This section of our site is easily one of the most important to the small business owner. Automating your business is probably one of the most rewarding and time-saving things a small business owner can do.
Once your business is automated, the business can “run itself” to a certain degree, allowing the business owner to concentrate on marketing and sales, improving processes, new product development or to simply to take a “real” vacation! Automation is key.
By “automating your business” we don’t mean having a supercomputer process orders, do sales calls, handle accounting and handle customer service. We do mean, however, that you should have a process for doing these tasks in your business.
This process should be well documented and should be able to be understood by anyone you hire (or yourself) for that particular task. In fact, there should be a process for running your entire business, a “Business Operations Manual” that we will discuss further below.
The most consistently successful type of business is the franchise. You see them all around you: McDonald’s, Orkin, Pep Boys, H&R Block, 99 Cents Store, Jiffy Lube, etc. These businesses almost always succeed no matter where they are opened or who runs them. Why is this?
Because each of these franchises have a “franchise manual” and training program that allows virtually anyone to learn their internal processes and deliver a consistently good product or service. Everything you need to know to run that particular business, from hiring employees to marketing and sales is written down in the “franchise manual”.
This is an important lesson for the small business owner. Even if you never intend to expand to other locations or open up multiple offices, a well-documented “Business Operations Manual” for your company can help you do several things:
We’ll assume you already know how to deliver the product or service you sell. The next step is to create a “Business Operations Manual” using the following steps.
Do you want to run a 3 person shop or have 100 employees? How big do you think your business can grow and do you want it to grow that big? How much revenue and how many employees? Determining how large your business will be in the near future allows you to get an overall sense of the next step.
With a general idea of how large you want your company in the next few years, create an organizational chart that details what tasks will need to be performed on a daily basis. Examples include sales associate, marketing manager, vice-president of sales & marketing, accounts payable and receivable clerk, retail clerk, forklift operator, operations manager, financial manager, etc.
Once you know which tasks need to be filled, create a detailed job description for each that lists that job’s daily, weekly and monthly tasks and responsibilities; also include whom they report to.
With this organizational chart, you can see exactly who you need to hire and what their job responsibilities will be. You don’t necessarily need to hire for these jobs immediately. Truth-be-told, you will probably be doing most or all of these jobs for now. Just keep your organizational chart as an overall vision of how you would like the company to eventually be structured.
Now that you know the general structure of your business, begin creating your “Business Operations Manual” knowing that there are specific job descriptions for each part of your business.
Creating your Business Operations Manual can be a difficult process, and every company’s manual will be different. Remember, you want to create a manual that will allow a complete stranger to take over the operation of your company. Every daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly procedure must be outlined for every employee. Every process must be detailed step-by-step including opening and closing procedures, order handling, sales calls, customer service, etc.
Below, we’ve provided a basic outline of a Business Operations Manual.
There’s no use in creating a Business Operations Manual if you don’t use and maintain it properly. Make sure to update any changes in policy, processes or procedures immediately in your manual.
Also, continually work on simplifying and refining your manual to make it as easy as possible to understand: group similar topics together, color-code different sections, integrate procedures from computer software, fax machines, etc.
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