PSU Insight

Writing Your Business Plan

Why You Need Well-defined Policies!

Large businesses depend on having a well-defined set of policies. They need a hiring policy, a termination policy, a privacy policy, a sick leave policy, an e-mail policy, and so on. Some of the policies are required by the government, others are simply standard practice. Since most speakers are one-person businesses, they don’t have a need for a formal policy manual. However, having an informal set of policies will be very helpful in running your business effectively.

In many cases, you can think of a policy as a “good habit.” For example, you might make it a policy to return all phone calls within three hours. Now you could do this on your own, without writing it down as a policy. But having a written policy makes it easier to remember to do the things you should be doing.

Policies are also effective training devices. Like procedures, a set of written policies defines how your business should be run, and that’s very helpful when you hire an office manager or a new assistant.

Policies are also helpful in your decision-making process. For instance, many speakers are constantly asked if they’ll speak for free. If you have to decide how to answer that question on a case-by-case basis, you’re going to be spending a lot of time weighing the merits of each individual request.

But if you have a policy in place — whether it’s "one free speech per month", "free speeches only to charitable organizations", or "no free speeches at all" — making decisions is much easier. In fact, since a policy is like a decision-made-in-advance, you really don’t have to make decisions at all. You’ve already made them!

Now some people protest that they don’t want to be locked into something. Not to worry! After all, you wrote the policy, and you can decide when to make an exception. (Large organizations don’t have the luxury of doing this.) All you have to say is “It’s my policy to....”, and then add “however, in your case I’ll make an exception.” And the people you grant the exception to are especially pleased because you’re treating them like special cases!

Like procedures, your policies do not have to be complex, wordy documents. In fact, the shorter and clearer, the better. Just think of your set of policies as decisions made in advance, and written down for your convenience.