How To Create a Business Playbook™ (aka SOP’s: Standard Operating Procedures) for Your Startup

How To Create a Business Playbook™ (aka SOP’s: Standard Operating Procedures) for Your Startup

Are you down with SOP’s?

Some call em’ Standard Operating Procedures, I call them Playbooks.

If you’re tired of putting out fires in your business, then you’ll need them to keep your sanity.

Recently I had the privilege of having dinner w/ the Godfather of system design for entrepreneurs, Michael Gerber (author of The E-Myth / 10M copies sold).

I shared my story of how his book transformed everything for me.

At 23 I was set on starting another company for the 3rd time (the first two failed), but I was deadset on doing it differently.

Listen to the full story on my Facebook page (10m21s).

Gerber’s book, taught me a new way to think about business and business processes.

I’ve used this process to create a framework called the Business Playbook™.

The goal is to teach you how to have others complete the work in a way that’s as good, if not better than you!

Also, if you do it right, it becomes the easiest way to crosstrain anyone new on your team.

Exclusive Bonus: Download the core system templates to create your company Playbook, a collection of procedures and reference documents to run your business on Autopilot

Watch the video to learn how to set this up.

Creating Business playbook for your business can be daunting… and may seem like a HUGE task, but I’ve broken it down to the simplest next steps:

  1. Start with a program
  2. Add to weekly team meeting
  3. Ingrain it into the culture
  4. Create 3 sections: Procedures, References, Templates
  5. Use it for onboarding / training

#5 is the most important… it will allow you to quickly hire, train and onboard anyone to your team in a streamlined fashion.

Have you implemented systems in your business?

If so, please leave a comment and let everyone else know how it’s impacted your life.

If not, get going… read below for a tip to make this a no brainer 🙂

Here’s to living a bigger life and business.

What follows below is a lightly edited transcript of the video.


Dan: How to create a procedures manual for your business. Some people call them SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). I like to call them playbooks. But in today’s video I want to share with you guys how to do this the right way. Cause maybe you’re frustrated that you’ve tried this in the past and nobody was following the procedures or you sat down, documented everything and the documents are now stale so they’re not even relevant or you actually did the work, never distributed it to your team cause it never got finished. Or you just feel like you spent all your time creating procedures versus having somebody else support you. Here’s what I think the future could look like for you, is literally having your team in a very structured, simplified, iterative process, creating these beautiful, repeatable, scalable documents and checklists so that your customers get the promise that you made, they get delivered on.

Dan: So as a business, you make a promise. That’s what these procedures are gonna allow you to do and really get free from the day to day of the firefighting in your business so that you can spend more time being creative and building out the business. Now I really had to learn this lesson over the years because I used to be the person that wanted to do everything and I realized that I needed to start building a team and having other people support me. And that started with my company sphere. And in the early days, uh, we use a Wiki tool called confluence. So it was a Wiki software if you’ve ever used or been to Wikipedia. That was the tool we use. And then my next company we decided to migrate off confluence cause it was a little too geeky and use something like Google sites and that kind of worked.

Dan: But there were still the challenges of keeping it updated, having documents in there that were started that were never finished and really just not having anybody having the procedures open. Well, they were doing the work and it wasn’t until my last company that I really found the way, you know, I’ve been, I’ve literally scaled remote teams from zero to dozens of employees, have, you know, been involved helping set this up for a lot of my portfolio companies as an investor. And what I’m going to teach you today is the 80 20 to get something going today and have it stick and have it continuously updated and really get you the freedom back in your business. So the first step that you need to understand is start by defining a program. A program is for every department in your business. It can be sales, it can be marketing, it could be operations, it could be the delivery aspect of how you actually give the customer the value.

Dan: Either serve as business or a technology product as document. The high level steps from the beginning, the input to that department to the output and the expected results. And it doesn’t have to be detailed. Most people make the mistakes of feeling like every step, checklists, screenshot, procedure, detail of labels and naming and everything needs to be defined and that’s not the way to start. Starting as really creating what I call a program overview document to make sure that you at least capture all the things that people do and it’s really great if you have a team cause you could just say, Hey can you make a list that if you were to hire somebody to do your job for two months cause you were going to go away on vacation, what are all the different areas? Either things you monitor, things you create, collaborations you have within our business, input outputs.

Dan: What would you want to review? So not like writing out exactly how to do it, but what would you, what’s the conversation topics that you would want to have with those people? That is the first step in creating a playbook. In my world, that’s what I call it, a playbook for your business. Start off by creating a review.

Dan: Number two is set up in your weekly meeting. Hopefully you’re having a weekly meeting every week. You actually add an agenda item to review the new or updated, uh, plays or procedures or SOPs in your business. So every week you have people creating things, updating it. Because there’s, and I’m going to talk about this in step four, but you want to have the ability to review and communicate the new documents within your team. That’s why you could literally start with one, which I recommend the number one, if you want to know which one should I start with.

Dan: Your recruiting process, your people at the end of the day is what’s gonna allow you to scale the business. If you don’t have a predictable way to, to attract and convert and retain incredible talent, start by creating your program there. But number two is really getting the weekly review dialed in so that as it’s updated, the rest of the team understands it. It’s communicated and you can have feedback and collaboration around it.

Dan: Third thing you need to get right is the team culture. You need to be in a business where if there is a procedure that it is a must, not a nice to have. Not a suggestion, not a maybe it is a must that they have the procedure open. Okay. So the third area that you need to make sure to, even if you sat down and you hired somebody, I’ve seen people hire really expensive consultants that come in and create a business manual or a procedure or playbook.

