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Stuart Broderick

Stuart Broderick hold his Ph.D. in Physics, is a 37-year cyber security expert, raises bees and chickens, and writes all day long. He understands processes and procedures, complex issues, and how to sell.

Stages of SOP Development: A Guide from 40,000 Feet

Business owners: have you ever thought about what will happen if you unexpectedly passed away? 

What would happen to your business?

If you don’t have any assets, then all the value is in your business processes. 

Does your company have standard operating procedures in place? In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed why all businesses…

In short, SOPs facilitate quality control and productivity that will save your business time and money in the long run. 

As your business evolves overtime, its SOPs should too. Let’s walk through the different stages of SOP development, so you can continue to improve your operations as your business grows and changes.

Different Stages of SOP Development

To think about the different stages of SOP development, consider your company from a 40,000’ viewpoint. In other words, consider SOPs on both micro and macro scales of your company, ranging from hourly procedures to the big picture.

Let’s start from the ground up! 

10 Feet – Highly Detailed Processes (Daily, Hourly, Minute-by-Minute)

When your business is new or relatively small, you as the business owner typically know all of the operations and procedures – those performed daily, hourly, or even minute-by-minute. This means that you can probably write very detailed and precise SOPs. 

These SOPS do not involve any strategy. It’s simply a how to get this one task done the right way. 

100 Feet – Operation Processes

As the business grows, you’ll hire new staff and add new business areas. As a result, you’ll have to learn how to juggle a lot more than you were before. You’ll have to expand your view from 10’ to 100’ – working at an even higher altitude to oversee business operations across your business.  

So what does this change in altitude entail? 

It requires the development of operational processes. This is critical since at this level, some of the operational details you were formerly able to describe step-by-step start to become less precise. As a result, you’ll have to rely on your management team to drive development and compliance with SOPs pertinent to their areas of responsibility.

1,000 Feet – Business Management

As it grows further and leadership visibility escalates to even higher levels, you need to establish business management SOPs. These SOPs define how the different branches within the business operate, support each other, and drive business growth. Without them, silos can form between departments resulting in major inefficiencies and stunting of development. 

Visibility of business processes is key for you and all other business leaders – you should be able to have a complete and accurate view of all activity. Typically, not all employees of the company need this level of visibility. Rather, many businesses rely on their mid-level and senior managers to know how the business works and report to the leadership.

40,000 Feet – Vision and Leadership

Finally, a critical step in the stages of SOP development comes from the 40,000’ view – with vision and leadership. If leadership teams don’t all have the same business process visibility, this can lead to a broken organization if a key business leader leaves the company — especially when this leave is unexpected.

For example, suppose a business leader on your team has been the recipient of all management reports your mid-level and senior managers produced. This person knows…

  • What processes work
  • Where gaps exist that aren’t necessarily always explicitly reported on
  • What your team needs to do to correct business operations

This leader has knowledge of how the different parts of the business must interact to provide the results you and the rest of the leadership team are looking for. 

This is incredibly valuable information. As a result of their unique knowledge, this business leader is in the perfect and only position to define what SOPs are needed.

Now, this doesn’t mean this leader on your team must develop the SOPs themselves. It simply means that the leader should oversee the development and integration of SOPs, so that their knowledge isn’t suddenly lost if they leave the company. They can do this by creating and articulating the strategies that their management team must adopt.  

Ensure that key knowledge from individuals in leadership is regularly translated into development and integration of SOPs. This will support the wellbeing of the company in the long run.

If you’re the owner of the company, you need to download your brain and document your processes, vision, and strategy. What happens if something happened to you to incapacitate you from working? The company wouldn’t know where you were heading. 

An Example of SOP Stage Implementation

Now you have a handle on the different stages of SOP development. Let’s move onto an illustrative example of SOP stage implementation by thinking about a clock-making business.

Stage 1: Business Leaders Create Detailed SOPs

Stages of SOP

When the business owner of this clock-making company decided to create their business, they probably spent years learning clock-making skills, attending courses, going to workshops, etc. He or she knew how to make the style of clock they wanted to make. They controlled everything in the process…

  • Materials and parts procurement 
  • Manufacturing
  • Packaging the clock for the customer
  • Shipping and billing 

They could have written SOPs for all of these areas.

