[IMGCAP(1)]One of the things separating national franchise tax systems from independent offices is the fact that they have a system that provides a proven, reliable way to run the business.

And one of the things they have that makes the system work is an operations manual, observed Chuck McCabe, president and chief executive of Peoples Income Tax and The Income Tax School.

“The way your tax business should be run should not merely exist in your head,” he said. “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 long and cumbersome to write, but they are important because they lay out every single process, policy and procedure that should be taken within our business,” McCabe added.

In fact, the actual process of laying out your procedures in an operations manual may lend itself to improvements that can affect a business’s success.

The operations manual can be used to set expectations and tone for your company’s culture, McCabe observed. “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.”

“A strong, well-written operations manual can serve as a guide to opening new locations and duplicating your operations,” he said. “It should be ready to serve as a reference tool for all of your employees to use at any time. And it can also serve as a risk management tool.”

It takes a few times for things to stick and people to remember how to perform every task as instructed, he noted. “Your operations manual should be there to serve as a reference tool for all of your employees to use at any time.”

“Customer service is a big part of being a tax preparer. The operations manual should include rules of engagement and other items for how employees should conduct themselves when interacting with clients,” McCabe suggested. “This should include things like telephone answering policies and walk-in policies.”

The manual should address personnel policies, such as dress code, alcohol and substance use, and harassment in the workplace. “It’s important that your policies are written down, otherwise your employees will make assumptions that may be incorrect,” said McCabe. “It will also make it easier to take action when needed, as the policies will be right there.”

“Since the tax office is 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,” McCabe noted. “These should be spelled out in the operations manual.”

“It’s also important for your staff to know all of the marketing programs and discounts you have in place so that there is no confusion,” he pointed out. “And, of course, it’s important to detail the office’s tax preparation procedures. Not all tax offices operate in the same way so this section really needs to detail expectations and processes for your tax preparers.”