Want to know a lesson I learned the hard way? Take the time to write down and create an Operations Manual for each department of your small business. Whether you have one employee (aka yourself) or a slew of them, having a go-to manual is the pivotal step to allowing yourself to grow, take a vacation, have a sick day and create a work environment that is consistent and will create less stress on yourself as an owner.
When you think about it, the entrepreneurial evolvement is a funny thing. The typical first-time business owner spends so much time planning how you are going to open your business. You create the 5-year business plan because we all know your financial institution is going to require this. You meet with legal advisors, marketing advisors, do market research, talk to all your friends and family about your great business idea and, before you know it, you are realizing your dream and opening your doors! Whew, take a breath. You did it! So why is it usually the business owner’s planning then slows down? You don’t realize the importance or think you need a detailed plan of daily events which can lead to finding yourself in reactive mode.
Your days become spending time taking orders, fulfilling orders, bookkeeping, hiring employees, marketing, networking and, in a nut shell, running your business. You become the face of your business, the person with all the answers, the one who hires, fires, trains and does it all. This is fun, the natural excitement of seeing all your planning and work come together. This is also a good time to stop and ask, does your company have Operations Manuals or each department? If the answer is No, I would highly encourage you to take the time. Yes, I know you do not have time and this does not seem like a high priority. But what happens when, on Day 3 of your brand new business being open, you go in Labor and Delivery with your second child (yes, true story) and you are not the face of the business for that day or that week while you try to recover from giving birth? Where is the go-to plan now? Do you have a written plan that others can follow? While you are out do you know who and how they will take, fulfill orders and be the face of YOUR business? After all who is going to take out the trash if you are not there to tell them?
Not only is having a how-to manual a good idea for situations like we discussed, but it is also imperative to allowing yourself the chance to work ON your business and not IN your business. Utilizing these tools and this philosophy will allow you to grow. I always love the saying. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.
So, what did I learn the hard way? Not having a written Operations Manual in all aspects of my business was exhausting. I was the one who had to leave the hospital with a 3-day old baby girl and head back to work. Fast forward 18 years later, I survived, I now have an 18 year old teenager, my business has survived and I find myself in the same place (no, I am not expecting another baby).
We recently moved our business and, as a result, our business has grown significantly. Yeah for us! But we are experiencing growing pains and suffered some hiccups which has caused stress and reeled me back into working in my business not on my business.
Why? Because we failed to update the Operations Manual to reflect our new environment, new location, new products and additional employees.
My confession…it has been two years since we moved! We have been reacting and winging it for two years. Geez, not only do I learn the hard way, I am apparently a slow learner. With that said, my next month is going to be spent on updating these important documents. However, I know investing now, will create more harmony, less stress and consistency. Having this will ultimately allow me to get back to what I like of owning a businessl the marketing and networking!