James: James Schramko here with Kat Jarman from YourOnlineTeam.com. Hey Kat.
Kat: Hey, thanks for having me.
James: My pleasure. We like talking about team stuff. You’ve got a business that goes into other businesses and sorts out there hot mess, I think that’s your phrase.
Look, it’s easy to get out of control with teams and tools and activities, and a lot of people are really good at the thing they do. But running a team might not be one of them. And unless you’ve had deep experience with it, as you have and as I have, it can be pretty crazy. And it’s probably much easier to have someone come and sort it out.
Today we’re going to be talking about where you can store your SOPs. And before we get too deep into that, we should actually discuss what SOP actually means.
Kat: True. Okay, so SOP is just your standard operating procedures for your business. So every task that you do in your business ideally would have a written or video procedure behind it so that you could pass it off to somebody else. And they could go through the steps and complete that same task.
James: Perfect. So sometimes, if you’re building up a business, one of the real assets is the employee instruction manual, that book, you know? In an old-style business like a photocopier shop, and I wouldn’t want to be in that kind of business just quietly, it reminds me of this technique. The other day, someone said, you should buy a 3D printer and then print a 3D printer, and then take the original 3D printer back. But anyway, technology’s changing.
So we’ve moved from the employee instruction manual, which would have been a printed-out folder with our laminated sheets, you know, like how to make a pizza or how to print photocopies, these sort of things. Now they’re stored online, and people get absolutely wound up and obsessed about this topic. I don’t know about you, Kat, but people are asking all the time. Where do you put these SOPs? Where do they live?
And it’s interesting, even through my own journey in our business, we’ve expanded from me to 65 people back down to six, not through redundancy, I want to point that out. We sold our business units and the teams went with it with the SOPs, and we’ve tried a lot of different things over the years — from wikis to Dropbox folders to Drive. And there are actually tools out there that just do this. And I’m sure you’re going to mention a couple. So I just want to say we’ve tried a few over the last decade. And we’ve kept it pretty simple. I’ll reveal what we use towards the end. But Kat, why don’t you share three places that you typically will find people storing SOPs if they’ve got them when you go into a business or what you would recommend?
Kat: Okay, so generally, what we find is some form of storage in Google Drive, that’s the most popular place. Generally, it’s kind of a little bit of a mess. Everything’s saved in the one folder, and it doesn’t have a naming convention or anything like that. But at least they’re there and at least they exist. That’s the main thing there.
James: When you say naming convention, that’s a really very important thing. Let’s dig a little deeper on that one.
Kat: Yeah. So if you’re trying to find something, say you want to create a webinar, and you know you’ve got an SOP for it somewhere in your Google Drive. But you can’t remember what you named the procedure. And if you had some sort of naming convention, which would mean, I guess, it’s like a uniform way of naming all of your files and all of your folders so that you would actually be able to find things faster. Google search is amazing, the actual G Drive search. So hopefully, it’s got webinar in the title somewhere.
James: Yeah, and it would also be a great tip is you put SOP. In every SOP, ours start with SOP. So even if you just search for SOP in Google Drive, you’ll pull up every SOP that we have. That’s a good start, regardless of what folder it’s in.
Kat: Yeah, exactly, exactly. I think that it’s a good start to have them in G Drive. I like to see them a little bit more organized with the naming convention, hopefully, in a folder that says SOP. And I also like to have a, and this is a little bit of overkill, I know a lot of people don’t do this. But I have what I call a training catalog. It’s something that I stole from a friend years ago. They had this training catalog, which lists all of their procedures and has a link to them.
So if I’m ever looking for anything, I can just click on that spreadsheet, it lists everything in the business. I can go Okay, I need to do that task today. I can click it and it will open the Google Doc for me. So that’s how we do it.
James: We have a very similar thing. We have an assets register, which is a Google page, I’m not sure what they call them, document? And it just lists every SOP that we have so that you can easily click through. So it’s kind of like an index.
Kat: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And the key here is to keep it simple. You can use Google Drive. I’ve got friends that have, it’s kind of like a WordPress blog. It’s locked so only staff can access it. And every procedure is a blog post. And it works really well. The search function works really well. You can tag things inside of it so that you can search for certain topics, works brilliantly. And I also hear a lot of buzz about products that you can pay monthly subscriptions for that will help you create your procedures, as well.
So one of those is Process Street. It’s really popular at the moment, the name keeps popping out. It’s really cool. I just don’t like the idea of the monthly fee, to be honest. But if you are into that sort of thing, and you’re looking for the easiest way to create the procedures, they make it really easy to do that. And the storage is, you know, the index and the search function is amazing. You can totally do that. I just want you to have SOPs.
James: A lot will come down to how much focus is on the creation of the SOP. Some of those tools make it really easy to document stuff. Whereas, we probably manually create them. For example, when I had the team and I’d visit them, we’d sit down with a stack of post-it notes. And we would list out all the steps and then reorder them, see if we could eliminate any, and then we would have it documented into steps. But once we’re done, for the most part, they were fluid, yes. They would change from time to time, but the core was pretty much the same.
So Google worked well for us. When we had a big team, we used a little Google site, which I guess is very similar to using a WordPress blog. And so that’s the wiki-style of doing it. But what I have noticed, if you go into like a full-blown wiki, and a website sounds like it’s getting close to that, often they’re not updated, or they become too much work. So that’s why we have the path of least resistance which is Google Drive because we already use that for our email, we already use it to store our videos. Like that’s exactly where this video is going as soon as we hit end record, it’s going into Google. And so that one tool that we already pay $5 a month per person, or whatever the fee is, is a very powerful repository for SOPs as a starting point.
Kat: Google’s really reliable, as well. Like, how often has your Google Drive crashed? Never. It just doesn’t happen.
James: It’s extraordinarily robust. And let’s hope it doesn’t.
That’s the other thing about SOPs, you know, after a while, the team gets so good at doing the thing they do. Kind of like when I’m recording podcasts, for example. I know my SOP quite well, and to not always having to refer to it, but it’s especially good when someone starts. That’s where the focus I think should be is when it starts or if your business is making mistakes. If your business is regularly dropping the ball or you’ve got little bushfires all the time, that means you’re SOPs are weak.
Kat: Yeah, exactly. So just have them, who cares where you put them. Just have them.
James: Thanks, Kat! So Kat, just tell us a little bit about what you’re doing over there at YourOnlineTeam.com.
Kat: Okay, at Your Online Team, we help out stressed out business owners. And we come in and just add another element to their team, help them organize some things. It might be systems, it might be procedures, it might be helping organize the actual team itself or doing some project management. So it depends for each client, but we’re an extra pair of hands.
James: Great. All right. Well, thank you so much for coming and sharing and we’ll speak to you soon.
Kat: Thanks for having me.
James: There you go. That’s Kat Jarman, YourOnlineTeam.com and James Schramko from SuperFastBusiness.