Author Archives: Farry Riddell Consultancy

About Farry Riddell Consultancy

Business and Administration Consultants based in Dunedin, New Zealand. We are here to help your business be all it can be. From business start-ups to businesses already operating, we can help you with your business queries, whether it be business planning, budgeting, business administration or strategic planning - give us a call!

Operational Manuals

Everyone likes to think that they are indispensable, but the truth is they’re not. This was highlighted to me in a recent trip to the urgent doctor with a particularly bad back when I was informed that I should have two weeks off work to recuperate (and perhaps regain my ability to walk). “But I can’t!” I spluttered, “I’m the only one who works in my office!” to which my ‘sympathetic’ doctor coolly replied; “They will manage without you.” She must have read my look of disbelief because the next sentence out of her mouth was; “Well they would if you were dead, they’d just get on with it.”

At the time I thought it sounded a little harsh, but her words did actually make sense, but also got me thinking; “What if I did suddenly have to leave?” ok work would cope, as my doctor so rightly pointed out, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be pretty for anyone picking up the reins with no idea what the job entailed, no one to train them or no clue what was expected from them.

Fortunately for me, that thought was probably just a by-product of all the painkillers that were in my system as I have always had an operational manual – aka “The Office Manual” in my office. This green folder is the font of all knowledge when it comes to my role in the company. 

I would love to take credit for its existence, but truth be known, it was already in place when I started. As I was originally a temp and therefore did not have any formal training, this manual held my hand, told me what to do and when, important things not to forget, showed me exactly how to work alien software programmes and basically was my trainer. That’s why I know it works. And works well. It was almost better than being trained by an actual person, it was clear, it was concise, it was step-by step and it was all written down for me to refer back to many, many times over the first year of my appointment.

As my role and responsibilities have changed over the years, so has the manual, ensuring up to date information was always available. 

Every workplace could benefit from such an invaluable training tool. Granted, it takes considerable work to first pull all of the information together, but in the long run you will be saving yourself valuable time and money in training.

 An Operational Manual frees up the time of others in the office as new recruits and temporary staff alike are able to refer to one source of information instead of relying on others for help. It aids the Kiwi mentality of pulling our socks up and getting on with things.

 It means that if you are a sole charge in your office and suddenly have to be elsewhere and unable to work that you could essentially pull someone with the ability to read off the street and have them do your job for you.

It is also a useful tool for jobs that happen infrequently as a quick reminder as to how to tackle the task – for instance procedures that you may need to go through when your annual insurance renewal comes around.

 A few tips for creating your own operational/training manual are as follows:

 1) Try to include EVERYTHING that you would be expected to do in your current role. The easiest way to document this is write down everything you do from when you step into the office in the morning until when you leave at night. Then think about the recurring weekly tasks that you have to do, then monthly then annually.

I even went as far as to say how to log into the computer and where all the light switches for the office were. It may seem unnecessary, but put yourself in the shoes of someone walking in from the street.

 2) Step by step – literally. Again, it may feel like you are teaching someone how to suck eggs, but in the worst case scenario you couldn’t guarantee that your replacement had in-depth knowledge of Microsoft Office or MYOB, so spell it out for them – be careful not to miss any processes out.

 That is actually how I learned to use MYOB in the first instance or I’d probably still be attempting to print out my first balance sheet, 5 years on!

 3) An easy to follow index/contents page. This is important, so the piece of information that someone is looking for is obvious straight away rather than having to trawl the whole folder.

 Also make sure you title things clearly. If one section is about completing GST returns, call it “CompletingGST Returns”

 4) Try to make your manual flow in an order that makes sense. You wouldn’t have information that you use everyday stuck somewhere at the back. Similarly you wouldn’t have how to complete a cashbook or creditors list before you had detailed how to make payments.

5) Make sure you are updating the manual with new information. I set aside one day a month to go through the office manual and update and insert where necessary. I also like to make sure that everything I have done is understood by others, so I get someone who has no knowledge of my role to look this over and try out a few sections.

 6) Including a schedule is important. It’s one thing to know how to do something, but unless you are doing it at the correct time, it may all be for nothing. This is especially true when it comes to Government returns, no one likes penalty fees!

We all like to think that work would grind to a sudden halt in the event of our absence, therefore proving how indispensable we are, but with the use of an operational/Training manual life can go on without you! The beauty of this is that when you return, things should be running just as you left them – and you can still take the credit.




Managing your office – an overview

 Many businesses fail as a result of poorly organised paperwork. In a well run office it is easy to obtain the information you need to see just where your business is right now and where it is headed. 

