Being an entrepreneur with so many moving parts all the time, one of the most important things you should do for your business that is most often forgotten about is documenting everything you do: how you do it, why you do it, and when you do it.
There are two reasons why creating an operations manual, especially right from the start, are so important:
- When you hire a new team member, you have a document of all of your processes and systems completely outlined and explained so that you can easily hand it to them and have them read through it. This saves you time by not having to teach as much to your new team members because they have a document to follow that you’ve already spent time creating.
- If you decide to sell your company one day, this operations manual will contribute to the value of your business. The purchaser will want to know how you have done the things that have led to your success so that they can follow the same steps.
Although the information that you put in your operations manual will vary depending on your business or industry, take a look at these few main categories that will guide you in the right direction for starting.
Operations / Administrative
This section could arguably be the most important one on the list because it details how you actually run your business. If someone were to pick up your operations manual and not be able to run your business in the exact same way as you do, just by the way you outlined it, then that’s a clear indication that you may be missing some parts.
Examples of items to put in your operations / administrative section include:
Project Management Systems
Do you rely on certain softwares to help you complete the tasks in your business? You’ll want to note that here and include exactly how to use them for organizing tasks, setting up client projects, keeping track of your internal documents, and more.
Customer Onboarding and Retaining
When you have a new client or customer, how do you onboard them? Do you need to send any contracts, forms, or invoices? What are the next steps that you take once they’ve completed all of those documents? The initial onboarding process with a customer plays a big impression and role in how successful the relationship will be.
And once you’ve been working with that customer, what’s the retaining process like? How do you continue to support them, nurture them, ensure their satisfaction, and provide results?
Remember that it’s more important to retain your customers than it is to get new ones, which is why both components need to be included.
How do you actually nurture the business and keep it moving forward? What do you do to gather client testimonials, put together case studies, ensure you’re reaching your goals, and more?
Your business should be growing year after year, and this section will help you to share how your business will continue to see success.
Although I may be a little bit biased, marketing really can help to make or break a business. As the source of driving brand awareness, building a community, establishing credibility, and more, your team and the potential purchaser of your business needs to know how to market the business!
Below are a few marketing outlets to consider including in your operations manual, although your business might use more or less than what’s listed.
Which social media platforms do you use? How often do you post? When do you post? What types of content do you write? Do you use any platforms to manage your social media efforts?
Nobody wants to look at a social media profile and see that it’s obvious that someone else is managing it, so make sure that your instructions here are crystal clear.
Which platform do you use to send newsletters? How often do you send them? What do you typically include in your newsletters?
And, if you use nurture sequences or automated email series, think about this. What are the nurture sequences for? How do you promote the nurture sequences? Where do the sequences exist on your website? What type of content is included in the sequences?
Email marketing is an excellent way to nurture your business leads.
Where is your website located? What type of content lives on your website? How do you update your website?
Your website usually gives people a first impression of your business, so listing the answers to these questions, and more, ensures that the look stays consistent.
How do you pitch yourself and your business? What types of publications do you usually pitch? Do you pitch a specific component or interesting differentiator of your business? Where have you been featured before? Once you get featured, what do you do with the feature / how do you promote it?
PR brings added visibility to your business, so you’ll want to keep that visibility going.
Do you have a blog? What types of things do you blog about? How do you actually set up the blog post? Once the blog post is live, what do you do with it? How often do you blog?
Blog posts can help to drive website traffic and provide value to your audience, so if you write them, you’ll want to make sure that you continue to have them published.
Just like marketing can make or break your business, so can finance. Although having passion for what you do is great, if you don’t have the money to support your business, you’re unfortunately not going to have your business. That’s why you need to pay close attention to how much money you have in the bank and where it’s going in and out.
What services do you pay for each month (team members, softwares, vendors, etc.)? What other expenses do you have that aren’t consistent, but you still need to cover?
Products / Services and Pricing
What do you sell? How much does it cost for you to make it / offer it? What are your prices? How much do you usually sell?
How much profit do you make on each product or service? How much do you need to make in order to break even in your business or generate profit?
Bookkeeping and Accounting Systems
How do you keep track of your bookkeeping and accounting? How do you calculate your financial projections? What do you use to invoice or bill customers?
Your great product or service isn’t going to sell itself. Knowing how to reach your ideal clients or customers and convincing them to buy is what will keep your business moving forward.
Follow these suggestions of what to include in the sales portion of your operations manual.
How do you generate leads? When they express interest in learning more about your product or service, what are the next steps that you take? What outlets do you use to reach your target market?
How do you speak to an interested client or customer? What types of things do you include in your conversation? Is there anything specific that you ask them?
If a lead becomes a client or customer, what are the next steps that you take? Do you need to send them specific documents? How do you begin the onboarding process?
You can’t have a successful business without the right group of people behind you. Finding and maintaining right talent is how you can continue to grow and support your customers.
Hiring Team Members
What types of positions do you hire people for? What types of positions might you need to add to your company? Where do you find potential employees? Do you have employees, subcontractors, or a mix of both?
Onboarding / Training Team Members
What are the next steps for helping someone to join the team? Do they need to go through any specific training? How do you show them the ropes of the business?
Ensuring Employee Retention
How do you make your employees feel supported? Is there additional training or skills development involved once they’ve been with the company for a while? How do you ensure they feel satisfied and supported?
This is just an overview of what might be included in your operations manual, but it’s best to start by listing out everything you do in your business and break it down from there. A good rule of thumb is whenever you do something in your business, ask yourself if it’s in your manual yet. If it’s not, you can add it, and over time, you’ll have a complete document.
How do you keep track of what you do?