• Saba Saleem

How To Write Your First Operations Manual [Series- Part 1]


I know what you may be thinking. I don't need an operations manual. I only sell cupcakes or I only film weddings, or I only have a small boutique. But trust me, it doesn't matter if you are working on your own, if you employ 2 people or 200 people, you STILL need an operations manual.

An operations manual is the documentation of your "system". It's a manifest of how you do the things that you do, and documenting this process or number of processes, gives you a freedom that you may not have thought of.

Wouldn't you like to take a long vacation and have someone else handle the business while you are away? If you could train someone easily, and have them refer back to something when they are confused. Not to mention, what if you want to expand your business? What if you want to franchise your business? That is only possible if your systems, processes and business details are documented somewhere i.e. in your operations manual.

Now, it may sound like a complicated task. You must be thinking, where do I actually start? Don't worry, it doesn't have to be the perfect manual. It will always keep evolving, improving and changing, just like your business.

The first manual may just be a brain-dump and that is perfectly alright. It's a good start. When I was working as the GM at the DreamBody Centre, we started with one manual, which was really great. But after 7 years of running the business, we ended with 13 different manuals, and even more handbooks! We used to be We had perfected our system and perfected our documentation of the system.

A good operations manual will tell people what needs to be done, who needs to do it, when it needs to be done, and how it needs to be done.

So, the first thing I want you to do is, make a list. This is a list of all the major things that you do currently in your business. Let's say you are making cupcakes. The following may go on your list. Write these down:

1. Sourcing ingredients

2. Baking cupcakes (Recipes, quantities, order of baking)

3. Packaging cupcakes

4. Transporting/delivering to shop/outlet/client

5. Taking payments for cupcakes

6. What you do with unsold cupcakes

7. Marketing your cupcakes

8. How to manage/maintain the kitchen/baking area

9. How you manage your employee if any, their timings etc.

And so on.

Your list may include things like pricing for different flavors, pricing per different quantities, taking orders for special occasions etc. Just write down everything that comes to your mind.

Now take each item on your list, and expand on the details with in. You can do this with a countless number of tools. My favorites are flowcharts, mindmaps

and simple tables. We will go into more detail later on the first two, but for now, let's keep it simple and use some tables. You can do these in excel, word or even just write them down on a piece of paper.

So in a table, in the first column, write down the items on your list. Now create a column for each : Who, What, When, Where, How, Cost.

Let's take an example from the list, and expand on it like so.

Elaborate as much as you can. And do this for each item on the list. Not only will this give you enough clarity about what you do, but it might also bring some items to light that you may not be doing efficiently or that you may not need to do at all.

Once you have dumped your brains and listed down each and every thing that you do to run your business, you can congratulate yourself because this is beginning of your first operations manual. We still have a long way to go before it will actually look like a manual or make any sense, but this is a very good start.

Next time, we will look at creating categories and chapters for your manual and also what else needs to go into your operations manual. So stay tuned to these posts.

Talk to you soon!


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