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spiral-bound-manualWhat would happen if you were away from your business for an extended period? Do your employees know exactly how to run your business on a day-to-day basis? They do if you have an operations manual. Many businesses assume that an operations manual is only necessary for corporations, but that isn’t true. An operations manual is really just a step-by-step guide to running your business. 

It can mean the difference between your business running smoothly in your absence and returning to chaos and a failing business. Also, on a happier note, there may come a time when you want to expand your business and having an operation manual ensures that your new location operates exactly like the original location. In a perfect world, you would create operations manual when you first start out as part of your business planning process. In the real world, it may be a few months or even years before you put together a manual. 

While creating operations manual sounds like a daunting task, it really isn’t. It doesn’t even need to be elaborate. Just as no two businesses are the same no two operations manuals are the same. Some are huge and in addition to the information about daily business activities, include the company’s mission, its vision statement and other auxiliary information. Other manuals are simply checklists for completing daily activities.

The operations manual really creates a standard for your business. It ensures that customers receive a consistent experience and it serves as a reference guide for employees. Think of it this way, instead of calling you on your honeymoon to ask you where to order the printer paper from the employee could just refer to the operations manual. 

While the specific information contained in an operations manual varies from company to company, all operation manuals contain these things.

  • Contact lists- You need one for employees, vendors, emergency numbers, insurance company, landlord (if applicable) and anyone else that may need to be contacted in case an issue arises you are not available.
  • Checklists- These detail the steps necessary to open/close, order supplies, clean, perform daily end-of-business, month-end work or any other reoccurring tasks.
  • How to Section- Consider these mini-tutorials that explain how to reboot the credit card machine, what to do in the event of an employee accident or any other event that might upset the normal flow of business. 

Many operation manuals also include a section that outlines the company’s policies. This section contains information on employee call ins/sick days, how to handle a customer complaint, refunds, exchanges etc. 

Going forward remember in order to be effective an operations manual needs to have current information. Once a year go through the contact information and make any changes. If a water pipe bursts while you’re on vacation, you don’t want the claim delayed because the manual information is outdated. An easy way to keep the manual updated is to send the information to employees via an email. After you’ve sent the email, you can simply cut and paste the information into a word document, print it and add it to your operation manual. Last modified on Wednesday, 20 November 2013
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