Creating An Operations Manual For Your Professional Practice

5 minute read

Your Professional Practice is meant to grow. Whether you’re currently a rookie, sitting in the bullpen with a dozen other rookies, or an advisor with one assistant, or even a small team, you have the potential to reach the next stage of Professional Practice. A small team of two can turn into seven or even more during good Client Years.

As your practice expands, the dynamics of your office can become complex, and the sharing of knowledge between team members can get complicated. Having an operations manual is critical to the success of an expanding Professional Practice.

According to Wikipedia, “The operations manual is the documentation by which an organization provides guidance for members and employees to perform their functions correctly and reasonably efficiently.”

When it comes to a consultant’s ability to achieve their own financial goals and objectives, an operations manual should not be overlooked. It is the solution that will help you streamline your practice, eliminate bottlenecks, and avoid costly and embarrassing client errors! It not only improves the scalability of your Professional Practice but covers different business aspects such as employee training, knowledge management, Standard Operating Procedures, and much more.

As consultants, we spend the predominant amount of our time in our business’s marketing and consulting aspects, often forgetting the operational and service areas that other members of our team handle. Although we are fully occupied with finding and raising money or managing the process for our clients, we must at the same time put an effort toward managing our business. Included in this is managing the people and resources that we have working together as an organized team.

The Professional Client Experience Demands Operational Management & Delivery

To deliver the best possible experience to every client, no matter the size of their portfolio requires a properly functioning team that is invested in the vision and direction of the practice and strives to deliver consistent service.

I would be the first to admit that this is a continual learning process and is not something you master overnight. The skills that have allowed us to become successful as consultants are not typically the skills that make us good managers of our team. Team building requires a different skill set. This article will discuss the first of several tools and skills to bring about a cohesive working team.

Too often, in our desire to cover shortages in staffing, we train our team so that everyone can do everybody’s job. In theory, it seems like a prudent approach. In practice, it leads to chaos at worst and a lack of ownership of a role at best. For the professional team to function, team members must know what duties and responsibilities he or she has. Every person on the team has a specialty. That specialty is his or her “hat.” It defines his or her role on the team. An organized team is made of certain people doing specific jobs. A disorganized team consists of each person wearing all hats regardless of assignment. Everyone wears his or her own assigned hat and is a specialist. It is said that too many captains sink the ship. The same can be said of a team where everyone wears all the hats.

An Operations Manual is the backbone of your Professional Practice and can be as simple as a job description for each role but is much more. An Ops Manual is a living document and is designed to outline each of the roles and responsibilities on the team and show each team member how to do their job, and give them everything they need to do it.

Typically the Operations Manual is a notebook or folder of printed documents containing:

  • All of your standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • An organization chart outlining the hierarchy of your team and each person’s place in the organization
  • The purpose of each position or role in the organization
  • A write-up of the duties and responsibilities of each position
  • A flow chart showing what items are received by that person, what changes he or she is expected to make, and where the items are routed
  • Contact details for each team member and important stakeholders
  • Emergency procedures
  • And more!

The Operations Manual is a way of ensuring that you and your team can efficiently carry out tasks with consistent results so that your clients receive exceptional service. With an operations manual, human errors are minimized. Everyone on the team accurately knows what they need to do to get results, how they deliver results, and to whom!

When all team members know what is expected of each other, jobs and projects are delegated easily. Everyone is measured by a statistic that relates directly to what he or she is producing. The additional value is that the entire job is now defined in writing. When a person is promoted or leaves the team, his or her replacement now has a detailed write-up of the duties. This reduces training time and cost.

To create the Operations Manual, we must start with the purpose of the position. By sitting down with each team member, the purpose of the role can be agreed upon jointly. The duties and actions can then be detailed in a checklist and decided upon again. This process is continued until the manual is complete. Now each team member can take ownership of the role and its responsibilities.

We can now direct the team as a working whole rather than dictate action by action. Everyone takes responsibility and ownership of their part of the process. As consultants, we can focus our attention on where it best serves our clients and the team. Team members are now empowered with the tools necessary to accomplish the task set before them. Because you have jointly agreed with the team member on the details upfront, he or she is free to work within the boundaries set. You no longer need to monitor each person constantly. The workplace becomes relaxed and efficient.

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