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  • Writer's pictureJacob Curtis

How Small Business Owners Break the Cycle of Constantly Doing the Work (Part 3 of 3)

When I say the acronym SOP, what comes to mind? Stock Option Plan? School of Pharmacy? Standard Operating Procedure? If you thought Standard Operating Procedure, you guessed what we will be discussing today.

Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs, are a compilation of dust-collecting three-ring binders that provide step-by-step instructions on how to do everything in a business. In most companies, these are just paperweights and way out of date.

The goal of every organization should be to seek constant efficiency and improvement. Waste of materials, money, and time are the bane of every business and must be addressed constantly. However, the old definition of SOP does not serve that goal anymore.

Because of this, most businesses now train on the spot because business is moving too fast to keep SOPs updated. You or another team member trains a new hire for a week or two and then is told to get to work. But that rarely happens. It usually takes a lot of corrections and questions after that “on-the-job” training. And the team member is now trained to ask you questions whenever they get stuck. Instead of genuinely delegating and empowering them, you have taught them not to problem solve but to ask you what to do.

Learn to Systematize

So, why are we talking about SOPs? You must systematize your operations to ensure your Queen Bee Role is humming along and fulfilling your Big Promise to your customers.

You will need more people than yourself to grow and scale your business. You’re great, but having team members and systems to support your business is crucial to growing your quilt shop and stopping the burnout. And with more people comes more training, taking away the time you hoped to gain by hiring them.

While the old three-ringer binder method of capturing all the how-to’s of your systems and processes was great a few decades ago, today, we have more technology and computing power in our hands than was used to send Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins to the moon in 1969, so let’s use it.


You may think you have no processes, but you’re mistaken. With every task you do, you follow a process. By systematizing your process, you create a standard set of steps to accomplish that task. You only need to record and share that standard process with your new team members.

To get started, all you need is your cell phone. Most cell phones today have a video recording feature. All you will do is hit record and narrate what you are doing while pointing the camera at what it is you are doing. Get a tripod or a second person to be the camera operator if you need both hands for the task. If a task is on the computer, use a screen recording platform to capture what it is you are doing on the computer.

Here are the steps to systematizing your processes.

Step one is to capture the activity, narrating the steps to complete that task. Remember, you do not need to create every video recording for every task in your business. Have the team member who is currently doing that task record the video.

Step two is storing the recordings so all team members can access them. Step three is to delegate tasks distracting you from your Primary Job.

Finally, step four is to have that team member improve upon the newly assigned task and make a new recording.

At least annually, review the videos recorded for the various Primary Jobs. Have the team member create an updated recording if any videos need to be updated. If multiple team members do the same task, assign one person to review and update the recording if needed.


So why record tasks or have video SOPs? So your team members have an up-to-date resource other than you they can rely on, freeing up you and your team’s time to focus on growing the business. Remember, we want the company to spend 80 percent of its time Doing work supporting the QBR and fulfilling your Big Promise.

Once the systems are recorded, and you have delegated as much responsibility as your resources permit, you need to determine how the outputs will be measured and monitored. For example, we want to ensure quilts are being quilted in our shop. And our metric is simple: weekly quilted square inches. Every time we complete a quilt, a step in the process is to write the square inches of the finished quilt on the big calendar. At the end of the day, we tally up the total square inches for the day to check our progress for the week. We instantly know if things are humming along or if a change is needed.

Again, the key is always to have one person responsible for the outcome of each task. To be unclear is to be unkind. As the quilt shop owner, you probably started out doing everything yourself, but as you hire team members, you need to be clear on the outcomes required to serve the QBR and ultimately fulfill your Big Promise to your customers. To make sure your team accomplishes those outcomes in a way that aligns with your company values, you need to have reliable video recordings of each task that needs to be done.

Don't let them Defer.

The natural tendency of people is to defer decisions. Just think about this: When you ask your spouse what they want for dinner, how often do you get the response, “I don’t know. Whatever you want.” Oh, and did you catch that you asked the question instead of deciding or even making a suggestion?

Team members are the same way, especially when they are new. If you are getting resistance from team members you’ve empowered to make decisions, whatever you do, do not make their decisions for them. It would be best to let them do the research, determine the course of action, and then commit to it. After all, we are trying to get you out of the day-to-day operations, and you can’t do that if you keep making the daily decisions.

When your team members come to you with questions and problems to solve, answer their questions with your questions, “What do you think we should do?” “Does that align with our mission and goals?” “How would you handle the situation?” “How does this affect our Big Promise?”

If your team members respond with, “I don’t know, that’s why I am coming to you,” answer. You respond with your version of, “We hired you because you are smart and driven. We hired you to find the answers. Please think about it and return to me with a proposed solution, and then we will discuss it.” When they return, get ready to smile, nod, and give your okay.

If they offer ideas you disagree with, bite your tongue and support them. After the decisions have been made and the actions have been carried out, do a debrief and have the team members share what they learned and what they would do differently next time. Always do the debrief after they make and execute a decision.

The only time to intervene is if you see them making a decision that will have dire consequences. If you see danger, make your team aware immediately. You are monitoring their choices, not deciding for them. When observing a team member’s decision, rather than comparing it to what you might have done, ask yourself if it is a decision that serves the company.

How do you empower someone to make decisions? By rewarding mistakes. When things don’t go right, and you punish the person responsible (a big lecture, point out the error, fire them, cut their pay, roll your eyes, etc.), you instill the fear of making bad decisions, reinforcing that your team will come back to you for the “right” decision. But if you say that the outcome wasn’t what we expected as a company, but you are proud that they took the chance to move the company forward. Tell them you want to keep it that way. And ask them what they learned and what they will do differently in the future. Ask what you can do to serve them better. You will not only see your company start running without you, but you will have improved your relationships with your team members.

Toyota’s world-famous lead manufacturing process is based on the same core belief. The decision-making must be pushed “down” to the people making them. When a line worker has a problem, they can stop the entire line, and the managers hurry over to support that person. The line worker gives out the commands and directions, and the managers support getting the line up and running again. That is decision-making power to the right people–those closest to the problem.

Take Action

Take action by capturing your first process. It is overwhelming to think about all the processes that you have in your company, but you won’t scale if you don’t take the first step. Have your team members capture a process.

The team member who makes themselves irreplaceable may think they’ve secured their job, but they are compromising the company’s stability and preventing themselves from growing beyond the job. Capturing systems and processes is a way to provide the knowledge each team member has accumulated to the rest of the company. It also enables team members to grow into new work and opportunities.

When more than one person can do the various Primary Jobs around the company, you provide backup, and you and your team can take breaks and vacations! Not only that, you, as the business owner, can use your newly found free time to design and improve your business, scaling it to new heights.

Capturing your standard processes will allow you to scale your business!

What process are you going to capture first? Please email me at


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