To grow your creative business effectively, you need one key thing: an operations manual. Simply put, an operations manual is where you store all the cornerstone information related to your business. This manual will help you get a handle on your systems and your processes, communicate what your business is about, and teach new team members about their roles. My ops manual includes my business vision, documented workflows, marketing information, and more. Having all this information handy in one place makes my work days more efficient and streamlined.
Here are some things to remember while creating your own:
Answer those Nagging “What Ifs”
Have you ever thought about how your business would function if an accident or illness prevented you from running it? With an operations manual in place, you don’t have to wonder—all the information someone needs to temporarily take over your business should be housed right in the manual.
Remember your Vision
An operations manual can also keep you inspired. On days when you’re wondering why you thought owning your own business was such a great idea, you can turn to the “Business Vision” section. Reviewing your “why” and your mission statement can give you the morale boost you need to keep going.
Keep it Organized
You can set up an operations manual in several different ways. You can use a binder with dividers and labels, set up a folder and documents on a USB Flash Drive or in Google Docs, or use a project management system like Trello. Whichever you choose, you should divide your manual into core sections and subsections—you can see examples of these at the bottom of the article. However, remember that your business is unique, so some sections that relate to my business might not work for you. Try to think of core sections and subsections specific to your business, so your manual is as comprehensive as possible.
Update, Update, Update
Creating a usable operations manual isn’t a one-and-done task—you need to review and update it on a regular basis. Your business doesn’t stay the same, and your operations manual shouldn’t either. A great time to review your operations manual is during your monthly or quarterly business planning sessions. I keep my business planning notes in a separate core section of my operations manual to ensure it gets reviewed and updated regularly.
Take it Slow
Don’t try to set up your operations manual in one day; it’s a process that will take some time.
Once you have your operations manual in place, it’ll be easy to delegate workflows to a new team member and show them how to represent your brand. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of growing and scaling your business, creating an operations manual is the perfect place to start.