Stage 2: Managers Create SOPs For Their Respective Branches

Moving on a few years… Their business now sells several types of clocks and watches. Their initial business that made only one or two things now has a dozen or more products. They also need… 

  • Marketing to promote their products
  • HR to support their employees
  • Sales to sell to new customers 
  • Development to design new products 

At this stage, the business owner shouldn’t be responsible for developing all of the SOPs for each new branch of the company. This would be too complex, and it’s not an effective use of their time. Instead, leadership should direct unit managers to develop fine-grained SOPs for their respective branches.

Stage 3: Business Leaders Oversee SOP Creation & Integration

Finally, business leaders of this largely grown clock-making company must oversee the development and integration of SOPs. Importantly, they should approach it with an effective strategy.

What does an effective strategy for overseeing this process entail? 

Well, it should ensure that the SOPs support the business leader’s vision of how the business should operate now and how it will grow in the next 5+ years. 

This is the 40,000’ view of standard operating procedures. At this stage, SOPs drive how the business operates. Lower-altitude SOPs define in increasing detail how annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily, and perhaps even minute-by-minute operations are executed.

When the 40,000’ vision for SOPs is realized, the business leader can focus on what they need to… Future direction, strategy, and growth. 

When SOPs are in place, business leaders can spend less time worrying if standard business operations are working as expected. If anything is diverted off-track, they will get an early alert so they can drive the necessary changes to get it back on track.

How Much Time Does SOP Implementation & Development Take?

Many business leaders worry about how much time it will take to implement SOPs. Although they are beneficial for the company in the long-term, there are often pressing matters to attend to in the short-term. 

So how much time does SOP implementation and development really take? 

The truth is, it depends. No one can predict with 100% accuracy how much time it will take. It depends on many interrelated factors. 

But what I will say is that it will take you far less time to complete than just thinking about how long it will take to complete! And the time and money your company will save by having proper SOPs in place will be well worth it. 

If you’re looking for help expediting the process, FocusCopy can help.

What SOPs Do You Need?

We’ve talked about the stages of SOP development, but what SOPs does your company actually need? 

The key is to think about what kinds of SOPs are needed to run your business operations, how they should interact, and what is needed to better support your business. 

However, you shouldn’t spend time considering the contents of each SOP. Trying to consider all SOPs from the ground up to 40,000’ can be extremely timely and stressful for you to do from your current position. Not to mention… You could be spending your time envisioning and growing your business’ future instead of sorting through business operations minutiae. 

Instead, direct the responsibility to the unit management operating that specific part of your business. Or outsource your SOP documentation to professionals. Did you know that FocusCopy writes processes for small to medium sized businesses? You know the processes. We know how to write them. Learn more about how we work with businesses like you.

Implement Our Scalable SOP Framework & Scale Your Business Processes With Ease

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Copyright vs Copywriting

Copyright vs Copywriting: What’s the Difference?

We’ve been excited to write about this topic for a while. When networking with business owners, the question usually asked after “what do you do?” is… “So do you protect what you write?” Of course, we then actually spell out RIGHT vs WRITE to start explaining what we do. So what’s the difference between copyright vs copywriting?

Difference Between Copyright vs Copywriting 

Copyright vs copywriting… 2 words that sound the same when spoken have completely different definitions and purposes. We’ll try and keep this explanation as simple as possible.

When you strip the terms down to fundamentals, they are both processes. 

Copyright protects an item of value. It’s usually common with authorship of website copy, novels, or music.

On the other hand, copywriting is the process of creating something of value that an organization can use to promote the product/service, grow the business, and/or even make it more efficient or business-optimized. 

Let’s dive a little deeper…

What is Copyright? 

Copyright is “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work).”

Merriam-Webster

In the U.S., Copyright law has its foundations in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, granting Congress the power to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. The first original works protected by copyright were in 1790. Copyrights were later registered with and monitored by the U.S. Library of Congress. The federal Copyright Office was established as a separate entity to the Library of Congress in 1897.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, a copyright provides legal protection for works of original authorship which are “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.”  This means that the work to be copyrighted must be in a form in which it can be perceived by others, either directly, or with the use of a device.

