Operations is the work of managing the inner workings of your business so it runs as efficiently as possible. Whether you make products, sell products, or provide services, every small business owner has to oversee the design and management of behind-the-scenes work.
The specific definition of operations will depend on your industry and the stage your business is in. Sometimes, improving operations means thinking strategically about your systems and processes. Other times, it means being part of the on-the-ground work to bring every aspect of a project, from tiny to huge, to reality. At a small business, you may not want to dedicate a single person to an operations role. Rather, both employees and owners should understand how the business works and how various processes impact day-to-day tasks. Here are some examples of operations in different industries–and how mastering your processes can contribute to success.
If You’re a Retail Business
As the owner of a retail business, your daily goal is to stock the items customers want at a price they’re happy to pay.
For your operations, that means perfecting your inventory.
If You’re a Restaurant
Food businesses have even more challenging inventory problems than retailers, since their product is perishable. At a restaurant, operations applies not just to foodstuffs, but also purchasing, preparation, and the costs of food, beverage, and labor. You’ll also be concerned with customer service and customer experience at your restaurant.
If You’re a Service Company
Service companies can divide their operations into two key buckets: client-facing and business related. Start by thinking through your client interactions: what could happen more quickly? Is the customer experiencing any unnecessary notifications?
If You Make Products
The origin of the term “operations” comes from companies that made physical goods. Back when economies were industrializing, inventive businesses tried to add efficiencies wherever possible.
If You’re a Digital Company
Much of a digital company’s value lies in your personnel. For you, operations has a lot to do with finding optimal ways of hiring, training, and mentoring your staff. Tools to help with employee retention and satisfaction are wrapped into this, too.
Operations is key to running a business that’s always getting better and better at what it does. By taking a look at how your business is run and asking yourself questions about existing processes, you’ll be able to define and optimize what operations means for you and your business.