As entrepreneurs, we always talk about building a team full of rockstars and A-players. But is this really that important?

Think about it... one of the biggest fast food chains in the world,  McDonald's, is basically powered by an army of teenagers who don't have much work experience or skills. All in all, McDonald's made $21 billion in 2018 -- and they did this off the backs of their teenage employees.

So, how is it that McDonald's hasn't fallen apart, and it's still turning a huge amount of profit each year? Well, it all boils down to their business systems and operating manuals.

In a nutshell, McDonald's relies on tried-and-tested systems and processes that take the guesswork out of delivering a great product (in their case, a burger).

On top of that, they also utilize operating manuals to ensure that every employee they hire knows exactly how to do their job. There are manuals for hiring, manuals for product delivery, manuals for customer interaction... you get the picture.

Your business might not be as big as McDonald's, but I bet there's a lot you can learn from their practices to make it work better. Here are just a few ideas:

Use operating manuals to train your staff.

If you're not 100 percent clear what an operating manual is, it's basically a collection of policies and procedures that communicate to your employees the best way to go about a certain task, project, or job.

Now, the beauty of operating manuals lies in the fact that they allow you to be consistent. Let's say you've franchised a McDonald's outlet, for example. If the HQ shares that the best way to get golden-brown fries is to toss them in the deep-fryer for exactly 3 minutes, then you'll want your employees to stick to that timing -- no more, no less.

This way, your customers will always get perfect fries. They won't have to settle for undercooked fries or overcooked fries, depending on the skill level of the employee that's working the fry station that day.

Operating manuals bring about accountability, and help you expand quickly.

Another benefit that operating manuals bring to the table? They allow you to enforce accountability.

Operating manuals essentially level the playing field, and ensure that everyone knows how to perform a particular task or job. This way, you can hold your employees accountable, and they won't be able to use the excuse of not knowing how to do something, or forgetting the proper procedure or guidelines.

Last but not least, operating manuals also help you easily replicate your business in another town or city. Ideally, you'd want to have an experienced manager set things up at your new outlet or branch... but if this isn't possible, you should be able to rely on your processes and operating manuals to get things done.

What makes a good operating manual?

Simply put, a good operating manual is comprehensive yet concise, and it conveys information that your employees need to know in a simple, straightforward manner.

Let's break it down: firstly, your operating manual should cover all aspects of the topic that it seeks to address. For instance, say that you're writing an operating manual about updating your company's social media platforms. It's not enough to simply state when and how often your employee should post on these platforms; instead, you should also include details about:

  • The content to be posted
  • The pictures or media to accompany the posts
  • The content calendar (if any) and approval process
  • The style/tone to use
  • Other posting best practices and guidelines
  • Posting FAQs

Now, it's also important to write your operating manual in a way that's brief and concise. Use clear, unambiguous language, and consider including a glossary of key terms and jargon if your operating manual will be read by new hires who may or may not be familiar with these terms.

Published on: May 28, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.