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  • Jeannie Doherty

Document and delegate what you do: Standard Operating Procedures

Today's read is perfect for entrepreneurs with a team, or who intend to build a team of one or more, as we talk systems and processes, specifically related to using the right software.


You may be wondering, should I use a Word document or a project management software? The answer is neither – you must use software specifically designed for documenting standard operating procedures because, this decision could be the difference between surviving and thriving between 5, 6, 7 figures and beyond.


Document and delegate what you do: Standard Operating Procedures

To help delve deep into this essential rule of the game, I sat down with Joe Corcione. Joe is the partner manager at Trainual, and he personally has been leveraging his years of experience working in small business to help small businesses document and delegate what they do. And Trainual, their vibe is definitely my vibe. They are absolutely in the business in terms of documenting standard operating procedures in a way that your team can use to ensure quality, efficiency, and success in your business.


I'm so putting my trainer and assessor hat on, and one of the things I want to do is focus on when and why you choose software over documents. So I asked Joe,

When did Trainual have its inception, and when did Trainual start?


Joe Corcione: So just to give some context for everyone, I am the partner manager here at Trainual, and I partner with a lot of people who work with small businesses who are helping them scale and systemize. Essentially, this is what we do at Trainual. We look at small businesses who want to get their processes in one place, they want to scale their teams, they want to hire new employees, and ultimately, scale their business. And that's generally what Trainual helps to do. Now, the inception of it kind of starts from the early days of our founder and CEO Chris, when he was actually running his own business. He was running a video production company and at the time, he was getting a lot of success. He had a lot of clients, he had a lot of things going for him, a lot of projects, a lot of irons in the fire. But as he was going through that journey, he kind of hit that part that a lot of small businesses hit where you're kind of growing really, really well and business is booming. But the problem is when you're the owner of the business, you are also the operator – because of you and being in that position and you have so many different things going on, you are essentially the business. And if you got hit by a bus or you got hit by a car, or even if something happened to you where you couldn't run the business anymore, that business would cease to exist, running all over those things. And so that was Chris when he was in his video production company, he was doing everything from A to Z and he really didn't have time for himself and he realised that he was the bottleneck in the business. And so he realised, through learning and different readings and things like that, that he had to document what he did, so that he could delegate those processes onto team members who can come in, do the work that he's doing exactly the way that he was doing it, because that's what led to success and ultimately scale a team with a business that works beyond him. He wanted to go from working in the business to be working on the business, and that's the goal for every entrepreneur and down the line, he eventually started to consult for small businesses to do that same exact thing through process documentation, through effective delegation, through systemizing the business, to ultimately be able to help business owners work on the business as opposed to in it. And then eventually through there too, he worked to develop Trainual, which was a software offering that he had in his consulting business. Eventually, he saw more people wanted the software than the consulting operations, and it was a lot more scalable and accessible to others. So he launched the software out of there about four or five years ago, and today, we are a full fledge software company with a hundred employees.

I remember when I was with our family's business (it was a really, really big business – we grew it to a hundred million), and, my father was the key person in it. There was a time when he had a major health thing happen, and if we had not have everything in place and hadn't empowered the people to do stuff, that machine could've definitely stopped ticking over.


Now, I know that sometimes it can feel really overwhelming to get processes down. What do I use? How do I do it? – one of the approaches that we've taken internally is to first

map out what's happening in a workflow.


And you can do this with pen and paper. You can sit down and go, draw a circle around that, and then after that, we do that. Ultimately, we chose Trainual because it's a really great platform, simple enough, but it's got enough. And unlike some platforms that are really, really complex, the other thing that dazzled us is great bells and whistles like the multimedia abilities and the ability to put an assessment on every process.


And as you keep hearing from me before,

assessments are the 20% that makes 80% of the difference.


