by Jenna Kutcher
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There’s a lot to carry right now for every business owner — heck, every PERSON — and making the right decisions feels more important than ever. But sometimes the “right call” is in the most simple and effective shifts, the little swaps or upgrades that can make a world of difference.
For so many of us right now, that’s looked like just finding bitesize ways to simplify the workday. Just setting up systems and really pinpointing ways to tighten up your business’s practices can save you immense loads of time down the line. One of my favorite ways to do this is by simply creating workflows also known formally in the business world as SOPs, or standard operating procedures.
My team does this with our project management system, Monday.com. Start your 14-day free trial and follow along this episode to get systems setup for your business.
In this episode, I’ll share how we use SOPs in my business, but more importantly, WHY they’re so important and HOW you can begin to create them for yourself, too.
What Are SOPs?
You guys know Dean, he’s my business coach and he is constantly challenging me to uplevel my business and to dream bigger and create systems and hit that next level of success — which for me looks like freedom. In one of our coaching conversations on the show, he brought up the term SOPs. I swear my mouth went dry and my palms starting sweating as I tried to remember what the heck that acronym went and racked my brain to think if I had those.
An SOP is a standard operating procedure or in a term I like better: a workflow, a process, or a step-by step system that yields an end result. Well sure, I had systems, maybe not for everything, but once I found my footing in that convo with him, I realized that I had more work to do in this area.
After talking to Dean and attempting to read a book about SOPs only to have my eyes glaze over and come to the realization that they were just step-by-step lists or the exact process to get an end result I set the book down and got to work. All that I had to do was to break down the steps and create that process and then we can duplicate and replicate it over and over again.
Here’s why this matters: If you’re a solo-preneur and you don’t currently have a team, having workflows helps you deliver a consistent brand experience over and over and over again. Systems allow you to deliver an exceptional and consistent experience no matter what type of business you run. They are critical, even if it’s just you and your keyboard so that each day you know exactly where you’re at and what needs to happen to finish your day feeling accomplished.
While it’s critical to have processes and workflows as a solo-preneur, it’s even more important if you plan to hire an assistant or create a team in the future because it will allow you to hand off your exact process to someone else and give you a space to see their progress, keep tabs on the tasks, and follow up.
One of the biggest hesitations I hear when it comes to hiring is that people grumble about the amount of time it’ll take them to train someone… Hi, hello, if you have processes and workflows and you have a system, handing over that system is WAY easier than trying to walk someone through the way you do a task. In fact, I’d argue that establishing these workflows now should be your top priority because as your business grows, you will likely need a hand, and having an easy to follow system will make hiring WAY easier for everyone.
If you currently have an assistant or a team, then it’s even more important to be using a project management system like Monday. A system like this WILL take your business to the next level and help define roles, assignments, and tasks to your team so that you can be a better leader and so that every day when your team logs in, they know what their tasks are, what the priorities are, AND what you’re working on.
Are you starting to feel like developing processes and SOPs should be on your list of priorities… But like, where do you even begin? The best first step is to start pinpointing and putting together a list of your biggest tasks. By “biggest,” I mean the ones that make you money or are infused into your daily or weekly work life. Before you get yourself worked into an overwhelmed dizzy-spell looking at all of the things you do to keep your business going and growing, I’ll walk you through our project management workflow that takes my overwhelm away every time.
Hiring an Integrator
About 4 months later, I took Dean’s advice! I made a massive hire to hire an integrator who’s job is to essentially rock the workflows and keep projects on pace. I realized that part of my struggle was that I was the visionary of the brand and business but I was also filling the position of being the front person for every request, project, and the person putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.
Every time I would hear Slack ding, I felt anxious because I knew I was half-in on a bunch of projects and not effectively leading. Hiring a full-time salaried integrator felt like a BIG step but at that point, I was ready. As a newer mom, I had gotten good at flexing my “I need help” muscle and so this was a necessary next step if we wanted to keep growing and if I didn’t want to burn out.
I quickly made the hire, flew my girl Marisa out to Minnesota, and we spent 2 days getting her acclimated to my business, my team, and my systems — or lack there of. I remember telling her at the time that I had a team of 6… and then as the day went on and I kept remembering more contractors and people who worked in or on the business, I realized: No wonder I’m feeling stressed, I’m trying to manage upwards of 20 people without having a system or a task list to keep me focused.
At the time of my new hire, we had ZERO project management system in place and a million Google docs and spreadsheets, each created by the team member to honor their process. Just trying to show Marisa all of the moving parts and explain how we were all doing this differently made my head spin. I can’t imagine how she felt. Like how the heck could we combine all of our styles/desires/workflows into one place?
