training

3 Reasons Why Operations Manuals Are Not Just For Franchises

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Lately I've met with a number of clients who have toyed with the idea of turning their business into a franchise. Some are exploring franchising due to customers as well as potential investors asking if they have ever considered franchising. Others have an internal desire to see their brand duplicated in various locations. The ins-and-outs of franchising is a foreign concept to those owners who were prodded by outside influencers. They typically are in the dark about what the process entails or even where to start. Conversely, those owners who are internally driving themselves to consider franchising at least have an idea of what is involved in becoming a Franchisor. But no matter where the idea originated from, these business owners share two things: 1) they don't have an Operations Manual in place and, 2) they know that they need one!

By merely doing Google searches for these clients, it became evident to me very quickly that every resource on franchising required the Franchisor to have a very detailed Operations Manual in place. (I have also seen Operations Manuals referred to as Process Manuals or Business Systems.) The term itself is nowhere near as important as having the manual in the first place. Think about if you were going to purchase a Chick-Fil-A for instance. The Operations Manual would be a vital part of your success because it will tell you EVERYTHING from exactly how long to cook the sandwiches to what the layout of the store looks like. After outlining my findings to each of these prospective Franchisors, they each agreed how important it was to the Franchise model.

So why hadn't any of them - especially those actively pursuing franchising - created an Operations Manual? 

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You guessed it...TIME! 

An Operations Manual takes a lot of time to create and it also takes time away from focusing on revenue producing activities. And none of these business owners could afford to allocate the time necessary to put all their processes on paper. But there were three (3) reasons that these entrepreneurs gave for needing an Operations Manual for their respective company:

1) An Operations Manual will help them run their business.

First and foremost the Operations Manual will provide a detailed record of how the business works. This makes it easier for everyone - from the Founder to the newest team member - to be on the same page. Most people who start a business end up running it on auto-pilot. And what I mean by that is they have become so good at what they do that they no longer have to think about it. Everything has become instinctual to them which can create a challenge when trying to relay what's in their heads to an inexperienced employee. 

2) An Operations Manual will ease the pain of hiring and training.

This is one of the most important reasons to have an Operations Manual. By knowing what is involved with the specific aspects of running the company, the recruiting and hiring efforts become strategic. If you know exactly what the potential new team member will be doing in your company, you can look for specific traits and characteristics during the recruiting and interviewing process. You also have a framework for training that new employee once they have made it through your documented hiring process. (I recommend that every Operations Manual have a Training component to it.) Included in the Operations Manual should also be Job Descriptions that will include the pay structure of each position.

3) An Operations Manual will set the groundwork for a succession strategy.

No matter whether you are building your company in hopes of creating a family legacy or plan to sell it in the future, an Operations Manual is a vital part of any succession strategy. Even though your plans may include passing the business to your children and grand-children, God-forbid that something happens to you resulting in your family inheriting the business with no formal training. With the Operations Manual, they will know exactly what to do and will at least have a fighting chance to succeed.

If your plans are to sell equity stakes in your company or to sell it 100%, then an Operations Manual will help to increase the value. Detailed "How-To's" are like gold during the valuation process. And of course the higher your company's value, the more money it could fetch from investors.

If you are thinking about starting a business, make sure to allocate time and resources to setting up an Operations Manual from the beginning. It's a lot easier to do it up front. For those who are already succeeding as business owners, don't wait another day before getting started on your company's Operations Manual.

I am available to discuss your specific needs for an Operations Manual. Simply leave a comment or contact me privately using the form below.

Tighten Up!

For those of you who know me well, you know that this is one of my favorite phrases. These two words are usually all that is necessary to let someone know that they are not living up to their potential or they are goofing off when it is time to be serious. Based on several recent interactions with local small business, it is necessary for me to tell them to Tighten Up

Let's review a few basics that too many small businesses still don't seem to "get":

Do What You Say You're Going To Do.

If you tell a customer that you are going to call them back or meet them at a pre-arranged time, then do it. Simple, right? Not so much. I have attempted to patronize at least three businesses over the past few weeks who have failed miserably at this task. One business said that they would call me back and never did - even after I gave them a second chance and called them back. Another business scheduled an appointment to provide a service only to reach out to me the morning of to 1)Ask if we were still meeting and 2)Then attempt to reschedule for 2 hours later. And a third business owner reached out to me 45 minutes after our scheduled appointment to inform me that he was on the way. (He had previously told me that he expected to show up early.)

