Operational Scalability: Elly Hurst of Ellyvated On How To Set Up Systems, Procedures, And People To Prepare A Business To Scale

Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine
Published in
20 min readSep 20, 2023

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As you invest in your dream team, don’t forget to nurture a business culture that encourages innovation.

While assembling a strong dream team is important, it’s equally essential to foster an environment that nurtures their potential. Encourage a culture within your business that not only embraces change but also welcomes fresh ideas, remaining agile in response to evolving business needs. Promote open lines of communication and foster collaboration across teams, recognizing that diversity is the catalyst for innovation.

In today’s fast-paced business environment, scalability is not just a buzzword; it’s a necessity. Entrepreneurs often get trapped in the daily grind of running their businesses, neglecting to put in place the systems, procedures, and people needed for sustainable growth. Without this foundation, companies hit bottlenecks, suffer inefficiencies, and face the risk of stalling or failing. This series aims to delve deep into the intricacies of operational scalability. How do you set up a framework that can adapt to growing customer demands? What are the crucial procedures that can streamline business operations? How do you build a team that can take on increasing responsibilities while maintaining a high standard of performance?

In this interview series, we are talking to CEOs, Founders, Operations Managers Consultants, Academics, Tech leaders & HR professionals, who share lessons from their experience about “How To Set Up Systems, Procedures, And People To Prepare A Business To Scale”. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing “Elly” Mishelle Hurst

Elly is the founder of Ellyvated, a Systems Strategist, and an accredited OBM (Online Business Manager) for cross-cultural (CCK/TCK) and neurodivergent entrepreneurs. At Ellyvated, her boutique solutions cater to 6- and 7-figure visionaries ready to break free from business bottlenecks. Elly’s superpowers — strategy and organization — complement her clients’ visions, amplifying their impact in their communities while eliminating overwhelm. With a background that spans continents and cultures, she brings a unique perspective to her role as the “Right Hand” (OBM) for heart-centered business owners motivated to elevate their business to the next level.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Thank you for featuring me! I’m absolutely honored to be busy working with my clients, it’s the good kind of busy. As a high achiever, I always exceled — sometimes naturally and other times with a lot of effort on my part. After I graduated college, I continued on this path through different fields for nearly a decade in related operational leadership roles. I loved what I did, using my superpowers — strategy, organization, and creativity — to streamline sectors and whole businesses. Yet, I was always looking for an exit strategy — I loved what I was doing, but as a neurodivergent person who thrives on doing meaningful work, the rat race wasn’t for me. After making the leap into entrepreneurship, that spark I was missing was ignited. All my skills could be used to highlight other neurodivergent entrepreneur’s superpowers, I could use my skills to keep my clients in their zone of genius. Since starting as an OBM, I’ve never looked back!

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I agree with that statement whole heartedly. I’ve made so many mistakes, and all of them have come with a lesson — sometimes it’s a welcome message and other times not so much. The old saying “curiosity killed the cat, and satisfaction brought it back,” comes to mind when I think of this particular lesson.

When I first started out in the online space, I felt like I had to keep up with other OBMs and Operations specialists who started before me and follow the reigning trends. I would completely disregard my own skills, like my ability to see patterns that aren’t easily detected by others, or how I’m able to come up with solutions that aren’t always the standard, but are tailored to the business, business owner, and team. These are skills that aren’t common, and make me unique in my field. They’ve also been proven to help entrepreneurs, both neurotypical and neurodivergent, increase their impact and income.

When I stopped following what I thought I was supposed to do and began operating more authentically, I stopped holding myself back. I don’t just copy and paste tried and true methods, I truly listen to my clients, and formulate solutions just for them. In less than 30 days after I committed to this, one of the OBMs I was trying to emulate in the past, reached out to me for advice. They had seen one of my quarterly strategy plans for a client, and wanted to learn how they could make their process map more like mine! This didn’t happen just once; I’ve consistently had several OBMs reach out to me to help them with their operations and to help them better serve their clients.

The saying might seem a bit out of place, but to me, I was the cat, curious about what everyone else was doing, and that was killing me and my talents. After I focused on leaning into my skills, and serving my clients to the best of my abilities, that satisfaction of doing my best work, brought me back to life. It reignited my passion and focus!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe that just like every person is unique, all businesses are unique in some way. This view is why I focus on providing customized services for each business I work with. One size does not fit all in this case. Well, it could work, but a tailored fit will always have you looking sharper. In this same wavelength, the fact that Ellyvated provides customized solutions is one of the ways we stand out.

