One of the best ways to ensure your business runs smoothly is by creating a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) manual that documents all of your business's procedures, tasks and activities. An SOP manual can alleviate stress, disorder and chaos from your place of business by streamlining all of your regular business tasks.
Want to take a day off or go on vacation? With an SOP in place, you can leave your business in good hands, knowing that all daily tasks and activities have already been documented and will be implemented according to what has already been put in place. An SOP can also legitimize your business for your employees. For your customers, it will create a seamless, professional look and feel, encouraging confidence in your business.
- Begin with a purpose.
Make sure you determine exactly what the purpose of your SOP will be — usually, to document your daily activities and serve as a guide for the running of your company — and the scope of work that you will be describing. Many times, an SOP includes descriptions for each procedure (opening/closing rituals, cash-register management, etc.), job descriptions and responsibilities, rules and consequences for breaking the rules (attendance policies and more), and proper equipment-management procedures.
- Use a template.
Free SOP templates are available online and greatly reduce the confusion of creating an SOP from scratch. Using an SOP template, or building one from an existing SOP, can also save you precious time — which gives you more time to manage your business.
- Go into detail.
The best SOPs leave nothing to chance. Be specific in your SOP — make sure to describe equipment and products by name, and be specific about the various locations around your place of business. When necessary, include organizational charts and maps plotting out your business, and designate certain areas of your building for specific things — i.e. the mail room — to alleviate staff confusion.
- Put it into place.
Make the SOP a focus of your business practices. Let your employees know where it is and ensure they learn it.
Finally, emphasize the importance of following the SOP. If your employees know their job descriptions and the company's rules, all aspects of your business should run more smoothly — taking the pressure off of you as a business owner. Additionally, as your company grows, having an SOP in place will make the growth easier to handle. Update the SOP manual periodically to reflect job description changes and other modifications.