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How to Write Standard Operating Procedures

How to Write Standard Operating Procedures

As a former HR manager and systems and operations consultant, I know how important it is to document the processes you have in your business. As busy business owners, we don’t have time to reinvent the wheel each time we do a task in our business and we shouldn’t. That’s where a standard operating procedure, or SOP, can come into play and save the day, yay! But before we dive into how to write standard operating procedures, let’s start with learning more about what they are and why we need them. 

What is a Standard Operating Procedure?

A standard operating procedure, or SOP, is a document that provides step by step instructions on how to complete a certain task or process in your business. I always tell my clients that a standard operating procedure should be so detailed that any one who has never completed the task before can use the document to successfully and thoroughly complete the task at hand. 

Why are Standard Operating Procedures Important?

SOPs ensure consistency in task execution. Why reinvent the wheel each time you or a team member needs to complete a task in your business? Not only do they improve efficiency by streamlining processes, but they also enhance the training and onboarding of any new team members or independent contractors you hire in your business.

Do you want to sit on a Zoom call for hours on end walking a new hire through a process? I sure as hell do not!

Standard operating procedures also:

  • Reduce errors
  • Enhance quality control
  • Provide a reference point for you and other team members

Okay, now that we have a better understanding of what they are and why they’re important, let’s dive into my top tips for writing standard operating procedures.

6 Tips for Writing Standard Operating Procedures

1. Know where you’re going to document them and where you’re going to store them

For example, are you going to write them in a Google Doc? In ClickUp? Will you store them in a Google Drive folder labeled “SOPs?” Decide and then stick to it. The last thing you want is to spend all of this time writing them but then not be able to find them!

2. Make them AS DETAILED as possible 

As previously mentioned, SOPs should be as detailed as possible. Include every little detail that would make following the instructions as easy as possible. If you need to login to a platform, where do you go? Is the button on the right hand side or left? Is it blue or orange?

3. Include screenshots of steps for further clarity

Not only does this reduce the amount of time it would take someone to follow your step by step instructions, but it also accommodates different learner types (ie. visual learners).

4.Create a quick video that walks through the process

Reading a document and then watching a tutorial can be super helpful when learning how to do something (kind of wish IKEA had this option!).

5. Bold certain steps, words, titles, etc. within the SOP

By doing so, you make sure that certain important details are really clear. For example, if writing steps for how to onboard a client in Dubsado, include the title of the email that’s in Dubsado (so it can be easily identified) and then bold the email title in the SOP. 

6. Break your SOPs down into steps

Breaking your SOPs up into steps make them easier to follow. For example, if you’re writing your SOP for client onboarding you can breakdown the SOP into the following steps: lead, onboarding, offboarding.

It’s best if you have someone who has never done the task before try to go through the task by strictly following your new SOP. If you don’t have someone on your team ask your spouse, partner, or someone else who would be willing to help go through it for you. Any questions they ask along the way are your “blind spots” and where you need to go back in and add more detail. 

As a business owner, writing standard operating procedures can be seen as a daunting, boring, and overwhelming task. Don’t try to write all of your SOPs at the same time. Make a list of your processes that you need to document and knock them out little by little!

Do you have standard operating procedures in place for your business? Tell me in the comments below!

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