As a neurodivergent entrepreneur, certain standard operating processes just aren’t intuitive for me. Things like getting on several calls a week, that could easily be a single email, just isn’t for me. It might be the best way to do things for others, but I find excessive calls draining — did I mention I’m also an introvert! For some, audio or visual passdowns or instructions are easier to digest than written ones. As a corporate escapee, I have experience with both, but I still have my preferences.

When I started working with a 7-figure dream client with decades of experience in their field, I was absolutely excited. Even as a third culture kid, we didn’t share any of the same cultures, but we shared similar values, visions, and goals. They weren’t neurodivergent, but they were still “my people,” and valued community and diversity of thought. Unfortunately, this client had a bad experience with an OBM in the past and even the business friends in their circles had repeated bad experiences with OBMs and other service providers.

I was a bit nervous going into the collaboration. I wasn’t scared I wouldn’t be able to provide excellent service, I was instead worried they would be too traumatized from their past experiences. Unknown to me, from our first call — Clarity Call — they knew things would be different working with me. They later shared that the questions I asked during the call and after we officially began working together, the advice I gave about their team and troubles was enough to seal the deal over and over again.

Solutions that were intuitive to me, ones that considered everyone on the team’s learning styles stood out. The fact that I operate authentically, as a “Right Hand” always stands out. I’m invested in my clients’ success and it shows.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The three-character traits that are the most instrumental to my success are creativity, a conscientious nature, and flexibility. That was a lot harder to narrow down than I thought it would be.

Creativity is one because I tend to think outside of the box, and it has helped me collaborate with my own team and my clients’ teams to increase efficiency and foster community. With my team, my willingness to use and welcome creative solutions has created a community where the entire team isn’t afraid to think outside of the box, or share their opinions — creative or not. For those with corporate backgrounds, the space I’ve created has allowed them to break out of their shells. For those with more creative backgrounds, they feel comfortable sharing their talents and ideas with their peers. My willingness to be authentic and bright in a stereotypically rigid space like operations, has built a unique community that fosters innovation.

Being conscientious in nature enables me to be more careful and purposeful with my actions. This comes into play with my clients who are neurodivergent and/or of cross-cultural backgrounds — many of my clients are of Asian, Middle Eastern, and European descent, and the list goes on! My drive to do what is right and be more meticulous in my actions and services I provide is often in alignment with my clients’ values. Plus, the individualized boutique solutions are a game changer for entrepreneurs ready to elevate their business.

Finally, being flexible is a character trait that supports the other two, it’s the glue that holds it all together. My business is successful because of my wonderful clients and my amazing team. Being flexible in my approach to creative solutions and taking into account the diversity of my clients when I conscientiously craft these solutions makes all the difference. The flexibility I provide allows my team and clients to do their best work in their zone of genius which allows us all to succeed.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

This one is a bit hard to share, not because the decision was too hard, but because I really wanted to go with the path that wasn’t for me. As a leader, I advocate for continuous growth and learning for my entire team, myself included. There are always ways to improve ourselves in today’s ever-changing business landscape.

When I was offered the opportunity to work with another operations specialist in the online space, it seemed like a complete no brainer. They had decades of experience to share, and I would be contributing to their team as well by sharing my unique experiences and skills as a TCK. We also had a similar niche working with neurodivergent clients. It was a great opportunity in theory — everyone says you need a mentor to fast track your progress, right?

As we began our collaboration, I noticed one too many red flags that I chose to ignore. They were very nice, charismatic, had a great team, and the list goes on and on. Although we seemed to share the same values and niche on the surface, everything wasn’t as it seemed. And without any warning — there were many warnings, I just chose to ignore them, because I was too excited — I was faced with the hard choice between two paths.

  1. Continue collaborating with this unofficial mentor, drop all my boundaries and do work that didn’t light me up, and eventually burn out, OR
  2. End the collaboration. I would no longer have a mentor, but I could prioritize my health, my team, and my clients.

Maybe working with the mentor would have benefited me in the long run, but it would have also put my health in jeopardy. By choosing the logical option, I would have put myself in a bad place, and that would have ultimately affected my own team, and the energy I had left for my clients. As someone who thrives on doing meaningful work and using my superpowers to help other entrepreneurs, forcing myself to do things the “standard way” is no longer an option.

