Seven Secrets for creating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Seven Secrets for creating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

When John Warrilow, world-renown author and founder of The Value Builder System*, comments on something it’s worth taking notice.

In a recent presentation, John described Standard Operating Procedures as the foundation of a business that is built to sell. Amongst other things, they provide the following for a business-:

  1. The secret to happy customers – by helping to provide your customers with a consistent experience
  2. Minimise the owner’s time spent problem solving – SOPs allow owners to pre-empt most questions employees ask resulting in less staff interruptions therby freeing up much needed business owner time to tackle other challenges.
  3. Help to train confident employees – SOPs give employees clear instructions on what main tasks make up their jobs.
  4. Increase the value of the company – by giving an acquirer more confidence that the business will continue to survive without the owner.

So if documenting your Standard Operating Procedures really does;

  • increase the value of your business,
  • improve profitability from greater efficiencies and productivity and
  • give the owner much needed time to focus on other things,

then why do some owners not invest the time required to put these SOPs in place? From my experience, it comes down to two things, time and money, and fundamentally, knowing where and how to start.

Anecdotally there is enough evidence to support an argument that the documentation of key processes and procedures will increase productivity and efficiencies which in turn will flow through to improved profitability. It’s also clear that any time spent documenting key processes and procedures now will be rewarded threefold in the future. That takes care of the time and money obstacles.

As to how and where to start here are the Seven Secrets for creating Standard Operating Procedures that John Warrilow advises will stand the test of time in your business.

  1. Use Video – If a picture says a 1000 words then a video is worth a million. By creating processes and training material in video format staff will enjoy the learning process and be more likely to retain the information. Such content can be supported by written documentation
  2. Keep your SOPs short – show your employees how you want them to perform a specific task. If you need more than two minutes break your instructions up into shorter video clips.
  3. One touch – the best SOPs are structured so that an individual only touches the process once.
  4. No double data entry – if a SOP requires entering data make sure that a single piece of data or field is only populated once and by a single person.
  5. Clear roles and responsibilities – when designing SOPs make sure it is clear who is responsible for each step.
  6. Make SOPs available where employees need them the most – ideally your SOPs should be cloud based and appear where your employees do their work so they can access them just in time without having to sift through a massive Google drive or Dropbox folder.
  7. Solicit help from Process experts: – just like Finance, Health and Safety and HR, SOPs are now an expertise in their own right. Experts from companies like New Zealand’s Bedrock provide guidance around templates, structures and frameworks which help make such an exercise less daunting

Increasingly I am hearing the message from business owners that they’re working too hard for fewer rewards. The more I research documenting SOPs the more I am convinced that if business owners invested the time they currently spend answering queries from their staff into documenting these processes, the quicker they would regain that lost time to use on more meaningful things in life
The benefits of putting some extra effort over the next few months into starting this process will quickly become apparent, while the longer-term benefits will continue to accrue as these SOPs are developed and introduced.

*The Value Builder System is a cloud-based assessment tool that helps build the value of a company. It has helped more than 55,000 business owners improve their company’s value by up to 71 percent.

Unlocking New Zealand with Cameron Bagrie

Unlocking New Zealand with Cameron Bagrie

Economist Cameron Bagrie provided members with some keen insights into current operating conditions at our recent Tuesday Team Talk. Cameron’s theme was ‘Unlocking New Zealand’ and key takeaways included:

  • Auckland’s lockdown will disrupt usual seasonal cash flow patterns for businesses with pressure building as lockdown continues.
  • A move away from housing as a source of wealth creation is required in favour of the productive (business) sector. This change is hard to imagine at present but inevitable with housing testing economic and social boundaries.
  • With Covid’s impact constraining the supply of products and labour, expect annual inflation in NZ to remain sticky around 3% and become the new normal.
  • Credit conditions are at their lowest point ever with banks favouring housing loans.
  • Education is one of the keys to NZ’s future. Declining school achievement is a real concern.

Members had the chance to quiz Cameron on some of the points and discuss how, as business owners, they’ll be tackling some of the issues.

Is Employee Wellbeing the Key to Skills Shortages?

Is Employee Wellbeing the Key to Skills Shortages?

