It can seem like such an insurmountable burden to develop business systems, operational policies and procedures -- including finalizing them in writing, which is an essential step -- but the thing is, you don't need to do this for every single aspect of your business. Here are some quick tips about how to tackle a little system-building without feeling overwhelmed.
The point here is to focus on the things that take the most time and/or tend to be "problem" areas of your business. You don't need an encyclopedic operations manual -- not at all! Just a few simple checklists and step-by-step procedures, kept in a slim binder with enough copies for key staff and managers, can make a major difference in how efficiently your business runs. Depending on lots of different factors you might decide to give copies to all staff, or just let the department manager decide how to train staff on the procedures. But Step 1 is coming up with the procedure in the first place.
And don't feel bad if you have your head in the sand about tackling these sorts of system/organizational issues. Tons of small business owners blow this stuff off for years. (But these are the owners who tend to be the ones still working too much, many years into business.) Hopefully by following the advice above and focusing just on one or two areas, the whole concept of "systems" will no longer freak you out. And believe me, once you get a system or two implemented, you'll start feeling all tingly and freer almost immediately.
Quick note: I'm not talking about an employee handbook here, which would include important information and policies about sick leave, vacation, employee reviews, grievance procedures, etc. And with an employee manual, all staff should get a copy, not just key managers. Nolo has great resources on employee handbooks; go to www.nolo.com and search for "employee handbook".
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