One thing all types of businesses have in common is the need for multiple types of documents. While some forms are required by law, others simply protect the company's interests and owners' interests. Whether you're starting a business, have been operating it for years or in the process of growing it, documentation is essential for every phase. Here are a few of the most common business documents your company will need, or at least find very helpful.
1. Employment Agreement
Every new hire must sign an employment agreement. This document includes what the company expects from its employee and its responsibilities as the employer. The content of an employment agreement can vary depending on the type of industry and the company itself. A Google Forms alternative can be adapted to create an employment agreement that will assist your company's needs. Frequently included is information on dispute resolution, means of retaining new hires and no-compete disclosures.
2. Operating Agreement
An operating agreement is necessary for a limited liability corporation. It describes how business decisions are managed and how profits and losses will be distributed if there are several partners. It should also include what happens if a member leaves the company. This legally binding contract must be signed by all members.
3. Business Creation Documents
Proving your business's legitimacy comes down to three essential documents. They should be kept on hand as long as your business is operational:
Articles of incorporation or organization are created when your company registers as a business entity, whether limited liability company, c corporation, s corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship.
An employer identification number is supplied to a business by the IRS. This helps keep a business owner's finances separate from their personal finances by taking out business-specific loans and opening company bank accounts and credit cards.
Documentation of your state tax number and permits will vary based on your industry and the state in which it operates.
4. Non-Disclosure Agreement
Working with business partners, employees, contractors, and freelancers requires that your business share critical information (e.g., customer lists, financial records, design concepts). You'll need people with whom you work to sign an NDA to legally protect your company's confidential information.
5. Company Bylaws
A company needs to create regulations to govern itself (aka bylaws). With bylaws, the company will have guidelines for handling certain matters, along with details of the company's structure, governance issues and roles of specific employees. It makes settling disputes easier since the bylaws will tell the directors how to manage these issues, and if a board meeting is necessary. Although you're not required to file bylaws, most states require corporations to keep documentation of them.
6. Business Meeting Minutes
Most states require corporations to keep an official account of the goings-on, discussions and decisions at major company meetings. Suppose there's a dispute about something that happened or didn't happen at a previous meeting. In that case, this documentation should provide enough information to settle it. These minutes should be as detailed as possible, including the type of meeting, time and location of the meeting, list of individuals in attendance, actions taken and the details of any votes.
7. Business Plan
A business plan is a document that outlines the company's goals and how it plans to reach them. Thorough research goes into a business plan, including analyzing your company's competition and its target customers. It also involves determining how your company will set itself apart from others in the market. This document is needed for beginning a business, receiving loans and grants and establishing business partnerships.
8. Business Reports
Business reports can give an in-depth view of your company's success, including details about different teams and employees. They typically show multiple forms of data, such as sales figures, feasibility studies, graphs and case studies, just to name a few.
9. Financial Documents
Financial documents (e.g., income statements, bank statements, receipt records, balance sheets and payroll reports) allow you to better discern the state of your company's finances. These reports can also help you determine if you've stayed within your budget over a specific amount of time. You'll need this documentation for filing tax returns and writing budget proposals.
10. Transactional Documents
Transactional documents can help your company organize finances by keeping track of all incoming and outgoing money. These transactions include invoices, receipts, transmittal pages and order forms. A report can be written based on the collected documents and then organized neatly into one document.
Dealing with a collection of business documents can be a headache. However, these days it's easy to get the forms you need and keep them organized to keep your business running as smoothly as possible.