Setting the Stage for Strategic BizOps
We had a great conversation recently with Andrew Fink, VP of Customer Success at Celect, about setting the stage for strategic BizOps. Andrew was an amazing panelist at our most recent meetup, "From Hair on Fire to Highly Strategic: BizOps in Transition."
Stephanie Fox: Celect is a young, venture-backed company so I’m curious: does your organization have a centralized BizOps leader, or is the Ops function falling more to the individual departments like Sales, Marketing and Customer Success?
Andrew Fink: We have about 50 employees and currently we’re handling Ops within each of the departments, so we're more “hair on fire” tactical than strategic with our approach right now. I hope that as we grow we’ll be able to elevate BizOps to the strategic, centralized level that I believe it needs to be at. It’s a hard sell for a small services organization to bring in someone that isn’t directly generating revenue, but from my past experience in larger organizations I know it is a strategic hire.
SF: In early stage companies, I think it’s safe to say that everyone in every role feels like they’re spending more time on tactics and not enough on strategy. At what point in the company’s growth do you recommend hiring your first strategic BizOps person?
AF: It’s a challenge in the beginning. You want to manage the hiring burn, especially in Series A / B companies. You hire the fundamental “doer” roles within each function. Every single hiring decision is carefully weighed in terms of its ability to directly contribute to revenue. As the revenue picture changes and the number of customers grows, so does the organization’s need to manage business operations. I believe we're getting to the point at Celect where we will hire a sales-focused business operations person but one that can also support Marketing and potentially Customer Success.
SF: How can tools in the BizOps tech stack help with telling the customer story from start to finish?
AF: As we’re getting off the ground, we’ve done a decent job at putting functional systems in place, because we need them to operate the business. We’ve got our CRM, our marketing automation system, customer support tool, engineering systems, and eventually we will deploy Customer Success software. But each of those has its own data stream and view of a customer. We will not get the broader customer story until we start to leverage some of the tools in the BizOps tech stack like Tableau, Domo, Qlik, and Looker. As we scale, the demands on the business will require us to have accurate data in each of the functional systems and a broader strategic view of all of our customer touch points.
SF: You’ve never formally “owned” BizOps but clearly you have an in-depth appreciation of the importance of the function. How has BizOps impacted your career?
AF: I came up through the ranks as a business analyst, so I was always around the need for data and proving ROI. As my functions and responsibilities grew in scale, the need for operations-focused roles on my team and on other teams also increased. Getting that Ops person on my team hasn’t always been easy. In some cases, I’ve had to create Ops roles without a formal Ops position, and get folks to do the function without having it exist formally. In most of my customer-facing experience, we’ve had to build our own Ops function within the team, so I absolutely see the need and the value.
SF: In your observation, how do good BizOps folks become even better at what they do? What advice would you give a BizOps person to make the transition from tactical to strategic?
AF: Find ways to shadow other groups in the company, like Product, Sales, and Customer Success, to learn what’s going on. I was fortunate enough to be a mentor to a colleague from France in the BizOps group and she spent 6 or 7 weeks just going from one department to another. She had the approval of the head of the group to do that, which was critical, and it allowed her to learn a lot about all the various functions. I think she became much more effective at her job because of it. My advice is go to your boss and say, “I want to shadow these three or four organizations to learn the business better.” If you do this, I guarantee you are going to be more strategic and valuable to your organization.
SF: That’s great advice. Do you have any other tips or strategies for someone trying to elevate their BizOps game?
AF: I learned something years ago that I forget once in awhile but it’s very important: Ask “why?” Don’t just ask why once, but ask “why?” multiple times. Get an answer and then ask “why?” and when you get an answer ask “why?” again. When you ask “why?” 3 or 4 times you get to learn more and more. So ask “why?” a lot and you’ll really get into the meat of the problem so you can offer a strategic solution.
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Steph served as Rekener’s Community Manager and CMO. A Rekener co-founder, she was previously Senior Director of Marketing at CCC, a $300M+ recurring revenue business, and served in marketing leadership roles at Vertical, @stake, Informio, DotContent and Meridian. Her first recurring revenue role was as an inside sales rep selling real-time stock pricing subscriptions.
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