How to pick a Director of Operations and what they will do for you in their first 3-6 months

You didn’t get to multi-six figures by not knowing how your business works. You were there, doing the do, building the business, building your team and you still are – you’re involved in ever aspect, your team come to you so they know what to do, your clients come to you because you are their point of contact, you are still creating your content because it is in your voice and you know that voice better than anyone.

But you’re tired, you’re fed up with being that point of contact for everyone, you’re fed up of having to create all the content and manage all the services. You. Just. Want. Some. Support!

Well of course you do. You can’t be that person that does it all because you will end up being a burnt out wreck. You’ve been the CEO of your business, but you’re also being the Director of Operations, you’re still in management mode instead of executive mode!

But if you get that help, what would they do?

Operations is the heart of all businesses, so deciding to work with a Director of Operations is a big thing. They will be taking over the operations side of your business, while helping you with the strategy to help you scale and grow – it’s not something to take lightly!

And it’s not a case of ‘here you go’ and they get on with it.

There is a steep learning curve to take into account. They need to appreciate your business and how you work, they need to understand your team and their effectiveness and they need to review all your current processes and systems. It can take 3-6 months for a new DOO to really become integral to the business and there will definitely be some ups and downs along the way as they assess and often restructure your processes.

So, let’s go through what a Director of Operations actually does!

A title is nothing if it doesn’t do what it says on the tin. Although a Director of Operations is more commonly thought of in terms of the corporate world, within the online world, it is not as well known.

Typically, a corporate DOO will work with just one business full time and attend an office on most days to work. An online DOO, however, will work with 2 or 3 businesses on a part-time basis and will not have to attend any offices as meetings are carried out online.

An online DOO invests their time and effort for each business they work with, always striving to ensure that the business runs like clockwork for their clients. And they truly are invested into that business, treating it as though it were their own, always keeping stock of the seven key pillars and ensuring the CEO is kept up to date with each aspect:

  • Business Growth & Financials
  • Visibility
  • Product Development & Innovation
  • Operational Efficiencies
  • Scaling & Team Growth
  • Client Experience
  • Professional & Personal Growth

You see, they are not just responsible for operations, it’s about developing long-term operational strategies and how the business will achieve them. It’s about taking the CEO’s ideas and making them a reality (if feasible)!

What is needed when you first start working with a DOO?

As I mentioned, it usually takes 3-6 months for a new DOO to get their feet firmly under the table. You should not expect your new DOO to be able to take over completely from day 1 – this is often where things fall down.

They need to understand every aspect of each department and will often work alongside team members to see what they do and how things are done.

Finances will be reviewed and policies and processes documented (which is needed for all businesses whether working with a DOO or not, but that is another blog for another time!). Hierarchy must be established and an understanding of where everyone fits into the scheme of things.

They will then assess what is working and what isn’t, what systems are needed and what aren’t and make sure that each of the 7 pillars mentioned above are running at their peak.

It could be that something that is done each day ‘because it’s always been done like that’ could be changed to be more efficient. It could be that a team member has an idea but has been too afraid to voice it or just never asked. Analysing processes is a key factor of what a DOO will do in those first few months.

What key traits should your DOO have?

Knowing the key skills that a DOO should have are important to make sure that you take on the right person – but you’ve never worked with one before, so how do you know?

Here are a few of the skills that I believe they should have:

  1. Excellent communication skills – this one goes without saying as they will be working with you, the CEO, your team and your clients – you need someone that can poise themselves as the voice of authority without being bossy and rude.
  2. Excellent written skills – again, because of who they will be dealing with, the ability to write reports, send emails and generally be able to put over a point in writing without causing offence is imperative.
  3. An open and inquisitive mind – understanding all functions and purposes within the business and looking at it as a whole when making decisions is imperative. Being open to ideas and questioning the status quo is what is needed when planning strategies for the long-term vision of the business.
  4. Human resource skills – understanding the team and managing them so that you get the best from each person is a skill most people don’t have. It’s about pushing abilities to bring out the best in each person and encouraging them to grow and have autonomy for their work. But it can also be about dealing with underperformance and disciplinaries. Dealing with a team can be hard, but it can also be so rewarding and is a key skill to have.
  5. Systems knowledge – while they don’t have to be a tech queen, they do need to understand your systems and how they work. Most DOO’s have worked with project management systems in one shape or another, so they will spend time making sure that yours is working well and that everyone understands it well and use it to communicate successfully between each department. Having different systems and tools used by each department is not congruent to a streamlined team and they will make sure that the best system is created through corroboration.
  6. Ability to see time savings and reduce time wasting – Setting up automations are immediate wins when it comes to time being wasted in a business and something any DOO should be looking for – for example, manually entering receipts when a photo can be sent to an accounting system in seconds is a simple yet effective alternative and saves a huge amount of time. They should also look for anything that wastes time and asking a new DOO what they have done to achieve this in the past is a great interview question.

Quick tips to kickstart your Director of Operations role

We’ve been through what a DOO should do, what their key skills are, but the million-dollar question remains: Where do you even start?

Bringing someone in from the outside who can take a fresh pair of eyes over your business can be really helpful, especially if you are just overwhelmed with everything that is going on.

A DOO will often begin by looking at the business as a whole and first try to understand what isn’t working, focusing on any areas you need to get under control if things have been allowed to decline in any way.

Often, a process called ‘Backward Planning’ can be used to get from the overall goal and narrowing down each step needed to get there, so then you have a starting point and achievable steps for improvement.

Starting small and simple is the key to not overwhelming both the team and the business owner. Although change may be needed, a good DOO will ensure that it is gradual and each step fully explained to all parties, so that they are prepared and embracing of the change.

Still don’t know where to start?

If you are looking to take on operational support, but are unsure of how to go about it, then I’d love to help.

As a Director of Operations myself, I am also a trained Human Resources Manager and can help you to create your job role and person specification, adverts, manage the whole recruitment process and implement the onboarding system so that you are confident in your choice when starting your DOO.

Have more questions? I’d love to speak to you about them, let’s have a cuppa and a chat, just book your call by clicking the button below.