In the fast-paced world we live in today, those who leapfrog to the top have great communication abilities, and that means superior business writing than the competition. You’ve heard the saying, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Well, in business, you’d better be able to wield a pen or else you might just fall on your sword. In the Information Age in which we reside, it’s an inevitable conclusion that your capacity to communicate is one of the most vital skills you can master. In business, you’ve got to communicate with prospects, employees, suppliers, lawyers, business advisors, maybe even legislators. In many cases you can express yourself verbally and do just fine; however, you are dead in the water in business if you can’t communicate in writing.
So why is business writing so necessary? Come on, you didn’t know? As an expert, you need to have the ability to prepare effective pitches to management and customers, provide meeting agendas to colleagues, and update others as to the current developments of your company. You may be responsible for writing ad copy, guides, or legal contracts. These are the obvious ones, but just remember that there are people you need to communicate with, share plans with, and persuade who just aren’t in the room at the same time as you are. Your objective is to offer your valuable pearls of wisdom to be read at any time convenient to your audience.
There are a number of key times in the course of small business where it’s absolutely essential to write rather than speak. I’ll provide a solid, but certainly not complete, list right here:
1. Be Visual. Do you buy into the fact that you learn more if you not only hear but view content? Just think of any speech you’ve ever heard about goal setting and the paramount importance of writing down your goals. Sales trainer pro Zig Ziglar, in his book Secrets of Closing the Sale, spotlights the importance of using your writing pad when convincing prospects of the value of your goods and services. Why? Seeing it in writing makes something more credible, increasing retention. In addition to sales, the written message is appropriate for work instructions, company goals and mission, and updates about your industry. If you want something to really stick with your audience, you need to write it down.
2. Statements of Policy. You can’t have a verbal employee handbook; it just won’t suffice. The spoken message gets massaged and twisted throughout the hierarchy. If you’re responsible for policies or methods at a firm that absolutely must be followed word for word, you need to put them on paper and publish them for the appropriate parties. Just imagine telling your OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) inspector that, “we’re very careful, we just don’t keep any records.”
3. Complaints. Have you ever been ripped off by a provider? If you want to get it resolved, I suggest doing it in writing. You’re trying to persuade someone to your point, and your written complaint will have legs. To begin with, you now have a documentation of correspondence. More importantly, it’s very possible that the individual you originally complain to won’t be the one that resolves the problem, suggesting that your complaint must be transferred. If you give your complaint over the phone, it goes up the hierarchy verbally. Remember in grade school when the teacher whispered “The Easter Bunny will be here on Wednesday” to the kid in the front row, who in turn started it around the room by telling his friend behind him. By the time the last little girl recounted the initial message back to the class, it came out “Godzilla can beat King Kong in a fight because he breathes fire.” Write your complaints down to avoid the confusion.
4. Recognition. People like to get compliments on a job well done. Managers today are learning that a crucial part of an incentive program is to make these kudos available to the top staff members. Funny thing is, when the praise is received in private over a cup of java, it’s nice. When it’s put up in black and white on the company newsletter, it’s like giving the employee an unpredicted reward. Just think of the volume of work and commitment that the fortunate employee will demonstrate now. Congratulate people in writing and openly to get measurable results.
5. Complex Ideas are expressed. If your business has achieved ISO 9000 Certification or is going through that procedure now, you can relate to why the ISO auditors demand written records. You must describe processes for corrective action, for instance, telling people just what to do when things go wrong. ISO has to do with accuracy or repeatability, and putting something complex in writing leads to reliability during execution. Whenever you have to illustrate or document complex ideas at your company put them on paper. And just remember; steer clear of esotericisms and jargon.
6. Protect Yourself. We all know this, don’t we? It’s become the leading use of email on the company intranet. If you are engaged in questionable problems at work, or if your actions for whatever reason are under the company microscope, you absolutely must record your positions for posterity and future protection. You can use paper or electronic messages, but always cover your assets.
7. Agendas. If you’ve ever been to a meeting that was a wreck because nobody knew the goals or what they were supposed to do, raise your hand. OK, put it back down. You know firsthand the importance of a written agenda for a meeting. It focuses people on a common target, designates responsibilities, and helps the meeting leader maintain time control. Never, never have a meeting without first producing a written agenda and sharing it in advance with the meeting attendants.
I’m sure in your specific business that you can think of other circumstances. The point is that for the reasons given above and many more, it’s really important that you clearly express your ideas in writing. It will help your bottom line by saving numerous man-hours normally lost in confusion, you will increase productivity by getting people on the same page quickly, and you can avoid the frustrations that come with communication failures on the job.
So go on– do yourself a favor — and write it down.
About the Author:
Karl Walinskas is the CEO of Smart Company Growth, a business development firm that helps small to mid-size professional service firms build competitive advantage in an online world of sameness. He is author of numerous articles and the Smart Blog on leadership, business communication, sales & service, public speaking and virtual business, and Getting Connected Through Exceptional Leadership, available in the SmartShop. Get your FREE LinkedIn Profile Optimization eBook & Video Course, Video Marketing video and course, or Mastermind Groups e-course & video now.