Whether you are a small or large business, franchisor or franchisee, you need to make a habit of using file notes. Not only can it help you grow your business, but it can also act as an aide memoire, and help you remember what happened if you have a legal dispute where the ability to be able to provide a clear, detailed chronology of what has been agreed to or occurred can help protect your business.
These days a file note should be an electronic note. Made either using a Notes app on your phone, or on your PC or in your CRM, database or diary but with a firm process that if a file note is on a personal device it is transferred to a central repository within your business on the next business day at the latest. File notes shouldn’t take the place of official correspondence, but they can be an adjunct to it.
Empower and teach your team members to get into the habit of documenting the highlights of conversations, action items, and agreed-to responsibilities as they go about their day-to-day business. File notes should be made while the conversation is fresh – making them shouldn’t wait until a person is deskbound to do it.
What should you make notes of?
- Important conversations (by phone, virtual, text message or in-person) with team members, suppliers, partners – action items, agreed outcomes, next steps
- Conversations with team members – particularly in the area of HR.
- Anything to do with a potential dispute resolution – team or client or franchisee
- Personal information (such as birth of child, travel plans etc) of clients / team members / suppliers / partners so that you can refer to the information in further conversations.
Extracting and documenting the essence of a conversation is an art that we need to teach our team members. Not everybody is born with the ability to listen and hear, validate the points and then document into a useable file note. Work out a template (or series of templates) that suits your business – with memory-jogging headings for the information that should be recorded.
Don’t forget to set the business policy and procedure on files notes.
File notes are just part of the picture you need to have of your business. Emails and letters also form part of that picture. Invest in an IT system that makes creating files notes an easy process then implement a system to also capture email exchanges and documents and file accordingly. Find a way to alert others in the business that need to know that a file note has been recorded.
As a business owner you’ll find that implementing a habit of making files notes across your team will provide you with golden information on your business and aid you in making good decisions. And, worst case scenario, if there’s a dispute or legal action, you have all the historic information you need at your fingertips.