You know that saying, “No need to reinvent the wheel?” I’m pretty sure history’s first business managers came up with it. Because there’s nothing worse than wasting time and resources trying to figure out the most efficient way to do something when you’ve already done it. A standard operating procedure (SOP if you’re cool), or documented instructions describing how to do a routine activity step-by-step, is the key to efficient and productive business.
Not sure you need SOPs in your business? I mean, running your business isn’t rocket science, right? WRONG. SOPs are must-haves for creative businesses and teams, big and small. Here’s why.
What’s the Deal With SOPs?
Let’s go back to that old reinventing-the-wheel concept. Every business has tasks that need to get done — and, most tasks are done more than once. Think about it. From sending invoices to posting to social media, you do the bulk of the tasks that keep your business running. Without SOPs, those tasks can be a real pain in the ass.
SOPs should be made for any tasks done more than once in your business because standards and consistency matter. Whether we’re talking about customer service and experience, or operational issues, things being done well every time is essential to your business.
Keeping processes in your head helps no one.
You might want to think that you and your existing team know your business’ ops like the back of your hands. Maybe you do. Want a medal?
Newsflash: People get sick… Or go on vacation, quit, or get cast on reality shows (OK, rarely, but how cool would that be?). When you have SOPs in place for what may seem like even the simplest tasks, you ensure that someone can take over quickly. A thorough and clear SOP is valuable for everyone on your team, and it’s super helpful for new team members learning the ropes.
Who Should Create SOPs
If you want SOPs to do their jobs (clearly communicating how a task should be performed and executed, that is), it matters who creates it.
You wouldn’t have someone on your team who’s never touched Trello create an SOP for how to set up a new project in there, would you? Sure, they might “get it” at a high level, but that SOP won’t have the details needed for someone to get the job done right.
The person who knows how to do the task (like, does it, and does it well) should be the person who creates the original SOP. I put that in bold to scare you away from shit like that Trello nightmare I described above.
Once it’s created for use by your team, an SOP can be maintained by whoever is responsible for the task in your biz’s day-to-day operations. That person might learn efficiencies as they do that task regularly. They can update the SOP with new details if needed.
If you’d rather get an enema than sit down and document processes for every task in your business, please, don’t skip making them. Instead, make a Loom video walkthrough… Which might take you like five minutes. Who doesn’t have five minutes?! Then you can hire someone to write out the process step by step for you.
How Detailed Do We Need to Get, Here?
Even basic tasks that seem easy to do or super user-friendly should have a detailed SOP. Here’s what a good SOP will include.
A clear title will tell everyone accessing an SOP exactly what the task is. Skip the vague “Post to Social Media” and go for something more like, “Post Content to Instagram Feed and Stories.” See? You know exactly what this SOP will tell you how to do.
Start with a quick overview of the SOP’s intended outcome. That way, people can quickly figure out if they’re looking at the right SOP for what they want to accomplish. This should be 1-2 sentences max!
Department & Responsible Team Member
Again, this ensures that the right people are involved with the right tasks. Top tip for this: use job titles, not names. Someone looking at the SOP three years down the line isn’t necessarily going to know who Tayler was, but they know exactly who “Social Media Assistant” or “Project Manager” or “Lead Customer Service Representative” is.
Wading through lists of documents trying to figure out the latest/correct version blooows. Save your team the headache. Note document versions, latest updates (and who did them), and any other helpful doc details.
That Loom walkthrough video I mentioned will be super helpful here. Everyone learns differently, and sharing a video of exactly how to execute a task makes it all the easier for your team to do it right the first time.
Here’s my best tip for these videos: let your team use YOUR Loom login and film SOP videos in your account. If you don’t want to do that, then make sure you download their Loom videos right away and keep the copy in your Google Drive or Dropbox. There’s nothing worse than a team member leaving and/or shutting down their Loom account or deleting the video and then *poof* it’s gone.
Please don’t expect team members to film videos for you on free Loom accounts – there’s a 5 minute recording limit on free accounts which is probably not enough for some processes. You don’t want people rushing and missing steps. Loom is an affordable business expense, but there are probably some free similar software kicking around somewhere if you really can’t drop the $120 (Google it!).
List out every step taken with a task, and get some major bonus points by including a screenshot of each step. The goal here is to make it pretty foolproof to complete the task, and if you can describe and demonstrate a task with visuals, you’re setting your team up for success.
Why the written step-by-step is important: if something in the process changes and all you have is the Loom video, you’re gonna need to re-film an entire video to update it. With step-by-step written out, you can just update the section that changed.
Your business is probably growing and changing all the time. Your team should revisit and update SOPs regularly (at least quarterly) to make sure they reflect the most efficient processes your team is using to get shit done.
Put reminders in your task management tool for the year & in the words of Ron Popeil, “set it, and forget it!” (Who else was a 90s kid up too late watching the Ronco infomercials?)
Managing Your SOPs
I know what you’re thinking. An SOP for every repeated task? Isn’t that, like, a shitload of SOPs?
The answer is yes. But don’t let that freak you out. The trick to staying on top of your SOPs is to stay organized. And if organization isn’t your job, work with a more Home Edit-centric member of your team to help you with it.
Keep your SOPs in a central spot, like your Google Drive or in a repository in your project management tool. You can even get specific SOP software like Process St. if you’re feeling fancy.
Then, create a master list of every single SOP you’ve got, and organize them by department or by role (or whatever makes sense for your biz, but pick one way to categorize them and stick with it) so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.
Just do everyone a favor and make sure all team members can access them without having to request access. Ugh, I despise requesting access.
My best organization tip: once you decide how you’re going to categorize your SOPs (by department, by role, etc.) then make sure your SOP Loom video folders, Google Drive SOP folders, ClickUp SOP folders, etc. all match. Wherever SOPs are, make sure the folders are all the same so you know EXACTLY where to look no matter what program you’re in.
Let’s Get Shit Done
Have I got you sold on needing all the SOPs but you just don’t know where to start? Trying to make sense of it all for your business? I’ve got just the thing for you. My Integrator Intensives give you exclusive access to me and my brain so we can clear up any confusion you have around systems, automation + processes. Sound perfect? Gimme a holler.