Even more alarming was that all three business came personally recommended from three different sources. Needless to say that I did not give either of those companies my hard earned money.

Spellcheck

It's sad to say that in our age of communicating to each other with a  maximum of 140-characters-at-a-time that too many people are unable to write grammatically correct. Before you start to defend the position of "English is not my strongest subject", understand that as a business owner you may need people around you to compliment your weaknesses. If you are not strong at financials, hire someone who is. If you are struggling to reach new customers, get someone to help you with marketing. If you are writing ANYTHING that a potential customer will see, use spellcheck AND have someone else proofread it! This goes for your website as well. Your website is a validator of your business so if you just throw something together just to show you have a url address, (potential) customers will feel that you will take the same lackluster approach with them.

It is true that you only have one chance to make a first impression. And what do you think that first impression is if you have misspelled words and grammatical errors?

Look Through The Eyes Of Your Customer, Not Your Own

Too many business owners I've encountered think that just because they are "the boss" means they get to do everything their way. For example, just because your favorite color is green doesn't mean that your company color should be green. (Green can invoke a sense of growth with your customers - like the Starbucks brand - when in fact your business may be strongly based on trust and dependability, hence the blue in American Express.) And yes I did deliberately choose the colors Green and Blue as my company colors! 

Other examples of when business owners neglect to research the market before making a decision include: business name, logo creation, use of a favorite song or genre of music in store or on their website and communication methods with customers. The choices you make may invoke a positive feeling for you personally but that doesn't mean they will do the same for your customers. Ample time needs to be spent on market research before introducing your business to the public.

Unfortunately - or fortunately, depending how you look at it - if you can just follow these simple steps you will be WAY ahead of your competition and well on your way to success! 

 

 

How Much Do You REALLY Value Your Customers?

Some of my coworkers frequent QuikTrip (QT) convenience stores regularly because, as they say, the service is so much better than the competitors. I have also experienced a higher level of employee engagement every time I walk into a QT, specifically at the location that is discussed by my coworkers. When you walk in, you don't get the bland "Welcome to ..." that is an obvious attempt to make the customer feel appreciated even though you can tell at other establishments that the employee does not really "welcome" you. QT employees seem to have a genuine appreciation for the customer being there. They also are one of the fastest in the industry and getting you checked out and on your way! Late last week I noticed this sign as I was exiting QT and it all clicked! While many companies are looking to pay minimum wage (currently $5.15/hour), QT is willing to pay almost twice as much to their front-line clerks. So why would they be willing to do that?

Let's take a look at this as a trickle-down effect. Obviously from my coworkers experiences, QT trains their employees on the importance of customer service and holds them accountable for maintaining that level. So do other companies "train" on the importance of customer service and hold its employees accountable? Probably so. But here is where QT displays the difference. By paying the employees almost twice what the market is paying, the employees feel valued by the company. As a result of them feeling valued, that internal satisfaction is directly transmitted to the customer in face-to-face interactions. While an employee at another company may simply say "You don't pay me enough to care" and just quit when they are reprimanded for not maintaining the company standards, QT employees feel valued and therefore it is easy to value the customer. 

Our store employees are held to very high standards. As the face of QT, store employees are expected to take advantage of their opportunity to make our customers smile and provide them with service that exceeds expectations. Serving our customers is the most important job in the company, and our focus is on taking care of our store teams. That caring shows as QuikTrip has placed high on Fortune Magazine's list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For for the past fourteen years.

So to all the entrepreneurs out there, take a lesson from QuikTrip and pay your employees extremely well so that they feel valued enough to actually take care of the customers that are responsible for paying everyone from the owner on down!

Be like a sponge!

Congratulations to one of the most coachable and self-motivated trainees I have ever had the opportunity to personally teach! Shannon earned both Employee of the Month awards for her department and for the entire store as a result of her performance in April. The departmental award is giving based on production while the store award is voted on by all team members and is based on teamwork. 

During my weekly training sessions, which started out with 6 - 7 ambitious students yet sometimes became 1-on-1 coaching sessions, Shannon continued to be open-minded with a sincere desire to grow her sales numbers. She took notes, asked lots of questions and implemented all of the tips that she learned. Not only did she inquire about how to become better in her own department but she actively pursued training opportunities in other departments as well, demonstrating the traits of a future Team Leader. Shannon also took it upon herself to push her departmental co-workers to attend the same training that benefited her. Shannon is a true example of a model student and if you want to excel as Shannon has, BE LIKE A SPONGE and absorb as much positive training that you can get!