As we bubble along in this ongoing stew of uncertainty, business owners are finding operational challenges are heating up on several fronts, not least of which is the skills shortage.

Exacerbated by current immigration policies, there is no doubt whatsoever that it is harder and harder to retain staff. One company I know has lost seven staff in recent weeks – two changed professions entirely, three have gone to competing firms and two have gone overseas to be reunited with their loved ones. The company had done all it could to keep the staff but external pressures put paid to their efforts putting them back in the recruitment market looking at a rapidly evaporating pool of talent.

There are macro-economic needs that have to be addressed at government level in order to resolve this and other pressures but what can business owners do in the meantime?

At the time of writing, New Zealand is at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and the internet and social channels are abuzz with ways to help others – and yourself – manage your mental health. For employers, employee wellbeing has moved to centre stage. As we all deal with the challenges of prolonged lockdowns and restrictions, for some households significantly reduced incomes, home schooling, distance-caring and a host of other concerns, our employees’ wellbeing is paramount. We have to consider how workload can be managed, communication maintained and skills improved in a radically altered operating environment. Money is no longer the only motivator – employees are looking for genuine consideration and a purpose-driven employer – which means wellbeing policies have to be developed and implemented. And not only policies develop – in recent years the management of wellbeing has become a job in itself, with larger companies introducing the role of ‘chief wellbeing officer’ or ‘employee wellbeing director’.

The other great motivator is personal development – which is the cue for all business owners to get training today. Find the right people to sit in the right seats undertaking work they are suited for – trying to ‘fill the job’ with the wrong person will only make things worse. Training and development from within will help you grow your people along with your vision. If you are not sure about the qualities and strengths needed for a role, run a skills audit and identify what’s needed and, if you still find yourself struggling, ask for help – this is one of the many areas where a peer board or business mentoring can be invaluable.

The skills shortage will be with us for some time – building a reputation as an employer of choice with genuine concern for employees is one way to tackle the challenge.

Business Mentoring vs. Business Coaching: Which is Best for Your Business?

Business Mentoring vs. Business Coaching: Which is Best for Your Business?

A question that business owners often ask, is: ” What will work best for me, a business coach or business mentor?” The difference between the two can be confusing, so let’s clear it up as best as we can.

Both coaches and mentors are experienced business owners, consultants or leaders who have been successful in their careers and can bring an objective view to your business, which will help you improve your performance. While the aim of both coaching and mentoring is to help you achieve better outcomes from your business, the method of getting there – the journey – is quite different.

The Role of a Business Mentor

The defining factor of a business mentor’s role is that they have experience in your specific industry. Accordingly, they will help you understand the business norms and best practices in your industry. A mentor will also give you direction on what path they think is the best one when you are making key decisions. An important point to note here is that because a mentor knows more than you do, they will give clear recommendations, which you will be expected to take.

This works well in corporates and large businesses, where those with more experience mentor those with less experience, particularly when you, as the client, are new to a role or function, and where the mentor truly does understand the industry and business better than you do.

As a business owner, however, identifying the best approach for you: business mentor or coach, can be refined down to one question: how directive would you like this person to be? If you want someone who will tell you what to do, choose a mentor, for they will provide specific solutions to problems you are having, and recommend their preferred route when you are faced with choices.

If you decide to go with a business mentor, however, make sure you choose the right mentor for you – one that has experience in your industry and, if possible, in your industry niche.

The Role of a Business Coach

Where a business mentor coaches through telling, a business coach believes in your inherent wisdom and ability to make the choice that is best for you. They are aware that your personal goals and style of leading will result in you making a unique set of decisions that reflect what matters to you. Let’s face it if you own a kitchen design business, you know if you want to:

  1. be the biggest supplier of kitchens in the country,
  2. supply a smaller range of kitchens, at the highest possible margin, or
  3. want to be known for beautifully designed kitchens that utilise sustainably sourced products.

We all have our own way of looking at the world and the choices we make reflect this.

Coaches inherently respect this – and support you to choose the path that is best for you, believing that you need to be the author of your own life.

For this reason, a business coach will support you to set clear goals and identify strategies and a set of concrete actions that will enable you to achieve your goals. They will then walk beside you as you take this path, and challenge you if you start to veer off the path. They will also hold your feet to the fire if you put off decisions or actions that you need to make to achieve your goals.

