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Doing It By the Book

Having a Store Owner's Manual

We learned some of retail's most valuable lessons years ago. We found that the most important event in a business was a bi-weekly staff meeting. As these meetings were held, we found they initially were complaint meetings; usually management complaining about how employees were failing to follow directions.

After several months, the staff meetings took a surprising turn for the better. We found there was an increasingly longer part of each meeting spent towards training, and less time spent discussing and solving problems.

We developed our staff meetings to the level where we had an agenda typed and in the hands of each attendee. The agenda covered product knowledge, problem solving, and advertising. Over time we found that we had slowly but surely created a training manual. We had defined job descriptions, job specifications (how to do each job), a set of store policies, a set of store operating procedures, and even a collection of class room lessons for each department. We went from having staff meetings to having training classes. We even had written tests which were graded and reviewed with each team member.

We thought with our manual we had created the one tool that was needed to make our business run smoother and become more profitable. It wasn't until two of our family members retired from our business that we found there was still another manual to be written, The need for the second manual, the owner's guide, came from several experiences.

The first was our desire to involve other team members in the operation of the store. This can read, "I want a vacation and I don't want the work waiting for me when I get back." Another is a belief in an old adage that explains, "management means you are not doing the same chore over and over." This material also comes in useful if you lose a valuable team member and there is a need to train someone new for the job.

Another reason for the owner's manual came simply from our struggling to remember all of the details to any office procedure. Whether it be daily register audits, monthly accounts receivable statements, or end of the month bookkeeping, we wanted instructions in detail.

Somehow, anytime we would perform one of these tasks, there would be interruptions or perhaps our mind would not be clear to concentrate on our work. Then, as we neared completion of the task, that we had forgotten an important step.

Finally, there was also the logic that if there was to be a first manual to instruct our team members in regards to how they performed their tasks, then there should also be a manual for our office manager and for ourselves.

Lots and lots of reasons. They all made sense to us. And so we began our work on the second manual. We kept detailed notes as to how we performed the bi-weekly chore of payroll. We listed how to calculate hours, commissions, monthly bonuses, and payroll deductions for personal charge accounts. We included in the owner's manual, photo copies of payroll reports showing us how to read what information was necessary to create our bank deposit for payroll taxes.

There was a set of details for posting and paying accounts payable and accounts receivable. We created a chart listing checks that were due on a regular basis: rent, bank note, payroll taxes, workman's compensation insurance and a few other minor ones.

One of the sections in our manual listed all of the vendors and their phone numbers - a quick and easy reference guide to their offices and sales representative. The list also told us the necessary instruction for getting inventory reports from our computer.

Other sections included general ledger accounts, audit sheet instructions, copies of the cashiers' handbook, cash flow charts, bonus sales calculations, our variable pricing policy used by buyers and warehouse staff, and the multi-level pricing system which was used by our computer to give quantity discounts.

Best Saturday/Sunday sales? Best 3 day weekend? What are the top five Mays, or any other month in our past 15 years? We kept those figures available for quick reference. As our employees had a bonus program, sales goal information was always very important to them and us.

When it came to creating the end of the month sales reports, our set of instructions was five pages long. It told our office manager what figures to gather: checking and savings account balances, accounts receivable and payable balances, and what reports to print. On the first or second day of the month, we had a detailed sales report, balance sheet, income statement, and an income to budget comparison. Within a couple of hours of beginning this task, we had up to the moment figures allowing us to make decisions for the month at hand.

Our owner's manual had fifteen sections. We did not sit down one day, or week, and create it. From our years of being in business, we knew the manual was never completed. There was always something we could improve on.

The manual was acknowledging a reality to us. Having all of this information and knowledge in only one or two person's head was flirting with disaster. Having the manual gave a tremendous peace of mind. New tasks could then be undertaken, knowing we had backup documentation for all of our work.

When you create your owner's manual, realize it will never be a best seller. And you surely will not label it as a book that "you just can not put down". But in its' own way, it is the book of the month - every month.

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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.

Copyright Notice

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