spend time to save time

6 steps to set your operational groundwork

Courtney Bensinger

Courtney Bensinger

Co-Founder & CEO | cooth

You just started a new company. Or maybe you started it a while ago and just realized that you need to get your “house” in order. You want to focus on what really matters, right? Landing sales, supporting clients, product development – activities that bring in income. 

Those are important (obviously), but there are 6 aspects to operations that can’t be ignored if you want to create something that’s 1) efficient and 2) enjoyable. Many company owners fall into the trap of ONLY focusing on the sales drivers, but what they don’t realize is that they are putting their company in a dangerous place – especially if they already have a team. It can seem daunting if you’ve never been an operational integrator (a.k.a. the person managing the day-to-day and integrating the major functions of the organization), but we break down the 6 imperative aspects of operations that you need to think about – ASAP.

Secure Finance & Tax Teams

Mismanaging your money from the start isn’t good for anyone. Yet, most business owners set up a quickbooks account and think they’re good to go. But are you completely familiar with taxes and what you can write off vs. what you can’t? Do you know how to categorize all transactions with ease? Probably not, unless you started a tax or finance/accounting firm (or came from one). Here’s the good news: you don’t need to invest your time googling or asking ChatGPT how to do it. One of the most important things to invest your money in is great partners. If you can get these teams in place at the start, they will shepherd you throughout the process and ensure you’re set up for success.

Don’t have the money for a full-service team? QBO offers intermediate bookkeeping services, and you can find affordable tax services on platforms like LegalZoom (LZ Tax). Not sure if you’re ready for full-service or interested in a smaller solution? Reach out to us and we can help determine what’s right for you.

HR & Payroll

Whether you start by yourself or with 10 employees, you’re going to need a plan at least to pay yourself. There are guidelines set by the IRS in terms of how much you can take in owners draws vs. W2 income (which you should look into as a founder if you haven’t yet), and paying employees is equally as important. First stop – look into whether you want a full-service PEO like Justworks, or whether you want to set your company up in each state where you have employees manually, and use a less expensive service like Gusto. Both of these platforms, as well as others like Rippling, provide guidance for HR best-practices and compliance. It’s best to educate yourself on these sooner rather than later, because non-compliance can lead to fees or legal issues down the line.

Culture

We love this one. It seems silly to establish culture when you only have a couple of employees, but now is the time to set ground rules. Is it expected for your team to respond rapid-fire to emails on weekends, or should it be clear that they get their own time? How much vacation does everyone get? What if someone has a baby, or becomes a new pet parent? Setting expectations on day 1 creates a baseline that allows all future employees, and even clients, to understand how your business runs and why. If you don’t, you run the risk of waking up one day and realizing your whole team is on the verge of burnout, or maybe the norm is sending rude slacks to one another. Either way, it’s not pretty. Culture can single-handedly attract solid talent, but it can also turn them away. Get smart with culture, and you’ll notice the level of employee loyalty dramatically increases.

Need a culture audit to see what might not be going right? Reach out.

insurance

My husband is a lawyer, and he’s single handedly drilled into my brain that “if you end up in a lawsuit, you’ve already lost” (meaning, the time and money you have to spend is already not ideal). But, if the unfortunate situation arises that you find yourself in a lawsuit or insurance pickle, having invested the time into researching and securing appropriate insurance is worth it. Typically, businesses purchase:

  1. General Liability: protects you from claims that can include, but are not limited to bodily injury, property damage, or personal injury (disparagement, libel, slander etc.)
  2. Professional Liability: this covers lawsuits that can arise from clients claiming that you acted wrongly or made an error with the services you provided
  3. Workers’ Compensation: If anyone gets hurt or sick on the job, this one’s got your back
  4. Data Breach/Cyber Insurance: If the unfortunate event occurs where you, or a client you’re providing digital services for gets hacked, you’re going to need this one to help cover any costs associated with a remedy.

 

And, if you have property and aren’t operating as a solely remote environment, you should also consider commercial auto and property insurance.

internal software

This one is imperative, and can go many different ways. Try these thought-starters:

  1. How does your team communicate? Do they email and text? Do you use Slack?
  2. How about phone calls with clients or customers? Is that via Zoom, Teams, or Google Hangouts?
  3. If you have a larger team, have you thought about a performance management platform like 15Five or Culture Amp?
  4. Do you track hours? Maybe time-tracking software will be imperative to understand project profitability.
  5. What about analytics – is your team tracking blog clicks and website traffic?

 

There are about a million solutions out there, and you need to figure out what works best for you and your team earlier rather than later. Setting these processes at the beginning, we can promise you, will save you hours and hours later on. 

project management

The inner nerd in me loves this topic. Project management tools, when used appropriately, can make your life, and the lives of your employees and clients, much easier. Here’s the key: be sure to experiment with multiple tools before you pick one. There are SO many different components to each software. And while many can be similar, you need to ensure that yours in particular has the right components to set you and your team up for success. Things to consider:

  1. Do you need to have a client-facing platform so they can track progress? Do you need different user-level permissions?
  2. Do you need to track hours/time spent in that platform, or do you have an alternative software for that?
  3. Do you need scheduling tools?
  4. Do you need a comprehensive dashboard?
  5. Can it work with a diverse workforce? Meaning, some people are more visual while others prefer bulleted lists – can it do both?
  6. Do you need it to integrate with other tools you use?

 

I could go on.

Needless to say, if you’re new to operations management, this can all feel like a lot. Rest assured, you’ve got this. But if you need help, please reach out to us for recommendations, suggestions, a quick audit, and more. We’re committed to helping fellow business owners find the best solutions, software, and partners. Your success = our fulfillment.