Think about the way you carry your business. You might have a clear picture in your mind about your company values, processes, goals, techniques, and intricacies — but your team won’t. Not unless you create a company playbook.
Here at Creative Clan, we help our clients file their taxes and document their brand guidelines, process workflows, and everything else that makes their business go ‘round. But back to the playbook. They look different for every business, and you could make them as specific or broad as you like. Let’s dive into playbooks and why your business needs one.
What is a playbook?
Let’s get one thing straight. A playbook isn’t simply a collection of SOPs (standard operating procedures) or a business plan. That handles the technical side of your business. Playbooks are overarching concepts and documents that describe any number of business-related items, like:
- Brand values
- Overall vision
- Customer service standards
- Business goals
- Success definitions
- Conflict resolution practices
- Inspirations and examples
Essentially, playbooks keep your entire corporation on the same page. They’re helpful for onboarding new employees, but also tailoring expertise for more experienced ones, too. Of course, you can update a playbook as your business grows and goals evolve.
The key here is consistency. A playbook ensures everyone has a reference point for representing your brand and carrying out business activities.
Why you should have one
Business management expert Chris Ronzio describes playbooks as necessary for small businesses to scale. They educate your organization about your day-to-day operations so you can focus on investing, marketing, and scaling your business to new heights.
You might even have specific playbooks depending on your industry. For example, a film production agency could have a dedicated playbook for story design.
Related Reading: 14 Business Terms Every Entrepreneur Should Know
Benefits of having a playbook
A playbook doesn’t cost you anything (just time) and creates immense value for your business. Here’s how:
- Creates business value and marketability: Say you want to sell your business, but it can’t operate without you. That eliminates your potential for a solid sale or interested buyers. A playbook helps make your business more of an entity, a well-oiled machine that can function with anyone at its head.
- Smooths out succession planning: Elizabeth Galperin, personal coach and head of Peak Productivity, describes playbooks as an important feature of an exit strategy, both for you as a business owner, as noted above, and for employee turnover or absence. Let’s say your number one has to take maternity leave. Who will fill her shoes? A playbook helps you maintain her success even in her absence.
- Supports PR strategies: How do you deal with a scandal? Do you have a set policy for charitable work? A playbook helps you maintain composure and consistency for events that can make or break your PR status. For example, a celebrity agency might have a playbook dedicated completely to managing bad press.
- Establishes consistent customer experience: There’s nothing worse than scattered customer standards and interactions across your brand. If customers receive varying service levels and solutions, you’ll lose credibility. A playbook helps maintain consistency in the way you handle your customers and clients, from return policies and conflict resolution to customer loyalty practices and general tone in interactions.
- Enhances employee engagement: One of the most common employee complaints is a lack of communication. If your employees don’t know how to handle a problem that arises, they want more support than an unanswered email. A playbook gives them a reference for those days you can’t be available.
- Paints a picture of success: Your team should have a solid understanding of how success looks in every business operation, from financial reporting to sales goals. Playbooks allow you the floor to describe success and help your team members consistently work toward it.
Still with us? You’re probably excited about all these benefits and want to experience them yourself. We’ve got you covered. Keep reading for a play-by-play on writing a playbook for your business!
Related Reading: When should I incorporate my business?
How do you create a playbook?
Keep in mind that these steps speak to a general, more comprehensive playbook. However, you can use them to create more specialized playbooks as well.
1. Understand your brand values.
You know what your brand stands for. You understand what excellent means to you, and how you want to present your brand to the world.
The first step in creating your playbook is to document those values and priorities. Ideally, your staff can help you with examples of how you demonstrate those values in your day-to-day operations.
2. Create business goals.
Here, you can start with your company mission and vision. What drives your work, and how do you help your clients?
Then, you can get more specific with your goals and add some subtasks to get there. Don’t worry if they change over time. Some examples include:
- Become a leader in your industry → Create regular thought leadership content and stay on top of industry trends
- Increase sales → Have regular training for employees and gather customer insights about their preferences for your products and offerings
- Acquire a prominent industry standing or award → Have management regularly network and attend industry events and communicate business successes at conferences or on your website and social channels.
You really want to get granular here — even if you change things later. Plug in steps to reach these goals, as well as regular processes your staff should follow to get there. Which brings us to step 3.
3. Collect information and track every process.
How do you go about finding leads, and who reaches out to them? With what language or structure? Document all of it and repeat for every business process, including sales calls, creative outreach, promotional efforts, internal scheduling, and anything else you can think of. You’ll also want to talk to people in your organization who carry out these processes every day to ensure accuracy.
Another thing to track is quality control and risk. If you’re a graphic designer, what steps do you complete before presenting a first draft to a superior…a client?
This third step in the playbook is quite similar to SOPs — we have a guide for those, too.
4. Brainstorm and document culture and policies.
Step four echoes the “brand values” step a tad, but you’ll get a bit more specific on policies that enforce those values. Plus, culture speaks to how your organization treats, nurtures, and promotes employees. You might also document the chain of command here, especially for unexpected situations (i.e., a team member calls sick).
5. Organize your insights and clarify with examples.
Conduct a review for purely organizational insights. Does every goal and process include all relevant steps? Furthermore, is success clearly described for each item? Use as many examples as possible in your playbook. And since you’re in the creative industry, make sure you include lots of visual representations and photographs where applicable.
6. Review the playbook.
Once you have everything together, pass it around to your employees and management team. Do they notice anything missing? Is something explained too vaguely? Make sure you gather input from everyone relevant to ensure as much accuracy as possible.
Your review should include a test. Why not use your brand-new playbook on your next hire? Ask them for insights into how straightforward the processes are, and ask if they have any confusion or questions about your brand’s policies, values, or business goals.
Your playbook is ready, and it’s time to spread the word. Give a copy to all of your organization’s departments and staff. You might consider posting relevant sections in different office or studio areas, too.
Future-proofing your business
Bottom line? A playbook helps you future-proof your business from inconsistent service and operations that could damage your revenue and reputation. Of course, putting together a playbook takes a lot of time and effort.
We know; sometimes the administrative side of the business can eat up more hours in a day than the business work itself. That’s why Creative Clan exists — to handle all the business operations and taxes so you can focus on your most important asset: your clients and customers. If you need support organizing your operational side or creating a playbook, we’re at your service. Contact us today for a consultation.