The Business Owners Guide To Creating Standard Operating Procedures
Processes and procedures can make or break your business. I have spoken to hundreds of successful business owners, including the fantastic Korbett Miller, serial entrepreneur Nik Trowbridge, and of course, Jason Swenk, and they all say having standard operating procedures (SOP) is critical to their success.
But if you are like many business owners, creating a standard operating procedure can be more than overwhelming. Your time is short and in high demand. You may be working in your business instead of on your business.
Here is the thing, if you want to become an eventual millionaire as I say, if you want to hit it big, you have to have standard operating procedures. Otherwise, you might as well be driving in the dark throwing money out the window.
Let me ask you this question: If you were to get into an accident or have a serious medical condition like a heart attack or stroke (we all know running your own business is stressful), what would happen? Would the money keep coming in? Would the bills be paid? Or would all hell break lose and you would start losing clients?
“Well, it’s about creating systems. And I think any business owner who has branched out their business is always going to say the same thing. It always comes back to that.” ~ Nik Trowbridge on the key to successfully expanding her business.
If you related more to the latter question, aka all hell would break lose, do not feel bad. You are not alone. This is why I am here to tell you that you must have standard operating procedures in place so your business can keep on going if something happens to you, or maybe if you decided to work on growing your business instead of working in your business.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking, “Yeah right – I don’t have enough time to breathe. I don’t even know what a standard operating procedure is and when I googled standard operating procedure I got all these big company SOPs that don’t apply to my business.” I hear you. I get it.
As I mentioned above, I have spoken with hundreds of successful business owners, and every one of them had standard operating procedures. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be as successful as they are. The good news is there is an easy way to develop a functional SOP that will run your business when you can’t work or you want to work on growing your business.
Determining Which Areas Need Standard Operating Procedures
Over the years of talking with successful millionaires and billionaires, I found several areas of where standard operating procedures provide the most value:
- Client onboarding
- Client off-boarding
- Content Creation (blog posts, podcasts, editorial calendar, etc.)
- Onboarding new employees
- Sending emails to your list
- Weekly business metrics
- Customer service emails
- Technical issues
My guess is that you probably have an idea of what areas need some help from standard operating procedures. So, where do you start?
Here’s how to get started with SOP’s:
#1. Think of five problems/challenges you face in your business.
I don’t want you to put random issues down, but the ones that keep coming up over and over. Here are some examples of problems many business owners have:
- You show up for a meeting to only realize you had the wrong time zone on your calendar. This can happen when you travel across different time zones. I know business owners who had this happen.
- Your blog post didn’t post at the time you wanted it to – who hasn’t had this problem.
- You receive a late notice from a vendor. It is so easy for an invoice or two to slip your mind.
#2. Rank the five problems/challenges from most important, i.e., need to be resolved quickly, to the least important.
There are a couple of things you need to take into consideration when ranking your challenges. One, which ones occur the most often? Then, which ones cause the most problems or damage to your bottom line? Failure to show up to a client meeting on time – big problem. Receiving a late notice from a vendor? A significant problem, but not one that is likely to cost you thousands of dollars like a missed business meeting with a client.
#3. Pick the most important issue to address in your first SOP.
Once you have determined the most important obstacle you need to address, make that one the focus of your first SOP.
#4. Visualize the process.
Here is where we put our thinking caps on – envisioning the problem. Take your most critical obstacle, and envision the process from beginning to end. Can you figure out the kink in the chain?
Now, I want you to write the process out as is – how you currently handle the situation. Don’t leave any detail out. Include passwords, names of software, number and order of steps, stakeholders in the process, to name a few things.
After you have written the process down, take a good long, hard look at what you have written and ask yourself:
- Is there an easier way to do this?
- Are there any steps we can eliminate?
- Is there anywhere you can save some money?
- Are there any steps we need to add?
- How do any changes affect the stakeholders?
Creating Your Standard Operating Procedure Isn’t As Hard As You Think
After completing the exercises above, you have a list of areas that need SOP help. Now is when we get into the nitty-gritty of things and put your action plans into motion.
Step 1: Purpose
Self-explanatory, but writing out the goal of your SOP at the top of your page helps remind you and your employees why it is important to follow the outlined standard operating procedures. Also, include the intended audience, for example, accounts receivable, sales, etc.
Step 2: Responsibilities
Who has a role in the SOP, including the backup personnel? Betty in accounting? What exactly is Betty responsible for in the regards to the standard operating procedure?
Step 3: Procedure
Step 3 is where the magic happens; what the standard operating procedure is all about – the procedure. Assuming you have completed the identifying process I outlined above; you already have the foundation for this step. Now, I want you to list out all the steps required to perform this procedure (who, what, when, where, why, and how). And don’t forget the process flowchart.
Step 4: References & Definitions
In this section I want you to list all the information and resources that may be helpful when following the SOP. Some things you might include are admin policies, government standards, and other company standard operating procedures.
Step 5: The Checklist
As simple as it sounds, create a check list so you or your employee can double check that every step of the SOP is complete.
“When people are creating systems they sometimes feel that it’s kind of stifling creativity, like making robots. It’s not really, because if someone has an idea on how to make the systems better, sit down with them, and that can be a part of the process as well.” ~ Korbett Miller on including employees in creating standard operating procedures.
I find standard operating procedures save me precious time and money, and are a key to my success. I suggest you join myself and millions of successful entrepreneurs and businesses and create your personal standard operating procedures. It will be time well spent, I promise.
You can find additional information on standard operating procedures on my website. You can also download a SOP template from my website to make creating your SOPs even easier!
Business coach, author, and professional speaker Jaime Masters has hosted one-on-one interviews with over 350 millionaires and billionaires. She made her exit from the corporate world after finding herself $70,000 in debt and realizing that she hated her job. With an ambitious goal and a strategic plan, she was out of the debt and the job she hated in just 16 months. Now, Jaime helps others find the freedom, money, and work they love.