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Policy and Procedure Manual

Using A Manual To Help You Manage

As merchants, we have found that the profitability of our store is more affected by our ability to control or decrease expenses, than by increasing our sales. However, effecting a change such as this is very hard to do. Many expense items, such as utilities or property taxes are largely out of our control.

Surprisingly, we have found that the two largest expense items, cost of merchandise and wages, can be affected. The cost of merchandise has been lowered by continually working on our variable price and promotional item program. The personnel costs have been lowered by the usage of our management tools.

We believe that our management tools contribute to our bottom line because they make our time, the most expensive in the store, more available to us. Two of our four management tools are job descriptions and job specifications. We use job descriptions to tell our team members what their job is. Job specifications, which are used by cashiers and warehouse personnel, list how to perform these duties.

Of our written tools, we feel that our policy & procedure manual has been the most valuable. We define our two part manual as being the written rules for our store as well as providing the directions for performing many of the everyday tasks.

The manual began as a written guideline for our bi-weekly staff meetings. During our meetings, we would discuss product knowledge, but we also spent a sizeable amount of time solving problems. We would review with our team members what type of clothing to wear to work, how to perform the daily maintenance chores throughout the store, how to write a service order for lawn mower repairs, and numerous other daily functions. Unfortunately, we found that we were repeating the same material on a too frequent basis. And to further the problem, we had no way of introducing this information to new team members.

Seeing that our time was being wasted repeating this material, and resolving problems that should not be reoccurring, we began problem solving by putting in writing, how we wanted a particular job performed. In the case of writing a lawn mower repair ticket, we detailed how to perform the job, including details for warranty and estimate work. We asked our lawn mower mechanic to review our ideas to make sure that the completed form would provide him with the necessary information so that he would not have to call the patron for additional details or instructions.

We also asked our cashiers and office secretary to review the letter to make sure that we had met their needs. Our cashiers input was necessary as we require them to attempt to notify the patron by telephone when the work is completed. Their input was also necessary in making sure that the information is properly written to tabulate the bill.

Upon completing a form which met everyone's needs, we created the instructions written as a letter. Attached to the back of the written instructions was a copy of a properly completed service order. During the next staff meeting, we presented, discussed, and answered questions regarding the new instruction sheet. Each team member was given a copy, which they signed and returned. The signed copy was placed in their employment file.

We created a notebook containing each of our policy & procedure letters, with copies being kept at the registers and at the time clock. The purpose of the notebook is to allow team members to have printed material available in case a need to review the procedure occurs.

After having created one of the letter instruction sheets, and experiencing the results we needed, we began to look to repeat the letter in other areas. The letters began to fall into two categories. The policy section is our store rules, while the procedure section is the instructions for performing certain tasks. The collection of letters, which are arranged in the sequence that they were created, currently numbers twenty-two. Our thirteen policy letters, which detail the written rules of our store, begin by telling each team member that we consider each letter as a contract. In addition to covering our dress code, we detail vacations, pay checks, the required Skyway University attendance, as well as our bonus and incentive program.

The nine procedure letters provide instruction for performing tasks such as writing special orders, service orders, and stocking the shelves. We have a procedure letter that details for our floor supervisors, an item for item instruction for opening or closing the store each day. This letter, a 20 point instruction sheet, has eliminated problems such as cash doors left unlocked at night and security systems not being turned on.

Our experience has been that we are able to have a new team member become productive at a much faster rate than when we simply assigned an experienced team member to show the new one about the store. On occasions where we have hired a new team member with previous retail experience, we have been complimented about our professional indoctrination program.

Finally, from a legal point, we would be able to use a letter to protect our store in the event we were summoned to a hearing before a state unemployment board. We have not had the misfortune of such an occurrence in over five years. We believe that this is not due to good luck, but instead is a credit to our policy & procedure manual.

By having developed the manual, we feel that we have a more quality level of employees, and we are able to spend more of our time managing our store, and working on the profitability of the store as compared to spending our time constantly solving every day problems.

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