Your business records could be as simple as a paper notebook where you record each item you sell. Or, you could be using a spreadsheet that you’ve developed yourself, or a Quicken, Reckon, or MYOB small business accounting program, all the way up to a full ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, or a WMS (Warehouse Management System). Whatever you’re using, you need a system of inventory control. And inventory control starts with a stocktake. As we’ve described above, the biggest time and effort saver when stocktaking is collecting the stock counts electronically, and this usually means using barcodes. Barcodes are most easily read with a barcode scanner, and these can scan barcodes directly into a computer, or a shelf, row, or even a whole warehouse of scans and counts can be collected and then brought back to a computer. If you are keeping your business records on a spreadsheet on a notebook or PC, a stocktaking system might consist of a barcode scanner that plugs directly into the computer, and allows you to scan the item barcodes directly into the spreadsheet, then type in the count on the notebook or PC’s keyboard. This system has the disadvantage that you need to bring the notebook or PC to the stock. A step up from this simple solution would be to use a portable barcode scanner, which you take to the stock, scan the item’s barcode, then count the items and enter the count into the portable barcode scanner. After you’ve finished the stocktake (or a section of it), you bring the portable barcode scanner back to your notebook or PC and download all the collected data into your spreadsheet. If you’re using a small business accounting system, the barcode scanning options are pretty similar to the previous paragraph, except that many of these accounting systems don’t provide an easy way to import stocktaking data into the accounting system. Usually, stocktaking with these systems will involve downloading the collected stocktaking data to a text file on the computer, then using the accounting program’s import functions to bring the data in. Or, sometimes the supplier of the barcode system will provide a custom program that directly downloads the stocktake data from the barcode scanner into the accounting system. Full blown ERP or WMS systems are usually similar to small business accounting systems as far as bringing the stocktake data from the barcode scanner into the system. Once the stocktaking data is in your accounting system, you will be able to generate reports and analyse the data. You’ll be able to see how many of each item you’ve sold, whether there’s anything missing (ie the difference between the stock count and how many items the computer thought you had), and lots of other useful information.