In the past, I had tried so many different project management systems and hated them. I always felt like they were yelling at me with a million emails in my inbox telling me to login and stay on pace and they were confusing to follow and frankly, they were straight up ugly. We looked at all of the options, even set up a few phone calls with teams on other systems, but we kept coming back to Monday. We decided on it and signed up and if I say my life changed, I am not lying.
Before and After Our New System
Maybe it’d be helpful to paint a Pre-Monday and a Post-Monday visual of my life before and after we started using them.
Pre-Monday, I used to login to my computer each day and open up a million tabs and bounce around from task to task and just wait for someone on my team to Slack me or remind me of something I had forgotten to do and to be honest, I felt like I was the one people were always waiting on. With Mom Brain and a creative mind that isn’t always neatly organized, I would leave my days feeling like I had chased my tail all day and didn’t have much to show for it. Honestly, I don’t know how we survived without an actual system in place.
Now, I login in daily and have a task list for the week. My team will go to Marisa and tell her what they need from me, Marisa updates my to-do list, prioritizes my tasks, organizes links, gives me deadlines, and adds any notes I might need to tackle that list. I know exactly what I need to do and when and what the priorities of the brand are.
It has been life changing for me to actually feel like I have a grip on all the moving parts of the business and that I know what needs to get done before quitting time on Friday. I’ve become way more effective and efficient and now I end my days feeling accomplished, focused, ready for next steps, and confident that I moved the needle forward.
How This Transformed My Business & Leadership
I felt lighter, felt happier, felt like we were growing organically but also in an organized fashion. Feeling this colossal shift not just in how I work on a day to day basis but on how we run our processes as a business, I became this evangelist. I was literally screen recording videos to show my business friends this new system, swearing that everyone (and their mom) needed to hire an integrator and create a system like I had because I went from feeling stressed and burnt out to felt free, focused, and assured that we were — as a team — working towards a bigger mission.
Imagine the feeling of knowing that at any given moment, you could open up your to-do list, analyze how much time you had to attack a task and then hit that satisfying button when something was complete. How would that change the way you approached the work you do? The way you feel at the end of day? The way you show up for your team or your clients or your family?
I had this full circle moment when I was at a mastermind in Puerto Rico and Dean was there and I found myself regurgitating the information he had taught me… like the SOP stuff except I was using my terms of processes and workflows. I was raving about this new hire, the system we had in place, and Monday, the solution that allowed us to implement all the things. So we’re in Puerto Rico and I’m sitting there raving about all the shifts and changes and to be honest, people could FEEL them… like it was visible in the way I communicated and carried myself.
I ran back to my hotel room, snatched up my laptop, opened up my Monday board and here I am with a circle of millionaires and billionaires surrounding me, like high-level CEOS and I’m showing them how we use this tool, how easy it is to create workflows, prioritize tasks and how this simple shift has allowed us to move the needle and stay on timelines for even the most massive launches.
I recently did a follow up call with the people in that mastermind and a ton of those people confessed that they switched over after my quick walkthrough and they were loving it.
I hope you’re starting to see and understand that in order to start, grow, or scale a business, you have to have some sort of system in place. From being a stressed out, frazzled, nap-time warrior mama just trying to stay afloat to a focused, timely, and clear leader. I attribute so much of this change in who I am to really getting clear on who we serve, how we do things, and how I want to show up in my business.
Take Action Now
My biggest encouragement for you today and in this uncertain season would be to drill down into the SOPs in your business and share them with your team. And even if you don’t have a team, being well-acquainted with your workflows will keep you way more on top of things and consistent for when the time comes that you do want to hire.
When things get shaky, busy, overwhelming, or fast-moving in business or the economy, this is what you can fall back on because you know you have systems that work and that are reliable and completely optimized.
I hope you can see how much it helps to know each and every little step because if I were to be unreachable ever (like when I was on maternity leave, for example), my team knows the exact protocol to follow to continue producing the same level of work as when I’m there all the time to support. It allows for clear communication and increased efficiency for everyone, and things don’t go unnoticed or forgotten as often.
Using a tool like Monday can just help you dream a little bigger for your business. Do you ever have those conversations with your team, or with yourself, that start with phrases like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” “What if we tried…” or “I’d love to create…” Those dreaming questions that might be the next big needle mover in your business, but feel a little ambiguous or hazy?
Capture those ideas in a Monday board. Even if you know you won’t have the bandwidth to make them happen yet. But then down the road, maybe in a few months when your time and brain space opens in new ways, you can take one of those big dream tasks, break it down into sub-tasks, and begin to visualize the steps from hazy dream to crystal clear reality.