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by Mike Mingus

Many elements go into the day-to-day operations of an event facility. It could be a new building, one recently renovated, or an image that has been changed. Finding the right staff, creating or changing policies and procedures, computer applications and safety guidelines all require immediate attention.

Facility managers use a facility operations manual as a primary tool in accomplishing these tasks and many others. An operations manual can be the most important tool for the staff at your facility. It serves as a resume for any member of your organization who is involved in the planning or implementation of any event or activity. It creates an important record of guidelines, procedures, standards and expectations of your facility and can be a great tool for training employees to do things correctly. It allows for consistency throughout the organization.

Why You Need A Manual

• Writing an operations manual will save you time in the long run and help protect your facility.
• A manual frees you up. Many times employees ask you the same questions over and over again. By putting the answers in written form in a manual, you will eliminate the need for employees to always come to you with questions concerning procedures.
• A manual improves your training. An employee manual serves as a roadmap to do a job correctly. It tells the employee what his role is. The more procedures that employees are officially told about, the more confidence they'll have.
• A manual will improve your consistency of service. The more you leave to your employees' judgment, the less likely it is that they will do things the way you want them done. Your customers want consistency. Standard operating procedures for a variety of situations provide guidance for your staff.
• A manual reduces staff conflict by stating in writing who is responsible for specific tasks. The operations manual is usually the first formal communication that you will have with an employee after they join your team. In the event of a dispute or poor performance review, this will be the first place that the employee turns.
• A manual provides a document to back you up if you must fire someone who then files for unemployment or goes to a labor board with a complaint.

What should be included in my Operations Manual?
Facility guidelines, procedures and expectations should appear in your operations manual, as well as any important information that you feel should be available to the entire staff. The operations manual should be the first place a member turns when there is a question about your facility’s standards or procedures. Major policy statements should be included as well. Does your organization emphasize teamwork, informality, and competitiveness? Your employees will see the manual as a guidepost to the organization’s culture.

Some examples of policy/ organizational statements are:
• Mission or Vision statement
• We are an equal opportunity employer
• We support and enforce a smoke-free environment

The following areas should serve as a guide for your operations manual:
• Goals or action plans for the current year
• Organizational chart
• Job descriptions and responsibilities
• Contact information of key staff
• Standard operating procedures (should include standards, discipline procedures, etc.)
• Media guidelines
• Event procedure checklist
• Safety and liability guidelines (emergency response, keys & security)
• Any governmental rules that must be adhered to (for local, state or educational institutions)
• Organizational history
• Calendar of regular events
• Regularly used forms (such as time off requests, maintenance requests, event charges, event critiques, AV forms, suggestion forms)
• Glossary or index

The last page should be an employee agreement.
Instruct your employees to read and sign an agreement acknowledging that they have read the manual and keep the document on file. Include a statement similar to the following:
"I have read the Policies and Procedures Manual and hereby acknowledge a clear understanding of same. In addition, I hereby agree that as long as “Your Facility” employs me, I will make every effort to uphold and maintain the policies and procedures contained therein. It is also my understanding that violation of said policies and procedures constitutes grounds for dismissal. Set forth and signed by myself and the employer's top executive."

Include space for the employee's name, the date of signing and a witness's signature on the document.

How do I use my Operations Manual?
This may seem obvious, but your operations manual is useless if your staff doesn’t know about it and use it. It is important that after personnel are hired, staff training begins immediately and an operations manual will be needed to assist in this process. Having a well-written and easy-to-understand manual is a key in this process. Staff needs to know what is expected of them, as well as have a reference guide for assistance. A training manual and training sessions will create a more proficient organization. The operations manual is an important element that should be used as part of your new staff-training program while your seasoned employees need to refer to the manual on occasion as a reminder and to find solutions to problems. You should consider making the manual more user friendly by placing it online, creating videos, or CD-ROMS. They are easy to do and will assure that every staff member always has access when they need it. Your manual should be updated annually. Designate a staff member to be responsible for its maintenance. Remember that by outlining guidelines, procedures and standards your facility staff has a responsibility to act accordingly. To transform your operations manual from a statement of expectations into daily actions, you need to reinforce it with training, leadership and accountability.

How do I find information to create my Operations Manual?
• Review your facility’s mission or vision statement
• Check your facility’s files from previous years as they hold valuable information for procedures and for organizational history
• Check on your governing agency’s rules and regulations
• Search the various resources that exist online
• Most importantly: contact your peers from around the country. Many operations manuals already exist and most other facilities are more than happy to share this information.

Legal review

To avoid creating problems for yourself or the organization have an attorney review your manual before you print copies for employees. Ensure that all the procedures you outline in your manual fall within the boundaries of the law. The manual may be considered to be legally binding in the event of a dispute or an unfair employment practice claim.

Creating an operations manual is an exciting and important step for any facility. The operations manual defines every expectation, duty, product and procedure required to run the facility. Because of this, the operations manual becomes the core document from which everything is developed. Keeping it updated and finding ways to incorporate its content into ongoing staff training is important. The operations manual standardizes the facility’s expectations and "sets the bar" for the manager’s quality of product, service and image.

Mike Mingus is operations supervisor at the Modesto Centre Plaza in Modesto, California. He may be contacted at


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Coppell, TX 75019 USA   Phone: 972/906-7441 Fax: 972/906-7418