Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
When you use your washing machine you expect it to follow the same process each time you use it. Your clothes go in dry and dirty and come out wet and washed….every single time. Why can’t that consistency happen with your business?
It can with the implementation of documented Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs.
Often overlooked in the grind and preoccupations of daily activities—and frankly probably THE most unexciting activity to do, SOPs are the most underutilized tool in ensuring your company provides consistent, high quality results and can be a catalyst for growth.
How can something SO mundane be a catalyst for growth? Many companies we have worked with said they are too busy to spend the time documenting their procedures or they don’t need to because “everyone knows what to do,” or “our business is so unique every customer engagement is different.” But how can you scale up your business without standard operating procedures?
Even if your business is in the creative space where no two projects are the same, we bet there are some underlying patterns in delivering and managing projects that can be documented and standardized across the company. You would be surprised what patterns emerge if you take a step back and look for them.
Top 5 Reasons SOPs are a catalyst for growth:
- Makes employees less indispensable. Most businesses have a cornerstone employee– one that keeps things moving every day, and whose departure from the company would be a huge hit to the firm. Sometimes the relationship with that employee is good, sometimes not so good. Maybe that person is the owner. By having documentation of the processes, you will provide some continuity (and a small insurance plan) that the business can function when that person leaves or is on vacation, and as you grow their knowledge can be transferred to new staff members.
- Provides scalability: If your destination is growth, you need SOPs to ensure you have “wash, rinse, repeat” type of processes that can be replicated over and over again without having your staff needing to figure it out each time. Having document processes not only saves time, it also provides the resource for new staff members to get up to speed quickly.
- Gives you an opportunity to really look how things are done—and change them if needed. The process of documenting SOPs in itself is a valuable exercise. It allows you to stop and take an objective look at why things have “always been done this way,” question them, and change them.
- Provides clients with consistent results. When you can articulate what clients can expect, and your employees deliver on those expectations, good things happen. SOPs help employees know the “rules” on how to handle certain situations, and by doing so you are creating the machine that will churn out consistent results, higher sales and profits.
- The best of the best becomes the new standard. Probably the best benefit of rolling out SOPs is that the best practices in your company start to bubble to the top and you have the opportunity to take those and make them the new standard. By outlining the new standard you are setting a new higher bar for everyone in the organization, making you more efficient and possibly increasing sales and profit.
So does every process need to be documented? Not really, but we encourage every critical process be reviewed. For anything customer facing you should have standard operating procedures, and of course all financial procedures should be documented. Even senior leaders in your organization most likely have standard practices. Why not have them capture that in an outline and have someone else sit with them to understand it so you have some documentation of their approach—especially if they are very good at what they do?
Getting your company’s internal knowledge down on paper may be a tedious task but one that will eventually bring your business to a place where you have something that is scalable, grow-able and, eventually, sellable.