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The beautiful thing about a short term rental business is that you can automate yourself out of it so that it runs entirely without you. That’s when the passive income starts flooding in. That’s what cash flow is all about.

This is why so many people are jumping on the STR train and having so much fun building and growing their businesses.

And what is the key to automating your STR business?

Your SOPs.

SOPs are standard operating procedures. An SOP is a document that lists every single thing that needs done—at every level—for your business to run smoothly. And not just what needs done, but how to do it.

It’s like a glorified checklist.

The Benefit of SOPs

Creating SOPs for your business involves taking detailed inventory of your daily tasks—how you do each and every thing—and compiling it all in such a way that someone else could come along and take care of business just by following your instructions, your SOPs.

SOPs save you time and money—and they make you money as well. Anything that needs done more than one time should have an SOP.

You need an SOP for the following procedures (at the very least):

  • Booking/calendar 
  • Check-out
  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Guest problems/concerns

And these SOPs aren’t set in stone. As things change, as new technology is introduced, when something like a global pandemic happens, the SOPs need to be adapted and updated. For example, we’ve had to add a ton of sanitizing steps to our cleaning SOP.

How to Create SOPs

Creating SOPs take a bit of time and patience, but the payoff is huge. As you go through your day, take detailed notes on every single thing you do. (You might want to use a voice recording app for this.) Go through the cleaning procedures (whether you actually do it or just go through the motions) and record everything that needs done. Go through the laundry procedures. The check-out procedures. Maintenance procedures. All of it. (This might actually take more than just one day.)

Then go home and type it all up in a document, separated by task. This is your rough draft. It’s not finished yet.

Then have someone practice going through the steps and see if it’s clear enough, thorough enough. What are you taking for granted? What did you miss? It might take some trial and error. You’ll realize that there were things you thought were obvious, so you didn’t write them down.

Write. Every. Single. Little. Detail. Down.

Tweak your draft—and keep tweaking your draft—until it’s as perfect as you can make it.

If you don’t do a good job of writing the steps down in minute detail, others (your team) won’t be able to get the job done how you want it done. You need to be able to hand an SOP to someone, and they’ll be able to do those tasks exactly like you would do them without you having to physically show them how.

If I were you, I would use an SOP template. You can find a ton of different ones for free online with a simple Google search. You can see what other STR owners have used for their various SOPs and modify them to fit your specific units.

Speaking of units, your SOPs won’t be the same for all of your units. They’ll have a lot of the same basic steps but will need to be customized.

You want your SOPs to be as comprehensive as possible from the very beginning. The better your SOPs, the better—the more smoothly and efficiently—your business is going to run. Set your standards high.

Consistency and Reproducibility

As your business grows from one unit to two to fifty and beyond, you want your guests to know that, whenever they stay with you, whatever unit they’re staying in, they can count on that consistently high standard, that consistent five-star experience.

Think about your favorite fast food restaurant and how consistent your experience is there—whether you’re eating at a Burger King in California or Ohio, the experience is the same; the food tastes the same. Why? Because the employees are following incredibly detailed SOPs, and they’re following them to the letter if they want to keep their jobs.

I can’t stress enough the importance of testing out your SOPs. Test them out on several different people. I would recommend that you have at least one person with a limited knowledge of the procedure test it out. This way you can be sure they’re not relying on their previous knowledge instead of what you’ve actually written out.

Another thing to consider is that you might not be the best person to write every single SOP. If you’ve hired out your cleaning from day one and have never actually cleaned a unit yourself, you might need help writing the SOP (or have someone else write it entirely).

You might want to also consider using drawings (or even better, photographs) to go along with your words for extra clarity (and for anyone for whom English is their second language).

I’m not going to lie. Creating SOPs is a lot of hard work. Like really hard work. But once you have them in place and running well, they’re going to change your business. And your life.

You’re going to save time. You’re going to save money. And your customers and every single person you’ve hired for your business is going to love you.

It will be worth it a hundred times over.

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