When a majority of people hear or read about standard operating procedures or SOPs, they think about a large organization with thousands of employees and tons of documented processes. One rarely hears or associates the words SOPs and small businesses in the same sentence and that is a HUGE business mistake!
What Are Standard Operating Procedures?
A Standard Operating Procedure can be defined as a set of written instructions that describe how an activity or task will be performed. It includes in-depth rules that should be followed by everyone concerned and leaves very little ambiguity around what needs to be done.
Standard Operating Procedures help in organizing nearly every work task that can be thought of. They make life easier and simpler for everyone involved – the entrepreneur, business partners, employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
Some examples of where you may use an SOP include:
- New Customer/Client Onboarding SOP: A series of steps that are recommended to attract and win customers.
- Customer service SOP: Steps to handle common customer complaints and requests.
- Blog Management SOP: Detailed instructions on how to post content, graphics, and other things on the business website. It generally also includes information on the standard components of a post, steps to promote new posts, time and frequency of posting, etc.
- Email Marketing SOP: A series of steps to plan, execute, and deliver enticing email marketing campaigns to retain existing and attract new customers while stimulating a surge in upselling and cross-selling.
Benefits Of SOPs
- Train New Employees Faster: One of the biggest advantages of SOPs is that they act as a starting point for new employees to learn about your organization. An SOP helps new employees understand the detailing and frequency of each process, the rights and responsibilities of everyone in the organizational hierarchy, and how the organization plans to achieve its short, medium, and long-term goals. This relieves experienced team members avoid spending countless hours training and new employees learn faster.
- Improve Employee Productivity: Once the initial training is completed, SOPs act as guides for employees to ensure that their performed tasks and activities are in complete alignment with the organization’s vision, mission, and ethics. The more the employees follow the SOPs, the more confidence they gain to perform their duties and responsibilities. Improved employee productivity translates to reduced chances of errors in performance and saves on work hours.
- Help a business delegate/outsource: Once you have developed well-defined SOPs, it is easy to outsource tasks to a virtual assistant or delegate to a recruit. This frees your resources from the performance of mundane, repetitive tasks and concentrate on the core operations of your business.
- Useful in Writing Job Descriptions: It is often a challenging task to evaluate the contribution and performance of employees in a small business. SOPs help in forming the basis for listing critical business processes and assigning responsibilities for each of them. In other words, SOPs act as the baseline documents to draft job descriptions of each member of your team.
- Ensure Product Quality: How does your organization deliver the same product quality consistently? The ideal way is to define a series of quality checks at different phases in your processes. The other way is to make sure that everyone in the organization understands the final product’s specifications and intricacies. Service organizations and manufacturers can leverage standard operating procedures to communicate with their employees on how they want things to be handled to meet the desired product quality standards.
- Create service benchmarks: While your customers may never catch a glimpse of your internal standard operating procedures, they will surely come to know how professionally you run the business. Having Service SOPs ensure that every team member has a clear and complete understanding of the expected outcomes of service interactions. This could include the resolution to a customer problem, the ways on how to deal with customer feedback, or the time it takes to complete a customer order.
- Identify Areas for Improvement: Over time, SOPs become the sources to identify and leverage opportunities for enhancing your internal processes. This helps in saving valuable time, money, and other resources while improving the customer experience. Ideally, you should review critical SOPs every six months to assess if you need to make changes.
- Ensure Business Continuity: It is imperative to identify a backup employee for each task to ensure business continuity. In case a key team member is absent or quit, other team members can refer to the SOPs and ensure that the work is completed correctly.
At Dana Sacco, we are big believers in the power of standard operating procedures for every business. All you need is not to get intimidated by the process, though. Get started and you’ll be glad you did! If you need assistance, please feel free to reach out to us.
I’m Dana, a small business systems GENIE! As a mom of 5 kids, a wife, and a grandmother, I am someone who has worked from home in multiple businesses for the last 30 years, and I get it. We are tired and need systems in place in order to make it all work and achieve some semblance of balance! I love order and chaos all at once and when I see a problem, I map it out in my head to make it work.
I’m an avid reader and learner as well as a woman who needs color coding in her life to make it work. If you haven’t guessed yet, my favorite color is purple and family is life.