Small Business Articles from Make-it-Fly®
Secret to Surviving and Thriving
Put Systems in Place
By Victoria Munro
statistics that tell us 80 percent of small business
start-ups will fail in the first five years may also
hold a secret to surviving and thriving. Those
same statistics show that 95 percent of all franchises
succeed. Why the disparity? One of the major differences
is that franchisees are given and required to follow
an operations manual. It tells them exactly what to
do and how to do it. They have a tested, proven roadmap
to follow. Everything is systematized and documented.
No need to spend time reinventing the wheel or figuring
out which wheel works best – that’s all
been done for them. The operations
manual is a key ingredient in the formula for small-business
Owners of small business start-ups
are notorious for putting in long, hard hours. Starting
a business can be very demanding, often requiring the
owner to wear many different hats. As a result, the
thought of taking time out to write an operations manual
can seem relatively unimportant. If writing a manual
is considered at all, it’s not regarded as being
critical, so it often gets put off until ‘things
slow down a little,’ which may or may not happen.
After all, it’s not life
threatening to the business. Or is it?
manual gives you as a business owner many advantages.
Having tried-and-true systems in place cuts out guesswork,
reduces error and saves time. It enables you to provide
a consistent experience for customers, vendors and employees.
Following the steps in an operations manual when training
will bring the new hire up to speed more quickly and
can serve as a textbook for him or her to easily follow.
With a good manual in place, you will be able to take
a vacation and leave someone else to run the business.
An operations manual that has been
tested, refined and is followed in the day-to-day running
of the business can significantly increase the value
of your business if and when you decide to sell it.
Jim Johnston of Business Acquisitions Ltd. represents
owners who are selling their businesses. "A
business that has put operational practices on paper
is much more attractive to a buyer," he
explains. "When someone is looking to buy a business,
he or she tries to picture taking over from the current
business owner. If the organization is overly dependent
on any one person's knowledge, especially the owner
who is going away, it can be a scary proposition for
Write Everything Down
Start by designing an organization
chart complete with job descriptions, even though you
may be filling most of these roles yourself now. Create
a system for everything you do, then write it down.
Think about every step, consider what could go wrong
– if someone completing the task is likely to
encounter difficulties, describe these and how to overcome
Make Sure it’s Crystal Clear
Write your manual so that anyone,
even with no prior experience, can easily understand
and follow the directions. The story is told of Napoleon
Bonaparte when he was commanding his troops –
he asked that the least intelligent soldier be assigned
as his aide. Before issuing an order, Napoleon would
give it to the aide and ask if he understood it. If
he didn’t, the order was rewritten more clearly.
Details Are Important
Bonnie Smith plans to franchise her
bakery and catering business, The Quiche Factory, and
is in the process of documenting everything everyone
does in the business. “It has to be in such detail,”
she explains. “You can’t just say, ‘put
an apron on.’ You have to say, ‘go into
the kitchen and take an apron from the second shelf
in the first cupboard on the right and put it on.’
Part II of this series, we’ll share
some easy, practical steps you can take to write an
operations manual for your business. With
this in place, you’re much more likely to become
one of the 20 percent of small businesses that survive
and thrive after five years.
© 2005-2007 Victoria Munro.
for printable version.
About the Author: Victoria Munro is
co-founder (along with husband Dave Block) of Make-it-Fly®
LLC, a company dedicated to creating success for
small-business owners through creatively designed programs
and tools. Victoria has started and run nine different
businesses. To receive FREE business success articles
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