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Contractors: Stop Trying to Outwork the Dysfunction

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Ever wonder how the world’s leading contractors get so much done but work less than you do now? What separates those cool, calm, $10MM+ contractors from everyone else? 

Spoiler: It’s not about the cash or the talent, although those don’t hurt. It’s SOPs — standard operating procedures. 📋

If you are a contractor who’s good at what you do, work floods in… 

And your operations can turn into a 💩 storm.

If your business makes you feel claustrophobic, the quickest way to regain a healthier sense of control and space: standard operating procedures.

But what exactly is a standard operating procedure? For a solid definition of these under-appreciated little suckers, let’s turn to Tom Hughes, GembaDocs co-founder and author of Improvement Starts With I:

A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a way to carry out a task that is clearly documented, understood, and agreed upon.

Quick pitch: In my SOP Web Class, I dive into standard operating procedures and uncover: 

  • How top contractors build and implement SOPs without wasting time filling out BS templates no one will look at

  • How to ensure your team actually uses your systems (and stops running to you whenever there’s a minor issue)

Plus, I share FREE resources, templates, and tools that 1,500 leading contractors rely on, so you won’t have to start from scratch! Seriously, you can take our work and not get in any trouble.

All you have to do is watch a couple of clips and click a link at the bottom of this page. 

⏰ When Is it Time to Focus on SOPs? 

Let’s start with a question for you to keep on the top of your mind as you read through:

What part of your operations frustrates you the most?

There has to be a better way, so why not start with the one you dislike most?

Every SOP Exists because something went wrong in the past, and we lost a lot of money. - Blaise McDonald, MAC Renovations (BTA Member 2019 - 2023)

Apart from those most frustrating tasks, there are a few telltale signs that your business needs to start implementing standardized processes:

  • Your business is growing quickly (a good thing)!
  • Things are coming apart at the seams (but not because of quality or people)
  • Your days are chaotic.

If you nod as you read any of these, SOPs will be the game-changer you’re looking for! 

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Some other common symptoms of the need for standardization include constantly repeating yourself, slow onboarding and high turnover, quality Issues, and an inability to scale.

Having standard operating procedures means you aren’t the bottleneck and the only way to get answers or information. It means that your team feels confident in their roles and empowered to find their own answers. 

In this clip, I explain the idea of decentralized command, the state in which everyone is equipped with all the information they need to make decisions. 

Takeaway: Avoid widespread confusion and bottlenecks by sharing the desired outcome with your team and empowering your people!

🏁 Where to Start with SOPs

Making SOPs a DIY project might seem simpler, but involvement brings buy-in because people more easily remember and follow processes they helped to create. Not to mention, most of the best stuff comes from the ground level. 

Because I said so” has never motivated me, you, or any team.

Takeaway: If your team is involved, the drive is shared. They see first-hand how SOPs will make their lives easier. 

🏗️ How To Build SOPs

Here’s some good news. Whether you realize it or not, you’re probably already running your contracting business with some standard operating procedures.

  • What safety-critical processes exist where someone could get hurt? Start here. 

  • What keeps you, the owner, up at night? 

  • What stresses my team out a lot? 

  • What annoys my customers? 

Do you use checklists? Those are basically SOPs. Boom. There’s one! 

Do you repeat yourself (…again…)? That’s a good candidate for an SOP. Boom. There you go.

Next time you’re explaining something to someone, have them take notes. Boom. Another one drafted.

Do you use CompanyCam Checklists? There’s another way to make them. Done!

See? You’ve got em… you just need to write em down.

You’ll get to all of them eventually, the important thing is to start documenting.

I can help you get started with a kick-🍑 download bundle, FREE in the web class. You’ll find a training checklist quick tool, Tom Hughes’ eBook, a CompanyCam offer, and more. It’s a great place to start if this is the first time you’ve considered SOPs for your business.

👎🏻 Why SOPs Fail

Starting is an important first step, but continually documenting and revising together is even more vital. This is where many SOP projects tend to fail.

1. Abdicating Ownership

Owners try to delegate creating the SOPs for a few reasons: They may not be interested in the process, they may not know how to do it, they may lack confidence, or they may be just too busy.


2. Wrong Tools For The Job

Don’t just ask your team to make SOPs on scrap paper. Do some research on tools that they can use to make them and give them what they need.

3. All Push, No Pull

You should rely on your team to help get these done. Don’t push SOPs on your team — involve them! If they are involved, they will buy in!

It’s one thing to talk about SOPs; it’s another to make them part of your company culture. 

Before, everything was in my head; I needed to get it out of my head into somebody else’s hands without me micro-managing and checking in. - Brett Bernard, ProCor Group (Current BTA Member)

💭 Final Thoughts

✅ Create an SOP Index. Build a master list of all the SOPs you expect you’ll need. Add to it as you encounter other processes.

✅ Have someone test the SOP. When the same person who carries out a process is writing it, they can forget steps that have become second nature for them.

✅ Trust your team. Once SOPs are added to your business operations, your staff will build on them as they go.

✅ Have newbies take a breath. Give new people a month to settle in and learn the ropes before they start drafting (or changing!) your SOPs.

I get that SOPs can be boring. 

But embrace the boring. Boring means happier customers, chunkier net profits, and way less stress. There’s bliss in the bland.

Maybe we should rename them Soothing Operating Procedures.

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To learn more about how Breakthrough Academy helps contractors use these resources — and scale up with less stress—get in touch.

Tell us about your business… it’s like contractor therapy!

As Content Lead for Breakthrough Academy, Benji has a knack for helping contractors identify the real issues impacting their business so they can shift from working in to working on their business.

With experience evaluating over 1,000 trades companies, Benji has helped many get on track to grow and succeed. He shares these learnings and insights each week as co-host of the fast-growing Contractor Evolution podcast.

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