The Story – Yay! I’m an Official Business Owner!!
You (business owner) have your articles to do business, business plan, business accounts, trademark, copyrights, logo design, etc. You are set up to begin running your business. Business is good. You are growing at leaps and bounds. You attend marketing seminars, so you can attract even more customers to grow your business. The amount of work has become too much to handle on your own; which means it is time to put out the now hiring signage. After some careful thinking, it seems the current need would be for an Administration Assistant and an Account Manager. You interview and hire two people that seem to be a good fit for the tasks you need them to take over and manage.
Day 1 – Orientation
You have your new employees sign their paperwork and give them an email address and workstation. Then you send out emails to your clients announcing the new staff and their contact information. You hand over several of your clients to the Account Manager to handle; as well as a list of to dos’ to the Administrative Assistant. As they look at each other, then look at you, and the account manager asks, “what is the training process, and where is the training material”? You reply, “I hired you because you have the skill set to do the job. I don’t have training material”. You reassure the team you are confident in their skill set and they will be fine.
Day 14 – Frustrated, Hair Pulling, WTH (what the hell) Moments
You lean back in your chair wondering why the administrative assistant is responding to clients in text message short codes, scheduling the most expensive flights in first class and answering the phone without announcing the business name? You lean back even further (with an exhale), close your eyes and wonder why is the account manager only taking inbound calls, not logging those inbound calls to reschedule for follow-up, not making calls, and spending all day talking to current clients about personal stuff instead trying to upsell new business? You ask yourself, “Why do both of them keep asking me how I want this and that done”?
What is missing in this story?
Importance of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs’)
Setting the tone and standard operating procedures for your company is critical to how your company will be ran and be viewed by clients/customers. This is your opportunity to create one message, delivered the same way, at the same time, so there is no room for confusion among employees, departments or clients/customers. Remember as the leader of your company, employees should follow your vision, your way of doing things and not previous employers’ way of operating. When this is left up to employees, they have no choice but to pull from previous work procedures and policies; which may not fit your business model.
Importance of Training Manuals
Just like SOP’s, a training manual build is iterative. All training manuals should come with company acronyms and definitions inclusive of every department; even if you don’t work in that department. You never know when you will have to work with another department and quick review of what they do is nice to have. At this point you begin designing training sections based on the departments. Include workflow graphics to show department dependencies and interdependencies. Introduction to leadership and their hierarchy within the company. Include some funny stress relieving pages to ad humor and fun. Training manuals will cut down on the repetitive questions of “how to”.
Company Chaos with No Foundation
Having worked at companies where they did not feel SOPs’ and training manuals were needed, because their industry was constantly changing, one drove me insane with someone constantly standing over me telling me each process and then often contradicting that process. and then two led to people developing their own style of doing things. This in turn led to a lot of fingers pointing of whom to blame for errors or unhappy clients. If you are in an industry that changes, the foundation of which it was built should not change. How to answer a call, or follow-up with clients, handle invoices, or method of scheduling flights should not change daily. These are constants that occur on a regular basis. Unless the company, as a whole, change the airline company of whom they contract with and the perks allowed, then everyone should fly Delta, coach, no baggage check, etc.
Also, if there is no baseline for doing business right, how would one gage when something was done wrong? Imagine when a new employee has a rotation with various peers and they are all performing different procedures. How can a new employee decide which process is the “right” procedure? This is confusion and distrust in the workplace on day one. SOPs’ and training manuals are part of building a strong foundation.
When To Start Creating SOPs’ and Training Manuals?
SOPs’ and training manuals will be an iterative process. Meaning, through successes and failures, while building the business, you will learn what worked and what did not. It is through the successes and failures where you will unravel what the SOPs’ and training manual will look like for the business. Take this time to design the standard template across the company and what key information you need each employee to know.
Everyone will know the foundation of how the company operations flow through reading and following the SOPs’ and training manuals provided to them. Setting up this strong foundation will allow new employees to learn about the company, build confidence and excitement for the role. The truth is, writing up these documents can get boring, tedious and like watching paint dry on occasions. But, they are a necessary evil that will prevent a lot of headaches, cultural breakdowns, and confusion in the long run.
Delegating the Authorship is Awesome
Don’t forget, as you hire people, you can ask them to write up a SOP for what they do and what they think is the best process. Review it, you or the author make any changes, make sure you implement some kind of *version control and voilà. This frees up your time and now you can stay focused on growing the business. SOP management can also be designated to a specific team of employees to manage updates and changes. You just need to have one standard branded company template for each person to fill in the new process. Remember… one message, delivered the same way, with the same voice, at the same time, so there is no room for confusion… Download the FREE template below to get you started.
Version control management begins once a document goes live into active use within the company. Version control is a way of managing the number of changes, why the changes occurred, who made the changes and date these changes became effective. Versioning allows a window into what worked, what did not work and what is no longer applicable to the company. Also, it is a paper/digital trail to refer back to when needed; so, no one has to overload their mind trying to remember every change that has occurred since the company opened. Imagine having several documents of the same process but there is no way to determine which one is in active use? This too will lead to people doing things differently; which will lead to confusion among employees.
There are many ways to create a version management system and file each version. Each time a document is updated, that version of the document should be stored in your document management system/document’s room and a copy placed in the employee access document system. Below is an example of a version-controlled managing methods.
Running Log to Match Up with The Document versions.
V00 is the original document created. All changes occurring after the original document, should have some sort of ranking system. Below the system V00, V01, V02, etc. is used. The latest version date will begin with the “effective date” of the last revision. This will help show which document you are working off of. The person in charged of reviewing SOPs’ may delegate the authorship of revising the document to someone else; as with V02 example.
Email Template Header
This is only an example of how a branded SOP template can be set up. The full length workable version is available for download above. Which every style/format you use, just make sure you use the same template style for all SOPs’ for consistent branding throughout the company.
My Recommendation of SOPs’ to Build Before You Hire Are:
- Email Etiquette
- Phone Etiquette
- Client Onboarding process
- Managing A Project
- Prioritizing Work
- Open Creativity Flood Gates