Creating A Small Business Operations Manual


What would your employees do if you suddenly need to take a prolonged absence? With an operations manual in hand, ensuring consistency and uniform product/service quality delivery makes it easier for managers and temporary persons-in-charge to take over.

Any management consultant will advise small businesses owners to develop policies and operating procedures that can later on be the foundation that defines your business’s standards. The operations manual is the fundamental codification of those policies and standard procedures.

In developing your operations manual, keep in mind that the goal is to create an easy-to-understand, barebones document that will give everyone everything they need to know about accomplishing tasks and finishing objectives. Don’t be afraid to use bullet points and illustrations to visualise and simplify the processes. In general, your operations manual should have the following information.

1. Policies

Outline the policies that should be strictly implemented and followed within your company. This could include but need not be limited to the following:

  • Disciplinary policies like dress codes, leaves and holidays, company property use, etc.;

  • Workplace safety policies as well as safety uniforms, proper conducts within specific areas; and

  • Customer-oriented policies regarding service/product quality, return/refund, etc.

2. Comprehensive Guides

Create rundowns and procedural guides on the processes within your company. For increased detail and context, work with your departments in outlining process documentations. Sample How-To guides for this section could include:

  • Heavy machinery operations;

  • Marketing plan creation;

  • Recruitment and onboarding processes; and

  • SOPs in emergency situations, among others.

In writing down How-To guides, keep it reasonably detailed yet highly understandable. While some might opt to draft these out in process rundowns, using graphic elements like flowcharts, Gantt charts, and illustrations are highly encouraged.

3. Checklists

Provide your employees with checklists through your operations manual. Checklists are essential in reminding them which processes still need to be accomplished within a specific time frame. Write these in sequential/steps for easy navigation throughout the day.

4. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Anticipate possible confusion areas within your operations manual and address them early on with an FAQs section. Explain the areas and contexts where the operations manual can help. Use the FAQs section to elucidate on things that people might ask.

5. Contact Information

Provide contact information in your operations manual. Contact information of relevant people, companies and partners are essential in making things easier for your employees to follow your standard operations. A contact information section could include the phone numbers, address, email addresses and key contacts of the following:

  • Vendors and suppliers;

  • Key employees and managers;

  • Emergency and Insurance contacts;

  • Service Providers; and

  • Clients.

The operations manual should constantly adapt and change to address your company’s needs. While this might seem like a simple document, it’s a must for any business in retaining a sense of consistency and standards. It might seem like tedious work, but trust us when we tell you that it’s an essential document in the long run.

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