Business Processes

Are your staff actually reading your operations manual?

By June 16, 2019 March 4th, 2020 No Comments

Ever wonder if…

Your staff are actually reading your operations manual?

 

Do you struggle with….

Keeping your procedures up to date?

 

Have you ever thought…

There has to be a better way to communicate changes to my team?

 

If this sounds familiar, this video is for you. I recently met with Chris Ronzio, the founder and CEO of Trainual, to chat about how Trainual can help you to:

 

  1. See if your staff are actually reading your company operating procedures,
  2. More easily get your procedures documented
  3. More easily communicate changes to your team.

 

 

Transcription below:

 

Sandra 

My name is Sandra, and I’m the founder of Get Simple Systems. Today I’m speaking with Chris Ronzio, the founder and CEO of Trainual. Chris and I share a common passion and

interest—helping companies document their processes easily and simply. Chris, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me today.

Chris  

Absolutely. Thanks for the invite.

Sandra 

Let’s start by talking about some of the common challenges companies face when trying to get their initial processes documented. Can you share with us what some of the challenges you experienced early on with your video production company were? From what I read, not having your processes documented is what nearly destroyed your business.

Chris 

Oh, it was terrible. So in that particular example, we had hired a new event coordinator and failed to train them properly, which meant they didn’t show up to a recurring event for one of our long term customers.

Chris 

And that’s the problem when you lack training. You have challenges pop up like that and they’re really unavoidable until you have everything documented and you can provide better training. So, we, unfortunately, lost that client but it was a great learning experience for us.

Chris

I often think companies feel documentation isn’t urgent, even though they are dealing with challenges related to lack of documentation. Mostly because in business, it always feels like there is something more urgent to deal with. So you really need to force yourself to carve out the time to write things down. That’s number one.

And number two, for most businesses, their processes are changing so frequently. You’re

experimenting, and you’re trying to figure out what works, and you’re tweaking things. And if you’re changing things every day, it’s harder to write things down and really get any benefit out of what you wrote down. So, it’s got to be the right time to really focus on your documentation.

Sandra 

I can totally agree with that statement— it really needs to be the right time in your business. I know, even just in my own business, things have changed so much just in the last six months! So when you finally realized, “Okay, I’ve got to get something down on paper, we just lost this really big client. We’ve got to find a solution here.” How did you just get started? Can you walk me through what you did?

Chris         

We started by completing a responsibility matrix. It’s a simple spreadsheet where we broke out all the different roles in the company and then listed every task that everyone does. We held a massive brainstorming session. We got all the tasks and responsibilities out in one sheet and then started sorting through them role by role.

This is an organic way to come up with job descriptions or a scalable position. Not just the grey area roles that people end up with by taking on tasks. We asked ourselves if we were to start this company in a way that we really want to scale, who would do what? This forced us to be black and white about it.

Chris 

There’s two ways I recommend people go about doing this. The first is by doing some time-bound brainstorming. This involves thinking about the things that you do every day—maybe opening a store or getting the cash register turned on or checking the inventory or taking out the trash or checking your email.

Then there’s things you do every week, such as payroll, or filing some reports. There’s also things you do every month, every quarter, and every year. And that’s a great way to get people to just start brainstorming what tasks they do.

Chris 

Then go back through your email and your calendar to see what you did in the last two weeks. Looking at your emails, take note of what everyone is asking from you. That’s how you get clearer on what some of your responsibilities are.

Sandra 

That’s a great idea. You mentioned earlier that as a company grows and evolves, it changes, and their processes are going to change with that. And then a new challenge emerges—how to communicate these changes to your team? Prior to developing Trainual, what did you find worked really well for communicating those changes amongst your team?

Chris 

Before Trainual, it was Google Docs, it was Evernote, and we had an internal WordPress site that we created and would post blog posts with the new changes. We had an RSS feed. We had an email distribution list. We had a CRM with different tags for the different roles in the company so that we could sort, filter and send out a blast message. There’s lots of different ways to hack this.

But, that’s exactly what I felt I was always doing— trying to hack the system. And really, all I wanted was a system that could automatically tell people that something had changed and that they needed to know about it.

Sandra  

So what you’re saying is that at some point, these tools worked really well for you. But it’s normal to outgrow them. You’ll know you’ve gotten there when its almost more work operating in the system that you’ve built. So where did you find the limitations really started coming in?

Chris  

When you document things in a document, as the name suggests, whether that be a Google Doc or a Word Doc, it’s one-way communication. This means you send something off to somebody and then hope that they read it.

There’s no feedback loop. You don’t know if they’ve actually completed it, or if they’ve understood it. You’re left wondering. Perhaps they have a suggestion the document to improve it based on their experiences. That’s what was missing for me. I would blast out all these documents or these emails or these blog posts, but then I wouldn’t get a response from everyone, and I’d be individually having to follow up with people and say, “Did you read this? Are you up to speed? Did you read this?” Or we would just wait and find out that someone wasn’t up to speed because they’d make a mistake and we’d have to find a way to correct it.

