How to create a <30-page operating manual for your business

Processes are the means by which your People will achieve your Planning goals so that the business carries out its Purpose. 

Your business has lots of processes. Your people are going about doing what they do every day according to some sort of process. The problem in most businesses is that most of its processes are not clearly defined and written down. You might have multiple people using multiple processes for the same task. At best this leads to inefficiency, and at worst, total chaos in your business. 

So I’ve got good news and bad news for you. 

The bad news is that your business needs some kind of written operating manual that includes all of your processes. I know, the thought of creating something like that seems way too daunting. It probably makes you want to be a little bit sick to your stomach. How to document every single thing every single person does every single day in your business? That will end up being hundreds if not thousands of pages. Who’s going to do that? And who’s going to read it?

The good news? Well, I lied about the good news. There’s no good news.

Just kidding. The good news is that the process of creating your operating manual is actually quite simple, not overly time-consuming, and done right, should be 30 pages or less. And once done, it makes your business more efficient, more marketable, more valuable, and more enjoyable. Can you get on board with that?

Every business has several core functions. While they will vary from business to business, generally every business will have at least the following core functions:

  1. Product or service development
    • Figuring out what you’re going to sell
  2. Marketing
    • Telling people about what you’re selling
  3. Sales
    • Selling your product or service
  4. Operations
    • Creating the product or service
    • Delivering the product or service
  5. Customer service
    • How you deal with your customers before, during, and after the sale
  6. Finance
    • Managing the flow of money in and out of your business
  7. Human resources
    • Managing your people

There could be other core functions in your business as well. Technology, space management, risk management, and logistics are some examples. But those functions could also simply be components of the core functions listed above. It really depends on the business.

So the first step in creating the key processes in your business is to actually identify the core functions of your business. Sounds kind of silly at first, but let me ask you this: do you know right now what the core functions are in your business, without having to think about it? Probably not. And that’s ok. Spend some time thinking about (with your leadership team, if you have one) and identifying the core functions of your business. The process of doing so will give you more clarity on what your business actually does and how it goes about doing it. 

Once you’ve identified the core functions of your business – there should be less than 10 – the next step is to create a high-level process for each core function. There is a bit of an art to this. You want it to be detailed enough so that it is meaningful and provides necessary guidance and clarity to everyone in the business who must follow the process, but not so detailed that it is too onerous to create, much less follow.

In the next article, I will provide an example of the HR process for a business. You’ll be able to adapt the process for the HR function of your business, and then use it as a template to create the processes for the other core functions of your business.Each process should be an absolute maximum of three pages, which is why when you put them all together, the operating manual for your business will be less than 30 pages. Sound doable? You bet it is. 

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