Check out the updated version of this blog here: What are Standard Operating Procedures? (& see what mine look like!)

The essence of a fully systematized business is its ability to run without your oversight. Fancy sipping mojitos on the beach whilst your team takes care of the rest? If you’re nodding your head (or drooling) at the thought of that, then it’s time for you to start creating SOPs for your biz.

SOPs are super-important when it comes to running a team-based biz and delegating efficiently to your team. You’re not just writing SOPs (standard operating procedures) for the busy work and administrative tasks. You’re writing SOPs for the revenue-generating tasks that were born from your bright ideas.

Once these are off your plate (or wrestled from your frigid grip…don’t make this harder than it has to be!), you’ll actually have time to give birth to some even brighter ideas as your business starts growing organically without your constant supervision.

Creating SOPs requires some initial dedication. Writing bad SOP’s can have a negative impact on your business, so you need to take time out to do this and make sure you’re paying attention to the details.

In fact, building SOPs alongside your current team is a great opportunity for you and your team to collaborate with a real sense of teamwork. Because let’s face it – you’re documenting these processes for EVERYONE’S benefit, not just to enable your cocktail-infused vacay plans.

Here’s how to get started creating your very first SOPs. (Tweet it!)

Step 1: Identify your first SOPs

The established tasks that generate the highest revenue are the first tasks that need SOPs. And I’m just going to come right out and say it. It is mandatory to delegate these tasks. I know – it can be a bitter pill to swallow coming to terms with letting go. Solo-entrepreneurs who have their hands in every aspect of their business can find this phase extremely daunting.

Your first SOPs are for the tasks that are already generating revenue. These are likely the nearest and dearest to your heart. There are two ways to define revenue:

1. Tasks that make you money (within 6 days of completing the task)
2. Tasks that make your customers so happy that they spread the word and bring you more business (direct references, positive reviews, social media engagement, etc.)

One simple exercise I ask all of my online biz owners to complete is writing down all of these revenue-generating, recurring tasks within their business. Just taking 15 minutes to do this will help you identify the bits and pieces which you can delegate out and in turn, create SOPs for.

Step 2: Create minimum viable procedures

If you have the time and the talent to fully systematize, creating Minimum Viable Procedures (MVPs) is the place to start. In this case, the talent may be your own. But it may also include the talents of trusted team members.

A fully formed SOP includes a title and the Six Ps . An MVP, on the other hand, is made up of only the Title and Process. Creating MVPs for every single repeatable task in your business is the first step for an entrepreneur without any team members. Especially if you see team members and a fully systematized business in your future. MVPs give you a great starting point for future development.

Once you have a “skeleton outline” of each task, you can focus on tasks that generate the most revenue and flesh out each with the Six Ps. Over time, you can flesh out each MVP as you perform the task you are outlining. If, over the course of the month, you write out every MVP as you perform each task, you will have fully systematized your business. Now you’re ready to scale, hire on team members, and start generating some serious profits!

Step 3: Get input from those who know best

If you’re a business owner with a few trusted team members, they are your most valuable resource for turning MVPs into SOPs. MVPs are useful for tasks that are new to your company and aren’t yet subject to a strict SOP (but should be). Create an MVP for these tasks and pass them to a team member who has already been performing the task. They are more in tune with the details than you are. They better poised to fill them in properly. Once they have done so, each SOP that can be used in the future for training purposes.

Step 4: Write your SOPs

Time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, this is 2020 after all)! You’re going to craft all of yours and your team’s expert knowledge into creating your first juicy little SOPs.

Typically, the structure will look something like this:

Title page:

  • The title of the procedure
  • A publication date or revision date
  • The name of the role, organization or division(s) that the SOP applies to
  • Names and signatures of those who prepared and approved the procedures outlined in the SOP

The process itself:

  • A description of the scope and purpose of the SOP and how it’s used. You can include standards, regulatory requirements, roles and responsibilities, and inputs and outputs.
  • Necessary and additional details that are needed to complete each step.
  • Clarification of terminology, including acronyms and phrases that may not be familiar to the reader.
  • A complete list of all documents/equipment/supplies that are needed, where to find them, and when each will be needed.

Make sure that before you publish your SOPs for your employees to use, you get the relevant peeps to review them to make sure your process is spot on.

Once they are published, make sure you organize your SOPs in a way that is easy for your team to navigate so they (and you) don’t waste time searching for what you need. A great way to do this is using Google Drive. You can check out my post on organizing your SOPs and take a sneak peek into my own GD for some inspo on how best to do this.

Step 5: Maintain your SOPs

So you’ve totally nailed it and written a bunch of awesome SOPs for you biz. Go you! Now it’s time to lay down some ground rules regarding how you review those SOPs over time. It’s important to periodically review your SOPs once every so often to ensure they stay accurate and relevant as your business grows.

The way to make sure your SOP process is standardized and consistent is to document it. Well guess what? That means creating an SOP for SOPs. Oh yes!

You’ve spent tons of time, energy and money on writing these SOPs, so make sure you don’t let all that go to waste. Without updating these documents, you’re throwing away all of the investments that you and your team have made.

So if you’re ready to gain some new-found flexibility in your biz, SOPs are what’s gonna guide your future team members through tasks without constant supervision. Your freedom depends on these SOPs, people!

So I’d love to hear: Does creating SOPs for your solo business sound way too daunting or are you ready to jump in? Which repeatable task do you want to systematize first?