"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up." ~A. A. Milne
SOPs, or standard operating procedures, may fall under the category of “Things I’ve heard about and know I should be doing but haven’t gotten around to doing yet.”
Sound familiar? Trust me, you’re not alone. Most business owners have a multitude of things vying for their attention and this is just one of those things that falls through the cracks when things get busy. And come on, when are things NOT busy?
Creating SOPs might seem like a pain and even unnecessary -- especially if you haven’t hired help yet. Here’s a crazy truth: They will actually save you so much time in the future! Yes, even if you are currently a one-person team and ESPECIALLY when you start adding team members.
An added benefit is that SOPs will help you get to know your process better, allowing you to tweak things along the way and ensuring that the outcome is the same each and every time. As business owners, no matter how careful we are or how many times we’ve performed a task, we can still skip steps in a process. It’s easy to do, as busy as we are. An SOP spells out all the steps so everything gets done every time. Ever forgotten to add a link to the bottom of your newsletter or an excerpt to the end of your blog post? Your SOP is your checklist!
Simple Ways To Create An SOP
Option 1: Create it yourself
The next time you are performing a task, simply document what you’re doing as you go along. Think creating a blog post, setting up a Zoom meeting, setting up your Facebook Live, prepping for a client call, etc. It might take a little longer that one time, but every other time in the future will go a lot smoother and quicker. Simply write down the steps in a Word document or Google Doc as you go.
Option 2: Have someone else help you
a) If someone else does those tasks for you, ask them to document their steps the next time they perform the task. Easy peasy!
b) For the tasks you do, you can also hop on a Zoom call and share your screen with your assistant. Ask her/him to document the process as you do it. You may have to slow down and talk them through a few steps, but many business owners find this easier than making the SOP themselves.
c) A variation of the above is to record at your leisure and then make the recording available to your assistant to document.
Now you may be wondering what to include in an SOP. Here's what I include in mine:
All resources needed to perform the procedure correctly. i.e. other SOPs, platforms, channels, etc. Outline all resources/information, knowledge, training, software, equipment, etc. required to implement this procedure. Add all links to documents and software that you use in the SOP
Why we do it. How this process affects the company as a whole. Understanding the importance of this particular procedure in relation to the company as a whole will help others see how different parts and pieces work together.
The rules around which the procedure must be accomplished. Describe the rules associated with performing the procedure and the parameters within which the person performing this task must perform it. (i.e.. Must be performed on Mondays, the final product must go live at a certain time, etc.)
The person responsible to managing/make sure the SOP is completed. This person is also responsible for making sure it is organized and updated as necessary. Any questions by the person performing the SOP will be directed to this person.
The person/people responsible for performing the SOP specifications. The general outline of the task (i.e. For a blog post, it would include colors, fonts, publishing schedule, content upgrade included or not, etc.)
The step by step details of completing the task. Identify activities or events that occur for the main process in EACH of the specifications. Use screenshots and provide as much clarification as needed.
Bonus: Include screenshots or a short video of any steps that are hard to explain or that are more detailed, i.e. involve clicking on things that aren’t immediately obvious.
See? That’s not so bad. It seems like a lot of work upfront, but it will save you so much time and frustration in your business, and tasks are completed correctly on a regular basis. SOPs will save time and effort on performing the tasks themselves, on training your staff, and will make outsourcing those tasks a lot easier.
Have you created SOPs for your business? Share your tips below!
Need help getting started? Grab our SOP template here!