As we sprint breathlessly toward the finish line, 2011′s holiday season is fast approaching. The hustle and bustle of the season makes it easier for our attention to be pulled in a million different directions. Family obligations take center stage and “slowing down” in our businesses comes rather naturally as we assume our clients, vendors, or prospects are pumping the brakes as well.

It’s particularly tempting to procrastinate on important projects during this time of year. Hey, we all deserve a vacation, so as we roll into the festivities of mid-winter wonderful start thinking about the systems you need so your business runs smoothly while you enjoy your vacation.

There is enough time left in 2011 to make a difference. So, don’t put off for next year what you can do right now. Imagine finishing the year on a high note and starting the new year in control and rejuvenated. And the great part is…You Can Do Both! What would that do for your confidence? How would it transform your business?

The benefits of efficient business systems…goes far beyond providing for a quick ski-trip. They make it easier for you to:

* Delegate tasks
* Standardize your processes
* Bring in new employees
* Focus on the bigger vision for your company while the “little things” are being handled
* Ensure that your clients are receiving top-notch service
* Eliminate the need for micromanaging
* Manage and monitor your growth…ALL YEAR LONG!

Operational Manual: Your Company’s Holy Grail

The secret weapon I use again and again is an Operational Manual. Within that manual lives my Standard Operating Procedures (aka SOPs). Now why would I describe them as living? It’s because these step-by-step instructional guides provide the foundation for daily dealings. My goal when creating an SOP is to capture the exact process used to complete a task and as tasks evolve (i.e. using different systems or otherwise tweak the process) we modify the SOPs.

When guiding clients through the creation of their Operational Manual, we strive to develop a document that aids in the seamless integration of new employees. Training new hires is costly and time consuming. Having a well documented guide also makes it easier to interchange roles during “emergency” situations.

For example, if you work in a product based business and receive the PR (albeit, last minute) opportunity of a lifetime…you’ll be glad to know that you can quickly pull staff from other departments to help you package and ship product following the instructions within your manual. (I’ve had it happen!)

Usability is King!

Your Operational Manual is obsolete if no one can understand how to use it. Therefore, make sure your document is clear and straightforward. Use simple language and formatting to explain practical information. Add a table of contents as a quick reference mechanism.

As I mentioned before, this is a living, breathing, growing and evolving document that exist according to the flow of your company. Schedule regular updates to keep the content fresh. Quick tip: add small changes to the process with a pen and when there are more than 3 changes for a particular task, we review and revise. And no matter what, we review the document at least 2 times per year.

Oh, yeah…your Operational Manual doesn’t have to be printed and contained within a pretty little binder. You can choose to keep it electronically in pdf or word format. Better yet, you could include it within a web-based collaborative program allowing access by your entire staff at all times and super easy updates.
Ready to get started?

Great! Here are Today’s Action Steps:

1. Start taking notes of the tasks you perform as you do them. Write down EVERY SINGLE step. Ask your team to also start documenting their daily responsibilities and the steps involved in completing those tasks.

2. Testing your Docs: Have someone unfamiliar with the task step in and walk through the steps you’ve developed. If they blaze through and complete the task, you’re good to go. Pat yourself on the back. If they struggle with any parts of it, you have an INVALUABLE opportunity to tweak until it’s right. And once you get it right, give yourself a high five for putting in the hard work now so you can de-stress later.

I can’t emphasize the importance of creating an Operational Manual for your business enough. However, I know it can be difficult and a gentle nudge never hurt – though sometimes we need a big push to get the job done.

Author's Bio: 

Tylesha Juliano, the Simplicity Strategist & Founder of Sprout Productive, is charismatic and down-to-earth in her approach to empowering women to discover their appetite for business + life! Her brand, Deliciously Irresistible Living ™, illustrates a step-by-step recipe that leverages open space for living a lifestyle that leaves you full and satisfied. Pulling from her experience as a serial entrepreneur and more than 15+ years of administrative support wisdom, Tylesha uses hands-on methods to teach you the actionable and life changing systems she used to recover from business burnout and start generating tangible results daily.