By Lesley-Caren Johnson

When first starting out – whether as a small business or with your first franchised operation – your team, and the people who need to know how to perform the various tasks, are small. It is relatively easy to pass on information, and check in with the franchisee and the employees, to ensure that these tasks, and indeed the business, are being managed correctly and in the way that you require. However, as the business, franchisees and number of employees grow, this becomes more and more difficult to manage; it can be like trying to herd cats. It is also nearly impossible to ensure that everyone is following the rules and doing things correctly unless you have documented the business policies, processes and procedures in comprehensive and relevant operations and procedures manual.

It has been said that great businesses are not built by extraordinary people but by ordinary people doing extraordinary things

However, for ordinary people to do extraordinary things, a system – “a way of doing things” – is absolutely essential, in order to compensate for the disparity between the skills people have and the skills your business needs if it is to produce consistent results – to quote Michael E. Gerber in his book The E Myth. Gerber goes on to state that entrepreneurs should systematise their businesses whether they plan to franchise or not, but that the business systems and processes should be well documented to ensure that no matter who performs the task, does so in a way that is consistent with the entrepreneur’s requirements. An operations and procedures manual that is reflective of the business and clearly documents all requirements is, therefore, a must!

An operations manual must be seen as an asset to your business

It is not merely a document or something that you’ve done in order to check a box. An operations manual should be seen as the complete encyclopaedia of all the company know-how and the complete compilation of information that guides your franchisees and employees at every step.

It provides your business with several benefits: it communicates standard operating procedures and streamlines your way of doing things. On the flip side of the coin, businesses that do not have a written operations manual experience inefficiency, higher business operating costs, and lower productivity.

Additional benefits of having an operations manual in place include:

  • Minimises errors and can save you money by avoiding costly mistakes
  • Makes it easy for your business to scale
  • Makes allocating and delegating tasks easy
  • Makes it relatively easy to train new franchisees and employees and reduces the learning curve
  • Allows you to preserve business information and know-how limited to a few individuals and make this knowledge available to a wider network
  • Minimises the loss of knowledge and business information when someone leaves
  • Makes everyone accountable
  • Reduces misunderstandings as everyone is on the same page as far as your business processes and procedures are concerned

A well-drafted operations manual is a source of company information – all in one place, and easy to access – and provides franchisees and employees with all the resources they need to perform the tasks and jobs properly and consistently. In fact, what really makes your business stand apart from the competition is this know-how.

When it comes to writing an EPIC operations manual, there are a number of critical success factors to bear in mind.

Remember the 7 C’s:

  1. Customised: the manual must be tailored to your business needs and totally reflective of the business. If it is not relevant, your franchisees and employees will not read it or utilise the information provided, and the manual will be placed on the proverbial shelf to gather dust. Furthermore, if the manual does not clearly communicate what you want done and how you expect it to be done in your business environment, franchisees and employees will do it their way and any hopes of achieving consistency across all operations will be nothing but a pipe dream.
  2. Correct: the document and the content must be clear and precise. Find the balance between providing too much or too little detail. If the manual is too detailed and contains a lot of superfluous information, it might confuse the franchisees and employees, or they might merely scan through it. This would make the document useless. Conversely, scant, or inadequate content might impede performance, affecting service delivery as well as consistency. You need to strike the right balance and create a document that is both useful and practical.
  3. Concise: review all operating procedures, business processes and work practices with a view to simplifying them. Avoid falling into the trap of adding to the complexity of the business with excessive details and difficult language. A good manual helps in simplification, standardisation, staff training, performance improvement and other aspects of operations management, especially when management and oversight is done from a distance. Content should be drafted in a style that is direct, positive and in short, easy to understand sentences.
  4. Coordinated and structured: an operations manual requires a formal structure; it must be organised into logical sections so that it is easy to reference and use. It is also important to create a single source of all the essential business information with easy access for all who need to utilise it. Furthermore, the manual you create should be prompt in delivering accurate information to franchisees and employees, and its search functionality should work fast and smoothly.
  5. Centralised: another important factor to consider is where and how you present the operations manual. Hard copy or printed manuals are really a thing of the past and there are many online options you can utilise. Remember, keeping your systems and processes in a central location will allow you or anybody else access at any time and anywhere they are working from.
  6. Creative: in this time of social media, TikTok videos and short concise content, people do not want to be presented with pages and pages of notes and instructions that they must read through and understand. Get creative with your operations manual content. Decide how best to present specific information and always keep in mind who is going to consume the content. For example, instead of a long list of step-by-step procedures, a process flowchart might be a better way of communicating the requirements; or instead of a written instruction pertaining to meeting and greeting a customer coming into your business, do a video of the way you want it done. Make your manual a valuable information resource by adding relevant images and videos wherever possible. You’ve heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, well apparently, a video is worth over a million words. With a relevant and creative document explaining all your business procedures and processes, there is little to no scope of employees assuming things or doing things their own way.
  7. Current: we often refer to operations manuals as being “living documents”. An operations manual is never “finished”, and businesses and methods evolve and develop over time. The content must therefore be reviewed and revised on an ongoing basis to ensure that it is always current and reflective of where your business is. If your manual is current, there can be no question about whether the process being followed is the most recent version because everything is always up-to-date and stored in the manual. Ensure that updates are actioned quickly and communicated to the franchisees and employees timeously.


So, make your operations manual detailed enough to be useful, but simple enough to follow without putting the reader into a coma. Make your operations manual a pertinent, fun, and exciting resource in your business and you’ll guarantee maximum adoption and implementation of the business policies and procedures by franchisees and employees.

Franchising Plus