How To Build An Organized And Systemic Approach To Operating Your Business
This post is the first of a series in which we will deep dive into business operations topics such as process definition & management, company culture, internal & external communication, ownership, and much more. Stay tuned!
As a startup founder or one of the early employees, you have probably already read tons of articles or books emphasizing how thinking about the steps and processes of your business right from the very first day is vital to its success.
It’s no surprise that starting to think about your “business operating system” from day-one (i.e. how you will operate, go to market, deliver your product, deal with customers…) is the best way to prepare your business for future growth or protect it in a downturn.
Since we officially launched Forest last year, we have had the opportunity to collaborate with companies of different industries (fintech, healthcare, transportation, logistics…) and of all sizes (side project, MVP, startup, and upcoming unicorn).
As the backbone of our clients’ business operations, we have observed first hand that many of these companies present many similarities in the way they manage their data & processes and collaborate internally.
While they all have different “business operating systems”, they all have a common way of defining them which revolves around four key components.
We have listed them by order of importance to help you focus on those that could have the most impact on your own operations!
A process is a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end within your company and its departments.
While we will write more about processes soon, it is worth emphasizing for now that effective processes are:
- clear i.e. easy to understand by everyone in your team.
- modifiable & replicable i.e. not carved in stone. You should be able to optimize, update, and reuse them the way you want, effortlessly.
- documented & accessible i.e. everyone at any time can (re)discover any processes of your company. Of course, permissions can be used to limit access to sensitive or strategic information.
- supported by tools and not the other way around. You have to properly streamline your processes before you implement new technical systems. Otherwise, you are guaranteed to automate your own inefficiencies!
A system is a set of essential resources (i.e. technology, operations, marketing, financial, people...) that allow your company to operate its processes.
For example, your company’s “people systems” include your payroll, human resources information, performance, and development management systems.
When they support solid processes, well-designed and well-implemented systems create predictable employee and customer experiences. They also enhance your company’s operational efficiency.
Warning: Roles ≠ Person and Roles come first in your company.
There should be a job description — even a short one — with a clear set of skills required for each of the roles in your “business operating system”. Depending on your company’s maturity, one person may play multiple roles.
As your company evolves, having clearly defined roles will allow you to make more effective decisions about which roles an employee should keep or stop doing. It will also help you better anticipate recruiting and downsizing needs as you support your company’s evolution.
Combining effective processes & systems with clear roles will ensure the highest and best use of your company’s talents.
To conclude, you need to define your company structure to set out in a clear and precise manner how the different processes, systems, and roles within your company should interact. This definition must be documented internally.
Doing so helps get everyone in the company on the same page, with the same vision, and working toward the same goals.
Many factors such as your company industry, culture, funding, etc. or even your competitors can have an impact on the definition of your structure. As a result, it is unlikely that two companies with the same processes, systems, and roles will end up with the same structure.
To properly address the needs of your company, customers, shareholders (and all other stakeholders) and ensure that your processes aren’t constrained by your structure, you should define structure last.
By providing an off-the-shelf back office solution (in other words a “system”), we at Forest are dedicated to helping companies to support and enhance their “business operating systems”.
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