(If you need an attorney to help you with copyright or trademark, we have trusted individuals that can help you out. Contact us to connect with one of our trusted referral partners.)

So there it is… 

In layman’s terms, this means that if an organization wants to keep legal ownership of something it has created that is “fixed in any tangible medium of expression”, they must copyright it. Essentially, this means going through a registration process – similar in principle to registering a patent for intellectual property.

What Copyright Protects

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright covers both published and unpublished works. So, FocusCopy holds the copyright to this blog!

A copyright is a legal device that gives the creator of a literary, artistic, musical, or other creative work the sole right to publish and sell that work. Copyright owners have the right to control the reproduction of their work, including the right to receive payment for that reproduction. An author may grant or sell those rights to others, including publishers or recording companies. When someone violates a copyright, it is an infringement.

  1. Copyright protects the expression of an idea or vision, not the idea itself. In legal terminology, this concept is called the idea-expression dichotomy. It has been an important feature of legal reasoning related to copyright. Ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, and discoveries are not within the scope of copyright protection work.
  2. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. 
  3. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment someone creates the work. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. copyright.

Copyright vs Trademark

So what’s the difference between copyright vs trademark? Isn’t copyright a trademark? 

No, copyright protects original works of authorship. Whereas, a trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.

What does this mean for you?

Again, in layman’s terms, any documents, website design, website content, sales materials, internal procedures, etc., that your business creates are wholly owned by you. No other party has any implicit rights or ownership of the material. So your organization can and should copyright your material.

(We are not attorneys or qualified to provide a legal opinion. If you need an attorney, we have several that we can introduce you to.)

How to Copyright Your Materials

So what should you do to copyright your materials as defined previously? Quite simply, unless you think you are likely to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. copyright against someone, include a copyright symbol © and copyright ownership statement in the document (e.g. © 2020, Your-company-name. All rights reserved.).

Of course, you should secure legal advice on the exact wording for your company.  The previous text was simply provided as an example; it may not be legally sound for your location or company.

What is Copywriting? 

Copywriting is a comprehensive process from planning to conceptualization of advertisements and marketing campaigns (including text that appears on websites, in emails, internal marketing,  press releases, etc.). In the past, copywriting was a purely in-house job for a company with many companies employing gifted or highly talented writers.

However, since the tech-boom of 2000, or even a little before, the demand for tech writers and copywriters far outstripped their supply. The education system could not meet our demand for writers as many student’s focus shifted to jobs where they could make money and get rapid pay rises (i.e. technical, engineering, numerical and financial jobs). This left a vacuum.

As with all job-related vacuums, something always appears to fill the void.

In this case, outsourcers and freelancers across the globe filled the void. Some of the copy they write is terrible (just look at instruction manuals for inexpensive and sometimes even expensive electronics goods), and some copy is great. But mostly, it is average.

Today, organizations are looking for great copy.

Why?

Because they realize it helps drive and accelerate their company’s sales and growth. This is why copywriting services, like FocusCopy, thrive. It’s also why companies, more than ever before, are prepared to pay for great copy. But it doesn’t make it any easier to write!

Copywriting Scope

The scope of a piece of copy is critical to the quality, applicability, and usefulness of the copy. Often, the scope is ill-defined. An ill-defined scope for a piece of copy may result in copy being provided that is…  

  1. Not applicable to where it will be seen (i.e. in print, or on the Internet); the writers use different writing styles that work in one media but not the other
  2. Too technical, or not technical enough
  3. Inconsistent, often making the reader wonder what is going on with the company
  4. Written for the wrong audience and not providing what the real audience for the copy is expecting

These are key considerations that the copywriter (internal or external) must know prior to touching their keyboard.

Remember, contrary to many documents that organizations create, design your copy to sell. This means it should be…

  1. Concise. Attention spans are getting shorter; your copy needs to make your customer want to read more in about 8 seconds of reading time – maybe 2 or 3 sentences at most. In other words, the copy must communicate more using fewer words, yet still be clearly understandable
  2. Focused. To achieve #1, it needs a hook that demands more attention
  3. Engaging. To achieve #2, the hook must be unavoidable; if you succeed in #2, they must bite on the hook
  4. Convincing. Convince the customer to buy from YOU, not the other guys; now they are on the hook, you have more time to convince your customer and make them very comfortable with buying from you

Traditional Copywriting vs Technical Writing

Although we often link copywriting to sales and marketing activities, some copywriters, who have a technical bias, often do technical writing. What’s the difference between traditional copywriting vs technical writing?

