What is SOP, and do I need it?

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SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedures, and it’s something every business needs, even one-person, home-based businesses. It may cover financial issues, including deposits and cancellation fees; branding issues, such as how the telephone is answered and what font is used in correspondence; administrative issues, including the forms and checklists you use internally and when working with clients; and much more.

Of course, it will need to be modified from time to time, as you revise your procedures and implement new ones, but at least you will have something to work from.

This topic is covered in Michael Gerber’s bestselling book, The E-Myth Revisited. Gerber recommends developing an organizational chart for your business, complete with job descriptions for each role you currently fill, right from the outset. This way, when you need to start delegating to employees or outside services, you will be well-prepared. Before you can successfully incorporate associates into your business, you need to have well-documented procedures to ensure that everyone on your team is on the same page. Even if your company never expands to the point where you need to hire employees or subcontractors, having Standard Operating Procedures will ensure that your work is performed in a consistent manner, which improves efficiency and lets your clients know what to expect.

This is not to say that you can’t customize your organizing services to meet the unique needs of individual clients. Absolutely not! What it does mean is that you are 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 streamlined processes in place, as well as forms and templates for all the typical situations you encounter in your business. It also means that when you delegate tasks to subcontractors or employees, you can ensure that they have everything they need to represent your business the same way that you would. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll have a documented plan which can be carried out in the event that illness or another emergency prevents you from operating your business.

It’s a bigger job to develop your SOP after you’ve been in business a while, because you probably have more procedures to document and less time to devote to the project, but it is never too late!  If you haven’t yet drafted your SOP, I strongly encourage you to start.

If your SOP is already in place, what advice can you offer your colleagues?

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Avatar Alex Fayle on May 11, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Funny you should mention this – I’m working for Elaine Shannon of https://www.ElaineShannon.com to come up with a way to develop internal business systems and procedures to make all the client/external stuff run much more smoothly.

    It’s in review mode right now, but should launch soon(ish).

  2. Avatar Janet Barclay on May 11, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Alex, what timing!

    Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t see the need for this type of thing until an emergency crops up, or they’re so busy they need to bring on staff, and it’s next to impossible to put something together when you’re under the gun.

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