During my ten years as a Professional Organizer, I’ve lost two clients. In one case, it was expected; in the other, it was sudden. Fortunately, in both circumstances, their businesses were in order; they were prepared for the unexpected.
These and other life or work changing events reinforce yet again the importance of proper documentation. Whether you are a solopreneur or a President with 25 employees, documenting what you do, when you do it, and how you do it is a key component to the efficient and smooth operation of your business. Your business needs its own standards of operation and its own systems in place — AKA an operations manual, policies and procedures manual or operations book.
Often, I hear, “But, I work alone, and I know what to do. Why do I need a manual?” Well, we are human beings and unfortunately, life happens. If you’re a solopreneur, there’s even more of a reason to document. If you decide to take a vacation or if you become ill or disabled, there’s always someone else that is going to either have to or want to pick up the pieces. During these times, an operations manual or whatever you choose to call it, can keep your business operating smoothly and efficiently when you aren’t there. It could even mean the survival of your business!
So, what specific types of things should you include in a manual of this sort? Every business is different – your operations manual is basically a roadmap for your business and should replicate how things get done in your business. A good place to start is with your mission, goals and objectives, and values. From there, you may move on to an organizational chart, job roles and responsibilities, how-to procedures and processes, and operational policies, specific to your business. Whether it’s how you greet customers, when and who orders supplies, or how you respond to the telephone ringing, the key is to document your knowledge and the knowledge of your employees. The ultimate goal here is to ensure that the job gets done and nothing falls through the cracks. Also, consider the time saved with new employees or current employees learning a new job. Having a roadmap with directions in place can save hours of additional training. And, involving your employees in the process makes them accountable and gives them a sense of ownership in your business.
Does your business have an operations manual of sorts — a detailed and specific roadmap? Are you prepared for the unexpected? If not, what are you waiting for?