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What Are Assets? Types and Examples

In the fast-paced business world, every organization relies on a hidden engine to turn the wheels of success: its assets. These valuable assets, whether tangible or intangible, form the foundation for efficient operations and long-term growth, and understanding them plays a crucial role in driving your company's growth. 

This blog post provides a comprehensive guide to the different types of business assets. It explores how to keep them organized and also introduces RedBeam, the asset-tracking software designed to streamline business operations and empower organizations to reach their full potential. 

Main Takeaways From This Article: 

  • An asset is a resource controlled by a business, acquired from past events, expected to produce future economic benefits, essential for a company's financial health and operational efficiency.
  • Business assets, recorded on the company’s balance sheet, are acquired to fulfill business objectives and contribute to financial health, unlike personal assets, which are for individual enjoyment and use.
  • Different types of business assets include current (cash, inventory), fixed (office furniture, buildings), tangible (physical presence like computers), intangible (trademarks, copyrights), and financial assets (stocks, bonds).
  • Effective asset management involves identifying, categorizing, valuing, and systematically reviewing assets using an organized asset register and potentially asset management software for better oversight.
  • RedBeam asset-tracking software offers robust features for businesses to streamline their asset management with complete visibility. It optimizes the utilization of each asset and reduces unnecessary costs associated with replacement.

What Is an Asset?

An asset is a resource controlled by a business, acquired through past events, and anticipated to generate future economic benefits. These benefits can be direct, such as generating revenue from equipment used in production, or indirect, like office furniture that facilitates a productive work environment. Assets are vital to a company's financial health and operational efficiency.

Business Assets vs. Personal Assets

It's important to distinguish between business assets and personal assets. While both represent something of value, their purposes and how they are accounted for differ.

Personal assets encompass the valuable items you own for personal use and enjoyment. This could include your car, your home, a treasured collection of artwork, or even that fancy watch you've been saving up for. Personal assets are not directly used for business purposes and are not reflected on a company's financial statements.

On the other hand, business assets are acquired with a specific purpose: to contribute to the company's financial health, generate revenue, and achieve its strategic objectives. These assets are essential for day-to-day operations, production and warehousing, and long-term growth. These could be office furniture, computers, inventory, or even the company's intellectual property.  

Types and Examples of Assets

The world of business assets is vast and varied. Let's explore the most common classifications and see some real-world examples to illustrate their importance.

Current Assets

Current assets, also liquid assets, are those that can be readily converted into cash within a year or the operating cycle of your business, whichever is longer. They are vital for funding day-to-day operations and maintaining financial liquidity.

Examples: Cash on hand, inventory, accounts receivable (money owed by customers), money market funds (treasury bills, notes, etc.)

Fixed Assets

A fixed asset is a long-term investment that is not easily converted into cash or cash equivalents. It generally has a lifespan exceeding one year and contributes to a company's ability to produce goods and services over a long period of time.

Examples: Office furniture, desks, computers, laptops, buildings, etc.

Tangible Assets

Tangible assets have a physical presence and can be readily seen and touched. They encompass all the physical assets a company owns or controls, are directly involved in its day-to-day operations, and represent a significant portion of its overall value. Examples are all the assets listed under current and fixed assets.

Intangible Assets

While you can't hold them in your hand, intangible assets hold immense value for a business. These assets represent non-physical properties that contribute to a company's competitive edge and future earning potential and are often the result of intellectual property development and marketing efforts. 

Examples: Trademarks, copyrights (excluding software), customer lists

Financial Assets

These represent a company's investments in other entities. They allow the company to generate additional income or gain exposure to future growth opportunities. The management of financial assets is crucial for long-term financial health.

Examples: Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.

Operational Assets

Operational assets encompass all the resources directly involved in a company's tangible and intangible core operations. They're the tools and resources that keep the business running smoothly and directly contribute to a company's ability to deliver its products or services.

Examples: Production equipment, manufacturing facilities, inventory management systems

How To Effectively Classify and Manage Assets

Having a comprehensive understanding of your assets goes beyond simply knowing what you own. Effective asset management is a strategic approach that ensures optimal utilization of resources, minimizes costs, and provides valuable insights into your business health. 

Here are five key steps to take charge of your assets:

1. Identify and Categorize Assets

The first step is to create an asset register, a detailed list of all your assets. This comprehensive document serves as the central source of truth for everything you own or control. Here's how to tackle this initial step:

  • Conduct a Thorough Inventory: Think office-wide! This includes everything from desks and chairs to laptops to printers and other IT devices. Expand your search to storerooms and break rooms, ensuring no asset gets left behind.
  • Gather Asset Details: Record essential information such as type (e.g., desk, laptop), model number, serial number (if applicable), acquisition date, and current location for each item. Photos can be particularly helpful for visually identifying specific assets.
  • Categorize Your Assets: Utilize the classification system discussed earlier (current, fixed, tangible, etc.). This categorization allows for easier tracking, filtering, and reporting based on specific asset types.

By building a well-organized asset register, you lay the groundwork for effective asset management. This foundation enables you to track assets throughout their lifecycle, identify areas for optimization, and make data-driven decisions for future acquisitions and replacements.

Pro Tip: Consider using dedicated asset management software to create a digital asset register. This allows for easy updates, filtering based on category, and even exporting data for further analysis.