In hindsight, the decision was easy, but at the time, it felt like there was no clear choice. To be a good leader, I need to maintain my boundaries so I can show up as my best self. Showing up as my best self ultimately attracts the right people. Working with the right people makes the entire journey worth it, on good days and bad days.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Operational Scalability. In order to make sure that we are all on the same page, let’s begin with a simple definition. What does Operational Scalability mean to you?

As concisely as possible, operational scalability is the ability for a business to grow efficiently as their customers or clients increase without straining the business or team. It’s the capability to take a business to the next level, this isn’t limited to just monetary goals and elevating the business’ presence. Operational scalability deals with various factors of growth, including production or service delivery, business development, and adaptability.

Which types of business can most benefit from investing in Operational Scalability?

All businesses — big and small, new and old — can benefit from operational scalability. This includes any business that is looking to scale or serves a dynamic market, solopreneurs, businesses with small and large teams. Everyone can benefit from making their business easier to operate even if they don’t intend to actively pursue scaling their business.

Why is it so important for a business to invest time, energy, and resources into Operational Scalability?

When the foundations of a business are set up thoughtfully and meticulously, with the purpose, mission, and vision of the business in mind, the entire business runs more efficiently from the ground up. From small tasks to entire processes, replicating work can be done easily and quality assurance is possible. The initial investment of time, energy, and money results in even more saved time, energy, money, and other resources over time. Team and client satisfaction also go up. Team members don’t need to reinvent the wheel, and learn new systems constantly, and clients get quality goods and service they can rely on. With these and many more benefits, the CEO can then delegate certain tasks more easily and focus on their zone of genius, innovation, and increase their income and impact.

In contrast, what happens to a business that does not invest invest time, energy, and resources into Operational Scalability?

When a business doesn’t invest in operational scalability, it’s like building a house on shaky ground — there is no stable foundation for growth. Without that thoughtful foundation and alignment with the business’s purpose and vision, inefficiencies can creep in at every level. Tasks become a journey to complete, processes are prone to errors, and replication of work becomes energy intensive. The lack investment in building necessary foundations can lead to a continuous drain on time, energy, money, and other valuable resources.

Team members might find themselves reinventing the wheel, repeatedly. Clients could experience inconsistency and unreliability in goods or services. The CEO might even struggle to delegate effectively with no streamlined systems in place. This ultimately diverts people from their areas of expertise and can cause the business to miss out on opportunities for growth and income increase.

Can you please share a story from your experience about how a business grew dramatically when they worked on their Operational Scalability?

When I started working with my first 7-figure client, they were looking to scale but didn’t have any systems in place. They came from corporate with great connections, a remarkable reputation, and a track record of amazing work as a thought leader in their field. With the exception of systems, they had everything else ready to scale. The CEO was — and still is — a powerhouse, like most of my clients, she had superpowers that truly made her shine in her field. With a trusted Right Hand to get her business backend organized, and transform her visions into action plans, scaling was only natural.

After we came up with our first 90-day action plan, we had goals set, and clarity on what we wanted to achieve in that time frame and how we wanted to elevate her business. In only 2 months, her business newsletter grew from under 300 subscribers to near 6000 — and this was only one of the quantifiable goals we reached. The business owner was so shocked that they didn’t believe the numbers with the proof in front of them.

My clients are often powerhouses who are amazing at what they do, and passionate about their work. I love helping them do even more by taking the things they don’t enjoy off their plate. By getting operations in order, and building a unique and authentic brand identity, my clients can focus on the things in their business that only they can do — they are able prioritize the things that move the needle.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the “Five Most Important Things A Business Leader Should Do To Set Up Systems, Procedures, And People To Prepare A Business To Scale”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

1 . Get clear on your strategic goals and turn your visions into action plans.

Before scaling a business, it’s crucial to thoroughly understand your current processes, identify inefficiencies, and recognize potential bottlenecks. By reviewing your business processes and workflows, you can identify bottlenecks, and other gaps that might be slowing down progress and creating inefficiencies. A well-defined strategy and vision provide a roadmap for growth, helping everyone on the team — new and old — understand their roles and align their efforts. Sometimes having another pair of eyes look at your current business, can make all the difference. As an OBM, I’ve had the opportunity to work with other OBMs and entrepreneurs in a variety of fields to help bring clarity to their businesses and prepare them to scale with clarity.

