A business entity exists under its documentation. Without the proper records, registration, licenses and other legal documents, a company is just an idea in the owner’s head. Having hard copy business documents registered in the right places make the business a real entity. And losing those documents, or access to them if they are saved exclusively online, can be problematic — or potentially devastating. That’s why we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following:
“Which documents are particularly important for a business or leader to have a hard copy of? Why is it so important?”
Hard Copy Business Documents to Keep Around
Here’s what YEC community members had to say:
1. Business License
“Quite a few companies only have their business license in a digital format. If you want to appear as a reputable business, you need to have your license on display for customers and employees to look at if they have any questions.” ~ Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
2. Tax and Financial Records
“As an entrepreneur, it is important to keep hard copies of difficult-to-replace records. Including original contracts, insurance documents, employer identification numbers, promissory notes, capital contributions and withdrawals, and IRS documents. Some regulations require these documents be kept on the premises. Also, it is important to have these records in case your electronic system fails.” ~ Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
3. Legal Documents
“It may be necessary to maintain hard copies of legal documents to enforce them. For instance, real estate deeds and promissory notes typically require hard copies be maintained. Industry regulations may also require you to store hard copies of specific documents. You should consult with an attorney who practices in your industry to identify which original documents must be maintained.” ~ Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.
4. Your Business Model or Plan
“It helps to look at your business model up close. And personal rather than through a screen, as this will allow you to see the big picture. And make necessary tweaks and changes as you see fit. Not every business plan needs to have a hard copy, but I’d say that if you’re struggling a bit extra with your model, having a hard copy to refer to definitely helps.” ~ Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
5. Company Rules
“In the case of dispute, it’s good to have a hard copy of office culture or company rules. Employee handbooks online, even if merely 20 to 50 pages, can be hard to pull up on short notice as PDFs. You would rather have a paper backup to have on hand that is easy to access. One page of office rules, on display for everyone to see, can save time and reinforce norms to follow.” ~ Patrick Barnhill, Specialist ID, Inc.
6. Accounting Documents
“Accounting and legal documents are the ones that are often needed in a court of law. Those systems also are the slowest to advance to the internet age, so it’s worth it to still keep hard copy and warehoused versions of these documents.” ~ Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.
7. Employee Contracts
“You should always keep hard copies of the contract your employees signed when they were hired. It’s important to have this information for tax purposes and in case you need to review or revise a contract with a current employee.” ~ Blair Williams, MemberPress
8. Client Contracts
“I always like to keep hard copies of my client contracts in my filing cabinet in the event something happens to our computer system. Additionally, it’s easy to reference in the event a client says that their scope of work is different from the actual contract.” ~ Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Fem Founder
9. Articles of Incorporation
“It’s important to keep your articles of incorporation and any other legal documents that prove you are the owner of a company. If you ever need to sell, move, shut down or prove ownership of your company, it’s important to have them. I’d recommend keeping photos of these documents in Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote, with two-factor authentication enabled.” ~ Matt Wilson, Under30Experiences
10. Mission Statement
“The most important document to keep with you at all times is your mission statement. As a leader you must have a mission statement for your life, and you must have a congruent mission statement for your business. Keep this well-defined message on the computer screens, walls of the office, or where everyone can see. This is crucial not just for your team but for your mindset as the leader.” ~ Tarry Summers, The Columbus Home Co.
11. Proprietary Information Agreement
“The agreement makes it clear that any intellectual property an employee works on for the company belongs to the company. In addition, the employee agrees to not use any third-party confidential information. This agreement not only prevents some litigation, but investors will expect everyone to have signed the agreement to help make sure the company’s intellectual property is protected.” ~ Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC
12. Leasing Agreements
“There is so much to worry about in the day-to-day operation of a business, the last thing you need is a dispute regarding your workplace. Keep hard copies of your rental lease agreement so you don’t run into issues if digital copies get misplaced or lost in the cloud. There’s nothing like a sudden office move to throw a spanner in the works.” ~ Ismael Wrixen, FE International
13. Your Goals
“As most people know, it’s important to get your goals down on paper instead of just letting them float around in your head. Writing goals on paper will make them feel more real, and it’s important to keep a hard copy of them so you can constantly look at it to remind yourself of where you want to be. Keep your written goals in your desk drawer or pinned on the wall for easy access.” ~ Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms