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Managing a small business can feel so much like a one-person-show that it truly turns into one—in a way that puts small business owners at constant risk of overwhelm, burnout, and inconsistency, and leaving employees scrambling when the owner is unavailable to provide guidance. All of this can be curbed with the introduction of standard operating procedures (SOPs).

SOPs are documents detailing all the steps required in a given business operation, and can include anything from how to intake a new client to how to order new office supplies. As the name suggests, they are standardized instruction lists that, ideally, look similar no matter their topic, and can be easily followed by anyone viewing them. Some small business owners might feel like their operations are too small to need written instructions for anything (especially if you’re your only employee), but we strongly advocate them no matter your business’ size. 

The benefits of SOPs are truly countless, but here are 10 of our favorites.

1. Clearer Thinking

Research shows us that multitasking hinders our attention. So, keeping detailed instructions as part of our working mind confuses us. The effort of remembering how to do our tasks distracts us from the content of what we’re doing, losing brainpower to mental clutter. When the instructions exist externally, we can reference them when needed, and focus our whole attention on the task at hand.

2. Distilled Company Culture

Setting expectations makes it easier for employees to understand and implement a company’s mission statement and ideal culture. Guidelines create opportunities for employee input and closer adherence to that ideal. If you’re the owner-operator-single employee, taking a moment to set expectations for yourself, to see how you align with your goals and mission, can be a great way to self-reflect.

3. Easier Delegation

Training can be tough, and teaching an employee how to do something you’ve done for years can be a huge barrier to delegation (or to hiring in the first place). So make it simple. Your employee is trained by the instructions, and can ask you for help when needed.

4. Eliminated Risk of a “Single Point of Failure”

Delegation is sometimes absolutely essential. If you’re the kind of manager who always does everything yourself, it’s time to get your brain on a document! You’re the company’s most vital resource, but you won’t always have the time and energy for everything. Making sure operations can break down without truly breaking down is important. (Plus, you don’t want your vacations to be interrupted forever with questions about simple tasks, do you?)

5. Heightened Customer-Facing Consistency

Whether you think of it as “quality control” or “tight branding,” the little details that customers see are influenced by your practices behind the scenes. A document listing the requirements for your products to go live, another explaining the employee dress code for company events, and another describing whether you use Oxford commas goes a long way in what the customer sees. 

6. Increased Productivity

When everyone knows what to do and when, or doesn’t have to wait around to ask questions when they’re unclear on a process, your workplace is set up to be immensely more productive.

7. Knowledge of What You Lack

You don’t know what you don’t know, until you standardize your processes. The project of creating SOPs can show you where you’re missing programs that could aid productivity, gaps in employee skill sets, and any number of other organizational concerns that would have flown under the radar without this dedicated examination.

8. More Efficient Goal Management

Creating, managing, and meeting performance goals – especially if you use a system like SMART goals – is easier when you don’t have dozens of random variables making it difficult to track what’s working and what isn’t. When your processes are streamlined, and perhaps when even goal-setting has its own SOP, you’ll reach clarity more efficiently (and will probably have an easier time meeting your goals themselves!)

9. Reduced Stress During Tax Season

Filing business taxes is hectic, and unexpected audits can be intimidating. But if your filing system has a clear SOP and all of your regular processes of business operations have been following theirs, you should have very little to worry about when it comes to managing your taxes.

10. Streamlined Compliance

Whether you have concerns about keeping up with CDC standards, ensuring your workplace is following OSHA regulations, or if your industry has yearly niche certifications to keep up with, safety and licencing typically require a strict adherence to rules, and easy access to communications about those rules. Defining how your business follows them protects you and your employees, both physically and legally. 

Implementing SOPs in your business operations might be as simple as creating a handbook of living documents on a special file that you can print, consult, and share as needed, or you might find that your team is large enough, or your business far-reaching enough that you require a form of management software.

If you need help deciding what plan is best for your business, set up a consultation with us at Monkey VA, and we will help you strategize your movements toward standardization.