The essential role of operations management in small business
As a small business owner, you recognize that there about a million things that you have to do every day, from the things that you have to do, the things that you would like to do and the fires that seem to present themselves at the most inopportune moment. It seems like managing one more thing is just going to put you into overload, or require that you take your eye off the ball.
When a business is in its early stages, typically the first few years, in terms of maximizing a return on investments – time, money, other resources – focusing on refining operations might be like a body builder that only focuses on his upper body…you end up building a top-heavy, inefficient business. (In the early stages of running a company, it is important to learn and be adaptable. Rigid operational policies will get in the way of that and make it more difficult to make changes.) This doesn’t mean that you will complete disregard operational management, but rather, your framework will be “squishy,” whereas a more mature business will have a more rigid framework in order to maintain the rigors of growth. Which is the point.
For the growing business, look at building your business like you would look at building an office building. Like a business, there are a number of essential, overarching components required to make it a fully functional property. In your building, you have the infrastructure, which is essentially the framework or the skeleton that defines the structure of the business. For the framework of a building to functional, you would need to add things like electricity, plumbing, perhaps elevators and a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system so that the people who are going to occupy the building can do whatever it is they need to do in the building. These are those “behind the scenes” components that make the building comfortable and useable.
Consider the alternative…if there is no HVAC, the building won’t be as comfortable to work in, making the building less functional. That goes for the electricity and plumbing as well. What if you build a skyscraper with no elevator? The more components that should be in place that aren’t, the less likely that the office building will be a success.
(The final component, of course, is the façade, or the appearance of the building. Making the building outwardly attractive to your audience will certainly make the difference of how well offices will sell. But that is another story for another time.)
In the same way, the foundation of your company should be designed around a specific architecture, which defines the different parts of your business. If you are in the commercial painting business, you will probably include finance, sales, marketing, purchasing, administration and human resources. In another type of business, your architecture will be different. These are the components of the business that must be in place to support business operations.
The functions (electricity, plumbing, etc.) in the business are equal to the business operations – what will make the architecture, or structure functional. Your business operations, regardless of the business, includes management of finances, business development, products or services and human resources. Think about how each of them effects your business. Think about the lack or surplus of cash, or employees or sales or marketing. Think about not managing the costs and capabilities of your products or services. None of them must be static in terms of intensity, but each of them will have direct impact on your business. Without them, you don’t have a business…just an idea. Without managing them, you will quickly lose control of the business.
Therefore, while it seems complicated, while it seems not as important as putting out the daily fires that occur in the business, organizing and managing your business operations is essential for the continuation of your business. The more mature and complex your business is, the greater the need.
Don’t miss out on doing something extraordinary in hopes of maintaining the mundane.
Rick Meekins is the Managing Consultant at Aepiphanni, the trusted advisor for business leaders who are seeking forward-thinking solutions to help them plan for and navigate through the challenges of business growth. Our entrepreneurial multidisciplinary team works with clients to develop differentiating solutions and provide direction focused on lasting, strategic results. We exist to help our clients CREATE | DESIGN | BUILD extraordinary businesses.
We would love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts and comments below. If you are seeking advice on how to grow your business, streamline systems and processes, implement software or overcoming challenges to growth, please contact us, directly or submit a request for a complimentary Coffee & a Consult to learn how we can help you CREATE | DESIGN | BUILD an extraordinary company.