Franchise Operations Manuals

The Operations Manual is normally prepared just after the legal documents are completed. The Operations Manual is both the franchise system's "compass" and "tool set." You may have some franchisees who wonder why they need an Operations Manual, and who may think that it is just something to put on the back shelf. However, the Operations Manual is a very central and important part of the franchise operation. Be sure that your franchisees understand that the Operations Manual is loaned to them, that it belongs to you, and most importantly, they must understand that they are expected to adhere to the policies, standards, and procedures outlined in the manual. Normally franchisees are bound, by terms contained in the franchise agreement to abide by the information contained in the operations manual(s).

Here are some of the reasons why the Operations Manual is so important:

  • It meets your obligation to provide a franchise system manual.
  • It provides details about the daily operation of the business.
  • It helps ensure that all units operate in the same manner.
  • It establishes quality standards for the franchise system.
  • It is the basis for initial and ongoing training of franchisees.
  • It helps define and distinguish your franchise system from others.
  • It sets the standards against which franchisees can be measured.
  • It is a vehicle for making necessary future operational changes.
Franchise developmental consultants generally provide new franchisors with an Operations Manual, based on their experience in working with you. The initial Operations Manual will probably not contain all the material you will ever need. You will become aware of additional information that should be in the manual as you use it to train franchisees and as you manage your franchise system.

You will want to personalize and adapt the manual to your own business. Operations Manuals are never finalized; but are an ongoing work-in-progress that needs to be frequently updated. The manual should be updated from input from your staff, and also from input from the franchisees. Your Operations Manual will contain more and more detail as your franchise system is developed.

You can begin your franchise program with just one manual, but in time you may have several different Operations Manuals, which might include: A Trainer Manual for those who train new franchisees, Certification Manuals for franchise managers, a Multi-Unit Operator Manual, an Area Franchisor (Master Franchisee) Manual, a Franchise Unit Manager's Manual, a Franchise Unit Employee's Manual, etc.

Some franchisors are putting their Operations Manual on-line, accessible only by authorized individuals. The advantage is that it is easy to update without having to send out current pages, etc. However, before you do this, you should consider the security issues, how the manual is to be accessed, how you will prevent copying, and protection against unauthorized distribution.


John Power, founder of AdvantaFran Franchise Consulting, has extensive experience in franchise development and sales. He has been in and around franchising for over twenty years.

In 2005 Mr. Power began working as a franchise development consultant, and developed his own boutique franchise development firm. He has worked full-time in the franchise industry since that time.

He has developed a franchise consulting company with experience in all areas of franchising, from ...

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