Joe Corcione: Small business owners, as you know, it's so tough to find the time to really add more things on your plate. And so when we developed Trainual we thought, hey, we want to make this simple. We want to make this straightforward and easy to learn because we want to eventually save the business owner time and reduce the hurdle to get started. So who's Trainual ideal for? Well, it's like the entrepreneur that I was talking about before: Chris in his video production business. He was doing really, really well, but he felt like he was the business, and he was also juggling so many different hats in the business and really just was the bottleneck in the business. Now for anyone reading, that could be you as an entrepreneur who's doing really, really well in your business – you've got a good book of business, you've got revenue coming in, but you feel like you are the bottleneck in the business. Or maybe, you're at a point where you're at 10 to 15 employees and you feel like you're hitting a plateau because all of your workers are wearing multiple hats, they're super slammed, they're working way past nine to five. They ultimately just can't take anything more on their plate, and you need to hire more people to help you to scale that, right? The word hiring is always there too, but really in the end of the day, what is hiring? Hiring is delegated. You're really taking processes that are working and you're delegating them onto someone else. So that either someone on your team or you don't have to do that. And ultimately, you get to build a process where it doesn't rely on one single person, a.k.a. you as the business owner. So if you're a business owner right now and you feel like you or your team might be the bottleneck, and you're looking for that next really lever to help you to not just grow but sustainably grow, then Trainual is for you. Because, you might be growing right now, but if you don't have the systems, the documentation, the processes in place, it's really hard to make that sustainable, especially when you need to bring on someone else to do that work because they don't have any reference to basically do the process. They're like, what do I do? And they say, I don't know, figure it out. And that doesn't lead to consistent results, it doesn't lead to scalable results, and it doesn't lead to the results that built your business where it's at. So anytime that you're facing that pain point, that is where Trainual is the right way for you. Now, how does Trainual really help to have that process in there? The first thing is we want to make it simple and easy to document. Like you said before, it can be a daunting task to be sitting there and be like, oh my gosh, I need to document everything in my business. We make it super simple for anyone to go in, whether or not they have technology background, to start documenting straight in the app. And, we provide a tonne of resources such as success coaching, on demand resources, video learning, and we even provide setup support on our higher plans in case anyone wants to delegate that work. The second thing is, we make the content easy to delegate. And that's so important because a lot of times where delegation comes in, people will write it in a Google Doc and then they'll send it over. The problem is, how many times have you been in a Google Drive, you went to look for that one document that you need, and you just can't find it. With Trainual, we make it super easy to find through a robust search functionality, easy to find folders, and ultimately, a notification system that allows you to track whether or not your employees have seen it, read it, and was able to understand the comprehension around it. So we get the delegation, and we also have the assessment part which is really the 20% that can make sure that your new hires know what to do. Because, you can read one thing, but if you don't actually apply it or understand it, then, really, it's worthless. At the end of the day, to build and test to make sure that they understand the processes that they're going through is going to be a crucial part as well. And then the last thing in terms of real power that we have in the system, we also have a really, really good way to have that robust reporting. Like I mentioned before, are people logging into the system? Are people viewing the content? What is their test scores like? Because, it is really important to hold people accountable to actually following processes.

One of the parts of my charter with this blog is that, I want to challenge business owners' thinking and redirect them to think the right way. If you're not thinking the right way, you cannot take the right action. So for example, if you think that Google Docs or Microsoft Word is the best place for my standard operating procedures, then you think that therefore you are going to take that action – and therefore you're going to have some pain.


So if you intend to bring on team, even if that's only a few team, hear me now: please don't use project management software to document your processes. Please don't use documents, they're just not set up for it anymore. Please use a software that is just built for systems, and know that I've done the hard yards.


Years ago before we had software, 20 or so years ago, we did it in Microsoft Word. Things were static, we didn't really have Cloud. Now, it's really actually quite easy these days. Businesses and tech moved so fast, we just have to use software and Trainual.


A few things on my mind as top tips for process documentation: the first one is

give yourself a lap around the sun, which is a year.

Think of a standard operating procedure project going from zero, to having something that really makes a difference in your business. Think of it as a year, because even if you think, oh, I could knock that out in a month, it gives you all this less pressure to fail.


The second, as I said,

choose software built for systems.


The next thing in terms of documenting what you do,

familiarise yourself with your secret sauce.

If you are the technician person, how do you get the result you get for the client? What are the three to 10 steps you take? Your secret sauce already exists – you're doing it, you just did it then, and you're going to do it in a minute. This is also something that I do with my business owners: just off the top of their head with pen and paper, rattle off to me the three to 10 steps that you take. And I could do that when I've got my bookkeeper hat on or when I've got my strategist hat on.


For example, I look at the planning aspects, then I look at team because we need the team in place, and after that we could do the marketing, and after that we could do the conversion, and after that we could do the systemization. Everything I do as a strategist surrounds those five steps, and if you have that flow, you can really expand off that into your processes.


