The Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” has become synonymous with waking up to the same day over and over again.

Well, if you find yourself having to repeat yourself over and over again to the same people at your company, this feeling is a real thing … Am I right?

It’s not that they’re doing it on purpose when they continue to pepper you at your desk, in the hallway, and out in the field for the same information you thought you already shared, but we forget … It’s human nature.

And, if you’re willing to play “answer person,” they’re more than willing to play “question person” until the end of time.

More to the point: How can you expect to hold anyone accountable to what you thought you said to them?

Here’s how that tends to go: You say, “I told you, you need to button up your uniform shirt except for the top button. Your shirt is halfway open.”

The employee’s reply, “No, you didn’t”

To which you reply, “Yes. I did.”

And around and around we go.


You can’t operate your company effectively if it’s run on talking or, just as badly, run by issuing one-way memos.

One-way memos are the type you plaster all over the place, like: “Clean up the bathroom. Your mother doesn’t work here.”

Only one question left, “Is this form of running your company working?”

The answer is: probably not.

And, if it’s working at all, it’s because of a Herculean effort on your part to enable employees every step of the way, which explains why you can’t go on vacation or even get sick — heaven forbid you take a sick day — because you know the place would fall apart without you.

So, what must you do to stop this crippling disorder at your company?

You need to download all that’s in your head and commit to writing out the policies and procedures it takes to run your company with or without you.

Manuals that are written in a conversational tone versus a law book are what you’re after. And you’re only after the documentation on the 80 percent of what goes on at your company versus trying to pursue the out of the ordinary, which is the other 20 percent.

It’s important to write the manuals in plain English.

I can share that I had an employer-employee manual way back when, before I learned the right way to write manuals. I quickly realized I needed way more manuals than just this. And I thought I was on strong ground when I went in front of a judge about a staff member suing me. I pointed to my really thick employer-employee manual as if I was holding a bible.

He looked down from the bench and said, “I looked at your manual, and a common man wouldn’t be able to understand it. Do you run meetings on it so everyone knows what’s in here?”

I answered his question with a sheepish, “No, I don’t.”

And of course, I lost my case.

It was a good lesson, although it didn’t feel like it at the time.

What I had learned for the next time I put manuals together was that they needed to be in plain English, and they had to be reviewed in weekly meetings to have any leverage when push comes to shove. I hired professional industry writer Dan Holohan, who informed me that until I had weekly meetings on the manuals, it was still one-way communication. I needed to let my staff have a voice in what we were asking them to do. This proved to be a fairer approach. And, staff buy in proved to be the secret sauce I was missing.

The manuals are far more than a CYA (yes, cover your anatomy).

It cost our company $100,000 to create these manuals in 1996, which is about $153,000 in today’s money. The good news: We recouped our investment in about two years because:

  1. The manuals had us operating more effectively and efficiently in every department;
  2. The amount of unnecessary callbacks dropped dramatically;
  3. The sections on safety and good work habits reduced the amount of injuries, and when they did happen, the severity was lessened, which led to more hours worked and billed;
  4. We had defined best practices for the work we did. Better and more inclusive repairs were sold and done; and
  5. We got re-rated by our insurance company because there were less insurance claims due to better work practices being defined and practiced in the field.

There’s more power unleashed in a good way when you engage Operating Power. It’s the foundation for creating training curriculum that allows you to fill in the holes in your existing staff, no matter if they work in the office or in the field.

Operating manuals are the backbone of the agenda for effective weekly meetings. It’s where the staff knows they can challenge the status quo on policy or procedure if they can offer a better, cheaper, or faster way to do things.

Build a systematic company and get your life back while you empower others. It’s the best thing you can do for your employees and yourself.  

Publication date: 5/22/2017

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