Beyond the SOP: Dan Martell’s 5 Ways to Create a Successful Business Playbook

Chris Ronzio

September 16, 2019

When is the right time to set up and start documenting a growing company’s operating processes and systems? And what is the right approach?

According to Dan Martell, founder of Flowtown, Clarity, and the mastermind behind SaaS Academy among many other notable successes, the answer is right away, and often. 

Businesses have a rhythm, a heartbeat, a way they like to do things.

~ Dan Martell

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5 Business Playbook Building Blocks

Like any good system, there are a few standard elements to creating your own successful business playbook. But the point is to create something that will be specific and sustainable to your own short and long term goals. 

1. Set up the Business Playbook program

To get started, Dan recommends creating a program document for each core function of your business, such as sales, marketing, delivery, and customer service for example. This is where you lay out the initial workflow, and outline the checklist to establish and enforce accountability.

2. The Weekly Sync

The weekly sync, the meeting of the minds, the all hands on deck, or just the plain old staff meeting. Whatever you call it, the weekly sync is the opportunity to discuss performance, make announcements, address infrastructure needs, and celebrate wins and milestones and make tweaks and changes to the playbook as needed.

The weekly sync also provides an opportunity to tie in the organization’s core values into operations in order to seamlessly integrate the systems into the company’s culture. And speaking of company culture…

3. Tying the Playbook into the Company Culture

Instituting a sense of ownership over your processes and documentation is essential to getting everyone on board and making the playbook an integral part of company culture.

It’s how you create efficient and repeatable systems that run independently of any individual employee – even the CEO. Some of the standard attributes of a company culture that successfully encompasses process include:

  • Always be updating – empower and encourage everyone to keep the playbook current
  • Linkability – make it easy for people to find what they need
  • Access – empower everyone on the team with the ability to make necessary updates and changes
  • Collaboration and communication – make your systems and documents as cross functional as possible so that everyone can take action as needed
  • Tracking – lets everyone see and follow updates and changes in real time (hint: updates should be happening at least once a week)

4. The Master List of SOPs

This is the nuts and bolts of the playbook, broken down into three key sections: systems, references, and templates.

It’s as simple as setting up three tabs in an excel file that every team member can access and update as needed, in real-time to overhaul outdated information and to keep new data and procedural updates from falling through the cracks. 

Here’s an example from Dan’s highly successful program:

Procedures – your systems for creating workflows and getting things done

  • Create and modify procedures
  • Onboard new team members
  • Weekly marketing reports
  • Online surveys
  • Hiring
  • Financials

References – the data to inform the processes and decision making

  • Your actual business playbook and checklist
  • Identity statement
  • Decision-making guidelines
  • Communication guidelines
  • Approved vendor list
  • Master list of web services and tools

Templates – repeatable forms and documents that you’ll use over and over again and update as needed

  • System template
  • Customer feedback forms
  • Order forms
  • Email notifications
  • New project templates

Dial it all into Onboarding and Training

Standard documentation and processes are especially useful for onboarding and training staff.

A checklist of basic milestones and targets for new hires allows you to automate the process as much as possible and where appropriate, so that you don’t have to repeat it every single time with each new hire.

On the training side, it creates an archive of material that can be used as a jumping-off point and provide context for how to handle different scenarios and problems across the board. 

5. Create (and Curate) an Intuitive Resource Archive

Processes like the business playbook exist so that an organization isn’t faced with the task of constantly reinventing the wheel across systems and departments, which is not only counterproductive and inefficient but a surefire recipe for organizational chaos.

At the end of the day, you can’t create everything, but you can curate a lot of things to make sure that the wheels keep turning to move your systems — and the people behind them — forward as your company grows.

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