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How to write a Franchise Operations Manual

Replicating a successful business isn't easy. An operations manual can help.

Replicating something simple—like a drawing, a flow chart, or a recipe—is quite easy. But what if you’re going to replicate an entire business? How are you going to ensure that all the business operations will be successfully repeated to arrive at the same positive results?

If you’re running your own business, and you see that after months or years, your brand is getting attention, repeat customers, social media following, and steady income, the next best thing to do is to open another branch in another area or to open your brand to franchising. And the most effective way to do this is to replicate the successful prototype. 

It might look simple, but replicating an entire business is complicated and can be challenging. The fact is your franchise agreement and other legal documents are not enough to put in detail all the operations of your business. What you need to do is to create a franchise operations manual that will serve as the “bible” of your franchise business. 

So, what is the objective of the franchise operations manual? 

This manual is an instruction or reference manual given to a franchisee for effectively running the franchise. It sets out in detail the specifications, standards, and procedures with which franchisees must comply with in operating their franchise and should consistently deliver on the franchisor’s brand promise. Beyond just operations, it also teaches the franchisee how to manage the business—from marketing, finance, HR and other functions.

To specify in detail, here are the nine specific objectives of the franchise operations manual:

1| To serve as a training tool or induction material for new franchisees

2| To allow franchisors to scale their operations

3| To serve as the franchisee’s daily reference tool

4| To empower the franchisee with all required knowledge to run the franchise

5| To reduce the influx of emergent questions that the franchisor needs to answer

6| To ensure uniformity of customer brand experience

7| To ensure quality control across all branches

8| To identify accountability of staff for the process assigned

9| To serve as demonstrable evidence that the franchisee is an independent contractor in the face of a claim against the franchisor that it is liable for franchisees’ actions/errors

Consulting the experts

The business owner or the franchisor is responsible for crafting the manual because after all, he/she is the one who knows all the nitty-gritty of the business operations. However, it’s always advisable to get the proficient advice and guidance of franchise experts and consultants as the process of writing and producing an effective manual can be very challenging. 

Franchise experts and operation consultants will make sure that the operating systems and processes of your business are first analyzed using actual observations, surveys, and interviews. Then, recommendations based on industry practice or corrective measures will be provided to fine-tune the operations for improvements. Once the franchisor sees that the improved operations are indeed effective and efficient, what comes after is the documentation and drafting of the franchise operations manual.

How long does it take to create a franchise operations manual?

There is no set deadline or timeframe for crafting this manual. However, on the average, the process would take six to 12 months, from the time of initial process observations up to the finalization of the manual. 

In creating a franchise operations manual, here are 10 tips to make sure that your project will be fruitful: 

1| Create a table of contents tailored to your concept.

2| Recognize who are your readers.

3| Refrain from using legal or super technical language or terms.

4| Pay attention to word selection.

5| Use a user-friendly layout and design.

6| Deliver information and instructions as clearly and cleanly as possible.

7| Make the document easy to update.

8| Make the manual interactive and not boring to read.

9| Pay attention to small details that are also referred to in the franchise agreement and make sure such details match and do not contradict with each other.

10| Don’t forget to create and capture audit mechanisms 

Though manuals can be developed internally, this should be done if the company has enough bandwidth to dedicate its people on developing manuals for the next six to 12 months. Owners should focus on business growth, innovation and leadership of the team. If this is not possible, or creating an operations manual takes too much of the owner’s and operations management’s time, then it may be worthwhile to seek help from professionals or experts to develop your franchise operations manual for you. 

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