How to write an SOP for scaling success
Scaling your business with standard operating procedures
Scaling a business isn’t all about increasing your revenue and profits. As you scale and grow, you need strong a framework in order to support the many changes and challenges associated with this, from the impact on your overall business’ structure to employee’s workflows and processes.
I’ve always championed SOPs and think they should be implemented as early on as possible. But when I work with some clients, I find them shrugging their shoulders because they either don’t know what an SOP is or they undervalue them and feel like putting processes in place will be too much hassle.
Once we get them up and running, however, their opinions quickly change. SOP’s really are core to scaling and growth and I firmly believe that without them, you’re just setting yourself up to fail.
With all of that in mind, let’s take a proper look at SOPs and how you can create them for your business.
What is an SOP?
SOP, or standard operating procedure, is a term that originates from manufacturing. Like many modern business processes, the regimented, step-by-step, nature of manufacturing can help provide the necessary framework to guide growth.
Just as a new factory worker will be briefed on step-by-step procedures and expected to follow them to comply with health and safety criteria and efficiency targets, your own team or new hires can follow SOPs to stay on track, on target and at peak efficiency.
The goal of an SOP is to:
- Create consistency across teams and workers
- Make employee workflows clear and consistent
- Facilitate easier integration for new employees or freelancers
- Reduce errors and delays to schedule
- Maintain compliance and regulatory expectations
- Improve overall efficiency
For growing businesses, one of the biggest benefits worth highlighting outside of the above list is that SOPs remove the need for micromanagement. As a business owner, you risk becoming a bottleneck that hampers growth. With SOPs in place, you can step back and focus your attention on what matters.
How to write an SOP
SOPs are documented processes which can be referenced easily by all employees. They must be specific and focused on an individual process or task. You’ll probably need multiple SOPs to account for the different tasks of your business, so creating a standardised template is the most efficient approach.
So how do you write one? Create a document in a digital space that can be shared with your team and accessed remotely. If you use a project / task management software such as Asana or ClickUp, I suggest linking to any relevant SOPs within the tasks themselves.
Going even further, in ClickUp you can use their Docs section to create SOPs within ClickUp itself. Here is a post with some ClickUp SOP Templates. (Note that there is a downside to this if you ever move away from ClickUp as you will then need to export them.)
Here are the main sections that should be included in your SOP:
- Name & Purpose of SOP: name your SOP after the specific process it is designed for. E.G ‘Marketing Calendar SOP’. Use a brief introduction to explain the purpose of the SOP and relate it back to your business’s goals. For example, you may say ‘This document outlines our marketing calendar creation process, which ensures our brand stays fresh by constantly utilising up-to-date social media content based on current events’.
- Scope: what does the SOP cover? Which processes does it affect/impact and what safety or compliance steps need to be followed? If there are any areas in which this SOP specifically does NOT apply, these should also be mentioned.
- Definitions: identify any industry terms they need to be aware of. Acronyms and abbreviations should be explained in this section.
- Responsibilities: A summary of who is responsible for the procedures detailed in the SOP.
- The procedure: this is the written SOP. It should be an outlined version of a process that is clear enough for a trained person to be able to follow. You should include any added detail that would enable a trained person to teach others how to do the task. Sometimes, flow diagrams are used to give context to the steps.
- Change history / Last Updated: log any changes to the SOP for reference.
Still confused? Download this SOP template.
Making the most of your SOPs
Once you’ve written your SOPS, you need to do some housekeeping to make the most of them. I’d advise the following:
- Make SOP’s available digitally and store them in a centralised location that can be accessed remotely (such as Google Drive)
- Have back-ups so that any new additions or edits can be reverted (this is why I suggest using Google Docs and Google Drive as version history is built in).
- Maintain version control at all times. Do not create new versions when you make changes to a SOP. Make changes within the existing SOP and make a note of who made the changes and when.
- Link to your SOPs within tasks in your Asana, ClickUp (or whatever project / task management software you use).
- Ensure that as part of your onboarding process, you give a tour of the centrally stored SOPs and go through the ones that will be relevant to that person to carry out their role and responsibilities.
If you’re still early in your growth phase, writing an SOP might feel like an unnecessary bit of work. As things progress, and you start the scaling journey, they begin to ‘pay for themselves’ by freeing up so much more of your time than you could have potentially wasted training new employees or trying to steer teams. Put your SOPs in place, keep them updated and enjoy a far smoother workflow where employees, freelancers or new hires can all ‘do things your way’ without you acting as an overseer.
If creating SOPs yourself feels overwhelming, I can work with your team to implement them ensuring they are clear, organised and best utilised in your task management software. Book a call here if you’d like to have a chat.
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