In case you haven’t noticed, we’re kind of big fans of systems and procedures. Business just runs more smoothly when you have clearly defined ways of accomplishing routine tasks. Your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should be known by each team member. Establishing SOPs not only makes repetitive tasks easier, but you’ll save time and your entire team is on the same page when it comes to getting things done.
But, in the world of Rockstar startups and all that can be done to better your business, SOPs don’t typically make the high priority list. So, we’re making it easy for you. In just 10 steps, you can create an SOP manual that will improve the efficiency of your business, guide team members, and give you time to grow your business instead of managing the details of the day.
Step #1: Set business goals
What is your desired end result? Establishing effective SOPs is more than creating a list of regulations. You want your manual to address why SOPs are important. Get your team involved and create a think tank of the problems you need to solve in your business. The SOPs are designed to perform specific tasks, like onboard new employees or bring a new client into the fold. Take a moment to explain why the procedure matters to gain team buy-in.
Step #2: Build an SOP blueprint
Avoid inconsistencies in your SOP manual by determining how the content will be displayed. You want each SOP to follow the same format so the document is easier to digest and maintains consistency. Within your blueprint, be sure to include:
- Document cover: Title, business logo, date
- Goal: Brief overview of why the manual exists and what the SOPs aim to do
- Scale: Each SOP should identify who is meant to use the procedure
- Glossary: Create a page that defines any abbreviations or business terms
- Procedure: Body of the SOP should clearly define guidelines and steps
- Ownership: Define who is responsible for completing each SOP
- Related docs: Include a copy of other important business documents
Step #3: Research
Think futuristically. Even if you’re not ready to hire more employees right now, you eventually will. Create an SOP for onboarding new team members. If you become stumped about SOPs you should include in your manual, do a little digging. What SOPs are important to other business owners? Consider any related legalities to your SOPs and seek legal guidance if necessary (like when it’s time to release a team member).
Step #4: Begin with current processes
Even if you don’t have SOPs written down somewhere, chances are you already have a plan in place for the most recurring tasks. Begin to think about the routine tasks and decisions made within your business and write out the process in the form of an SOP.
Step #5: Input quality assurance checks
As you write your SOPs, consider where quality assurance is needed. For example, if one SOP defines the process of submitting a completed project to a client, include a step for the necessary employee to perform a final edit of the work. Use general team member terms rather than specific names, like “copywriter” rather than “Sarah.”
Step #6: Gather visuals
When it’s helpful, include images, graphics, or screenshots within the SOP. Some processes may be more complex, and since 65 percent of the population are visual learners, reference materials will be handy.
Step #7: Craft draft number one
Once you have your material and completed research, it’s time to put the SOP manual to paper. Include as much detail as you can in the first draft. You can always slim down your content if needed. Get feedback from your team on the specific SOPs to ensure what you’ve documented is accurate. If you come across any discrepancies, evaluate each method and form a final procedure.
Step #8: Review and share
After completing the first draft, step away from the document. Return with fresh eyes so you can evaluate if the SOP is clearly written. Share the document with your team members and ask them to complete each SOP. You need to ensure the process is easy to understand.
Step #9: Edit and redraft
Use the feedback from your team and your own markups to edit the SOP manual. The final draft should be easy to read. The idea is for any new team member to pick up the manual and be able to understand the processes.
Step #10: Approve and save the final draft
Once your edits are made, it’s time to save the final draft of the SOP manual where employees can access it when needed. Make sure team members know where they can find the document and revisit the SOP manual each year to ensure it’s accuracy.
An SOP manual will help establish common processes within your business. Use these 10 steps to remove the difficulty of defining your rules and “how-to” steps. Need help establishing SOPs that last? Connect with us and we can help.
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