Chrisisms: Why documentation is key

July 24, 2013

By Chris Wachowiak

In 12 years in business, I’ve learned many things. One of the biggest lessons is: “He who keeps the best records, wins.”

Proper recordkeeping is essential in so many aspects of business. Good, reliable, accessible and informative records done at events, phone calls and transactions as they occur can save you not only time, money and energy down the road, they can also save your rear end.

I heard someone once say that if you’re in business long enough, you’re going to get sued. Let’s be honest, we live in a litigious society. When people feel slighted, wronged or you violate a term to an agreement, if you want to have any chance of not getting the floor wiped with you, document the whys, hows and whens of the things you did.

In the beginning stages of Kryptonite, I neglected the accountability of my attention deficit disorder and was guided by the “free spirit” of a young entrepreneur. Now, 12 years later, I take serious measures to do my due diligence as a responsible adult to be held accountable for my agreements, relationships and events.

People you interact with and do business with should be entitled to know the basic “who, what, where, when, how and why.” Providing a documented list of everything in between can make you a fantastic resource and a person to do business with.

Accountability, in business and in life, is one of those things you really don’t see as often as you would like. When you do, it’s appreciated.

Tim Hanson, who heads Rockford’s Public Works Department, is someone I’ve had to interact with a lot recently with events being hosted downtown. I can tell you this: putting on these events has many variables, which are very difficult to describe or talk through on a 24-page special event application.

The city has many different departments that touch this application and review your documented application. But when it comes game time, Hanson has made it very clear that if variables arise, call him.

Tim is the “one stop, where the buck stops” person, as far as I can see. Julia Valdez is another who takes accountability and action, along with many other city staff. But the one thing they all have in common is they all want to document the steps, plans and updates. And they will hold you accountable for your end at the end of the day.

If you ask me, that’s more than fair, because you should be held accountable for the course of business you choose to work with. I don’t care if you are a one-unit landlord, a new MLMer selling the latest miracle face cream, an employee who reports to a superior, or a small business owner — you should hold yourself accountable to produce tangible proof of your operations and those you choose to work with in return.

I may not be a psychic or a soothsayer — and call me pessimistic — but I would be willing to bet that there will come a day you either wished you documented that little detail about a confirmation number, the person’s name you talked to, or as simple as what a conversation had detailed, because you will regret it if you didn’t. You could save a relationship with a friend or acquaintance by doing so, and protect yourself if someone legally comes knocking on your door.

Chris Wachowiak is owner of Kryptonite Bar, 308 W. State St., No. 110, Rockford. Read his blog at http://ChrisWachowiak.com. Do you know a 20-something who is doing something unique and should be recognized? E-mail Chris at chris@kryptonitebar.com and tell him who, why and how to contact them.

From the July 24-30, 2013, issue

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