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What are SOPs and Why Use Them?

Elbyte Editorial Team | August 6, 2020
What are SOPs and Why Use Them?

Have you wondered what makes a Domino’s Pizza outlet look and feel the same way across the country? Have you pondered over what possibly could be the reason for their garlic bread tasting the exact same – whether it is ordered in Delhi or Kolkata? In fact, Domino’s has a presence across most of the world and it is not even close to being the largest of its kind. But global footprints aside, how have these corporations become household names when the bulk of us think that running a business without personal presence is a sure shot route to failure?

What are standard operating procedures?

The underlying foundation these corporations are built on is standard operating procedures (SOP). It sure does sound like an elaborate term but SOPs are the building blocks of any large enterprise. What it basically means is there are strict guidelines laid out for every possible business function – spanning the upper corporate rungs to the very bottom of the hierarchy.

For instance, the delivery rider in a Domino’s store, will be acquainted with a training manual. This will outline routine tasks that must be fulfilled daily. In addition, it will also highlight suggestions on how to interact with a customer, what the grooming criteria is and most importantly, what steps can be assumed to resolve customer complaints.

Work profile ambiguity

In a more commonly seen small business set-up, the owner or proprietor rarely has a well-structured SOP in place. In fact, it is safe to assume that most will simply assign tasks on a whim at the start of each working day and aside from maybe cleaning chores, employees rarely have a clear understanding of their job responsibilities. Some business owners we spoke to even suggested that if their employees knew it all, their own positions would be threatened.

Of course, many family run organisations have been functioning a certain way and the philosophy is ‘if it has been working all this while, why improvise?’ Sure, there is no harm in assuming this route either but if one is keen to register consistent growth or maybe establish a presence in other geographical areas, then it becomes necessary to invest time and effort in building clearly defined organisational structures.

SOPs are not difficult to outline or even implement. A business owner with a growth mindset can easily begin with ‘bite-sized’ efforts by, let’s say, initiating SOPs for just one facet of his or her organisation. A good place to start could be to train customer facing representatives in the art of exchanging pleasantries when a customer visits their store.

One SOP is definitely used commonly

The one area where every business owner likely already has an ongoing SOP is maintaining workforce attendance. This is because it allows for tracking employee leaves or absenteeism and immediately, there is a paper trail to establish what salary payments are affected as a result of attendance levels.

Why do all businesses have this SOP already in place? Chances are because the associated monetary losses can be easily quantified. However, rarely does a traditional business owner quantify other areas with as much vigour – especially areas such as lost sales due to customer dissatisfaction or the oft-heard ‘I don’t know’.

In your business or on your business

Small businesses are often stretched in terms of cash flows and it is not feasible to allocate time or dedicated manpower to oversee enhancements in operational efficiency. However, what is easy to do is hire a professional to outline SOPs that are tailored for a specific business segment or type. They can even be hired on contractual terms to ensure these guidelines are being adhered to by performing periodic checks.

Once SOPs are instituted, it is not as though the owner’s position is threatened because employees now feel empowered. This is but a gross misinterpretation of what SOPs can actually accomplish. A time tested highlight says that an efficient business owner is one who is ‘working on his or business’. Meanwhile, many continue to ‘work in their business,’ and usually this latter segment will have registered no significant growth. They will earn a living alright but the ball really does stop there.

However, if are of the former mindset – meaning you would rather work on your business, then having SOPs in place is certainly your first step towards initiating more efficient work flow. Maybe, just maybe, your organisation could be the next Domino’s equivalent boasting a global footprint.

Elbyte Editorial Team

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