𝗢𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝗖𝗮𝘁𝗮𝗹𝘆𝘀𝘁
Updated: Apr 30
Sometimes you have all the fuel needed for growth – ideation, motivation, and expertise – but you still need the spark.
“Vision without execution is hallucination.”
– Thomas Edison
Business operations is often not a separate role in an early-stage startup, maybe several people handle the role. In any scenario, someone must see the business holistically and push change across teams, systems, and software.
𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝗘𝘃𝗮𝗹𝘂𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗦𝘁𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗴 𝗢𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀
Organizational change, communication, and team management are necessary, but not sufficient, to lead business operations. Ensure anyone directing business operations has these qualities as well:
Holistic – Views the whole company as an inter-dependent organism where fit matters as much as function.
Proactive – Prevents problems by running scenarios to anticipate weak points and to plan quick responses.
Prepared – Knows the danger of stagnation based on early success and admit that initial luck is not a plan.
“Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”
– Andy Grove
Optimistic – Applies a Solutions Approach focused on growth (instead of problems) e.g. install processes to avoid repeating mistakes.*
Data-Driven – Relies on metrics to drive decisions and constantly experiment with new approaches.**
Connected – Values integrity and relationships because problems are discovered and then resolved through people.
Communicative – Ensures everyone knows each other’s responsibilities and how to collaborate in their success.
The temptation in startups is to promote people based on tenure. However, these skills are distinct and do not necessarily come with time but often must be honed.
𝗪𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗢𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗵𝗲𝗹𝗽 𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗯𝗶𝘁?
In a startup, every role matters. When you put someone into the role, even if they have a broad purview, hold them accountable for deliverables and performance.
While this role may require a lot of discussions, meetings do not equal results. Make sure 1:1s serve to support career development and outcomes and group meetings have clear objectives, deliverables, and next steps.***
Personality and culture fit is critical. Being highly capable in another company does not guarantee competence now. Before hiring, gauge the person’s ability to lead your team. Also, you need someone to complement the rest of the leadership team and to cover any weaknesses they may have in running the business and the team.
You may not need to hire a new, full-time role if someone with bandwidth can handle the responsibility. You may also consider a fractional leader for an interim role until the position is better defined.****
𝗦𝗶𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗠𝗲𝗮𝗻𝘀 𝗣𝗲𝗿𝗳𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻
In this role, often perfection means silence. In other words, it’s rare people cheer when a problem is avoided, because it's hard to know the disaster that was averted. It's hard to measure the time and money wasted to fix a problem that never occurred.
If your fast-growing startup can focus on the future (e.g. new products, partnerships, and scale) without being overly anxious about bottlenecks and problems, that's an indication you have successfully handled business operations.
Leaders (particularly first-time founders) may not readily realize how a ton of time and money is saved by someone competent in the role. Bolster the skills of the people handling the responsibilities, if needed. Offer them support in their work, resources and tools needed for quality and efficiency, and perspective from outside coaches, mentors, and groups.
Business operations can spark growth by predicting problems and installing scalable systems. Recognize its value and support the concept even if the role doesn't yet exist.
* See this post on Solutions Approach: https://bit.ly/3AuPRko
** See this post on Business Metrics: https://bit.ly/3Ba3cA5
*** See this post on Meetings: https://bit.ly/3iLmVyJ
**** See this post on Fractional Leadership: https://bit.ly/36mriJn