Managing operations is different for every business, but there are some key things that can make you more efficient, prepared, and competitive. Here’s what our COO recommends:
For a lot of business owners, it can feel like your day-to-day schedule is just rushing around putting out fires. You’re the front line in defense. You’re the one who solves all the little problems, which is why the running joke is that CEOs are part-time trash men, part-time CEOs, and part-time everything else.
One thing I’ve done, and encourage the business owners I work with to do, is create a task list that prioritizes everything I’m working on. Use this every single day, because you know as well as I do that things within a small business change every day. This task list should include things you’re working on now, things that you’d like to work on, problems you’re trying to solve, and fires you need to put out.
Depending on the type of person you are, you can prioritize your tasks differently. Some people like to put a dollar amount with each task and say “Ok, how much money am I going to lose by not solving this problem,” or “How much money could I be making by solving this problem”. They justify everything based off of cost.
I break down everything into high, medium, or low priorities within one list (high being things that cannot go another day without being solved). What I do then is start going through those high priority tasks, and I focus on getting one thing done at a time. It can be easy to get distracted. Don’t fall into that trap. Stay focused on one task at a time.
After you’ve gone through the high priority tasks, you move on to the medium and lows. If you’re like most business owners, you’re probably never going to get to low priority tasks because a new high priority task will take its place, or a low priority task becomes high.
If you’re a COO and don’t see any problems that need immediate attention, you’ve reached a crossroads. This is the point where businesses are either made or broken. You make or break a business once you’ve gotten through all the obvious problems and wonder what to do. This is the easiest place for business owners to get complacent and relaxed, saying, “I’ve done everything I need to.”
That’s where I encourage people to forecast and look for problems that might arise in the future, or solutions that need to be implemented now to keep customers.
An example of those problems could be merchant processing. Within a small business, it’s easy to get comfortable and see that things are going right. And if things are going just fine, they’re going to forever, right? Wrong. You need to get ahead of the game. For example, in our early days, we had a merchant processor that decided to stop working with us altogether because we were growing too fast. Our merchant processing was clean and going great, but they said we were growing too fast and they weren’t comfortable. Something as positive as growth can actually cause its own problems. Perceive problems like that; have multiple merchant process accounts set up and available. If you can’t make money or take payments, you can’t stay in business.
In addition to problems, you can start thinking about future solutions. If your customers are happy right now, what are other problems a competitor could solve? A competitor who finds that first can steal your market. Don’t just think about what your customers like now, but what they will like in the future.
Additionally, if you’ve got a big new partner you want to land, you need to think about how you’re going to land them. How can you grow your business? A great business partner can be pivotal in helping you grow. You have to start planning ahead with how you’re going to land that partner and keep your customer.
Keeping these principles in mind can help your operations run smoother. There are only so many hours in the day, so we’ve got to make the most of them!