SOP stands for ‘standard operating procedures’ and are the backbone of many larger organisations. Having SOPs in place allows work and other business-related procedures to be carried out in a repeatable and organised way. Think of SOPs as a set of rules that everyone follows in order to do a task. When everyone is on the same page, it is clear what needs to be done, by whom, and in what order. It also helps to solve problems, in that the SOP can be referred to should a staff member be unsure of the next step.
The bigger your business becomes, the more important it is for operations to be done in a standardised fashion. By completing tasks in a coordinated manner, it reduces the risks of errors and miscommunication, while maintaining efficiency. This not only applies to tasks themselves, but to an array of business functions such as health and safety procedures and making sure your business complies with various legislations.
How are SOPs created?
One of the best ways to create an SOP is to use a document to show each process involved in completing a task, and have that information available to staff. That way, all employees have the same understanding and ‘blueprint’ to refer to. If a change in procedure is needed, the document can simply be updated and employees made aware. This step-by-step approach shows each stage of a procedure, and it is documented, displayed and stored in an accessible format.
Where can I store SOPs?
Once you have your SOPs created in a document, you may be wondering where they can be stored so that employees have access. Unless all your staff are onsite, using cloud-based options is recommended. With the rise of virtual teams, it makes sense to store your SOPs on a platform that anyone can access with internet, as long as permission is provided. Here’s a few options:
- Google Drive – this is a popular way to store documents such as SOPs. It gives you several different formatting options such as spreadsheets, word documents, slides and more. It is easy to use and anyone that has shared access can view the required SOPs.
- Excel – using the cloud-based version of Excel is an excellent way to create and store spreadsheet documents. This format allows you to present information in a variety of ways, and it’s easy to locate specific items to edit and update when necessary.
- Airtable – a useful platform where you can manage team collaboration and more. This includes creating a master list of SOP documentation, and having access all in one place.
- CODA – this innovative platform is designed for teams. As well as a familiar document interface, it also allows for interactivity between team members. It is a useful option for both creating and storing SOPs.
- ClickUp – a free, work-sharing, project management and team collaboration platform that is a great option for storing data such as SOPs. Also, there are specific ClickUp SOP templates to help make creating your SOPs a breeze!
SOPs are essential in communicating information to employees, whether it is a blueprint for completing tasks, setting out health and safety rules, environmental operations and more. Improving communication reduces risks of error, improves efficiency, and brings cohesion to your team. If you are looking for advice on the best tools to use, how to structure your SOPs, or want to brainstorm your procedures, feel free to get in touch!
For any business that requires clients to make appointments, an online scheduling system brings many benefits. They’re a straightforward, efficient solution that can improve business productivity by streamlining processes.
Some of the top benefits of online appointment scheduling include:
- Less time spent answering calls for booking enquiries. This means you can be more productive in other areas of your business.
- Your diary is managed on one system, rather than going back and forth between different ones. Again, this saves time and improves efficiency.
- An online booking system is always operational. This allows potential clients to book an appointment whenever they want, 24/7. It also increases your sales because you are not restricted to working hours.
- Clients can easily make bookings thanks to the convenience of online appointment scheduling. It is also easy cancel or reschedule. This increases client satisfaction with your services and your business.
- Less ‘no-shows’ – clients who use online booking systems tend to keep their appointments. This may be due to interactions with their own online calendar or email, as they are reminded ahead of time that they have a commitment. You can also set up text alerts for your clients. With less ‘no-shows’, you don’t miss out on revenue due to clients not turning up.
- Many scheduling apps or software come with additional features that bring a deeper insight into your business. For example, it may gather details about your clients that you can use to understand them better, and ultimately create services to better meet their needs.
What is the best appointment scheduling software?
There are many different booking applications out there, and what works for some might not be the best for others. Also, you will need to factor in considerations such as price, usability and decide what features you need. Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular appointment scheduling systems.
- Calendly – one of the most popular apps, Calendly has a minimalist interface that makes it appealing and easy to use. There are also mobile apps and plug-ins that make sharing your schedule simple.
- ScheduleOnce – this integrates with many other apps and is good for teams. You can easily add booking pages to your website as well as send calendar invites. There is a free plan available.
- Acuity Scheduling – this is a versatile and adaptable app that can handle a wide range of appointment scheduling situations. There is a seven-day free trial period, however there is no free plan. They offer email and chat support to customers.
- Simplybookme – what makes this app different is that it has usage-based pricing. In each pricing plan, you can select a set number of features. They provide customer service via email, chat, and mobile applications.
- YouCanBookMe – allows you to connect your calendar and only share the times you want with your clients. They book directly into your schedule. Clients receive their own notifications, reminders, calendar invites, and other services.
- TidyCal – a simple way to book and schedule meetings. It also integrates with many other office apps and can be customised. You can add TidyCal to your website using a simple widget.
An appointment scheduling system will let you and your clients know where you stand. When your calendars are synchronised, clients are reminded to arrive on time for their appointments and you can plan your day accordingly. This gives you more time to focus on other tasks that are essential to your business.
