Today's my birthday so I've taken the day off. In fact, I plan to take more time off in 2008, finally getting weekends off. Besides spending time with family and friends, I of course think a lot about the business. Getting away from the business is the main reason to take two days off in a row. I plan on taking off Saturdays and Sundays. Saturdays are a prime sales day, but the stuff I really need to be there for are business related, such as ordering. Those activities take place during the week. Many business owners feel that they lose touch if their days off are sequential. That's the point! The business is there to serve me, not the other way around.
At the store I've been working on a procedure manual. I've come to realize that being the "key man" is a liability and that procedures are essential in providing a consistent experience for customers. I've always rebelled against the idea of "Gary's Game Store." I've always believed in the "Black Diamond Games" experience, for good or ill. I'm the owner, not the counter monkey (although that will always be part of my in-store job).
The store experience should be the same, regardless of whether I'm sick or on vacation, or who is at the register. Having a solid "franchise-like" process allows me to work on other things, such as entrepreneurial store activities or even side businesses. I've got a manufacturing business idea that's starting to germinate, but I lack the time necessary to devote to it. Having set procedures would free up time. Just add employees and watch it go.
Writing a procedure manual is somewhat tedious. It includes such enthralling reading as opening procedures, complete with flow-charts, scripts on how to greet customers, and step-by-step inventory receiving procedures. If you read my blog regularly, you know I'm capable of writing copious amounts of tedious material, so I should be fine!
I should say that writing a policy manual in no way means the current employees are not doing their jobs, or that we have problems that need addressing. Everything is working well, but there is so much to do in the new store that we have no common tasks. Every task is an exception. Cleaning the bathroom is an exception, for example. There is no schedule and no procedure. If I tell someone to clean the bathroom, it will get done, but what I mean by clean the bathroom varies by employee. It also means I tend not to ask unless it's too late and it catches my attention as dirty. That's bad, very bad. Procedure manuals attempt to solve this problem and make everyone's life easier by adding consistency. As Yoda said, "don't think, do or do not." Clean the bathroom is on page 68, if you need a refresher on procedure.
Does this suck the life out of an employee's job? Hopefully it adds consistency. It also means I'm not so dependent on hiring super-stars, like I do now. The goal is to have stellar procedures for average people that results in amazing service. That's instead of having stellar people who sometimes give stellar service because they're having a good day, or average service because they don't feel like giving 110%.