Standard Operating Procedures for Small Business

In this video, I show you how to add leverage to your business by setting up effective standard operating procedures and documentation for you and your team. I also show you what I think is the best documentation tool for small business. It’s low cost and very simple to use (Keep an eye out for that at the 0:7:40 mark).

If you are working for yourself, even working by yourself, you’ll find out how standard operating procedures will make your business more efficient and reduce errors in your business. And if you’ve read the E-Myth books, you’ll already know how important “how to” documentation and procedures are and this video will help you put them in place.

Enjoy the video! Leave your questions and comments below!

Video highlights:

  • 0:00:20 – What is a Standard Operating Procedure?
  • 0:00:53 – Standard Operating Procedures = Good Business
  • 0:01:28 – Computer based processes
  • 0:01:58 – Manual/offline processes
  • 0:02:33 – Flying Solo?
  • 0:03:14 – Seems Like a Chore!
  • 0:04:10 – Options
  • 0:05:52 – What to look for in a SOP tool
  • 0:07:11 – Can’t you do that with…
  • 0:07:40 – My preferred standard operating procedure tool
  • 0:08:43 – Clarify interface
  • 0:09:44 – Conclusion

Video Transcript

You can get a pdf version of the transcript here.

Hi there! Brett Jarman from Helpmeleverage.com, here to help you get the most out of your small business. Today I just want to do a short video to talk about standard operating procedures (SOPs) for small business. We’ll discuss why you need to have them and what’s the best tool for making standard operating procedure documents.

What is a Standard Operating Procedure?

The first question that comes up is what exactly is a standard operating procedure? Basically it’s a document that determines how you do something in your business. How you do a particular process or how a system might work in your business.

You might use it to put together a staff handbook or a general manual. You might have contractors or virtual assistants you are working with, you can put together a documentation for that and you might be putting “How To” documentation together or something together for clients. All of these sorts of things could be regarded as standard operating procedures.

Standard Operating Procedures = Good Business

If you’ve read the EMyth books you would know already that if you got standard operating procedures in place that’s a key component to having a good business.

What a standard operating procedures does among other things is it sets the standards in your business and it reduces errors. It reduces the chance of errors because if there’s a standard procedure in place and you follow it each time then there’s less chance of something slipping through, someone making a mistake. Having a procedure in place makes it easy to delegate and ultimately all of these things mean better leverage and that’s good for you and your business.

Manual/offline processes

But you can also have process documents for offline process.

Here’s an example. A coffee making action plan. This is put together by the crew at E-Myth. You may not go to these sorts of lengths. Coffee in your office may not be such a big deal but in their case clearly it was so they’ve gone to a bit of trouble there.

It could be for something simple like, how to dispatch stock. You might have a particular cleaning process that you go through or a way of processing clients, doing a sales conversation for example.

All of these sorts of things can be standardized through standard operating procedures.

Flying Solo?

​You might think, well I’m flying solo, I’m running my business by myself. I don’t have any assistants and I don’t delegate anything, I do them.

Even if that’s the case its still good, and some would say critical, to have standard operating procedures in place. In fact in some respects it’s more important because if you are flying solo, you got to wrap your head around the whole bunch of things within your business, especially for those processes that you may not do a lot. You just sort of do them from time to time. If you’ve got to reacquaint yourself with the process or the software or whatever, if you got a document in place that explains what the steps are, you could save yourself a lot of time and also eliminate a lot of errors.

Seems Like a Chore!

Now you might well say, “Yes but all this seems like a chore. I’m doing fine as it is. Maybe this sort of stuff isn’t so important.”

The reason that it seems like a chore is because it is a chore. However, that’s why it’s important to find a really simple way to do it. If you have got a simple way to put standard operating procedures together you’ll find you’ll be more inclined to do it.

I’m going to show you a tool that I used for that shortly. Even though there is a bit of initial work involved, I can promise you that it’s an investment worthwhile and once you do start to get some documentation together, I wouldn’t might betting you’ll actually start taking yourself and your business a bit more seriously.

One other advantage to make it worthwhile, especially if you are working for yourself, is you may choose to go away on vacation or you may come ill at some point. If there’s some documentation in place then it makes it much easier for someone to step in and take the reins for you.

Options

​There’s a number of ways you could have document or procedure put together.

You could do a video. In fact I use video quite a lot but I usually use that just for one-off processes that I want to show my assitant or a contractor that I want done.

If it’s something that is longer term, I generally go with a text based document and I’ll explain why in a minute.

You can do it by audio but I don’t really recommend that because you don’t quite get the same quality of information across and, as I’ve noted there, my preference is text, using a mixture of text and images.

The particular advantage of text over video is #1 you can print it out.If you are putting a printed manual together obviously that’s tricky to do with a video. You can’t do it. You could do it with a bunch of screenshots but that’s a very laborious process.