As an online business manager, I’m here to help you implement methods that will improve how you run your business. If you would like advice on scheduling systems, or any other business operations and processes, feel free to book a call!
Have you heard of time blocking? This is a simple method of structuring your time so that you use it more effectively and become more productive. Many of us wish there were more hours in the day to get things done, especially when there are so many things competing for our attention on a daily basis. For example, you might be working on one thing, when suddenly you become pulled in a different direction. In this manner, you are reacting to the challenges of the day, rather than being in control of them. So, how can time blocking help?
What is Time Blocking?
Put simply, time blocking is scheduling out blocks of time throughout the day to work on specific things. Marking these blocks in colour on a calendar is an excellent way to get a visual overview of how you need to spend your time, not only to complete tasks, but to avoid spending too much time on the things that don’t need it. For example, you could block 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon to read and respond to emails. That way, you can stop checking it throughout the day, saving you time and mental energy.
Each time block can be used to work on a single task, or a small group of similar tasks, helping to eliminate distractions and make you more productive. But there is also another benefit. Because you can time block in advance, you can create a plan that gets everything done, without having to constantly make choices about what to concentrate on. All you must do is follow your calendar!
Here’s an example of my own time blocking:
You may need to play around with the lengths of time blocks before you find what works for your situation. For me, once I know how many hours per day I need to dedicate to each client, it makes it easy to know how much time to block out to do the work.
I also think it is important to block out time for oneself, either as breaks or to do something you enjoy. By doing so, you can refresh and reset your mind before your next work time block.
Why Time Blocking works
Time blocking allows you to find your flow! We often need to stay focused on a task for some time before we unlock our creativity or get into that zone we need to be in to make real progress. The ‘deep focus’ gives us the opportunity to access that golden state of concentration, something that is hard to achieve when your attention is being directed to many other tasks.
Also, when something is scheduled, and you can see it in bold colour on your calendar, you are more likely to commit to it. There is a famous quote known as Parkinson’s law, “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Open ended timelines are a breeding ground for procrastination, so time blocking can be a way to find the focus you need to see jobs through to completion, reduce stress, and achieve more.
Time blocking can help you stay focused and remove those distractions that compete for our attention throughout the day. It helps lessen feelings of overwhelm, and gain clarity over your priorities. Many people who use time blocking feel more relaxed and in control of their workload, making them more effective at what they do.
If you are feeling the strain of running your own business, I can help. I offer a range of OBM and VA services that can help free up your time, enabling you to take your business to the next level. For more information, drop me a line!
When running a business, there’s always a lot of organising to do. You are likely to be familiar with the good old spreadsheet, something that is standard when it comes to managing the many tasks, processes and projects that you do every day. Similarly, you may use database software to collect information, create files, records and reports. But what if there was an easier way to handle this information? Let’s meet Airtable!
What is Airtable?
Airtable is an online spreadsheet tool and database all rolled into one, allowing information to integrate between the two, as well as being shared from other apps, and makes it easy to store structured data. Its flexibility makes it ideal for many types of project and information collation, both in a business sense and for personal use. Here are some of the top features:
Unlike Excel or Google Sheets, Airtable can display information in many ways. For example, you can use tables, columns, or even photos to display items in a way that suits your working style. Within the Airtable workspace area, you can access a calendar view, gallery view, and a Kanban view, where information is shown as cards in a stack that can be dragged and dropped to where you need them. Organising and storing information using Airtable’s colourful interface makes boring spreadsheets and databases a thing of the past!
Most businesses use databases, for example, a contact list of suppliers, a customer database, or staff records. Airtable has all the features you need to create any kind of database, such as single bases, tables, input fields, records and different ways of viewing information. The information added to each base can be relational, making it easy to create, add to or bring up records at the touch of a button. There are also over 200 templates that you can customise if you prefer not to start from scratch. With Airtable, finding a specific piece of information is quick and efficient, as is accessing a ‘bird’s eye view’ over your databases.
Connection to other Apps
Airtable can seamlessly integrate with other apps and software such as Google Sheets, Zapier, Slack, Google Calendar, and Dropbox. This makes it easy to share information to and from Airtable, and collate it in a single place.
This is a key feature that helps you streamline your processes and save time. Using Airtable means you can set up triggers that create an action to be performed. Triggers could include the new addition of information to an area of your database, such as a new record or an amendment to an existing one. This reduces the time spent on those repetitive tasks and makes you, or your team, more productive.
Airtable has many collaboration features that enhance communication between team members. Different permissions can be set for people, such as editor, creator and commentor, and you can notify someone in a comment using the @ symbol with their name. This fast communication allows teamwork to move faster, as everyone has access to the same information.
Using Airtable has the advantage of saving time and increasing productivity for you and your team. Rather than installing technically complex database software and tweaking it for your business, which can often require coding skills, Airtable has simplicity, yet also the power and features you need.
If you think Airtable would be a good fit for your business, why not get in touch for a quick chat? I can help you see the benefits it would have for your specific business, and how it could make a difference. Feel free to schedule a call or send me an email!
