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Nobody Expects to Get Hit by a Bus

Could your business function if something unexpected happened to you?

If something happened to you, could your business function? 

I know, wow, what a way to start a blog! I’m not a doomsdayer or a believer in scare tactics, but I do believe it’s wise to have what I call a Get Hit by a Bus Plan, or what’s more commonly known as Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) no matter what stage of business you’re in.

Here’s why:

  1. Because something life-changing might happen to you or someone in your company.
    Before I started my business, I served on the Board of Directors of a small nonprofit organization. The board was an intimate group of friends to the founder. We had meetings periodically where we gave each other warm fuzzies and pats on the back for a job well done. What little discussion we had around business generally focused on the need to create some sort of manual that would document who does what and how. The founder always agreed that it needed to be done and that he would work on it, but as months and even years went by, the manual was never created. Then, on an ordinary Saturday, the founder and brains of the organization had a bicycle accident and suffered a Severe Traumatic Brain Injury. In an instant, an organization that was, essentially cruising along, was in a state of crisis. No one in the organization or on the board knew what he did every day, how he did it, or what was even happening next. While the founder did eventually make a full recovery, it took years and left the organization extremely vulnerable and struggling to pick up the pieces.
  2. Because a valued team member might quit or change roles.
    I recently took on a new client who asked me to audit her business’ CRM/marketing tool and provide feedback for improving open rates. She provided me with little to no information so that I could look with a fresh set of eyes. What I saw was tremendous history, but absolutely no mention of what the history represented, what was happening, or why it was important. What I learned when I shared these findings was that there was so much stuff happening behind the scenes that shouldn’t be happening, but nobody knew why. As I became more involved in the marketing strategy and troubleshooting issues, I found it extremely difficult to retrace the steps of any of the work that someone did before me because nothing was written down. I couldn’t understand why a certain email was created, or what would happen if I used a particular list or tag, or product. I spent many hours trying to unweave an intricate knot without knowing whether I was pulling the right thread or where that thread would take me. With every gentle tug, I uncovered another part of the picture that didn’t make sense to me, but might have to someone else. My advice to this client was to develop a list of standard operating procedures, so when any current or future team member created something, the process and steps were documented. This would protect the organization in the event someone left, or shifted into another role, and allow anyone to hop in and understand quickly the what, how and why of this company’s marketing. Plus, this client would save herself thousands of dollars in the future paying someone else to figure it all out.

Both of these examples highlight the key benefits of having SOPs in place and before the unexpected happens. SOPs save a lot of worry, stress, grief and money. 

And let’s be honest. The reason you don’t have SOPs in place is because they’re not fun or sexy. But if something happens to you, will your business be able to function? If you want your business to succeed after an unexpected event, it’s time to create standard operating procedures so it’s clear what, why and how you do what you do.

So, what is an SOP? 

An SOP is a set of instructions for how to do things in your organization. SOPs help to create a safety net in the event of a crisis, and a training manual for bringing on new team members.

Some leaders may treat them as the policies and procedures of the organization and others, depending on their size, might use SOPs as a means to execute policies and procedures. SOP’s help businesses create systematic routines. 

Here are the key benefits for creating SOPs in your business:

  • Preparedness – Whether you are a one-person operation, or you have a thriving and growing team striving towards a common goal, having systems and processes written down helps everyone understand the inner workings and the rationale behind why something was done and the way it was done. For instance,

    What is the process and structure for how the newsletter is created?

    What list receives your newsletter?

    How do we handle a new product launch?

    What is the company’s return policy?

    A good rule of thumb is, if someone had to step into your role tomorrow and pick up where you left off, would they know what to do and how to do it? If there are questions left unanswered for that person to succeed in their role, those are great starting points for SOPs. 
  • Efficiency – Have you ever been so deep in a project that all of your mental focus is completely devoted to it, but then a few months later, you can’t remember what was happening or why something was done a certain way? When important processes aren’t written down, it’s easy to forget something that might be really important and a lot of time is wasted playing catch up. SOPs help you and your organization with the who/what/when/where/why, saving time and potentially avoiding big mistakes.
  • Consistency – In some instances one person gets sole ownership of a project or a task, whereas in other instances, you may have multiple people involved in the same project. SOPs help reduce confusion by having a documented procedure. Procedures are invaluable in accounting, list segmenting and so much more. 

While SOPs are an important foundation and building block for any growing business, creating them doesn’t have to mean you halt any other progress. Using a simple template and creating them as you go, will allow you to build tools that will help you scale and grow with ease. Here are two simple formats that might work for you in implementing SOPs before something unexpected happens:

Option #1: Checklist SOPs – Checklists can sometimes get a bad rap for their simplistic approach, but they can be highly valuable in ensuring key steps are not missed or overlooked. Checklists are easy to see and skim over and quick for new team members to absorb. Checklists can be used for both simple and complex tasks. It’s as easy as writing down the steps of the process and all the individual tasks that must be accomplished. Check out my example below:

Process: Airplane Safety Check

Owner: Pilot

  • Check tires
  • Check brakes
  • Check left engine
  • Check right engine

Option #2: Step by Step SOPs – Similar to the checklist, this format gives a succinct process for users to follow. Giving a clear set of action steps, the step by step SOP provides expectations and a path for how to complete a specific task. As an example:

Process: Making the CORRECT 🙂 Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Owner: Sandwich Maker

  1. Get two pieces of bread
  2. With a butter knife, spread a light to moderate later of peanut butter on one side of the bread. 
  3. Wipe any excess peanut butter thoroughly on the second piece of bread until the knife is clean.
  4. Spread a moderate and equal size portion of jelly on the second piece of bread
  5. Smoosh both pieces together
  6. Enjoy!

There’s a lot of information packed into this blog, so if I raised more questions than answers, or you need more personalized help creating SOPs for your business, book a free consultation with me today. 

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