How to write a Policies and Procedures Manual

A living and breathing Policies and Procedures manual will mean that your business can grow with few(er) headaches.

If you’re a sole trader or have a small business, you may be asking how sitting down and writing out a policies manual can possibly help day-to-day – but it’s crucial if you have ambitions to become bigger.

The most efficient, productive and profitable businesses today are those that have clear processes, procedures and direction in place so everyone in the business knows how things are done.

Whether you call it a manual, a guide or Bible is up to you – but whatever form it takes, for your business to grow and succeed, you need to standardise everything.

How do you start building a policies and procedures manual? What should it include? What should it leave out? It all seems too hard!

It can be a daunting task, but my advice is to start small and build it as you build your business.

1. Start at the beginning

I know this sounds simple, but start at the beginning.

Start with when you have your first contact with your customers, the start of your sales process.

No matter what business, industry or market you are in, you are selling something: your expertise, a product or a service. Document what you do when a customer walks in or calls you on the phone.

I have found it easy to flowchart or use diagrams to help you put together a policies and procedures manual.

This would typically involve how the phone is answered, how to greet a customer and how to take a customer order.

Follow this through to the end when a product or service is delivered to your customer.

You can even go beyond this and write a procedure for following up to get customer feedback, after-sales service and measuring customer satisfaction.

2. Be short and punchy

When you are building policies and procedures, do it in a step-by-step format in short, punchy points rather than blocks of text and paragraphs, which your employees may find cumbersome to follow.

Visualise the policies and procedures you are trying to convey.

You are breaking down a system into relative steps; therefore your manual should be a collection of steps for you and others to follow.

3. Make it live

You should update your policies and procedures manual on a regular basis — because let’s face it, there’ll always be a better way of doing things.

Try and avoid having a bulky physical document that may be slow to amend and update.

Rather, have it as a living and breathing document on your computer or business network.

That way you can quickly update it, and it will be live and instant.

Make sure to date any important changes so your staff know when these will be in effect from.

4. Ask for feedback

Always seek feedback from your staff on your policies and procedures.

You’ll find they have a wealth of information and knowledge, given that they are embedded deep within and throughout your business.

They are often the best people to ask how to improve things.

At every staff meeting, seek feedback on what procedures need to be implemented that will improve their work and help them on a daily basis.

Also ask them which procedures they tend to find cumbersome or bog them down and hinder them from doing the best job that they can.

5. Focus on the big issues first

You don’t want a policies and procedures manual to cover every single possible situation and process within your business.

It will be tedious, cumbersome and no one will be bothered to read it or follow it. Start with the big ticket items first.

Follow the life cycle of a sale through your business, and that will give you the big items that you need to cover.

Finally, note that policies are different than procedures.

Policies will incorporate the legal requirements that you need to follow as a business owner in relation to staff, sexual harassment, industrial law, workplace health and safety.

They also include your enforceable view on how you treat certain things within the business environment in relation to customers, your staff, and safety issues.

It’s also critical that you address your policies in relation to sexual harassment, work place bullying, and discrimination.

Each state in Australia has different requirements, but government agencies offer free advice and templates to help you write your own policies.

Make sure you are clued-up on the relevant workplace laws that apply to your type of business, and you will be on your way to creating your Policies and Procedures Manual.