Many years ago, I was the word processing supervisor for a commercial real estate firm and one of my tasks was to maintain the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) binder for the office. This was 1987 before networks became mainstream, so there wasn’t a way to share information online yet. I would manually type up the procedure on my high-speed 286 computer, print it on the slowest HP laser printer that ever existed, 3-hole punch that bad boy, then swap out the old information with the new in this giant binder that sat on a communal shelf.
You can probably guess that no one ever used it! The word processors all had their own way of doing things, rarely wrote anything down (ahem job security), and the office manager wasn’t interested in enforcing its usage. I was crushed because being the RULE FOLLOWER that I am, that binder was pristine!
I learned a long time ago that the best system is the one that you will actually use and works best for your team. You can have the most beautiful thing ever, but if no one uses it, it doesn’t matter.
Nowadays we have LOTS of options, both free and paid. In this video, I give you some ideas of SOP tools and programs to house your SOP library:
When I worked as a word processing supervisor many years ago, it was my job to maintain the SOP binder. This was in the early 1990s so we didn’t have a network or way to share information, so I would manually type up the procedure on my 286 computer, printed it, then swapped out the old information with the new information in this giant binder that sat on a communal shelf.
I was so proud of that binder and the way that I kept it always up to date. And you can probably guess that no one ever used it. So I learned way back then that the best system is the one that you will actually use and works best for your team.
I want to show you some examples of what this could look like and remember there’s no right or wrong way, it’s what works best for you.
First, we have the simple option of having everything in a folder structure in Dropbox that is shared with your team. This is a great option if it’s just you or you have a couple of people on your team. It’s basically your SOPs filed into folders.
If you want to get a little more fancy, you can build a wiki site, and wiki is just a website or online resource that can be edited by multiple users. It’s just a way to share and manage information in-house and increase efficiency. You can build a WordPress site that houses everthing, is searchable, hyperlinked. It’s a step up from having files within folders. You could do this for free if you use WordPress and is great for small teams in which you can add in productivity and collaboration tools as well.
If you need something more robust, there are a couple of paid programs that I’ve seen and played around with that are super awesome.
Here are a few popular programs specifically designed for creating Standard Operating Procedures.
Process Street: detailed operating procedures need more than just a checklist—they need in-depth instructions with diagrams, videos, and companion files to make sure everything’s understood. Process Street’s checklists let you build this documentation alongside your checklists. Whenever you check off one step in your project, you’ll see the next step and its companion documentation so you can dive right into the job.
Process Street is free to get started using—you can build unlimited checklists and share them with your entire team for free. Then, for $5/month per user, you’ll get advanced permissions, API access, versioning, reports and more—everything you need to make your checklists a part of your business workflow.
Sweet Process: You can use it to create all of the documents you need for your SOP, complete with detailed instructions, photos or screenshots, and checklists.
You can create detailed step-by-step checklists for each task, with images, files, and links to other team resources. From there, you can assign them to specific team members and set due dates, prompting SweetProcess to send you reminder emails anytime a task is close to being due.
It’s a modern take on SOPs—one that your team will actually want to use. You can try it free for 14 days; after that, it’ll cost $39 per month for a business plan.
Here’s an example of Foundr Magazine’s SOP in SweetProcess, detailing how to upload a new podcast episode.
The popular note-taking app Evernote also makes a solid repository for your SOPs. Using notes, you can write up your instructions, create checklists, and drag in your organizational structure diagram.
Then, you can organize those notes into notebooks that can be shared with the whole team. Looking for more collaboration options? Evernote also includes team chat, so you can discuss your work right alongside your SOP documents.
Evernote offers apps for most devices, along with a web app, so your team can see the SOPs anywhere. And if anything gets changed, you can jump back to previous versions to see if anything important was lost.
As you can see, don’t let technology or money hold you up from getting started, you have lots of options.
Catch up on other Standard Operating Procedures episodes + resources mentioned in the video:
Did you enjoy this episode and want to put it into action? Grab this kit!
SOP Templates & Process Library
This standard operating procedures kit includes:
- List of Common SOPs giving you samples of what areas can be included in your SOPs or company manual
- Standard Operating Procedures Library including 24 examples
- Sample Standard Operating Procedures Manual
- How to do an affiliate payout
- Chargeback procedure
- Email signature
- Resources and FAQ
- Email Management flowchart
- Handling declined payments
- Help desk procedures
- How to create a project plan flowchart
- How to send a broadcast
- Introductory / Discovery sessions flowchart
- New client setup (for both products and services)
- New team member onboarding checklist
- Newsletter process
- Overcoming sales objections flowchart
- Recording InstantTeleseminar events
- Refund procedure
- Sample JV Partnership flowchart
- Selecting a CRM/Database flowchart
- Task management flowchart
- Weekly blog posts
- Weekly tasks
All the examples are in Word or Powerpoint format so they are fully editable. The included SOPs are meant to give you a starting point, they are SAMPLE documents to show you what an SOP (standard operations procedure) for business processes looks like. Use the sections and headings to create your OWN. Please edit this document for your business; delete what doesn’t work for your business and add whatever you need to.