Small Business Articles from Make-it-Fly®
Easy Steps to Create Your Operations Manual
Part Two of a Two-Part
By Victoria Munro
A well-written, consistently followed
operations manual will help you beat
the odds and join the 20 percent of small business start-ups
that are still around after five years.
In an operations manual, everything
about your business is standardized and documented.
It becomes a toolkit for replicating what you do. It
can become your training textbook, saving you countless
hours and helping people with different strengths and
skill levels to perform tasks in the same way. Clients
can also be assured of a consistent experience.
If you intend
to franchise, documenting everything in an operations
manual is essential. Mike Cotsworth of Car Connections
Ltd. is planning to franchise his business soon. “Having
a formalized system for franchisees to follow will prevent
them from taking short cuts or dreaming up their own
ways of doing things – which may dilute or derail
a proven way of doing something,” he explains.
“This has forced me to examine and define what
the best steps are and write them down. Before doing
this, I had it all in my head, so I worked by habit
and experience. Now it’s being formalized into
specific steps that someone else can follow.”
Write Your Manual
“When writing, you must think
of your audience and set the tone accordingly,”
Craig Dietz of Special Ops, LLC, advises. “Don’t
use legalese, make it readable and use practical, easy-to-understand
language. Know your topics and the people you’re
Know Where You’re Going
Consider where you ultimately want to take the business,
and keep this in mind as you write.
Create an organization chart for your company. Draw
boxes for each major area of responsibility. This offers
a visual overview of the business that is easy to see
at a glance.
Set up a file on your computer or use a three-ring binder
or notebook for your first draft. Assign a different
section for each aspect of the business, then:
a job description for the person responsible
all necessary tasks
down exactly what is involved for each task
out step-by-step instructions and a sequence to
follow for each task
Use pictures, diagrams or charts to
illustrate or clarify your points.
As you write, think about all the
things that could possibly go wrong, list these and
build in action steps to correct them.
Ask several others with similar experience and backgrounds
to those of your reader to look over the document and
give you feedback. Find out if there were steps you
missed, details you forgot to mention, or words and
concepts they didn’t easily understand.
Write your second draft. If the manual is for others
to use, consider hiring a professional editor.
Schedule Regular Reviews
Set times, perhaps once a year, to regularly review
and update your manual. If you have added new products,
services or markets, or made any changes in the way
you do things, this information should be included.
wait until the business is mature to write your manual.
Begin now. If you can’t devote a large
block of time, allocate several hours each week to the
project. If you’re consistent, you will soon have
it completed and be ready to grow a healthy, profitable
business. You will also be able to enjoy a vacation,
knowing that those left in charge are able to do a first-rate
job of running the business while you’re gone.
© 2005-2007 Victoria Munro.
for printable version.
About the Author: Victoria Munro is
co-founder (along with husband Dave Block) of Make-it-Fly®
LLC, a company dedicated to creating success for
small-business owners through creatively designed programs
and tools. Victoria has started and run nine different
businesses. To receive FREE business success articles
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