The search engine picks up the keywords “support documentation” and “medical documentation.” Search the phrase “core business documentation,” and all you get is a few articles on documenting your business’ core processes — a topic worthy of exploration in other posts, to be sure. But when I use the term in the context of business documentation, I mean something else.
I guess I assume every business keeps a series of files in the company “vault” of official papers that say who you are as a business (along with your registration and business plan). But, as a business owner myself, I’ve learned how easy it is to get mired in the business of business building that you don’t get around to formally putting your vision on paper. I’ve also learned that, in the long run, that’s no excuse.
Roughly half of small businesses fail within the first five years. Moreover, experienced entrepreneurs and experts agree that one reason is they don’t build their business infrastructure starting with a clearly defined mission, vision, and values statements.
“Wait! Yes, I did!” you protest as you search for that coffee-stained Starbucks napkin with the doodled mind map you drew at the moment of your epiphany.
That doesn’t count.
Create a “company vault” of core documents
When I say “document”, I mean just that. Take the time to write formal statements, and other key documentation outlining your business’ purpose, vision, mission, values and keep it in your company file. If you don’t you’ll become a Ben Franklin proverb along with other would-be geniuses who had a great idea but tanked it:
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
It behooves you, your partners, staff, and customers to bite the bullet, pull up your sleeves and generate those essential pieces of paper that may ensure your business’ longevity.
Then, compile those documents and keep them in your version of a vault — I recommend an organized file of hard copies, a digital copy in a secure location on the cloud and a copy you keep in your external hard drive. In other words, treat them like expensive jewels.
Core Documents You Should Have in your vault
Core Three Statements
Core Operation Documents
● Mission statement
● Vision statement
● Statement of core values
● Products/Services Profile
● Ideal Client Profiles & Avatars
● Company Position Descriptions
● Five-year Strategic Plan
● Operating Budget
● Operations Inventory
Brand Messaging Documents
● Brand Identity
● Brand Personality Profile
● Brand Manifesto
● Brand Story
● Tags & Slogans
● Social Media Profiles
● Brand Imaging and Aesthetics
● Marketing Plan
● Content Marketing Strategy
● Company Profile
● Press Kit
● Elevator Pitch Scripts
● Brand Board
● Business Cards
● Brand Video/Presentation
While I’m not going to expound on the elements and mechanics of creating these documents in this post(there’s an ocean of information floating around out there about writing them), I’ll give you a few reasons why you should invest time in the process of generating them.
- They help you understand why you’re in business
You may think you know all the reasons you’re starting your business, but in my experience, most first-time entrepreneurs don’t examine their motives. It’s a valuable exercise that helps you tap into your initial passion and excitement for your vision that will fuel you for the long journey.
- They map out your business’ future
Starting a business is like embarking on an exploratory expedition. You’re charting a new path for yourself. And, like most expeditions, you need a compass to help you plot your route, and you need a route plan to get to your destination.
- You’ll need them when you create your business plan
At some point, you’re going to need a business plan for funding. Producing at least some of these documents, in the beginning, will cut in half the time and effort to generate your business plan.
- They’re the foundation of future strategic plans
The beauty of core documentation is you can always tweak them. You’ll have your business’ blueprint at your fingertips. When you need to adjust to market fluctuations or if you have to re-brand, you don’t have to start from scratch.
- They ensure brand image consistency
Because core documentation is your brand’s rebar and foundation, everything you produce will reinforce your image in the marketplace, strengthen you as a leader in your niche, inspire customer loyalty, and expand your following. That’s because everyone inside and outside of your company will know exactly who you are.
- They put your team on the same page
I often refer to Zappos’ company culture formula: happy employees provide excellent customer service that creates happy customers. It’s true. Your core documentation defines your business’ standards and values. When you’re clear about those, you hire and partner with like-minded people who have a stake in your brand, so they’re happy to be on the journey with you. That’s how company culture is created. It starts with clarifying your business vision and practices in writing.
- They’re the basis of all training
Whether you need new-hire orientation materials or a manual of best practices, you have the structure already codified and accessible for internal training requirements.
Core Documents need revision over time
Alright … I did liken business core documents to sacred stone tablets with your company’s commandments inscribed on them for posterity. The truth is, they’re fluid. You can revise and amend them as needed. After all, markets and industries change. You’ll change. Your company will change to adapt. But creating the core documentation early in your business’ life is like feeding an infant a healthy diet of breast milk. It gives your business a healthy start that will evolve into good habits that will position it for a long life.
Isn’t that what you want?