  • Copywriters write to sell
  • Technical writers write to explain
  • Technical copywriters do both

Regardless of whether the copy author is a trained copywriter or a technical writer, neither will successfully create the document your company needs without a tightly defined statement of scope for the copy.

Copy Ownership

As stated above, ownership of the copyright on the copy belongs to the author and their employer (as this is usually a legal agreement in their terms of employment). 

So if you use an outsourcing company to create copy for you, who owns the copyright on the copy?

This can and perhaps should be a discussion you have with your legal team. 

Require the ownership of the copy to be spelled out clearly and unambiguously in the terms and conditions you sign with your outsourced copywriter/copywriting company. 

While different copywriters may have a different opinion, FocusCopy transfers the ownership of the copy to the buyer after it’s completed. But this is something you should verify with your copywriter.

Implement Our Scalable SOP Framework & Scale Your Business Processes With Ease

become more process-oriented, productive, & focus on what moves the needle the furthest with this framework

How to Write Standard Operating Procedures

Even the title sounds scary, doesn’t it? “How to Write Standard Operating Procedures“.

For most organizations, thinking about it is scarier than doing it. 

Yes, there are libraries, lots of books, and web documents telling you how difficult it is, how complex business process development, and documentation is. 

But does it have to be?

If you are a large company or enterprise in a highly regulated industry (i.e. healthcare, nuclear energy, financial services), the answer is probably yes

But for the rest of the world, it’s a definitive NO. It isn’t that difficult.

Why Writing Standard Operating Procedures May Be Complex

Think about it. Your business is running fine today… Everybody knows what they should be doing, how, and when to do it. So, why do you need to document your business processes?

The answer is both simple and complicated.

Simple Answer

What would you do if Fred (the only guy who knows how to operate the vital-to-your-business thingamajig machine in the corner), suddenly, without warning, has a heart attack, or a severe car accident, or a stroke, and can’t talk or work for a while… 

Now what? 

How would your business survive?

Can you afford the downtime while someone else picks up his skills?

Complex Answer

Where on earth do you start? What process should we begin with?

So, you know the simple answer intuitively. You’ve got to write the processes down – right?

You probably know the complex answer too, you may not know you do, but you probably do. It’s really pretty simple.

How to Write Standard Operating Procedures 

Let’s look at how to write standard operating procedures (SOPS). Start by writing down all the operations your business depending on the following:

  • Manufacturing
  • Purchasing
  • Billing
  • HR

Order this list from most critical to your business to you needs-to-be-done. You could have a couple of categories in the middle (i.e. important, legal needs if appropriate).

1. List Critical Business Functions

How to Write Standard Operating Procedures

Now, starting with the critical business functions like manufacturing. Then think about what makes it critical… Is it the machinery you use, the skills of your employees, the materials, what is it? 

Write them down in a prioritized list from most important to least important. 

Take another look at this list… Is there anything that jumps out because it depends on ONE thing? That may be a particular employee, a required skill, or a technology.

Now focus in on what you need to document as a procedure first. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about an employee, required skills, or technology. Whatever it is, there is ALWAYS a process associated with it, and that needs to be documented.

But how do you do this? 

You may not think you know how to do it, but I guarantee that you do! 

How can I guarantee this? Because you and your business use it every day. If you didn’t, it wouldn’t be critical to your business.

2. Find the Bones of the Procedure

Hold up a minute. How does this help me write my processes and procedures? Simple! Just use your mouth, eyes, and ears and watch how someone (your critical person) does their particular job. What they are doing…? Why they are doing it that way…? And how they are doing it…?

And then write it down, step-by step-by step. Maybe even video it so you have a frame by frame record. If something fails or doesn’t work as they wanted while you are watching, listening, and asking questions, then ask them why that happened and record everything they do as they get back on track. Ask them what can go wrong and why it sometimes goes wrong.