There’s a fine art to productivity, and ‘how to be more productive’ is a very popular internet search. There are a staggering amount of tips, apps and tools that claim to make you more productive as a person, both in your work and your home life. With so much choice, learning to be more productive can actually become overwhelming in itself, leading to even more procrastination and uncertainty about how to tackle your tasks. Sometimes we need to learn to switch off in order to get stuff done!
Are too many productivity tools slowing you down?
To begin switching off, take a look at all the tools you use on a daily basis. There are some great productivity tools out there, and something on offer for almost every kind of task. For example, there’s ClickUp, Trello and Asana for project management. There are diary management and scheduling tools such as Calendly, and social media management tools such as Loomly and Hootsuite. What about basic Google Docs and good old-fashioned pen and paper? They are also common tools people use every day.
It doesn’t really matter what tools you use, as long as they work for you. Once you have found something useful, stick with it. It’s much better to use one or two tools effectively than waste time trying to manage several tools at once.
The benefit of being offline
After a storm in rural France where I live, I was without internet. You can read about it here. At first, it sent me into a kind of spin, as much of my work is based online. But, being without internet actually allowed me to focus and be more productive as a result.
The problem with the internet is that it is a huge distraction. You could be working away and you notice a new email ping into your inbox, so you stop what you’re doing to read it. Over the course of a day, many small distractions can lead to a big decrease in productivity.
When online, you probably have a lot of tabs open as you jump from one page to another. This encourages multitasking, which is yet another method of working that really slows you down.
If you do need to be online to do a particular task, turn everything else off. This means putting your phone on silent, closing down unnecessary tabs, including email. You will find that you get the job done more quickly, and often with much less stress and pressure as other things aren’t competing for your attention
Take regular breaks
If you are someone who struggles with productivity, taking regular breaks throughout the day can help reset your mind before continuing with a task. It might sound contradictive to take more breaks when you are busy, but when you are feeling stressed over a task, working without a break can lead to burnout and make you feel miserable! You will find you get more done in twenty minutes of positive action followed by a short break, than in an hour of slogging through a task with no break in sight.
The bottom line
Many people get caught up in the productivity trap, where they become so keen trying out new apps or reading about productivity online that it has the opposite effect. Sometimes you simply have to switch off the distractions and get stuff done!
The world will not stop if you don’t check your email for a few hours, or you turn off the notifications on your phone. By prioritising one task and zoning out the rest, you’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and would like some help with online business management, feel free to get in touch!
An online business manager (OBM) is there to provide support to people who need expert skills to help run their business. Unlike a virtual assistant, an OBM has a leadership and managerial role to fulfil, such as handling teams and complex projects. They also have freedom to make decisions that impact the business. A good OBM will use their skills to increase revenue and profits, drive growth, as well as taking some of the weight off the business owner. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the tasks an OBM might do:
An OBM leads projects and uses their initiative to ensure goals are met within planned timelines. After discussing priorities and outcomes with a business owner, an OBM develops strategies, plans and processes for their team to follow to achieve those desired goals. In this role, an OBM will be liaising with their team as well as outside sources such as contractors, organisations, and individuals that are involved in the project.
Organising a successful team includes hiring, firing and working with people to get the best from them. An OBM needs to have excellent communication skills, not just to be able to tell team members what to do, but also to listen and have empathy with them. This allows an OBM to solve team problems quickly and fairly. The success of a project relies upon a cohesive team that works well together and, when team members feel valued, they do a good job.
This is an example of a business area that can be delegated to an OBM to run. An OBM may coordinate the activities of copywriters, social media managers, and SEO experts. They are also able to study the measurable data, such as website analytics and social engagement, in order to see what works well and how to improve. Not all clients will require every aspect of an OBM’s skill set, but being able to hand over a whole operation such as marketing allows business owners to use their time on other things.
Being tech savvy and experienced in a number of processes means that an OBM is in the best position to suggest helpful changes that make operations run more smoothly. This could include improving bottlenecks, automating processes and devising and implementing new strategies and workflow systems that get things done more efficiently.
Actively seeks new opportunities for the business
An OBM can take a proactive approach in driving the overall success of a business by finding new opportunities. This could be new ways to generate revenue, expanding customer reach, improving brand image and engaging with potential clients or customers. This might also include networking to identify new partnership options and other opportunities that could be of benefit.
Hiring an OBM
For business owners, hiring an OBM can be the step that takes their business to the next level. It allows you to free up time if you are feeling overwhelmed with tasks, to explore new ventures, or perhaps you need a fresh set of eyes to help your business grow more quickly. Whatever the reason, an OBM is an asset that many business owners can’t do without!
One of the joys about being an OBM is that every client is different. That means no two OBM roles are the same. It keeps things fresh, interesting and with a large scope to grow and develop professionally.
As an OBM, I really enjoy getting to know business owners, helping to solve their problems and improve the way their businesses run. If you would like to have a chat about whether an OBM is right for you, or about what you could delegate, please get in touch!