Standard Operating Procedures:

Why they're essential for small business owners

Entrepreneurs never turn off

As entrepreneurs we never really switch off, and this is why Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are so important for us small business owners. I don’t think about my business when I sleep, but I think about it most of my waking time. I need more than a week on holiday to be able to stop that constant thinking. Most small business owners like me never really leave their business. We are the ones opening in the morning and often closing in the evening. As you probably do the same as me, when we are away from our business physically, we are never far from our company mentally.

As a small business owner, you want your operations to run smoothly and efficiently. You don’t want to have to worry about it on holiday or even worse take numerous calls beside the pool when you’re meant to be with the family. When things are running smoothly you are able to concentrate on growing the business and building a great team to work for you. The last thing you need is constantly having to help your team do their jobs.

Don’t rely on common sense, standardise your processes.

I’ve heard some business owners complain about the lack of common sense in their team. We’re all familiar with the view that common sense is not very common. Actually, I think common sense is very common but it’s very different in everybody’s head. We see problems differently and come up with different ways to solve them. That might be great in a very creative environment but when your business is about producing consistent high-quality service or products then you need standard operating procedures (SOPs).

What are SOPs?

SOPs ensure that every task is performed consistently regardless of who is doing it and how they view common sense. That task could be anything from answering the phone, updating the customer database to making a sales call.

An SOP is typically a written document that sets out who is responsible for performing the task when it should be done and any limitations or exceptions. It would also document the steps in the process in a clear and concise manner. It should also include visuals such as diagrams or photos or even a video. SOPs should follow an consistent format, so a template would be really useful.

Also, it’s important that the documents are easy to find. Having an agreed file structure, consistent naming rules plus a strong search facility are very helpful.

I believe SOPs are best drafted by the people who do the task and also be tested. Plus you can start small and gradually widen the scope of where SOPs are applied. Finally, the documents need updating as your business evolves and processes change.

Are SOPs are too hard to do?

The single biggest reason I hear about not doing SOPs is that they are too hard to set up and organise. Yes, you need thinking time, discussion with your team and getting the team involved in completing them. Time will always feel short when there’s a sales opportunity looming or there is another internal fire to put out. But think of the big benefits that SOPs could give your business:

without Standard Operating Procedures SOPs this is how business owners feel. Overwhelmed with laptop and work papers all around them

The Big Benefits of SOPs

Process Efficiency:

SOPs help to streamline processes and reduce the time it takes to complete tasks. That should increase productivity and profitability. Just a note for the future. Should you ever sell your business, having SOPs would be a very attractive to your acquirer.

Training Consistency:

SOPs provide a clear outline of how to perform a task, making it easier to train new employees. This reduces the amount of time and effort needed to train people.

Quality Operations:

With SOPs you have the ability to complete products and services to the same level of quality every time.

Team engagement:

This is the freebie benefit. I have attended so many workshops or meetings where team members get the chance to document and improve their work processes and tasks. I’m sure you’ll find them very engaged, take ownership and volunteer to do things you would never imagine.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are important for small business owners. If you are curious about SOPs helping you create a smooth and efficient business then you should do some thinking and start small. Click here to download the eBook The Definitive guide to SOPs, that will explain how to make SOPs the norm in your business.

You can read more about SOPs and how maternity leave was the trigger for one client to take the leap. Click here to read the blog.

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