Writing your first company operations manual can seem like a daunting endeavor. How do you take all the information you have stored in your or your staff members’ brains and get it onto paper in an organized fashion? Having a single resource that contains all your company processes is one of the best investments you will make in your organization. Although it might seem easier to procrastinate on this project, in the long-run, you will be happy you created the time to do it. Here is a step-by-step process you can use to create your company’s operations manual.
- Understand the importance of documenting your processes. Without a buy-in to this project, it’s unlikely you will even begin to entertain the idea. Read this article “The Single Most Important Element for Operational Efficiency in your Small Business”first.
- Educate yourself on how to write an operational process. This article “10 Elements Every Business Process Should Have”will help you create a template to write consistent operational processes.
- Make a list of every area of operations in your business. Examples could include finance, marketing, sales, information technology, office management, and more. This is a big picture look at your organization.
- Start breaking down each area of operations and list out every process in that area. For instance, in office management, you could include opening and closing the office, ordering supplies, event management, front desk check ins, etc. Spend some time thinking about this in detail. Start walking through your day and give a name to every process you go through to manage your business.
- Create a table of contents for your manual based on steps 3 and 4. Much like writing an outline for a paper, your table of contents is going to act as your guide to staying organized and on task.
- Put together a team to help you complete this project. Although writing a company operations manual for a small business can essentially be handled by one person, having a team has its advantages. It gives you more eyes and brains on the project, provides accountability, and makes the project go much faster.
- Assess how many processes are written already vs.still need to be written. Go through your table of contents and gather all the business processes that you have already written. Put a check mark by that process so you can determine how many processes have to be written for each section/area of your business.
- Create a project schedule for the team. Without a project end date, and milestone dates in between, it is far too easy to put this project on the back burner. Assign a deadline date for the entire manual, and give goal dates for each section based on how many processes still need to be written.
- Assign individual processes to team members. Pick the person who most often performs the process to document it. Provide the process template to all team members responsible for writing processes so there is uniformity in the manual. Assign deadline dates for the processes and put follow up mechanisms in place to monitor progress.
- Review and approve each section of the manual. Don’t wait until the end to look at all the different processes and determine if changes are needed. Take one section at a time. Assign a few sets of eyes to review and approve each of the processes. Once all the processes have been reviewed, edited and approved, consider that section done.
- Finalize your table of contents with page numbers. Now that each section is written, you are ready to assign page numbers to your documents. These page numbers will be used in your table of contents for easy reference when using the manual.
- Consolidate all sections with the table of contents into a binder to finalize your first company operations manual. For the best organization, I recommend using a three-ring binder and section dividers. Place your table of contents in the front of the binder, followed by a labelled section divider, with the corresponding processes behind it. Repeat for each section of the manual. Determine how many people in the organization need a hard copy manual, and keep a digital version of the manual on a hard drive and in the cloud for everyone to reference.
There you have it – an easy guide to writing your very first company operations manual. Put a date on your calendar right now to start the organization of this project. Without this, you cannot efficiently and effectively grow from a sole proprietorship or start-up company into a real viable business with potential for sale.
12 Easy Steps to Writing Your Very First Company Operations Manual
October 3, 2017