Earlier this week, we outlined how to create systems and workflows for your wedding business, and how to write job descriptions for yourself and everyone else on your team (including people you'll hire in the future). In today's post, we'll put together those things with some other important information to create your own company manual.
I know: "company manual" sounds pretty impersonal, doesn't it? Whether you call it that, or a handbook, or a field guide, or a bible, it's an important part of running a successful business of any kind. You probably received one in many of the 9-5 jobs you had before diving into the wedding industry, and it can benefit your business in many of the same ways it benefits the corporate giants.
Why Does a Small Business Need a Company Manual?
Documenting vital information about your business gives you and your team a set of established guidelines by which your company is run. As a result, it helps in a number of ways:
- It helps you operate in a more productive way, because the most important functions of your company, and the people who work in it, are defined.
- It provides a basic framework for training new hires, offering them a complete understanding of your business' standards.
- It gives you a basis for evaluating your team members' job performance (which should also experience a boost because everyone knows exactly what they're expected to do).
- It enables your team to have a more thorough understanding of your brand and all it entails, which helps them to become better ambassadors for your business.
- It provides an "official" record of your company at the time it's created, one that becomes an important part of your business' evolution over time.
The process of actually creating your company manual may seem daunting, but in reality it's not that complicated. As you may have found when creating your systems and workflows and your job descriptions, the hardest part is probably going to be writing down all of the information that's currently stored in your head. In some cases, you may have actually never thought about the kinds of things that go into a company manual, but that just means you have a unique opportunity to reflect on the kind of business you want to operate and what kinds of things you want your team to embrace.
What Should Be Included in a Company Manual?
As with most elements of your business, the information that goes into your company manual will depend on the type of business you run and what's important to you as its owner. In all cases, however, your manual will serve as a written orientation to who you are and what you do, so consider what your new hires (and current team members) really need to know. What kind of information will best help them to become acclimated to your team, meet your expectations of them, and effectively represent your business and your brand?
Here are some general examples:
- Company history - when your business was founded and by whom, what service or product you initially offered, how your business has grown/evolved over time
- Current company profile - company leadership, what services or products you currently offer, geographic region served, volume of business (number of events served, revenues, etc), awards/accolades received, associations and affliations
- Company identity - mission statement, philosophy, values, causes supported, general team culture
- Company policies - working hours, dress code, applicable benefits (health insurance, paid vacation/sick time, etc.), how to request time off, when and how team members are paid
- Company standards - communication (response time, email signature, voice mail greeting), equipment care and maintenance, sales/service protocols, interaction with other vendors at events
You can always add information later, but providing a thorough foundation for your team up front will help them help your business all the more.
How Should You Format a Company Manual?
Again, this is a matter of personal preference, but I recommend providing your team with a hard copy (in my primary business, we print our manuals and put them in three-ring binders). You should also prepare a digital version as a PDF, which can easily be referenced via email as needed.
In addition, while from a branding standpoint I'm generally a big fan of professionally designed and printed materials, your company manual should (in my opinion) be an exception. Creating it yourself, in a format that enables you to make changes on your own as they arise, is going to be immensely helpful. You'll find that you'll often need to clarify your policies, or create new ones, as time goes on, and you'll be glad not to have to pay a designer and printer each time this happens.
Finally, assuming that protecting sensitive company information is important to you, consider including statement in your manual about the document, and any other training materials, being confidential. If your attorney recommends it, you may also want to have your team members sign a document acknowledging your confidentiality policy.
To assist wedding professionals in developing their company manuals, we'd intended to roll out a new resource today - however, as we dug into the topic over the course of this week, we realized we want it to be a more comprehensive workbook than we'd originally planned. Therefore, we'll be launching it within the next week or two, in a form that will be incredibly useful to our readers - keep an eye on our blog for the announcement when it goes live! In the meantime, we'll be back Monday with a great guest post from one of our favorite contributors!