A Standard Operations Procedures (SOP) Guide: It sounds much more intimidating than it is when it really is just a fancy term for documenting how things get done in your business. And yes, while it sounds totally boring, it is super imperative for your business as you scale and start to outsource.
You will need an SOP Guide to make sure tasks are delegated and executed correctly. Unless you are super specific about how you want something executed, there is a good chance that it won’t happen the correct way.
I’ve broken the process for creating your SOP Guide in five easy steps. That’s right- just five steps!
Step #1 Write out a list of tasks to delegate
Start by writing out a list of tasks to delegate. When you create this list, think about what answers come up when you ask these questions:
- What are tasks that I do on an ongoing basis?
- What are tasks that don’t necessarily need me to do them?
- What tasks am I not doing that drain my energy?
- What tasks am I doing that I am not a natural at?
You can also do Chris Ducker’s Three Lists to Freedom exercise to create your list
Some ideas for tasks to get you started:
- Edit and format blog posts
- Respond to customer service questions
- Format and send newsletter following a template
- Approve or delete blog comments
Keep this list updated on an ongoing basis as you discover more tasks you can document.
Step #2- Schedule 2-4 tasks to document each week
Pick a couple hours a week in your calendar that you will block out to document 2-4 tasks. You could also schedule the time into your project management tool. To pick a day, you could choose the day that you focus on the administrative side of your business. You could also schedule this out for a day where you don’t do any client-facing work.
An alternative to this would be to document the task as you are doing it naturally so it doesn’t interrupt the flow of your day. Whatever works best for you!
In your list you created in step #1, create a column that to input the date you will document that task. Start with two tasks to document each week and up it as you get in the habit of doing it. The tasks that you document will add up little by little.
Step #3- Choose a tool to create your SOP Guide
Your SOP Guide should live in a tool that can be accessed online or in the cloud- so it should not live in a Word document on your hard drive! Another rule of thumb is that it should be linkable, meaning that someone can access or request access to it by clicking on a link to it.
Some options for tools:
Virtual Office/Project Management system: If you use a virtual office/project management system like Central Desktop, there will be a wiki feature that is great for your SOP Guide. The wiki is editable and accessible by all the team members that use the virtual office. If you use a virtual office with a wiki system, you are all set there.
Google docs: A tool that most everyone is familiar with and a great choice for getting started with your SOP.
Evernote: An awesome, flexible tool where you can capture thoughts, create documents and do much more.
A password-protected webpage: You can create a password-protected webpage where you document your SOP. Your team will need a user account to access the SOP.
Dropbox: If you can’t help but use a Word document, make sure it is stored in a cloud tool like Dropbox where your team can access the most up-to-date version. You’ll want to be careful that if you allow others to access it that more than one person is not updating it, otherwise two versions will be created.
Don’t spend too much time agonizing over which tool to use. You can always change the tool later. The important thing is to get started as soon as possible!
Step #4- Choose a method for documenting: Written, reference documents, screenshots, screencast
There are many methods for documenting a task to ensure it is spelled out exactly how you’d like it done.
Written Instructions: The most basic method is simple written instructions. Create step-by-step instructions in a numerical list that are concise- so don’t have more than one action per step.
Reference Documents: Attach or link reference documents as needed. For example, if you are documenting an event that you’ve produced in the past before, include contracts and menus that you used in the past.
Screenshots: Anything visual will give your team an even clearer idea of how you’d like something done. My favorite tool for this is Skitch which syncs up with Evernote. You can add text, arrows and markings on the screen shot to emphasize what you are trying to say. Example of a screenshot
Screencasts: This is my favorite way to document a process. A screencast leaves little to no room for misinterpretation for how a task should be done. To do this, you simply open up a recording while you are doing a task and narrate what is being done. The tool I use to create screencasts is Screen Cast-O-Matic, but there are a variety of tools you can use like Jing and Screenflow. Once you record a video you can create written instructions to accompany it, or you can delegate that part to a VA.
Get going on capturing those tasks!
Step #5- DO IT
The hardest part of getting your SOP Guide won’t be writing out a list of tasks to delegate or picking the tool. Rather, it will be finding the discipline to sit down and DO IT. There will be resistance around setting aside time to document your tasks. Your brain will tell you that it’s not important and that there are much more urgent things to do.
Creating an SOP Guide is one of the steps you must take to run a business from a place of freedom. You don’t want to be stuck doing these tasks forever, right? Keep that in mind. JUST START.
What questions do you have about creating an SOP Guide? What sort of resistance comes up for you when you think about creating an SOP Guide?