At a startup, the Head of Operations is one of the key players in keeping the company running smoothly. This person ensures that the team is being productive and has the right tools to perform their roles effectively. Some essential job duties are supporting the team, creating and structuring processes, assisting with company logistics, managing the product, assisting with fundraising, executing, and managing various tasks- from financial to HR. This role can vary depending on the company and how many hands you have on deck. It comes with many responsibilities, but in my experience, it also comes with many rewards. If you are interested in learning more about why I love working at Don’t Get Mad Get Paid, check out my recent blog post here. Without further or do, here are ten tips that I keep in mind to be successful in my role.
Hustling and bustling for a startup is undoubtedly the most engaging job I have had. At times, we pivot or change directions—FAST, so staying flexible and adaptable is key to success. There are days I have a plan for my day, and then I soon learn that my project needs to get postponed or sometimes straight-up thrown out the window. Instead of getting frustrated or frazzled, embrace this, and see how quickly you can land on your feet. Take a deep breath and regroup. You got this.
Staying organized may seem obvious; in an Operations role, you are helping run an organization, so keeping yourself and your team organized is a must! I recommend using project management software for your various projects and tasks. My favorite is Clubhouse, but there are many options out there. I recommend finding one you jive with because you will need to know how to use it and possibly teach other team members how to use it.
Focus on Solutions
When problems arise, stay calm and focus on solutions. Try to see issues in a positive light, such as a way to flex your creativity and problem-solving skills. If you don’t have the answer, engage your team. At Don’t Get Mad Get Paid, we believe multiple heads are better than one. Our CEO/Founder is a massive fan of the African proverb, “if you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” At Don’t Get Mad Get Paid, we love focusing on solutions so much, be solutions focused is one of our core values.
Be a Doer
To thrive in an operations role, being a doer is a must. You must not only organize projects and come up with solutions when problems arise, but you must be able to push the button and execute it. It would help if you also could make consistent progress and drive projects forward. Often you will be juggling multiple projects at once, so being a good juggler may also help. 😉
Be an Effective Communicator
Don’t assume that effective communication happened just because you said or wrote something. Communication is about the messenger and the receiver, and it is essential to remember that everyone perceives the message through their frame of reference. When in doubt, it’s always better to over-communicate.
Nurture the Company Culture
Part of an ops role is to help create and cultivate the company culture based on the CEO’s vision and mission of the company. Nurturing culture involves leading by example and walking your talk. You also want to ensure others are doing the same. Enforcing the company culture becomes very important as the company grows. Energy is contagious. Personally, this feels genuine and easy to do at Don’t Get Mad Get Paid. Working for an impact legal tech company on a mission to put a dent in the billions of dollars of unpaid child support is truly inspiring.
Something I am personally proud of is how we focus on moms. Our product was specifically designed and built for moms with a child support collection problem. In fact, we value moms so much; one of our paid company holidays is Mother’s Day Observed. We have the Friday before Mother’s Day off. This gives our employees an extra day to spend with their families. Whether they are a mom, a dad, or a son or daughter, we feel it is essential to have that extra day to focus on and appreciate moms.
A few things we do internally to create a positive culture and reward our hard-working team are “Team Lunches” and “Treat Yo Self Day.” For Team Lunch, we order lunch on the company’s dime and eat lunch together once a month. Team lunch allows us to relax and get to know our teammates better through games and conversation. Treat Yo Self Day is also celebrated monthly. On the first day of the month, team members are encouraged to treat themselves to a coffee, snack, or treat, sponsored by Don’t Get Mad Get Paid. These small acts make the team feel appreciated and help us bond as a team.
Know Your Blindspots
You can’t do it all. We all have strengths and weaknesses. It is crucial to know what yours are. When helping to create the ideal team, knowing where your blindspots are can help you identify who you should hire to become the dream team. Take your ego out of it and be honest with yourself and your team what may be lacking.
Get to the Root Cause
People say that problems are often symptoms. Sometimes you will need to implement a quick fix solution, but ultimately you should focus on fixing the problem long term. Depending on the problem, it may be helpful to conduct interviews or check-ins with the team to identify the root cause.
Slow Down to Speed Up
When working for a startup, it is tempting to keep up with the fast-paced hustle culture that startups are known for. Speed is undoubtedly crucial at times, but there is a fine line between moving quickly and being rash. In a Head of Operations role, you may be involved in critical business decisions. My advice to you is to take enough time to make an informed decision. Being fully informed may require you to slow down and do a thorough analysis so you can consider all the possible outcomes. Don’t make decisions from an emotional place because you are pressed for time.
Have a Student Mentality
Something I have learned from working with Simone Spence, CEO/Founder of Don’t Get Mad Get Paid, is always to be open to learning. She believes that if she learns one new takeaway, then the time was well spent. I love this mentality, and by remaining humble and open to knowledge, the possibilities are endless.
I hope you found these ten tips useful if you are working or considering working in an operations role for a startup. Even if you are not, I believe these tips can also be applied to different roles in different industries.