Don't Run Your Business Without This!
They call it an SOP - Standard Operating Procedure
This is CRUCIAL to your company's growth.
In my first job out of college, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I had hustled my way into a local digital agency. I was given a desk, a salary, and a fancy-ass title: CLIENT PARTNER.
WOW, I was big time! This is a lot of excitement for a 21-year-old.
And that is where the fun ended. The next year was daily confusion, stress, and unwarranted shame. My first several calls with my client (the company's biggest and my only) left me stumbling and embarrassed. I had NO CLUE on how to answer any of the client's questions. I didn't understand my company's procedures, policies, or processes. (Spoiler alert - there weren't any!).
Projects went in willy nilly and were returned to the client full of mistakes. I tried my best to look over them before they went out, but didn't know what I didn't know. I just didn't have the information I needed and I didn't even know what to ask for. The designers berated me and the programmers were always scrambling.
Fast forward to a year later. I ditched that job and my hometown in Florida completely. I was finally a little fish in the big pond of Denver, Colorado. It took me a little longer to hustle a job in a bigger city, but I eventually found myself with a similar title at a slightly bigger agency.
When going into the interview, I commented on how impressed I was that the company was so big after being around for such a short time (they were twice as big as my previous agency in half the time).
During the interview process they quizzed me on my experience around systems and processes, which led to this conversation:
Them: "So how did your last agency handle the blueprint process?"
Me: "What's a blueprint?"
Them: "??? You know, like the blueprint the designer makes before the project starts? The one the programmers use to create the website and the one you use to double-check the functionality of the site???"
My jaw dropped. THAT'S A THING????????
At one point, one of the interviewers stuck her head out of the conference room and shouted at someone nearby -"HER LAST AGENCY DIDN'T EVEN GIVE HER BLUEPRINTS!!!" They couldn't believe it - and neither could I! This whole time I thought was failing miserably at my work. Turns out, I just wasn't given the information I needed by the team I had joined - and at the sweet tender age of 21, I hadn't yet learned what to ask for!
Despite this moment (or perhaps, even because of it - how did I manage to get by in that position without blueprints?) I scored the job.
The onboarding process at this agency was like night and day compared to my previous experience. Mostly because there WAS an onboarding process. Every project had its own blueprint that I could follow and check to do Quality Assurance. Every single aspect of their company had a well-documented process. Everything was thought out - and when it wasn't, we worked together to change that.
Turns out - when you actually have instructions on how to do something, your team has a chance at succeeding.
Knowing that my experience at my first agency could have been completed avoided left a huge impact on me. All those anxiety attacks I had in the backyard of the office were totally unnecessary. All those cigarettes I smoked out of stress - gross! (Sorry mom)
For over a year I thought I was a straight-up knucklehead when in reality, I just wasn't given the proper tools to do my job.
So how does that impact my work today?
Often when I start working with a client nothing is documented. This is often because the client is too busy trying to do 17 jobs at once. The processes usually just live in everyone's heads (or worse - just the owner's head!)
Another reason is that they are still figuring their systems out. Things move and change quickly and it hard to commit to writing things down when things are in flux.
Regardless of the reason why, it is completely normal to not have any Standard Operating Procedures in place. When you are first growing a business, you often find yourself reinventing the wheel over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
My job is to sit down with you and capture what these processes are and then document them in a magical... STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE DOCUMENT!!!!
Not only this, I make it a personal mission to create an airtight onboarding process for each of my clients when they are hiring. My goal for each new hire for my clients is that they feel like they are taken on a journey of new information in a way that is helpful, informative, and NOT overwhelming.
So, what's in an SOP?
The SOP documents the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY. Here are the rules for an SOP:
This should be easily accessible to EVERYONE on your team.
These should be reviewed regularly so that they can be updated appropriately.
It is better to have an imperfect SOP rather than none at all.
Include WHY this SOP exists, WHO is responsible for WHAT, and TOOLS or RESOURCES that are needed. And, most importantly, the exact steps to completing the task the SOP is being written for.
Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of all this extra work? Never fear - I've got you!
Here are some tips and tricks:
Create an SOP template so you know you are capturing the correct information every time.
Use Loom to screen record your repetitive tasks and have someone on your team transcribe them later.
Don't worry about getting these all done all at once. Start with the important tasks and then add more slowly to your library over time.
Businesses are built on processes - not people. You will be surprised how at ease you feel knowing that your business is documented and can be easily shared with your team.