If you’ve been in business long enough then you’ve probably heard of a bunch of different acronyms. After a while, you start to get familiar with the alphabet soup, but then another one will pop up and leave you saying, “hmm”. SOP is one of those acronyms that people aren’t so sure about, so we’re going to uncover what SOPs are and how they can be helpful to your future Virtual Assistants.

What Are SOPs?

SOP stands for standard operating procedures. These are step-by-step instructions that tell persons performing the task exactly how to do it. I’m sure there are tasks that you do in a certain order and in a particular way because it produces the best results. Unfortunately, most people don’t write those steps down because they figure, “I’ve got it all up here ๐Ÿง ”.

But what if you need people to jump in and help you? They can’t access your brain to retrieve your years of experience and know-how. However, they can access your Google Drive, Dropbox, or another cloud-based platform of your choosing to learn the in’s and out’s.

Why Do I Need SOPs?

Before I started my business, my job at a Michigan hospital was to ensure healthcare professionals, like Doctors, knew and adhered to quality measures. We’d create binders as a point of reference and store them in accessible locations so those who needed to follow them could retrieve them.

Healthcare quality measures help hospitals provide safe, effective, efficient, and timely care to patients. They’re also based on best practices. Therefore, if the steps outlined weren’t followed, then a patient’s quality of care could be diminished. Those measures made it easier to hold healthcare staff accountable if they didn’t follow the step-by-step guidelines.

Similarly, SOPs for your business lets your team know how to do something in a way that achieves efficiency, promotes quality, and maintains consistency. You need SOPs for your virtual assistants so you can:

  • Save time – A proven and streamlined process allows individuals to finish more in less time.
  • Save money – If everyone is doing the same task in a different way then you’re bound to have defects. And defects result in rework, customer dissatisfaction, and more.
  • Improve communication – You can refer your virtual assistant to your company’s SOPs when they have a question about how to do something. This saves you from answering the same question over and over again. It also means they won’t be wasting time trying to figure it all out on their own.
  • Hold people accountable – If you don’t have any rules, then it’s nearly impossible to hold people accountable. SOPs make it easier to evaluate your virtual assistants’ performance.
  • Reduce liability – In some industries, like healthcare, SOPs are put into place to alleviate harm. If there’s any danger or risk involved, then you’ll want to share step-by-step instructions on how to safely complete a task. You want to keep liabilities to a minimum!

Can’t I Just Hire Someone Without Having SOPs in Place?

Sure you can! But it could complicate things. If your processes are already unorganized, then bringing a virtual assistant on board won’t fix that. In fact, it could make things even more chaotic. Those who lack SOPs sometimes don’t know exactly what tasks they want to outsource. And if you don’t know what tasks to outsource, then it’ll be challenging to determine the skill-set and experience you need your virtual assistant to have.

Now you could hire a virtual assistant that specifically helps with process improvement and SOPs. They specialize in cleaning up and streamlining your processes. Then, after that, you could hire someone with your new and improved systems to handle your to-dos. Otherwise, it’s best to wait until you have some procedures in place before you hire.

Common SOPs

SOP and virtual assistants

So, now you’re probably thinking, “what activities in my business need SOPs?”. Well, my friend, probably all of them. Anything that’s routine and needed for your unique business to run needs to be documented. Here are a few common activities that should have SOPs:

  • New hire training
  • Client onboarding/off-boarding
  • Team-member onboarding and off-boarding
  • Billing and collections
  • Accounts payable
  • Blog posting
  • Social media scheduling
  • Product launch plan
  • Resolution of customer complaints
  • Performance reviews
  • Refund/exchange policy

What Do SOPs Look Like?

If you do a search online to see what SOPs look like, you might get a little intimidated. But fear not! In general, SOPs should be simple, unambiguous, and not overly complicated. All of your SOPs should also follow the same formatting guidelines so they’re easily identifiable. It helps to have one standard template and then work from that.

Your SOPs should include the following elements:

  • Title
  • SOP Identification number
  • Publication Date
  • Revision Date
  • Purpose: What is the rationale for this SOP?
  • Scope: The name of the department the SOP applies to
  • Responsibilities: Who all is listed in this SOP procedure and what are they required to do?
    • Use job roles here and not individual names.
  • Equipment/Tools: Include a complete list of all equipment and tools needed to perform the job. It also helps to note where people can find them and when each should be needed.
  • Definitions: What words are used in this procedure that readers may not understand. This is especially helpful if you use any jargon.
  • Procedures
  • Effectiveness Criteria: This would tell your Virtual Assistant what measures communicate the procedure is working. Or what should the outcome be if every step is followed correctly?
  • References: Is there a law or safety regulation requiring this particular SOP? [Optional]
  • Process Map [Optional]

Does My Virtual Assistant Really Need All of That in an SOP?

While it certainly helps to include all of the above, it’s not mandatory. I’ve seen SOPs that only include the “Procedures” section and virtual assistants were fine with that. However, if you plan on growing your business or already have a large team, you might want to include all of the aforementioned elements.

Test Your SOPs Before You Hire a Virtual Assistant

Before you hire a virtual assistant, it helps to test your completed standard operating procedure yourself. Go through each element and see if you notice any grammatical or technical errors. Ask yourself the following:

  • Is the language clear?
  • Can this be easily followed?
  • Do these steps achieve the desired outcome?

If you already have a team, feel free to get them involved too! Ask them the same questions and incorporate relevant edits. Your team will be glad you included them and you’ll be glad to have their feedback.

Review Your SOPs Every 4 – 12 Months

SOP and virtual assistants

A lot can change in a quarter, so it’s best to review your SOPs to see if any adjustments need to be made. Maybe you found a software that eliminates many of the steps your virtual assistant used to do. Or maybe you got rid of a procedure altogether because it’s no longer relevant to your current business practices. Whatever the case, you don’t want to give your virtual assistants out-dated SOPs.

Are SOPs Really Worth It?

The short answer is absolutely, but we know it’s not an easy feat. Think about it this way…you’re not building your business for where it is today, you’re building it for where you want it to be tomorrow. If you take the time to do this, you’ll be able to optimize and improve your business a lot easier. The level of detail a complete SOP has allows very little room for ambiguity. And in business, clarity counts…especially when you’re hiring virtual assistants.

If you need help getting SOPs in place, let us know! This is one sure way to maximize your ROI with a virtual assistant. Let us help you maximize your time and your money ๐Ÿ’ฐ.

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