So that we get off on the right foot from the get-go, let me start by telling you what an SOP is. An SOP is an acronym for standard operating procedure. I know. Ugh. Boring. This is the not so sexy stuff of running a business. But what if I could teach you a super easy way to tackle writing your SOPs?
Still not interested? You’re probably like most business owners. This is the last thing in the world you want to deal with. You don’t see the return on your investment, so why even bother? You know how to handle things, or if you don’t, your team takes care of it for you.
Who needs a written SOP?
You do. Let me tell you why.
- If you’re a solopreneur, you will eventually start hiring a team to support you. How will they know how to take over processes you have been handling? Are you going to train them, and will they remember how you do things?
- If you already have a team, what if someone leaves? Who is going to step in and how will they know what to do, without any business interruption?
- If your “system” is falling apart, how do you know where it’s broken?
- If your team is making mistakes, can you blame them? Maybe they don’t fully understand the system.
- Do you really want to spend your time fielding questions because the process is unclear or undocumented? Talk about a major time suck!
- And what if you build a super successful company and one day want to sell it? Wouldn’t it be helpful to buyers to offer them an operations manual?
- Ok, how about this? What if you want to spend a month traveling the world while your company runs by itself? Do you think that’s possible without SOPs? :0)
Are you convinced now that you need documented standard operating procedures?
Ok, good! Let me show you a fast way to get it done.
✅ Take the Checklist Approach First
The fastest way to get a simple SOP on paper is to make a high-level checklist of steps you follow from beginning to end to complete a business activity. For example:
Step 1: Create a monthly social media editorial calendar, complete with dates.
Step 2: Choose the type of post for each day.
Step 3: Write the blurb for each post.
Step 4: Decide the hashtags for each post.
Step 5: Create the graphics for the month.
Step 6: Schedule the posts in your social media scheduler.
Now this is a super simple process that doesn’t have too many steps. There are many processes, however, that contain a lot more steps than this one. Creating a checklist enables you to do a brain dump of each step that needs to take place to ensure nothing gets missed. When I am creating a checklist for a client, I am only interested in a few things. What is the task? Who is going to do it? And what is the timeframe?
✅ Do a Run-through with the Checklist
Before you even begin to write the SOP, you need to know if your checklist is accurate and complete. So the next time you or your trained team member runs through this particular process, follow the checklist step by step.
You will quickly know if the checklist is missing a step, out of order, or makes no sense at all. Revise the checklist so it matches the process exactly the way you perform the activity.
This checklist approach is especially great for brand new processes that you are creating. As you are going through the steps, you will think of things you hadn’t thought of before. You will discover a simpler way of doing something. You will start to question if your “process” is going to be effective and efficient. Now is the time to revise. Don’t ever write a full-blown SOP until you have the checklist fully fleshed out.
It might take a couple of run-throughs to get it right.
✅ Add the Details to Create a “Real” SOP
The reason you need the details is because a checklist won’t be good enough for someone inexperienced and unfamiliar with your process. You can’t tell someone to purchase a DISC assessment if they have no idea how to do that. We need to provide detailed instructions on exactly what to do. Again, this is normally a step-by-step checklist, but just more detailed.
In the details, you provide links to websites, email templates, forms, etc. that the user needs to complete a step or process. Sometimes you will even add photos to make it easier for people to follow along. I always tell my team, “Imagine that someone is doing this task for the very first time and there is no one there to help them.” Do they have everything they need to function on their own?
Here is an example of a detailed step from the Amazing OBM New Client Onboarding SOP:
Keep in mind that Step 2 above came from the original high-level checklist that we created. We are only adding the details now.
There are other elements to the SOP that need to be added, but I don’t want to bore you with all the details here. You can Google a template for a standard operating procedure or hire a team to write SOPs for you.
✅ Test your SOP with a Blind Run
This is how I know if my SOP is up to snuff. I turn it over to one of my team members and I ask them to use the SOP to complete a real live business activity. In a sense, I am saying, here are the instructions to handle this activity. Now go do it, and let me know if you get stuck.
If they get stuck or have questions, the SOP needs more clarity. We add further instructions. We might add an image or a video. Maybe it’s missing a step we didn’t catch. It gets fine-tuned during this blind run.
✅ The Icing on the Cake
Once the SOP has passed all the tests and we know it’s smooth, efficient, and error-free, then we put the icing on the cake. The checklist gets set up as a template in our project management tool (ClickUp) and a Google link of the SOP is stored in our PM tool for use the next time we complete this process.
We use the ClickUp template to check off tasks as we complete them in ClickUp, ensuring not one item gets missed.
Now that, my friends, is how you write a kickass SOP for your business activities. Don’t have time to do this? We understand and we can help you. Contact Amazing OBM for a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your project.
Looking to scale your business to the next level? Standard operating procedures is one of four elements you must have in place for rapid business growth. For a complete guide and action plan for setting your business up for scalability, download our free resource now:
The Checklist Approach to Writing the Perfect SOP
September 17, 2019