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Why every business needs an owner’s manual (aka operations manual)

Posted In Operations, Customer Service, Problem Solving, Process & Procedures, Small Business, Training ON November 5, 2018
operations manual

Remember the last time you were driving and one of those pesky warning lights showed up when it was most inconvenient? Or, you were trying to figure out how to turn on the lights for that rental car? After a futile attempt to figure it out through trial and error, you probably looked in the glove box, pulled out the owner’s manual, and found the information you needed.

Wouldn’t it be great if the next time you were trying to remember how to submit your monthly taxes, or run payroll when your trusty assistant suddenly comes down with the flu, or how to set up the password manager on your new laptop, you could reach into the company glove box and…

Well, you can.

Having an owner’s manual at the tip of your fingers, with all the details of your business operations, saves you a ton of time and reduces error. It also doubles as a training manual if you are planning on hiring office staff, whether in-person or virtual. Even with no employees, an owner’s manual is a key reference for you as a solopreneur, managing the work of running your business.

And, more importantly, the process of writing the manual forces you to understand and articulate the nuts and bolts of how your business operates (also known as “current state”). A very important first step to running your business efficiently.

The benefits:

  • It provides an ongoing reference to finding the information you need.
  • It is the first step in streamlining your operations.
  • It makes training easy and fast!

The format doesn’t have to be fancy and it doesn’t require expensive software to create. And best of all, your owner’s manual doesn’t have to be complete to start saving you time and effort. You just need to start with an outline, a plan for completing it, and begin filling in the blanks.

Key features:

  • It’s written specifically for the operation of your business.
  • It provides the right amount of detail for each task or operational area (What is the right amount? That will vary depending on what you’re documenting. As you start writing, it won’t take long to know when you’re in the sweet spot).
  • It’s written in your language – the language of your industry, your business, and your company culture.
  • It’s readily accessible when you need it.
  • …by everyone who needs it.
  • It’s easy to find specific information within the manual.
  • It’s accurate (because it’s updated as your business changes and grows).

Sound like a great idea but overwhelmed by the thought of taking on this seemingly enormous task in your already overloaded schedule? You can delegate the task internally or hire someone to do it. Either way, it’s a good idea to start by carving out some time to make a plan to make it happen.