Size Doesn’t Matter - Small Businesses Need Operations Strategy Too!
By: Simone D. Ross
Over the years I’ve had an opportunity to work with brilliant Founders and CEO’s. Their passion is palpable, and they possess an irreplicable magic when it comes to their desire for business impact. These Founders and CEO’s have sacrificed, and in many cases risked it all to manifest their dreams. When working with them I take accountability for supporting their sustainability goals, and I help them identify their opportunities to scale. I also work with them to solve tricky problems, with the most common problem being overcoming barriers to achieving sustainability and scale.
Founders are head down in the business, which causes them to forget to be strategic about operations. Strategic operations for small businesses calls for the identification of high value cross-functional interactions, defining long and short term competitive priorities, and designing customer strategies. By focusing on strategies to fulfill these areas, Founders and CEO’s can better position themselves to be forward thinking about product and service strategies and innovations, and developing business core competencies.
But how does the time strapped, scrappy Founder begin to create these key sustainability strategies? Let’s look at each area more closely.
High Value Cross-Functional Interactions
High value cross-functional interactions are exchanges between thought leaders that represent varying work functions. This could be finance & accounting, marketing, human resources, etc. For a small business these exchanges are often between partner organizations (e.g. funders, professional service providers, referral sources). I term these interactions “high value” because they are not networking interactions, they are critical exchanges that yield a definitive ROI, and can be tied to a specific business goal or strategy.
Founders should strategically think about the people, organizations, services, and memberships that will support their overarching business strategy. Relationships and interactions should be managed based upon desired outcomes, and metrics given to the performance of these interactions. Measurement is key, applying metrics to quantify the success of these interactions will let you know if you’re meeting your leading strategic goals, and provide the information necessary to create future lagging strategies.
Defining Long and Short Term Competitive Priorities
Defining long and short term competitive priorities is a must for Founders and CEO’s. This prioritization could involve marketplace competitors for goods being sold, or competitive priorities [think of them as market differentiators] for services being rendered. Founder’s can easily become bogged down operating in a reactive mode, prioritization is critical in supporting sustainability plans. It’s important to get early wins as a Founder, identifying short term strategies clearly charts a blueprint to achieving key short term goals.
Long term goal prioritization helps Founders and CEO’s keep their eyes on the prize. Clearly identifying and stating long term priorities serves as a magic 8 ball, giving Founders sight into the future of their business. There’s so much that isn’t within Founders sphere of control, prioritizing long term strategy creates necessary controls in the performance of the business.
Designing Customer/Client Strategies
Designing customer/client strategies is the lifeline of the business. Founders always desire to achieve customer intimacy. Designing customer and client strategies enables the business to have effective and direct engagements with their customers. Albeit unintentional, for the busy Founder often the ideals of customer-centric strategy fall by the wayside. Founders should create an avatar of their ideal customer, identify key connection points, and then form strategies that speak to that relationship.
Customers/clients desire authentic connection, however Founders have to apply strategy to tell a brand story, create services and offerings, and design a service strategy that speaks directly to their customer audience. It’s key to approach this with an anticipatory spirit, based on a deep understanding of how products and services enhance the existence of your customers. Taking time to be thoughtful and strategic enhances innovation, thus improving the overall customer experience.
Size doesn’t matter, small businesses need operational strategy just as large organizations do. It’s critical that Founders and CEO’s create space to step away to view their business from an aerial standpoint. This maximizes performance, and gets Founders closer to defining and realizing their overarching goals.
Simone is the Founder of Simone D. Ross, LLC, a consulting firm with the vision of catalyzing human thriving. She uses her 15+ years of corporate experience to bring voice to the importance of creating equity within business enterprises. To get connected with Simone you can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.