At the end of this, you’ll have lots and lots of notes. They probably won’t look much like a polished procedure, but they contain the “bones” of the procedure. Now, all you must do is assemble the “skeleton”.

3. Assemble the ‘Skeleton’ or ‘Framework’

This is where procedure documentation really starts. You need to take the notes you collected, and figure out which notes are really the big bones in the project.

What are the connectors that link these big bones together? And of course, what order they all fit together in to get from the start (point A) to the finished component (point B)?

Now you have the basis of a process. It’s probably still rough, perhaps even ugly. It may have a few minor steps missing or issues to fix, but in general, it could operate as a procedure.

Now for the fun: adding the skin, smoothing, and polishing your standard operating procedures so it works each and every time.

We’ve put together an Easy-To-Implement Scalable Framework that you can now access for free! Click here to access the exact system we use to develop SOPs.

4. Process Smoothing and Polishing

But before we get to this, you must smooth out the rough elements and add “skin” to cover the skeleton. If you have ever tried, or even thought about, running your hands over a human skeleton, you would find there are holes, gaps, or areas of nothing between the bones. It’s likely to be the same with your process skeleton.

Before you cover your skeleton with skin to make it look complete, you need to work on the process wording to eliminate any gaps.

Process Wording

Work with the critical-to-your-business person, and ask them to use your process exactly – unless the step will injure them or anyone else. 

For example, you’ve written a process to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They must recreate the end result (i.e. the sandwich) using your exact process and not deviating from it just because they created the sandwich.

This is how you find the minor and sometimes major issues in what you’ve documented. If there are issues, then work with your critical-to-your-business person to fix them.

Repeat this review and update the cycle at least ten times after you fixed the last issue. By the time this is complete, you’ll find your skeleton has acquired a skin, it looks good and the process runs smoothly, every time,  without flaw.

Next Steps In Writing SOPs

You just documented your first procedure…

Was it difficult? Probably nowhere near as bad as you thought!

Did it take time? Of course, possibly more time than you thought.

Ready to do this next one? Sure, no problem.

So, go back to your list of procedures you need and start knocking them out!

Outsourcing Writing SOPs

First… Have you thought about how much time that took? What couldn’t you do when writing these procedures? Was it an effective use of your time and skills? Is it something you want to keep doing?

If the answer to these questions is giving you concern, perhaps you should think about outsourcing development of these procedures. 

FocusCopy is well-experienced in developing processes and procedures in industry-specific language far more quickly and error-free than most people working in your industry. Writing is our skill and industry. That’s what we live for. Is it yours? If not, perhaps outsourcing this writing is the way to go.

Want to give writing SOPs a try? Click here to access our free Easy-To-Implement Scalable SOP Framework. We use this exact system to write company processes for ourselves and our clients.

Writing Tough SOPs

Yes, there are procedures that are really difficult to write. Usually, this is because they are associated or required to comply with a government or state regulation.

The difficulty is not in the language. It’s difficult because  you must dot all the i’s and cross the t’s to comply with every nuance of the regulation. Not doing this can be expensive for your organization.

Organizations typically have most difficulty with procedures involve the following:

  • HR
  • Health (HIPAA)
  • Information Security / Privacy
  • Finance

Organizations can develop SOPs in these areas, but many choose to use their internal skills to run their business and outsource development to specialists who have written similar procedures for other companies.

Implement Our Scalable SOP Framework & Scale Your Business Processes With Ease

become more process-oriented, productive, & focus on what moves the needle the furthest with this framework
Developing Standard Operating Procedures from Scratch

Developing Standard Operating Procedures from Scratch

Anyone who has worked for the military or other regulated industry already knows what a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is. But many business leaders, to their disadvantage, do not apply SOPS to their business and may not know how to start developing standard operating procedures from scratch. As a result, business often run into issues like…

  • Quality control
  • Lack of process
  • Decreased productivity

If you’re anything like us, then you see dollars flying out of the bank. Today is the day to start taking control of your business by developing standard operating procedures.

Using Standard Operating Procedures In Your Business

Before we get started… What is an SOP? It’s a “set of written guidelines or instructions for the completion of a routine task, designed to increase performance, improve efficiency, and ensure quality through systemic homogenization” (Britannica). The original of standard operating procedures stems from one of the most organized organizations – the military. Everything they do is intentional and yields the results they want. 

