Let’s start with a story:
It’s a sunny Monday morning in June.
Ivana enters all accounts for Google, Facebook & Bing ads, as a part of her weekly routine. She wants to check what’s going on and make sure everything goes according to the plan.
One of the accounts catches her attention. She wonders, “Why does this account have only one campaign? It’s a micro account, but still?”. She clearly remembers discussing with her team about additional campaigns two months ago.
At that moment, Ivana starts to feel anxious and overwhelmed again. In the last three months, she had a lot of work on her shoulders. Besides her tasks, she needed to check each team member’s performance, focus on agency growth & clients, and be a mommy.
She is drained and can’t help but wonder when things went wrong? And why?
Then, it hits her.
Things went wrong because expectations weren’t set correctly. And procedures weren’t in place. Ivana takes a deep breath and admits to herself – it’s time for SOPs.
What Are SOPs, and Why We Need Them?
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are essentially a list of step-by-step instructions that explain how routine operations and recurring events in your business should be performed.
SOPs are vital for growth and development because they create benchmarks for the quality of results. While everyone wants to do the right thing, everyone’s version of the right thing might be slightly different.
Let’s dig a little deeper and learn 6 top reasons why your biz needs SOPs:
Keep Things Consistent and Standardized
If you have SOPs, rest assured that things will be done in the way you want them to be done, productively and efficiently. That way, you can standardize processes, reduce errors, and make results more predictable.
Additionally, in the absence of the key staff member, someone else could refer to the SOPs and get the task done correctly.
Train New Employees Faster
Wouldn’t it be great if the onboarding process of new team members went smoothly every time? SOPs help new employees understand their responsibilities and provide them with precise directions for the completion of tasks. With a start point to learn about the business, your newbies will feel more secure, and their questions will be better articulated. No need for countless hours of training. Every time.
With solid SOPs in place, you will have a clear outline of duties and expectations. When uncertainty is eliminated, you and your team are all on the same page, which creates a more productive working environment. Besides that, the more team members follow SOPs, the more confident they will become in their skills and performance, which positively affects productivity.
Make Delegation /Outsourcing Easier
Want to stop wearing all the hats in your business? SOPs are the way to go.
When responsibilities and expectations are clearly defined, it is easier to delegate and outsource. This will leave you with more time to work on the development and improvement of your business. SOPs will also give you the peace of mind to switch off and be assured that (almost) everything goes according to plan.
Manage Quality and Reduce Stress Level
Quality management is essential for keeping your customers and clients happy. A well-established process shows that you care and that you can carry out all necessary tasks. At the same time, it’s crucial that your team members feel secure and supported while delivering those great results.
“My main motivation is not to hire a single person ever again before all tasks and expectations are in place. We are building a supportive and stress-free environment for all our team members.
As we grow, it is mandatory that our partners never feel the need to worry about the quality of the work done on the way to scaling their eCom stores. “
Identify Areas for Improvement
You can use SOPs as a source to identify opportunities for advancing your processes, which could save time and money and improve the business further on. They are also helpful for writing well-defined job descriptions and can be used as a baseline for evaluating employees’ performance.
A word of caution: inadequate procedures can be as disastrous as no procedures at all.
Poorly written, hard-to-understand, and boring documents clog up shelves and drives because they:
- cause errors and frustration
- waste time and money
- don’t get read or used
Continue reading as we are about to share some of our best tips and practices when it comes to SOPs:
Tips for Writing SOPs That Deliver Value
Now that you know how your business can benefit from SOPs, let’s dive into what it takes to write one:
Instead of being overwhelmed by the creation of perfect and extensive procedures, start small. Note down the steps you take the next time you perform a task. It doesn’t have to be a massive SOP manual – it’s just a recording of each of the steps someone needs to take to correctly complete the process.
Don’t Make Assumptions
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that the team member is familiar with the steps, concepts, or processes. Everything should be explicitly stated in the procedure. It’s better to over-inform than to leave out certain things. Too little information can lead to a disaster.
