By Lesley-Caren Johnson

What really sets one organisation apart from another is the know-how, knowledge and expertise it develops over a period of time. This know-how and expertise often take up residence in the heads of the franchisor, the management team and / or the employees working for that company and may not be documented in any written or recorded format.

Loss of valuable knowledge and experience

So, what happens when a key employee or a bunch of key employees leave suddenly – it can happen? All the knowledge and expertise will leave with them.

In franchising, the franchisor – if he’s a good one – provides extensive initial training to the new franchisee and its employees. But what happens when the franchisee and employees start work in their own outlet and are expected to just get on with running the business? What resources do they have to refer to in order to get the job done to the standards the franchisor expects?

The answer… the organisation needs a comprehensive operations and procedures manual that is reflective of the business – AND THE TIMES! It must detail the policies and procedures which everyone must follow in order to provide the same consistent level of products, services and outcomes to the business’s end users or customers. It must be relevant and easy to use and apply.

Go online

The operations manual is usually either a physical document, i.e. hard copy printed material presented in a file or an online resource – the latter is becoming more prevalent these days, for obvious reasons.

  • The whole operations manual site is username and password controlled and protected with each authorised user (whether from head office or a franchised business unit) having their own unique login details.
  • Depending on the platform being used and how the online operations manual is set up, you can monitor when last and how often the users login and navigate around the site and your content.
  • It is much easier to update, and changes can be made quickly as the business evolves and grows.
  • We’re all so used to doing things on our computers, tablets and smart phones these days that it makes sense to present the manual in a format that people are already familiar with.
  • You can segment information and target it to different job functions or departments within the business and set up permissions so that only certain people can access specific sections or content.
  • You no longer have to present business policies, procedures and best practices in long-winded endless pages of text – you can use images, infographics and even video to get your message across.
  • You can use the online platform to share other important and ongoing information with your network such as important events (on a calendar), supplier and product information updates as well as good ideas and best business practices.

An online operations manual allows for more flexibility in how you make information available to your franchisees and the network.

Think about it for a second… if you had to read a written procedure with say 15 different steps that had to be adhered to or watch a 90 second or 2 minute audio-visual video actually showing or demonstrating the exact same procedure, which would you rather do? More importantly, which do you think would be more effective in imparting vital information to the franchisee and his / her employees? It would be the video…

An operations manual and a training manual in one

Take this one step further and imagine your franchisee is in a position where two of his key employees have left the business without notice and he must employ two replacements very quickly. It does not always make sense (logically, economically, financially or geographically) for the franchisee to send his new employees to the franchisor for training – he needs to get them trained and ensure they are competent enough to do the job in the shortest possible time. What could be better than being able to login to the online operations manual and take his new employees through the videos and infographics? You have now created a training resource as part of your operations manual that can be used by everyone in the business.

Presenting your operations manual content in different ways also makes it easier for your field support staff to provide ongoing training and support to the franchisees and ensure compliance and consistency throughout the business.

Drafting and publishing the manual

A bit of advice… ensure that your operations manual is detailed enough to be useful, but simple enough to follow without sending the reader to sleep. Here are some points to consider:

  • Don’t waffle or be verbose.
  • Keep procedures as simple as possible – if a procedure in the business is basically quite simple, why complicate it?
  • Remember that every business policy and procedure could have an impact on the customer, therefore keep the customer in mind when drafting your manual and don’t make your customers jump through hoops to do business with you.
  • Provide resources to assist the franchisee, for example if you have specific outlet opening and closing procedures provide this in a checklist format rather than a long bullet-pointed list of what must be done; if a product is to be produced, provide instruction cards with relevant details and photographs or drawings to illustrate what is required. These resources can be downloaded and printed for training purposes.
  • Keep videos to “digestible lengths” – no one has the time or wants to watch a long ten-minute video, say what needs to be said in the shortest possible time (without compromising on quality).
  • You don’t have to spend a fortune to get professional videos done at the beginning – unless you want to of course – instructional and information videos can literally be filmed using a smartphone. You can always upgrade to more professional videos over time.

When publishing the manual, you want it to be as easy as possible to find and to navigate. So, if you’re going the online route, ensure that the layout is simple and consistent. In other words, design a template beforehand so that you know what you want it to look like online.

It is also important that your staff and franchisees can get to the online platform quickly and easily without having to remember long domain names or URLs so ensure that the link to the manual site is pinned on the company website and every company chat channel.

To update your operations manual and convert it to a user-friendly online format or even better, a Franchise Management Platform with added functionality such as territory management,