It’s hard to scale up a business if all the know-how resides in the heads of a few people. When something happens to the owner or the key personnel, the entire business comes to a standstill. In this book, Chris Ronzio explains how to create a Business Playbook–so you can teach others to replicate what you do and grow the business beyond you. These insights are ideal for small businesses that have a viable business model and are ready to scale up. In The Business Playbook summary, you’ll learn what a playbook is, why it matters, and how to develop one for your business.
Overview of The Business Playbook
What is a Business Playbook?
Every business is unique. Your business playbook documents everything that makes your business what it is. It’s like a tailor-made course to teach someone how to run your business.
It must include internal knowledge and success secrets that are required to run your company smoothly. This includes 4 elements:
- Profile: What your business is about and what makes it unique, including your vision, brand, culture, values, and history.
- People: Who are the people in your company and what they do.
- Policies: Your operating rules and standards, including office hours, dress code, vacation time, and legal matters.
- Process: Every step (from start to finish) required for completing your company’s tasks or responsibilities.
A good playbook has 7 key characteristics:
• It should be accessible anytime, anywhere, to anyone who needs the information.
• The contents should be searchable. Choose a platform (e.g. wikis) that allows people to find information easily.
• It adopts a collaborative, bottom-up approach where everyone contributes to building organization-wide knowledge.
• It is instructive. A playbook isn’t just a checklist or to-do list—it imparts key concepts, skills, and processes that empower people to perform their roles independently.
• It must be flexible enough to be updated frequently and easily.
• It should be structured, with clear components and a logical sequence that guides people through the contents.
• It must be trackable, so you can hold people accountable for updating specific sections of the playbook.
Benefits of a Playbook
Many entrepreneurs get stuck in their businesses because they must do everything personally. The more the business grows, the more overwhelmed they get. They can’t go on holidays in peace, and things fall apart if the owner or key personnel must be away for a prolonged period (e.g. due to a sickness or accident).
The author, Chris Ronzio, faced similar struggles with his video production company. After experimenting with ways to document and streamline his operations, he sold the company and started to help other businesses to improve their efficiency. He eventually created Trainual, a tool that helps companies to create their playbooks and grow their business. This book captures the practices that Ronzio has researched, tested, and refined over the years.
A playbook can deliver several benefits:
• If you’re the business owner or founder, it helps to transfer your business knowledge to your team, so they can replicate what you do (or even improve it), thus freeing you up to do whatever you wish to do.
• It allows the business to achieve consistently high standards, even when there are multiple people performing the same role.
• It enhances employee experience by (i) onboarding new hires effectively, (ii) facilitating shared learning, (iii) creating backups when key people are unavailable, and (iv) aligning people behind shared vision and values.
• It captures your company’s shared experiences and knowledge, which are valuable assets. This increases the company’s value and makes it easier to sell the company in future if you choose to do so.
Is Your Company Ready For A Business Playbook?
This book follows the Trainual approach: Do It. Document It. Delegate It®. You must do something until you know what works. Only then can you record the best practices and train your team members to replicate it.
The insights in this book are ideal for small businesses whose owners are still actively involved in the business, but already have a viable business model with some employees or departments. It is not suitable for startups that are still testing out their business models, nor for large organizations that already have established business systems.
In our complete 14-page version of The Business Playbook summary, we’ll share:
• Questions to assess if you’re ready to start a playbook; and
• Tips for launching a playbook if you’re ready.
The 4 Elements of The Business Playbook
Now, let’s take a look at the 4 key elements, or the 4Ps, to be documented in your playbook. This is just a quick overview–you can find specific details, steps and examples in our complete version of The Business Playbook summary.
1. Profile: What Makes Your Business Unique?
Your profile describes what your business is about and what makes it special—including your history, vision, mission, values, brand, and culture. It explains to new hires, stakeholders and potential investors why you exist, who you serve, how you serve them, and what makes your business unique.
