Operations Manuals, Page By Page

A good operations manual is essential for franchising success, as FDS Northern consultant Tony Urwin reveals.

An operations manual is vital for franchisee training. This confidential document must be copyrighted and should contain all the information a franchisee needs to be able to operate the business systems correctly.

However, actually writing an operations manual can be a daunting prospect. Inevitably, it is going to take time and effort, and will also require a financial investment.

A responsible Franchise Consultant will advise on the use of a good Manual Writer, knowing that the time, effort and money spent developing and documenting the franchise properly will save a great deal of all three in the long run.

A franchisor who is closely involved in the writing of the manual actually gains a valuable insight into the inner workings of their own operation. As individuals, we know the best way to do our job, but we rarely think about what we, and the other people in our organisation, actually do. The Manual Writer will help the franchisor look at the complexities of the business operation from a franchisee's perspective, ensuring that the right information is presented in an accessible and easily readable format.

A second benefit of working alongside the Manual Writer is the unrivalled content knowledge gained. Franchisors who have been involved in the production of the manual are able to explain the content to their trainees with confidence. Although the franchisor probably won't be able to answer all of their questions immediately, chances are they will know exactly where to find the answer.

A franchisee should never be asked to read the entire document in one session. A good manual is split into sections, each one covering a major training theme. During training each section can be covered separately in a logical sequence and combined with practical exercises to create a simple and highly structured training programme. Breaking the manual into manageable portions will help trainees to retain the information they need to operate their business well.

It's also a good idea to keep the manual in a loose leaf format. As the business develops and individual pages or sections require updating, only these pages need to be re-issued. Of course, the franchisees will need to ensure that they also keep their copy of the manual up to date.

The Manual Writer will help to present the manual for maximum impact. Franchisors should make sure that the design of the document reflects the corporate image, using the company's colour scheme, and incorporate the trademark and brand. Appropriate graphics should be used to illustrate the information and make it an attractive document that both the franchisor and franchisees can be proud of.

A comprehensive franchise operations manual is a valuable asset to a business. It may be an intimidating task to undertake but, with the correct assistance, franchisors soon discover that it was worth the investment.