Something in your business feels off but you can’t quite put your finger on it.
As a business owner, it can be easy to take all the blame and beat yourself up. The negative self-talk may creep in, shouting…
“You’re just not good enough!”
“You aren’t trying hard enough!”
“Struggle is part of entrepreneurship!”
You, my friend, are better than good. You’re trying your darn HARDEST. Entrepreneurship is not synonymous with struggle.
The starving artist is a myth.
There is a better way.
Too many creatives believe they can’t show up in business the way they want to because they lack the know-how to navigate running a business. You might feel passionate and solid in your work, but unclear or uncomfortable navigating the business side of things. When I went to art school, I realized so many of my peers were extremely talented in their craft, but didn’t have the tools or resources to successfully turn their passion into a functioning, money-making business.
They don’t teach business in art school, after all.
This uncertainty and hesitation can be crippling and has ruined too many businesses that never got the chance to tap into their potential. The reality is, if you’re struggling to get your creative business off the ground there is nothing wrong with YOU and most likely everything wrong with your business ops.
Whether this is the first time you’ve heard of “ops” or it’s been quite a while since you gave them any attention, this blog is for you. My goal is to shine the light on what isn’t working in your business, to help you target how you can implement the right ops to move forward. Keep reading to learn how giving your ops some much-needed love could be the key to strategically solving your most overwhelming business problems.
If you don’t know exactly what ops are in the first place (hint, hint: “ops” stands for operations), it can be tough to address them! This is a telltale sign that you need to give them some care. Let’s use an analogy to define ops and how they function in business.
When it comes to performances, I’ve historically been an audience kinda gal. So when I moved to The Big Apple, I felt like I had entered a new world. My roommate was in a band (super cool). Eager for new experiences in the city that never sleeps, I jumped on the opportunity to tag along as a self-declared groupie.
Other than my sister’s grade school dance recitals, I had never journeyed past the first row. So when I helped my roomie carry some of his gear backstage, I was in awe. Up until this point, I truly believed in the magic of performance. I genuinely thought it somehow just came together. Yes, I acknowledged the performers had to rehearse and practice, but I never stopped to consider all the other pieces that go into a successful show.
Behind the curtain, there were light technicians, a tech and audio crew, and stage managers. So many systems were going on behind the scenes to keep each show running smoothly… like a well-oiled machine.
When we focus on ops in our business, it’s like pulling back the curtain. As CEO, your role is like being a director. You must oversee all the moving parts that bring your business to life.
Clients witness the “show” that is your product, service, or program. But as CEO you have to orchestrate all the systems that go on in the background to help your business run. It’s the structure that supports everything.
Instead of supporting the tech, lights, choreography, actors, and costumes of a stage production, your business ops support your finances, sales, and marketing. Ops allow you to consistently produce and deliver your products and services to your clients over and over again.
Ops are the systems that help you stay on track, manage your team, and keep your business moving forward. It is what I am referring to when we say we’re going to get your business running like a “well-oiled machine.”
Just like every concert or production is different, each business requires different ops systems for their unique goals and business models. Ops are not one-size-fits-all. What works for one business may not support another appropriately. Business ops are multifaceted and need to be strategic so that they work for you and your unique business.
The business doesn’t exist if money making tasks are being dropped. Whether it’s getting clients on the books, sending an invoice, wrapping up projects, shipping out products, or anything else that gets you paid…if it’s happening inconsistently or getting delayed you have an ops problem.
The good news is, it isn’t just YOU and your failings. It’s that you don’t have the right support in place to help you shine and thrive. Intentional ops will help you do what you say you’re going to do while helping the bottom line.
If money making tasks are not happening consistently you will want to look at these things:
You could have the best service, product, or program in the WORLD, but if it isn’t consistent and reliable for your clients it doesn’t matter.
Inconsistent client experience means…
For your business to be stable and sustainable you need to be known as reliable and trusted. The best way to do that is to be consistent (across the board but especially in client experience). If that’s not happening, you have an ops problem.
To address client experience you’ll want to go to the source and get actionable feedback from your current and past clients. Don’t make assumptions. Once you’ve identified areas in need of improvement you can create a plan to measure and monitor your progress behind the scenes.
No matter what kind of business you have, if you aren’t regularly getting feedback from your clients, you’re improving your ops in the dark! Find out what they need so that you can improve how everything supports those goals behind the scenes. Use their concerns as the guiding light and reverse engineer your ops to improve that experience for your clients.
Some ideas for client feedback:
COO Tip: You may choose to offer a small incentive or gift as a thank you for sharing their honest feedback! When it comes to annual gift giving (including the holidays!) I recommend budgeting 5-10% of what a client has contributed to your business this year or is expected to next year.
