Last Updated on Dec 23, 2019 by James W
Rapidly growing companies face an uphill battle in many respects. While they’re still trying to perfect their first few products – or even just the one that hits the market first – their customer base is growing, revenues are expanding and operations are ballooning out. It becomes a running battle to keep up with what’s happening in the business and how much it’s evolving every week to the march of progress.
This is very different to working in a multi-billion-dollar business that grows slowly, has sold the same or similar products for years, and has a very familiar pattern to its processes and workflow.
Anyone who’s ever worked in a startup or founded a new business that’s rapidly growing appreciates the difficulty. Sometimes they never know about the key role that an Operations Manager plays in an organization. But it’s certainly something they should learn more about now to be better prepared in the future.
What Does an Operations Manager Do?
An Operations Manager is recruited to manage disparate parts of the business and bring them together.
For instance, the finance team might be good at projecting the likely future costs and earnings when the business wasn’t growing quickly. However, estimating income and expenses when going through a sustainable growth phase is another matter entirely.
The Operations Manager will work with the finance, marketing, purchasing, product creation and logistics departments (depending on the business type) to tie together how the company currently operates and what is needed in the future.
Forward-looking, Not Backward Focused
Their role is to look ahead to see whether the products or services that the company plans to offer are within the current capabilities of the different departments to deliver. They do this from an unemotional, programmatic perspective, rather than a critical or self-serving one.
They understand that it is a team effort, even when there are departments that are trying to protect their mini fiefdoms. The Operations Manager has to break down those barriers and bring people together to solve business problems efficiently and well as a group. Good relationships with all departments are needed in order to perform their duties.
This is all the more challenging when the company is growing quickly. Any small breakdown in operations can stall growth and create a bad reputation for the business which it may never recover from.
Looking at the Big Picture
Sometimes the product creation team will come up with something that looks fabulous on paper or on a pretty animated CAD diagram, but lacks specificity.
The Ops Manager will insist on turning that product idea into a realistic estimate of manufacturing costs including any new machinery that’ll be required or the cost to re-tool existing machinery to make the product.
They’ll also mull over how the product idea fits into the existing operation. Will it require extra working capital for parts, machinery, raw materials and other items?
How does the marketing team feel about promoting the product? What initial ideas do they have about packaging it and promoting it against competitors with similar products? Is market research required to determine if there’s enough of a market to make the product worthwhile in the first place?
Being the Bad News Bearer
Sometimes when weighing up the potential outlook, the recommendation of the Operations Manager is that a suggested product should not go ahead. They’ll then lay out their reasons as to why it doesn’t make sense to go ahead with it at this time.
By consulting with other departments, many of which will be involved, the company benefits from their valued input. Each department head may have their own opinion. However, rather than be seen to dump a new problem on their laps without any warning, by consulting with them, they at least feel involved.
The Ops Manager may conclude that the new product shouldn’t go ahead. Sometimes that means being the bad news bearer. However, they understand that plenty of businesses have gone under by producing products that no one wanted and didn’t purchase. Others have gone to the wall because departments like the marketing team never believed in the product and didn’t give it their best effort to sell it.
Supply Chain in the Hot Seat
When the fast-growing business is a physical product business, then the supply chain management becomes a vital part of the operation.
Running out of inventory or basic raw materials to produce a product leads to a production line that gets turned off. Investments in machinery and staff wages are wasted while waiting for deliveries to arrive. It also puts pre-orders under threat of not being fulfilled which could affect brand reputation with the failure spilling over onto other product lines even when they weren’t delayed.
The supply chain also has links to the finances of the business. When the cashflow isn’t managed properly, or the requirement for additional funds to accelerate production and manage the expanded order book isn’t handled, then there’s a bottleneck for a different reason.
The Operations Manager is needed to ensure that rapid growth is managed from the purchasing team, the finance team, and other departments that all may struggle to adjust to changing circumstances. Getting different departments to see things from the company’s perspective, not just their department alone, is always a challenge. However, when bonus packages are connected to the company’s earnings and not their individual or departmental performance, it tends to get the ball rolling.
For people who are interested in this challenging role that requires both knowledge and excellent communication skills, then they should consider taking an operations management degree online. It can be studied while still working, which makes it more affordable and convenient than taking a couple of years off work to do so.
As you can tell, when wanting to be in the middle of the business wrestling with many different challenges, there’s no better place than being Operations Manager. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s also a good role for someone who enjoys being detail oriented, analyzing new plans for improvements, looking for efficiencies in current operations and liaising continually with departments across the company.