Small Business Standard Operating Procedures
Standard Operating Procedures are indispensable for the success of every business. Documented processes across all departments help you maintain quality and consistency, ensuring that everything runs smoothly.
But what if you are a small business owner? Do you need to worry about operating procedures? After all, you’re just starting out, right? Wrong. Not having SOPs in place can create significant challenges, even for start-ups, including more errors, increased inefficiencies, loss of profit, and even a lack of a safe working environment.
What are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)? SOPs consist of policies, procedures, and standards in every business’s operations, marketing, and administration. These are usually simple step-by-step guides or checklists on how to complete specific, recurring tasks the same way each time for a consistent outcome.
How can SOPs give your small business a decided advantage over most competitors who don’t use them?
This article will consider some main reasons your small business needs SOPs, how creating business process flowcharts can enable you to develop well-crafted SOPs, and some types of SOPs for your small business.
Why Your Small Business Needs SOPs
Better Management of Your Team
- Train New Employees Faster: For new employees, providing step-by-step instructions helps them get up to speed quickly. It helps them understand how often each step needs to be completed, what is involved in completing each step, and who is responsible for each task. This relieves you, or another teammate, from having to spend endless hours training.
- Improve Productivity: After the initial training, SOPs help ensures that workers perform their job correctly and within specific time frames. As long as they follow the SOP consistently, employees will be more confident in their abilities. Improved efficiency means you’re saving on labor costs. At the same time, it reduces the chance of mistakes occurring during the performance.
- Prepares for Delegating/Outsourcing: Once you’re sure that a Standard Operating Procedure works well, you can start delegating tasks to new hires or outsourcing them to virtual assistants. This allows you to focus on building the business instead of lower-value activities to grow the company.
Maintain and Improve Quality
- Ensure Product Quality
You want to consistently deliver the same product quality. One way is to have quality inspections at different phases in your process. The other is to ensure that each team member understands the specifications of each task he performs. SOPs can be used by manufacturers and service providers to ensure that products and services are delivered according to customer expectations.
- Create a Benchmark of Service
Your customers won’t see your internal policies, but they will notice how professionally you operate the business.
Service SOPs ensure that each team member understands the expected outcomes of service encounters. This includes things like the tone of voice used when talking to a customer, the resolution to a problem, or the speed at which an order is completed.
- Ensure Business Continuity
It’s important to identify backups for each task so that the continuity of your business isn’t disrupted. In case of absence or a key staff member leaves, knowledge isn’t lost. Someone else can familiarize himself with the SOP, and quickly learn the process so that the work is completed correctly.
- Identify Areas for Improvement
When documented procedures are followed over time, you can identify more opportunities for improving your internal processes. This will save labor costs, and further improve quality and customer experience. To this end, you should review critical SOPs at least once each quarter.
Reduce Business Risk
- Improve Compliance
Following government regulations is crucial for certain industries. Including these requirements when documenting your operating procedures will remind your staff of crucial steps to be followed within your process so that your business meets compliance.
- Reduce the Risk of Accidents
Accidents are much more likely in workplaces such as restaurants and bakeries, and manufacturing plants. You are responsible for ensuring safety is prioritized, and SOPs can help you achieve that. For example, create SOPs for equipment lockout, handling and maintaining dangerous kitchen equipment, and the expected handling of any accidents.
Scale Your Business
As a small business, implementing SOPs from day one to better manage your team, maintain and improve quality, and reduce business risk is key to the growth of your company. You will be able to increase your output without compromising quality.
And down the road, if you decide to sell your business, having SOPs in place throughout your company will make it worth more to buyers who will see that it will continue to be successful without you.
Having considered why Standard Operating Procedures are crucial to your small business, where do you start?
Create Business Process Flowcharts
You or an employee could start with building an SOP while doing your work, jotting down each step taken. While this can be beneficial, a process from start to finish might require multiple roles and involve several steps.
Better yet, begin with creating a process chart for each of your tasks, starting with the most critical processes of your business, followed by those you don’t enjoy doing. In addition, the steps of procedures you don’t do often tend to be left out. So create process charts for these too. Afterward, standardize and document the aforementioned processes.
Why should you do this before building your SOPs?
Doing so will help you identify gaps in your processes that you must fill by including these in your procedures. These gaps can include steps involving compliance, especially crucial if your business is highly regulated (e.g. for example, food service, medical, and pharmaceutical). This can also enable you to avoid redundancy and even streamline your processes.
Another reason you should create a business process flowchart is you want SOPs for your employees to work from with a few simple steps. So based on your flowchart, if you draft an SOP with several roles which might comprise multiple steps, break the procedure into smaller, easy-to-follow SOPs that reference each other.
As a small business, creating process flowcharts can be tedious, but in the long run, you capture every step and role in each of your processes, leading to writing effective SOPs.
Examples of Small Business SOPs
Types of SOPs to include:
- New Client Onboarding
- New Hire Onboarding
- How to Invoice Clients
- How to Schedule Posts for Social Media
- Blog Publishing
- Customer Service
- Help Desk Manual
- Product Launch Plan
Consistency in Your SOPs
Most routine tasks are step-by-step. For consistency, therefore, use one SOP template like Notion to document your processes. Your work will automatically be saved in one central location that is readily accessible to your team.
SOPs that have a consistent look are easy on the eyes. When your employees need to remind themselves of a step or be brought up to speed on a procedure due to absenteeism, they can easily refer to any SOP. This also helps to streamline cross-training.
Wouldn’t you say that you need Standard Operating Procedures for your small business? Without them, you operate on a shaky foundation that could stunt your company’s growth. With them, you have a competitive edge over other businesses in your niche that operate without them.
Effective SOPs speed up the onboarding of new hires and increased productivity enables you to better manage your team. Consistent outcomes in your processes ensure product quality and create a benchmark of service, and SOPs can help your company to improve even in these areas. Standardized procedures can also help your company reduce business risk through improved compliance and prioritizing safety.
By creating Standard Operating Procedures from day one, you lay a firm foundation on which to build and successfully scale your small business.
To learn more, check out these articles: When to Implement Standard Operating Procedures and Standard Operating Procedures Checklist.
Are you ready to get started? Contact SOPHeroes today!