Dan: And the challenge is that nobody referenced it. Nobody had it open when they were doing their work. So the biggest challenges, making sure that people integrated into the culture of how they do business. So one of the roles within all my companies is that if there’s a procedure that exists for the work you’re about to do, you must have it open. It has to be sitting there and you’ve got to reference it so that you can actually ensure that each step of the work gets done. And if there’s an issue where you say, go to this screen and all of a sudden that screen changes in the software, you can actually update it in real time. Okay, so this is super key and people are always asking me what tools do you use below in the comments are actually in the description of the video.

Dan: I’m going to put all the tools that I use because it might change over time and that’s where it’s going to be updated. So if you have questions around the technical implementation, do it there or check out there.

Dan: Number four is the structure. The way I create it, and this is the tool that I’ll probably use for the near future, is I use a spreadsheet and I use Google docs online. You use Google sheets because it’s a super lightweight of having a list of the procedures in my business now I have three tabs in that spirit spreadsheet. I have procedures, I have references and I have templates because in a business that’s kind of the three different things you’re going to have. You’re going to have the procedure, which is the checklist or the how to of getting the work done. You’re going to have the references which is content or information that you need to do the work.

Dan: So those things might be referenced in the document. So if you have like an employee onboarding procedure, you might have a spreadsheet which is all the employee contact information and one of the steps is to add or edit or update that reference document. And then the third is the templates, which might be, you know, an email that you send afterwards to the new employee, the new hire or if you’re terminating somebody, the email or the documents that you need to produce. All the templates are linked to in this spreadsheet. So they don’t live in there, but they’re linked to it. And the beauty of this is that you’re not managing a folder structure. A lot of people, you know, they, they create these folder structures on network drives and then they’ve got all these documents. I literally would much rather have one reference, one single point to go and say, here are all the documents on my business to help us accomplish the business.

Dan: And where are the documents and references and templates that exist, even if they’re in subsystems and your project management software in your Dropbox, wherever they exist, but they’re referenced in one place. And that is the structure of setting up and creating an incredible procedures manual or what I like to call a playbook. So the number one tip that I want to share with you, the last thing that I think if you don’t get this, it will change the game for you and building out your own playbook is when you hire somebody and you’re training them, you can literally have them read all the different documents that they have access to all the procedures, and you give them a test and the test is their understanding of the work. So you might have a question in there like how much vacation does somebody get after three years of working with us?

Dan: Those answers will tell you if they read the procedures. So if you want to onboard and train somebody, you can have everything, sit in your documents and then have them go in and consume everything for the first two days of working with you and then have a test to be able to see if they understand it. So your training becomes super simple. Hope you understand how cool that is. Because a lot of people are like, well am I got to hire all these people? I’ve got to train them to make a fit effective. Let them self study, train, come to you with questions and then give them a test at the end, uh, so that you know that they’ve done it properly. Hopefully, this video finds you incredibly well. If you want my templates for the structure I use, click the link below in the description.

Dan: I’ll give you access to my templates for my playbook. That’ll walk you through the Google drive on the folder structure for the sheets, as well as several different procedures like the how to create a procedures templates to get you going fast today, as per usual, I want to challenge you to live a bigger life and a bigger business and I’ll see you next Monday.


  • http://martinmarketing.ca/ Tammy Martin

    How is it that you read my mind on what I need in my business this week? Thanks for this helpful insight into how you’ve evolved over the years into creating one single document to keep it simple. I like the concept of referring to SOPs as a Playbook too. Much more team friendly;)
    Looking forward to seeing your template(s).

    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell

      Tammy,

      I’ve hired a bunch of little ninja spies to report back what my community is needing most and that’s what drives my editorial schedule.

      Looks like they’re going to get a raise 🙂

      DM

  • BoMichael Lais

    I use Process.St for creating our company playbooks and it’s been a beautiful addition. For those of you that are looking for tools and don’t want to use Google Sheets, then check out Process.St. It’s had a very positive impact on our efficiency.

    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell

      Great recommendation!

      DM

  • Gus Rodgers

    Hi Dan – I can’t find the link to the Google Sheets that you mentioned .. or am I being blind?? Would be great if you could share, and thanks for another great video!

  • Bob Mills

    Hey Dan,
    Thanks for sharing your insights on creating the playbook. Super interesting. I’d love to gain access to the google sheet templates but don’t seem to be getting the information even after submitting my email info. Your help would be appreciated.
    Cheers
    Bob

    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell

      Bob, should be working.

      Email me http://www.danmartell.com w/ context and I’ll get my team to send it to you directly.

      DM

  • http://chrisronzio.com Chris Ronzio

    Love this post, Dan! Our customers are looking for more content about the tactics of getting the work done, do you mind if we link to this on Trainual.com? Call them Playbooks or Training Manuals or SOPs – as long as companies get them done, right?!

    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell

      100% / would love for you to link to this. Thx Chris!

      DM

  • http://amitkoth.com/ Amit Kothari

    Awesome article and vid, Dan!

    Big question – how important is “doing it” vs. “having it” in terms of playbooks?

    We’ve made https://tallyfy.com specifically to let you make playbooks, SOP’s, etc. but focusing real hard on “doing it” too!

    Do you also thing passing through/collecting info while you’re “doing it” is important? How important is collecting info as you do a playbook in real-time, compared to just following a list of tasks?

    We just built a Slack plugin that lets you do things in Slack too 🙂

    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell

      Playbooks are a culture thing imho.

      It needs to be reviewed, rewarded and tested.

      DM

      • http://amitkoth.com/ Amit Kothari

        Thanks @danmartell:disqus – how would it be tested?

        Also – where/who do reviews come from?

        In terms of rewards – who gets them?

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