Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are written instructions created to explain how to carry out a procedure within an organization. Many small business owners are too busy or involved in the day to day activities of managing or growing their business to set aside the time to create the standard operating procedures for their company (or let’s be honest you would rather have your fingernails pulled out than spend your time focusing on the small daily tasks when there are so many big picture items to handle). I believe this is a huge mistake, especially if you are managing a virtual organization or hope to transition to one in the future. Below are three reasons SOPs are important for your organization.
1. Save your time and your team member’s time.
SOPs (if created correctly) will empower your team members to know the what, when, how, why and where for their roles and responsibilities. Giving your team members a written document they can reference when needed will save your time of not needing to answer routine questions on a daily basis. SOPs will also save your team members time of not having to “hunt” for the answer that can be readily available in the SOP. This is especially important in a virtual organization where team members are geographically apart and can even be operating on different schedules or in different time zones. If your team member needs to reach out to you or another team member to clarify a task anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day can be lost waiting on a reply. Having complete SOPs in place that all team members know how to access on a 24/7 basis can greatly reduce work stoppages waiting on clarifications or answers.
A “new” way of doing something might not always be a better way. In addition to updated SOPs, organizations should also keep historical SOPs that are well organized and easily searchable.
2. Ensure consistency throughout your organization
There is no secret why McDonald’s, 7-11 and other well known franchises are so popular with consumers. When you visit these businesses you know what you are going to get because their products and standards of service are consistent across all of their locations. Creating and implementing SOPs will help to ensure your organization’s standards are known to all team members so your customers will receive the same standard of service or product regardless of who assists them. In a virtual organization this is especially important since most team members will not be able to observe each other to “see how it is done”, the SOP can replace this interaction.
3. Provides a written history of your business.
An organization should always be striving to improve their procedures and by doing so also revisiting and revising their SOPs. That being said a “new” way of doing something might not always be a better way. In addition to updated SOPs, organizations should also keep historical SOPs that are well organized and easily searchable. This will provide a very clear written history of their organization that can easily be referenced by any team member. This is important to ensure “mistakes” are not repeated needlessly. For example, your organization has just on-boarded a new team member, Susie as a customer service agent. Susie, excited about her new position and wanting to prove herself, suggests to her manager, Linda a new procedure for managing returns. Since Linda has access to all current SOPs as well as historical SOPs (with notes on why these procedures are no longer in place) they can quickly look back on past procedures to see if Susie’s idea truly is new or if it has been tried before in the organization. If it has been done before and their are accurate records on why it did not work Susie and Linda just saved themselves a lot of time and effort developing a new procedure that was doomed from the beginning. If it is truly a new procedure and both believe it could be an improvement over their current procedure they can then begin the steps to develop it and if deemed a positive change, hopefully implement it.
As a business owner creating and implementing standard operating procedures within your organization can save you and your team time, provide consistency and provide a clear road map on where your organization has been and where it is going. If you are ready to begin creating your SOP’s don’t be intimidated by the seemingly endless list of procedures for your organization. To begin, simply pick one procedure that you are most familiar with and create a SOP for just that one. As in most daunting tasks just getting started is usually the hardest step.
If you have any questions on how to effectively and efficiently create SOPs for your organization contact Harper Administrative Services today!