SOP – A Business Game ChangerOct 30, 2023 07:08PM ● By Mary Michaels
In today's fast-paced, competitive world, businesses are always looking for ways to improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability. In any business, one of the easiest and most effective ways to impact these three areas is to implement user-friendly Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs. SOPs create a framework for how teams can operate at an optimal level. They are a set of instructions or steps that clearly define how routine operations in all areas of the business are performed – everything from finance to facility needs.
Everyday SOPs have an impact on your business. Businesses without them often struggle with issues such as unclear expectations, the inability to effectively train and retain staff, inconsistent service, and unnecessary expenses. Businesses with lengthy and complex SOPs have good intentions, but their processes end up being so overwhelming and complicated they are rarely used.
Clearly-defined SOPs provide businesses with a clear set of expectations and a guide for performance throughout the organization. Additionally, with strong SOPs, your business benefits from:
Increased Efficiency: Staff performing tasks based on clear instruction and best practices improving productivity.
Captured Tribal Knowledge: Documenting information from veteran and top performers ensuring the business can withstand the absence of key team members.
Reduced Costs: Identifying activities that can be adjusted or eliminated, leading to lower costs and increased operational efficiencies.
Enhanced Customer Experience: Ensuring customers receive consistent and exemplary service that increases customer retention and loyalty.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg!
So, with these benefits in mind, why do so many business owners not have SOPs?
When working with business owners on developing SOP, most will tell me there just isn’t enough time. Day-to-day priorities often rob them of time required to think about SOPs, much less create them. Many business owners also lack knowledge and understanding of how to create an SOP and don’t know where to begin. They may not even realize the value SOPs can provide. Some business owners are hesitant about having a set way to do things. They will default to excuses like “This is the way we’ve always done it,” or ”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Why? These business owners fear change and pushback against SOPs as being too formal or strict.
The truth is, SOPs don’t have to be an overwhelming project. They don’t have to be complicated or complex. Think of them as a table of contents for your business. Ask yourself WHAT needs to be done in the process versus HOW it needs to be done. All those HOW activities can be built into training materials.
To deal with anxiety, fear, or a general feeling of being overwhelmed, start small and test the waters. Need a good starting point? Here’s a quick way to make it happen:
Identify one or two key areas of your business that would benefit from having SOPs and write down the most common key activities for the area(s). Examples may include Human Resources, Sales, Finance, Marketing, Business Development or Production/Service.
Involve key team members. Capture how they perform their functions and the best way to do activities.
Systematically go through the key activities within an area and put them in the order they need to be completed. For each activity list the following: the activity, responsible person, time frame, and tools needed.
The Person Responsible
The Time Frame
The Tools Needed
Once the SOP is completed for an area, have team members review it for accuracy and possible additional input.
Yes, it’s that easy to create SOP!
When your SOP is completed, the next step will be training on the SOP and revisiting processes for accuracy on an on-going basis. SOPs will evolve as your business needs, customer needs, and/or the environment changes.
So, when is the best time to develop SOPs? Why not start today? There is not going to be a ‘best’ time if you’re waiting for one. Again, start small, don’t overwhelm yourself, and recruit team members to help.
If you’re not fired up yet, just ask yourself what it would mean for your business if you took the time to create a single tool that will improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability all at the same time.
Mary Michael is a Business Coach with ActionCOACH, one of the leading Coaching Organizations in the world. She guides business owners to reach their full potential for both their business and their life. Learn more at BillGilliland.ActionCOACH.com.