BONUS: It’s super important to periodically reassess your goals and have metrics you can use to measure objectives, help leaders make informed decisions, identify areas for improvement, and ensure the team is moving in alignment with strategic goals.

2 . Develop customized Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that works with your business goals and team dynamic.

When scaling a business, whether you’re running a fast-food franchise or managing a large corporation, one key element for success is the standardization of processes. This approach not only allows big businesses to replicate their services but also ensures a consistent, high-level experience for clients. As entrepreneurs, we can harness this same strategy in a more tailored method to scale sustainably.

Think about it — from routine daily tasks within your business to the intricacies of marketing campaigns, anything that needs to be done more than once can benefit from the creation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These SOPs are like the backbone of efficient systems and processes, acting as the gears that drive productivity, minimize errors, and facilitate scalability, all while maintaining quality and consistency. The key is to craft SOPs that are crystal clear, easy to follow, and flexible enough to adapt to increased workloads and shifts in team dynamics.

Now, when it comes to preparing your business for scaling, it’s important to prioritize the development of SOPs that touch on critical areas. This might include client onboarding processes, protocols for project management, and quality control standards. These SOPs are not mere documents; they’re your guiding light when you’re expanding into new regions or bringing new teams on board and they change as the business does. They ensure that the service delivery remains consistent, and most importantly, they uphold the satisfaction of clients.

3 . Invest in necessary technology and automations to reclaim time and scale efficiently.

While it might not be the most popular opinion, going all-in on technology from the get-go isn’t necessary when you’re initially scaling your business. However, as your business continues to grow and you aim for long-term sustainability, integrating a select set of customized tools and automation becomes pivotal. These tools will empower both you and your team to focus on what you excel at, your “zones of genius.”

By automating repetitive tasks and harnessing cutting-edge technology, your entire team can operate with increased efficiency. It’s important to carefully choose and invest in technologies and systems that can seamlessly handle the rising workload and growth without substantially increasing costs or demanding excessive manual effort. Furthermore, these technologies should possess the adaptability to evolve alongside your ever-changing, unique business needs.

There are a few tools I swear by as an OBM, that have proven indispensable in my journey as an online entrepreneur. While there are a few options in my essential toolkit, I’ll share one of my favorites, my “virtual office.” This holds particular significance for online business owners, those with remote team members, or businesses expanding their global reach. Among the myriad options available, my personal favorite is ClickUp. It serves as a comprehensive Project Management (PM) tool that facilitates seamless communication and collaboration within your team. ClickUp offers a plethora of functions, including screen recording, time tracking, project management, and much more, making it a powerhouse tool for streamlined and efficient operations.

4 . Nurture a high-performing dream team to help you elevate your business to the next level.

To achieve this, focus on hiring and investing in individuals who not only possess the requisite skills and expertise but also align with your business’s vision and culture. Consider providing training and development opportunities to continually enhance their capabilities. By investing in training programs, you can upskill your existing team and cultivate future leaders from within your business. It’s essential to prioritize the recruitment and development of quality team members over opting for lower-cost alternatives that may offer short-term financial savings but could prove costly in the long run.

The commitment to nurturing your people, offering training, mentorship, and pathways for personal and professional growth, will yield invaluable returns as you strive to elevate your business to new levels of success.

5 . As you invest in your dream team, don’t forget to nurture a business culture that encourages innovation.

While assembling a strong dream team is important, it’s equally essential to foster an environment that nurtures their potential. Encourage a culture within your business that not only embraces change but also welcomes fresh ideas, remaining agile in response to evolving business needs. Promote open lines of communication and foster collaboration across teams, recognizing that diversity is the catalyst for innovation.

Speaking of communication, it’s a pivotal area for business leaders seeking to scale successfully. The systems you have in place should be accessible to all team members and robust enough to accommodate the growth that lies ahead. Consider employing tools that enhance collaboration and facilitate seamless information sharing; this is a fundamental element of scaling effectively.

Successful business leaders align their objectives with a clear vision, develop streamlined processes, leverage technology, assemble a high-performing team, and cultivate a business culture that celebrates diversity in all its forms. These strategic actions provide invaluable insights into how businesses can position themselves for sustainable growth and long-term success.