Chris 

I needed better accountability in my business. That’s when I knew it was time to upgrade to something like Trainual. Simply documenting your procedures works to a certain point. But, when your team size becomes too big that you can’t individually follow up with everyone or it’s not a good use of your time, you want to find a way to build that feedback loop in your business.

Sandra 

Right. I think that’s an important point—does your business have a communication feedback loop built-in? Often times that’s missed. It’s just assumed that the information you’ve sent is going to be read and interpreted correctly.

So, following your video production company, I read that you became a business consultant. During that time, you created this—Do It, Document It, Delegate It—methodology. Can you tell me a little bit about your approach and how it helped companies you worked with to scale?

Chris 

Of course. So, I was an operations consultant. We worked with companies to go through their systems and their workflows and make them more efficient. Our goal is to help them create a more scaleable operation. While we were doing that work, these three phases seem to naturally emerged.

The first one—”do it”—is when you’re experimenting, and you’re just trying to figure out the best way to do it. When companies are in this phase they’re figuring out how it should be done, they’re testing, and they’re experimenting. That’s not the time to write things down because you’re still trying to understand the business, you’re refining your product or your service, and you’re just figuring out how to do it.

Chris 

But once you’ve figured it out, once you’ve got some consistency to how you do it, meaning you do it the same way every day or the same way every time, then you realize you’re just doing the same job over and over, and if you want to hand it off to someone else, you’ve got to write it down.

So the next stage is the document it stage. This is where you actually create your manual or your playbook, whatever you want to call it. And then finally, from there you can delegate it. This stage is about empowering the next person to be able to do it and do it right and then refining it through their feedback.

Sandra

So I hear this quite often. Some people love systems, and then some people find it quite stifling. These are the people who purposely avoid systems because they feel it “stifles their creativity.” And that’s when it can start to feel challenging because the reality is when you’re building a business, “it’s like trying to fly a plane while building it.”

So, it’s a great recommendation that you have to take the time to figure out what it is that you’re trying to do before you build the biggest ship ever to house those systems in it.

Chris 

Right, I would also add that, you’re not—as a company—in one of these three phases exclusively. You’re always in all three of these phases, just in different positions or different roles in the business. So, as you figure one thing, that responsibility can be delegated to someone else, but that allows you to move on to experimenting over here. And that’s where all your creative energy can go towards.

So I think people have different personality types and traits, and some are more of the innovators and want to be blazing the path in those new positions. Some want to have more structure and be following the procedure, following the rules in these other positions. Knowing that is how you can shift people around in the company, too.

Sandra

Great point. So, back to the do it, document it, delegate it methodology. This is actually a huge concept that sits behind Trainual, correct?

Chris

Yes. When we came out of the consulting world, I looked back at all the clients I had worked with. Some of them had scaled to hundreds of employees, and some of them were stuck at a team of two. And I kept thinking, “What have these companies figured out that these companies haven’t figured out?” And it was simply that if they could do something repeatably, document it and delegate it to the next person then every role in their company could scale meaning they could replicate that role or hire more than one person to do that role. And that’s really where you find scale in a business rather than inventing new roles.

Sandra 

Right. So, let’s talk about Trainual. My understanding is, it’s a learning management system. How does it help companies better manage their operations manual?

Chris 

I guess technically, Trainual is a learning management system. We’ve ranked on all the top LMS sites, but we’ve never called ourselves a learning management system because most companies that we work with haven’t heard of that term—that’s a very enterprise term. We consider Trainual to be a hybrid between an LMS, an intranet, or a wiki. We’re a system that allows you to document all of your how to’s in your operations. You can use it for training and after that for reference. Plus it’s fully searchable.

So the way companies use Trainual is they’ll build out everything from new hire orientation to job ads and descriptions, to every process for each position in the company. And they end up building kind of a handbook or the playbook for their business. And then as your operations or policies change, they can easily update them. It will then automatically alert the employees the things that they need to know.

Sandra

That’s great. I was speaking with one of your team members last week, and I had to express how user-friendly Trainual is. I said to her, “This is a learning management system but it doesn’t feel like it.” Compared to other LMS options out there. Back in the day, I remember building our company SharePoint site and the amount of time and effort it took to get that site up and running for the company was incredible. Huge really.

So I thought, “Wow, this is great. You’ve got this amazing tool.” I can see really quickly how easy it would be to get set up.

Chris   

I think Trainual is in this way different. Learning management software has this connotation of you’re training on external knowledge, maybe you’re buying courses, or you’re trying to up-level your talent. But, we’re more about the internal knowledge of the business. And answering the question—”How do you do what you do?” How do we make it as easy as possible for everyone in the company to crowdsource that knowledge that exists? Build it out and organize it. And so that’s where we’re different.

Sandra 

That’s great. A lot of the clients that I work with, they’re companies that are in the process of franchising. So, maybe you can tell me a little bit about how these franchise companies can use Trainual to share and manage their operations manuals with their franchisees?

