You may have already discovered that putting together a procedure manual for your team is going to take a mammoth effort. You may even be questioning whether it is really worth the effort?
So – Do you really need one?
Can you survive without one?
Can you just wing it and see how things go?
After-all, can’t you just rule your business with an ‘Iron Fist’ and tell your team exactly how to do it every single day?
Well, yes – you can. But how long can you keep that going for? Maybe you have a lot of ‘fuel in the tank’ and can go for a long time. However eventually it will finally wear you down.
You will get tired of repeating yourself over and over again. The problem is, as soon as one of your good quality staff decide to leave your business for whatever reason, you then need to employ another person.
If you don’t have a procedure or quality manual you are leaving yourself open to once again describe all the rules, procedures, policies and the ‘how we do it around here’s to the new team member.
Waste of time? Yes.
Not really a Business? Yes.
A procedure manual for your business is going to take a significant effort. However, the benefits outweigh the effort tenfold.
Congratulations on Starting a Small Business
It’s a big jump. Going from a job to owning your own business. If you have recently decided to do this then congratulations. It is an exciting time.
You might be ready to work hard. You might be ready to employ staff. Depending on where you are in your business, one thing you must do is prepare for the future.
One of the most important things you should do is create a Procedure Manual. This is also known as a policy manual, quality manual, team handbook, standard operating procedure manual and the list goes on.
Whatever you want to call it, if you haven’t started this yet, stop what you are doing immediately. At least start your Procedure Manual straight away. Just get it started and over time it will develop. If you are new to business, this is one of the biggest priorities you should have in your hit list.
Forget Customers for Now – Start Your Procedure Manual
How can you say that? You are nuts! You know what. It might sound stupid, but it is true.
If you haven’t started you Procedure Manual, forget chasing Clients and Customers until you start your PM.
But how will you pay the bills?
Are you in for the long haul with your business or is it just a hobby?
If you are not in for the long haul, then why did you start it? Having a job would be sooooo much easier!
But did you start your business for it to close down in 6 months time? Highly unlikely. If you want your business to grow steadily into the future, the Policy/Procedure/Quality Manual is the key tool that will allow this growth.
So, I know you are serious about your business, so get cracking on your PM today and prepare your business for the future with a rock solid foundation.
Ever Heard of a Cornerstone? (architecture)
“The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. All other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.“
This is what your Procedure Manual is in your Business. It is the ‘cornerstone’ that sets the whole position of your entire business.
Without the cornerstone – the building is likely ‘out of whack’.
Without the Procedure Manual – your business is likely ‘out of whack’.
Unless you have a procedure manual you really don’t have much of a business. Instead – you have a job and are employed by yourself instead. (The last thing you want…)
It is not easy as you already know
You don’t need me to tell you – it isn’t easy as you already know. When you had a job things were easier. You didn’t have to think about everything – only what was important to your role.
– Just does their job
– Can focus on one aspect
– Goes home and switches off
– Takes a holiday and not a care in the world
– Doesn’t take it personally
– Just does their job
– Less responsibility
– Nothing to worry about
– Has to think about all of the business
– Still thinks about it when they go home
– Feels responsible even when they go on holidays
– Worries about enough cash in the bank
– Takes it personally
Now you need to think about everything. Now you are responsible.
How are you going to manage with all the things you need to think about. Yep – you know what I am going to say….
Put it in your Procedure Manual.
The ONLY way to do it.
Starting a Procedure Manual allows your business to set a foundation that you will come back to time and time again.
The best tool on the shelf
Your business should include the 5 basic departments, sections, pillars or whatever you want to call them. Let’s not over-complicate it. Business is not complicated.
So if you are building your company then each of these areas will require a Procedure Manual. These procedures should run each department.
In any business, there are a range of tools you should be using. You can see why the procedure manual is one of the best tools on the shelf. It is because it needs to operate each area of your business.
The Procedure Manual in Detail
Let’s drill down in the detail a bit and understand what aspects of a Procedure Manual are important.
You can follow these steps when putting together you procedure manual and take the time to build a quality manual that is perfect for your business.
Step #1: Understand the Anatomy of a Good Quality Procedure Manual
What are some principles that make up a good quality Procedure Manual?
Firstly, it should be easy to access.
Depending on the type of business you have, your team need to be able to get access to it in a flash.
If not – chances are they won’t use it.
So, if you have workers on the floor – can you have a desktop ready for them to access the PM or do you need to print it out?
