In the Digital Age, Don’t Forget to Document

As your small business grows, it’s important to make and keep hard copies of essential documents. Not only are certain records required by the IRS and other regulatory agencies, but it’s also important to codify your company’s processes, protocols, and strategies, and to store records of intellectual property.

Areas where hard-copy documentation is especially crucial include:

  • Proprietary research and development
  • Design and product development descriptions and specs
  • Operational practices in areas such as production, service, and distribution
  • Hiring, onboarding, and human resources policies
  • Job roles and reporting structure
  • Compliance requirements
  • Customer service and support standards and processes

There are other good reasons for paper files as well. The process of writing, whether in longhand with a pen, pencil, or marker, or in type printed from a computer, has been shown to clarify thoughts, trigger creativity, jog memories, and aid with problem-solving. In group settings, writing things out is a way to keep things on track, maintain flow, and focus on outcomes.

What’s more, many people are visual learners, meaning they absorb information when they see it rather than when they hear it. This has implications for training, safety, and operations.

You should also require employees to document and provide access to their business-related information, including passwords and instructions for any software that they use for their work; upcoming initiatives or activities they are involved in; and pending contracts, deliveries, and potential sales. They should also make available to you a list of all contacts, including customers, vendors, and associates with whom they work.

Good documentation is sound business practice. It can help the company run more smoothly and provide you with greater peace of mind about your business operations.

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