Operations Manuals are Essential for Small Business Continuity

Reducing risk, establishing consistency, and creating effective documentation for successful business growth.

Do you believe your small business is running smoothly? Do your customers receive a consistent experience every time they purchase a product or service? Does your team consistently rely on you and your expertise?

If you answered yes to these and yet, you still feel tired from reacting to questions about your business, chances are, you have your business in your head. You alone are the mainframe of your business. The truth is, you know there’s got to be a better way. The hiccup? How do you ensure your business continues to consistently run when you’re not there?

Documentation Over Human Memory

In his book, The E-myth Revisited, Michael E. Gerber discusses the importance of documentation for the business owner.

“Documentation says, ‘This is how we do it here.’” He goes on to add that “It communicates to the new employees as well as the old, that there is a logic to the world in which they have chosen to work…” (italics added).

Your operations manual is where this documentation lies. This is the documentation that brings order and knowledge to everyone, so you don’t have to be everywhere all the time. With an operations manual, you’re able to document every aspect of how your business operates, sharing the how’s, and ultimately, the experience of your business.

More importantly, an operations manual is essential for ongoing business operations, business continuity, possible franchising opportunities and either succession or exit. It’s an essential document for any systematized business as it explains in crystal clear terms how you and your company do things. It provides clarity and consistency for your employees and customers, helping to minimize risk and oversights along the way. It allows your business to continue to function without your constant presence and intervention. And it may help you achieve the mythical work-life balance we’ve heard so much about.

Operations Manual for Greater Lifestyle

While continuity and clarity are great, an operations manual can have a direct impact on your overall lifestyle because you are less reactive in your business.

  • Scalability for Growth

With an operations manual detailing exactly how your business should operate, you – as the business owner – can move from working in your business to working on your business. A crucial necessity for all growth-focused business owners as this supports greater scalability in your business.

  • Empowered Employees

On a more personal note, your operations manual can allow you time for calm reflection as you are no longer reacting to fires and questions that your employees should be able to support. With the manual, your employees will know exactly what’s expected of them. You just need to empower them to use the manual.

  • Selling a Business

An operations manual shows an attention to detail in your business that will build confidence in potential buyers. This information is helpful should you decide to franchise or if you’re looking to sell your business, as it demonstrates clearly documented knowledge assets of your business.

When an Operations Manual isn’t Needed

In any business that’s looking to grow or create a consistent experience for customers and employees alike, an operations manual is needed. Period. Without one, you’re making your business up as you go, ensuring no consistency for either your team or clients. The only way to ensure consistency without one is for you to be onsite constantly or be accessible by phone or email at all hours. I don’t even want to go into the “what ifs” should you get sick or worse and you can’t be at your business.

If you want your business to continue to run without you having to be at the helm, then an operations manual is what can support you with this. If you like running around, being the one with all the knowledge to support your customers, then you’re right, an operations manual isn’t for you.

Building an Operations Manual

As you’ve seen, an operations manual is an essential document to ensure smooth operations of your business. Every detail of how the business is run is documented, which is great, but how do you start building one, particularly if you hire a contractor to develop it? After all, this is your business and to have someone else document your procedures can seem like a mis-step.

The key here is collaboration! Even if an internal team member is building your manual, collaboration is an absolute must as this will help bring clarity not just to the how behind things, but to the why things are being done the way they are. From interviews about procedures, to reviewing of the document, beginning to end, this must be a collaborative process based on knowledge sharing.

If you work with a contractor to create your manual, make sure that they have expertise in documentation development, so that you just have to worry about your expertise in your business (not in documentation). Together, you’ll create synergy to develop a great product to make your business – and your life – better.

Operations manuals may seem like make-work, but they are absolutely crucial for all businesses. If you’re ready to talk about how to bring order to your life or how to make life easier using documentation, email us today at info@cohorttechcomm.com to start the discussion today.