2. Assign Value and Useful Life

With a comprehensive asset register in place, the next step is to assign value and estimate each asset's useful life. Here's a breakdown of how to tackle this step:

Determine the Current Economic Value

  • Tangible Assets: Consider the original purchase price and factor in depreciation or potential appreciation depending on the asset type.
  • Intangible Assets: For an intangible asset, valuation can be more complex. Consultation with a financial professional might be necessary, especially for brand recognition or intellectual property.
  • Estimate Useful Life: Research industry standards and manufacturer recommendations for typical lifespans of similar assets. Consider factors like usage intensity, maintenance practices, and technological advancements that might render the asset obsolete sooner.

By accurately assigning value and useful life, you gain valuable insights for:

  • Financial Reporting: Accurate asset valuation is crucial for financial statements.
  • Planning for Replacements: Knowing an asset's useful life allows you to plan for and budget for replacements before they fail proactively.
  • Making Informed Decisions: Understanding asset value helps you make strategic choices about repairs, upgrades, or potential asset sales.

Pro Tip: Regularly review and update your assets' value and useful life, especially for fixed assets that depreciate over time.

3. Implement an Asset Management System

Managing a large inventory of assets manually can be a cumbersome and error-prone task. Spreadsheets might seem like a convenient option initially, but they can quickly become unwieldy as your asset portfolio grows. 

This is where asset management software comes into play.

Think of it as a digital command center for all your assets. These software solutions offer a range of functionalities to streamline asset tracking and management processes:

  • Electronic Asset Register: Store all your asset information electronically, eliminating the need for paper-based records. This allows for easy access and updates from any authorized device.
  • Automated Tracking: Scan barcodes or RFID tags to track the location and status of your assets. This eliminates the need for manual searches and ensures you always know where your equipment is.
  • Scheduled Maintenance: Set up automated reminders for preventive maintenance tasks like replacing printer cartridges or scheduling IT checkups for laptops. This helps prevent unexpected equipment failures and extends the lifespan of your assets.

Choosing the Right Asset Management System

The market offers a variety of asset management software solutions. Here are some factors to consider when making your choice:

  • Company Size and Needs: One size doesn't fit all. Consider the scale of your operation. Choose a solution that scales with your business and can accommodate the specific types of assets you manage.
  • Ease of Use: Don't get bogged down by complexity. The software should be user-friendly and intuitive for both IT professionals and everyday users who manage assets, requiring minimal training for efficient use.
  • Integration Capabilities: Seamless integration with your existing software ecosystem can be a game-changer. Ensure your chosen tool is compatible with existing software you use, such as accounting or project management tools.

4. Schedule Regular Reviews and Audits

Your initial asset register is a valuable starting point, but it shouldn't be a static document. Regular reviews and audits are essential to ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of your asset management system. 

Here's why:

  • Identify Discrepancies: Over time, assets can be misplaced, damaged, or even stolen. Regular reviews help identify discrepancies between your records and the physical reality. This allows for prompt corrective actions, like initiating a search for missing equipment or updating the condition of a damaged asset.
  • Monitor Asset Performance: Reviews can reveal trends in asset usage and performance. For example, you might notice that a particular laptop model experiences frequent repairs. This data can be used to identify potential maintenance issues or inform future purchasing decisions.
  • Compliance With Regulations: Certain industries might have specific asset tracking and reporting regulations. Regular audits ensure your asset management practices comply with these regulations and avoid any potential fines or penalties. 

How Often Should You Conduct Reviews and Audits?

The frequency depends on the type and criticality of your assets. Here's a general guideline:

  • High-Value Assets: Conduct more frequent reviews and audits, perhaps quarterly or even more often, depending on the asset's importance.
  • Lower-Value Assets: Annual reviews might suffice, but consider conducting spot checks periodically for added security.

5. Develop and Enforce Policies

Having a well-defined asset management system isn't enough. To ensure its effectiveness, you need clear policies and procedures in place. These policies should address various aspects of asset management, including:

  • Acquisition: Establish a process for acquiring new assets, including approval procedures and documentation requirements.
  • Usage: Define guidelines for how employees can use the company's assets. This could include restrictions on personal use of laptops or limitations on software downloads.
  • Maintenance: Outline protocols for preventive maintenance, repair procedures, and who is responsible for reporting any asset issues.
  • Disposal: Set clear guidelines for disposing of obsolete or damaged assets. This might involve data security protocols for electronic devices or proper recycling procedures for furniture.

It is also crucial to enforce these policies consistently. Hold employees accountable for following the established procedures. Regular training sessions can help ensure everyone understands their role in responsible asset management.

Take Charge of Your Assets With RedBeam

Equipping yourself with a well-organized asset management system empowers you to make informed decisions, optimize resource allocation, and ultimately drive business growth. However, managing a vast inventory can be a daunting task. This is where RedBeam steps in.

RedBeam is a comprehensive asset-tracking software designed to simplify and streamline your asset management processes. With its user-friendly interface and robust features, RedBeam empowers businesses to:

  • Gain complete visibility into their asset portfolio
  • Optimize asset utilization
  • Reduce maintenance costs
  • Make informed decisions about asset lifecycle management

With a 30-day free trial, you can get a hands-on feel for the software's capabilities and see how it can help you gain visibility into your exact inventory at all times.

Try RedBeam for Free!