SOPs & Processes

  • How to create effective SOPs for your online business

    It's not too late or early to set up SOPs for your business. Here's a guide on how to effectively set up SOPs for your online business.

    Now that you have been running your online business for some time, there are probably a number of things you have found out that no one told you about. Like all the hats you have to wear and the occasional ‘fall’ that comes with trying to balance all those hats. You know that you need Standard Operating Procedures. To hire effectively and start outsourcing some tasks, especially those which aren’t in your zone of mastery.

    Now it’s time to start creating the SOPs for your online business that will allow you to delegate more, work less and be the CEO that your business needs to be.

    Here are 7 steps to create the most effective SOPs that will allow you to do just that:

    Step 1. Pick 3-5 SOPs to start with

    Overwhelm is the source of inaction. Don’t try to create all your SOPs in one go. Unless you have someone on your team who is designated to do just this for the next few weeks.

    So the first thing you want to do is decide which areas of your business need processes and structure the most. 

    It’s always a good idea to look at the activities that are the most time-consuming. Activities that you want to start outsourcing as soon as possible. Especially the tasks that are necessary for your business to continue running. But are not necessarily high on the income-generating priority list such as; admin, email management, etc.

    You can use these criteria to decide on the next set of SOPs for your online business to work on. However, don’t try to do it all at once. It is a process, and you are better off having two effective SOPs in your business than 5 average SOPs.

    Step 2. Brainstorm & Outline your SOP

    SOPs for your online business should include;

    • Who is responsible for the task
    • How often the task should be completed
    • What are the steps in the task, with sufficient detail and guidelines
    • Where are these tasks performed, e.g. if there is a tool or location in your online workspace where it should be performed for follow up.
    • Any tools or additional resources your team members can use
    • FAQs that you anticipate could be asked

    Remember your SOPs are more than just a set of steps that should be followed. If you compare SOPs to cooking, your SOP is like the recipe that will help you get the right bake and flavour on that cake. So you want to be as specific as possible. But not too specific that you don’t give your team some leeway to apply their minds and creativity in making the outcome even better.

    Step 3. Choose your primary SOP format

    There are so many ways to create an SOP. Word documents are the most widely used format. But you could use a number of alternative formats if typing a document out is not your thing.

    Here are a few alternative formats you could use to create effective SOPs:

    • Record yourself on Loom or Zoom as you perform the task
    • Create a flow chart (try out whimsical.com to create your own flow charts)
    • Take screenshots as you perform the task

    In my view, creating typed documents are still the best way to format your SOPs, as they are the easiest to edit. However, this should not stop you from using the format you are most comfortable with.

    You could get someone to transcribe your video SOPs, and this could be beneficial. As you’ll have an extra pair of eyes trying to follow the process and see if there are any gaps that need to be filled.

    It's not too late or early to set up SOPs for your business. Here's a guide on how to effectively set up SOPs for your online business.

    Step 4. Automate your SOPs

    Once you have created the first few SOPs for your online business, create a Google Drive folder where you will save all your SOPs.

    You can then go to the relevant projects in your task management tool and link the relevant task to the Google Drive Folder where the SOP has been saved. This makes it easy for everyone to know which SOP relates to which task and where to find the fully documented SOP. 

    You also want to create a task template in your task management tool, e.g. Asana, that links to the specific SOP. Instead of having to create a new task and opening up the SOP every time the task is performed, you could create a task from the task template which will already have a link to the relevant SOP and the steps in a detailed workflow.

    You’ll save time and ensure that the task is performed consistently every time.

    Step 5. Create checklists 

    Your SOP will provide the detailed steps to completing the task, but you could supplement these steps with a checklist that should be used before the task is marked as completed.

    This checklist will include a number of items or dependencies that need to be reviewed before the task is completed. For example, if you need to review the work, one of the checklist items could be ‘submit for review’ or ‘request for review’. Once you have reviewed, the person working on the task can check off this item in the checklist and then proceed to mark the task as complete.

    Step 6. Organize your list of SOPs in a google sheet or some form of library

    With time you may end up with a library of 50+ SOPs for your online business. It is good practice to keep a list of the SOPs that you have created so that;

    • You know which SOPs are available
    • Your team can easily look up an SOP they need
    • You know which area of your business needs some SOPs.

