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Creating a Procedure Manual

A rule book for running the business

During last month's Retailer's Notebook, we discussed the advantage of implementing several "weapons" that can assist the independent retailer in becoming a stronger and more profitable business.

We began by stressing the importance of staff meetings for any and all businesses, regardless of the size of the staff. It was explained, from our personal experiences, that what would begin as gripe sessions would soon evolve into productive one hour team building sessions. During these sessions you would be able to see the quality of your staff improve as a part of your ongoing effort to distinguish your business from the competition.

As these staff meetings developed from gripe to growth, there would be ample time during the meeting for the introduction of written policies. These policies would be the written rules of your store, and cover things such as dress codes and employees requesting additional days off.

Policies are closely related to procedures, as they are the written instructions of how to perform certain tasks. The reason for these written details can best be demonstrated in the children's game in which the first child tells something to the second child, who in turn attempts to repeat the statement to a third child. This passing of information continues to the last child who has the assignment of saying aloud the statement as best they understood it.

This game usually draws quite a laugh as the statement of the first child bears little resemblance to that of the last child.

As retailers, we often do the same thing with our employees. We have given instructions to one person who is then asked to instruct a second person, and from there the information works its way through the entire staff. Unfortunately, our instructions frequently have the same results as the children's game. Over a period of time, the details and the quality of the efforts are lost.

The policy and procedure manual, in a written form, should evolve over a period of time as the need for each situation to be resolved occurs, or the opportunity for advancement is found. The manual will have greater value, and a higher level of success, if all of the employees are involved in determining which procedures should be created. And this is even more evident if the employees are involved in the actual creation, and monitoring of the procedure.

There are many situations in your business where a procedure could be utilized. Starting at the front door, if you have assigned cashiers in your business, your best cashier could be an excellent resource for information in creating a list of skills to be mastered by all of the cashiers. Again, from our personal experiences our procedure was titled, "50 ways to be a better cashier" and contained all of the areas of concern.

The individual that created our list was able to review it with a new cashier every day so that she would be able to determine within two weeks if the new cashier was mastering the necessary skills. With all of our cashiers, maintaining this skill list was also an important part of their semi-annual job performance review.

There can be procedure instructions that detail how to write a repair ticket for any item that a customer brings into your store, how to stock shelves, the appropriate documentation of the sale of products that are restricted by law, and how to be proactive in a situation involving shoplifting.

While you may think that you have a clear expectation of how a procedure should be performed within your business, each of these instructions should receive repeated review and revision as you experience ways to improve the operation of your business.

These documents can also be important tools in regards to the management of your employees. As you create the policies and procedures of your business, a notebook containing each of these items can be easily stored near a check out stand or time clock to allow your employees to refer to them as necessary.

If you create each written procedure in a manner that requires the employee to sign and date the document, you can also put a copy of the signed document in their personnel file. In the event of a problem, you would now have the necessary material to demonstrate that you have properly trained your employees. This documentation could come in useful in the event that you are subject to an OSHA inspection or audit by your workman's compensation insurance company.

These procedures can also cover many of the basic, everyday chores. It was once noted that the Marriott Hotel chain uses a written procedure with over 100 steps listing how to clean a room after a guest has checked out. And when closing your store at the end of a business day, if you or an employee have ever forgotten to turn off some equipment, complete a computer function, or perhaps left a door unlocked, you will begin to see the benefit in having written procedures in your business.

During this and the previous month's edition of Retailer's Notebook, we have examined the benefits to you and your business by having staff meetings, as well as written policies and procedures. In the coming issues of Retailer's Notebook, we will discuss how to create job descriptions, job specifications and the benefits of having them.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179