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Your Company Operations Manual

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At the heart of a business that is system based, is the company operations manual. The operations manual is the authorized guide of how things are done in your business. It gives you an effective way of communicating policies and procedures, and offers your employees the independence and security they need to operate in their positions giving maximum results.

If you are like most of us, you probably have a file at home that is full of all manuals for the various electronic devices in your home.

When you need to know how to handle your microwave or the television breaks down, the first place you go to get help is that folder.

In your business, your operations manual acts the same way. It serves as a reference point for all important company information. And when used correctly, it's not just a place to go looking for "solutions," it's the first thing that employees become familiar with, so they can know how things work, from the beginning.

What does a company operations manual contain?

The content will vary from company to company, but the structure of an operations manual is universal. It must be composed of the following areas:

  • Company history, Vision and Organization
  • Products and services
  • Policies
  • Job Contracts
  • Systems (Action Plans)

Your operations manual should essentially refer to two main areas: general company information that all employees of the organization need to know and information specific to their position.

The first three points in the list above (Company History, Vision, and Organization, Products and Services and Policies) constitute the part of the manual that applies to everyone in the organization. These points help people understand the "complete picture", including the organizational structure of the company, what it offers to its clients and the general policies under which it operates.

The last two points (position contracts and Systems) contain information specific to a position. Obviously, the responsibilities of a financial director are different from that of a laboratory technician, so you would like to create an operations manual for each position. Ultimately, you will have a manual for each position in your organization.

How to start?

First start by collecting and / or defining the general information of the company. While your company's day-to-day documentation of operating systems, policies and procedures is no small feat, it's absolutely fundamental and serves as the basis for all manuals that can be created. Then document all the necessary individual systems. A simple example of a documented system or "Action Plan," as we call it, is the Coffee Plan of Action

Often, one of the most difficult components of an operations manual is the definition of tasks and responsibilities of specific jobs. In E-Myth terminology, this is called a Position Contract. Begin by listing all the positions in your organization, and open a physical file and a digital file to store all the documents relevant to each job.

Once this documentation inventory is established, you will be able to identify the information gaps, and determine what materials still need to be developed. These individual Position Contracts will describe where employees fit into the organization, the systems by which They will be responsible, a list of tasks to be completed, the work standards to be met, and what results are expected of them. Position contracts provide you with a document that clearly defines responsibilities and empowers your employees to meet your expectations.

Updates and Distribution

Remember that change is inevitable and manuals require regular attention. Plan update sessions on a regular basis and make a plan for distribution. 1 or 2 sessions must be scheduled annually to ensure that the elements of the operations manual are kept up to date. In these sessions, managers and administrators meet to make a quick review of the content of the manual, updates are made, new material is added, obsolete material is removed and the document content is redistributed.

A well-armed operations manual with relevant content becomes a resource for the company of the utmost importance.

Keep in mind that your operating manuals may be physical folders and / or electronic files. The format that best suits your business is the one that will be right for you. Just make sure you have backups stored in a safe place.

Operation manuals "sound" like a good idea, they are undoubtedly an organized way of doing business, of creating a great system. But do people use them? Will they have any real value for your business? Is it worth the time and effort it will take to create and implement them?

See it this way. Your business may work reasonably well without operating manuals, but aren't you looking for something else? Are you not looking to build a business that works, - that really works - without you having to be present all the time to do so? If you want your business to have real value for a potential buyer or successor, don't you? Do you think that having a way of doing business based on clearly defined systems could give you an advantage?

See also: How to Build a Resume

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