Scaling Your Operation – Essentials of Standard Operating Procedures and VA Management

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Here is what I did today – and stick with me as it will make sense in about a paragraph. I met my Mastermind group at 8 am for an hour.

The mastermind is over at 9. I start to crunch down some oatmeal and refill coffee. I have a 9:30 chat with a developer/publisher who wants to ask me some questions on the direction he is going with his business. He has been in mobile 4 years longer than I have, but I don’t design or develop or do anything for clients. I leaped ahead of him in experience because I was able to test and push on my own portfolio. Mobile ad networks, ad types, monetization techniques, ASO, videos and landing pages – I got to see what works for me.

My goal for the day is nail down the social media process for my Podcast – the App Business Podcast. We are moving to a 3 episodes per week schedule. We also added a “Friday Weekly Live” hangout on air. We hope to build a list and connect everyone into the #ABP Community.

Around noon I checked a shared Google doc to see what tasks my VAs had accomplished and where we were with different apps.

While I worked on creating and building and pushing my business forward, my little company had:

- set up 20 new apps in iTunes,
- created weekly content for 10 existing apps,
- achievements and leaderboards and the initial ASO had been set,
- and the developers were now ready to hook it all together and send me the new builds near end of day.

I want to be clear this is not a story about passive income and having a hit app and juicing it for a year. This is a story about identifying processes that I repeat often. Creating clear, step-by-step processes so that my current or any new Virtual Assistant can pick it up and understand what to do.

I hired a VA to do this before I was making enough money to pay myself. There were months in the beginning my VA made more than I did.

But while he was setting apps up in the app store, creating achievements, leaderboards, in-app items, creating ad spaces and ad units in several ad networks – all, super time-intensive tasks – I was getting my next 10 app ideas going.

People ask me all the time how I am able to do so much and execute so well. It is because I have zero skills in design and dev. I am pretty good at identifying tasks to create a process around. I have practiced at training and managing VAs, designers and developers.

Creating documents that detail all your business for someone else to execute is the single best way to free your time up to do the hard stuff.

Before we dig into some specific tips, and where to get started – some more general observations:

You have to know the process cold yourself. It is not up to your VA to “figure it out”. I have seen several peers run into issues because they want to skip the step of knowing and building a clear SOP and just “have my VA do it”. That approach never works – at least not from what I have seen.

Some virtual assistants can work wonders – but mind reading is not one of them. The value you add to your business as its leader is providing clear directions and articulating desired results so people who work for you know what is expected of them.

The point of having your VAs do the SOP work is not to free your time up to have beers at noon (although you could!). You need time to read, to determine a direction for your company, research new app ideas, better understand ASO, then retention, then monetization. Work on your business and push! I think the saying is “work on your business, not in your business”. I also like the saying about working in your business “you don’t have a business, you just created a job for yourself”. Both true.

A great read if this sounds interesting is Work the System by Sam Carpenter.

For this post I took a look at my SOPs – I have 50+ and I am just getting started.

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 9.48.05 AM

The most important SOPs:

• Create a new app in iTunes
• Create in-app items in iTunes
• Add Achievements in iTunes
• Add Leaderboards in iTunes
• Create Ad Spaces – MoPub
• Create Ad Spaces – Ad Colony
• Generate Target keywords List (80% of my ASO for keywords process)
• Add Content to Parse
• Localize Meta-Data

Then I have several related to my podcast, some for rating and review tools, creating content, and more. In fact – I just hired my 1st full time VA – and am keeping my part-time “content creator” VA full-up with projects as well. So before the podcast – we had a part time VA creating content for all of our apps, and setting everything up. This doesn’t need to be a $700/mth investment.

Tips:

• Be so clear with each step that you could hand to any one off the street and they could perform the task.

• Break down SOPs to the most basic task. Creating an app in iTunes could include the bundle ID and the App set up in Connect, but should not include adding all the achievements, leaderboards and in-apps unless every app is the same (which it likely won’t be). By breaking the SOPs into the most basic elements, you can mix and match the SOPs you need to complete a larger task.

• Break the tasks down – where each new website or document is a new heading in the document

• Include a related documents link and link when referenced through the process

• Show screenshots of what the end result of a step looks like

• Check the progress of your VA with a new SOP after 2 times through.

