Why does a “Big Mac” look and taste same at every McDonalds, regardless of which one you go to? What allows a successful business to open hundreds of stores and have them be just as successful as the first? It is their Policies and Procedures. In this article, I will show you why you will want to create your own policies and procedures document.
Policies and Procedures are the recipe of what makes your business. When someone buys into a franchise, they are purchasing another companies policies and procedures because they have already worked out the “formula for success” in that niche. When you first start your own business you have to experiment a lot with various forms of advertising and learn some lessons the hard way. However, eventually you will find the advertising that works for you and you will know never to make that same mistake again.
This is your recipe for success and you should write it down. While you may not want to share your advertising research with your staff (in case one leaves and opens their own store), you will want to write a procedure for your staff to follow so that all your current and future staff will not make that same mistake again either.
One the biggest problems of hiring staff is that every new recruit needs to be trained and this can take a significant amount of time. However, with a well written procedure manual they can get up to speed in a fraction of the time.
Another problem with having staff is them leaving. Lets say that you hired a technician who was an absolute master at removing viruses and because of this, you took on a lot of virus removal work and even mentioned it in your advertising. Then one day, this technician was killed in a car crash or you find out that he was stealing from you and you have to fire him immediately. You business now has a big problem, you are no longer the virus removal professionals and its going to be difficult replacing him in a reasonable amount of time.
So what can you do about this? Make it a policy that all staff must document methods used so someone else can easily pick up where the last person left off.
Another important reason for documentation is that it also prevents an employee from holding your business hostage. A certain employee may be the only person that knows how to do a certain task and they can make themselves irreplaceable. You will often see this happening in large businesses where a System Administrator supporting old proprietary hardware or software that almost no one else knows how to support any more. To make matters worse, they will often recommend and install new systems that few people know how to manage just to ensure their job at the company in the future. If you ask your employees to document everything, this helps do away with this problem.
Of course, don’t make your policies and procedure manual just so you can easily replace staff. Make it a positive thing by making it guide to help your new and existing staff do their jobs better. If anyone doesn’t know what they need to do or how to do it, they can simply refer to the manual. Its about maintaining consistency and preventing problems before they arise – use it as a way to grow your business.
On that note, you and your staff will always be figuring out new and better ways to do a task so you will also need something that can easily be edited. Here are a few ways you could manage your policies and procedures manual:
- A Simple Word Document – You can store a word document in a shared location on the network so your technicians can easily update it. The main problem with this is that anyone can read anything and there may be multiple versions of the document saved in various locations; causing mismatched documents.
- Google Docs - Google Docs is like Microsoft Word and Excel with the exception that it is free and entirely online. The main advantage of this is that it shares changes in real time and you can set permissions of who can read or edit it. You can use Google Docs for free at: http://docs.google.com.
- Wiki Software – A “Wiki” is a website that allows easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked pages using a simple markup language. Wikipedia.com is one such website that uses Wiki software. Wikipedia runs on Mediawiki but that is probably overkill for our policies and procedures setup. I recommend Dokuwiki which is a simple Wiki aimed at small companies for creating documentation of any kind. It also stores its data in plain text files so you do not need a database. Dokuwiki supports permission based sections so you could give the workshop technicians access to the technician section, but not to the marketing section and vice versa.
You could run Dokuwiki on an intranet server which keeps your information off the internet, but you would need to lock the server down both physically and in the software since the text files would be readable if you were to slave the hard drive.
If you dont know anything about setting up websites, Google Sites allows you to setup a Wiki and hosts it for you for free.
Each option has its pros and cons. Google Docs and an online Wiki are web accessible so its more vulnerable to hacking, but offline options are more prone to a technician gaining access to them physically. It is up to you to decide which one is best for you.