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2 Hidden Profit Opportunities For Your Business

A business without a good operations team is like a hot looking 2019 sports car with a T-lizzie engine under the hood.
Eric Gilbert-Williams Dec 18, 2019

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Everything looks with no substance in a business if the business lacks an efficient operations team! And that means you could be leaving a lot of profit opportunities on the table.
I’m sure there are many among you who consider this obvious. Let me ask you instead – when was the last time you took a step back from your sales or marketing strategies, and fine-tuned your operations team? Do you put as much care and attention into operations as you do in other departments?

Fine Tuning A Great Operations Team

In 2017, Michael Mankins reported on Harvard Business Review that the average company loses 20% of its productive capacity to operational drag. That means most small to mid-sized businesses lose about a day’s worth of work each week, just because their own cluttered work process and operational flow keeps tripping up their employees.
You know those glorious margins your sales team was busting its backside to close for you last month? Say goodbye to them. As a rule of thumb, you don’t want your operations team struggling because your business is mired by red tape – you want them struggling to keep up only because the demand for your product is high!
Here are just a few of the many things a well-oiled operations team does for your business:
  • Creates strategies to constantly streamline company’s work flow to cut out any step that’s dead weight
  • Allows your sales team to make competitive and sometimes outrageous promises for product delivery to prospective clients, and then figures out how to make them a reality
  • Micromanages individual steps in other departments’ operations so that you, as the boss, don’t have to do the same
  • Helps you safeguard and expand your profit margins
  • Is the reason why you don’t have dissatisfied customers, removing the need for customer service personnel solely tasked to deal with them, plus much more.
So how do you fine-tune your operations team to ensure that they can do all of the above, and more, for you? These two steps should be a good start.

1. Lay Down A Concrete Business Ideology For Your Operations Team

Most small to mid-sized business owners undervalue the need for a concrete working ideology because they believe ‘Make me money, aggressively’ suffices as one. That’s not a vision. Unless you’re running a non-profit, profits is the entire point of a business.
‘Make me money, by stripping costs as low as you can’ on the other hand is a different story. So is ‘Make me money, by minimizing internal and external time required to deliver a service or product’. Figure out your mantra. Hammer it into your team members. The mantra may or may not change in a few months – but there should always be one. 

The point of a clear ideology in the minds of your operations team is that it allows them to chalk out impactful long and short term goals, and then work towards them. 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish”- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The “Operations Playbook”, released in 2014 by the National Center for the Middle Market, breaks the operations team’s job into four major sub-systems: problem-solving, daily management, overall business strategy, and people development.
Discussing all four of these as a priority with your operations team in your Monday morning meetings not only helps them identify key metrics for the week to come, but also lets you gauge whether those actions align with your long-term business goals for the coming fiscal year.

2. Take Team Feedback Often

A great operations team isn’t just made up of employees who provide a quick turnaround and product delivery to your clients. That’s a given necessity for survival. A great operations team is one that has people working for you that live and breathe the details of your business…with passion!

For smaller businesses doing well enough to stay in black, the biggest danger is complacency. ‘Why change something that works’ becomes such a thought in the work culture that when a new situation comes along, no one dealing with it is adaptable enough to get to new solutions.
This state is called ‘active inertia’, and it’s often the death of a business. Now, if your business is doing alright but struggling to grow, then I can assume at least some of the following points are true for you:
  1. You have people with the right mind-set in your operations team; 
  2. You regularly discuss short and long term plans with them;
  3. You at least have some systems in place to gather data from all your different teams;
  4. You regularly keep an eye on key performance metrics in your data to see how your business is doing.
Here’s what you need to do to unlock next stage of growth – take your operations team’s feedback, often. A 2016 Forbes article identified boss’ ego and employee’s fear of questioning the status quo as two major reasons for complacency in a business.
However, it’s erroneous to equate asking a question to your boss about their plan of action with challenging the operational hierarchy.
Naval submariners work in a culture where even the junior-most sailor can ask a question of the highest officer in command, with clear expectations of receiving a thoughtful answer.
In turn, the questions asked of them often reveal to the higher officers the thought processes of their sailors, and help identify potential problems in the submarine before they arise.
‘Min-maxing’ is a fascinating term from video gaming culture. It means finding ways to produce the maximum output possible in a set time with the minimum required input. More so than any other employees, your operations team members are your sailors in the submarine.
As such, they’re the ones best positioned to ‘min-max’ your work process and operational flow. If you believe you have the right people in place, you ignore their feedback at your own peril.

Min-Max Your Business: Maximize Your Profits

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe."- Muhammad Ali

If you take away just one thing, let it be this – Your operations team is single-handedly responsible for both lowering your business costs, and maximizing amount of work you can get done in a day.
Their job is to remove the pebble in your shoe. The potential profit margins that your sales team negotiates mean little if you’re throwing away valuable work hours into a black hole of redundancies and cluttered work processes.
Moreover, giving your operations team the importance they deserve will also boost their motivation, inspiring them to do better for the business success. We’ve already seen how effective inspiration can be for productivity in a business.
However, if you’re wondering why I didn’t lay down specific key metrics and performance indicators that your operations team should concentrate on – that’s because they differ rather wildly depending on your type of business, your product, and your own vision for the company.