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Making procedure manuals accessible

manaul stored as a folder

How many picture a 'manual'

Looking back at what I’ve written in previous June, I came across a post from 2011 about making manuals less intimidatingand therefore simpler to use.

A manual or instruction guide is just a collection of procedures. If each procedure is written well, they are useful documents to have in any business.

Once people are used to having good procedures to follow, it is a simple step to make manuals accessible rather than intimidating and officious.

Manuals can be presented in many ways

Even to me, the word manual conjures up images of big heavy folders, covered in dust, and difficult to use.

There is no need for all your procedures to be kept in a heavy (or light!) folder. Make it more accessible with any or all of the following ideas:

  1. put individual procedures where they are used. So the procedure for how to use a piece of equipment is stuck on the wall near that piece of equipment or inside it’s case if the equipment is portable
  2. make the procedures available in soft copy in a series of folders – looking in an electronic folder is something most people are now used to while hyperlinks and search functions make it even easier to find the right procedure
  3. for procedures you do need to print out, put only related procedures in each folder so they can be stored where needed and handled with ease
  4. think about other ways to have all procedures (and perhaps your policies as well) together. Maybe a tablet or e-reader would be more useful in your situation – there is a search function, version control is easy and the collection is light to carry around and use

What creative ways can you think of for presenting procedures in your business?

Procedures and opportunities

Have you thought about the lost opportunities in your business? Or linked some of those opportunities to the lack of procedures in your business?

Often because we are so busy or are comfortable, SMB people can miss opportunities to grow their profit margins. In Forbes this week, Bill Conerly wrote about two major factors leading to missed opportunities.

One factor is concentrating on revenue and forgetting margins. That is, worrying so much about getting sales and more money coming in that there is no assessment of actual profits (remember profits and turnover are very different terms, although related).

Bill gives the example of winning many jobs (so increasing revenue or income) at below-cost prices (so making no profit). My example is a freelancer who charges an hourly rate that doesn’t factor in costs such as running a website, electricity and administration – being the cheapest may win more work but doesn’t generate as much profit.

Written procedures and business opportunities

Further opportunities are missed through the lack of procedures.

Written procedures can be an efficiency tool, which means better profit margins,” wrote Bill with a personal example of improving his own working methods.

Bill also quoted me with the following issues relating to a lack of procedures:

  1. all the information in one person’s head means the business struggles if that person is suddenly unavailable – a struggling business can’t grab new opportunities or even cope with the current ones
  2. training a new person is time intensive for those who know the operations whereas a set of procedures can give the trainee guidance to work alone sooner
  3. a business is more valuable to a potential buyer if they can easily continue the service – it also looks more professional. You may not be thinking of selling just now but preparing to sell your business is a good strategy
  4. going through your operations to write (or review) your procedures can give a different perspective and highlight areas that can be improved. For instance, whilst noting the procedure for updating a client’s website, I was able to remove double handling by staff and show them an easier way to do the updates – the time saved was an opportunity to increase their social media presence.

Have you seen any improved efficiency relating to having good procedures in place?

Establishing procedures in your business doesn’t have to be hard – just work on one at a time as you complete important tasks. My preparing procedures eBook is designed to help you through this process, or contact me with specific questions and challenges.