    Use Google Sheets to create your SOP library. You can indicate the following on the spreadsheet

    • Name of SOP
    • Date completed
    • Date last revised
    • Personal responsible
    • Software/tools used

    Step 7. Review and refine your SOPs 

    Creating SOPs is not the most exciting activity in your business, and that’s why you could get on a VIP Day with me where we will map out your key processes and create SOP frameworks for you and your team to use. 

    However, you want to review your SOPs at least twice a year to ensure that they continue to remain relevant.

    PRO Tip: Team members asking questions about this task? Add the answers in your SOP under FAQs so you never have to answer the same question twice.

    The bottom line is that process and SOP creation does not have a start and an end in your business. Your business is continually evolving and so should your SOPs. You want to start creating a blueprint that describes how to run your business, NOW, and not when you are on your knees looking for an assistant to help you out.

    You want to cover yourself against the risk of key members leaving your business so that your business continues to run without much business disruption.

    For example, if your VA decides to quit her job or in the last few days before you start your maternity leave, this should not result in being in panic mode. Your team should be able to pick up her tasks with the SOPs that you have created, as you look for a replacement. Make it easy to build flexibility and freedom with SOPs

    Here are a few ideas for SOPs that you could start creating

    • Email organization and folder management
    • Blog/Podcast workflow
    • Social media analytics
    • Lead generation
    • Team member recruitment & orientation

    Even if you don’t have a team, start laying the groundwork now so that managing your team is so much more effective and better experience for all of you.

    Got any questions? Let’s hope on a free systems audit and I can help you map out which areas in your business need SOPs ASAP, and how we can help you.

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  • What are Standard Operating Procedures and why you need them in your business

    Why you need standard operating procedures for your business

    So SOPs? Standard Operating Procedures? Do you have them? The word itself just sounds so corporatey. But what exactly are standard operating procedures for business? Why do you need them, when you’ve only ever wanted to escape the corporate life to run a business your way?

    Here’s the thing. At some point, your business is going to grow and your responsibilities are going to grow with it. Depending on your vision for your business, you are going to need to lean into systems and human resources. To help you manage your business. Otherwise, you may find yourself trapped in a hugely successful business, with no control over your time, or with even less time off than when you had a day job.

    The truth is, without standard operating procedures, automating, hiring and delegating becomes extremely difficult, and costly too.

    What are SOPs?

    Standard operating procedures are really just a way of doing things in your business. They help you ensure things get done your way. They are like a recipe book to get the most ideal results you want for your business.

    SOPs help you ensure that activities that can be done by a machine, get done by a machine. And not by you or anyone else you end up hiring in your business.

    And if you are looking for a formal definition, a standard operating procedure is a procedure specific to your business operations that describes the activities necessary to complete tasks in accordance with industry regulations, provincial laws or even just your own standards for running your business.

    Why SOPs and what are the benefits for your business?

    First of all, I want you to change your mindset about processes, operations or even SOPs. A lot of people think ‘boring’, ‘must-have, ‘restrictive’ when they hear these words. And this is completely not true. SOPs are one of the building blocks to a strong foundation in your business. So see them as an investment in creating a business that will last. 

    Time freedom

    Yes, exactly! Not what you thought right?

    A common thing I hear entrepreneurs say is how they have the blueprint of their business in their mind. They’re the only ones who know what is supposed to happen when, but no one else knows what’s in your mind besides yourself. 

    While this is definitely something worth bragging about, it isn’t the best way to build a business that gives you time freedom and flexibility. You started your business because you wanted control over your time. Without putting the processes, steps and activities of your business on pen and paper, you won’t be able to create the systems that give you that time freedom. Your business will continue to be your ‘baby’. And so it can’t survive without you constantly being there to make sure it survives.

    Your SOPs are going to help you create the systems to support you and your team. So that you don’t have to continue trading time for every dollar you make in your business.

    Brand consistency

    Have you ever been to a Macdonalds and your fries were a different size to what you are used to? Ever bought a shoe from Nike and the size 5 in the store in UK felt different from the size 5 in Bankgok? The reason why you have probably never had such issues is that these businesses have strict standard operating procedures that everyone must abide by. The same applies to your business. 

