The Definitive Guide to Standard Operating Procedures

Want To Improve Your Growing Business? SOPs are the Answer.

We have some helpful insight with our Definitive Guide to Standard Operating Procedures.

If you have a growing business, you probably consider your employees the heart that keeps the whole thing beating. In an ideal world, they’ll be organised individuals who use their initiative and are always 100% sure of what they’re meant to do and how they’re meant to do it. If that’s not the case, and you’re having to micromanage staff and explain things over and over again, it’s likely down to your SOPs - or lack of them!

Business owners are constantly looking for ways to make things run more smoothly, increase motivation and productivity among their employees, and in turn, grow profits. SOPs are the quickest and easiest way to do that, and implementing them should be step one if you’re trying to grow your business.

You’ve read ‘SOP’ three times now (four if we count that one), and if you’re not sure what they are - let alone if you have them - allow me to explain…

SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedures and basically does what it says on the tin: they are the procedures for the standard operations of your business; clear, in-depth instructions that explain to those who need to know how to perform a task or activity. Good SOPs leave no room for interpretation or mistakes - they are straight up and to the point and are used by every industry you can think of to help keep things organised and running efficiently. 

Whatever task your SOP describes, it needs to be simple to follow, quick to read, and easy to understand - think of your SOP’s as ‘idiot’s guides’ (but maybe don’t call them that in front of people). The vast majority of employees don’t want to be stopping what they’re doing every five minutes to come and check that they’re doing it correctly; they want to get on with their work and do a good job - all of which is much easier if the company they work for has good SOPs.

A good SOP is going to improve hiring (as I said, no one wants a job where you’re just left to get on with it, with no clue as to what procedures are), improve customer relations (“everyone in this business knows what they’re doing - yay! I’ll use them again.”), and lead to increased profits (Ker-ching!)

What Makes A Good SOP?

Three words:

Information. Information. Information.

Your SOP should never make assumptions that the person reading it is already familiar with even one step of the process - everything needs to be explicitly and clearly stated - and it’s always better to give more information than not enough.

Now, when I say ‘more information, I don’t mean great big bodies of text. Keep it as concise as possible, and use infographics or diagrams if you think it’s a better way to communicate a more complex procedure; this is particularly helpful to employees who are more visual learners.   

Even if it’s a process you’ve done a billion times and could do blindfolded, still take the time to test out the steps before you make it part of your official SOP - you might think of ways to improve it or even change it entirely while you’re putting your SOP together. The whole point is putting together a foolproof plan that will benefit your employees, make their life easier and less stressful, and give newbies a head-start - as well as ensuring that you can spend your own time more productively.

So; increased profits, higher levels of productivity….fewer people knocking on the door to your office during the day….

...but what are some of the other benefits that having good SOPs brings to the table?

Top Benefits Of Having Good SOPs

1. Hiring and keeping employees will be so much easier

I touched on this briefly, but having good SOPs will make hiring new staff SO much more straightforward. 

New employees have it tough; they have to learn what needs to be done, what time frame, and how - and know who everyone is, what they do, and how the temperamental coffee machine in the break room works. It could be that when someone new starts, you have them shadow another member of staff who will train them on the job - perhaps you even do it yourself. With good SOPs in place, new team members can get up to speed in their own time, meaning you or other employees can spend less time training and more time working and running your business.

Having good SOPs in place will also help keep the staff you’ve got. Procedure guides remove ambiguity from tasks and ensure that everything is running smoothly, and we all want to work somewhere free from stress and confusion! The upside is that your employees won’t be spending the day re-doing work or correcting errors - saving both time and money.

2. It promotes positivity in the workplace

Fewer people complaining that they’re confused about what they’re meant to be doing can only be a good thing - for them and you. Successful employees are happy and productive employees - and the sense of achievement that comes from a job well done can all be down to having clear instructions to follow. 

Without constantly questioning how and why things are done, employees can perform the way they want to, which means less stress and frustration and contributes to a positive atmosphere.
3. SOPs can help you identify problems

Writing down procedures step-by-step is a great way to spot any gaps causing problems. Perhaps you’ve been forgetting an essential step in your invoicing or ordering process or have been leaving out important information that’s causing your employees to make mistakes somewhere along the line.

Taking a close look at all of your business’s procedures and breaking it all down into bite-size chunks could lead to you changing the way you operate altogether and discovering a new, more efficient way to do things. 

4. You can make your workplace a safer place

Whatever industry you’re working in, safety is paramount, not just to avoid injured members of staff and customers, but to avoid damaged or broken equipment (that could be expensive to replace), as well as potential legal action!

SOPs that you have proven to be safe and efficient go a long way to avoid that. Ensuring that employees know the correct procedures to follow is going to potentially save you a considerable amount of money and stress, as well as upholding the excellent reputation you’ve no doubt worked hard to earn.

5. SOPs can improve customer service

As a business owner, customer service is one of your top priorities. Once you have enticed them into trying your product or service, you want them to leave satisfied and hopefully return again and again. 

Your level of customer service could mean the difference between years and years of repeat business or them bad-mouthing you all over social media…

...but what does that have to do with SOPs? 

Not having SOPs for customer service could be business suicide - what’s your procedure for dealing with customer complaints? (they can and do happen). What are your guidelines on follow-up times when a customer asks someone to get in touch? How are new customer service enquiries dealt with?

A good SOP will ensure that all of your employees are on the same page regarding customer service, which will foster good customer relations, boost your brand, bolster your reputation, and increase your profits. 

Remember To Review

Your SOPs are written. 

They’re beautiful; clear, concise, simple to follow...laminated… 

Now you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the fact that your employees are happy as Larry, and nothing will ever go wrong again, ever. 

Not quite.

Writing SOPs isn’t a one-off job that you’ll never have to do again. As your business grows, so might require your procedures. You might add new ones and get rid of others, or add or remove steps from existing procedures. 

To keep your SOPs as effective as possible, you must review them periodically to keep them up to date as your business or practices change. Reviewing them once a year is always a good idea, and if you’re going through a period of fast growth or your company is changing direction, you’re going to want to review some of your SOPs more frequently. 

It’s a good idea to involve your employees when reviewing your SOPs. They’re the ones carrying out the procedures after all, and they might have spotted ways the SOP could be improved that you might not.

And so there you have it; SOPs are essential for the growth of any business, especially when it comes to training up new employees, improving the way you do things, and giving your customers the best possible experience. So if your business doesn’t already have them - get them.

You can thank us later.

Ready to learn more? Book a FREE discovery call today.