If you’re in business, you’re probably well acquainted with SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures and SOP checklists. But you might be surprised to find out that the idea didn’t originate with modern business.
SOPs have been around for thousands of years. In fact, well-ordered SOPS formed the basis for Roman military tactics that enabled the world’s most powerful empire. These SOPs made it feasible to train soldiers, doctors, and engineers rapidly and expertly in antiquity.
Today, things are not that different. SOPs are used not just in business, but in healthcare, academic laboratories, science and engineering, and hundreds of fields. And they’re used for one simple reason: they work extremely well.
Why Every Business Needs Standard Operating Checklists
Even if you’re using SOPs in your current business model, you may want to review a few things. And if you’re not, then read on to find out why an SOP checklist is a must-have business tool for scaling and growth.
An SOP checklist is really just a template. But without a template or yardstick, you can’t measure the relative quality or performance of anything. It’s also a lot more difficult to teach a process without actually knowing what that process is. So, if your business relies on any kind of process being reliably repeated, you need SOPs.
SOPs are also really versatile. They can be drawn up for a simple phone script – or applied to a company-wide production process flow.
Without an SOP checklist – or several – you may be flying blind.
Key Areas Where You Benefit From SOPs
There are certain functions that obviously benefit the most from having SOPs in place. Depending on your business, these could vary. But here’s how they’ll help:
Making Routinely Defined Tasks Easier
Whether it’s a production line or a sales pitch, you want your team to have guidelines. If they don’t, it means they become prone to mistakes or miscalculations. They also become prone to shortcuts or improvisation – bad news in any business!
An SOP checklist provides clear guidelines, feedback, and checks and balances. And when tasks are repetitive or complex, they’re essential.
Managing Performance or Output
An SOP checklist also provides you with a practical way to measure performance. Not only can you check the process, but you can ensure that the results are consistent. If you have several employees performing the same task, you’re also able to standardize operations much more easily.
Quality Control and Feedback
An SOP checklist also provides your team with a way to measure the consistency of a process or product. If there are deviations, it’s much easier to pinpoint the breakdown and fix it or change it. It also means team members are less likely to make mistakes because of fatigue or familiarity.
Replication to Enable Growth
This is the most important reason for having SOPs in your business. If systems and methods can be replicated, virtually unlimited growth potential is unlocked. If you can successfully replicate a good process or outcome, then expansion happens fast. In fact, one of the most astonishing examples of SOP checklist training happens at McDonalds Hamburger University. Yes, it’s real, and it teaches managers how to refine and replicate incredibly precise production line SOPs, among other skills.
If you dream of exponentially growing your business, SOPs are an absolutely indispensable business tool.
8 Ways SOPs Benefit Your Business
If you want your business to run more easily and smoothly – with happier staff – then take time to examine your SOPs. They’re the engines driving your production, sales and customer service. Without SOPs in place, your business is at risk of serious damage.
Here are 7 practical ways that SOPs directly benefit your business:
1 . Predictable and Reliable Results
Every process produces a result, and by standardizing the process, you get a consistent result. Of course, everyone knows that! But you can’t always rely on others to follow a system or process with 100% accuracy – unless there’s a template. By having an SOP checklist in place for key functions, you no longer have to worry about consistency.
2 . Easier Employee Training
You might be really good at training new employees. You could do it with your eyes closed, so to speak. But what happens when you’re not there and somebody else has to provide the training?
This is where an SOP checklist can offer you a massive advantage. You know, without a doubt, that employee training is being done precisely to your requirements. An SOP checklist also introduces better accountability. And if you’re working with a remote team, or working across time zones, SOPs are absolutely critical.
3 . A Template for Change
Having a corporate vision is one thing. But conveying that vision – and what’s needed to achieve it – is another. Having SOPs in place to drive change and growth is not only easy, but accessible to all your team members.
4 . Better Troubleshooting
In business, things go wrong, no matter how good you are. Having an SOP checklist to identify failure points can save you enormous cost and time. It also helps prevent the same issue from occurring again.
5 . Better Efficiency & Streamlining
By simply following a step-by-step process, you’re eliminating guesswork and improvisation. Your employees know exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Not only do you save time, but it’s easier to run a lean team when everyone is efficient.
6 . Improved Customer Service
Customer service should never be a hit-and-miss affair. Consistency in customer service is a hallmark of success. Without it, you risk major mistakes or even a company-sinking incident.
7 . Enhanced Workplace Safety
Obviously, SOPs are non-negotiable when you’re dealing with workplace safety. Plus, by having defined procedures, you protect your company against claims and damages.
How to Create Bulletproof SOPs
Creating an excellent SOP checklist is easier than you think. Here’s how:
Use First Principle Thinking
Don’t assume anything. Start from scratch and dissect every process. Look at places where you can remove unnecessary steps or time-wasting activities.
Test, Test, Test
Physically and practically test everything you implement. What looks great on paper doesn’t always translate to smooth running in reality. Put your ego aside and be prepared to make changes!
Work From the Bottom Up
Don’t rely on managers or planners here. Ask the actual people doing the job to help you design your SOP. You’ll be surprised at how much more they actually know!
Show and Tell
Use images and infographics – a LOT. The human brain remembers and interprets images far more effectively than text. So incorporate images and even videos into your SOPs where it’s practical to do so.
Review and Refine
Lastly, be prepared to make periodic changes. Ask for continuous feedback from your team and treat every SOP checklist as a work in process – because it is. As your business evolves, so will your SOPs.
Get the Support You Need
Keeping track of documents, communications, and changes can be challenging. One way to make the process easier is to hire a professional virtual assistant to coordinate and monitor SOPs. A skilled VA is surprisingly cost-effective – and highly efficient.
Book a discovery call today, claim your free trial, and see just how a virtual assistant can add value to your business.