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.
The importance of a file note
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.
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.
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.
At a minimum, business owners should:
Implement a policy and procedures about when file notes should be taken, where they should be stored, what they should contain.
What you should be doing
Work out a template (or series of templates) that suits your business – with memory-jogging headings for the information that should be recorded. There should be action items, agreed items, next steps.
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.
Ensure the privacy and confidentiality is maintained around these notes.
What you should make notes on:
- Important conversations (by phone, virtual, text message or in-person) with team members, suppliers, partners, clients.
- Conversations with team members, particularly on any HR related issues.
- Anything to do with a potential dispute resolution – team or client or franchisee.
- Personal information such as birth of a child, travel plans etc of clients, team members, suppliers – so that you can refer to them in future conversations.
What not to do
- Don’t underestimate the importance of taking file notes.
- Don’t wait too long before making a file note. They should be made will the conversation is fresh.