Do you know the difference between a procedure, policy and instruction and
when they should be used in your business? And do you have the time to find out
and implement them anyway?
If you do have documents in place, are they up to date?
Here is a brief outline of key small business process documents in
order of importance, and how they will be of benefit in your business.
A Business Manualshould contain
information about your core business and key personnel, key policies,
outsourced activities and more.It is a sort of road map for your business. The business manual sits at the top of the document hierarchy. You
would benefit from a business manual if you need to:
- provide an overview of your business to investors or buyers
- explain your business to new employees
- take leave or recover from illness, in which case a manager could
refer to it
- provide it to clients or suppliers (with or without a
confidentiality agreement) to improve their confidence in the management of
your business. This is especially useful when tendering for a job.
You would benefit from policy documents if you need to set the
tone or expectations about a particular topic but don't require specifics.
A policy document does not include
specific task details or how to perform them. It is a statement of intent.
For example, a communication policy may include statements like:
"We will ensure that we communicate with all clients on a regular
Note that it doesn't include specifics such as:
- how (e.g. by phone);
- who will do it; or
- what form of communication might be used.
Policies do not have to exist as a standalone document. Policies
are often incorporated into the business manual.
A procedure describes how the business is going to achieve their intentions (who, how,
what, where). A procedure doesn't necessarily provide step-by-step instructions
but rather gives broader guidance. Procedures often address a process or area,
which then consists of a number of different tasks; i.e. the process/area might
be customer service, while the task is client calls.
Eg: An Administrative procedure might outline such tasks as:
- expenses management – what information is required to submit
- mileage – what can be claimed
- scheduled pay dates – fortnightly
- leave arrangements available – maternity leave, sick leave,
carer's leave etc.
You would benefit from procedures if you need to:
- have guidelines that provide some structure to a task or series of
- assign responsibility for these tasks
- say where or when these tasks should be performed.
Instruction documents support procedures. They might be called
User Manuals. They include step-by-step directions on how to do the work and
generally include a list of all the tools/materials necessary to complete the
task. The person performing the work should literally be able to complete the
task (after training) without having to consult any other document or person.
Eg: You may have instructions for processing customer
You would benefit from instructions if:
- there are multiple procedural tasks to perform in your business
- you require personnel to be able to complete tasks independently
- the tasks involve complex steps and require many tools/accessories
to complete them.
Records are supporting documents that provide evidence of work
that has been completed. (Forms etc. are not referred to as a record until they have been
Eg: Financial records, client requirements/details,
induction checklists, task checklists, website forms, letter or email
templates, maintenance logs etc.
You would benefit from forms/checklists if you need:
- to keep a record of the information provided or the work complete
- a standardised way of producing a letter/email/document
- to keep permanent records as a regulatory requirement.
Ultimately you need to structure your documents so that they suit your
own business best.
Hopefully by identifying and describing these different document
types you'll know exactly what you need and where to start on the tangled web
of business documents.
Could your business benefit from any or all of the documents
above? And do you have the time to put them into place if you haven’t already? As your business grows it is in your best
interests to have your documentation up to date.
If you need some assistance in reviewing or setting up your
documentation, call Fern at Your P.A on 0421 556 700 to discuss your requirements.