As a business owner, the way your business should be run should not merely exist in your head. You need a place for new trainees, managers, tax preparers and other staff to refer to when in doubt, or when training. This “place” should be an operations manual. Operations manuals can be very long and cumbersome to write but they are important because they lay out every single process, policy and procedure that should be taken within your business.
Why you need an Operations Manual
Your tax preparers need to know more than just how to prepare taxes. Your operations manual is the foundation for what they will learn in-order to operate your tax business on a day-to-day basis. Operations manuals serve many purposes:
1. A communication tool to articulate your company culture and philosophy
Your operations manual can be used to set expectations and tone for your company’s culture. This is one of the first pieces of communication a new employee receives and should serve as the manual for conduct and procedures as if you, the owner were telling it first hand.
2. A training handbook
Proper training is so important. It is in training that each employee learns procedures, company culture, rules and everything else involved in being employed at your firm. You can’t expect a trainer to memorize and regurgitate every detail there is to know. Your operations manual serves as a guide and checklist for both trainer and trainee to follow to be sure everything is covered.
In addition to adding new employees, a strong, well-written operations manual can serve as a guide to opening new locations and duplicating your operations.
3. A reference tool
It takes a few times for things to stick and people to remember how to perform every task as instructed. Your operations manual is there to serve as a reference tool for all of your employees to use at any time.
4. A risk management tool
As an owner, there may come a time when you can’t be in the office all of the time. Your operations manual, however can. Additionally, if there is ever a question about how to do things, or whether an employee is out of line, the answer can always be found in your operations manual.
What your operations manual should include
There are several key items that your operations manual should include. We have listed many of them below.
1. Company Culture
Your firm’s mission, vision, and guiding principles should be prominently displayed in the beginning of your operations manual to set the tone for how you operate, what you hope to accomplish, and the characteristics you expect each employee to have while working for you.
Check out our post on Guiding Principles.
2. Customer Service
Customer service is a big part of being a tax preparer. Your operations manual should include rules of engagement and other items for how employees should conduct themselves when interacting with clients. This should include things like telephone answering policies, walk-in policies, etc.
Check out our post on Customer Service for more tips.
3. Preparer Regulations
We work in a very regulated industry so naturally these regulations should be written down and communicated.
4. Personnel policies
This is where policies like dress code, alcohol and substance use, and harassment in the workplace should go. It’s important that your policies are written down otherwise your employees will make assumptions that may be incorrect. It will also make it easier to take action when needed, as the policies will be right there.
5. Security Measures
As a tax office, you are dealing with financials, confidential information and money. It is crucial for the safety of your business and employees that you have standard procedures to prevent things like theft, fraud, break-ins and other security breaches from happening.
Check out our post on Backing Up Your Data.
7. Products and services
Your manual should list and describe all of the products and services in-depth.
8. Marketing programs
It’s important that your staff knows all of the marketing programs and discounts you have in place so that there is no confusion.
Speaking of marketing, check out our post on DIY Marketing for tax offices.
9. Tax Office policies
Aside from being a tax preparation business, you are running an office. You should list in this section all of the policies and procedures that go into running the office smoothly.
Check out our post on Maintaining a Professional Office.
10. Administrative procedures
Administrative procedures include things like payroll, daily reports, bank deposits, and office supply inventory. These are all mundane but important procedures that need to be written down.
11. Tax Prep Procedures
This is where you will list all procedures you expect to be taken when preparing returns for clients. Not all tax offices operate in the same way so this section really needs to detail expectations and processes for your tax preparers.
12. Year end procedures
There are certain tasks that need to be done at the end of the year. It’s a good idea to have all of these written down with a procedure for each one.
13. Office forms
It’s likely that you will have many different forms in your office. Listing and describing them all in your operations manual is helpful for employees.
Feel overwhelmed? Take it one step at a time. If your business consists of just you, take the time to write down all of your procedures as you go so that you have the beginnings of an operations manual when it’s time to hire a staff.
You could also take the easy way out – order our operations manual. Our comprehensive manual outlines effective company policies and procedures and communicates them to your employees and clients. Help your staff understand your company’s philosophy, which will help increase consistency in your operations. We even include a CD so you may customize the manual to your own business needs.