Hello everyone, welcome to the Balanced Business Leaders Podcast hosted by yours truly, Claire Jones, owner of Liminal Clarity. We are a business development agency that helps small business leaders scale and grow without burning out.
This is the last podcast in a series where we have been discussing the various trials and tribulations that lead me to creating my Three Pillars of Business Success, a framework that represents the foundational systems that contribute to sustainable business growth.
If you’re interested in learning more, please join us in our free Balanced Business Leaders Facebook Group at facebook.com/groups/balancedbusinessleaders.
Ready? Alright, let’s dive in.
So I started this podcast as a way to tell my story, particularly when it comes to the many, many different lessons that I have learned over the years when it comes to founding, developing, running, and growing small businesses.
This particular episode is about the fifth step to creating effective Processes & Systems for your business – Operations Manuals. These are important because you need to clearly document your company’s philosophies, expectations, policies, and guidelines.
We started the Processes & Systems pillar with Business Plans, so that you can strategically set up your business for success. Here, we talked about creating a blueprint that will provide you with a solid plan for the management and growth of your business.
Then, that led us to Financial Processes. Here, we talked about setting up the backend systems that will help you track your business’s finances so that you are not surprised by unexpected tax bills or being short on cash at the end of the month.
Then, we detailed the Client Journey which included onboarding, project management, and offboarding processes so that your clients and customers feel a sense of clarity and certainty by setting external expectations that thoughtfully guide them throughout their time with you.
On the internal side, that included setting up systems for Company Structures & Workflows. That way, team members know what to do, how to do it, where to do it, when to do it, and who to do it with.
All of this led into your Operations Manual so that you have a well-developed set of Standard Operating Procedures that you can then hand off to anyone. You might even be able to take a vacation then, because you will have confidence in your business’s ability to run successfully without you. What a concept!
That’s the formula for sustained long term business success, right there.
Imagine if you could have all of these pieces securely in place so that you spent less time troubleshooting and reinventing the wheel… how would that impact your business and your life?
Even if you’re currently a solopreneur, someone who is a one-woman or one-man team, it is highly recommended that you still go through each and every of these steps.
Even if your Operations Manual ends up being a two-page document, it’s important to set up these processes so that you can grow and scale efficiently.
Because what happens when you want to start automating or delegating tasks? Having your business tasks clearly documented like this makes that process a whole lot easier.
It’ll save you a lot of time, money, and energy in the long run.
So why are Operations Manuals important?
According to wikipedia, an “operations manual is the documentation by which an organization provides guidance for members and employees to perform their functions correctly and reasonably efficiently. It documents the approved standard procedures for performing operations safely to produce goods and provide services.”
The key here is for team members and employees to be able to perform their functions correctly and efficiently without your direct involvement. Because it’s all documented clearly and task responsibilities and accountabilities are transparent and accessible to everyone.
Remember how we talked about the Bus Factor in the last podcast? The same holds true here.
The bus factor is a measurement of the risk resulting from information and capabilities not being shared among team members, derived from the phrase “in case they get hit by a bus.”
What happens when a key team member is suddenly out of commission? If there are processes & systems in place, other team members will be able to pick up the slack and keep the business running in the meantime.
Again, the ultimate goal with setting up processes & systems is to create a business that can run effectively with or without you because that’s a fundamental part of scaling business operations successfully.
If you’ve completed the first four steps of the Processes System, you’re going to have almost everything you need already created. Now, we just need to bring it all together in one doc and format it accordingly.
You can have hard copies, digital copies, whatever you want as long as it is completely transparent and accessible to all team members.
Content will vary depending on the organization, but some basic aspects are fairly universal. Typical sections include:
- Welcome letter or Introduction
- Company History and/or Products & Services
- Organizational hierarchy
- Job descriptions & Contact details
- Documented processes and systems
- Occupational health and safety instructions
- Emergency procedures
Again, you’re going to have most of this information on hand already but you’re also going to have to track down some specifics when it comes to HR laws, payroll compliances, worker’s comp, etc.
