Within a franchise system, the operations manual is a confidential manual provided by a franchisor to its franchisees. The purpose of the operations manual is to provide franchisees with step-by-step information and guidance as to all aspects of developing, establishing, and running the franchised business. The Operations manual is a “how to” guide for franchisees. In addition to serving the critical business function of training, informing and educating franchisees, the operations manual serves as an important legal instrument where a franchisor may institute and implement operational requirements to be followed by franchisees. Since the operations manual contains confidential information that only a franchisor shares with its franchisees, the operations manual is not disclosed in the FDD. However, the FDD will include a copy of the table of contents to the operations manual and information about the number of pages contained in the operations manual.
As a start-up and emerging franchisor your operations manual will serve an important role in your franchise system. The operations manual will be a critical tool for you to utilize in organizing and evaluating the operational components of your franchise system and will be critical to properly train and educate your franchisees. Within your FDD and franchise agreement will be numerous references to your “confidential operations manual” and your FDD and franchise agreement will state that the systems and standards associated with the franchise system are set forth in the confidential operations manual and that the franchisor reserves the right to supplement and modify the systems and standards contained in the operation manual. In addition to being a critical business tool for training, educating and instructing franchisees, the operations manual is also an important legal tool to assist franchisor’s in maintaining control over their franchise systems.
When developing and starting-up a franchise system, the operations manual, along with the FDD, represents one of the most critical franchise development documents. Many start-up franchisors spend the time to prepare their own operations manual and others rely on the assistance from franchise development professionals. Whether you prepare your operations manual yourself or work with a franchise development team, your participation in the development of the operations manual will be critical because your operations manual needs to reflect your business and your systems. When it comes to developing your operations manual it is critical that you avoid the generic and get to the heart of what your business is all about and how franchisees can duplicate your brand and success. When working with franchisors in our Franchise Launch Program, we have programs where our clients prepare their own operations manual and one where our team works closely with our clients and we lead the way in developing your operations manual.
Consider that the goal of your operations manual should be to accomplish the following objectives:
Below we have identified some but not all of the information goals that your operations manual should accomplish and a sampling of what a portion of the table of contents may look like:
The first information goal that your operations manual should achieve is to convey “your story”, “the story of your business and the business that they are about to invest in“. Don’t underestimate the significance of communicating your story as part of the franchising process will be to empower your franchisees to duplicate your brand. In many ways franchisees will, in certain aspects but not legally, be your business partners and it is important that they share the same “mindset” as to the business, customers and the unique selling proposition of your business. As to this topic, a sample table of contents, may include:
The second goal that your operations manual should achieve is to educate (not merely describe) the services your business provides, the products that you offer and how you deliver or provide these services and/or products. This second section is the “how to” section and should be extremely detailed. As to this topic, a sample table of contents, may include:
The third goal that your manual should achieve is to educate your franchisees about their obligation to market and develop their business. This is a critical section since, much more often than not, successful franchisees are not those working “in the business”, i.e. providing the service or selling product but, rather, those continuously working to market, promote and manage the franchise business. That is, teaching franchisees to work “on their franchised business” but not “in their franchised business”. As to this topic, a sample table of contents, may include:
The fourth information goal that your manual should achieve is to provide franchisees with complete detail as to establishing and operating their franchised business. This section should include detail and lists relating to issues such as approved build-out plans, requirements and restrictions for signage, lists of approved suppliers, recipes and step-by-step instructions for services and/or products. Basically a reference tool. As to this topic, a sample table of contents, may include:
Of course, there will be significant variation depending on your business and your industry. It is important to understand that your operations is a “living document” that, over time, will be adjusted, modified and supplemented. Developing the right operations manual will take you a long way toward establishing a solid foundation with your franchisees and maintaining control over your franchise system.
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