Franchise Operations Manuals
By Michael J. Childs
If there were ever a part of your franchise system you shouldn’t shortcut, the Operations Manual would be it.
Unfortunately, many operators do shortcut the process and end up paying a steep price down the road for saving some time or a few bucks.
There are lots of horror stories about franchise systems that self-destructed because the Operations Manual was incomplete, poorly written or in some cases, was just a table of contents leading to nowhere.
Many times these were great concepts that probably would have made it big if they just had a complete, well-written Operations Manual their franchisees could use to open and run their new business.
Why You Need a World-Class Operations Manual
Public perception of uniform quality is essential to all franchise systems. The franchise model thrives on consistency.
If your franchisees don’t know the rules, you can’t enforce your brand’s standards or protect your franchise system, intellectual property such as trademarks and your proprietary money-making systems and processes.
Incomplete or poorly written Operations Manuals will guide your franchisees to failure, while a complete, well-written Operations Manual will lead them to success. Your franchisees paid for, and expect, a well-documented system for making money detailed in a complete Operations Manual.
Every successful franchise system has world-class, up to date Operations Manuals.
A well-written, complete Operations Manual is the perfect textbook to use during initial and ongoing franchisee training. You won’t need a separate training manual. Keeping the Operations Manual updated is essential, and your franchisees can be excellent content providers building on the original content. You can update the manual as often as you like.
Great Operations Manuals are also excellent franchise sales tools. You will sell more franchises with an impressive Operations Manual your candidates can preview, usually during Discovery Day, before buying the franchise.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Franchise Rule requires that you have an Operations Manual. The Table of Contents and the number of pages in the manual are a required exhibit in the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD).
Paper or Digital
Printing the manual and putting it in a 3-ring binder may seem old-fashioned, but the Operations Manual is more than just a how-to and reference guide for your franchisees.
It’s the place where you will permanently store, protect and keep track of all of your intellectual property, processes, and systems. It is a single resource to make sure that all of your franchisees comply with your proprietary methods, brand standards and goals.
You can use a PDF or digital version that can be accessed online through your password-protected website and also distribute by email. That version will be the easiest to update and keep current with descriptions for new products, services, and recipes, but you should always keep the printed version up to date and on file at your corporate headquarters.
When it comes to updates, every franchise system is different. Some insist on printed supplements to the original manual by mailing out updates. Some only use online or digital manuals, and some use both by sending out printed supplements when they update the digital version.
A printed version is best for training purposes. With the franchise opportunities I developed, I gave my new franchisees access to a digital manual after they signed the franchise agreement so they could get started reading, and an up-to-date printed one when they came in for training that they could take back with them.
How Much do Operations Manuals Cost?
The typical fee for professionally written Operations Manuals is about $100 per page and 3 – 6 months of development time. At an average manual size of 200 - 300 pages, it can quickly add up.
If you are a busy franchisor who doesn’t have the time or resources to devote to an Operations Manual project, having one written for you would be the best choice. I provide custom Operations Manuals that are professionally written, edited and ready to use in as little as 90 days at an affordable price. Much less than the norm.
If you have the time and resources to devote to an Operations Manual project, I offer a professionally written and edited Operations Manual Template that you can finish up yourself, all at a fraction of the cost of having one written for you.
Using a quality template, and that part is critical, can help you create a world-class Operations Manual for your franchise system. You should plan on investing at least a couple of months of your time when writing your own manual.
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