A Guide To Writing An Excellent Operations Manual

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Franchise operations manual


The franchise operations manual is an essential document and all franchises should put a great deal of time and effort into perfecting it. If you're new to the concept, we've constructed this helpful guide, which will help you use the document to grow and expand your business in an efficient, safe and profitable manner.

What is an operations manual?

An operations manual is a document that the franchisor passes on to every franchisee that buys into the business. It details the rights and responsibilities held by both the franchisor and franchisee, and explains how the franchises business model operates. Primarily, it contains all the information needed for a new franchise unit to be a success.

When franchisees sign up with a franchise, they expect to be provided with all the tools they need to set up the business correctly. The operations manual may be the most important of these tools. It offers insight into the franchisor-franchisee relationship, establishes how the business is run and provides the vast majority of the information youll need to make the new unit work. Without it, there would be no standardisation across the franchise system, and franchisees would be able to run their unit in any way they wanted.

Why are operations manuals necessary?

As weve already mentioned, the operations manual is important because it ensures standards are maintained across the entire franchise system. To a certain extent, franchising relies on businesses guaranteeing a similar level of service at all their units. If they didnt, a brands reputation would suffer.

Lets take McDonalds as our example; a large part of the chain's appeal relies on the fact that, no matter where you go in the world, you can walk into any outlet and know what youre getting. Without the operations manual, standards between franchise units would vary and customers would not be able to expect a consistently positive service.

Operations manuals are also necessary because they ensure all franchise units are using the same IT systems, financial controls and health and safety procedures. This makes it far easier to incorporate information, communications and performance records into a single centralised system controlled by the franchisor. If franchisees were utilising different software and running their business according to different procedures, there could be severe integration problems and the franchise would not be able to operate in an efficient or streamlined manner.

What should an operations manual aim to do?

On a basic level, the operations manual should aim to introduce depth to anything mentioned in the franchise agreement. For instance, if the franchise agreement contains a list of obligations, the operations manual should detail how each of these responsibilities should be fulfilled.

It usually details information about how franchisees should choose their location, set the business up and start trading. This will include material about the day-to-day management of the franchise and growing it in the future.

Operations manuals generally vary from industry to industry, so a manual crafted for a fast food franchise, for example, is likely to look very different to a manual for a hardware franchise. While the two are likely to cover many of the same areas, operations manuals need to be reasonably exhaustive, so there'll be plenty of divergence too.

What should an operations manual include?

Before we go into greater detail about what an operations manual needs to include, lets look at the three types of information included:

The franchisors obligations and responsibilities
The franchisees obligations and responsibilities
The minimum standards expected across the franchise

More specifically, franchisors should consider including the following information in their operations manual:

Staff training guidelines
Health and safety regulations and practices
Financial regulations and procedures, including information relating to the systems used to record performance and the metrics used
Approved suppliers
Guides to any software or equipment used
Brand image and marketing guidelines

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does cover some of the critical aspects of any operations manual.

How do you legally protect the operations manual?

The operations manual is one of the most important documents any franchise possesses, as it contains an incredible amount of information that's crucial to the success of the business. For this reason, measures need to be taken to guarantee its protection against misuse. One of the best ways to achieve this is by limiting the number of people who see it before they sign the franchise agreement.

While it would be helpful to restrict access to just those that have signed an agreement, its usually necessary to let potential franchisees who are close to signing look through the manual too. In such cases, however, a confidentiality agreement should be signed before access is provided.

Finally, it's essential to consider liability issues when writing an operations manual. Therefore, professional editors and experts in franchise law should be consulted to ensure the manual is up to scratch.

Mistakes to Avoid When Writing an Operations Manual

1. Using a legal or academic writing style. Many manuals are written using complicated legal terms and industry jargon. This can quickly alienate readers and reduce the documents impact. If franchisees feel that it is designed to protect the franchisor and is not particularly cooperative in tone, the relationship between the two could be strained in the future. It is much better to be more conversational, while keeping information clear and concise. This way, franchisees and employees can easily find and understand their responsibilities and obligations.


2. Applying dull formatting. Just as operations manuals should be written in clear English, they should be organised in a way that makes it easy to read too. Incorporating huge blocks of tiny text is going to make even the most determined reader switch off. Break up the information with headings, subheadings and perhaps even photographs, illustrations or diagrams.


3. Employing negative language. Try to avoid telling readers what not to do; turn the sentence around and ask them to do the opposite. By taking this approach, you are more likely to encourage franchisees to follow your rules, as many will automatically switch off if they are faced with an operations manual that seems to be berating them from the get-go.


4. Telling readers what they should do, but not why they should do it. Although franchisees sit lower on the hierarchy ladder than the franchisor, they should still feel respected and valued. For this reason, the franchisor should provide franchisees with a full picture of the business operations, rather than just giving them instructions and expecting them to be completed without question. Also, if employees know why they are doing something and why the job is important in the grand scheme of things, they are more likely to do a better job.

5. Not reviewing it regularly. It is important to check back on the operations manual to make sure it is always up to date. It goes without saying that you should revise it if operations procedures change, but it is useful to make sure it stays relevant even if there are no major alterations to the way the business trades. You may find that employees are frequently carrying out a task as a solution to a problem that no longer exists, for example.

How do you get the operations manual to those who need it?

Most operations manuals take the form of a booklet or mini book. These should be duplicated and placed in each franchise branch, within easy access of its employees. Everyone involved in the business should be familiar with its content, so putting it within reach will be beneficial, especially when complications crop up.