Jo, my right hand in Cloud 9, is actually a Trainual-certified consultant. We are a certified consultant that gets a consultant in, because there is always a value in somebody else's look over and insights. So, don't be afraid to leverage a consultant. If you've got a team,

get a champion on your team to actually take care your standard operating procedures

– don't try and do it yourself.


The other big one is,

don't document what you are not doing right now.

I've done that before and it was a disaster. Because life gets in the way, business gets in the way and suddenly you've documented a process that you're not doing, which is just confusing. Keep a dream book, document only what you're doing right now. Whatever you're doing now right now is your perfect version one.


And I know that many business owners are like, yeah, but I don't think we're doing well enough. You know what, if you're in business and you're making a living, you're doing just fine. Document that. And then if you want to get better, you could create a little Google sheet, it's called The Better Every Week sheet. And, all of the team can access it and every time something happens that they think, oh, I think there's a kink there, they pop the details in there. And then, every week when we meet for our week in retro and week ahead, we look at that sheet and we aim to be better every week by improving our processes, and we agree who's going to improve the processes, et cetera.


And then the last thing is to understand why we're doing this:

consistency.


McDonald's is always a strange example, but it is that consistency that's why I call these things secret sauce recipes. If your team followed your secret sauce recipe to the letter every time, the result would be consistent. You would have less rectification work complaints. If your team almost followed your recipe, you would have rectification work complaints. The main reason that we would ever go documenting what we do in order to get consistency is for the marketing X factor, which (drum roll) is

trust, and keeping your promises.

Is there anything more important than keeping our promises?


Now let's hear more tips straight from Joe:


Joe Corcione: Trust is important – you nailed that on the head. And also hiring a consultant – because, documentation can be new and almost like second nature for a lot of people out there. When we start a business, we're usually in it because we're good at that craft of what we're doing. So if you're starting a pie business, you're good at building pies. If you start a sales coaching business, you're great at sales, but documentation is not something that we're always good at. And usually, the best way to do that is to hire someone like yourself or anyone else who's going to be good at the documentation part. So in the spirit of delegation and what we try and do with Trainual, we even suggest, hey, delegate and go get a consultant to help you out. And obviously, Jeannie and her team are amazing and so totally recommend them as well. But one thing I would add on there, because a lot of times, and I know you mentioned before it can get overwhelming to think about documentation, because when we're running a business, we think about all the processes that we have. We have a sales process, we have a payroll process, we have a hiring process, we have a customer service process. It's like, oh, where do I start? What do I do with this? My suggestion, and same with Chris' suggestion all the time, is start at the process that's giving you the most pain right now that if you could have help in, would totally be this relief on you, relief on your business, and maybe even open up the funnel to bring in more revenue. So what does that mean? For example, your sales team is just totally slammed and that people are stressed out and maybe you are stressed out, maybe you are hopping on the sales calls and you know that if you could have two to three more sales employees on your team taking more calls and closing more deals, then that would be a game changer in your business over everything else. Start by documenting your sales process and what you're doing. So if it's you doing those sales calls, you should be the one documenting it. But if it's maybe someone on your sales team that is doing it, engage your sales team to document that process. But regardless, starting at the one process that is the biggest pain point or the biggest activation for your business, whether it's saving costs or bringing in more money, that's the place to start. And then once you have that documented, start documenting on the next big pain point and the next one and the next one. And I love that tip that you said, think of it as a year long process, because it's not going to happen overnight. We actually heard a customer say something like, if you're spending 20 hours today on Trainual, you're saving hundreds of hours in the future. Because, that time documenting is going to allow you to be able to replicate that process by hiring more people, and by also giving them information that they can access quicker, so that you are not having a big bottleneck in your business and you're keeping that sustainable growth from going. So those are my two tips: start at the pain point, and tell yourself that this is an investment in your time that you're taking to save more time and make more money in the long run.

This reminds me of a really lovely client I've got that's been having trouble getting his team to do their time sheets. And, I have a really cheeky thing I do with that. I say, whoever is the worst at it and the biggest culprit, put them in charge of documenting the process. If you really want to learn something, teach it. That actually can be a nice challenge for a team member, and a good way to see them step up.


It's something I remind my business owners: the two big keys to success is stepping up as a leader and a manager. A leader shares the vision, but as a manager, when you put that manager hat on, you must be prepared to plan, organise, staff, direct, and control. And if you're not really great at that, and you want to stick with the leader hat on, hire a manager.


