When going into business with someone, it’s essential to obtain legal advice to ensure both parties agree with the terms of the business relationship. This means you will want to find a business attorney in southern Utah. 

Ruesch and Reeve’s attorneys can assist you with your business needs, whatever they may be.

The most vital aspect of a business partnership is drawing up contracts. A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties that spells out the expectations of each party.

Contracts may not see the inside of a courtroom and you may feel like your business transaction can survive on a verbal agreement, which can be legal in certain situations; however, if a problem does arise, a written contract will protect both parties.

Valid contracts not only need to be clear and specific, but they need to meet specific criteria to make them enforceable.

Along with contracts, the survival of a business relies on proper documentation. Every client, lead, and vendor communication should have detailed written notes about the conversation. You should be able to answer the following questions from the documentation:

  • Who did I speak to?
  • What did they want?
  • How was it resolved?
  • What was promised?
  • What time did the call take place?
  • What day did the call occur?
  • How long did the conversation last?

Why documentation matters

  • Your memory can be faulty

As a business owner, you should not rely on your memory to recall everything in a conversation. As easy as it may be to say “I’ll remember that” or “I can write it down later,” you may get caught up with something to where too much time has passed and you can’t remember vital details.

An essential business practice is documenting your notes, emails, and certain business systems. Proper documentation will not only help you and your clients, but it will also help you stay on the same page as your team.

  • Documentation is key to drafting contracts

The key to drawing up an accurate contract between you and your business partner(s) is having proper documentation. Your notes will ensure the contract reflects the agreement or understanding that you and the other parties have come to. As you are looking through the contract, compare it to your notes to ensure that everything you discussed and agreed to is documented in the contract.

Although your notes will not replace the contract or be used to determine what the intent of the contract was, they will come in handy to prove you acted under the terms of the contract.

  • Business record hearsay exception

Hearsay, which is an out-of-court statement made by a third person, is typically not allowed in court, but there is an exception. When you include documentation in your business processes, those business records could be allowed to support your claim in court. The business record exception to hearsay allows the documentation to be used as long as the lawyer proves the foundation. Essentially, if it comes to it, keeping proper documentation can help you down the road so you find yourself in a court battle. 

If you are new to the business world, you should reach out to a business attorney in southern Utah for advice on the organization of documentation. They may have useful tips for you moving forward with your business.

Business Attorney in Southern Utah
Business Attorney in Southern Utah

What documents do businesses usually keep?

  • Income

Business owners need to document the money they have received which may consist of keeping copies of checks and attaching the remittance advice to the invoice, emails, and other documentation. Th owner should also make it clear what the funds were for.

  • Expenses 

The second most vital aspect of running a business is providing evidence to support expenses that the business incurs by keeping invoices and receipts on file. When paying bills, attach one part of the check to your invoice to reflect that it has been paid.

Along with keeping the documentation, you should create a filing system to stay organized.

  • Payroll

If you have employees, your files should include

  • A personnel file on each employee that includes their application, tax forms, banking information, and identification of the individual. It may also include information like vacation requests, employee handbook acknowledgements, and emergency contact information.
  • Wage and tax information for the employee. You should also keep record of timecards or employee rate changes
  • Contracts and agreements

Customer or vendor contracts should be kept where you can easily access it. This may also include lease agreements for your office space or company vehicles.

  • Tax returns

Keep copies of your income tax, provincial sales tax, and GST returns. 

You should strongly consider hiring a business attorney in southern Utah to handle all of your legal business. This way, you ensure your business is being taken care of, and you have someone you can turn to for questions or concerns about documentation for your business.

Business process documentation

Along with simply documenting conversations that you have regarding your business, business owners should manage the complexities of their business with process documentation. 

Business process documentation consists of capturing and creating a descriptive document in which you map out critical tasks, plans, concepts, information, and processes using images, text, and symbols. This document will provide you with the necessary steps for completing a document in order to keep your business moving forward without revisiting old conversations and discussions.

The process document will contain unique baseline rules and a roadmap. If you have ideal business process documentation, you can keep an eye on your organization’s performance and identify areas that need improvement.

If you are in the process of starting up a business and need more clarification about business process documentation, you should consult with a business attorney in southern Utah.

Follow these steps to help you comprehend how to document business processes:

  • Identify

Identify all the processes you will document by identifying the purpose of each process and how it will benefit your organization. You should also provide a brief description of each process.

  • Define the scope

Next, you should define the scope of the processes by providing a short description of what is included in the documentation and the outcome of the process.

  • Determine boundaries

You should set boundaries for the process, including the starting and ending points of the process, the duration of the process, and what caused the process to be implemented. Each boundary needs to be defined in detail.

  • Result

You need to then establish what the result of the processes will be once they are completed.

  • Resources

Identify and list the resources necessary to complete each process.

  • Brainstorming sessions

Once you have identified the necessary resources for the processes and the outcome of the process, you need to conduct brainstorming sessions with those responsible for each of the process steps. You need to gather the relevant information on the process from beginning to end.

  • Process flow

Using the steps you come up with during the brainstorming process, you can create a process flow arranged in sequential order. It is important to keep the number of steps to a minimum to avoid complexity.

  • Individuals involved

You then need to list all the individuals involved in the processes and describe their jobs and what role they played in the process. 

  • Visualize

To improve the readability of the documentation, visualize the process steps and use a flowchart for easy identification of the processes.

  • Exceptions

A business process may not go as planned, so you need to note any exceptions in the process and establish how they would be addressed.

  • Control points

Consider adding control points to mitigate risks that could occur in any of the process steps. It could also be useful for the process owner while monitoring the process.

  • Review the process

Finally, you need to review the process by gathering everyone involved in the process based on the flowchart. Identify if any steps are missing and ensure everything is in the correct order. Once the review is completed, you can test the process.

Business Attorney in Southern Utah
Business Attorney in Southern Utah

Tips for documenting your procedures

A small company or startup should keep its procedures light, simple, and flexible. Here are ways to implement them:

  • Use flowcharts

You should supplement written procedures with flow charts that break up into logical pieces, giving your employees the big picture of the procedure.

  • Utilize checklists

Checklists are a simple approach to ensure that every required step, piece of information, and other task is completed at the different stages of the process. Keep them simple and short because long checklists can be counterproductive.

  • Use graphics and icons

Using graphics and icons will make it easier to read and understand what is required. You can use visual aids to illustrate a point instead of describing it in lengthy text, or you can use them to highlight specific points of the process.

  • Short and snappy writing

Lengthy procedures are difficult for a viewer to digest, so keep them short using tight explanations, bullet points, headings, images, checklists, images, and flow diagrams. 

  • Tell them why

Include an explanation as to why the step is important and what the issues are. If someone has to make a judgment call, then they understand the underlying reason for the step to make the right decision.

Being a business owner, you need to ensure you not only keep documentation of everything, but that you have it well organized and easy to understand. It may be in your best interest to speak with a business attorney in southern Utah about any questions or concerns about expectations of documentation for your business.