Your online procedure manual is basically an “intranet” for your business. You and everyone on your team (even if your team is just you and one other person) will use this intranet when doing various tasks associated with the operations of your business.
It’s for your eyes and your team’s eyes only–although your business’ procedure manuals are online, they should be password locked so that only the people on your team can see them.
Last time I was telling you 5 reasons why it’s really smart to set up your procedure manual when your business is small and less complicated. Believe me, your work will be so much easier if you start compiling your manual when there aren’t that many tasks.
Where should you keep your procedure manual?
I would recommend installing a blog on your own server and using that as the “procedure manual”. The different categories can represent different types of procedures involved with your business. The access should be “locked” so that only people with a password can get in to see the manual. This isn’t the sort of thing that will be visible to anyone but you and your team.
If you can’t have a blog installed on your own server, then use a paid blog platform such as TypePad.
Where shouldn’t you keep your procedure manual?
- Don’t put it in Google docs — Google docs is great for sharing shorter documents or things that you don’t mind losing, but don’t use it to store anything really valuable. Google docs is out of your control–you don’t own it and you aren’t paying anything for it, so you have no grounds for complaining if a technical issue occurs and your documents disappear one day. I’m speaking from experience here–For years, one of my clients had all of his procedure manuals in Google docs, and then one day without much warning, they were gone. Thankfully, I had made copies of the manuals before they completely disappeared, but otherwise the procedures would have been lost. Remember, this procedure manual that you’re creating will be valuable–it takes time to create, and if you lost it it would take a long time to replace. Keep it in a safe place.
- Don’t put it in a free blog platform, such as Blogger or WordPress.com. If the platform isn’t on your own server or isn’t one that you’re paying someone to host for you, whatever you put on that blog can be lost, and you don’t have much traction for getting it back.
- Don’t put it in a Word doc. You want to keep this procedure manual online, so it can be easily updated by you or your virtual assistant and everyone else on your team can see the changes immediately. It would defeat the purpose to keep the manual offline.
How Do You Organize The Manual?
You’ll have the blog set up to function as the “Mission Control” of your procedure manual, and you’ll give permissions to each person on your team (that may just be you and your virtual assistant).
It depends on what type of blog design you have, but I’ve seen folks use the categories to separate the different topics.
We’re talking about big categories, like “Customer Support”, “Affiliate Program Procedures”, “FAQs”, etc. At this point you might not know every type of procedure that you’ll be using, and that’s just fine. You can actually get more specific on your categories later.
For every single recurring task that you assign to your virtual assistant, ask her to also create a procedure to go along with it.
For example, let’s say you asked me to set up your newsletter every week in Aweber (or whatever newsletter distribution service you use). I would write down, step-by-step everything that I did to get the newsletter ready for distribution, starting with the first step. I would also put any instructions meant to accompany that procedure, for example:
This newsletter is to be put together by Thursday of each week to be distributed each Friday at 10 am.
1 – Go to Aweber.com and login.
2 – Go to Messages => Broadcast
and so on….
I also recommend including screenshots of each step. Visuals always help people to learn.
Also, if customer support is involved in your business, start accumulating a FAQs section in your manual. Each post would be one question (listed in the title) and the answer (listed in the post body). This is so helpful in maintaining consistent answers for frequently asked questions. It also saves time.
A detailed step-by-step guide for each recurring task that your virtual assistant will do is a beautiful thing!
You’re creating order in your business and ensuring that the work is done with consistency. It’s also just plain practical–there are some tasks that your AsssitU trained VA will do that have numerous steps, so the manual will guide her as she does the task each day, week or month.
If you need more convincing about getting a procedure manual for your business going, see this post:
Virtual Teams and Small Businesses: Procedure Manuals Are A Must!