NO REALLY, DON’T MAKE SOPs

The following is my side of an email thread to a member who is going to talk about my insane idea that a founder shouldn’t make SOPs.

I’ve left out that person’s emails for privacy and not to spoil the talk that this info will be a part of.
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HIRE FOR IMPACT

You were sort of close.

I recommend that founders never write a single SOP. (SOP stands for standard operating procedure.)

If a founder creates a business properly she won’t hire people who need SOPs right out of the gate. What I mean is that if you are doing a task and you can easily write the SOP and hand it over to someone, then you probably hired someone who will have little impact in your business.

Even if you’re hiring contractors you don’t hire ones that don’t have professional processes of their own. You don’t give your accountant a SOP do you?

My only concession to this rule is that few people ever set out to build their business with purpose so they end up with a bunch of hires who have limited impact and they have to have SOPs to get value from them. So if someone is in that position, then write a SOP.

Essentially, skip step one of the 3 steps you listed.

DON’T SYSTEMIZE TOO SOON

I went back to see what I wrote.  (http://timconley.co/why-entrepreneurs-shouldnt-be-making-sops/)

I do advocate for systems and processes just not early in a business.

I specifically said that the founder should never write a SOP. It is a waste of their time, talent and responsibility to the company when they can have the people they hire write the SOP.

But so many people just couldn’t wrap their heads around high-value vs low-value work that I said, “If you want to make SOPs then do it.”

Oh, I just caught the part where you say I meant that a business should stop making SOPs at some point. That is not the case. Businesses need SOPs and/or checklists to properly run systems that humans are involved in.

My point is that the entrepreneur should never be the person to do any of them.

If they are personally doing SOPs they probably built an inefficient business that has a lot of drag and friction preventing it from growing as fast as it could.

UNDERSTANDING TEAM-BASED SYSTEMS

I’ll also posit that the e-myth didn’t go back far enough into the McDonald’s story. As I understand it, the McDonald’s brothers hired people to work in their original hotdog stand. They probably did a lot of the jobs themselves, but didn’t start systemizing until they had moved on to hamburgers.

Their approach to SOPs (I can’t find if they had documentation in the early days) was to create them after their system was working. They had to document those processes when they started franchising, which occurred before Ray Kroc came along.

I’m sure the brothers were involved in creating those original SOPs, but my guess is they were a team effort and not a solo project for the founders.

I’m not sure where it started, but people misconstrued the e-myth and later work the system to mean the founder had to make the SOPs.

In the Internet Marketing space that really pushed the idea of hiring VAs and other outsourcing to India (later the Philippines), all focused on the founder outsourcing menial jobs for dirt cheap. However, it required detailed SOPs to be even remotely workable.

My philosophy encompasses a fry cook, too. You would first hire an experienced cook to make burgers, who would then train the next people. Then the founder and the head cook would figure out if the system they have for making burgers was the best way to deliver a quality product that customers loved.

Experimentation would ensue and then a solid workable system would be developed all with the input of the people cooking, the management and the customers’ feedback.

Once that was solid, it would get systemized.

You notice that there isn’t anything preventing the growth of the company? Sure, the product will be inconsistent at first, but that’s to allow for iteration — for improvement.

The way so many preach doing SOPs is this:
* the founder does the job.
* the founder gets good at doing the job.
* the founder then writes down in detail the steps to doing the job just like the founder.
* The founder hires a person to do that particular job.
* The founder trains that person using the SOP and sets that person to doing the job.
* The founder also instructs this person to make alterations to the SOP if they figure out a better way of doing things.

This is a recipe for mediocrity. It causes slow growth because the founder has to perfect a system, but isn’t working with enough customers to get enough feedback to properly iterate.

What happens is the founder makes a subpar process and hands it to someone else who will hopefully make it better.

Lastly, this sets up the company to have people who are only as good as the founder’s SOP. A team-based approach to system iteration produces a superior system, company culture/DNA, and faster results.

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I said this in the first thread about SOPs in The Forge, but I’ll put it here too so the idea gets reinforced.

FRICTION

If the founder is making SOPs for low-level work to free up time to do more high-level work, then the founder is causing friction that will slow growth.

I suggest hiring for impact. Hire someone who can help you move the needle.

“But, I can’t afford someone better.”

Then the founder isn’t charging enough or doesn’t have enough customers or both.

In every case I’ve worked with, those in this situation are hoping to free up low-level activities in hopes of adding a few hours towards higher-level work. Everyone of them had huge amounts of wasted time, or even just putting a lot of effort on the wrong priorities.

Putting the number one focus on getting more customers at a higher price will fix the lack of money needed to hire for impact.

Once you hire to build an impactful, team-driven company, your business will grow faster and faster with less work and stress on your part.