A business is a collection of its most seamless processes. The quality of these processes will determine the quality of the system’s outputs. Establishing repeatable processes and increasing their efficiency should be a top priority for all businesses. But for early-stage companies, startup SOPs (standard operating procedures) take on a whole new meaning.
Why should founders be interested in the efficiency of their startup SOPs? Why should entrepreneurs focus on effective SOP planning? Why does every startup need a standard operating procedures guide? Because more than the product or service’s quality, your startup management strategies will help you stay agile and resilient.
What are startup SOPs?
Startup SOPs are detailed procedures that define the steps a startup needs to take to accomplish specific tasks. The objective of SOPs is to improve efficiency and business productivity. While large enterprises develop SOPs based on their experience or industry standards, startup SOPs are created for optimizing startup operations.
A standard operating procedures guide would have step-by-step instructions for multiple operations of the startup. They can standardize everything from product development to marketing to customer service. With a precise checklist, employees can finish their individual tasks and contribute to projects without any confusion.
Challenges in SOP implementation for startups
At Heycollab, we’ve noted that early-stage businesses have these specific problems in implementing viable startup SOPs:
Startups are centered around their founders. A founder’s style of operation becomes the default mode of the business. Instead of a standard operating procedures guide, the startup would rely on the provisional decisions of the founder. The individual’s impromptu suggestions will define how the system works.
Lack of resources
Usually, startup SOPs are not implemented because the business lacks the resources to identify, document, analyze, develop, and roll out SOPs. But project management solutions such as Heycollab make it easy for even smaller teams to manage their startup management strategies.
No systemic experience
Optimizing startup operations is difficult because the business has limited learning experience. The founder and team members may be handling a set of problems for the first time and may not be aware of functional startup SOPs. This forces the business to learn through a constant trial-and-error method.
In an early-stage business, the primary focus will be developing the product or service. Effective SOP planning is ignored with the belief that startup SOPs are only relevant once the business begins to scale. This is counterproductive and leads to inefficient allocation of resources and delays in the development cycle.
How startup SOPs improve efficiency
Since they have limited resources, early-stage businesses should focus more on improving efficiency. Startup SOPs offer several benefits, including the following:
- You bring consistency to your operations
- You can improve business productivity
- You have a blueprint for all aspects of your business
- You can identify opportunities for growth
- You can spot error-ridden or inefficient processes
- You can reduce the time for onboarding
- Your business can better train its employees
- You can identify duplication of tasks
- You can optimize resource allocation
- You prevent overburdening employees
- You can easily transfer tasks between team members
- You can give a better work-life balance to employees
- You get a system for training and development
- Your business looks professional and reliable to potential investors
How to develop effective startup SOPs
These steps will help you develop startup SOPs to increase efficiency and improve business productivity:
1. Keep them simple
Several early-stage businesses shy away from startup SOPs because the process seems complex. But it needn’t be. Your startup management strategies should serve to increase your efficiency. For that, they should be specific to your requirements. So, identify the end users and keep your startup SOPs simple.
What are the crucial steps that you need to standardize in your startup? Once you know them, start developing formats that meet your user needs. One way is to create a simple checklist. With this, employees would know the basic steps they have to take for a task. This simplifies decision-making at an individual level.
Another way of increasing efficiency is through hierarchical checklists. These are suited for more complicated tasks. These outline the process an individual would have to take to get clarification before making a decision. You can also opt for a flowchart for complex processes with multiple outcomes.
2. Create them with your team
Since they start small, most early-stage businesses thrive on ad hoc decisions taken by the founder. Team members adapt to them because there’s no time to review or tweak those procedures. Want to improve the efficiency of your startup operations? Involve your team in developing your startup SOPs.
Ask your employees about the essential processes they want to be standardized. Individuals responsible for those tasks will be in a better position to give realistic and relevant suggestions. Moreover, they will be more engaged if they perform tasks according to the procedures they would have helped create.
Once you have your startup SOPs, get someone who isn’t usually involved with the task to perform it. If they face problems, those who drafted the procedures may have underestimated the difficulty of the tasks. This reveals biases and exposes issues such as a lack of clarity. If an individual unfamiliar with the process cannot perform the procedure, it’s time to revisit the SOP.
3. Specify your procedures
Your SOPs must be specific regarding their procedures and outcomes to improve startup efficiency. Suggestions will only be impactful if they’re actionable. If employees have to second guess their tasks, there will be confusion and delays, defeating the purpose of startup SOPs.
For example, saying that sales personnel should understand the requirements of a lead is vague and ineffective. Specify what information they should seek and who should enter it into a pre-determined system. This will give you uniform parameters to analyze, which will help you come up with relevant insights.
This is why it’s essential to create startup SOPs with the requirements of your teams and their functions in mind. Specific procedures will discourage team members from taking on the responsibilities of others. It will also avoid the duplication of work and improve the efficiency of your business.
4. Regularly audit your startup SOPs
Startup SOPs are designed to meet startups’ specific requirements at a given time. While they may serve their purpose, these procedures have to be regularly analyzed because business operations might change. As you begin to scale, you may need to refine specific SOPs and adopt new strategies.
Scaling could be in the form of greater demand for your product or service or an expansion of your team. Both these will put pressure on your system, and old SOPs may not be efficient anymore. Leaders should analyze their business performance, talk to the team members, and refine their startup SOPs.
Remember that any business process standardization should also empower you to manage future demands. You don’t have to wait for your startup to scale and reach a certain threshold. You can start integrating SOPs as soon as you begin to grow.
5. Use appropriate technology
Startup SOPs help you reduce managerial intervention and owner involvement. By standardizing repeatable actions, they can make your operations more efficient. But you need the right technology to implement SOPs to get the best results.
The right software solution can automate several functions of your SOP. It will help you build automated workflows for teams, create and manage tasks, monitor updates, give feedback, streamline collaboration, and give access to resources. With a centralized database, a digital tool can bring your resources and teams together.
It will also empower employees to focus on their core tasks without seeking manager approval. Remote and hybrid teams will benefit from multimedia communication. With screen recording, you can convey complicated information without taking up the time of employees. With collaborative documents, there will be greater synergy in your operations.
How Heycollab can help you master startup SOPs
Heycollab is an easy-to-use and intuitive project management tool to increase the efficiency of growing businesses. It has all the features an early-stage business would need to devise and implement SOPs for communication and collaboration.
With Files, you get unlimited space and folders to centralize your resources. You can standardize task completion by setting up a protocol and monitoring tasks from start to finish. Need to onboard remote employees? Use video calls that come with screen sharing and screen recording.