Unlock Efficiency and Consistency: The Power of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

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John Nieuwenburg

John Nieuwenburg has been a professional business coach since 2004. Prior to becoming a coach, he held executive positions with Tip Top Tailors and BC Liquor Stores. In 2019, MacKay CEO Forums awarded him with Canada’s CEO Trusted Advisor Award in the Small Business category. Since becoming a coach, John has worked with over 350 clients, taking them through a systematic process that helps them feel organized, confident and in control of their businesses.

Want more time freedom?

Want your team to do the right things, right?

Want to scale your business and make more money?

The first step towards having those things is to embrace this mantra:

Systems run the business. People run the systems. You lead the people.

In today’s article, we’re going to take a deep dive into systems.

Specifically, Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs.

What are Standard Operating Procedures?

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are documented instructions that describe how to carry out a specific task or activity in a consistent and efficient manner.

They provide a clear, step-by-step guide for completing a task or process, and can be used by anyone with the necessary skills and knowledge.

I often explain the benefits of SOPs in this way:

Have you ever wondered how McDonald’s can serve perfect French fries every time?

Delivering this kind of quality and consistency worldwide is an impressive feat.

It’s even more impressive when you consider that those fries are mostly made by teenagers.

The same group of people whose parents can’t get them to clean their rooms!

How do they do that? Standard Operating Procedures.

5 ways to make SOP creation faster and easier

When I suggest that my clients should create SOPs, they often respond negatively, picturing having to create huge binders of “employee training manuals.”

That might be necessary if you want to create an actual franchise like McDonald’s, but for most small businesses, SOPs can be a lot simpler while still being very effective.

Here are 5 tips for getting the job done faster and easier.

1. Use Video

Make a recording where you talk through the instructions.

This works especially well for explaining how to use software systems because you can record the screen share.

You can use the videos for your SOPs and training materials (some people prefer video) – and/or you can have them transcribed to create written notes.

Developing written SOPs from video is an easy task to outsource to a VA.

2. Have Employees Create Them

Whenever I give my VA a new task to perform for me, we get on a zoom call.

She records the call while I give her the instructions.

Then her first task is to document the instructions in our SOP document.

This way we can both verify that she understands what to do – and we now have written documentation that she can follow next time she needs to perform the task.

3. Keep the Technology Simple

Google Drive is a great option: it’s easy to share, easy to access, and you can set permissions on individual documents if necessary.

All of the SOPs for my coaching business are contained in a single shared google document.

Each task is named with a headline.

In outline view, you can see the list of tasks on the side – and you can click to quickly jump to the task you want to see.

As my VA adds tasks, the document gets longer.

4. Start Small and Build Over Time

You don’t need to document everything at once.

Choose the system that will make the biggest difference:

  • Is there something you find yourself explaining over and over again?
  • Do you have a process that is frequently done wrong?

Or start with the next task you need to train someone to do, then build from there.

5. Keep the Steps them Short

Keep videos to 3 minutes or less.

If you need longer to explain something, break it into multiple steps. (You can record one long video and then get a video editor to cut it into smaller chunks.)

Logical places to break into multiple steps:

  • When you move to a different screen when explaining how to use a software program
  • When a task is handed off to a different person

You don’t need verbose written documentation either. Consider:

  • Adding screenshots or diagrams instead of lots of explanatory text
  • Making simple checklists

Let SOPs free you from your business

SOPs are a powerful tool that can help you to streamline your operations, reduce errors, and improve the overall quality of your work.

They’re also the magic key that allows you to get out of the hub and spoke trap where everything has to come through you.

Contrary to popular belief, creating SOPs doesn’t require a grand strategic plan, a complicated documentation process, or months of thoughtful planning.

Instead, it’s about providing your team with practical guidance that will help them to complete tasks in a consistent and efficient manner.

By implementing SOPs, you’ll be able to scale your business, ensure consistency, and optimize your workflows.

Developing SOPs is a worthwhile investment that will pay dividends in the long run.

Would you like a business that runs smoothly, profitably, and mostly without you? Business coaching can help! Book 15 minutes on my calendar here: time with John

The Ultimate Guide to Scaling Your Business

w5 what does it mean to scale your business

How to grow your business without sacrificing time freedom

This post is part of my Ultimate Guide to Scaling Your Business. Visit the guide homepage to get my best advice and coaching exercises to help you:

  • Develop systems and processes to free up your time
  • Hire and manage a great team to run your business (mostly) without you
  • Make the mindset changes that enable you to grow your business bigger - faster than you dreamed possible