It’s also very easy to update a small portion of it. Often a process changes, you might get an update of some software or a particular procedure may change and you just want to change one step within it rather than the whole thing. With video that’s a little bit tricky, you need some editing software to do that and you have to reshoot some stuff, whereas with the text based document you can just replace one or two steps.

It’s also easier to find a particular step within a process if you are using a text document. If you are using video, you’ve got to fast-forward, rewind, skip around a little bit until you find that particular piece that you are looking for, whereas with text you might just come across one step that’s a bit of stumbling block, it’s very easy to look up and then you can be on your way again.

As you can see there I sometimes make a video and then I will get my assistant to turn that into a text and image based standard operating procedures document.

What to look for in a SOP tool

What do you want to look for when you’re selecting a tool for putting together standard operating procedures?

The first thing, it’s got to be easy to use, otherwise you won’t use it.

You do want to have visuals, I’ve explained that already.

Ideally you would have the option to embed videos.You could have text based document that could have images but it can also have videos embeded within it to add a bit of extra detail.

And you want to be able to annotate images. By that I mean put arrows on them and squiggles and highlights and all those sorts of things.

The tool that you have, you want to make it easy to amend your process documents.

You want it to be easy to share. You want to be able to save it in multiple formats; PDF, Microsoft Word and probably HTML. You want it to be printable.Ideally you would have an online sharing option with that, some means of sharing your process online.

You want to be able to create custom templates, you might want to add some branding for yourself or you could have different departments within your business or you might want to brand it for clients so you might want to put their logo on it.

It’s great to have hyperlinks within it. Sometimes you want to link to an external website that explains something in a little bit more detail or it could be a YouTube video that you want to link to. Having that functionality within the tool is good.

These are the things to look for in a standard operating procedure tool.

Can’t you do that with…

Now, you could say, yes well you can do with that with Microsoft Word or Pages if you are on Mac, Google Docs, Evernote, OneNote and so on.

All of those tools actually do have the functionality that I’ve described but the thing with those tools, and I have used most of them for procedure documents, is they’re very clunky to use. Once you use a proper operating procedure tool you won’t want to go back.

Also, image annotation in some of those tools is very messy, thus they get a bit cumbersome to do at times.

My preferred standard operating procedure tool

The tool that I use is a tool called Clarify. You can get that at clarify-it.com.

This particular tool ticks all the boxes on that criteria list that I showed you just a moment ago. What I love about it is it is very easy to use.

Additional benefits, you can get it with just a one-off purchase. The guys who put it together, a company called Blue Mango Learning Systems, they do have another tool called Screensteps Live but that’s only available by subcription so you are going to pay $30 – $40 or something dollars per month. So that’s an ongoing cost whereas with Clarify, it’s a one-off cost. At $30 it’s yours to keep and then you get to use it.

It’s got some additional sharing options. You can save a Clarify file to Evernote, WordPress and Dropbox. This is in addition to other options that I showed you before. The WordPress sharing option is something I recently discovered and I will actually be using it to write some blog entries. I’m going to write some “How To” blogs and I will write them within Clarify and save it straight to my WordPress site.

Clarify interface

There’s a screenshot there of the interface. The actual workings of it is pretty much there on the left hand side. Very easy to work with.

What I really like about is that there is minimal interruption to your workflow. You could be doing a task and, just using keyboard shortcuts, you can save a whole bunch of sequential screenshots to Clarify without leaving the window that you are working on. You don’t have to keep copying, cutting, and pasting, copying, cutting, and pasting and switching between applications. You just use the keyboard short cuts. It creates the screenshot sends them automaticallly to Clarity then, when you are finished with the task that you are on, you can go to Clarify and fill in the gaps. You can add some text and arrows and whatever you need to complete the document. That’s a really big thing in its favor.

The other thing I really like about it is its very easy to reorder steps within a process. Just a simple drag and drop process. If you want to change a sequence, it’s very simple to do.

The other thing they’re very good at, very good support from the company. I never had to wait more than 24 hours, usually much quicker than that.

Conclusion

That’s it in the nutshell. That’s why you need standard operating procedures and what I recommend as the best tool for that – Clarify.

You can get a 14 day free trial. Download it and have a play with it yourself and see if you agree with me that it’s simple to use.

If there’s any question arising. I’d love to hear from you. Just email info@helpmeleverage.com.

Even if you don’t have questions jump over to the website have a look around and I hope you find something useful there.

Until next time have a great day and I will see at the top.

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What’s your experience with standard operating procedures? Good, bad or non-existent? Comments and questions are welcome below.

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About the Author Brett Jarman

I've been self-employed since I was 19​ (and that was quite some time ago) and have owned manufacturing, service and consulting businesses ever since. Every business goes through stages and each stage in each business needs a different strategies to flourish and prosper. I can teach you about the stages and the strategies to shortcut your success.

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