Ultimate Guide to Business Process Documentation for Seamless Operations

Ever found yourself Googling ‘business process documentation’ between your third coffee and your endless to-do list? It sounds like something you should master to make your business self-sufficient or even saleable down the road…

But honestly, who wants to spend precious hours documenting how things should be done instead of actually doing them?

If you’re running a six-figure+ service-based business you know all too well how much your business relies on you: everything still needs your review, feedback, approval, and magic touch.

But you’re also craving the freedom to step back a bit, to spend time on bigger-picture projects, or to take a real vacation… 

The big question is, how do you make sure everything runs smoothly when you’re not the one doing them?

This blog post is your ultimate guide to business process documentation—the secret sauce to cloning your business brain so that your team can keep the wheels turning without sending you a flurry of “help!” texts.

Business Process Documentation

On the one hand, scaling up sounds great – being less involved in your business means you can free up time to travel, to work on that exciting idea that’s been shoved to the side of your desk, or to pick up new hobbies. 

On the other hand, the thought of loosening your grip might seem terrifying – how on earth is anyone else going to be able to do as good a job as you were doing? You might be afraid of losing touch with your business, becoming disconnected from your customers’ needs, and sinking the ship.

Business process documentation is the key: It’s about transferring knowledge from your head to a central hub where your team can replicate your success. 

From there, your business growth is no longer tied to your capacity and you can serve more customers and have a bigger impact while delivering the same quality of service to your clients.

Ideally, you’d be documenting business processes from day one, but entrepreneurship is rarely so orderly. It’s time to start documenting as is business processes if:

Whether you’re bringing on your first virtual assistant or you’re bringing on more subcontractors to help deliver the service with you, any work future team members will be doing should be documented.

This not only clarifies exactly what’s on their plate, but it reduces the time it will take to train them on it so that they can hit the ground running without making any mistakes.

Business Process Documentation

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Business process documentation is critical when your team is remote. It ensures everyone is doing things the same way, to the same standard, consistently, in an environment where people can’t compare work to their buddy in the desk beside them to make sure it’s done right.

Whether you’re about to completely unplug from your business, or you’ve simply decided you don’t need to be the one responding to comments on social media, having a documented process before you hand a task over to someone else ensures that you are setting them up for success. It prevents you from getting frustrated that they’re not doing a good enough job and taking back the task! 

The most valuable asset of an entrepreneur is their headspace. If you’re often performing the same task and storing all of the information about that task in your head, you’re wasting valuable headspace that could be devoted to creative ideas and business growth strategies. 

If you have tasks that you do daily, weekly, or monthly, it’s time to have a documented process for them. 

Business process documentation sounds all fancy ‘cause it’s 9 syllables long, but it’s not complicated. 😂

1) Decide where you will house your business processes.

This could be a Google Drive folder with separate Docs for each process, a list in ClickUp (the best project management software), or in a process mapping software like Miro. 

The key is to make sure that you’re going to be able to easily find it & quickly access it when you go to do the process. (No point documenting a process if that document is going to sit untouched.)

Business Process Documentation

2) Set aside time to map out the process 

It’s best to document processes in real-time to capture details accurately, rather than relying on memory later.

If you’ve been running your business from your head for a while, it can feel overwhelming trying to figure out where to start with business process documentation! 

Should you document your client onboarding process? Or your bookkeeping process? Or your marketing process?

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1) Start with any tasks someone is going to be taking over in the near future

If you’re hiring a virtual assistant, start documenting the tasks you will want them to take over first. If you’re about to delegate payroll to your 2iC, start documenting that process.

2) Start with tasks that are the most complicated & done least frequently

This is where business process documentation is most helpful: when something is done repeatedly, but infrequently. That’s where it’s easiest to miss steps, make mistakes, and take a long time re-remembering what you’re supposed to be doing. (Remember the chaos of tax season? Never again.)

3) Start with current tasks on your plate

If you aren’t documenting for someone else on your team & you don’t have things that are complicated, just start with documenting the next task you do.

Write down 2 things in your plate this week that you can document.

There – now you have a list of 5-10 business processes that you can begin to document!

Now that you know what business processes you will be documenting, let’s talk about how to actually do that. There are 9 simple steps to business process documentation: 

  1. Name the process: give it a simple name so that you actually understand what the document is.

    Example: “blog post publishing process”
  2. Define the scope of the process: when does the task officially begin, and when does it officially end?

    The start might be retrieving blog post copy from google doc in a content folder, and the end might be hitting publish on the blog post in WordPress.
  3. Determine the inputs & outputs of the process: what do you need to start the process, and what do you have when the process is finished?

    Example: The inputs in this process might be the Google Doc with the blog post copy, access to WordPress website,etc. The output is a published blog post live on the site and a URL.
  4. Decide the process owner: who is responsible for executing this process?

    This becomes more important as your team grows, so that everyone has clear roles and responsibilities and key tasks in the business are being done consistently and on time. If it’s just you and your VA, decide who is responsible for this process.
  5. Outline the High-Level Steps of the Process: Describe the major stages or milestones within the process to give a general flow of the tasks involved.

    In our example, the big buckets of work are : draft review, formatting in WordPress, image selection, SEO optimization, final approval, and publication.
  1. Write out the work instructions for each of those high level buckets. Now that you know the high level flow, you can write out the step by step instructions for doing those things.

    Step 1 – start a new post in WordPress
    Step 2 – copy/paste text from Google Doc into Post
    Step 3 – space paragraphs for easy reading
    Step 4 – bold key takeaways in the copy
    Step 5 – add links to any sites referenced in the copy

    *Note: some people really overthink how deep business process documentation should go. You’ll notice I’m not giving step by step instructions for how to add links to any sites, or how to start a new post in WordPress. I’m assuming the intended user has a general understanding of these things. Use your discretion when deciding how much is enough depth in your work instructions.
  1. Make It Visual: add in screenshots, diagrams, or video walkthroughs to make the process easier to learn, especially for highly technical processes or ones involving the learning of a new software. (If it’s a simple process, you might not need these.)

    Example: Use Loom to record a screen walkthrough of posting a blog or take screenshots showing each step in WordPress, especially where to click and what to check.
  2. Document any exceptions: if there are certain scenarios in which something different happens, document those exceptions at the bottom of your business process document (or within the specific step in which the exception occurs). But don’t overthink this. You can’t mitigate against every single exception, but it is helpful to have the most common ones noted.

    Example: If the blog post includes a video, additional steps like embedding the video from YouTube and adjusting the layout might be necessary.
  3. Review and Update Regularly: Business process documentation is only useful if you see it as a set of living documents that get reviewed and updated regularly to reflect any changes or improvements.

    Don’t just write it down once and then never look at it again.
Business Process Documentation

Decide how deep to go with your documentation based on the complexity of the task and the familiarity of the team with the process.

You likely don’t have to go from “click here” to “click here”, unless you are creating a very detailed training on a highly complicated process or new software. However,  you also want to be more specific than “format the blog post”. 

Business process documentation can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it.

Need a jumpstart? I’ve created a business process documentation template that you can download instantly and document your first business processes with right now.

Get instant access when you join our email list.

Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Tackle one process weekly, and by year’s end, you’ll have over 50 processes neatly documented—ensuring consistent quality, fewer errors, and a clearer mind.

Feeling overwhelmed not just by business process documentation but by all that goes into scaling your business?

Book a discovery call to explore how 1:1 coaching can help you level up with the mindset, strategy, and accountability you need to become a better entrepreneur and grow the business of your dreams.

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