So back to the mentoring session I mentioned in my last post. After having a target customer conversation, we finally got to the “product” conversation. My mentee wanted my advice on how to organise his kitchen. After asking him a few questions, I told him he really needed to get one of these: an operations manual.
Regardless of the size of your business, whether you’re a one-man show or have thousands of employees, you need to note down your operations and procedures into a manual. I first read about the importance of manuals back in 2005, when I still ran my martial arts school. It was in Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited. In this classic business book (first published in 1995), Michael says that you should have the mind-set of a franchisor. Franchisors have all the procedures noted in an operations manual, and all they have to do is train their franchisees using the manual.
I thought the idea was great, but there really was no need for me to have a manual as my two Team Members were very well trained and they knew exactly what to do. Or so I thought!
I never dreamt that they would leave me by the end of the year, and that they would leave within a week of each other! Basically, 66% of my staff left me! I felt devastated. I also felt betrayed and confused. I realised that a lot of the procedural knowledge left with them.
After a trip to Hajj to help me gain my emotional strength, I hired new Team Members and set about writing our first operations manual. I would teach the new instructors in the morning, then teach all the classes in the afternoon and evening, and late at night I would sit down and write the manual. This went on for weeks, maybe even months. To be honest 2006 passed in a haze and I don’t remember much of it. It was a very difficult year.
But I’m happy to report that I emerged with a much stronger and robust business. Whenever the procedures changed I would update the manual. If a Team Member left I would hire a new one and train them on the manual. This manual explained our entire operations, from how to answer the phone, to teaching classes to the filing of the paperwork. Having a manual changed my life to the better, and allowed me to focus more on growing the business without having to work “in” the business. It even allowed me to spend more time with my family.
Today we’re in the process of developing an internal manual for Falak. We had a long internal debate whether a consultancy can have a manual as the work is so diverse, and each client’s requirements are different, but in the end we realised that it was necessary. Our first version should be ready by end of Q3 inshallah.