But they will not tell you what to do.

They will be there for the long haul, acting as a sounding board when you need to bounce ideas around or help you stay motivated and connected to your vision when you start to lose sight of where you are going.

Getting started

It’s surprisingly easy to get started. To get results, a coach will sit down with you to define your goals and create a strategic plan.  They will then meet with you regularly to review where you are at, and whether the actions you are taking are achieving the results you need, so you can revise and update the plan as necessary.

Once you are clear about where you want to go, they will ask questions that will help you get a bigger perspective on the issues and opportunities in front of you. In this way, they support you to make the best decisions you can – and help you to achieve what you are capable of as a business leader.

They will also help you to develop clarity on the strengths and weaknesses of your business, and what you need to do differently to strengthen the foundation of your business so that over time its performance constantly improves. Read more on business coaching here.

Lockdown wellbeing and trusting your team

Lockdown wellbeing and trusting your team

Employee wellbeing was top of my mind when I started to write this post earlier in the week – then suddenly lockdown was announced and our working patterns were upended once again.

There’s lots of messaging around ‘we’ve done it before and we can do it again’ swirling through the networks and media and, yes, we have and we can – but that doesn’t make it an easy task for anyone.

Each lockdown brings different stresses and pressures for business owners who have to switch into crisis mode to keep their enterprise alive and balance the wellbeing and needs of their teams. Unless you are on the list of essential services, it is inevitable that activity will slow or stop and, as the daily list of locations of interest grows, the probability of your team members spending their day waiting for a test rather than working is considerable.

As we stare at the possibility of a longer lockdown and a significant outbreak what’s the best course of action? Our Winter Pulse Check told us that while owners were confident about the future of their business there was no room for lockdowns. Yet here we are.

Hard as it might be to hear, my first suggestion would be relax. Go for a walk – locally of course – and give yourself a chance to breathe. When you come back, look at the various scenarios that might result from the current situation. Many business owners will have contingency and continuity plans in place drawn from experience after our previous periods of restriction but others won’t. If it all feels overwhelming, ask for help. The challenges will be common to everyone and, as the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved, so talk to others – and talk to your team. Let them lead, provide suggestions and solutions. It may be your business but you don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. Involvement, collaboration, inclusion and managed change are all positive outcomes for businesses in these trying times.

When you think of your own – and your employees’ wellbeing in the coming weeks – remember your values and work to them. Sharing your concerns, open communication, empowering others to speak up and trusting people to do their jobs in the most difficult of circumstances will ease the stress, address the challenges and strengthen your business bonds for the future.

When the going gets tough – the wise get moving

When the going gets tough – the wise get moving

Listening to an audiobook this week, I found myself reflecting on some of the issues raised in our Winter Pulse Check, particularly the reports of exhaustion and stress among business owners.

The book – Move by Caroline Williams – takes a look at the science behind movement and the problems that moving very little can cause us all. As well as urging us off the couch, Move looks at how society has slowed down to a sitting position and the harm that results.

Many of our jobs today involve sitting for long periods of time and, for the business owner spending longer and longer at their desk because of the external pressures of a pandemic, shifting economic conditions and government regulations, they can, in a world moving too fast, find themselves not moving at all.

It is easy to unwittingly become trapped by the computer screen and this enforced immobility is without doubt detrimental to the business owner and the enterprise.

Long periods of inactivity at a desk slow the mind, sap creativity and increase anxiety – all of which undermine good mental health. It is also the fastest way to disconnect with your people and your business so my advice would be – get up and move. Walk round your premises, chat with your team – get up and explore your workplace and leave the screens behind. A ten minute move once an hour will make an enormous difference and, if you are completely absorbed by what’s on your laptop and likely to forget an hour has passed, set an alarm or borrow a fitness tracker that will remind you it is time for you to shift gears.

Making a move isn’t the answer to everything – but it will refresh you, heighten your problem solving ability and boost your creativity all of which will help you manage your business in our increasingly challenging times.

That said – I’m going to take my own advice, leave the screen behind and take a walk. I know it will be a wise move.

Leadership