If you’re a time-starved small business owner, taking time to create and assemble a manual for policies and procedures may not seem like your top priority.
Still, establishing your company mission, rules and procedures in written form can go a long way toward keeping your company organized and productive as you grow. The better you can identify and establish best practices for running your business, the more you can avoid repeating the same mistakes and “reinventing the wheel” when it comes to future decisions. A comprehensive manual keeps you from having to verbally explain each facet of your operations every time you onboard a new employee, while reminding you of what you’re trying to adhere to in the long haul.
One other benefit: Your manual can be a huge asset if you ever wish to sell your business and transfer information about your established procedures to a new owner.
“Keeping track of every task you need to do will become impossible if your brain is your only storage system,” advises Kelli Stirrett on OneWomanShop.com. “Creating an operations manual will ensure you never miss a task or a step to complete things, saving you time and unnecessary stress.”
Some suggestions for getting started:
– Decide where to keep your manual. Choose a digital system allowing you to easily access the document from anywhere at any time.
– Think about what new employees need to know. An operations manual need not be as basic as an employee handbook, but should encompass most day-to-day procedures for operating your business. Start by jotting down notes about procedures employees will encounter in a typical day, then transcribe them into layman’s terms when entering them into your manual.
– Start small then scale up as needed. If the task of creating such a guide seems overwhelming at first, start building it one chapter or topic at a time. You may wish to include subjects as diverse as your mission statement and core values; your system or process documents; your website and social media links; your important phone numbers; templates for your frequently used documents and/or a copy of your “swipe files” (copy, graphics and other materials you can use for marketing purposes).
– Add steps for time-consuming or complex tasks. Any time you learn how to do something step by step, take a few minutes to jot down the process and add it to your manual. That category might include anything from programming your POS systems to setting your alarm system to onboarding new workers.
– Recognize and fix omissions. The beauty of the digital age is that your manual can be a continual work in progress as technology churns, your business environment evolves and your perspectives change. You may want to include a footer on each page, however, indicating when it was last modified.
“Many of us are probably doing good if we have an up-to-date list of passwords somewhere” writes Twanna Gill on Medium.com. “Being a solopreneur is a lot of hard work and we still only have the same 24 hours in the day as everyone else. Creating your operations list will not be easy … but it will be worth the time and energy you invest in it.”
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