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.

Interested in learning

Continued from before, it is very important to understand that we are all life long learners. There is always something new to learn, and more to understand. Choosing the right sources for information, including related trade and general business publications, journals, etc., is excellent. Moreover, attending low cost training seminars frequently is great! Try to get to at least 4 per year – once a quarter. Focus on business related topics, and leave your trade related training out of the 4 per year. For example, I spend at least one seminar a year on tax related issues – what’s changed, what can I do better; I also spend at least one on human relations – how to work better with your employees, as well as what do I need to legally understand; I also spend at least one on business growth; leaving one open to whatever strikes me this time around. The first three are essential learning, so you can see how easy it is to go to at least 4 per year.

I would also try to mix up the training between large firms or travelling seminars against smaller firms offering training. Keep an eye on your local Business Journal which often lists low cost (or sometimes free) training seminars.

Invest in your future by growing your business understanding. Also, while you’re there, don’t forget to network – make those future business relationships!

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