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Chronicle Your Path to Success: Document Everything!

Apr 9, 2008
From your organization's infancy to going public, your record of documentation should be complete and thorough. In the beginning you might wonder why you should document the 2 percent raise you gave your bookkeeper or why you reprimanded your sales staff for failing to answer by the third ring. The answer is that, though you might not question these decisions now, someday you will. And someday you may need to explain and justify these decisions to others. Documenting from the start is a health and safe habit to form.

One of your highest priorities should be to document are areas of personnel or human resource management. All employees, even though you may have known them since kindergarten, must have an application and/or resume on file. Because you know everything about them does not mean that your future employees, managers, and investors also know them. It is the first step in building a trail of documents that shows your business' growth and development. Following, each employee should receive an annual review which is added to their personnel file. This is simply good business. Your business is going to have a long life that will outlive your short-term memory and performance appraisals will give you a base-line to determine employee growth as well as performance.

Another area that may seem obvious is all your financial transactions and decisions. With audits and reviews always a possibility, no financial transaction should be left undocumented. This is sometimes the most challenging task but in many ways the easiest of your responsibilities. Because we file taxes quarterly and yearly, most business owners are always on their toes when it comes to fiscal recording. But remember to keep the same diligence when it comes to petty cash, postage, and other incidental transactions. The book of stamps, weekly payment to the newspaper carrier, and boxes of thank you cards can seem like small expenses but they add up and will throw off your balance sheet. Just always remember the simple rule that whatever comes in has to be matched by what goes out.

In that all important file cabinet should also be instruction books, warranty information, and owner's manuals for all equipment you purchase, even if the equipment was free or a gift. This can be your central location for software licenses, serial numbers, and office furniture warranties. Everything from the ceiling fan to the office copier should have the receipt, serial number, and warranty information located in an area where it is immediately accessible. Many businesses spend needless dollars replacing equipment that is still covered by a warranty and having the necessary documents can save you money in the long run.

One thing that many entrepreneurs frequently forget to save is schedules, appointment books, and time cards. Schedules and time cards are essential event of pay or commission disputes; they are your first line of defense. Also, saving appointment books or computerized calendars can help you track sales data, customer service efforts, and schedule timely follow-ups.

Of course, the advantage is to keep as much of your records as possible on your computer. A CD ROM takes up a lot less space than file folders full of papers and legally, computerized records not requiring signature are equally acceptable. Unfortunately, there will always be the necessity for that file cabinet for your hard copies. Security for these documents is essential and access should be limited to the business owner or primary manager.

In the beginning these things are easy to overlook when you are flush with your first successes and things are more intimate. But, as I said, documentation is a healthy habit to maintain so starting to document from your first steps will ensure that your business will not only make history but will have it's own history well documented.
About the Author
Melissa Vokoun is a successful Business Advisor, Coach and Trainer. To learn more about the services available, please visit the website at: http://www.coachingqueen.com or call 847-392-6886.
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