Have you been in “what the heck can I streamline” mode for your business, too!? I get it, this season is challenging in so many ways and I even found myself on our team call a couple weeks ago in tears. There’s a lot to carry right now for every business owner — heck, every PERSON — and making the right calls feels more important than ever. But sometimes the “right call” is in the simple, effective shifts. For so many of us, that’s looked like just finding little ways to simplify the workday. One of my favorite ways to do this is by simply creating SOPs, or standard operating procedures.
Don’t freak out if this term is new to you. I remember, when I first started my own business, getting stressed out by the important-sounding business lingo flying my way… Profit and loss statements, ROI, value ladders, loss leaders, gross vs. net profits. There are all these big, fancy phrases in business that mostly have fairly simple meanings once you get to know them and use them. And we’re going to dive head first into one of my favs today.
How to create standard operating procedures for your business
I remember the first time my business coach asked me what my SOP’s were… I didn’t even know what that term meant, so clearly I didn’t really have any in place. A standard operating procedure is just the workflow that it takes to complete a larger task. It’s the step-by-step process that you can repeat and do again and again in order to have the same result, no matter who’s working on the task. Let’s talk about the easy steps to create SOPs in your business so you can achieve maximum efficiency and less miscommunications with your team, clients, and customers!
Step 01: Pinpoint your overarching tasks:
The first step is just 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. For photographers, maybe it’s communicating with potential clients or editing a shoot. For online boutique owners, it could be filling orders or adding new merchandise to your website. Get a list written down of your needle movers, the broadest and most birds’ eye level work tasks.
Step 02: List the subtasks needed to complete the larger tasks:
These overarching tasks likely have bunches of littler subtasks it takes to complete them. You might even have multiple people or steps required to get ’em done. I want you to go through the most important large tasks and literally write a list underneath them of every single piece or step it takes to complete the task. And try to put them in order of start to finish. You can do this in a digital document like Google Docs or physically write it down on a big sheet of paper to make it more visual. Fun fact: you just made a process map (aka, a visual representation of your big tasks broken down into the little tasks needed to complete them)!
Step 03: Review the workflow to look for holes + opportunities:
I feel like you can live in Step 03 forever, constantly tweaking and refining until everything is running silky smooth. Writing down the detailed steps and order of how to complete important tasks in your business is powerful. It allows you to see if there’s anything missing, or if there are unnecessary steps that are wasting time or resources. You can also assess whether any parts can be automated or handled by your team. Watch for trends, repetitive tasks, or unnecessary back and forth that may be stealing away your productivity.
We use a tool called Monday.com to keep track of our SOPs as a team (as well as our individual to-do lists!). It’s a place to visually organize “boards” to hold your big tasks and break them down into little assignments. Whether you’re a one woman show or have a bustling team, a visual organization tool like Monday can help you get organized and stay consistently on track for the long-term.
An example of a standard operating procedure
For example, one of my tasks in my business is writing blog posts. We publish two blog posts a week, generally one about business and one more lifestyle or family-related. That’s a lot of content on top of podcasts, show notes, social media, and emails. So to break it down, let’s look at the subtasks that make up that larger task of blog writing:
- Deciding on upcoming blog topics
- Drafting blog post copy
- Adding an appropriate meta description, category & slug
- Optimizing the post for SEO/readability
- Determining if we should add a pop-up to the post & picking which one
- Selecting a photo
- Editing/reviewing the post
- Scheduling the post
- Drafting social media captions to promote the blog post
- Scheduling social media posts
This is a pretty simple example but you can see how it’s helpful to know the process from beginning to end for simple and more complicated tasks, too. One way we have streamlined blog posts is by holding brainstorm sessions with my team to batch-decide the upcoming blog topics 1 to 2 months ahead of time. We’ve also utilized scheduling to draft and plan out social posts at the same time as writing the blog posts when the content is still fresh. In fact, we batch-work the majority of the blog process to keep it as streamlined as possible.
The true benefit of SOPs
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 to support. It allows for clear communication and increased efficiency for everyone. So I would encourage you to drill down into the SOPs in your business and share them with your team.
And even if you don’t have a team, it will keep you organized and consistent for when the time comes that you do want to hire. Until then, it allows your customers and audience to experience the same level of communication and products, and know exactly what to expect from you! When things get shaky in business or the economy, this is what you can fall back on because you know you have systems that work and are reliable and optimized.