As you grow your business and hire new employees, it is important that you have a company manual that includes standard operating procedures. Now, before you even get started, you should know that creating your company manual will not be an overnight project. It will take commitment to completing the task, and will happen over time. Some people may even take a few months, or a year, to complete their company manual. But if you plan to grow your business, and bring in other people, you must have processes documented.
The best, and easiest, way to start the process of creating your manual is to create and document your business’ systems. Creating systems may seem like an easy things to do, in theory, mostly because these are things that you already do, and what’s easier than writing down what you already do. If it was really that easy, everyone would do it.
The reason that most small businesses operate for so long without a company manual and standard operating procedures is it’s difficult to do. Sidepreneurs and solopreneurs struggle the most to document their procedures because they do everything themselves. But unless you can document what it is that you do, and share that information with someone else in a way that they will be able to learn and do, you must learn how to document your tasks.
With all of this in mind, I want to reassure you that you can easily document all of your daily procedures by following these easy steps. Once you’ve documented your processes and procedures, you can move on to determining the people and resources you need to get the things done even if, right now, the people and resources available at the moment are only yourself.
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What you’ll need:
- A binder with dividers (Write down all of your processes as they are completed. This will, over time, become your company manual.)
Steps to Creating a Standard Operating Procedures:
1) Use your time management system and personal techniques as your starting point.
What are the things you will do today? Are any of them recurring tasks? For example, will you send out a customer email blast? Will you check your ecommerce solution emails for new orders that need to be shipped? Will you update your inventory? Will you place an order for new products? All of the tasks that you do need to be documented.
2) Aim to begin by documenting just three to five tasks each day.
If you do a lot, or all of it, I would suggest that you start with the easiest and most recurring tasks. Write down all of the things you think you do to complete that task before you do it. While you’re completing the task, document anything you may need to do to troubleshoot or, in the event that a problem arises, the steps that should be taken to resolve it. Once it is completed, you review the steps, and edit if necessary. Now place the task in your binder. This is the very first standard operating procedure. Be sure to include any, and all, pertinent information. For example, if you need to login somewhere be sure to include logins. If it’s a task that needs to be done, such as an inventory check, be sure to identify where the inventory checklists are kept, either digitally or as a hard copy. If you want to get fancy you can create a header and footer or add other design elements to your document.
3) Repeat this process every day
You should document at least three to five of your tasks everyday. It may seem like a lot a first, but once you get started, you’ll see you only need to set aside a few minutes to get the job done. Once you’ve completed the steps that are related to your position, move onto any employees or assistants you may have.
4) Review your procedures weekly
At the end of the week, review each new procedure that’s been added and check to be sure that they are in the appropriate section. You’ll want to do this until you’ve completed the manual. Keep a list of things you think to add or notice are missing. This way you’ll be able to track your progress effectively.
5) Divide your processes into sections
The easiest way to organize your company manual is by dividing it into sections. These sections should be based on the products and services that you provide. While there are some general sections that every business will want to include at some point, not all sections are applicable to all businesses. A clothing boutique may want to include their inventory, website, email marketing, coupons and promotions, social media, photo-shoots, and customer service. A business that needs to renew certifications or licenses annually should include that as well as their other processes in the manual. As your business grows and changes, you can add processes and sections as needed.
Documenting a little bit about your business every week will position you to be ready to hire employees or consultants and outsource work. If you already have employees, you can identify other areas of work that you can delegate. So often, the inability to delegate responsibilities and schedule time to handle new tasks is what prevents entrepreneurs from accomplishing their goals, grow their businesses, and attain the success they’d like to achieve. The number one cause for micromanaging and lack of delegation in businesses is being unorganized and not having clear processes and procedures. Both of these problems will hold any business back. By going through this process of documenting your standard operating procedures, and creating a company manual, you will be ready to hire your first (or next employee) in no time, and take your business to the next level.