And for some more real-life examples, I asked Joe,

Have you got any stories that you can share with us about how somebody has leveraged Trainual and systems for success?


Joe Corcione: I'll actually never forget this specific moment when I went to a conference to go speak on behalf of Trainual, and it was a room full of entrepreneurs. They're starting a business that's doing well, but they're stressed out of their minds and they don't know what to do for next steps. And so the cool thing was, we did this live documentation thing where we said, what's the biggest thing that's holding you back from documentation? And one woman raised her hand and she was like, you know what? I'm just so overwhelmed, there's so much to do, I don't know how to start. I don't know the best way to do this, everything like that. And it was so cool. We were like, tell us a little bit more about your business. And she was saying that she was a catering business that was doing pretty well. They had a lot of clients, but she was super stressed out and didn't even have the time to start to document these things because she was like, I'm spending 20 hours a day just working on X, Y and Z and I don't have even time to breathe or anything like that. So how do I have the time to document this? And at first we said, We know that you have this time crunch and that's where it is right now. But at the end of the day, we had to reframe it simply: the time you're going to spend documenting right now, is going to allow you to save that time in the future. So even though you might take four hours today or this week to document these processes, that's going to save you hundreds and hundreds of hours down long so you don't have to be working these 20 hour days. So we explained that concept of time investments, so to say, and once that resonated with her, we said, okay,what is that biggest pain point? And she's like, I'm just spending so much time just sourcing the food for my business. It's just a total drag. It's really just taking so much time off my thing. I know that I'm better at managing my people, but I don't have the time to attend to my people because I'm sourcing all these ingredients. So we said, great, let's focus on that. What are the steps that you take to source the ingredients? She says, well, I got to look for a food distributor. Great, let's put that down. Look for a food distributor. We went through all the steps on that. What's the next thing? Well, I need to prepare the ingredients list. Great, let's put that in the thing. And we documented this process along the way and we kept going step by step by step. And then as we had this SOP just beautifully crafted on how to source material, you can see her eyes light up. And, as she looked at this piece of documentation, just a simple document, she looked and she saw that and she goes, oh my gosh, this is the key to freedom. And it's crazy because all it is was just a simple documentation. But hearing her say that really showed the importance of process documentation. When you document what you do, you are able to get yourself free of the things that are holding you down in your business because that piece of documentation is your key to scaling, it's your key to delegation, it's your key to growing. And, I got in touch with this person a few weeks ago and she told me that she hired more people on her team to go out and source the food. She's working less hours in the day and her business has actually grown, I think, 50% since we've really gone into inside of really helping her out. So it's super cool to see that someone who was super stressed working late hours in this kind of stagnant part of her business, ultimately take it to the next level by going in and basically implementing train in our business, documenting your processes, delegating it out to a place where she's now seeing this sustainable growth that's helping her out down the long run. And it's super cool too, because we see this not just in her, but we see this in Chris, right, with this video production company. We see this even with me. Before I came to Trainual, I was running a personal development business – and until I understood how to properly document and delegate, we weren't growing. And then, we grew three times in less than a year, which was amazing. And then here at Trainual, we see over 7,000 customers at this point who are growing and documenting and delegating their processes, which has just been an amazing journey to see. So that's just one story of many different businesses who are using the power of Trainual, and the power of documenting and delegating what they do so they can scale their business.

Documenting and delegating – so powerful. And then putting that manager hat on, zero tolerance. There are places for flexibility, and there are places for all these different things, but systems aren't always one of them.


I feel like when it comes to your secret sauce, if you want to get the cake to come out or the sauce to come out, you really do need to hold your team accountable to following the process. A seven-figure entrepreneur I know, he's so incredibly smart and because he's such an incredible human, it's sometimes hard to actually understand what he wants. And so sometimes, he just says to his team, humour me, follow my process. Here's the process.


He's built his seven-figure businesses just on process and achieved record level, low-cost of sales due to efficiency from process.


And that's a good one too. You don't always have to fully understand it, but if you believe in your leader, then you'll be prepared to give it a go and then see the magic in the process.


As a leader and a manager, sometimes it's about just saying, look, it is my way. This is what a process is, it's my way, and you need to do it my way. If you want to go and do it your way, more power to you and I'll support you, but if you've come to work with me, we're going to do it my way. And I promise you, you're going to love it if you just lean in and follow it.


I think that's really key.


