Business cards: Social act leading to retention drama?

I recently received an email request, sent to all of our employees, asking whether anyone required business cards. It struck me that it’s ironic, in this social media age, that the survival of the business card may ultimately have more to do with social convention than it does with the capture and use of the contact data on the business card.

Today there is a growing trend to meet first electronically and then physically, but people still exchange business cards when they meet face to face, even though the initial electronic interaction probably supplies more contact information than the business card.

The ritual of exchanging business cards at an initial meeting has been as much a part of business culture as the handshake. Failure to produce a card often leads to an awkward moment and an apology for the absence of this long lost friend. This routine alone may result in the survival of the business card even if the growing trend towards pre-meeting electronic contact data capture becomes the norm.

The long term survival of each card depends on what we do with the card after receiving it. The Rolodex was/is a document store that worked its name into the language. We hired him/her for their outlook address book has less of a ring to it. Filing the card in a Rolodex or using another folder system that uses the card as the contact record ensured long term survival of that individual card.

The alternative use of the card is to transfer (type or input) the card data manually into an address book or capture it using an automated process. After this, the practical action is to dispose of the card, but I would bet there is a fair proportion of us that let it survive for many months, even years after this, keeping it warm and safe in a drawer perhaps. Does this create risk, business and personal, in an age when raw data, like business cards, can rapidly be turned into business information?

Most employment contracts include a clause to protect the employer’s data (including customer, prospect, supplier and other contact data) so literally being hired for the Rolodex (or an electronic contact list) that is physically (virtually) removed from the office would be a breach. Subsequent interaction with those contacts is unlikely to be a breach if a former employee is not relying on the employers’ data, but if they have been keeping a load of business cards warm then proving no reliance may be a whole lot more difficult. Both employees and employers might want to think about retention issues surrounding the collection of business cards.

The desire to keep business cards, and for that matter any physical document, warm and safe, is in large part driven by fear, uncertainty and doubt (“FUD”) about document retention requirements and in particular about whether the data can be held only in electronic form. Invu’s Whitepaper, ‘Electronic Document Admissibility & Retention’ can help to begin to remove the FUD and help you develop clarity concerning electronic document retention requirements and provides some guidance on identifying which key documents need to be retained.

You can download the Whitepaper by following this link.