21 Commonly Used Business Documents

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published August 11, 2021

Having well-organized business documents is crucial for an organization's well-being. Regardless of your role within a company, you're likely to encounter different business documents, and being familiar with their characteristics can improve your professional performance. Knowing what the most common business documents are can be a valuable skill, and you can gain it through research. In this article, we discuss what business documents are and list some of the most widely encountered business documents.

What are business documents?

Business documents are files of various types that record various details regarding an organization's internal and external dealings. They're usually essential for a company's management, as they provide the information needed to properly run it as well as details of various transactions with other parties. Depending on their format, business documents can have a physical form or a digital one.

Related: Documentation in the Workplace

21 types of business documents

These are some of the most widely encountered business documents:

1. Contracts

Companies often agree to collaborate with other parties, for reasons such as sales, purchases, licensing or any other type of agreement. The exact details behind these collaborations are recorded with contracts that are signed by both parties and constitute an obligation for everyone involved to fulfill their agreed obligations. Contracts are legally binding and legally enforceable.

2. Documentation of bylaws

A company's documentation of bylaws is a set of internal rules and regulations that its management has established, with the purpose of letting all employees know what the agreed-upon standards and practices are. It usually outlines the company's managerial structure, potential governance issues and the individual role of each employee in the organization's well-being. They're not always legally required but are usually helpful for any type of organization.

Related: 8 Types of Accounting Documents You Should Know

3. Non-disclosure agreement

These agreements are signed between an organization and various other parties, such as employees, business partners, contractors and freelancers. Their purpose is to safeguard the company's essential information, such as details regarding various projects, client lists, financial records or future strategies, by having the other parties agree not to disclose them. They can be crucial for an organization's well-being, as they can preserve its competitive advantages.

4. Employment agreement

This document is signed each time a company hires a new employee. It covers both the employee's duties and role within the company as well as the company's obligations toward the employee. They're essential in maintaining good relationships between organizations and their employees and can be used by both parties in a court of law to act as proof that the other party has failed to fulfill its obligations.

5. Business plan

The business plan is often the first document created by a business owner. It's a plan that outlines what the company aims to achieve, what the timelines for its objectives are and how to achieve them. Creating an effective business plan usually requires thorough research of the competition, target audience and the market as a whole.

Related: What Is a Business Plan?

6. Financial documents

Managing the budget is often a major part of ensuring an organization's long-term success. Financial records such as balance sheets, income statements, bank statements, receipt records and payroll reports help the organization's management keep track of all income and expenditures, ensuring the company's financial health. They're also used to create annual financial reports to analyze the organization's financial performance during that year.

7. Transactional documents

Similar to financial documents, transactional documents help the organization's management maintain a healthy budget. They include all documents issued as a result of a transaction, such as invoices, receipts and payment orders. Keeping track of them helps the company know the funds going in and out at all times.

8. Compliance and regulatory documents

Depending on the industry in which the company operates, it may require proof that its operations are conducted within certain regulatory limits and standards. Compliance and regulatory documents act as proof that the company is within all regulatory boundaries. Most of these documents refer to the treatment of employees, compliance with tax regulations and conducting operations according to industry and environmental standards.

9. Business reports

Business reports are documents that help the organization's management gain insight into various internal aspects. They outline various elements regarding the company, its transactions, employees, contractors and other relevant information, helping management make informed decisions. They can also show the organization's business situation to potential investors.

Related: How To Become a Successful Document Specialist

10. Minutes of business meetings

Keeping minutes of the company's most important meetings can help everyone involved analyze what was discussed and the validity of the decisions made. This can clear up any uncertainties and disagreements by showing exactly what was said, in unambiguous terms. Effective meeting minutes often include as much information as possible, including a list of everyone attending the meeting and their vote on various decisions.

11. Contractor agreements

Whenever an organization hires a contractor, the two parties need to clearly outline the details of the collaboration. Some of the most often-included information in such an agreement is regarding who owns the completed work, what the deadline is and the amount owed to the contractor. It may also contain details regarding quality standards.

12. Business insurance

Business insurance is a way for companies to protect themselves against various risks. Some of the most common business risks are major business losses, natural disasters, catastrophes, accidents and theft. A business insurance document is a file where the organization keeps different insurance policies that cover various risks.

13. Partnership agreement

Partnership agreements are contracts signed between two or more individuals who decide to start a business together. It clearly specifies each party's responsibilities and shares of both profits and losses. Its role is to facilitate relationships between partners and act as a binding document in case of a disagreement.

14. Company policy

A company policy document outlines all its policies regarding various subjects, such as health and safety, the conduct of its employees, the salary for each role, behavioral guidelines, disciplinary measures and any other rule or regulation internally set by the organization. Its main role is to act as a point of reference when employees require guidance on how to handle certain situations. It can also act as a quick way to resolve various internal disputes.

Related: The 16 Essential HR Documents Every Human Resources Department Needs

15. Trademark

A trademark is a document that protects an organization's intellectual property, specifically various elements that differentiate it from other companies. It can refer to any element associated with a brand, company, product or service, such as symbols, phrases and logos. A trademark that has been registered with the proper authorities makes anyone who copies any element under the respective trademark legally liable.

16. Franchise agreement

Some companies choose to outsource their brand and business practices to other parties in the form of franchises. A franchise agreement is a contract that's signed by the franchiser and the person who wishes to open a franchise and outlines the conditions in which the latter can open their business. The document typically includes details on how the franchiser would help the franchisee with technical and operational support as well as how the franchisee would compensate the franchisor and the duration of the agreement.

17. Employee stock option agreement

Employee stock option plans are stocks that the organization offers its employees at discounted prices. The reason is usually to motivate employees, as the company's success is usually proportional to its stock price. The document clearly specifies the number of allocated shares, their initial price and any other essential detail regarding the agreement.

18. Board resolutions

The decisions that a company's board takes during its meetings are recorded as board resolutions. They can refer to many aspects of the company, such as how it allocates its resources, a potential expansion, the addition of a new board member and other major decisions for the organization. Most board resolutions require a unanimous decision by board members.

19. Online terms of use

Although not always required by law, an organization's website should have its own terms of use. This helps the company avoid liability in case any content on the website or its hyperlinks is incorrect. It also regulates what visitors can post on your website, when applicable.

20. Business pitch deck

A business pitch deck is a presentation that new companies usually create that outlines the organization's main characteristics, qualities and aspirations. Its purpose is to be presented to various interested parties, such as clients, potential investors and shareholders. Some of the most commonly encountered elements of a pitch deck are details regarding employees, competitive advantages, issues, solutions, goods, services, market predictions and required investments.

21. Business license

Depending on a company's areas of activity or geographical location, it may need one or more permits issued by government agencies in order to function. Each state usually has its own licensing terms, with the location of the company's headquarters typically dictating which local license is required. Business licenses are crucial documents for an organization, as it would be illegal to operate without them.

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