Documentation: A Better Team It Makes

After you’re done reading this post I’ll have you loving and even looking forward to creating documentation. 🙂

My Journey Building Teams

The first time this came into play for me was many years ago.. back in 2008-09 when I first started outsourcing work to teams outside the U.S.. Back then I was a niche marketer and was getting help creating content and other efforts around 100s of niche websites I had at the time.

But one of the critical things I did was create step-by-step documentation and built processes that were easy to follow. That made my team much more efficient and effective.

Fast forward a few years to around 2016’ish and I was hiring a team to design and develop WordPress themes for a WordPress Marketplace.

What was important in this effort was that I wanted us to build themes that were consistent in structure and build. I felt following a tight process would ensure that final products would be easier to maintain and care for over the years. (I was right, btw 😉 ).

I created dozens of documents and SOPs… I created project and TODO templates so they could work their way through our processes step by step.

As I grew the team (we ended up at around 2 designers, 4-5 developers) it was easy to onboard and get new people started because we had these documents and references that all tied into and integrated together.

It helped keep things on track long term.

Fast forward a few more years to the present…

We have been adding employees and have been growing our pool of developers/designers. And through that process I’ve been building out more and more documentation. I’m gradually adding more and more as things are starting to move out of my hands to others.

But, listen, the documentation isn’t necessarily for my existing team.

Forward Thinking – Preparing for Growth

We build documentation so we only have to teach people once.

The first time I hire someone I am leveraging that person to grow our documentation so when someone does what they are doing in the future, it’s easier to onboard them.

That doesn’t mean I’m firing that person or am worried about them leaving.

In the case of my Virtual Assistant ( **waves** ), we’re building documentation around a wide variety of things she’s doing for me right now:

  • Helping me with support tickets
  • Helping me keep my websites up to date
  • Helping me with marketing
  • Helping me with content distribution
  • Helping me with some client work
  • Scheduling meetings
  • And more…

At some point in the game as my business grows, I may hire someone dedicated to one of those bullets and my VA will simply move on to other things; maybe I’ll need help with Project Management (which I’ve been preparing for by.. you guessed it!.. creating documentation).

But that NEW person we hire now has all those docs we made to reference and hit the ground running!

Documenting Everything Means Time Savings

There is no doubt a time sink up front. And it is difficult to do before you have a team.

I actually joke with my new hires because they are actually helping motivate me to create documentation; their value lies there too!

As a business person focused on results, I tend to gravitate to doing things that move us forward. Before you have a team spending hours writing documentation is not the best use of time; and it’s hard to think about it beyond creating personal documentation or rough notes (not formal).

So I’ve been creating it on the fly. And the extra time is going to pay huge dividends going forward!

So You Sold Yet?

But do I have to do it? I imagine this is a question on a lot of people’s minds.

I have a natural gift for writing so it comes easy to me. But at some point too I’ll give the task of writing documentation to someone else.

If your situation allows it, investing in someone to write your documentation for you is a viable option.

If you have to do it yourself, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Remember, this is all for internal use… so no pressure.

Another trick is to write initial documentation and then give it to your team to maintain it. I do that. I’ll eventually give them the keys and encourage them to keep it up to date and to create new documentation if it helps them.

Regardless, if you have your sights to the future and want to grow your business, documentation is going to play a critical role. You can’t expect to start from scratch with every new hire AND it allows you to build processes and a ‘way to do things’ that is consistent across your organization!


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Matt Levenhagen
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