Many franchisors decide to publish their operations manual online as well as printing it. By doing this, new franchisees can easily refer to it any time they need to and as many times as they want. Creating an online resource also means that readers can search for and locate relevant sections quicker.

This format is convenient for the franchisor too, as they can make changes to it easily, without having to reprint the whole document every time its updated. If the franchisor goes down this route, there are plenty of software packages available that can help develop an effective, digital operations manual.

The same software can assist with a whole range of other processes. It can help you keep track of induction processes, business policies, emergency procedures as they happen. It can even store contact details and job descriptions, which can be referred to if and when the need arises.

Conclusion

There are an enormous amount of factors to consider when writing an operations manual, and many of them will be specific to your industry and profession. However, weve tried to cover the considerations shared by all franchises. When writing an operations manual, its vital that you think about its purpose and plan the document to ensure it covers all necessary aspects of the business.

This will be the business key text, so its also important that its professionally edited and checked before its distributed. Due to its strategic value, its worth taking the time to invest sufficient resources in the operations manual. After all, it will form an essential cornerstone for your future expansion.
u're new to the concept of a franchise operations manual, we've constructed this helpful guide to creating a great document, which will help you grow and expand your business in an efficient, safe, and profitable manner.

What is an operations manual?

An operations manual is a document that the franchisor passes on to every franchisee that buys into the business. It details the rights and responsibilities held by both the franchisor and franchisee and explains how the franchise business model operates. Primarily, it contains all the information that makes a franchise a success.

When franchisees sign up with a franchise, they do so expecting that they'll be provided with all the tools they need to set up the business correctly. The operations manual may be the most important of these tools. It offers insight into the franchisor/franchisee relationship, establishes how the business is run and provides the vast majority of the franchise information youll require to make the new unit work. Without it, there would be no standardisation across the franchise system, and franchisees would be able to run their unit in any way they deemed fit.

Why is an operations manual necessary?

As weve already touched upon, the operations manual is particularly important because it ensures standards are maintained across the entire franchise system. To a certain extent, franchising depends on businesses guaranteeing a similar level of service at all their units. If they didnt, the brands reputation would suffer. Customers who had a bad experience in one unit may avoid all other franchise units, and the entire business would struggle as a whole. If we look at a fast food franchise like McDonald's, it's clear that a large part of the chain's appeal is that no matter where you go in the world, you can walk into a McDonalds and know what youre getting. Without the operations manual, standards vary between franchise units and the appeal is tarnished.

Operations manuals are also necessary because they ensure all franchise units are using the same IT systems, financial controls, and health and safety procedures. This makes it far easier to incorporate information, communications, and performance records into a single centralised system that the franchisor can control. If franchisees were utilising different software and running their business according to different procedures, there could be severe integration problems and the franchise would not be able to operate in an efficient or streamlined manner.

What should an operations manual aim to do?

On a basic level, the operations manual should aim to introduce depth to anything mentioned in the franchise agreement. For instance, if the franchise agreement contains a list of obligations, the operations manual should attempt to detail how each of the responsibilities should be met and fulfilled.

Its also likely to include information related to how a location is chosen, how the business is set up, and what the franchisee has to do to start trading. Similarly, it will probably tackle the issues associated with day-to-day management of the franchise and how a franchisee can grow and expand their business.

Operations manuals generally vary from industry to industry, so a manual crafted for a fast food franchise is likely to look very different to a manual for a hardware franchise. While theyll cover many of the same areas, operations manuals need to be reasonably exhaustive, so there'll be plenty of divergence too.

What should an operations manual include?

If were going into greater detail as to what a franchise manual needs to include, its a good idea to break down the contents into three types of information.

  1. Information relating to the franchisors obligations and responsibilities.
  2. Information relating to the franchisees obligations and responsibilities.
  3. Information relating to the minimum standards expected across the franchise.

More specifically, franchisors will need to think about including the following information in their operations manual.

  • Staff training guidelines.
  • Health and safety regulations and practices.
  • Financial regulations and procedures, including information relating to the systems used to record performance and the metrics used.
  • Approved suppliers.
  • Guides to any software or equipment used.
  • Brand image and marketing guidelines.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does cover some of the critical aspects of any operations manual.

How do you legally protect the operations manual?

The operations manual is one of the most important documents any franchise possesses. As it contains an incredible amount of information that's crucial to the success of the business, measures need to be taken to guarantee it is protected against misuse. One of the best ways to achieve this is by ensuring that as few people as possible see the document before having signed a franchise agreement. While it would be helpful to limit access to only those that have signed an agreement, its usually necessary to let those potential franchisees close to signing look through the manual, too. In such cases, a confidentiality agreement should be signed before access is provided. It's also essential to consider liability issues when writing a franchise manual. For this reason, experts in franchise law and professional editors should be used to ensure your manual is up to scratch.

Conclusion

Theres an enormous number of factors to consider when writing an operations manual and many of them will be specific to your industry and profession. However, weve tried to cover the considerations shared by all franchises. When writing an operations manual, its vital that you think about its purpose and plan the document in a way that ensures it covers all necessary aspects of the business. This will be the business key text, so its also important that its professionally edited and checked before its distributed. Due to its strategic value, its worth taking the time and investing sufficient resources in the operations manual. After all, it will form an essential cornerstone for your future expansion.

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