So you’ve come up with a fantastic business idea, you’ve done all of your homework, market analysis, business plan, budgets, financial forecasts, negotiated leases and organised premises, you have your product ready to go and you’ve marketed it so well, that even Apple would be impressed. Everything is looking a million dollars and you are sure to be a success……..unless you walk into your office to see something that strangely resembles a cross between an explosion in a paper factory and a teenager’s bedroom. 

Whilst you were busy eagerly beavering away on your stellar business plan and full of thoughts of being your own boss, you perhaps didn’t stop to consider the not so glamorous, day to day chore of the administration of all your hard work, blood, sweat and tears, after all there are administration assistants for that right? 

Well if you are a new start up you are probably in the position that you cannot afford to hire an administrator for 5 hours a week, let alone 30, so sorry to break it to you but guess what? It’s time to roll up those sleeves and make like Joanie from Mad Men (minus the matching two piece and copious amounts of whisky) and manage your own office. 

Here’s a quick check list of the 5 most important things you must consider for an office that a military general would be proud of. 

1. Filing systems. Probably the single most important procedure you need to have in place in your office. All those bits of paper on your desk? Well they should be filed away in the appropriate location. And it’s not just hard copy filing that you need to pay attention to either, electronic filing of documents plays an important role too, in terms of not having to endlessly search for documents on your system (and the longer you are in business, the more documents you will have to search through!) 

This is probably a good moment to get you thinking about back-up procedures for all of your files and information as well, insurance may cover a burnt-down building, but it won’t cover hundreds of lost documents. 

2.  Software. You may require specialist software specific to your business, but have you thought about accounting software? Email software? Word processing software? Spreadsheet software? Database software? Graphic design software? Calendar and diary management software? There are many simple (and complicated) options out there, but pick one that suits the needs of you and your business, not necessarily the one that claims to be all singing and all dancing. Trial software if necessary, many companies offer a 30 day free trial. 

3. Accounting Procedures. If you aren’t already an accountant, and you are serious about your business, I would strongly suggest engaging an accountant to help you keep track of finances and deal with the complicated issues. But this isn’t to say that you just hand them a box of receipts and papers at the end of every financial year. There are many things to consider; do you want monthly, 6 monthly or annual reports? Will they file your IRD returns for you or will they give you the information to do this, or will you run this alongside your own accounting package and you undertake this task? Can your accountant link directly to your bank account to obtain critical information they need, or will you need to give them detailed lists each month? Whichever path you choose, if you ensure the accountant is getting the information they require from you in a tidy, organised and concise manner, this should see your bills from them being kept to a minimum. 

4. Scheduling. There is nothing that breeds unproductivity more than not having a plan. Think about it, in your personal life you almost always come up with a plan for your free time or else it would be spent sat on the couch watching TV right? This is no truer than in the world of office administration and especially if you have several things you need to achieve throughout the month. Debtors, Creditors, IRD Returns, Salary Payments, Loan Repayments, Financial Reporting, Cashbooks, Backups and even filing should all be part of your monthly schedule. It’s good to know what you are supposed to be doing and when you are supposed to be doing it, it also allows the inner procrastinator in all of us to not leave things until the last minute and then have to spend twice as long on them. 

5. Record Keeping. We all know that we need to keep certain documents for 7 years to keep those lovely folks at the IRD happy, but what about the other things? As a rule of thumb, if it relates to your business, you should probably keep it. This is true of items such as leases, contracts, important correspondence, plans and agreements. And receipts. All receipts! If it is bought with the business account, or for your business you need to keep it! This will upset the people who hate “clutter” but it is a necessary evil for the auditors and also you never know when you may need to recall something you did last year. If you are in any doubt where to keep such information, I suggest in your well formed filing system (see point 1). 

So there we have it – the very basics of good office management. Obviously there are many, many other areas to running an office, but with these starting blocks, great efficiency will happen.  

You are a business owner and/or a manager, you want to be doing business, not spending hours wading through paperwork. And after all, you could never pull off that two piece like Joanie.

Rachel – Manager



Hello there!

Welcome to the new Farry Riddell Consultancy blog.

We are Business and Administration Consultants with over 25 years experience in business management, business planning and strategy management (amongst other areas) and are based in Dunedin, New Zealand

We will be posting articles related to the business world and what it takes to successfully run your own business to hopefully inspire, inform, get you thinking and maybe even entertain you!

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Manager, Farry Riddell Consultancy