Standard operating procedures or SOPs are the heart of an online business.
With SOPs in place, you ensure that repeatable tasks follow the same process every time so you can maintain consistency across your brand, increase efficiency, and prepare your business for scale.
What is a standard operating procedure
Standard Operating Procedures, also known as SOPs, are the steps taken to complete your business’ routine tasks.
Essentially, your SOP should make it possible for a stranger to step into your company for a day and complete a task with no background knowledge of how your company operates.
SOPs can be developed for various tasks in your company, including:
- Sales calls
- Onboarding and offboarding clients
- Hiring new team members
- Customer service emails
- Technology troubleshooting
- Social media posts
- … and more
This is a tiny selection of possible SOPs. Ultimately, you can create one for any task in your business – big or small.
Benefits of using SOPs
Standard operating procedures provide numerous benefits to your business, including but not limited to the following:
- You can ensure your tasks follow a standard process every time
- You can review your policies and make improvements to maintain quality standards and improve efficiency
- You can maintain consistency
- You can reduce errors
- You can increase productivity
- You can stop giving the same directions repeatedly and use your time better
- It prepares you for scaling your business
- It’s easier to onboard new team members
Standard operating procedures checklist
Even the creation of a standard operating procedure should have its own SOP. Here is a standard operating procedures checklist you can use when developing your own SOP.
1. Author, Reviewer, Authorizer
You want to include a section in your standard operating procedures with space for the author of the procedure, those who have reviewed it and authorized it. Also, include space for their name, including their title, signature, and date. Keeping this information helps you to maintain accurate records.
2. Effective and Review Date
The date the SOP became effective is also essential knowledge. This lets you know when it was initially put into place. Your SOPs should be reviewed regularly to determine whether they need to be updated, so documenting this date makes it easier for you to know when it’s time to be reviewed. On the same token, having space to note when the SOP was reviewed allows you to hold yourself accountable for doing so regularly.
3. Read By
Different people will review SOPs within your company. You want to include a space to document who reads and implements the SOP. Have room for their name, title, signature, and date.
4. Purpose of the SOP
This section is to document the purpose of the procedure being outlined. You want the reader to understand the intent of the process.
5. Scope of the SOP
The scope will outline areas of the company that are impacted by the procedure. This helps to showcase the importance of the SOP. When the person implementing it can see that this one task can affect success in various areas of the company, it provides more of a why instead of just what.
6. Relevant Definitions
If there are terms, acronyms, or abbreviations used in the SOP, you want to define them. This allows you to remove any barriers to success during the implementation process. Even if you think the reader should know what it means, include it as well unless the term is common knowledge like ASAP (as soon as possible).
The process is the meat and potatoes of your standard operating procedure. This is an outline of what is to be done to be successful in the task.
You can format this by including the major steps necessary in the process and individual action steps that go along with each significant step.
It’s best to break down the process into the simplest form while formatting it with bullet points, numbers, and other additions that will make it easy to follow. Writing long paragraphs with lots of information isn’t easy to read or follow along with for most people.
8. Forms and templates
Next, include information about any forms or templates referenced in the SOP. You want to include titles, links and/or sources.
9. Internal and external resources
To complete the task successfully, there might be internal and external resources that need to be utilized. List all resources referred to in the SOP along with the description and where it can be found. If there is a specific person who has the resource, include their name and contact information as well. Anything not mentioned in the SOP doesn’t need to be included in this section.
10. Change history
Finally, you want to record any significant changes to the procedure. Include the date the change becomes effective and the changes made to the SOP.
Strategies to improve your SOP
SOPs should be living breathing documents within your business and regularly reviewed to ensure they offer the best process available.
- Review, test, edit: You want to regularly review your SOP, test how it’s working, ask for feedback, and edit it. If you’re not providing the best procedure for task completion, you’re defeating the purpose of having one.
- Incorporate stakeholders: You want to include those who complete the tasks in developing, testing, and editing the SOP. For example, If you don’t write social media posts, you might not be the ultimate authority in the social media post SOP.
- Know your goals in advance: Before you write your SOP, ask yourself why you are doing so. Identify pain points and obstacles associated with the current process and compare that to what you hope the SOP will help you achieve. With this in mind, you are better prepared to write the procedure.
Grab a copy of my free SOP template now. It’s a plug and play template you can use to develop the SOP for your online business. No standard operating procedure checklist is needed!