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Operations Manuals And Training Programs


A chain operations manual is more than a policy and procedures manual. In particular, it also has important information for the unit level owner, such as business formation, business planning, site location and acquisition, risk management, personnel management, financial reporting, distribution agreement compliance and reporting, etc. Your operations and management manual serves several important purposes:

  • It is an extension of your distribution agreement, providing detailed regulations which may change from time to time, as needed, without changing the agreement.
  • It is your first line of defense when requiring all channel operators to conform to some standard.
  • It contains the basis for teaching your operators and their staff how to operate the business.
  • It is a reference manual for the operators and their staff.
  • It provides your support staff with a unified approach to assisting the unit operators.
  • It is convincing evidence to prospective unit operators that you have the tools that they need, in a format that they can use.

As a chain owner, it is incumbent upon you to be comprehensive and accurate. Although you should make your independent unit operators responsible for complying with all laws and regulations, you are still responsible for pointing out which laws may be an issue and be candid with respect to the extent of your expertise. You will be held responsible for teaching the operators the standard that pertains to the expertise that you claim or exhibit. You must also avoid giving the operators too much. It is important that the unit operator retain his status as an independent contractor with respect to liability for his and his employees' actions. Consequently, you must be careful not to provide complete personnel policies, but rather to act as a consultant with respect to which policies should be considered, letting the unit operator select the exact policy and language to use.

Operations manuals are always closely related to developing and refining your prototype, serving, at the same time, as a blueprint for the prototype and a means for managing it.

Manuals take many formats: loose-leaf binders, pamphlets, CDs, web-based, etc. Manuals may be protected by copyright, confidentiality agreements, and padlocks. These are all issues to consider when creating and distributing manuals. Most companies starting out should, at least, be able to collect operations documentation in a loose-leaf binder and call it a manual.

Operations manuals are variously referred to as policies and procedures manuals, training manuals, management manuals, franchise manuals, etc. Although we prefer to use these various titles to signify a specific kind of manual, we have included, as an example, a table of contents of an actual franchise operations manual that includes sections that could well occur in several different manuals. Moreover, some of these sections must be modified for a particular industry and company. Significantly, service businesses and product businesses share some, but not all issues. In our experience, most companies have some form of written operations instructions, some companies have too many instructions, and most companies need better organization of instructions and more easy-to-follow instructions. To see a sample franchise operations manual table of contents, enter:

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In addition to unit management and operations manuals, chain companies need manuals for training its own staff in marketing, selling, training, and supervising each channel. Similarly, chains using master representatives or area representatives needs manuals covering those situations. Manuals for the trainer are often referred to as "train-the-trainer manuals" which do not repeat the operations manuals, but cover how to use the operations manual and other means to train the unit operators.

Training And Managing Unit Operators -- Transferring The System

Training needs depend on the most appropriate "division of labor" with your unit operators. For instance, franchising is ideal when local sales and service are important. Product manufacturing, preparation, or warehousing may or may not be performed locally. Training is also used to transfer your corporate culture to the unit operators: learning the actual operation may not require much time, but gaining an appreciation for your philosophies usually take quite some time. In order to achieve that in a reasonable amount of time, we recommend likening unit operator training to "boot camp."

Basic training would include any headquarters training, training at designated locations, field training, and unit start-up assistance. Most unit operators need both classroom and on-the-job training. A typical day may include classroom instructions in the morning, on-the-job training in the afternoon, homework in the evening, and testing the following morning before new instruction takes place. Gradually, the on-the-job part takes over, and the unit operators assume full management responsibilities of the training facility, with the trainers acting more as coaches.

Because all training in any unit is expensive, every effort should be made to prepare for that training. Such preparation could take many forms, from studying the operations manual, to taking a part time job with an existing operator, to studying other forms of training materials: CDs, web site, etc. Unit operators may even be required to pass a test after such self-study programs before they are invited to attend the regular training program.

The chain owner should have the right to require additional training if needed. It is highly recommended that the chain owner give the unit operator every opportunity to complete training, but not to allow the unit operator to proceed if not ready. It is better to terminate the relationship early than to risk conflict later on. Proper selection of unit operator candidates is the best defense against such challenges. This is covered in more detail on the Recruiting Area Reps, Operators page of this Web site. All training should be timed to coincide with the start-up of the unit operation.

Initial training is not the end of training. The chain owner should be prepared to make frequent visits to assist the unit operator for quite some time -- maybe for six months to a year. All unit operators may need refresher training -- maybe once or twice a year. Some unit operators may need additional manager training. On-going support could also be considered continuous training, and should include periodic visits to the units. The frequency of such visits depends on the reasonable needs of the parties.

News... A recent US Supreme Court decision reversed a long-standing precedent and declared it not necessarily illegal for chains to set minimum prices. The same had been said earlier for maximum prices. The legality of price fixing is, therefore, now fully based on the effect it may have on the markets. READ MORE

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Our consultants have advised hundreds of companies of all sizes in most industries worldwide, including such brands as Commerce Clearing House, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, 3M, Pacific Bell, SealMaster, SkyTel, Sears, Henchy Industries, Hyatt Hotels, Ace Hardware, Beard & Warner, CBS, Stewart Warner, United Airlines, Northwest Orient, Coldwell Banker, Fidelity, Freuhauf Trailer, Buffalo Wild Wings, Budget Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental, Ryder Truck Rental, Chevron, Getty Oil, BP/Amoco, Mobil, Shell, Texaco Europe (Norway, Sweden, Denmark), St-Hubert BBQ (Canada), Pollo Campero (Guatemala), Helados Bon (Dominican Republic), Max’s (the Philippines), Nestle (Switzerland, Italy), Sonae Group/Orbitur Campgrounds (Portugal), The International Investor (Kuwait, England, Switzerland), Sushi Parties (Japan), L.O.G. (Norway).

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