One of the best perks of the information age is the accessibility to resources that can help you through almost anything—even building a business from scratch. Millions of entrepreneurs have created both successful and unsuccessful businesses, they’ve learned from their mistakes, and they’ve published some of the materials that have led them to those outcomes. You, as a new entrepreneur, have the benefit of learning from those past experiences to build your own business.
The Importance of Templates
Templates are one of the most powerful ways to take advantage of the experience of others. Businesses need to document almost everything, from initial financial models to purchase orders and invoices, and fortunately for you, thousands of past businesses have already collectively discovered the best ways to document this data.
The key is to know the most important templates your business requires, and find an online resource that’s able to offer them.
Most Important Invoices
These are some of the most important templates you’ll need to get started:
1. Business plan templates. Before you get any further with your business, you’ll need to sketch out a business plan. This will help you chart out and understand the feasibility of your business, including its profitability and practicality, and may help you attract investors and initial clients. SCORE has a downloadable business plan template you can use, but you’ll still need to put lots of work into the meat of the document, researching your target demographics, the competition, and your niche economic environment.
2. Invoices. If you plan to make money, you need a way to formally charge your clients, but the structure of your invoice can impact how easy it is to understand your financial data, and how convenient it is for your customers to pay. Square has a handy list of invoice templates for you to choose from, so peruse their options and find the one that best fits your business.
3. Purchase orders. On the flip side, purchase orders also need to be formally documented in many cases. You’ll be using these to order products from your main vendors, and documenting your expenses. Vertex42 offers a convenient purchase order template that should work for most businesses.
4. Meeting minutes. Next up, you’ll need a template for your meeting minutes, which will basically document your conversations and action items during important meetings. If you don’t have partners or investors yet, this will be a proactive measure, but as soon as you have a team of people meeting on a regular basis, this is a must have.
5. Operating agreements. If your business is a partnership or an LLC, you’ll need an operating agreement that explains which partners are responsible for what, and what they’re entitled to. For example, you’ll list things like percentage of ownership, investment stakes, and daily responsibilities. Law Depot has a standard operating agreement template that should work for you.
6. Employee agreements. Next, you’ll need something in place for your employees (when it comes time to hire some). You’ll need to clearly explain the rules and restrictions of working for your business (including potential non-compete agreements), and what your employee can expect from working for your organization.
8. NDAs. Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are especially important for companies with sensitive proprietary information; if that information is exposed, it could compromise your entire business plan. Nolo has a sample confidentiality agreement you can use as a working base for yours.
9. Job applications. Next up, you’ll need job applications for when you start hiring. This will help you keep a roster of potential employees, and formally document the ones you hire. There’s room for variance here, depending on what your company is looking for in its new hires, so shop around for the best template and tweak it to fit your needs.
10. Performance reviews. Finally, you’ll need a performance review template like this one from Smart Sheet. It will help you give feedback to your employees regularly, and keep them in line with your company’s performance standards.
You don’t have to use these templates exactly as they appear, but you can and should use them as strong jumping-off points to create your ideal suite of documents. Even reviewing the different types of templates that are available can help you learn more about their respective departments and processes, so dive into these templates and start building your business.