• Enable your VA to ask questions – very likely their process behaves differently for reasons such as you having a password saved that they need to login, etc…

• Create checklists for each SOP because most likely whoever is doing the process will not need to constantly refer to the SOP and will just “do it”. Having a checklist to ensure the result is correct is helpful to both the VA and you.

Here is a general outline I use for all of my SOPs:

1. Clear Name of the Task in the Title of SOP
2. The Tasks summarized in a Table of Contents
3. Links to any related docs or websites
4. Lots of screenshots!

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 9.52.31 AM

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 9.54.01 AM

Two additional suggestions

I use Google docs instead of Office or Apple for sharing docs. Everyone can access and the collaboration is better than anything else – and free.

I add all related information not specific to the SOP in spreadsheets for each app series for reference. Rather than explain what I mean – here is a screenshot:

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 9.58.06 AM

So my VAs can reference the spreadsheet for the app name, base keywords, gamecenter ID etc… There are about 8 fields I am required to complete that essentially kicks off a process for app creation or modification.

And you know what not creating achievements and leaderboards and in-app purchases frees me to do?

- Develop topics for my podcast and educate myself on the latest thoughts around the day’s topic and deliver a quality 20 mins 3 x a week. I get 10 emails a week thanking me and wanting me to get involved with projects etc… and I learn a ton by staying on top of latest trends, services etc…

- It allows me to research and build a new app for content marketers that they pay $30/mth for

- It allows me to create a new App Diagnostic tool called App Jetpack with the best developer I know as my partner

- It allows me to read blogs on retention and gamification. If you want to move past buying code and reskinning code that competes with 100’s of others – you need to be reading up on retention, monetization and gamification!

- It allows me to invest time and money into things that may not give me a return – like building videos for my apps (especially Android) and testing optimized websites and landing pages. It allows me to research facebook ads and learn best practices.

- It allows me to invest time and money into things that may not give me a return – like building videos for my apps (especially Android) and testing optimized websites and landing pages. It allows me to research facebook ads and learn best practices.

The biggest thing I have learned from watching those that try to do everything is just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Don’t just create a job for yourself – scale and create a business that can run without you so you can build.

This guest post was written by Chris Chidgey. To hear more about me, App Business Podcast or App Jetpack – you can connect with me on twitter @chidgeychris. Best to all and would love to hear your stories about getting out of your business and the impact building SOPs has had on your revenue.

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Elaine Heney is the CEO of Chocolate Lab Apps, #1 Bestselling Author of "The App Escape Plan". Elaine has over 300 apps published with over 10 million downloads, 5 online App Development Courses, and mentors international mobile startups.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  1. 1 Chris Chidgey May 11, 2014, 2:15 pm

    Thanks for the opportunity to get this out to your community!

    For those of you new to SOPs/VAs etc… would love to hear from you in a week or 6 with an update on how this strategy has worked for you – good or bad.

  2. 2 Elaine Heney May 11, 2014, 2:19 pm

    Super post thanks Chris! Tons of really helpful info here.

  3. 3 Stephen May 11, 2014, 10:26 pm

    Wow that is an awful lot of information! Thank you both so much, Chris for being so forthcoming and showing me how far behind the 8 ball I am and Elaine for having you here. Maybe the first stop for me should be taking Elaines VA course!

  4. 4 Markus May 12, 2014, 8:07 pm

    Awesome post Chris! And thank you Elaine for the guest post. :)
    Like Elaine, we initially put off VAs, “until we could afford them”. Yet hiring VAs, and quality Devs. and building the kind of systems written about here have made all the difference. Do these things and you can explode your business.
    …and to Stephen, above, by ALL means take Elaine’s VA course, if you are hiring a VA for the first time….:)

  5. 5 Max May 16, 2014, 11:57 pm

    For curiosity… Is this system to train VA in sell?

  6. 6 Christopher S May 19, 2014, 9:28 am

    Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing so much useful information! Inspiring to see how it can be done…

  7. 7 Chris Chidgey May 21, 2014, 4:13 pm

    Hey Choc Lab-ers!? We just posted our latest podcast episode on SOPs due to all the interest, and made a list of the SOPs I use most often – http://ow.ly/x6w2x
    or http://appbusinesspodcast.com/mobile-app-sops/

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