I was speaking at a Start Up Grind event earlier today (fabulous networking events by the way – please do go join a group!) and was asked what are my three key takeaways for entrepreneurs to think about as they start up and grow their businesses.
In short: learn to sell, ask for help, and self care. A business with no sales is not a business (or at least it is a very precarious business)…ask for help because you simply can’t embark on this journey and be successful without some help along the way…and self-care because you need to look after you in this entire process – put your own oxygen mask on first to enable you to do what you want to do first and foremost…and then help others.
I’ll talk about self care another day, and you can find some tips about selling and asking for help in my other posts (links above), but it got me thinking that in addition to these three key points, something else is really, really, really important…and that’s your “Truck File”.
What on earth’s a Truck File I hear you ask? Pretty much just what it says on the tin…a file full of all the information you need on your company so that if you were to be hit by a truck and couldn’t work, there is, in one file, all the information needed for someone else to run your business. Quite frankly, it’s simple common sense, but it’s not commonly done!
And believe me, businesses can and do fail without them. I know that from bitter experience. I had been asked to take on an interim role in a high growth technology company and on my first day I asked for the Truck File (a commonly used term from my investment days). Blank looks all around. No truck file, no safe and secure repository of all the necessary company information. Nothing.
Grumpily accepting the current position, I asked them to collate key information fast, it really had to be a priority. They said they would do it start of the following week. Not ideal, but I ran with it, not wishing to throw my weight around too much on the first day…
But I so wish I hadn’t. I kid you not – this genuinely is the honest truth – two days later I got a call from the MD saying their key technical guy had been killed outright in a head on crash. Clearly everyone was devastated on a personal basis, but the company was devastated too. With no back-up files, access codes, security passes, knowledge documentation of the technical developer’s work, etc. etc. it created horrendous problems, a catastrophic impact on product development and severely hindering company progress in so many areas. It took months and months for the company to get back on its feet (it very nearly didn’t) and I reckon it put them a year behind schedule – not exactly helpful for a high growth company in a fast moving sector. And all because they didn’t take the time as they grew to ensure they had all the relevant company information secure and accessible in one place – they didn’t have a Truck File.
A Truck File will be different things to different entrepreneurs, and will be saved in different ways, but the message is…have one. Just take half a day this week and pull together all the info you need: key contact details of people, lawyers, bank accounts, passwords (obviously securely stored and passwords only given to someone else you trust with future access authority), contracts, product and system documentation (or a summary document with links as to where all the information can be accessed). Scan relevant files and keep in one folder. Store a hard copy or two in different places and save in other ways in other ways too – Dropbox, thumb drive, at your mum and dad’s, at your friend’s place, at your lawyer’s….
I could go on, but I don’t need to – you get the point. Just ask yourself if you weren’t able in any way whatsoever to work in your business for a significant period of time, how could it still operate and grow? And in order to do that, what information and access would someone else need and how will you get that to them?
But please keep it up to date…a quick review once a month is about right.