How Business and Military Operations Compare

You may be thinking… “But I’m not the military”. That may be true. But if you want to yield the same results over and over again, then it may be time to implement SOPs in your business. As we evaluate how business and military operations compare, let’s look at 2 different businesses.

The first business is a successful thriving long-term business. They have a combination of highly motivated, dedicated people and a collection of procedures that they execute flawlessly.

Conversely, the second business is more focused on short term goals. It is often characterized as a combination of highly motivated and enthusiastic people who do the stuff the business needs to survive and (hopefully) grow.

For this example, pick one of the above business examples that you currently operate as. Be honest with yourself.

So how do these operations compare? There are several similarities and differences between these 2 businesses…

  1. They both depend on highly skilled/motivated/dedicated/enthusiastic people.
  2. The short-term business does ‘stuff’ – usually undocumented and therefore dependent on retention of key staff.
  3. The thriving long-term business thrives despite changes in staff over the years because it uses SOPs and is less dependent on, and in many cases completely independent of the know-how of certain staff. They can train staff with specialized knowledge – it’s already documented.

While it will depend on the business, most companies should be more long-term focuses – and thus use SOPs.

Becoming More Long-Term Focused

 By becoming more long-term focused, you are able to accomplish incredible things. Think about how the military can recruit an untrained civilian and train them to become a highly specialized weapons person, a navigator, an intelligence officer, a linguist, or even a mechanic (among many other roles). They start from a basic assumption that the recruit has no knowledge of what each of these operatives do. Even more important, when trained, each operative will perform their function exactly as expected.

The military can do this because their function is based on a set of guiding principles / policies and a set of Standard Operating Procedures that dictate how all parts of the military operate.

Ever heard the phrase hire for traits, not talent? SOPs help you hire for traits and train them on the job in an efficient manner. 

A Few Exceptions to the Rule

Now, there are a couple of exceptions to the rule that every company should operate their entire business with SOPs.

If your company relies on employees innovating and growing (much like an entrepreneur), then SOPs will most likely suffocate those employees (i.e. graphic designer, product engineer, etc.). It will be burdensome and may suck their creativity out of them. 

However, these roles should have their own lax SOP – what we like to call swipe files or best practices. They act as informal templates or guidelines for them as an individual or as a group.

BUT if your employees are doing repetitive work, then you need to implement a SOP (especially if you are wanting to grow the business / role). Product engineers have a process or procedure for coming up with a new product – ideation, sketching, producing a prototype, testing, feedback, etc. Graphic designers create style guides then use those guides to create deliverables for a specific client. Whatever the role is in an organization, there are processes and procedures that can be and should be documented.

Quality Management with SOPs

Another use for SOPs is to use them for quality management. This use is something we find critical when producing copy for our clients.The term quality is an often misused hyperbole when applied to businesses and their operations. Business often talk about quality customer (i.e. high spending customers) and quality products (i.e. customers love them, they result in few returns, and typically don’t have customer satisfaction issues). Businesses rarely talk about quality processes. Yet, if their operational processes or procedures are not solidly defined and followed, they are unlikely to result in quality products or operations… This will limit customer trust and reduce investor confidence.

Quality Operational Procedures

Quality operational procedures are SOPs because SOPs are designed to support business operations by precisely defining how something must be done under all circumstances with nothing left to chance or misinterpretation

In exactly the same way that you know your fridge is keeping your ice cream frozen because the fridge uses physical principles that never change and has been consistently manufactured to use these principles over many years of your ownership, you expect your business to operate in the same way over and over again.

SOPs define how this is done and will always be done, until your business decides to change the SOP. SOPs drive quality throughout your organization from first concept to delivery of customer products and services.

The Top 2 Problems That Most SOPs Run Into

Like most business practices, developing standard operating procedures have their own road bumps. Generally, SOPs suffer from two issues:

  1. They are time-consuming (and can seem difficult) to write.
  2. Some employees think they can perform a task more quickly, more efficiently, or better than they do when using the SOP, so they don’t use it. 

1. Time-Consuming To Write

This issue is easy to explain. Many businesses do not have staff onboard with enough attention to detail or desire to write SOPs. Some staff often consider development of SOPs as boring or unnecessary. In fact, the opposite is true. SOPs are essential for many business operations and the details they must contain to be truly usable can be intense.

