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The Owner’s Manual

Creating a guide to help you operate more profitably

Wouldn’t it be great if someone would write the book that would give you all of the necessary instructions for running your business on a daily basis? The book could remind you of all the tax forms to be completed as well as when to write checks for the forms. The book would remind you of the necessary annual registrations that your business needs to complete.

The book could have a chapter on the necessary maintenance needed for your building. After all, even though you have been told how frequently you need to change the filters on your heating and cooling system, who is going to remember the last time you did change them?

Your point of sale system, and your accounting program also are likely to have components that need to certain functions performed, on a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual basis. If you are using some of the free anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your system, many of those programs do not allow you to set them up to operate automatically; only the versions of the software you pay for will do that.

Then there is that need to be reminded of giving job reviews to your employees. It is often seen by this writer that while many owners state they intent to conduct job reviews with their employees on a regular basis, they do not have a schedule established to do this. Asking the employees when the last time was that they had a job review, the answers given indicate they are not held on any type of schedule.

There is still a garden center to be run on a daily basis on top of all these infrequent events. What’s an owner or manager to do?

You could get one of those neat little software programs like Notezilla or Simple Sticky Notes. Now you will have these little notes pop up on your desktop at the appropriate time. You could even try to manage with the original sticky notes and have them on the walls about your office.

Of course there are several challenges with these. With the originals there is the unfortunate issue of one or more falling off the way and the reminder being lost and forgotten. With either there is the challenge of the actual note not being large enough for you to write all of the details and instructions.

Back to the book idea; what if someone were to write it? Surely you would hop in the car or go online to buy it from an independent book store. (Surely, as an independent yourself you are not going to buy the book from Amazon).

No matter how much searching you do, you are not going to find such a book for one simple reason. You are an independent business and most everything that would be in the book would be unique to your business. You have to become the author!

This writer knows from experience that you are not going to be able to sit down for a couple of days and write this book. Not only from the perspective of time restraints, but more so from the challenge that you are not going to remember all at one time, everything that has to be in the book.

The best way to write your book is to start with a three ring binder. As we thought we were ‘starting new’, we purchased one that would take a slip in cover page. We inserted the page with our logo and the title of ‘Owner’s Manual’.

We added the tabs to the binder with the appropriate notations; weekly, monthly, specific months and/or dates, quarterly, semi-annual and annual. We also created a table of contents, naming each of the appropriate notations and a sub list of everything that would be found in that section. We found that using the slip in page protectors worked best so that we did not lose any of the work we created.

The book was a continual work in progress. As an example, when a form would arrive from the city or county would arrive reminding us to renew our business licenses, we would photo copy the form, put it in a page protector and then place that page in the appropriate month. Some items required a bit of instruction added to the page because the instructions on the form were either not clear, or printed in a place that most people would overlook.

We learned how to save money that was being spent with the accountant by way of this book. There were several forms that required information from our accounting software. Our old way of doing it was to print out several financial documents, attach them to the form we had received and then mail them to the accountant.

The form would be completed by the accountant and returned to us along with a letter telling us where and when to send it, along with how much of a check to write, or expect to be automatically withdrawn from the business checking account. Of course, there was also a bill from the accountant for ‘services rendered’.

Only after having repeated this process multiple times, did we take time to look at what the accountant had returned to us. We then made a copy of the completed form as well as the pages we had sent to them.

Spending a few minutes looking at the form and pages, we began to ‘connect the dots’. The number on line one of the completed form was the same number as was on one of the pages. We circled both numbers and gave them a letter, ‘A’. We did the same with all of the other numbers that were on the form and pages.

Slowly but surely, we had marked what we thought was the process of completing the form. We then photo copied these pages with the letters on them and gave them to the accountant, asking if we had figured out how the tax form was completed. We had.

We then asked the accountant if there was any reason why we needed for them to continue performing the task (and sending a bill for each of the completed forms). With an answer of, ‘no’, we then added these pages to the appropriate place in our owner’s manual.

Now with each time we received that form, we were able to turn to the appropriate pages of the manual and follow the instructions which we had written for ourselves. As this was a quarterly form, creating this page in our owner’s manual, and following our own instructions was the easiest $300 we made in a year. 

There is another advantage to having an owner’s manual. While it works for a business that sells products, it is especially true for a landscape business. That is, when you are ready to sell the business, a prospective buyer will see more value in your business because you have created ‘processes’ instead of just handling things on a hap hazard basis.

The owner’s manual is never going to be a best seller, but it can be a best read book for you.

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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