One of the most exciting parts of working at a startup, or any small business, is the ability to wear many hats. There are so many moving pieces that everyone needs to pitch in and help out. In the very early days that can be chaotic but doable. But as your business grows it becomes unsustainable. And, if you want that business to keep growing, you need to call in the professionals to help handle your business operations. Business Operations is a function that expands across the entire operation and often serves as the glue that keeps the business on course and moving at a good clip.
So, as your company scales and you’re looking to grow out a Business Operations team what do you need to know? Let’s boil it down to these five things critical to the success of a world-class “Biz Ops” team.
- Be active in seeking out collaboration opportunities. The Business Operations team cannot function in a silo – in fact, it derives its work demand almost entirely from other departments. Ask questions, seek improvement, get involved, and find opportunities to drive the business forward. Support the process and rally enthusiasm for your initiatives. If no one wants to work with you, it’s a non-starter.
Rely on data
- Don’t let emotions or opinions drive your day-to-day, they can often be misleading and distracting. Instead, use them as leads to target your efforts to critical areas. Once you have a good lead, follow it up by sourcing data to support it and target your efforts.
- The vague definition of Business Operations can be a pro and a con. It lends itself to flexibility for the team to respond to the dynamic needs of the business, but also leaves room for idleness if the team waits for external direction. To mitigate that, be proactive in finding opportunities for business improvement and operational support. Start by thinking strategically and work your way down to execute the details.
- A great Business Operations team must take the time to fully understand strategic goals, evaluate alternative approaches, and develop a sound plan to achieve the desired result. However, too much planning and analysis can waste precious time to execute on the work. It’s critical that leadership be decisive and clear in its initiatives, and communicate clearly to ensure alignment throughout the org.
Reevaluate priorities to stay on track
- The broad scope of the Business Operations function can lend itself to distraction as “fires” come up throughout the organization. While it’s important to be responsive to the dynamic needs of the business, it’s also critical to remain focused on business priorities — the key strategic tasks you’ve set out to tackle. Take the time to zoom out periodically, and ensure your day-to-day operations are moving the business on the path toward strategic success.
These strategies to excel could really be applied to all sorts of teams within an organization. You could even summarize this to say your contribution to the organization is what you make it; so challenge yourself and your team to set your sights high and demand excellence throughout the process. And of course, be sure to leverage your Business Operations team to help you succeed. As a mentor of mine once said, “We’re Business Operations, and we’re here to help!”
Janelle Gorman is the CFO of TRM Microwave. Follow her: @JCGorman