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Managing operations in small businesses: 5 essential techniques to learn today

managing operations

Big businesses don’t struggle in the same way when it comes to certain operations, as sometimes small businesses do. This is because you’ll often find big businesses have various departments with many skilled individuals who have extensive experience in managing specific business functions.

The role of operations management within a big business, for example; is a streamlined process headed up by one, or perhaps a few, experienced and highly knowledgeable operations managers. Most times there’s a team of people supporting the managers’ operational objectives by constantly seeking out ways to improve business operations. With a core team, it becomes a lot easier to find solutions and fully optimise operations.

The role of operations management in small businesses on the other hand often lacks a clear-cut process, usually developed through trial and error, and often managed by the business owner themselves, or a manager who is less knowledgeable on how to effectively manage operations. Unfortunately, this is usually because small businesses lack funds, especially during the startup phase.

With the role of operations management being a critical function within a business, what are small businesses to do if they’re unable to hire an experienced operations manager, but want to improve business operations and achieve a streamlined process? Well, the trick is, in fact, going back to basics, and finding a logical step by step method of managing the operational processes.

Take a look at these 5 essential techniques you can learn and implement today, to better manage operations within your small business:

1. Assess each task

The best way to assess a task is by breaking it up by asking vital questions. Firstly, find the source of the work – where does the work come from? Is it from a client, is it from the supervisor, the vendor? This will give you an idea of the nature of the task and how it should be handled.
Secondly, evaluate the process of that specific task. If it’s a work order for example; break down the process of how this task is managed by detailing each step: add up the charges of the work order, enter the values into the computer and hold it for payment from the customer etc. Creating a process is an incredibly important step.

Then, decide on how the work is stored. Is it filed in a personal client folder? Should it be stored away? Through assessing tasks it’s easier to create a process and identify the kind of person suitable for the job; as well as to better create job descriptions and worker manuals.

2. Prioritise tasks

Prioritising tasks is not just about creating a deadline – that comes later on. This covers the sequence of the task; which is also concerned with the creation of the process. Thereafter, tasks can be prioritised according to importance as well as the deadline – which can be managed by the employee themselves. When people have a clear indication of timelines and are aware of priorities they are able to streamline the process for themselves; resulting in a more efficient operation – even without much help from the operations manager.

3. Delegate accordingly

After you, as the manager, have assessed the task and have prioritised the sequence of workflow, you’ll have a good understanding of the perfect type of employee who will be able to carry out the task effectively and efficiently. You’ll know the skills and strengths that the task demands, and you’ll need to align this with those of the employee. Assigning the task to a person within the team who you think will best fit the requirements is called delegating.

4. Evaluate outcomes

Once the task is complete, it’s important that you evaluate the outcomes – especially in the beginning. Be careful not to look like you are micromanaging – it could come across that way if you continue evaluating results every single time after a task is complete, for months on end. Spot evaluations work more effectively as it does not threaten the employee.

5. Find solutions to areas of concern

After evaluating the outcomes, you will have a good idea of where the weak areas in the processes are. It could be a weakness in the work sequence, or even in the employees’ ability to carry out the job. Whatever the concerns are, you will need to find alternative solutions for them; which will hopefully better the operations. Remember that you should be committed to constant improvement – even a solution could prove to be ineffective.

The importance of lifelong learning

life long learning

They say ‘knowledge is power’, but what does this mean? Well progress, whether it be in life, in self, in one’s career, or in any other sphere of one’s existence, begins with education. If one does not know better, he cannot do better. Therefore, the man who knows more will forever be ahead of the man who has seized to invest in continuous learning.

Learning is certainly a prerequisite for growth and the catalyst for positive change, which is why we should never stop but instead see it as a lifelong journey.

It’s also important to note that learning is not confined to formal mediums of education such as university courses or short courses, for example. It also extends across informal mediums which offer valuable information that can assist you in various aspects of your life or career. These mediums include informative newsletters written by reputable sources; articles covering tips offered by industry experts or newspaper and brochure inserts, to name a few.

Here are just a few of the benefits of consistently nurturing your potential through investing in lifelong learning:

1. Become a leader in your field and stay ahead of the competition

Through making the choice to consistently brush up your knowledge of your particular industry, you’ll certainly find yourself in the pound seat – no pun intended. Keeping ahead of industry advancements, understanding new techniques; the modern day threats and the general movements within your field, will afford you the ability to make sound decisions within your role. Those who fail to enhance their skills and their knowledge will quickly find themselves falling behind – especially in a world where one’s value in the workplace is often measured by how much they know, how current their skills are, and whether or not they are able to adjust and remain versatile in the modern business environment.

