Business procedures manual: The style guide
We have read about the benefits of documenting the procedures we adhere to in our business. Michael Gerber has made a lot of money telling us we need them and Flying Solo extols the virtues of a business procedures manual, but where to start?
The concept of writing a manual can seem daunting.
The secret to writing a business procedures manual is to start by creating a simple style guide. Once you have a style guide, you are in a position to begin recording your business processes which will in turn develop into a procedure manual.
What is a style guide?
A style guide is an overview of how all business communication including emails, logos, business cards, promotional materials and business procedures manuals should be produced. It answers all of the questions about how it should look and feel. Pre-formatted templates, ready for editing could accompany a style guide.
"The secret to writing a business procedures manual is to start by creating a simple style guide."
Why should a business have a style guide?
A style guide allows for the generation of simple consistently branded communication material. Once refined and developed it can be used for internally prepared or outsourced development of communication material.
Who needs to know about it?
Anyone involved in preparing communication material for the business; for example a process writer, virtual assistants, advertising, marketing and graphic design consultants.
What are typical questions answered within a style guide
- What is the font style and size for Normal, Heading 1, and Heading 2 etc?
- What is the standard format for a footer, a header?
- What are the company colours?
- What are the margin specifications?
- What border size should be selected for images?
- What alignment should be used?
- What spacing should be between paragraphs?
- When should bullet points be used?
- What language should be used?
As an example, in response to the question what language should be used? a simple response could be; Use plain Australian English.
Or a more detailed response could contain specific information; Select English (Australia), use plain English, and choose simple terms over complex phrases. Use more verbs and fewer nouns. Use short sentences. Use the same words and patterns, don’t use synonyms.
It could go on to provide acceptable nouns, verbs and abbreviations, standard commonly used terminology and preferred key words for search engine optimisation.
Your style guide needs to allow for the development of easy to follow business procedures. Start simply and develop it further as you need it. Once created, you are ready to start tinkering with the first edition of your business procedures manual.
If you have developed a style guide, what have you included in yours?