Otherwise you have a good system, but you hampering it by making yourself know a year to find and file something: Waist in additional filing effort + waist in finding = decreased efficiency.

  2. Anonymous7:47 AM

    In the case above. Where would you store your Pricing and Agreement documents? What about your onboarding documents and checklists?

  3. Great post! Been reading a lot about different tips on organizing my business' documents. Thanks for the info!

  4. Anonymous9:32 AM

    Thank you!!!! I've been trying to push our small company to get organized for years... this really helps break things down.

  5. Thank you! This was really helpful and informative! Will definitely help with organizing small companies!


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