Getting Started with Corporate Procedures

Last week I was having lunch with a business associate who owns a computer consulting firm in the East Bay Area. We were discussing the way his business works with Corporate Procedures for their business operations. As a small business typically we begin with one person per task, and they are an expert at what they do, more because they created their process. However, as a company grows we begin to delegate tasks and then eventually form teams of people who do the same processes. At this point, it becomes important to have a written procedure.

Procedure manuals can become large an tedious. For the small business, it is important to scale your procedures – even beginning with the very simplest bits of information. We have seen employees come to the owner/manager/etc and sometimes say, “their should be a procedure” or other-times, it is more simply stated, how do I do this task. Those should be the indicator to begin a written procedure policy.

It does not need to be something complicated. Even a simple: 1-2-3 checklist of bullet items – no detail. But begin somewhere. Start simple and as the needs grow, expand your documentation.

What you don’t need to do is replace formal education, industry standard training or other certifications with documentation. In the computer consulting industry, your technicians should know “how” to create a user, or setup a “security group” — but as a company you may have established a “methodology” that you want to remain consistent.

Another good example is creating checklists — such as a Quality Assurance – before we return a computer to the customer, we will always check….bla, bla, bla.

As a small company, really there is no hierarchy, nor is their a technical writer. So what I’ve helped some business associates do is to setup a wiki, such as MediaWiki and permit all of their employees to add content to their hearts delight. It is search-able, and has great version control. You can then empower them, if they think there should be a policy, they can create it. Even if it is a simple 3 bullet point list of what you need to know when…

Begin with a culture of documentation early. There is no need to perfect it, just start getting procedures down on paper. Let it grow from there. Commit to spending 15 minutes per day, or at least an hour per week contributing and growing what you have. Brain dump your knowledge. Once it becomes something used frequently by your staff, you’ll find you have a bit more time — and your employees will be more empowered with the information and knowledge they need.

The cost of litigation

When parties cannot resolve a situation outside of the courtroom, the winning party has already been declared — the attorneys. With all respect to their professions, both parties ultimately end up loosing in court. Yes, one of them will walk out of a courtroom as the prevailing party, however even they loose. Their cost of time and money, distraction and emotional input cannot be recovered.

Beyond your own personal loss, there is also the possibility of public and customer prospective. Regardless of who wins, the fact that your company is involved in a case may cause your customers to become uneasy. If you’re bringing action against a client, it will cause your other clients to be weary, likewise if your going after a former employee. Alternately, if you are the target of an action, then they may hear more about the false claims or acquisitions, well before they hear the outcome of the litigation.

The best way to resolve all situations is outside of the courtroom. If that takes place informally, or perhaps through a formal mediation service. Finally, there is always the opportunity for a last ditch effort on the day of court.

Finally, be fully aware of what you are willing to accept – and what areas are open to compromise. Be realistic about your expectations. Obviously they already know your demands, so you will not likely have all of your needs met, so decide was you’d be willing to flex on.

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