    You want all your clients to experience the same quality of service delivery. The right processes and SOPs are going to help you achieve this. You want your content to be created and promoted in a certain way that suits your style and brand. Regardless of who is in charge of this activity in your business. The SOPs you create will be a key ingredient in ensuring that things get done a certain way, the same way, all the time. This is how you scale a business, and how you can replicate success efficiently.

    Delegate like a boss

    If you have been putting off hiring someone to help you because ‘nobody can do it like you do’, then SOPs are your new best friend. Through SOPs you can literally put down the operations of your business and strategy. And someone else can execute them for you.

    Now don’t get me wrong. Not everything in your business can be automated or delegated. But you will be shocked that a fairly large percentage of activities can. And that’s why SOPs are going to help you.

    Standard operating procedures for your business include things such as; when certain activities should be performed, how frequently, what tools and steps are available to aid in completing the activities.

    Having a well-documented SOP will make it so much easier for your team to execute according to your expectations. This will reduce the amount of back-and-forth or questions from your team as they try to get things done. 

    They can also focus on executing the task because they have a clear guide, and save time while at it. So not only are you getting better quality work, but you are getting more output for the time they spend working on your business.

    Business continuity

    What happens if your wing-woman Virtual Assistant decides to leave your business? Or has to take time off for personal reasons? Would you be able to easily get a replacement without having to hit pause on the ongoing projects in your business?

    Your business success should not depend on a specific person. And SOPs are going to ensure that anything related to your day-to-day operations is clearly documented and explained in a way that someone else with the same level of skills can understand and execute.

    Not only for your team members but even for your own eventualities. If you had to take 3 months off from your business (e.g having a baby or going on your honeymoon). Your SOPs will be the only guide that your team will have to ensure that business continues as usual even while you are away.

    Automate

    Once you have your standard operating procedures for your business in place, automation becomes an easier task to manage. Because you have clarity on what you are going to automate and what specifications are required to meet your needs.

    Before you start shopping around for tools or paying an annual subscription on a tool that you are not even sure will meet your business needs, take some time to set up your SOPs and map out your processes. The answer will become much clearer to you when you have clarity on your operations.

    Quality standards 

    You want to have the right standards of quality in your business, and this is a key part of building a strong brand.

    Once you have your SOPs in place, you and your team members have a clear guide. This ensures that quality standards are met when you are creating content, or interacting with potential clients or even during the service delivery process.

    As a coach, if your business model is around 1-2-1 private coaching, the only way to scale this model is by hiring more people. Your SOPs are going to help you ensure that the assistant coaches you hire are meeting the client’s needs at the same level of quality as if you were the one delivering the service.

    Increase revenue

    A lot of people think ‘boring’ when they hear the word ‘operations’. It just doesn’t sound as sassy and exciting. But if you are struggling to keep up with the influx of new clients, or if you have a long waiting list of clients, these are good problems to have and SOPs can help you solve them. 

    The only way to scale your business and breakthrough an income plateau is to invest in systems or human capital. Both of these investments require your business to be set on the right foundation if you want the highest return from them. And your SOPs are going to be part of that foundation. So why not create your SOPs and set yourself up for long-term success?

    And if you feel like you would rather outsource this to someone else, You don’t have to do this alone. Let’s chat here in a free Systems to Scale Audit about my VIP intensive where we will create your operations strategy and processes, and get you on a great start. 

    Where do you start with SOPs for your business?

    1. First things first, read my 4A Systems method blog to get the building blocks of your standards of procedure for your business right.
    2. You will then need to do a thorough task audit. 
      • Organize your tasks
      • By core area of business
      • Using the Like vs.. Don’t like
      • Using the Task Priority Matrix: Do, Automate, Delegate, Ditch, Prioritize, Postpone
    3. Starting with the tasks you don’t like that are the most, time-consuming, create SOPs for them. You will want to automate or delegate these so you can free up your time for the tasks that come more naturally to you.
    4. Document all the steps you take in completing these tasks. Have a notepad next to you the next time you complete the task, and take note of the steps you take and any important detail as you perform the task.
    5. Use my SOP template here to create your own SOP template, and share it with your team members. Make sure you check out my next blog where I will be talking about how to organize your SOPs

    Found this useful? Drop a comment below and let me know what’s the next SOP you will be documenting.

    Why you need standard operating procedures for your business

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