(PODCAST) Standard Operating Procedures – You NEED them for your business

We’re getting ready to head into an unknown financial situation here in our country, and I feel many people could benefit from getting some useful information.

So, for those who don’t know, I operate a detailing and film business mentorship program serving about ten clients a month. We keep it capped so that we can ensure that everyone gets all the attention they need. One of the biggest challenges that I see detailers and installers have is transitioning from being a detailer and installer to being competent business owners. This is usually made apparent by the amount of damage control they say they have to do in their shop. And this is generally because of the need for a robust training program and constantly having to redirect and instruct their staff. This brings us to the point of today’s podcast: having standard operating procedures in your shop.

Standard Operating Procedures Are Important

Having SOPs (you’ll hear us refer to standard operating procedures as SOPs just for short) allows you to be profitable and less prone to risk. All it takes is one slip or missed detail because an employee needs to fully understand what they need to do or how to react to a specific situation. It may end up costing you thousands. I run a shop, and I know for a fact that the employee who doesn’t understand your SOP will be the first to cause damage.

Standard operating procedures, or SOPs, are a set of step-by-step instructions that outline tasks necessary to complete a larger task. They provide clear and concise direction on how a job should be performed and ensures that everyone in your organization is on the same page. While SOPs are usually associated with larger businesses in a corporate setting, these are crucial for businesses in this sector of any size.

Your standard operating procedure doesn’t need to be written in a manner that says walk to the bucket, pick up the bucket, move bucket, and so on. Your SOP should be written in a way that so long as somebody has all of their brain cells they can read it and understand what you’re asking. So it would be best if you elaborated a little bit.

How To Write Standard Operating Procedures

A great example is an SOP for prepping your wash process, like preparing your equipment and buckets. You can begin your SOP by writing step one, take three five-gallon labeled wash buckets and place them in the wash bay under the faucet. Step two, use the faucet to rinse the buckets, ensuring that all debris is removed. Step three, place the grit guard into the bottom of the bucket with the feet touching the bottom. Step four, fill the bucket to the fill line that’s inside with warm water. So you see, the idea isn’t to write it for a two-year-old or a mentally incapacitated person, but to write it so that your directions are clear and make sense.

I get asked a lot. Gabe, can you send me your SOPs? Can you send me some SOP templates? No. And the reason I say no is because your SOPs need to be written according to your business. If you need help writing an SOP, I’m happy to help the people that work with us inside our agency and mentorship program. And if I have time, I’ll answer messages, give somebody a head start and point them in the right direction. But for the most part, you will need to do it yourself. The most significant and most profitable benefit to SOPs is that they help to improve efficiency by ensuring everybody knows exactly what needs to be done and how it should be done. This can save time and frustration and ultimately lead to increased productivity in your shop because if everybody knows what they’re supposed to be doing and they know what the person next to them is supposed to be doing, you’ll be able to turn your shop into a profit center.

Simplify To Speed Your Process

Take for example—paint correction. Paint correction is subjective to many, and many follow many different methods, mindsets, and ideologies. Detailers have different experience levels, and they all have different expectations regarding paint correction.

Most of the time, those expectations change when they come to work for a shop. This is especially true for those who have come from working in a body shop or a dealership because now you’re working in a higher-end detail shop, and things are changing even more. This is also true for people that have gone to YouTube University, so to speak.

I’m going to take a snippet from Ivan (Lacroix). Ivan has been a part of the industry for a very long time. He’s got years under his belt working for product manufacturers, coating manufacturers, and running high-profit shops. More so than anybody else that I’ve come across in the industry.
He also operates the Detailers Business Academy. He’s currently retired. He travels the country in this awesome RV. I think he tows a Mini Cooper (it turns out it’s a Fiat) behind it. When you see him, he gets out with round Morpheus glasses, and he’s got the super long beard, and bow tie. He gets out of this Mini (Fiat), and it’s like watching something out of The Twilight Zone. I’ve never seen somebody as interesting as Ivan, and I love him for it because he rocks it loud and proud because that’s his brand, right? That’s him.

Ivan runs several highly profitable retailing businesses, and he’s worked for some of the biggest names in the industry, like OptiCoat and Optimum products. He’s somebody that I look up to, and many other people within our industry trust. On more than one occasion, Ivan has referenced having too many options. Because as detailers who are in the higher tier and involved in the online social world, we all like to buy different products and test them. And we all have our favorite product. We say, “This or that is the best”. When you’re running a business that’s not ideal. He says that when it comes to machines, polishes and compounds, he followed this method in his shop to create a standardized workflow that thrived on effectiveness and profitability. Each detailer had a cart that 3 polishers. A DA with cutting pad, rotary or DA (employee choice) with an orange waffle for 1 steps, and a Rotary with Black Waffle for finishing. One compound, one polish.

This simplified the process so much that it significantly reduced the team’s chance of making errors. And it streamlined the process so much that after implementing that system, those shops turned twice as many cars. And you as a business owner should matter a lot. That’s because they had a standard operating procedure for paint correction in place.

Standard Operating Procedures Save You Money

Standard operating procedures are also one of the best ways to protect yourself from worker injury claims if you have SOPs explaining safety hazards and how to deal with them, such as building chemicals, broken equipment, or a dangerous situation in the shop. Everyone on staff knows how to deal with an emergency or potentially hazardous situation, and that’s highly beneficial to you. Because let me tell you that if you get an employee or staff member of yours that gets hurt, in the workplace, that’s going to sting because rest assured that your workman’s comp will probably drop you as soon as they have to pay that claim.

I think one of the biggest reasons that you should create SOPs for your shop and your workplace is shops that have SOPs in place have a majorly positive work environment because when you have a process for everything, employees are less stressed, workflow is better, and employees feel like they’re being productive. They’re getting their job done effectively. So setting up SOPs for your shop will provide your staff and team with a positive environment because who wants to come to work and deal with chaos now? I’m guilty of it. Sometimes my shop gets a little too busy because I’ve packed the schedule or we’ve had a big job carryover. Chaos is never fun. But having an SOP to help manage that chaos and help workflow be more efficient and productive is huge.

SOP = Professional Business = You Get To Charge More

A hidden gem surrounding SOPs is that you get to tell clients that you have SOPs in place for everything in your business. This points to you having a well-run, well-oiled business with clear and concise instructions so that you can show your potential customers how much of a professional shop you are. Those SOPs also point to how much you care about the quality of the work that comes out of your shop. This helps you to stand out from competitors and build a very loyal customer base. Because if you can build loyalty and trust, customers will come, even when it is more inconvenient for them to have to bend and change around your schedule and your needs as a business. Those loyal clients will come to you over and over and over if they can trust you.

Having SOPs in your shop is also going to increase employee retention because, ultimately. Employees are happy when they come to work every day because they know what they’re going to do and know that their team will know what they have to do to support them. That staff member will want to stick around because the environment will be so positive and well-oiled that they won’t want to work elsewhere. I’ve seen it. I see it in my shop all the time. Employees want stability, and SOPs are a direct route to stability.