9 Critical Things to Know About How to Write Your Franchise Manual

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A quality franchise manual is worth its weight in gold. There's a reason that so many people are willing to pay to get at the nuggets of information contained within the manual of a popular brand:

Because a franchise operations manual will contain all of the knowledge that makes a brand successful.

It's why their contents are often so well guarded. Hidden behind layers of non-disclosure and privacy agreements. And only available to franchisees who've signed their full agreements.

It follows then that writing the manual for your franchise is a critical step. One that needed to be planned and considered carefully.

Let's get started then.

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Here's how to write a franchise operations manual that will increase the value of your brand:

Create your very own franchise manual using this comprehensive template Download

1. Why do I need a franchise operations manual?

First things first though. Is writing a manual even worth it?

The short answer is yes. A million times yes.

Your operations manual is your go-to document for deciding who is responsible for what in any franchisor-franchisee relationship.

On a general level, it should include:

  • Each franchisee's contractual obligations to you
  • Complete details regarding how you expect them to fulfil these obligations

On a basic level, it tells your franchisees what you expect of them. It gives them all the information that you've accumulated while operating your franchise. And it tells them how to use this information to build their own business up to be as effective, efficient, and profitable as possible.

2. What will an operations manual do for my business?

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In short, a carefully planned and accurate franchise operations manual will help you make more money. It will allow you to manage your franchise network more efficiently, while simultaneously promoting clearer and stronger links between yourself and your franchisees.

A well-written manual will let you create a cohesive, coherent customer experience across your franchise network. This will increase customer satisfaction and loyalty to your brand.

Plus, by including all of the know-how you've accumulated during the period of your business's operation, it will give your franchisees a solid knowledge base to work from.

This means your franchisees will:

  • Bother you less - they'll have all of the answers they need within your manual, so there'll be less need to get in touch to ask simple questions.
  • Be more profitable - by knowing everything that you know about how to run this type of business, they'll make you more money.
  • Become promoters of your franchise - one of the steps most potential franchisees make before signing an agreement will be to contact your other franchisees. A strong manual will help your current franchisees to return positive feedback.

3. How should I set out my manual?

The first step is to set down your franchise operations manual outline. Because the precise items included in your table of contents will depend on your industry, the easiest way to do this is to check out what similar companies in your sector have in theirs.

Almost as important what to include at this stage is knowing what not to include. You can get this confirmed by the professionals afterwards (see Tip #5) but even at the planning stage, some knowledge of the legal requirements of such a document is very useful.

4. What sort of language to I use?

This is an important point:

The language to be used in your manual is not the same as that which you'd use in a memo, in marketing materials, or even in other internal company communications.

It should not be written so as to be friendly or to persuade its audience.

This is a technical document. And it should be written using a technical writing style. This means the composition should be designed to get information across as clearly and cleanly as possible.

It's not difficult to learn how to do this, but it is important to bear in mind.

5. How do I make sure my manual is correct from a legal standpoint?

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A key part of the drafting process should be ensuring that you've covered yourself legally. The most vital

point

of course, is that your manual should prevent franchisees from using the information contained within it to form their own company independent of your network.

But there are a huge number of franchise liability issues that could arise from a poorly written document too.

This means that once you've completed each individual chapter contained within your custom table of contents (see Tips #3 and #4), they should be professionally edited and reviewed.

Having a professional company write your entire manual for you is usually counterproductive. The costs are often exorbitant - especially as part of your outlay will be spent on outsiders spending time learning about your systems so they can write about them.

It's far better to locate the experts within your company who know the systems best, have them write the relevant chapters of your manual - and then get in some experts to edit and review the content to ensure high standards.

Create your very own franchise manual using this comprehensive template Download

6. When should I show a potential franchisee my operations manual?

 

A prospective franchisee should probably not see the entirety of your franchise manual until after they've signed their franchise agreement with you.

That said, in order so that a franchisee can make a fully informed decision about whether signing their agreement is a good idea in the first place, many franchisors will provide presumptive franchisees with a copy of their manual after they've signed some sort of confidentiality agreement.

This is generally good practice, but do be sure to cover yourself legally even when providing only a franchise operations manual sample.

7. How do I decide which elements to include?

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You can consult the list in Tip #8 for a basic list of what to include, and Tip #9 for more details. But here's a useful rule of thumb:

If your franchise agreement lists an obligation, your franchise manual should detail how a franchisee should fulfil it.

This means aspects such as:

  • How to set up a franchisee location and start trading
  • How daily operations will be conducted
  • How development or expansion will be controlled

If you're just starting out as a franchisor, this means that your manual might be significantly smaller than that of an established franchise system. To a certain extent, you might still be learning through operational trial and error and improving your systems...

But your operations manual should always include as much detail as possible regarding operational practices that are to be followed. A simple list item that states "this obligation must be fulfilled" is not helpful.

Looks always to the "how" of the issue and you'll cover everything you need to.

8. Which operational details should feature in my manual?

Your franchise operations manual template should be designed to include all of the operational data and information you're going to provide to your franchisees in order to help them run their franchise efficiently.

The pillars of this system will be threefold:

  • Your minimum franchise-wide quality standards.
  • Your franchisees' responsibilities relating to meeting those standards.
  • Your responsibilities as the franchisor in terms of what day-to-day support you will be providing.

9. What exactly does a "franchise manual" include?

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In Tip #7 we covered the general rule of thumb that your manual should include the specifics of how you expect your franchisees to complete the obligations laid out in your franchise agreement. In Tip #8 we thought about the relationships you need to delineate.

Now it's time to get down to specifics. Your manual should include at minimum, this Top Ten items:

  • The manuals and instructions for any equipment or software you expect franchisees to use
  • Lists of approved suppliers (if you expect your franchisee to source their own supplies)
  • Staff hiring, training, and motivation guidelines
  • Health and Safety rules, regulations, and standards
  • Brand management and visual branding usage rules
  • Financial management details and systems
  • Audits, assessments, and monitoring practices, including the metrics and information you require to be measured
  • Complaints management procedures
  • Examples of best practice in all areas
  • Marketing and online marketing system details

There are many other aspects that are commonly included in franchise operations manuals. But by following these tips as your starting point, you'll be well on the way to dramatically improving the value of your brand.

Making Your Manual Work For You

Local Fame is your go-to resource for all things franchise.

Get more information about how effective your franchise online marketing is now, for example, with a FREE report. Or give us a call to speak to one of our professional advisers about any aspect of your franchise operation.

We wouldn't suggest using a free franchise manual template, so we won't provide one here. But if you need any assistance relating to the operation of your franchise, Local Fame is the number to call.

Create your very own franchise manual using this comprehensive template Download

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