How to Write a Business SOP

Samir Sampat

Every business needs an SOP or set of Standard Operating Procedures. The purpose of this document is to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that your business has methodologies and protocols in place that ensure that products and/or services are consistently delivered every time. Creating an SOP is just as important as having one in the first place because although there’s not a single “right” way to do it, there are several ways that it can go wrong. 

Having an SOP will ensure that you can:

  • Clearly communicate business processes
  • Standardize operations 
  • Ensure better quality and profitability
  • Increase efficiency
  • Impose rules and organizational guidelines
  • Define relationships and employee roles
  • Properly communicate compliance issues 

At its most basic, an SOP makes sure everyone knows how to do things the right way. Before creating your own SOPs, you’ll need to take the time to choose a structure and format that best suits your business. For large organizations, standards like the ISO 9000 can be helpful, but they are not required. Anyone can easily write their own Standard Operating Procedures by ensuring that the structure includes:

  • Introduction
  • Summary
  • Details
  • Overview
  • Checklists and related documentation

As long as you have these elements, you can find several formats that will fit the needs of your organization. Then, you’ll be just about ready to start writing your own SOPs.

How to Write Your SOPs

It’s a toss-up as to the first step here. While we’re tempted to tell you to first choose a format, it’s also probably just as important to bring in the relevant stakeholders so that you can collaborate with the appropriate parties in creating this document. Thus, your stakeholders may have some input on the formatting that could help you create a better set of documentation. Larger companies tend to ask departments to outline their own procedures and practices and then incorporate them into the SOP. This creates collaboration but also ensures that you’re getting the best expertise. 

1. Discover your purpose: Once you’ve decided to create an SOP, figure out what its purpose is going to be. If it’s a place where you’ll offer a detailed explanation of processes and workflows, you’ll have to consider pain points and how to address them with this document to improve quality and productivity

2. Identify the structure: Large and small companies have different needs here. Usually, SMBs will have much more informal structures while large companies will probably have a formal report that includes a cover page, related reference materials, and other documents. You could use tables, step-by-step lists or graphics, a well-formatted narrative, flowcharts, checklists, and other items, depending on what is best for each team, department, etc. 

3. Define the scope: Define the limits of each process or procedure. You need to understand the workflow and where it ends so that you’re not dealing with “scope creep.” The last thing you want is departments stepping on each other because the procedures are unclear or undefined. 

4. Be consistent in style: Even if you’re an SMB or startup creating a more informal SOP, you’re still going to want to make sure that you keep the style consistent throughout the entire document. Make sure you are concise, use action commands, and make your SOP easily scannable.

5. Get all the steps and details: This is where the hard work comes in. If you have other teams or departments, you’ll also want to get them involved. Create a skeleton of each procedure and then fill in the details, outline subtasks, and so forth. Make sure that you cover everything. 

6. Assess potential issues: Now that you’ve got your SOP on paper, it’s time to assess the potential issues that may arise or failures that you could see. If you’re documenting finite processes, reports and analytics could help determine how well things work. Otherwise, you may have to address problems in your own way. 

7. Test the SOPs: Speaking of addressing problems, the final step comes in testing your SOP. It’s time to put it to work and see if your policies can actually be translated into practice. Set a small group to start following the new SOPs and see how their efficiency and skills stack up against those following the old guidelines (or working without any at all). 

Provided that testing goes well, you’ll be ready to launch your SOP and make it a regular part of onboarding, training, and information sharing throughout your business operation. If you do testing and notice that some issues need reworked, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board until you’ve got it all perfectly outlined in an executable document. 

One way that you can improve your SOPs or reduce the risk of revisions is to research and see how other companies are writing their own procedures and best practices. Take notes on what works, as well as what doesn’t, and then take that information to your team when you collaborate on actually putting the SOP together. 

Make a partnership with Smith.ai a standard part of your business communications and more 

The whole point of SOPs is to streamline and make things more efficient. Likewise, the dedicated virtual receptionists from Smith.ai offer the same type of solutions. With our 24/7 answering service and live website chat, we’ll make sure that you never miss a single communication. Plus, we can even handle lead intake, appointment scheduling, and other needs. 

If you’re working with limited resources and need help finding the leads in the first place, ask about our outbound sales support and how we can help with your outreach campaigns. And it will all be wrapped up with a custom-tailored strategy to manage it all, giving you total peace of mind. 

To learn more, schedule a consultation to discuss what the 24/7 virtual receptionists at Smith.ai can do to help streamline admin and communications. You’ll also find us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484.

Samir Sampat

Samir Sampat is a Marketing and Events Associate with Smith.ai. He has experience working with businesses of all sizes focusing on marketing, communications, and business development.

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