Having proper policies, procedures and processes in our business lives is essential. They are critical to ensure that your business remains sustainable irrespective of whether you are a one-man show, have staff or stock or company cars, or sell products or services. There are many business functions that need to be performed repeatedly, in the same way, following the same order, every time.

Documenting these processes increases the chance that the correct order will be followed every time. It ensures that there is knowledge of what must be done, who must do it, how it must be done, what order it must be done in and what the expected outcome will be (if all the steps are followed correctly),

Having it all in black and white also removes the emotion from the job at hand. You’ve heard it before: “But I thought that you were doing that”, or “I thought that you meant X and that is how you wanted it done”, or “Wasn’t that your responsibility?” In my experience business owners – and I stand to be corrected here – need to outline policies, procedures and processes for four areas of their operations:

1. Compliance

Compliance policies, procedures and processes include:

– Any necessary registrations and/or licensing requirements for your staff or vehicles,

– Payment of fees pertaining to your business, such as the annual CIPRO fees, licensing of your vehicles, the PDP of your drivers, payment of PAYE (Pay As You Earn), UIF (Unemployment), SDL (Skills Development Levy), annual Workmen’s Compensation, and don’t forget your Vat,

– Corporate governance requirements, and

– The various other Acts and requirements that may pertain to your particular sector.

2. Administration

Your administrative policies, procedures and processes focus on the nuts and bolts of your business. Here you would cover things like:

– Raising invoices – when they should be raised, what the terms are and any conditions,

– Contracts – all requirements for supplier, clients and staff contracts, I Filing,

– Credit notes, and

– Company financial requirements – such as who does the books and when, or when payments will be processed and by whom, in this category, don’t forget the processing of staff salaries, when they will be paid and by whom and so on.

3. Operations

Operational policies, procedures and processes are the “how to’s” of your business. To process a sale in a retail store, for example, you would need to know how to operate the point of sale and, in the event that a customer pays by credit card, you would have to know how to process a credit card payment and even more specifically, how to process a Visa, MasterCard, Diner’s or American Express card (they are all slightly different). Can you just imagine a client’s frustration when confronted by a sales assistant who doesn’t know how to process a payment? Or imagine the irritation of a supplier who doesn’t get paid because no-one knows how to operate the accounting package – and the person who usually does payments is on maternity leave. If you were that particular supplier, how would you feel?

4. Human resources

Then there’s the nightmare of HR and staff policies and procedures and processes. Here’s the thing though, most cases that are lost at the CCMA by employers are lost because the incorrect procedures and processes were followed when disciplining or dismissing errant employees.

Now before everyone starts jumping up and down think about it for a moment. Think about the process of the law – a normal court of law. How many individuals have literally gotten away with murder because the police did not follow the correct investigative procedures or the public prosecutor did not ask the right questions or the case got thrown out of court because the correct documentation was not presented or the evidence was tainted or false or planted?

The CCMA finding for the guilty party is not unique to our country or to our laws, it is something that happens in the legal system and courts of law all over the world. So getting the right policies, procedures and processes in place is critical to the well-being of your company. Getting it wrong could very well result in you closing your doors and losing everything that you have worked so hard for.

OPERATIONS MANUAL – how-to guide

An operations manual is a document that outlines each and every process in your business, and should include the basic sections below. Remember to keep it as succinct as possible and to review it annually for changes.

Introduction: Purpose of the manual, how the company started, business objectives and philosophy; description of products and services, economics of your business.

Organisational chart: Who reports to whom, job descriptions, addresses of company’s facilities, importance of each department and division.

General employee information: Attitude toward customers, suppliers, and other employees, statement on how to handle telephone callers and visitors, housekeeping policies.

Personnel administration: Hiring practices, employment forms, when and how workers are paid, outside employment, reprimands, hours of operation, coffee breaks and lunch hours, dress code, personal behaviour, frequency of salary reviews, advancement opportunities, benefits paid by the company, contributory benefits, explanation of payroll deductions, labour laws, use of time cards, scheduling, overtime, leave entitlement and holidays.

Products and services: Customer relations, supplier relations, sales procedures, taking pride in what the company does.

Operational procedures: Flowcharts, process documentation, detailed directions and procedures for each department. This detailed documentation may not necessarily be part of the “master” manual but instead may be subdivided into appropriate sections which reside in detailed department manuals.

Paperwork: Administrative procedures, ensuring accountability, billings, sample of each form, purpose of each document, routing flowchart for paperwork, summary of deadlines and due dates.

Safety and security: Protection of physical premises, personal security, statement about protection of company assets, importance of safety to the employee and the company, handling of confidential information.

Emergencies: How to handle accidents, what to do in case of fire, power failures, robberies and thefts, emergency telephone numbers.

Maintenance and repair: Telephones, service people, who should authorise repairs, refuse removal, key control, handling of equipment, property damage or loss.

Legal: Compliance with local and national laws, handling of regulatory agencies, inspections, record keeping requirements, maintaining ethical standards.

Reference: Nikki Viljoen