So I highly recommend that you consult with a certified HR professional, lawyer, bookkeeper, and/or accountant as you create these documents to make sure that you have all of your legal liabilities covered.
And your Operations Manual should be considered a living, breathing document that you return to and update yearly. Because things will always change, so make sure you keep it as up to date as possible.
Remember to keep this document mostly focused on the broad, company-wide processes that everyone in the company needs to know. These are also known as Standard Operating Procedures – or SOPs.
SOPs aim to achieve efficiency, quality output and uniformity of performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with relevant policies.
If you have processes & systems that are specific to certain roles, then those need to be detailed in your Work Flow Task Responsibility docs that we discussed in the previous podcast.
Your workflows aren’t necessary to include in full in your Operations Manual, but you need to at least let people know where they can find them. Maybe include them in the Appendices or include links to wherever they are located.
In the Operations Manual, you could include some simple flowcharts to show how positions within the organization work together – but keep the position responsibility specifics separate. You don’t want to overload your team members with information they don’t need to know.
So the overall question here is:
How can you set up an operations manual so that your team has really clear internal expectations for how the company functions?
If you’re able to document these processes and make them accessible to everyone, then they won’t be coming to you each and every time they have a question about something.
If they need to ask about your sick leave policies, or emergency procedures, or what Matt from Accounting’s phone number is… then you can direct them to the Operations Manual instead of spending your time tracking down the answer for them.
I understand that this can be a big undertaking sometimes, but if you follow the five steps in order, then you should have almost everything you need already.
Just remember to consult with a certified HR professional, lawyer, bookkeeper, and/or accountant as you create these documents to make sure that you have all of your legal liabilities covered.
Alright, so that’s it for this podcast series, I really hope you guys enjoyed it!
Over the course of the year, we dove into the Three Pillars of Business Success: Sustainable Schedules, Marketing Strategies, and Processes & Systems because they represent the fundamental structures that need to be put in place in order to grow and scale your business efficiently.
Remember, you can’t build a skyscraper on the foundation of a two story house. You need to build a foundation that will support the weight of the skyscraper for years to come. It’s the exact same with businesses.
Your current systems and structures are going to crumble under the weight of future growth, unless you invest the time, money, and energy into strengthening them.
It’s like hiring an architect. You could just drive to the lumber store, watch a couple of YouTube videos, and try to build a house yourself.
Or, you could hire an architect that has the experience and knows how to build houses that are sturdy and up to code.
I see this happen all the time with businesses. They often believe that, in order to grow their businesses and increase their profits, they need to increase the volume of incoming clients and customers. So they decide to invest a ton of time, money, and energy into creating marketing content like blog posts, videos, podcasts, social media ads, and whatnot.
While effective marketing strategies are a key part to growing businesses, more often than not simply increasing the volume of incoming clients and customers will end up breaking your systems because they become overloaded with new business that the structures just simply can’t support.
When you have a two story building and want it to become a 10 story building, you can’t just add extra floors hoping for the best. The foundation and frame will crumble under the new weight.
That’s why it is so important to intentionally and strategically strengthen your internal systems while also streamlining your marketing efforts so that you get quality ROI instead of just quantity ROI. That’s what contributes to sustainable growth, not stressful boom and bust cycles.
this is resonating with you, please do not hesitate to reach out. I’m always here for you.
And if you want support with implementing this information into your own life and business, I am offering a special discount to those of you who have joined me for this podcast series. As a valued participant, I will offer you 15% off of my programs.
Just visit linktr.ee/liminalclarity to fill out the Free Consult Application on my website and mention that you’re interested in the Podcast 15% Off Discount. Then we can set up a time to discuss the goals and dreams you have for your business and how we can get you there.
As always, you can find the episode outline, video recording, transcript downloads, related links, etc. below.
And, until we meet again, love you all, take care, and I hope you have a good day wherever you are.