Joe Corcione: I absolutely love that so much. I think that is such a crucial point: demonstrating the why behind the proces – and the why is because it works. And sure, it might sound like something that's a little harsh, but in the end of the day, that's how it works. One of the things that just blew my mind, it was in a book a while ago, but they were talking about how most small businesses end up failing, but about 90% of franchises usually succeed. And why is that? The reason is because they documented everything, from how to open up the store, how to clean the fryers, how to do everything like that – everything is so documented, and they have such strict ways of following to that process that they're able to replicate that success and therefore they don't fail because they follow that process in doing it. I'm not saying everyone's got to franchise their business, but you got to make a franchisable business in the sense that you need to have that documentation down on there and in the end of the day saying, Hey, this is the way to do it. This is how we do it as a company. Follow this out. It gets those consistent results going back to that word before down the line.

It definitely is in the single digits for failure of franchises, whereas your average business is 80% failure. And another thing that I learned years ago was one of Australia's most successful entrepreneurs, every team member that started with him (and he had hundreds and hundreds of staff), he would show them a special riddle – the Habit poem.


It says, I'm your best friend and I'm your worst enemy and all of these other things, and who am I? I am habit. I'd really encourage everyone to look that up.


I've developed, well, probably 25 years of habit around processes to a point where if you said, are you process driven? I'd scratch my head and say, I don't know, because it's such a habit.


Start the journey.


And as a couple of people have pointed out, I've got a beautiful 12-year-old son and over the last few years, even when he was before he turned 10, he has started having processes in his life. One day, I said to him, are you going to go to the holiday programme? And he said, oh, no, no, no, he is about eight. I'm far too busy.


And he had an exercise book where he'd sketched out what was involved in his days. Now, he has a series of alarms set in his phone to remind him when to do certain things. The power of habit and the way that we pass it on is incredible. Even if it's not your zone of genius, just. get. started.


I think that pain point, if you've got staff that are refusing to do their time sheets and they have a million excuses, start there and be relentless and say, By the end of this month, we're going to have documented our time sheets end-to-end. We're all going to have done an assessment to say, I know how to do this, and we're all going to show that we can do it and we are going to do it, and we're going to meet every Wednesday at three in the afternoon to see how we're going and stay on track.


If you can get through that first hurdle, I think you'll be on your way.


Joe Corcione: I love the language that you're using of making it a habit. It's like making those certain set of processes a habit in your business, whether it is filling out the time sheets or whether it is updating the CRM or whether it is cleaning off the machinery every night. Making those processes habitual is usually what leads to that consistent results because in the end of the day, it's not, oh, another thing I have to do – it's just, I'm just doing what I do. And to your point, by having that documentation there and setting the standards, not just for how to do it, but when to do it and the reason to do it and the context behind to do it, is also equally as important as putting the how tos because again, that forms that habitual thing where you're able to stack all the results over and over again, which is amazing. Brings me back to a quote where it's like, I would fear the man who practises one kick a thousand times and the man who practises a thousand kicks one time. The same thing goes for your business, because if you're practising that same thing over and over and over and over and over again, it becomes so well. But if you're just doing random things at random times, your business gets what random results, and we don't want that.

And random results leads to rectification and refund complaints. I've just got stories and stories on it. So to kind of finish up, here's how you can get in touch with Joe, and how you can maybe get a taste of Trainual.


Joe Corcione: So you can go to our website at Trainual.com and you can start a seven-day free trial. We don't take your credit card information, so we're not going to autobill you after that seven days. It's totally risk free. Go in there, try out the platform, see if you like it, and you can start really just building your business playbook. All of your plays, your SOPs, your process, all in one place, and you could have it on there too. And as Jeannie mentioned, our founder and CEO, Chris Zizi has a book out called The Business Playbook as well. That's great foundation for how to build a robust playbook to document and delegate what you do. So it's not just specifically on Trainual, but it's more on the principles around it as well. And then also, if you're looking for a certified consultant to go and help you out, I'd recommend Jeannie and her team for sure. Definitely feel free to reach out to them. They're great training partners with us. They know what they're talking about, they know what they're doing, and I totally recommend them. So definitely feel free to check them out if you're looking for some extra help with your Trainual account.

Plus, we've got great ways for you to get started with us free. Simply reach out and we've got great business health checks which tackles where you're at with systems and processes, and which is really unique too if you've got team.


We'll walk you through health checks and a now-and-future analysis to help you get a clear picture of your business at no cost, to help you get started and to just have fun.


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