2. Boost your earnings

Making learning a lifelong commitment will give you leverage over your competition, giving you a better chance of swiftly scaling the corporate ladder – or finding success as a business owner. As previously mentioned, those who know better, can do better. Those who are well-learned are able to make better decisions, are able to successfully implement modern strategies and techniques; and offer fresh new ideas based on their newly acquired knowledge and expertise; thus they are more likely of making a success of their endeavours. Employers seek out individuals who show competence in various areas within their role, and will invest in individuals who are likely to drive the business forward.

3. Build your self-confidence

Self-confidence is one of the main ingredients for success. Those who aren’t confident in their abilities usually end up self-sabotaging without even realising it. Unfortunately, this is usually because of an internal knowing that they could be better, and that there are likely many others that are ahead of them in terms of skill and education. Improving your expertise and skills will give you the self-confidence you need to progress through life, as well as in your career; as you won’t feel threatened by others, but rather feel confident in what you have to offer.

4. Make better decisions in the workplace

It’s a no-brainer that through gaining a better understanding of the intricacies that come with performing your role you’ll be able to make better decisions. This is exactly why they say knowledge is power. It gives you the tools you need to make decisions that are in the best interest of your objective.

5. Become a well-respected individual/employee

People look up to those who can teach them something – those who are skillful, smart and competent. This is partly due to the person’s charismatic confidence in their abilities, but also largely due to the fact that they’re inspiring pioneers.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to make the choice to invest in your abilities and nurture your potential. It’s always the right time to make transformational decisions, but since it’s spring; the month of renewal, rebirth and growth, why not make the choice today?

5 books every aspiring entrepreneur should read

Whether you’re about to take a leap of faith or not, I’m sure you can agree that it’s essential for us to feel motivated and inspired. To ensure we live fulfilled, meaningful lives we often need to be reminded that we too can make positive changes; that we too can take a shot at success, and that we are absolutely deserving of a great life. And what better way to feel inspired and motivated than to read books written by people just like us – who found themselves in similar positions, and who made a success of their circumstances?

Take a look at our top 5 must-reads for aspiring entrepreneurs:

1.The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

He also reminds us that success doesn’t favour any one ‘type’ of person, it only favours those that grab hold of opportunities whether big or small;Chris Guillebeau reminds us in this fantastic read that you don’t have to be a trust-fund baby to achieve great success. those that work hard, persevere and are creative in their thinking. In this book, you’ll come across more than a few inspiring examples of ‘accidental entrepreneurs’ who identified and acted upon opportunities which lead to incredible success.Image result for the 100 startup

Favourite Takeaway: “To succeed in a business project, especially one you’re excited about, it helps to think carefully about all the skills you have that could be helpful to others and particularly about the combination of those skills.”

2. The Real Warren Buffett: Managing Capital, Leading People by James O’Loughlin

Image result for The Real Warren Buffett: Managing Capital, Leading PeopleThis book is of course a must-read, especially for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start off on the right foot. Throughout this book Warren Buffett emphasises the importance of people and capital – he believes it is the core of a business and without these two factors there is no business. Author James O’Loughlin has perfectly described the key techniques Buffet has used throughout the years to balance these two worlds. He dives into Buffets decisions surrounding people and capital and later learns that Buffett recognises that this ‘talent’ has massively contributed to his monumental success.

Favourite Takeaway: “Focus on your customers and lead your people as though their lives depended on your success.”

3. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Related imageThis book is primarily about the incredible rise of American online retail giant, Zappos and what it took for them to make over $1 billion in sales in less than ten years. Written by the CEO himself, Tony Hsieh, this book is written with immense honesty as Hsieh highlights even the ‘not-so-pretty’ parts of business and the hard lessons he learnt on the way to the top. Hsieh writes about the mistakes he made in business; the path to finding a balance between profits, passion and purpose and gives the reader incredible insight into how an enduring business brand is built, and how a strong company culture is established.

Favourite Takeaway
: “The best leaders are those that lead by example and are both team followers as well as team leaders. We believe that in general, the best ideas and decisions are made from the bottom up, meaning by those on the front lines that are closest to the issues and/or the customers. The role of a manager is to remove obstacles and enable his/her direct reports to succeed. This means the best leaders are servant-leaders. They serve those they lead.”

4. Losing my Virginity by Richard Branson

Image result for losing my virginity by richard bransonThis book is raw and real; and while it will teach you a thing or two about Richard Branson’s incredible business mind, it will also teach you the importance of just having fun and enjoying life. In this fascinating autobiography, Branson describes how he entered into the world of entrepreneurship; the decisions and choices he made – and is still making on his journey; and even details his ‘formula’ for success, which may just surprise you because it’s not all work – it’s, in fact, a lot of play too.