If you are in the office, where do you store your PM on the computer system? Is it buried in a list of folders or is it on the top level easy to access? All these details are important because you want you team to access the PM every single day and you need to make it easy to find and use.
Secondly, is it easy to read? If it is complex, is it searchable?
If it is simple, is it clear and step by step? Once again – if it is hard to read then no-one will use it. Your staff might be polite to you and pretend they are using it – but sure enough you will eventually find out they either don’t like it or just don’t want to use it.
So it needs to be easy to use so your team actually want to use it.
Lastly, it should be searchable. If it isn’t, how are you gonna use it? It will be impossible. Even if you start out with a simple Word document as a Procedure Manual, you still have a Ctrl F (Find) option to use to find content.
So, searchable is extremely important.
Step #2: Understand the Task and therefore Proven Procedure Process
You need to work with your team to develop the procedures within the manual. This is going to take time, and you can do it on the job.
Your team will understand their tasks in more detail, however you as the business owner needs to ensure the tasks are explained accurately. The last thing you need is a PM that is not accurate.
So as your business develops, you no doubt will be refining the tasks that people complete daily. It’s just a matter of documenting these processes in an easy to read format.
Step #3: Create Procedures Full of Easy to Follow and Practical Value
Creating procedures that are full of easy to follow instructions and that are clear and concise will make it a lot easier for people to use.
If the procedures are too hard to read, not step by step and don’t have a good combination of graphical items as well as text, you are going to make it hard for people to understand what to do.
Check out this example below.
Keeping it simple for simple tasks is the key to creating a good procedure.
Your business might be complicated and adding the images may simply just take too much time.
For example, let’s look at a more complicated task for some one like an Architect. Probably best to keep it all text unless you have time to do more.
You could highlight the important parts in RED text. Check it out below.
Keeping it real is important. Don’t waffle on with irrelevant steps. Straight to the point and include the safety items in Bold or red so they stand out.
Creating procedures like this should be a simple and straight forward exercise.
Step #4: Use the Template to Communicate to your Audience
A template will help you focus and communicate to your audience. Once you start developing your manual, using a template can help you structure everything correctly which is critical to keep the document clear and easy to use.
Remember – this thing is going to get very large, so it is best to plan ahead and keep track of the structure as you build it.
Building a template with a very clear outline is going to make a massive difference as it progresses into the Ben-Hur of Policy and Procedure Manuals. (BTW – Ben-Hur was a successful charioteer.)
Step #5: Copy and Paste and Repeat
As you start developing a few procedures, if you structure it well on your system it will become faster and faster to create. You will be able to reuse the same content over and over again and keep the structure and flow of the document consistent.
Copy and paste the items that need to be replicated and name all the files in a consistent manner. It is going to save you a colossal amount of time if you do this.
A bit like this below. Even your images should be named in a systematic manner. This will make it a lot easier down the track to organize things.
Step #6: Keep it Simple and Easy to Read and Follow
Remember – simplicity is the keep to a good easy to read and usable manual. People won’t use it if it is hard to follow, hard to determine the structure and hard to keep track of where they are in the big picture.
Step #7: Ask Team for Feedback
So producing the procedures of you business will take a colossal amount of time. Invite your team to help you. The only way to do it.
Getting your team to participate in the exercise will make your task much easier.
You could use an online system to allow feedback as you build your system. However, these types of systems also usually have a cost associated with them.
Step #8: Ask Team to Participate
Ask you team to participate in building the manual. Everyone has down-time in their job when it is quiet. Use this time to get your team to create the most awesome manual for your business.
Getting your team involved will save you a lot of effort, be more accurate and allow them to feel valued as they contribute to the creation of your quality manual system for your business.
Use a Template
The easiest way to get started is to use a template. Specifically a Word template. This is the fastest way to start documenting your procedures and is going to get things moving really quick in your business.
You might progress down the track to something else, however if you are just starting out a Procedure Manual Template in Word format is going to get things happening immediately.
You might even be able to pick up a free procedure manual template to start things off.
There are plenty of other places online that allow you to download a procedure manual template and plenty of places you can buy one at a range of prices.
However, if it is early days for your business, it might be too early to start purchasing unnecessary items and you could start off with the free option first.
Whatever you do, just ensure you start today and get your team in the right frame of mind to start developing your Quality Manual.
So after all that, hopefully you got something out of it. Clearly you can see a Procedure Manual is a tool that is going to grow your business fast.
When starting out as a small business you really need to keep control of your quality. Quality is the reason people keep coming back to your business and you can’t afford people to not come back.
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