Involve the Right People
Writing an SOP should be a group effort, so make sure to include everyone familiar with the outlining task. And, since it is sometimes difficult for us to document our processes in a simple and understandable way, hiring a skilled expert is also a great idea.
Let’s dig a little deeper into this process with the fragment from episode 2 of the eCom Independent podcast:
Ivana: We’re hitting really hard with new procedures and systems for our agency. We want to have it all lined up before we hire new people. We want to create a stress-free environment. And, in order to do that, you need to make adequate procedures, so people never have to ask, “What should be done next? “.
Raoul: We went through the process a few months ago. I think that all starts with awareness of what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter if you are a marketer or you’re running a store – you have your routine-based tasks and things you do automatically.
Switching back to being aware of all the tasks you’re doing is the key. Don’t make it broad like “setting up a campaign. ” What kind of campaign? What do you need to do in order to get to that campaign? What kind of research do you do? What are the requirements?
Backtracking is an interesting exercise because you become aware of all the parts of the process. Once you have a list of tasks, dump it down to the level of somebody you can outsource. That way, you will reduce questions as well as the need for constant supervision.
But it’s hard in the beginning. For example, MC, one of my business partners, has been dropping tasks back to me. She was like, “Bro, I don’t understand what you’re doing here. How is this dumbing down? How is this clear? It’s so broadly defined. Make it smaller. Make it even smaller. “
That was my first challenge. And the second pop up when we finally got a list. It was crazy, with all kinds of subtasks and everything. I just didn’t know where to start. It was pretty obvious – I should start at the top. But I was like, “I don’t know if I always do that first. Why should there be a sequence? “. Well, the answer is – because you can’t do one thing without the other, right?
Now I realize how much more efficient my work could have been during all those years. Funny thing, I was pretty sure that I was efficient. It was a revelation to me; creating SOPs opens new perspectives. And now you’re going through that.
Ivana: Yeah. We had a working weekend with a consultant in our office who introduced us to the Monday PM tool and rebuilt our internal agency processes. Our previous system wasn’t working for us.
She’s not from our industry, so I thought it would be challenging to explain all the nuances of our work. And she just asked us a few questions, and I was so surprised. I asked her, “Do you really understand what we are doing? Could you start working with us? I’m sure I could teach you “. She smiled and replayed, “That’s how every team member should feel with procedures. And that’s a sign they’re set up correctly “.
So, I got a task to set up a micro procedure. I think it was a client onboarding procedure. I don’t remember what Marko chose. Anyways, she gave us ten minutes for that.
I think I wrote three pages. I tend to add details and explain everything. I’m always like, “I think this is important for you to hear. Or, this is important for you to know. “
And Marko is my opposite. He created one really nice, condensed procedure, basically ten sentences, and assumed he’s done. And the consultant told him, “This is nice, but you have here additional fifteen procedures. “
It’s important to realize that we need to have microlevel tasks. When the whole system is done, we should be able to onboard a new person within two days. Everything needs to be lined up in order, so they completely understand what needs to be done.
We are in the middle of making everything from scratch for the fifteenth time in the past eight years. We are really trying to build SOPs that we are going to stick with. That’s why we hired a consultant. When you’re creating procedures, you need someone who will ask you, “What are the exact steps you are taking? “
It’s time-consuming, but the lack of a system was stressing me a lot, and I honestly feel this is the right path to go.
Improve Your Business Today
Yes, SOPs may be difficult to write and sometimes challenging to stick with. But, anything that can help train team members, improve processes, ensure results customers and clients appreciate, and create a stress-free work environment is well worth it.
Keep in mind that writing SOPs isn’t a one and done type of activity. If you want to make your procedures effective, take time to review them (at least once a year). And get your team members involved in the review process so that together you can spot eventual irregularities and inconsistencies that should be corrected.Need more knowledge nuggets about SOPs to ensure the success and growth of your business? Listen to episode 2 of the eCom Independent podcast!