A business manual allows someone to temporarily take over your business for the period of time you need them to, whether it be a week in the Caribbean or a month in the hospital. (Hopefully it’s the former!)
I get way too many emails, but every once in a while, a subject line catches my attention. This particular line read “The Work Is the Shortcut,” and it got me thinking…I could apply that to almost anything!Mastering a task always makes whatever you’re doing go faster. But as I am knee-deep in creating a business manual for my new educational training program, I realized that because I am putting in the work in creating templates, it has already saved me oodles of time.
But let’s talk about your business…
Why do you need a business manual in the first place?
You don’t think it could ever happen to you, but what if you are hospitalized for any of a hundred reasons? Is there someone who can run your business in the way that you are currently running it? Will your business still be there when you recover? Or worse, will mounting bills and no income force you into bankruptcy?
OK, let’s not get so dramatic and start with this question: Can you take a vacation and not worry about your business? I hear many of you saying, “What’s a vacation??”
A vacation can literally save your life. A recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that over 700,000 people died in 2016 from heart disease and stroke associated directly to working long hours. In fact, working 55 hours or more a week was associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease than if you worked between 35 to 40 hours.
The bottom line is that a business manual can keep you from living in your car or simply allow you to enjoy a vacation by detailing the how-to’s of running your business in a neat little package. It allows someone to temporarily take over your business for the period of time you need them to, whether it be a week in the Caribbean or a month in the hospital. (Hopefully it’s the former!)
A business manual will streamline any training you need to do for employees, especially if you decide to hire a manager. An additional benefit is that a business manual will also increase the value of your business should you decide to sell.
A business manual should include the following:
- Names and contact information of vendors, employees and all service providers. Everyone who provides something to your business, no matter how small, should be included. Contact information should be separated by category and include names, addresses, email, phone numbers and what is provided to your business. The vendor category should include copies of past orders, as well as how and when to place orders. For the service providers, you should include copies of service contracts along with the provided services. The employee information should include job descriptions and pay.
- Login and passwords for software, banking and websites. Many applications have options to add people as editors and not admins. These sections should also include customer service contact information in the event of service disruptions.
- Business credit card information. Include how to make payments and information on reporting lost or stolen cards. (Keep in mind that any sensitive financial information can be kept in a separate manual.)
- The current year’s business plan. Without a business plan, there is no way to accurately price your services and account for everything your business needs in order to be healthy.
- Monthly planning-session notes. Running a business on a wing and a prayer will only work until it doesn’t. Regular planning sessions can help you course correct before a problem becomes too big to fix. By setting aside this time monthly, it provides the opportunity to base it on solid information and data.
- Daily business routines. This should include everything your business does, starting from when you unlock the door in the morning until you shut off the lights and go home. This will also streamline training new employees. You will be spending a significant amount of time compiling this, but it is well worth it. I’ve created a template for everything I do in my business.
- Current marketing plan, along with metrics. That which can be measured can be improved. This would include who’s responsible for what, what the budget is, and what has and hasn’t worked in the past.
- Copies of all forms, waivers and checklists. Separate according to category to make them easy to find when needed. I’ve found that having the colored tabs you stick on paper to be very helpful in locating items in my manual quickly. I also color code. For example, red tabs are for safety, blue for clients, yellow for marketing and so forth.
- Employee handbook. For an employee handbook to be legally binding, you must follow the guidelines for your state. Every state will be different. You could hire a business attorney to put one together for you, or you can use any of the many online legal services to add “the things” your state wants and anything else that is particular to you. Either option is worth the money. You don’t want an unemployment claim that should have been denied and wasn’t simply because your employee manual was not legally binding.
While that particular email with the catchy subject line actually wanted me to buy into a program that will teach me to eat healthier (No thank you, there are gummi bears with my name on them), it did make me feel good about the amount of work that goes into making a business manual.
Without a doubt, this is a time-consuming task, but when you’re sipping Mai Tais on a beach and not worrying about who’s taking care of what in your business, you’ll thank me. ✂️