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  • Writer's picturePenny Hopkinson

Project Planning for your Franchise Operations Manual

Updated: Mar 12

Taking sufficient time to consider the many elements that must come together for an Operations Manual is like the careful planning and preparation that goes into baking a cake. Each ingredient, or element of the manual, needs to be properly measured and prepared for the recipe – the Operations Manual – to work.

Knowing who to take on your journey is like choosing the right tools and assistants for your baking process. Just as you wouldn’t try to mix a cake batter with a whisk unfit for purpose, you need the right team members and resources to create an effective Operations Manual.

In April 1979, a decade into my career as a journalist, I was covering socio-economic issues in the Arabian Gulf. A group of ex-pats had just finished playing table tennis in the basement of the Gulf Hotel, Muscat. Knowing journalists have a taste for adventure, a blonde, blue-eyed German ex-pat ending his tour of duty with Oman TV directed his question at me: ‘I don’t suppose anyone would keep me company when I drive my car home to Stuttgart?’ This wasn’t just a trip in a rare sports car with a good-looking guy. It was an expedition across fourteen countries. To be more precise – three thousand miles and much of it desert; some of it hostile. We’d need a Carnet de Passage and multiple visas, including one for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi visas for women are like hen’s teeth, but successful navigation of the disintegrating Saudi pipeline route depended on us reaching the Syrian port of Latakia and catching the ferry to Brindisi. Cutting out Turkey was vital because of political violence and the death squads.

Undaunted, and thanks to my Omani sponsors, their connections, and multiple strings pulled in the background, our challenge became a reality. Seventy-two hours later, Jürgen and I had our visas, our route mapped with timelines, and our accommodation booked to get us home 21 days from setting off. We travelled light with necessities, but had everything we needed in case of emergencies for the journey – plus a contingency plan. This was just as well. The only ferry for a week from Latakia had left the day before, leaving us no alternative but to drive through Eastern Turkey. An unforeseen fuel crisis and curfews in Ankara and Istanbul almost led to abandoning the car and flying home. But we made it on time, and on budget!

Project planning

Creating an Operations Manual, like the adventurous cross-country journey described earlier, requires meticulous planning, attention to detail and adaptability.

Initially, it’s about gathering the ‘ingredients’ or information – the guidelines, procedures and best practices that make your franchise unique. This is akin to obtaining the necessary visas for the journey. Not having the right information can impede progress, just as not having the right visas did.

The journey’s route is comparable to the manual’s structure. You must plan out your route – or structure – carefully, deciding which sections to include and in what order they should appear. This will help your franchisees navigate the manual effectively, much like a well-planned route aided the travellers.

Just as I relied on my Omani sponsors and connections, creating an Operations Manual isn’t a solitary task. It requires input from various stakeholders, including franchisees, managers and other team members whose expertise and experience enhance the manual’s effectiveness.

Finally, just as I successfully reached Germany, a well-planned, thoughtfully created Operations Manual will guide your franchisees towards success. It reflects your journey as a franchisor, filled with learned lessons and best practices, forming a roadmap for others to follow. And, like the journey, it’s a dynamic document that will require changes and adaptations as the franchise evolves, continuing the journey towards success.

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