Documentation is a love letter that you write to your future self

Documentation is a love letter that you write to your future self

When it comes to running a creative agency, there are just some things you can’t escape. Listen, I get it - documentation isn’t a sexy word. Maybe the thought of it makes you roll your eyes. But it’s one of the most important things you can start doing in order to scale your business.

It takes time and maybe that feels daunting. But I can’t stress how important it is to do some level of process documentation, whether it’s a process doc or a video tutorial for those visual learners. This allows you to easily cross train your team, hand off the responsibilities to someone else in the future, or simply cover your butt if you’re out sick or on vacation. The stakes are high, after all, this is your business on the line! Take a moment to think past how you plan to survive this quarter and plan for how you’re going to scale over the next few years!

So you’re convinced this documentation business is a good idea. But where do you begin? I’ve compiled a few essential starter tips:

  • Identify your departments

    • Organize each section by role, even if you’re currently wearing all the hats. By separating marketing, finance, human resources, etc., it’ll make the handoff to a new hire that much easier when you’re ready. When the time comes, you should be able to say, “Hey new marketing person, here are all the marketing processes!”.

  • Come up with a naming and organization structure

    • I’ve seen this happen a bunch, companies will have great processes documented but they all live in siloed folders for each department. If each department is organizing and naming these docs differently, this makes things hard to track down. Create a shared folder amongst the company where all processes live and pick a naming convention. Ex: Operations processes can be titled “OP - [Name of Process]” and Marketing processes can be titled “MA - [Name of Process]”. This will ensure all your processes are easy to access and simple to find. If you’re worried about paying for another tool, a simple Google Doc can get you where you need to be pretty quickly

  • Delegate the responsibility and agree on a format if you’re going with written documentation

    • This isn’t a one-and-done type of task. Processes evolve and you need to update the documentation. Choose someone from each department to be responsible for making the updates to process docs so that there’s consistency. In addition, having an approved format will make sure things stay tidy and consistent. 

  • Get detailed

    • The more you include, the fewer recurring questions you’ll have from your team. Use a whiteboard and allow yourself to think freely. Toss each detail on the board in your departments you identified. Go grab some lunch and come back to the list with fresh eyes asking, “What is missing from the list? What am I assuming they will know?” Try not to rush through the details; you can always pare it down later.

  • Share the documentation with your team

    • Introduce your new, shiny documentation; you’ve worked hard on this! Field any clarifying questions and give each person time to digest the info. Make sure your team knows that these processes are not carved in stone. If they have a suggestion for improving the process, listen to it! As you get more feedback from your team, you’ll improve the accuracy and value of your documentation.

Businesses that have proper documentation are able to scale quickly. As you bring people on to your team, you’ll be able to swiftly delegate and grow. The best businesses in the world have some sort of operations manual for their team. Creating an ops manual will be a lot easier if you have all the needed documentation ahead of time. Think of the time you spend now as an investment in your future. Trust me - it’s worth it!