If you need help creating your standard operating procedures from scratch, we are standing by to discuss your needs. Click here to learn more about what our process is.

2. Employees Bypass SOPs

Unfortunately, the net result of employees bypassing SOPs is that something else may not work as expected elsewhere in the organization. This issue is more difficult to explain because it is often the result of employee pride in what they do and not mistakes in what they do. 

When an employee performs a task in a different way to that defined in the SOP, it may result in a slightly different result that they do not notice. For example, it could result in a data point or something being reported differently than expected by a later procedure or procedures. Either or both results could lead to customer satisfaction issues and customer-perceived decline in deliverable quality by the business. Such issues affect the reputation and trustworthiness of the business and affects its sales, revenue, and profitability. 

Developing Standard Operating Procedures from Scratch

When you are developing standard operating procedures from scratch, it’s important to note what needs to be included.

The 6 Sections To Include When Developing Standard Operating Procedures

Anyone who has worked for the military or other regulated industry already knows what a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is. But many business leaders, to their disadvantage, do not apply SOPS to their business and may not know how to start developing standard operating procedures from scratch. As a result, business often run into issues like…

  • Quality control
  • Lack of process
  • Decreased productivity

There are 6 sections you need to include when developing standard operating procedure…

  1. Scope and purpose
  2. Compliance
  3. Process steps
  4. Success criteria
  5. Exit criteria
  6. Document history

1. Scope and Purpose

You must precisely define and document the Scope and Purpose. If they are not, then the SOP will be too large and wide ranging for any employee to follow.

2. Compliance

Compliance with the steps defined in the SOP must be mandatory unless compliance with a given step will result in injury or worse. Test and retest every step ensure such conditions do not happen.

3. Process Steps

Document process steps for every action needed. Additionally, document where errors could occur, detail what these errors are, and what should be done to recover from them.

4. Success Criteria

Provide Success Criteria definitions for each series of steps in the SOP. This enables continual quality checks are being made throughout execution of the SOP.

5. Exit Criteria

SOP Exit Criteria defines what conditions exist on completion of the SOP and what happens next.

6. Document History

Although often not visible to SOP users, this section maintains a detailed record about why the document was needed, who created/updated it, what changes were made, and who approved those changes.

SOP Content Creation and Management

Creating your SOPs and managing them after the initial development does not have to be difficult. It could be as easy as the following…

First, create a Standard Operating Document. This is like the brain to your processes and procedures. It will contain links to your other documents for specific SOPs. You need to include different sections in this document, including the following: 

  • Strategic Objective
  • General Operating Principles (what it takes to run the company)
  • Discussions (your important meetings to refer back to)
  • Important Docs (think style guides, customer avatars, privacy policy, and anything that needs to be accessible)
  • SOPs
Developing Standard Operating Procedures
Example of Standard Operating Document

Then create the 3 following folders:

  1. Important Documents
  2. Standard Operating Procedures
  3. Drafts

Each document in those folders should be on a specific topic and then linked back into the Standard Operating Document. 

When you set up the system, you’re half-way done. Now, you need to apply the 6 sections I previously listed in each SOP. If you want to access our process and templates for building your SOPs in Google Drive, then click here and we’ll send you our Easy-to-Implement Scalable SOP Framework.

Implement Our Scalable SOP Framework & Scale Your Business Processes With Ease

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Business Processes and Business Longevity

Business Processes and Business Longevity

Businesses do one of three things…

  1. Grow
  2. Stay stagnant and eventually decline
  3. Fail

While there are many reasons that you could attribute failure, something that we have discovered is that businesses succeed or fail based on whether they are consistent in how they do things. In this blog, we highlighting how important standard operating procedures are and the relationship between business processes and business longevity.

Relationship Between Business Processes and Business Longevity

Oftentimes, small to medium sized businesses operate on what their owners and key employees know. These companies could have been around for decades or just a few months. But we have found when marketing a product or service or even consulting on cyber security, procedures are often in their heads. Even worse, business processes are often transferred to others via individual conversations and process walk throughs.

Such an approach has worked in small businesses and home businesses for years and in some cases decades.

