How to improve your business and make life easier
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Running your own business is exciting, isn’t it?
If you’re like a lot of people, one of the things that makes it so appealing is that you can do things your way instead of following standard procedures that have been set in place by some corporate bureaucrat who’s never even done your job. At least, that’s how it was for me.
Even though many experts recommended using scripts for client meetings and creating procedure manuals, I resisted for a long time, for a number of reasons. Maybe you can relate to some of them too.
Reasons not to implement Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
“Reading from a script doesn’t feel authentic. How can I build a relationship with a prospective client if I sound like a telemarketer?”
“I haven’t fine-tuned my systems yet.”
“Standard procedures will stifle my creativity.”
“I do a lot of “one off” jobs, and I’ll probably never perform those same tasks again.”
“I do too many different things in my business to document all of them!”
If you can you think of any others, please leave a comment at the end of this article.
Learning the Hard Way
As the years went by, my business was thriving and I loved my work, yet I found myself struggling with the same frustrations time and time again. Something had to change.
Implementing new systems for managing my email, tasks, and calendar as well as an appointment scheduling system were an excellent starting point. I then established a formal process for managing client projects.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the impact this would have on my business! And having everything running smoothly has had the added bonus of allowing me to sleep better, enjoy my leisure time more thoroughly, and stay on top of things even when family emergencies have pulled my focus away from my business.
Dispelling the Myths
Now that I’ve personally experienced the benefits of adopting Standard Operating Procedures, I realize that my reasons for not doing so earlier were really just excuses.
- Having a script only makes you inauthentic if you read from it like a robot instead of allowing the conversation to flow freely. Not having a script means you might forget to ask everything you need to know in order to write a proposal or move forward with a project – either of which will slow you down, and may even make you appear less professional.
- Your systems will evolve as your business grows, but that doesn’t mean you can’t document the way you’re doing things right now. It’s easier to update a procedure than to write one from scratch.
- Rather than stifling your creativity, having systems in place for your administrative and financial issues will free up your time and energy so you can be even more creative where it really matters.
- If you rarely do certain tasks, that’s all the more reason to document how to do them! You might spend hours figuring it out the first time, but if you don’t do it again for several months or even years, why waste time and energy figuring it out a second time?
- When you form the habit of documenting what you do as you do it, it really doesn’t take a lot of extra time. And if you’re really doing “too many different things, ” maybe it’s time to think about specializing in what you do best and enjoy the most!
The bottom line is that it’s your business, so you get to write your own procedures. And if they’re not working as well as they should, you don’t have to check with your boss before you adapt them.
Additional Reasons to implement Standard Operating Procedures
- Having systems in place means that you’re always prepared for clients’ questions about your policies and procedures, and that all clients receive the same message.
- Administrative work can be less of a chore when you have processes, forms, and templates for all the typical situations you encounter in your business.
- When you delegate tasks to subcontractors or employees, you can ensure that they have everything they need to complete tasks the same way that you would, without the need for extensive one-on-one training.
- You’ll have a documented plan which can be carried out if anything prevents you from operating your business.
Although developing your SOP is a bigger job once you’ve been in business a while (since you likely have more procedures to document and less time to devote to the project), it’s never too late! If you don’t yet have SOPs for your business, I strongly encourage you to get started as soon as possible. I’ve listed a few helpful resources below.
Disclosure: This section includes affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a commission. These are all products I have tried myself and highly recommend.
The E-Myth Revisited: : Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It – Michael Gerber
In his perennial bestseller, Gerber shows how the working model that makes franchises successful can apply to businesses of all types and sizes. Ideal for new business owners, but it’s never too late to get things right!
The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything: The Why of Why Your Business Isn’t Making More Money – Suzanne Evans
This book asks a lot of hard questions designed to help you get out of your own way. I’ve only read it once, but will definitely read it again.
Agency Mavericks Blueprint Program
This is the program that really turned things around for me. The company was called WP Elevation when I took the course, which was originally designed specifically for WordPress consultants. It included valuable tools and techniques to anyone running a digital business, and the name has been changed to reflect this.
Do you have any advice to add?
What other resources do you recommend?
Photo © Elf+11 / Depositphotos
You make a compelling case for creating an SOP document. The benefits you describe (sleeping better, being prepared in an emergency, being able to be adequately prepared for new projects, being able to train freelancers or employees, etc.) are terrific. I remember attending a session years ago that Lisa Montanaro led on this topic. She spent the time to document every aspect of her business and shared with us how she did it. I have specific systems in place that ARE very helpful. I’ve added or amended them over the years as needed. But I don’t have an entire manual that details out everything.
I don’t have all of mine assembled into a manual either – at least not yet – but I do have the most crucial procedures stored in a folder which is shared with my VA. I guess that could be considered a virtual manual!
You’ve got me thinking with this one, Janet. I do have procedures I follow routinely, but I haven’t ever written them down. It occurs to me that this would be very helpful if something were to happen to me and someone else had to step in and take over… even just to communicate with my clients about what had happened. Wonderful advice!
Thanks, Seana! Your posts often get me thinking, so I’m happy to return the favor once in a while. 🙂
I totally agree! I have created processes for myself and clients to help remember the order of a process. This really helps startup solopreneurs stay professional and remember processes that are not completed often. The process always evolves in a start-up small business and will need to be revised on a regular basis or at least once a year. Being specific at first when making the step by step list will allow you to see what is redundant and can be eliminated or revised. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for mentioning the importance of being specific! I recently noticed that my VA took way longer to complete a task than I’d expected, but then I re-read my instructions and realized I’d left out the time-saving steps I’d developed along the way.
Janet, thanks for shining a light on the weak excuses and the great benefits of creating specific procedures AND writing them down in a way that they are easy to find, use, & update. I definitely need to do some work here!! Not only will I benefit, but my clients will too. I especially like being prepared and knowing how to proceed without wasting time. Saving some mental energy is a pretty big ROI too!!
I’m glad you found it enlightening, Olive! Some of these go back to my goals when we were in Elizabeth’s coaching program together!