Standard Operating Procedures for Small Business – Why you need them and what’s the best SOP tool

Hi there! Brett Jarman from,
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. 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. If you’ve read the E-Myth you would know already
that if you got standard operationg 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. You could have procedure for a computer based
process. Here’s an example here. If you are adding
a new contact to a database, the database in this example is an Ontraport database.
You may have something different but no doubt you got somewhere in your business where you
are adding contacts or making changes to a database. You would want a standard operating
procedures for that. That’s a computer based process. As you
can see there, it’s got screenshots and then text that explains what to do. But you can also have process documents for
offline process. Here’s an example here. 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. 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, iIf 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. 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 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. 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 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. 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. The tool that I use is a tool called Clarify.
You can get that at 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. 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. 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 [email protected] 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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5 thoughts on “Standard Operating Procedures for Small Business – Why you need them and what’s the best SOP tool

  1. Very informative, thank you. Also, you can find editable SOPs and other resources for writing SOPs here:

  2. It is so good. would you mind sending the link that may stated "guide line to prepare standard operation procedures for reporting format"

  3. Really nice video, I couldn't agree more how much time these docs save! – I've also found a resource for tons of free SOP templates at

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