Note To Self: How Documentation Can Save You From Possible Jail Time

Tales from the underbelly of running a young agency

Adaberemchi Aja-Onu

Customer management can be a bother. There are many times it seems like it's impossible to run a business in Nigeria that's actually profitable without running into a handful of customers who believe that they can take advantage of the loopholes in your company.

Every business has loopholes. The big task is finding ways to reduce the number of gaps that exist in your company.

At my Agency, the critical loophole that we've been dealing with for four years has been communication. I'll tell you how dangerous that the issue of communication is in a bit because it actually ends up with me standing in the middle of a police cell wondering where everything went wrong. Well, enough about that. Let's go straight to the point to run a business that eventually grows into something meaningful, you need to have all of your documentation and have the communication system that allows precise and concise information to be passed from one team member to another.

In mid-2014, I hired a team of marketers to help run the sales of our digital marketing package. After several months, a member of the marketing team, I'll call her Delilah, decided not to continue with our company and to move on to better prospects. We hadn't made much money for the two months that she worked at the company, so we had an agreement that I would give her a post-dated check to cover her back pay, and she would cash the cheque at a time when I would confirm that the account was funded. 

Now the name Delilah should have given us some hints, but that wasn't her real name, so there were no hints to be had. To shorten a long story, she goes to the bank attempts to cash the check before been informed that there was money in the account and then proceeds to the police station to document a claim that I had given her a dud to check.

Well, I was forced to report to the station. I was led into a cell pending when I could either sign a commitment to make payment of the money owed or basically remain in jail. I went ahead to do so and was let out. At the end of this experience, I was quite bitter and didn't fancy hiring more staff. The fault was not anyone's but mine. I had engaged in a transaction without documenting the terms of that transaction. The young lady took advantage of that loophole and roped me into a coerced agreement to making payments on funds the Agency did not have. Let me add, she never raised a dime for the Agency.

Fast forward to today, I don't do anything without adequate documentation. Call me paranoid, but a lesson learned is a lesson learned. I won't be making that same mistake anytime soon. 

Now, about documenting every single thing that you do in your business. This is an essential part of ensuring that your business survives. Individuals may come into your business with one agenda or the other, but adequately documented communications will protect you from ill-conceived accusations and the carelessness of staff who don't care whether your business lives or dies.

So I went to jail to learn about communication. Let me know if you learned anything recently about communication, this may or may not have involved being behind bars for a few hours to let the lessons sink in. Today my Agency uses the Odoo suite of apps to ensure that all our communication is documented and adequately archived for future reference. Over time we found both staff and clients forget the terms of specific conversations or agreements and a nicely documented engagement keeps everyone honest. If you've ever been at the end of a loaded gun where a client is basically threatening you with legal action, You'll find that having a properly documented engagement between you and your clients can be a lifesaver.

If you're wondering what Odoo is like and if it's right for you, book a meeting with us, and we'll answer your questions.