But the approach doesn’t scale well as the organizations tries to grow rapidly.

How Business Lose Their Processes

Over time, training or onboarding gradually omits little details about the company’s processes and procedures. Eventually, the process that has been used “forever” suddenly fails, and no one can figure out why. After all, the standard technique has always worked. It worked for years! I’m sure we’ve all heard that phrase at sometime in our lives and careers.

As Michael E. Gerber (“The #1 Small Business Guru”) has argued for many years in his presentations and E-Myth books, most small businesses fail because their owners spend most of their time working ‘in the business’ as a technician and not ‘on the business’ as an entrepreneur. Because the owners are primarily working as a technician, their businesses growth is limited by their ability to physically work any additional hours. Why is this? 

Reasons Why Companies Fail To Not Write Their Business Processes

There are several reasons why business processes continue to not get written down…

#1 They Don’t Have More Time To Get Ahead Of Employees

Quite simply, business owners use the same 7-day week as everyone else. They have the same 24-hours in a day. Business owners typically put in more hours than their 40-hour a week counterparts. But those hours are usually allocated to other tasks.

#2 There Is Too Much Going On In Their Brain

Ever get brain fog? At FocusCopy, we often joke… “I lost my list!” That’s when there’s so much going on that their bodies just shut down and stop processing anything. They cannot produce anymore, develop new products, provide customer service improvements, significantly expands their customer base, and more, because all the knowledge and procedures needed to do this locked in their heads! 

#3 They Don’t Make It A Priority

We hear business owners say they don’t have time to train anyone else, to document what they do, to delegate required work, etc. But that’s really saying that they either aren’t making it or willing to make it a priority. This “busy-work” strongly limits the potential for their business to expand to the extent they wanted when they started their business.

How Business Owners Process The Need For Documentation

So, what can these business owners do?

They could document the procedures themselves… But wait! That would reduce the owners’ productivity and business revenue/income.

They could hire an inexpensive intern, high schooler looking for a part-time job, or even a recent college graduate. But wait! They would have to train them. And then… Could they even document the procedure?

After all, if you ask someone to develop a procedure for what you do when performing a task, what is their first response? Often, they say “I don’t know how to”, or “I can’t write”, or “I don’t have time”, or worse still “I don’t want to do that”. These responses are not surprising…

The Bigger Issue: No One Is Trained To Document What They Do

Writing down, or documenting, procedures is not something schools ever teach us (at least not where I went and where my kids went). It’s a skill you can acquire, but it requires training, practice, and commitment. Acquiring such skills is not a rapid process. It’s also not attractive to everyone in today’s “instant world”. We require that everything is accessible in very short timeframes.

Professional procedure developers, unlike a direct employee or contractor, do not need in-depth training on an organization’s operations to document one or more of its internal undocumented procedures. Yes, external contractors may initially appear more costly… BUT when their contract is complete, so are your payments.

Businesses, big or small, have decisions to make when considering how to document their processes and who will do it. When businesses use internal resources, they must consider available skills, training needed and on-going requirements for future process development. When business contract external resources to complete these tasks, most of the issues associated with internal resources terminate when the contract is completed. Additionally, because externally contracted process developers are professional process developers, they are likely to complete your documentation in less time than an internal process developer.

Owners and management of businesses that wish to expand and grow to their full potential should spend more time ‘working on their business’ and less time working ‘in their business’ by documenting key business procedures so others can complete them. 

Think about this… The CEO doesn’t necessarily have to lock up the office, but he or she is the key person to land the next big deal or expansion opportunity. By freeing up their time to do this, the business is far more likely to succeed and grow.

Where FocusCopy Comes In To Increase Business Longevity By Recording Business Processes

Business Processes and Business Longevity

FocusCopy helps businesses achieve procedure derived benefits by developing key business procedures with minimum operational impact.

In the end… We could write the business processes, but you have to create a culture that consistently goes back to the SOPs. You need to use them for them to be effective.

Click here to learn more about how FocusCopy can implement SOPs in your company and coach you on how to create a culture of process and procedure.

Implement Our Scalable SOP Framework & Scale Your Business Processes With Ease

become more process-oriented, productive, & focus on what moves the needle the furthest with this framework