So often people keep information in their heads; only they know how to do a particular task. A business, though, must be prepared for “what if so-and-so got hit by a bus?” scenarios. In other words, who will be able to do the office manager's tasks, for example, if he or she leaves their job? That's where SOPs — standard operating procedures — come into play.

“I'm at a point where the company's grown and we find we're reinventing the wheel a lot,” says Todd Jackson, owner of Jackson Design and Remodeling in San Diego. “If your goal is to have the same phenomenal results every time you do something, then SOPs are a must.”

Basically, an SOP helps outline how a company functions, what its standards and policies are. Jackson had several people over the years try to develop SOPs, but it wasn't until recently, when he replaced his office manager that he achieved the standardization he was looking for. He calls office manager Jennifer Hillegass the master of SOPs.

“How to write them was the first step,” says Hillegass, who wrote SOPs at a previous job. She began with an SOP on how to write an SOP. She and Jackson have since developed pages on procedures such as how to take a lead phone call and process the lead. They're currently creating a binder of SOPs for each of the company's six departments.

The forms are stored on the computer server. The office staff and department heads, as well as Jackson, have input. Department heads are now writing SOPs with Hillegass reviewing them.

In the SOP for creating SOPs, the document's purpose is clearly explained and there are definitions of terms used. The procedure discusses everything from the proper format — even details about font size and style — to who originates the document, how it's distributed, and what action should be taken if there are changes. Each department is assigned a number for filing ease.

“Using the SOPs has given everyone a clearer understanding of their roles,” Hillegass says.