Chris 

Absolutely. This is a perfect use case for Trainual. Whether you’re a franchisee or a franchise, a licensing company, a multi-location, multi-store operation. If you can’t be in every location at once, to ensure the consistency of delivery of your product or service, then you have to rely on great training and great materials to get your people up to speed.

Trainual then becomes your online version of the typical three-ring binder or the franchise manual that you might give to a franchisee when they pay for their license. That’s what the system is. We have franchisees from all over the world using it, at a local level, regional level, national level. And you can set up in one of two ways.

Chris 

You can have one Trainual account with all of your content and invite the franchisees as users into the system. Or, you can have a multi-location set up where you’ve got one parent account that the franchiser owns. And then individual franchisee accounts that you can put content into that is the standards for the business. You can then customize at the local level things that might be unique to them, like the local community or directions or phone scripts or things that likely vary store to store.

Sandra 

Great idea. So, another great feature that Trainual offers is you can create some online quizzes, and you can add the training materials like you’re talking about. So maybe you can tell me a little bit more about these features?

Chris 

So back in my video production days, we did this with a simple form system using Wufoo.

Chris

I’m a big Wufoo fan—like a 15-year veteran. We used it to put together these simple quizzes, not as a really detailed test but as a knowledge check. It says, “Here are the high points of what we just communicated, we want to make sure that you understand.” Simple multiple-choice questions. Did you get it, did you read it? It’s just a check-in.

And, that’s just another way to drill in that accountability to make sure that someone just didn’t click all the buttons and go through everything and not pay attention. It’s also an optional feature within Trainual. You can put them after every piece of content or just one at the very end. However you want to do it. Either way, it adds a lot of value.

Sandra 

Yes, I think, particularly for the franchise companies. Particularly as ensuring standards is such a high priority for them. Integrating training materials and quizzes is a way for making sure that your franchisees are up to speed on your operating standards. If there are any new changes, they can really understand what your protocols are. That’s fantastic.

We’ve talked a lot about the features of Trainual. My clients often say to me, “I want to try some sort of online tool for better managing my operations manual, but what about the cost?” So, let’s talk a little bit about the cost of Trainual and how it compares to some of the other competitors out there.

Chris 

I like to think that we’re the best value on the market and one of the reasons for that is that we don’t price per user. We do this so you can focus on delivering training and getting feedback and the accountability that someone went through it. When you price per user, a lot of times, companies just share the logins. And so you lose the entire purpose of the system which is that individual accountability.

Chris 

So we just price Trainual in terms of buckets of users. So you can have 25 users, 50, 100, 250. Meaning there’s a range of plans available for companies of all different sizes. That’s how we’ve decided to do it. And if you were to break it down on a per-user basis, you’d find that we’re far less expensive than any of the enterprise LMS systems out there.

Sandra  

Right, I agree. And I think I was looking at some of your pricing breakdowns. Do you offer a monthly subscription?

Chris 

Yep. We have monthly and annual; you can save a little bit if you pay annually. But you can go month to month, as well and you cancel anytime.

Sandra 

Great. The monthly option I think for new businesses out there is an affordable way for a company just to test out the system and make sure that it’s a tool that will work for them. It removes the barrier of having to think about absorbing an upfront annual cost.

Chris

Right. Our plans are flexible. You can upgrade to different plans. Say you start with a small plan, start to use it and then as you add more team members, you can easily upgrade to a larger plan. So I think the monthly billing is a win-win because it makes us have to prove our value every month. We don’t lock you into something that you’re not using.

Sandra

That’s great. So, are there any new features coming out that we can look forward to?

Chris

Of course. We got hundreds of new features. One of them is we’re trying to make it easier for you to gather information in your company. People often get overwhelmed or burdened by having to put together the manual on their own. But the thing is all the knowledge in your company, the way you do something already exists. And the hardest part is just collecting that information. And so in my consulting days, when I would work with the company, that was the significant value we provided was that external person that could ask the right questions and get the information into the system.

Chris 

So we’re working on tools that help with that. Everything from bots, to wizards, to browser extensions and native apps. Tools that can just pull the content, as soon as you think of it, right into your Trainual account.

Sandra 

Right. So, let’s say I’m typing on a Word document or something like that, is that what you mean? Can you give me an example of what that workflow looks like?

Chris 

Yeah, let’s say you were answering a question to someone over email. You recognize that that answer should be filed into your Trainual account. A browser extension that’s installed with Gmail or any other tool could pick up that answer and encourage you, prompt you, to save it into your account. So it’s by collecting the things, the conversations you’re having that the brains of your business can build themselves. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.

Sandra 

I see. So you’re supporting that workflow. You’re cueing somebody to put that information in a safe spot so they can use it for a later day.

Chris  

That’s what we’re working on, yes.

Sandra  

Exciting. I look forward to learning more about these features. Chris, that’s all the questions I have for you today. Thank you again for taking the time to meet with me. I appreciate it.

Chris 

Absolutely.

Sandra 

I’ll post your links in the video so people can reach out and get more information on Trainual if they’d like.

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