Sunday, June 10, 2007

Week 37 – Want to Take Your Hands Off the Steering Wheel?

Walk into any franchised business and take a look around, I guarantee you will see the one thing that makes that business run like clockwork, the Operations Manual. The Operations Manual is the bible of running a tax planning or cheesecake making or hamburger grilling or any other type of franchised business. In contrast, how many non-franchised businesses have an Operations Manual on hand to solve the day to day challenges that every business faces?

Franchisors give their franchisees this manual so they can follow the processes and systems that led to the original success of the business. They often describe every function of the business, in absolute detail, right down to the procedure for cleaning a sink or answering a telephone. Franchisors do this because they know if left to their own devices, the business owner (or their staff) will perform inconsistently and deliver the products or services as they see fit.

Much research has been conducted on the success of the franchise system and the most important element attributed to those that are successful is the method of doing business. In most cases, the usual business rules still apply. You might need a great location, a unique product with mass appeal but ultimately it is the profitable delivery of the products or services that is the key to long term success.

Building policies and procedures for every aspect of your business is initially going to be time consuming. But look at it this way, until and unless you commit to putting what you expect in writing, you will never be able to leave your business. Leaving would be like taking your hands off the steering wheel when driving your car. So put in the work, commit to documenting one aspect of your business per week over the next three months. Eventually you will find yourself with a healthy sized overview of how to run your business the way that you want it run.

The bottom line: we are building an expert system rather than a business that needs EXPERTS to run it!

Perhaps one of the world’s best known pizza franchises is Dominos. Dominos is famous in business circles for the strict system that just about guarantees they can get that pizza to you in 30 minutes (this guarantee has recently been replaced by “Made Fresh, Arrives Fresh”). More importantly it will still be hot! How do they do this? You can’t rely on a fast delivery driver, or your best ever hire that is currently making the pizzas; you have to give all of the employees a tight system they can follow, no matter what their skill level.

Dominos do this by showing employees exactly how much time they have to complete each step of the pizza production and delivery process. They call this “Heightened Time Awareness”:

• 2 minutes “into the oven”
• 10 minutes “out of the oven”
• 12 minutes “out of the store”
• 22 minutes “to the door”

You can see how this framework allows a manager to pinpoint problem areas and make adjustments to create a consistent result. Pizza didn’t get to the door in less than half an hour? What happened? What point in the process took longer than it should have and what actual event caused this?

Within your business you may have made excuses in the past when the going got tough. In an independent pizza business the comments like “we are just busy tonight” or “we ran out of tomato sauce” might fly around when the going got tough. Well I will say it again. If systems have taken care of these trivial problems the pizza delivery system has every chance of getting the product out on time.

IKEA has similar systems for dealing with your order. Yes they are huge but remember they started as one small furniture store. Even the tickets on the counter at your local delicatessen are a system. How many shops have you been into which are equally as busy but have no system for dealing with the crowd? How annoying is that? Can you imagine if there were no guide ropes in an airline check-in area? Why then do so many businesses operate in this manner?

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