What are some common misconceptions businesses have about scaling? Can you please explain?

A common misconception entrepreneur have is that in order to scale they will need to rapidly expand their team. I’ve had several potential clients reach out to me and share their hesitancies about working with more team members. After a business and team audit, we often find that what is actually holding them back are systems not people.

While hiring additional team members can be part of scaling, it’s important to do it strategically. Expanding the team without clear roles and responsibilities can lead to inefficiencies and communication breakdowns. Scaling doesn’t necessarily mean having a large team; it means optimizing your existing resources and processes to handle growth competently.

Delegating tasks to team members or VAs is a step in the right direction, but it’s not a magic solution. Effective delegation also involves managing and supporting those team members. Standardized processes on the other hand are essential for scalability. Without documented and standardized procedures, your team might struggle to replicate tasks efficiently, leading to inconsistencies and errors.

Scaling a business isn’t just about increasing the size of the team. It’s about optimizing your existing resources, setting clear and actionable goals, implementing standardized processes, and customizing your strategies to align with your unique business or brand identity. A balanced and customized approach to scaling will lead to a more sustainable growth, instead of just adding more people and tasks to your plate.

How do you keep your team motivated during periods of rapid growth or change?

As a TCK (third culture kid) who is also neurodivergent, community has always been important to me. As a child I travelled frequently, and was immersed in many cultures, and consistently built a close-knit group of family-like friends in every new country I lived in. Now as an adult those experiences shape the way I lead and empower those around me.

Maintaining team motivation during periods of rapid growth or change is a critical leadership challenge. It’s so important to implement a strategic and empathetic leadership style. By fostering inclusivity and community, I prioritize building a cohesive and supportive work culture. Diversity when celebrated in every form — from neurodiversity to thought diversity — promotes open dialogue and understanding among team members with varied backgrounds.

Clear communication is vital for team members to express their thoughts and concerns. Setting achievable short-term goals, celebrating accomplishments, and fostering adaptability solidify a sense of achievement and purpose within the team. Leading by example, I embody these values to demonstrate the importance of community, inclusivity, and support, creating an environment where every team member feels motivated and valued, even during organizational growth or change.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One quote that resonates with me is, “Do not try to be PRETTY. You weren’t meant to be pretty; you were meant to burn down the earth and graffiti the sky. Don’t let anyone ever simplify you to just pretty,” from Suzanne Rivard’s “Things I Wish My Mother Had Taught Me”. This quote summarizes my personal and business journey from conforming to other people’s expectations to fully embracing my authentic self.

In the past, I would often downplay my abilities and simplify my achievements. I was able to do this easily in corporate operational roles where I excelled at finding streamlines solutions and minimizing disruptions from behind the scenes. Things didn’t really change until I took the entrepreneurial leap and my perspective changed.

Now I do what lights me up, what sets a fire in my soul. I don’t fear shinning too bright. I shine bright enough to be a beacon in the dark AND the light. I transitioned from minimizing myself to confidently pursuing what lights up my soul and helping others along the way. There is a power in living life authentically and boldly, the impact of embracing my uniqueness and refusing to simplify myself to fit into a narrow mold.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

If I could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be a movement focused on celebrating and uplifting diversity in all its forms, from neurodivergence to thought diversity. This movement would emphasize the importance of inclusivity and the recognition that diversity is the catalyst for innovation and progress.

This movement would aim to create communities and support networks that embrace and celebrate differences, encouraging individuals to bring their unique perspectives to the table. By making the world more inclusive for the neurodiverse, we make it more accessible and improved for everyone else. The benefits would ripple out, fostering creativity, empathy, and collaboration across different areas of society.

The ultimate goal of this movement would be to create a world where individuals of all backgrounds, abilities, and perspectives feel valued, heard, and empowered to contribute to positive change. By harnessing the power of diversity and fostering a sense of belonging for all, we can unlock the full potential of innovation and make the world a better place for everyone.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I guess this means it’s almost time to say goodbye — I’m so sad. I’ll share my socials, so we can stay connected in another way. I look forward to meeting you again.

LinkedIn| https://www.linkedin.com/in/mishelle-hurst/

Facebook| https://www.facebook.com/EllyEllyvated

Blog| https://ellyvated.com/blog/

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thank you so much for having me, this was such a fun experience. Till we meet again, I wish you and yours all the best.

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Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator