I know we crammed a lot into the first two parts of this series, but we’re finally getting to the best part!
Quiz Time: Are you ready to get started making SOPs?!
A) ? It’s like I waited my whole life for this one night… ?
— Email me, mi amor! We should collaborate.
B) I’m suddenly so overwhelmed that I might be ?
— I’ve got your back! We’re gonna work through this together. Anytime you see white space between sentences, I want you to take a deep breath then move forward.
C) What’s an SOP?
— Ain’t nobody got time for you! Head over to Part 1 then meet us back here when you’re all caught up.
What Is the Best SOP Template?
SOP templates are like… noses. Everybody’s got one. Except Michael Jackson.
The trick is choosing the right SOP template for your business. Here are five different examples that you can use (but 3 of them are just plain wrong!):
The Half-Assed Checklist
Crude, yet mildly functional. Grab a napkin, write out a list of steps, and call it good enough.
This “template” is great for people who don’t actually care if their business succeeds.
While checklists are lovely, they definitely don’t contain enough details for you to call them an SOP. Unfortunately, I see this over and over in online businesses.
The engineer in me LOVES a good flowchart! All those straight lines and a complete lack of verbiage… oh baby! Flowcharts are the Marvin Gaye of the processes world. All it takes is a few words to lure you in.
Check out this one colorful one from Process Street:
And this purple deliciousness from LucidCharts:
While flowcharts are excellent visuals to include in your SOPs, they shouldn’t be a substitute for one. They don’t contain enough of the details and notes to provide a clear explanation.
The Big Corp
If you’ve ever worked for a large corporation or for the government ? then you’ve probably seen some hideous SOPs.
These things have cover pages, identification numbers, definitions, amendments, scope (isn’t that mouthwash?), and appendices out the wazoo.
They are bulky, and confusing, and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. Well, almost anyone. But definitely not on you, so let’s just move on.
The GROW SOP Template
Obviously, I’m going to provide you with my own awesome template. It even has one of those ridiculous, cliche names. I’m a little annoyed at myself for coming up with it, but it works.
I hope you use this, and it gets stuck in your head. Feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues so it gets stuck in theirs also. Credit card not required, but if you try to sell it then your left sock will always get wet when it rains. Also, your nose might fall off. Just sayin’.
It’s pretty simple. Just enter the basic, boring data at the top to get started. Then you only need to fill out four sections:
G: Goals - What do you want to accomplish by using this SOP?
R: Resources - Provide access to everything someone needs to complete this task.
O: Outline - A bulleted list of the primary steps it takes to complete this task.
W: Workflow - The detailed process it takes to complete this task
“… and it was just right.”
Find. The. Best. Template. For. You.
What works for one business isn’t going to work for all of them. We’re all special and unique unicorns.
Pick a template and see how things go. If it doesn’t work for you, try a different one (but watch out for bears). Once you’ve written 3 or 4 SOPs, you’ll find your footing.
Creating a Master SOP Template
After you choose a template to use for your business, you have even more choices to make!
Isn’t it great how I’m constantly reducing overwhelm for you? You’re welcome.
You need to create a Master SOP Template that you can quickly duplicate to create a new SOP. You can use the one I’ve provided, a Word or Google Doc, a spreadsheet, or whatever format you’re most comfortable using.
No matter what template you use, just make sure you do these 3 things:
- Make it consistent
Like everything else in your business, you want your SOPs to align with your brand identity. It’s easy to do this with SOPs by creating a branded header image for the document (or just using your logo), using the same fonts, and adding brand colors to the section headers.
- Make it scannable
Someone should be able to quickly look through the document to get an idea of the process without having to walk through every step or read every single word. You can accomplish this by using heading text, bolding primary steps, and utilizing bulleted and numbered lists.
- Make it clear
Keep it simple! You want anyone to be able to use this document whether it’s your project manager or your unpaid twelve-year-old. Instead of saying “You should click on this button…” say “Click the button.” Short and sweet is the name of the game!
Reading this article is great, but it’s completely useless unless you decide to do something about it. Once you’ve completed Parts 1 and 2, you’re ready to move on to what we covered in this article.
For Part 3 of the process, you need to create the framework for all your future SOPs. It’s kind of like Lord of the Rings — “One SOP to rule them all… and in the darkness bind them.”
- Choose an SOP format (or combination of formats)
- Create a Master SOP Template for your business
Don’t think about the ENTIRE library you have to create. Start at the beginning and check off this one single thing. This is the foundation for your library so make it strong!
Ready for the next step? Check out this post:
And in case you missed them,