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Business Systems Blog

Have an interest in business systems, developing operations manuals, or maybe just making things work properly in your business? This blog focuses on systems – having the right person doing the right thing the right way at the right time. The blogs you read here will cover different aspects of systems – how to create them, how to help people to use them, how to use systems to cut your business inefficiency and build the bottom line. All that and often more. Click on the RSS icon right here on this page to be notified when we add new blog articles.

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What value do you place on an Operations Manual?

John Tonkin - Tuesday, March 09, 2010

We’re across the table from the owner of the business. We ask him if he’d be happy to show us his operations manual.

Typically, we get one of three responses. It could be, “Maryanne, could you get the Operations Manual, please? It’s the blue folder on top of the filing cabinet.” Or maybe, “Yeah, I think it’s around here somewhere, but it’s probably out of date now.” Mostly we get something like, “We don’t have anything formally written down, but everyone knows what to do.

So where do you fit? How much value do you place on your operations manual? Do you actually have one? Michael Gerber (author of The E-Myth) recently published his observation that only 19% of businesses have a functional operations manual, so maybe you’re part of the manual-free majority - maybe you don’t need one…

Before I start sounding cynical, here’s how I see the benefits of having, using and maintaining an operations manual. Underlying what I say here is the belief that people want to do the right thing

I always do what I think is right. I work hard to get it right.

There’s no operations manual, no systems to help me.

Even though I try, I sometimes make mistakes simply because I don’t know how to perform my tasks.  They expect me to know how to do things after showing me once.

I always do what I think is right. I work hard to get it right.

We have all our systems set out in an operations manual that is kept up to date.

By using the manual, I’m able to complete any task that’s required of me.  Some of my suggestions have been used to improve the manual.  We know we can rely on it.


A well-written operations manual will record the one best way of doing it for each of the tasks that make the business function. It gives a voice to all the collected wisdom and experience that makes your business thrive. By using it as a guide, your team will be able to perform to the best of their abilities. By managing through your operations manual (instead of in spite of it) you will achieve the potential you know exists in your business. You will truly have a system for running your business, so you won’t need to rely so heavily on expertise, key people or good luck.

Is it worth talking to Brain in a Box about your Operations Manual? It couldn’t hurt…