Your Small Business Operations Manual: How to Create a Framework for Success
Small business owners wear many hats — steering the ship, keeping the team motivated, generating business and delivering client satisfaction. Few owners, however, take the time to step back, observe, evaluate and document every aspect of how their business does what it does each and every day. Without this documentation, the business’ growth is stunted and scalability is limited. When business processes are not documented, knowledge existing in team members’ heads is transferred inconsistently. And when team members leave, the operation can quite literally break down.
This pain does not need to exist! Documenting business systems, processes and workflows all in one place makes it possible for you and your team to reclaim your sanity, to free up your time and energy for what really matters and to successfully scale your operations.
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe
Creating an operations manual may feel like a daunting and unenjoyable task. The good news is that much of what goes into the manual already exists and today is the best day to start organizing and synthesizing it. Here are the first three steps to take in developing an operations manual for your business:
#1 MAKE A LIST
All businesses operate based on a prescribed set of standards. These standards are executed most effectively and efficiently when there are defined processes supporting them. Make a list of all of the aspects of the business that have an existing process around them (no matter whether the process is documented or not). Also list aspects of the business that could/would work better with a process. The list should include a line item for each process related to service delivery, teammate relations, technology infrastructure, marketing and outreach, etc.
#2 MAP THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
From the list you created in step #1, identify each item related to how the business interacts with potential, existing and former customers. Write down the processes and identify the supporting systems and documents behind each of these elements. From lead through initial and ongoing outreach, to order processing/service delivery and follow-up, pull together the scripts, checklists, templates, IT steps, etc. to map the entire customer journey in your operations manual. Some examples of items to include in this section are:
- Marketing and positioning statements (online and offline)
- Sales scripts and email templates sent to prospects
- Proposal templates and standard working agreement documents
- Details related to lead tracking and follow-up
- Order fulfillment and/or service delivery checklists
- Email templates for complaint resolution as well as referral programs
#3 DEFINE THE TEAMMATE EXPERIENCE
Also from the list you created in step #1, identify each item related to how team members are recruited, hired, trained and evaluated. Write down the processes and identify the supporting systems and documents behind each of these elements. Document in details the steps involved in every aspect of a teammate’s tenure to define the entire teammate experience in your operations manual. Some examples of items to include in this section are:
- Job descriptions
- Email templates for candidate communications
- Interview scripts and evaluation checklists
- Onboarding training calendar, documents, checklists
- Performance review calendar and templates
- Performance improvement plan templates
Once you’ve consolidated the customer journey and teammate experience into your operations manual, continue to work chunk by chunk through the list you created in step #1 until the operations manual contains every aspect of how your business operates internally and externally.
Your operations manual should be a living document where the name of the game is implement, test, refine. When you develop a new process or refine a stale one, document it. And hold yourself and your team accountable for following the documented process each and every time.
Simpler Surroundings works with business owners to synthesize all business systems, processes and workflows into a comprehensive operations manual. Having an outside, unbiased third-party perspective during this process can be incredibly helpful. Contact us today to discuss creating an operations manual for your business.