How to leverage yourself using SOPs

Three is a magic number.

There are three Hanson brothers.

And three Jonas brothers.

Three personalities anchor Freud’s signature theory. (Id, Ego, Super Ego.)

And writers have their own rule of three which “combines brevity and rhythm to create a pattern” that our brains find catchy, memorable and deeply satisfying.

You know what else works well in 3s?

SOPs. Or Standard Operating Procedure for the unacquainted.

The SOP is a simple (yet underutilized) pillar in the $10,000 Work Framework. It provides leverage to scaling your profits. Redundancy against mistakes and staff turnover. And autonomy for a solopreneur (who might take this newfound freedom to go… surfing!)

All it takes is three. Here’s Venture Capitalist Bill Trenchard explaining how this tactic helps CEOs use get the most out of their day:

For anything you do more than three times, write down your process in

He described how SOPs enabled Uber to quickly scale by repeating the same playbook across different launch cities:

They have a list of the things they do in every single city when they launch, with slight regional adjustments. They have practiced this method and tested it and wrote it all down. So now they just execute, like turning a key.

And the ultimate benefit:

People who do amazing things write it down. Startups don’t do that enough.

Why you should use SOPs

The Workflow automation tool Zapier knows a thing or two about scaling your most precious resource: your time listing the following benefits:

  • Enable business growth
  • Make processes more efficient
  • Scale your training
  • Maintain quality standards
  • Take a vacation

Here’s the template they recommend using:

A checklist to begin creating an SOP

How we use SOPs at RadReads

The SOP has been a gift from the heavens for our tiny business of three employees. As the firm’s owner (and only full-time employee) we’ve racked up 56 SOP between my Virtual Assistant (Jaen) and Marketing Specialist (Cole).

An SOP “sampler”

Each SOP consists of a series of instructions to take a workflow from inception to completion. It lives as a document (well, technically a Notion page) containing text, videos (using Loom) and marked up screenshots (using SnagIt). Here’s a task that I’ve been doing for over 5 years: Compiling the (famous) Saturday RadReads Newsletter.

The first step is to import the “blurbs” for the 5 stories:

Next, there’s the “Below the Fold” section:

And lastly, how to update the “button” at the top of the email (shown via video):

Now this SOP probably took 3 hours to compile, but saves me 1 hour a week in perpetuity since it’s handled by Jaen (my VA). Imagine, how that scales over 54 SOPs!

Detailed SOPs are what enabled us to traverse the New Hire J-curve (and recover our time invested) extremely quickly. But that pales in comparison to the higher-order benefits: more autonomy, a better end result, and more free time.

J curve - Private Equity - YouTube
Clearing the J-curve is where hiring leverage kicks in.

But there’s more

But the SOP doesn’t paint the full picture. You can think of it as the formula or y = mx + b. The SOP defines the slope (m) and the Y-intercept (b), but it still requires you to pass through a variable (x). Here’s where our project management tool comes in. (Yup, you guessed it.)

First we create the task using the corresponding template.

Then as the task’s originator I’ll specify the variables that map to the SOP. So in this case it would be the top 5 stories, the below the fold, the button and the “and finally section.”

Last – but definitely not least – there’s the Definition of Done (DoD). How will both Jaen and I know that the task is complete and ensure a smooth hand-off? The DoD ensures that there are no remaining open loops. Once I’m notified, I do a quick scan and then queue the email to be sent the next day at 6 am PDT.

I only discovered SOPs recently (and have yet to read the books which birthed the concept, The E-Myth Revisited and Work the System) but have been spreading the mantra far and wide. So whether you run a team of M&A bankers, work for yourself, manage a political campaign (or are a Jonas brother)… just remember, 3’s the magic number.

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