What is an SOP and Why Should You Care?

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No, it’s not about that thing with phones—it’s actually an acronym for a very useful system used in business. SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedure—which is something like your business’ manual and troubleshooting guide.

Now, everyone can agree that business is a very fickle mistress—hard to please and very tricky to manage. If only there was some way to keep track of everything and anything going about in it, right? Fortunately, there are ways, called business systems, and specifically for this predicament, there is the system called the standard operating procedures.

Suppose that you, as an entrepreneur, are running your company entirely on your own, and everything’s working fine. Business picks up and you decide to hire a few helping hands. You teach them the rudimentary tricks of the trade, and operations go as usual. Suddenly a few of your workers decide to part ways, so you hire replacements. You teach them again, while a helper makes a mistake with a procedure that you clearly remembered teaching them, so you teach them again. But then another worker falls ill, and you need to find a replacement—you get the idea.

SOPs eliminate the need for constant teaching and reminding, as well as create a concrete set of rules and procedures to follow in any given situation. An SOP maps out what a person in the company should do, and what to do upon extracting a response or result from the last action. It’s like a step-by-step documentation of how everything runs in the company; a document or checklist that anyone can look up for reference.

Business systems, like SOPs, completely take away the need for you to constantly teach relievers and replacement staff, as they can peruse the SOPs themselves. It will also be beneficial for you, as the leader, to have yourself a reminder of how you used to run things, how and why the operations ran smoothly, and how it can be improved. SOPs can also help in dealing with clients. What will you do if a client cancels? Should you give up, or pursue? Your company should have a standard on that, so that your workers can work efficiently without you having to look over their shoulders all the time.

Standard operating procedures are one of the business systems that every company must have, and that every business owner should follow. Remember that your actions will become the actions of your subordinates, so they should see the SOPs in you. A well-documented SOP of everything there is to know about the company’s operations is an essential tool in business.


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