Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines an Operations Manual as a document that describes in detail the processes and systems that a company uses to produce its goods and provide its services.
Are all of your standard operating procedures contained in one easy to find place? I believe after your company’s business plan, an Operations Manual is the second most important tool. Creating and maintaining an Operations Manual is critical for a small business to establish protocols and procedures for operations. Outline and define step by step processes for every element of your business. Give yourself a break from reinventing commonly used replies, statements or phrases used by your company by including boilerplate content you’ve crafted for emails, correspondence, out of office notifications, sales pitches, thank you notes, etc. to simply copy and paste when needed. Include important points of contact such as vendors, affiliates, financers, and key associates. Prepare a section for how to react to worst case scenarios from equipment failure to the proper course of action if you, the business owner, should become ill, injured or incapacitated. Incorporate timelines for data collection and analysis, reports and measures for checks and balances for accounting. Pull information from your business plan such as the company’s management structure, key systems, job descriptions from the human resources section, overall best practices and other relevant information. Save trees by maintaining your Operations Manual electronically and be sure to save a backup copy each time you update.
The more information you include in your operations manual the less you have to commit to memory. The more procedures you have written down, the easier it is tweak and streamline. In planning for future growth, having an Operations Manual established makes it easy to share with associates as your business grows and you build your team.