In our complete version of The Business Playbook summary, we’ll further explain each of the 9 sections of your profile, including:
• Your origin story
• Your vision and mission
• Your core values
• Your brand
• Your marketplace
• Your products and services
• A glossary of technical terms, jargon, and acronyms
• Overview of how your business works
A good profile is invaluable in onboarding and orienting new hires. It helps them see the big picture, feel like a part of the team, and become productive ASAP.
2. People: Who Works Here and Who Does What?
Make a map of the people who work in the business, i.e. who is who, and who does what. This helps newcomers to know their colleagues quickly, understand how their role is linked to others’, and build a sense of belonging. Here are several ways to do so:
• Create a browsable people directory (like a directory of shops at a shopping mall).
• Create a written organization chart between roles/offices.
• Link the boxes in the org chart to team member bios to give a quick feel of the people behind your organization.
• Create a list of the current roles and responsibilities.
Do check out our full summary for details of each option above!
3. Policies: The Rules of Play
Policies are your operating rules and standards, including office hours, dress code, vacation time, and legal matters (e.g. compliance with local regulations, anti-harassment and personal safety rules). This section of the playbook is like a searchable and customizable employee handbook. Establish the rules of play in advance to avoid legal infringements or scrambling in times of emergency.
Start with policies that affect everyone, including 3 types of policies:
• Legal requirements
• Available benefits
• Cultural norms
Policies should help to set clear expectations and reinforce your company culture, not add layers of red tape. Review your policies regularly, remove policies that no longer make sense, and update this section along with other parts of the handbook.
4. Processes: How We Get Things Done
Processes describe how things get done in your company on a daily basis. Detail every step (from start to end) required to accomplish the key tasks and responsibilities. By documenting your best practices and standard operating procedures, you can improve your productivity, capacity, customer satisfaction, and profitability.
In our full 14-page summary, we cover how you can:
• Decide which processes to document, and in what sequence/priority.
• Record and organize the content in 4 tiers: Collection => Subject => Topic => Steps.
• Use 8 specific questions to document each process.
• Apply several tips to document the processes more effectively.
Using The Playbook
Once you’ve assembled your playbook, you must use it to train your team. You only get real value when people are actively using the contents to improve business standards, consistency, and capacity for growth.
Chris Ronzio ends the book with specific recommendations and tips to:
• Launch the playbook, train people with it, and tracking their progress.
• Continually update the playbook as the business evolves.
Getting The Most from “The Business Playbook”
This free summary gives you a short snapshot of the key ideas found in “The Business Playbook.” If you’re ready to start applying the insights in your business, do get more details, tips and examples in our full book summary bundle: this includes an infographic, 14-page text summary, and a 28-minute audio summary.
This is a clear, succinct, and well-structured book that serves as a step-by-step guide to create your Business Playbook. Each chapter comes with examples and a checklist of topics to help you implement the ideas. Chris Ronzio recommends that you read through the entire book, then share the book (in whole or in part) with your key team members. You can purchase the book here or visit trainual.com for more details and resources.
About the Author of The Business Playbook
The Business Playbook: How to Document and Delegate What You Do So Your Company Can Grow Beyond You was written by Chris Ronzio–the founder and CEO of Trainual, a tool for small businesses to onboard, scale, and train teams. He is also a partner at software firm Design Pickle, and a columnist for INC Magazine. Rozio was previously the founder of Organize Chaos, and the co-founder of education provider One Small Business. He is the host of the Organize Chaos podcast, and is a frequent keynote speaker. He graduated from Bentley University. For more details, please visit chrisronzio.com.
The Business Playbook Quotes
“This book is a guide and a recipe for the what, who, how, when, and why of building your company’s playbook and making it stick.”
“A playbook is your ticket to…freedom.”
“The real asset of your company is the collective experience and knowledge you and your team have gained through being in business.”
“Before you can document and scale, you need consistent, battle-tested processes.”
“People are the most important part of your business…They’re who make your business what—and who—it is.”
“It doesn’t matter how amazing your brand and culture are; if you don’t have functional processes, your business can’t scale.”
“Update your playbook on a regular basis, and like a well-maintained car, your company will run better and last longer.”