Use SOPs To Calm The Overwhelm In Your Contracting Business



You can’t outwork a dysfunctional business. That’s a fact. If you are drowning in staff questions, customer requests, and too-tight profits–this blog will help you regain your sanity with standard operating procedures.


You’ve been running your business for a while now and are busy. But it feels like it’s with all the wrong things. Between chasing down project updates, double-checking invoices, and helping your team put estimates together… you’re exhausted. 


And no matter how often you explain things, yours is still the door everyone knocks on when they need answers. Or worse, they don’t even bother asking and go off and do things their way.


It sounds like you need some standard operating procedurezzz…


Hang on.


Before you drift off, hear us out. You can’t be fielding every question, handling every detail, or putting out every fire. You’ve got bigger stuff to focus on, like your company’s vision.



You need to extricate yourself from the day-to-day craziness. This article will show you how standard operating procedures for contractors (SOPs) can enhance your business and improve your life. Once we’re done, you won’t be nodding off, you’ll be raring to get writing.


Buckle up.




Let’s start at the top. What exactly is a standard operating procedure for contractors?


For a solid definition of these under-appreciated little suckers, we turn to Tom Hughes, GembaDocs co-founder and author of Improvement Starts With I.


SOPs keep the tires turning, even when you’re no longer behind the wheel.


An SOP is a clearly documented, understood, and agreed-upon way of carrying out a task.


That’s it. It’s basically how stuff gets done. Buuuut, a few key elements in Hughes’ definition are worth digging into. A good SOP should be:


  • Documented - It’s time to share the wealth… of knowledge. Get your processes out of everyone’s heads and onto paper, a Google doc, a flow chart, heck, even an iphone video and into a centralized place.
  • Understood - Not only should the process be written out, it needs to be done so in a way that’s easy to make sense of.
  • Agreed upon - The process can’t be made up, or only one person’s idea of how something should be done. It has to be the actual method everyone’s aligned with.


Now that we’ve laid out the definition, let’s delve a bit further. SOPs generally fall into two categories:


  • How-Tos - These explain the simple tasks that people tend to do infrequently but are super annoying to remember or interrupt someone about.


💡Think: How to mix chainsaw fuel, change a printer cartridge or ship a box.


  • Essential Processes - These describe the everyday tasks you really don’t want to mess up because they’re important to the functioning of the business.


💡Think: The process for assembling a product, raising an invoice or closing a deal.


Hammer out the contracting chaos


Still not convinced SOPs can make a substantial impact on your business operations? How many of the below scenarios feel familiar?


  • Your estimating process is inefficient, and your team reinvents the wheel with each one.
  • Getting bids out the door drains way too much energy.
  • If you can even find the labor you need, you don’t have time to train them.
  • Scheduling is a nightmare. You’re constantly herding cats.
  • Your sales team’s execution could best be described as “varied.” 
  • You do have a few systems for your operations. You’re just the only one who knows them.


Dealing with menial administrative demands and getting bogged down in day-to-day operations takes you away from more important matters: strategy, culture, landing big clients… you know, the big stuff! Without SOPs, quality inevitably suffers, and it becomes nearly impossible to scale. 


Ready to rein in the chaos?

NiceJob SOP CTA (1)

Our partners at Breakthrough Academy recently hosted a web class (featuring NiceJob!) to learn how to drastically reduce stress levels by implementing SOPs.


Where do you start? 


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

  • Do you use any checklists? Those are basically SOPs. Boom. Yup, that counts.
  • Repeating 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 SOP drafted.

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


Each SOP will inevitably be driven by an intention. Whatever it is, don’t make it a secret.


Need a few more ideas on where to begin?


Find a mirror.


That’s right. If you want to start dumping expertise onto the page, the best place to begin is with yourself. 


To help you prioritize, start with the stuff that annoys you the most. Or, in the words of 2 Second Lean author, Paul Akers: Fix what bugs you. You can hear more on this concept from Paul here.


What causes you headaches? Those are great candidates for SOPs. Consider topics such as:


  • Scripts for what to do when field staff arrive on site. 
  • How to close a sales call. 
  • How to put together a winning estimate.
  • Quality control inspections that ensure nothing gets missed. 
  • Safety protocols for specific sites.
  • End of project close and review capture.

If everything’s in your head, you make yourself the biggest bottleneck, so download your processes first.



Breakthrough Academy has a bunch of SOP templates, which will be available in the on-demand SOP web class, featuring NiceJob. It’s about 10x faster to tweak ours to your liking than to write them from scratch! They’re inviting you to plagiarize their work… seriously! 

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SOPs keep the tires turning, even when you’re no longer behind the wheel.


Do’s & Don’ts to Make Sure They Get Used


As you embark on your SOP journey, here are some points worth bearing in mind.







✅ Create an SOP Index. This is 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 the one writing it, they can forget steps that have become implicit or intuitive for them.

✅ Trust your team. Once SOPs are ingrained in your business, 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.

❌ Don’t overcomplicate it. You don’t need a 10-page SOP when a one-pager will do. It’s a procedure, not War & Peace.

❌ Don’t outsource it. It can be tempting to just bring someone in to bash these out, but you’ll have better buy-in if you keep it in-house.

❌ Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. SOPs don’t need to be pristine right out of the gate. They can evolve. And they should.

❌ Don’t make updates an annual event. Avoid only updating your SOPs once a year. It should be ongoing, with people engaged in doing it for their own benefit.

The biggest wins


Still awake? Good. Because we’re going to reveal a couple of massively overlooked benefits of SOPs.




Clear processes mean that you can reap rewards at every stage of the hiring process:


  • Expand the talent pool. If you can’t get experienced labor, you may need to hire greener talent. SOPs make training them a lot easier.
  • Reduce mistakes. If new hires have clear guidelines to follow, you’ll avoid hearing the phrase, “Oops… I didn’t know that…”
  • Lower turnover. When staff are onboarded smoothly, they’re more likely to stick around because they start feeling like a contributing member of the team sooner.


Generally speaking, people want to work where expectations are clear, and directions are straightforward. SOPs actually bring teams closer, building dedicated and engaged employees. Your team will feel the efficiency, and it will create momentum.


Far from resenting the SOPs, they’ll be thrilled to have them. Like the satisfaction of a perfectly level shelf, you appreciate it most when it’s being used.




If your future plans for your company involve selling it someday, one of the first items potential buyers will look for is whether you have SOPs in place and whether they’re being followed.


Well-entrenched operating procedures also mean that the company can continue running smoothly without you, which is the most essential element when you sell. SOPs keep the tires turning, even when you’re no longer behind the wheel.


The Zen of SOPs


The frenzy of being a grass-roots entrepreneur can be exciting, but you’ll need to calm that down if you want to become an enterprise-level business owner who’s not constantly bombarded by demands from every direction, at all hours.


We get that SOPs are boring. But embrace the boring. Boring means satisfied customers, stronger profits, and less stress. There’s bliss in the bland.


Maybe we should rename them Soothing Operating Procedures…


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Watch Breakthrough Academy’s on-demand SOP Web Class featuring NiceJob to hear how you can make big gains in both your business and personal life by installing SOPs into your company.


Curious to learn more about how you can ditch the demands of the day-to-day and bring more stability to your business? Get in touch to connect and chat with Breakthrough Academy.