It’s typical to start the entrepreneurial journey alone. Entrepreneurs often find themselves juggling everything from administrative tasks to sales negotiations to project management. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the many balls in the air and responsibilities.
Creating documented standard operating procedures (SOPs) can help entrepreneurs create consistency, efficiency, and profitability. Furthermore, these documents make it easier to outtarget or delegate when the time comes.
Here are six tips for creating SOPs in your business.
Start with the Important Things
There’s no need to create all of your SOP documents at the same time. Instead, start by outlining all the processes in your business— from creating social media posts to sending client deliverables. You’ll likely remember a few as time goes on; add them as you remember or as new things arise.
Next, create a prioritization hierarchy by noting the most important processes in the business. These are the tasks that you’d need to outtarget if you got sick and the things that generate revenue. For example, you can let your filing slide a bit in the grand scheme of things. However, maintaining contact with customers and ensuring revenue-generating work gets done is a must. Start with those tasks when creating SOPs.
Consult the Experts
If you already have employees in your business, it’s essential to include them in the SOP development process. After all, they’re the ones doing specific tasks each day. Additionally, they likely also have experience and insights that can enhance your documentation. For example, your accounting assistant will understand all the steps of payroll, from ensuring employees are classified correctly to understanding which deductions should be listed on a pay stub (see more information here: https://www.thepaystubs.com/) In this exercise, they’re the subject matter experts.
Consider sitting with your employees and taking notes while they do their process. Alternatively, have them jot down step-by-step notes, then review the process together. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and learn from the experience— it will make you a better leader.
Work Through the Process
Developing SOPs should happen in real-time. As you go through the process, write down the steps. Include which tools or programs are used, how long it takes you, and any nuances that could help someone coming in fresh.
After you have the steps outlined, consider having someone without experience follow the document and work through the process. Incorporate any questions they ask into the final draft, and edit as needed.
Get Into the Minutia
When creating your SOPs, be very descriptive and get into the minutia: Refer to cell names in spreadsheets, write how to navigate to files, etc. Add links and screenshots as appropriate; it can even be helpful to use screen recordings.
Once you have the steps outlined, go back and add details about the process name, what department or bucket it falls into (i.e., operations, marketing, etc.), and why it’s important.
Create a Live Database
As you create and edit your SOPs, add them to a live database that lives somewhere accessible on the cloud. Consider creating an online filing system that incorporates the separate SOP documents, using a program like Notion for organization.
It’s also beneficial to create a master SOP file that has includes every process sorted into chapters based on the department or bucket. You can sub-divide these chapters into daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual tasks.
Schedule Regular Updates
Finally, understand that your SOP project is never really done. As your business evolves, so will your processes. Do your best to keep them updated by scheduling regular check-ins and edits. Depending on the nature of your business, these updates could happen quarterly, annually, or as things change.
As you create an update SOPs, be sure to include the latest revision date to ensure everyone knows how accurate the document is or if they’re using the latest version.
SOPs are a valuable business asset whether you have a bustling enterprise or a team of one. While it’s a significant undertaking to document these processes, it’s worth it should an emergency or business growth occur.