This month's E-Myth newsletter talks about the importance of having procedural manuals for your business. I know I am guilty of being without a written process for my business, but I keep telling myself that as a sole proprietor, it isn't that important.
The reality is that until I have written process instructions I won't be able to grow my business. Oh well, that's not true. But it would be a whole lot easier if it was in writing.
Have you ever worked for someone who had all their knowledge in their head? They couldn't ever take a day off without worrying. Right? If all of the procedures and policies are just in your head – how can you clearly communicate to a new employee what the process is without being there, available, every minute of every day?
Not only that, but what if you start to have employees and one asks you about sick leave and on that particular day you say one thing and three months later another employee asks you the same question and you innocently give a different answer?
Having the policies in writing not only makes it easier for you to bring on new staff members, it also protects you from possible human resource issues down the line.
So how do you get started?
E-Myth has an article about developing an operational manual which will help you think through the different aspects of your business that need to be documented. But you still have to get all of your knowledge (and that of the other key members of your team) from their brain to the paper.
Well, the easy answer is hire a writer, (Pick me, pick me) but you can also work through the process on your own. The benefit of hiring a writer is they can focus on the manual writing project while you continue to operate your business – that's what E -Myth would call working ON your business, not IN the details of your business.
If you decide to write the manual yourself – start with a focused topic for the manual. One manual for everything will be cumbersome and take forever to complete. Look at your business and decide what needs to be documented first:
Human Resource policies (i.e. sick time, vacation time, over time, sexual harassment, bonus programs, promotion opportunities, open door policy, etc.)
Company Vision (i.e. your mission statement, your unique value in the market place, your customer service approach, etc.)
Operational (i.e. the nuts and bolts of day-to-day operation, how to handlecustomers, what to do each day, each week, each month)
Financial (i.e. the process for closing out the books at the end of the day, week, month, quarter, year, invoicing, reconciliation, cost of goods analysis, etc.)
Each one will require the assistance of the people within your organization that are impacted.
The last manual I worked on was for a clothing retailer and we focused on the Human Resource issues within this multi-unit business. I worked with HR initially but then we brought in a representative of the finance, marketing and operational departments for their feedback. The end result? A manual that was clear and concise – spelled out the important details and was a usable resource for the field managers and individual store managers and associates.
It is a commitment of time, resources and energy – but the end result is a valuable tool that will enable you to grow and prosper.
What do you think? Do you currently operate with a staff and nothing in writing? How's that working for you?
Have you taken the time to put your policies and procedures in writing? Did it make a difference? How?
Deborah Chaddock Brown