Creating Standard Operating Procedures is one of the most powerful tools small business owners can add to their arsenal!
SOPs do more than simply allowing you to hire and train quickly. They eliminate the situation where only one person in the company knows how to do X,Y,Z Task, and they create quality controls for your business. When you have solid SOPs, you can hold your fulfillment team to the standards you want in your business: especially if you combine SOPs with the One-On-Ones from our last article (How to Manage People).
I’m going to break SOPs and Quality Control into three parts.
Part 1: What do you need SOPs for?
Standard Operating Procedures are imperative for you to be able to scale your business quickly, but not everything needs an SOP.
There’s two things that you should create SOPs for.
1: Predictable Processes.
- In other words, tasks that have a predictable process and/or outcome. These are projects in the business where you have a list of steps to follow in order to achieve specific outcomes. Once you write down those steps and explain the necessary details for each one, you can then delegate that task to anyone in the company.
2: Core Business Functions
- I get a lot of people arguing with me about this one. People claim that you can’t create an SOP for how to do something like bookkeeping. However, you can! I’ve worked with a company to create an SOP for exactly that. But you have to be willing to own every process/project in the business, and if you can’t create an SOP for it then you don’t know the process well enough. Creating SOPs for Core Business Functions is imperative if you want to scale your company, because without them you’re stuck training verbally and spending copious amounts of time with each new hire.
Part 2: Don’t Lose Them
Keeping track of where your SOPs are is incredibly important!
Too many business owners go through all the work of creating SOPs and then lose them because they didn’t have a specific place to put them. So they go back and create another one, but that one gets lost too! It’s a drain on your time, so set up a way of tracking your SOPs BEFORE you spend hours creating them.
I love the Mike Michalowicz concept of ACDC Folders on your computer or google drive or wherever you store documents for regular use.
The first folder you create is titled SOPs, and within that folder, create the following subfolders:
- This is going to be all the SOPs for the marketing side of your business that attracts people to your business.
This is going to be all the SOPs for the sales side of your business that converts leads into sales.
This is going to be all the SOPs for the fulfillment side of your business that delivers on your product/service.
This is going to be all the SOPs for the accounts receivable side of your business that collects money based on the delivery of product/service.
Having these folders makes categorizing your SOPs and knowing exactly where each one is a cinch! You might have to add additional sub-folders if needed, but this is a great start! If you’ve already got a ton of SOPs stored elsewhere, create the folders and just move the SOPs over to the appropriate folder as you use them! Don’t create a massive task to get it all set up ahead of time!
Part 3: How to Create SOPs
First off, break things down!
Don’t try to create one SOP for the whole of your bookkeeping or managing your mailing list. You’ll overwhelm yourself and the person doing the job.
For example, at Grow Disrupt we don’t have a single SOP for managing our mailing list. It would be too overwhelming to have one long enough to cover everything that needed to be done and frankly, different team members manage different parts of the process. Instead, we have a whole bunch of SOPs on processes like:
How to send an email to the mailing list
How to add contacts to the mailing list
How to review reports
How to add an auto-responder, and how to resend an email
Then I’ve created one overarching SOP that tells the team member in charge of the overall management how often each SOP should be run each month.
A quick side note: Don’t reinvent the wheel by creating SOPs that someone else has already created. You don’t need to create a procedure if your software provider has already created a FAQ that answers something like “How to add contacts to your mailing list.” Just make a side note that says “Read the FAQ here to learn how to ____.” and add side notes on any specific, unique-to-your-company, instructions you have on a specific task.
Don’t waste your time creating redundant SOPs. Focus instead on ensuring you have the right procedures for the core functions of your business.
When it comes to actually creating SOPs, you have two options…
Create It Yourself
Have a Teammember Create it
Creating It Yourself:
Whether you create the SOP or you have a team member create the SOP, you’ll follow the same process
Set a Time:
Start by setting up a time to complete the task, but give yourself a little more time than normal to do so.
If you’re doing something on a computer, you’ll set up a screen share software that will record and capture not just what you do on the screen, but also the words you're speaking so you can provide commentary. If you're doing a physical task, use a tripod and camera/phone to film you doing the task. If it’s something where you move around a lot, you may want to get a team member or family member to help you film.
Talk through every step in detail, almost as if you’re talking to a two-year old. The more thorough and detailed you are here, the lower the chances you’ll have to re-record in the future.
E. G., instead of saying “go to this website” you might say “Open your browser, open a new tab, type in ____ in the URL bar, go to the ____ part of the page to login, use these credentials.” Doing it on your own, you probably wouldn’t have thought about those steps. But when you’re creating an SOP, you need to be as thorough as possible in the event that your SOP is teaching someone who has no idea how to work with whatever technology or equipment you’re working with.
Transcribe The Video
Once you complete the video, put it into some kind of transcription software. There are a ton of them out there, so you shouldn’t have difficulty finding one. Plenty of them will transcribe for as little at $.10/minute!
Once you have the video transcription, either you or your team member goes into the transcription and tightens it up by removing things like “uh” “Um” and “Sorta”. In essence, cut it down to the directions and remove the filler words that we naturally use when we speak.
Once you have the video and written document, rename them with the same project title (Such as “How to create a Newsletter”) and store them in the corresponding folder in your system.
If You Have a Team Member Create the SOP
This is a really awesome option if you have a well-trained team already, because it gives you an SOP without you having to do any actual work and helps you check in on how they’re doing.
But only do this if you have a team member already doing the task. Otherwise you’re throwing them into the deep-end with no life-preserver and no idea how to get out.
Having a team member create your SOPs may help you identify where they’ve strayed from the method you want and may be cutting corners, or may have found a better process than you were aware of!
Creating SOPs for your business is incredibly empowering!
When you invest the time to create SOPs for your business, you create greater autonomy within your company and set yourself up for incredible growth that isn’t hinging on your ability to carve out time for training.
Part of growing your business is investing in yourself, so you can be a better leader. If you’re looking for an awesome virtual event to supercharge your business, be sure to get your free ticket to Small Business Supercharge coming up soon! We’ve got incredible speakers (Like Mike Michalowicz and the Founder of Priceline!!) who are dropping in for the day to help small businesses and give out tools for growth.
About the Author:
Stephanie Scheller is a TED speaker, a two-time best-selling author and the founder of Grow Disrupt: a San Antonio based company dedicated to disrupting the way the world does business through training. In just under a decade, Stephanie has been behind the scenes with nearly 2500 small businesses. She has worked in groups and one-on-one to create total business transformation & help business owners live the life they got into business to create!