If consistency is a challenge for you, you will want to put ops in place to support your goal. Strong ops systems can be measured so that you know when your goals have been met, how to tend to them regularly, and you can make sure they are still working for you behind the scenes.
Product-based Businesses: If you have a product, you might consider ops pieces such as your distribution process, where you source your ingredients, or how many items you can realistically make in a set time frame. First, monitor what is feasible at your current capacity. Next, set a realistic goal: ie. I can make 5 pieces of pottery each month or I will search for a more dependable delivery service to get my products to buyers on time.
Service-based Businesses: If you have a service-based business, consider your capacity. How many small, medium, and large projects can you take on in a specific amount of time? Are you dropping the ball because you’ve taken on more than you can handle? How could you implement systems that could improve your productivity or open up more time? Are there client-facing pieces you can do that are low-lift but will blow them away? Think of ways to over-deliver on your client experience without overwhelming yourself.
All Businesses: Product-based and service-based businesses alike can benefit from “Net Promoter Scores” or NPS. This is a super simple and quick survey that can measure how your clients feel about your company or brand. It quickly identifies your promoters and detractors while giving you a tangible score (AKA something you can measure). The score allows you to understand where you stand overall and will help you monitor and influence trends over time.
Not sure where to start? Survey Monkey and JotForm offer easy to use NPS survey templates that do the job! You don’t need any fancy bells and whistles. I honestly use them with my 6 and 7 figure clients. You can customize the template and send it directly from the platform (and if you keep it simple, you might even be able to use a free plan!)
Once you’ve explored ways to measure and tend to your ops, monitor this progress. Any time you make a change, ask yourself, “has it made a positive impact?” Treat this process like a science experiment. Make a hypothesis, ask questions, look at the results, and iterate as needed until you find a flow that works well and gets your business consistency back on track.
Like it or not, businesses are run by the numbers. You need to be able to quantify your progress. Smart, strategic plans (and goals) can only be set if you know your numbers.
I don’t mean last week’s numbers or, (goodness forbid!) last year’s numbers. I’m talking about your current numbers as of today. Right here, right now. People tend to only think of numbers when they need them and don’t have a system in place to regularly inform their choices and decisions.
Too many business owners don’t have effective KPIs (Key Progress Indicators) in place. Without KPIs you’re walking blind! KPIs are essential to business ops because they tell you what you are measuring and why.
KPIs may include:
Your business may find all or some of these KPIs helpful as you gauge and measure the success of your business. KPIs differ by business and by business stage. You will choose KPIs based on the current focus of your business: starting, maintaining or scaling.
If we ignore our numbers, we are making decisions based on impulse, emotions, or instincts. Instead, you need to feel confident in your financial and business choices. You can do this when the numbers support your business moves.
As you monitor your numbers regularly, it is easy to pull insightful data whenever you need it or want to review it. This should happen regularly and I consider finances and numbers to be a necessary rhythm in any successful business!
I love the phrase, “what gets measured gets managed.” If you aren’t measuring your finances, projects, or other relevant numbers in your business, you’re mismanaging your business. It’s time to make the data your friend, rather than hiding them out of sight.
You know it’s about time to start expanding. But before you jump into solution-mode, take a step back to document your current ops.
A good ops plan is set up to be scalable. As you consider the next phase of your business you will want to have the right operations in place as well as indicators that will help you rethink and re-evaluate your needs as you change, grow, and expand. Remember, ops are not “one and done”. They should be revisited and tweaked any time you add a new team member, role, service, product, or schedule. As you grow, you’ll feel confident that you have the right frameworks and systems in place to support the current and future state of your business.
If you read through and felt that any or MANY of these “signs” were speaking to you, it’s time to pull back the curtain and spend some time with your business ops.
It could be that you haven’t put any ops in place (AKA the actors are trying to be the star of the show AND run the lighting at the same time!).
Or, maybe you have the wrong ops for your needs (it’s like having the setup for a comedy gig behind the scenes of a Swan Lake ballet production– something isn’t quite right).
The good news is, you’ve already taken a big step in the right direction.
Acknowledging that this is where you need to spend some time is HUGE! Now that you have clarity, you can hone in on the ops that either are or are not working for you while putting new systems in place.
If you’re looking for a stage manager to take over all of the nitty gritty details of your business ops while you focus on your big picture goals, I’m your girl! Click here to schedule your free 1:1 strategy call. Together we will target how I can support you as an outsourced business coach or your COO.
If you don’t have time to give your OPS some love right now, Pin this for later!