Favourite Takeaway: “I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive then I believe you are better off not doing it. A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”

5. The Hard Things about the Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Image result for The Hard Things about the Hard Things by Ben HorowitzBen Horowitz is one of Silicon Valley’s most respected entrepreneurs, and the co-founder of venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz. In his book, ‘The Hard Things about the Hard Things’ he reflects on his experiences with founding, running, selling, buying, managing, and investing in technology companies – and he is brutally honest about what it takes to be successful. This book is packed with the wisdom which will help you identify and navigate the problems that every entrepreneur encounters especially during their business’s infancy years. A lot of people boast about how great it is to start a business, but Ben Horowitz is honest about how hard it is to run one.

Favourite Takeaway: “Great CEOs face the pain. They deal with the sleepless nights, the cold sweats, and what my friend the great Alfred Chuang (legendary co-founder and CEO of BEA Systems) calls “the torture.” Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say, “I didn’t quit.”

Simple operational tweaks you can make today to boost efficiency

While the role of operations management covers a vast range of functions and responsibilities necessary to effectively streamline business processes; one important function involves that of identifying areas of weakness within operational processes and seeking out solutions to improve efficiency. Through making simple operational changes or ‘tweaks’, it’s possible to boost efficiency enough to drastically improve productivity and team motivation simultaneously.

While there are many techniques to identifying operational shortfalls, and various ways of finding solutions to these problems; we have made a basic list of operational changes you can implement today, that can help boost operational efficiency.

Encourage team collaboration

Henry ford once said: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success”. It’s vital that individuals work together in achieving a common goal – people are the core of a business and it’s teams which drive operational success. Through encouraging collaboration, not only between employees, but with partners, suppliers and customers too; objectives will be made clearer, alliances and relationships will be strengthened and communication flow will be optimised. This will inadvertently help operations managers, later down the line, to identify areas within the system which need improvement.

Delegate strategically

A good operations manager will know where the strengths lie within his/her individual team members, and will use this to their advantage to streamline operations and achieve operational objectives. Delegating tasks according to the skills and strengths of individuals is a smart and strategic way of boosting efficiency, improving productivity, and at the same time enhancing employee motivation. Employees who feel confident in their ability to carry out certain tasks due to their experience, skills or even personality, will not only get the job done effectively and efficiently, but will reduce costs and minimise errors.

Define KPI’s

Not only is it important to define the key performance indicators (KPI’s) of employees to ensure the quality and timely completion of tasks; but to also set KPI’s for specific trackable operations. These operations will depend on the nature of the business and the processes within your team, however, some examples of trackable operations include: website clicks; new customers acquired, and per capita marketing spend. Through defining KPI’s for these metrics, operations managers will be able to devise a plan for implementing efficient practises based on these results; driving positive operational change in the long run.

Measure and analyse results

Wherever change has been implemented within the operational construct; it’s important to measure and analyse the results and outcomes that’ve transpired. To build an efficient team, process and operation; the operations manager, with help from the team; needs to identify what is working, what needs further refining, and what needs alternative solutions. Achieving an efficient, productive and motivated operational structure is a constant work in progress.

5 skills you need to fast-track your career in business management

fast-track your career in business management

Are you looking to manage a business? Or are you already settled in the business sector, but wanting to fast-track your career? Either way, you want to be the best you can be so that you reach your professional goals and fulfill your dreams. Allow us to share a few secrets that’ll help you on your way.

Firstly; to be the best, you need to offer the best. Whether you’re set on working in a corporate firm or looking to venture into the entrepreneurial sphere, you’ll need to have acquired specific skills to propel you, your team and your business forward.

We’re not talking about the entry-level skills required by most firms seeking out competent business management executives. We’re talking about refined, up-to-date, industry-specific skills that employees struggle to find but desperately want.

To stand out from the crowd you need to go the extra mile and acquire the skills that are in high-demand. Ready to see what it takes to become the best in your field?

Technical Skills / Hard Skills

1. Highly-effective management and leadership skills

As a business manager, and as an entrepreneur, you’ll likely be leading a team. Understanding the difference between management and leadership is the first important step. It’s imperative that you learn updated techniques to manage your team in the most optimised, effective and efficient way. Of equal importance, is an understanding of what motivates and inspires the people who are building your business. If you are able to achieve results through your skill of managing and motivating people, you’ll be a highly sought-after individual – and if you’re a business owner, there is no doubt your venture will go from strength to strength.

2. Financial skills

Most firms are happy for their business managers to have basic financial skills, however, if you want to be the best in your field you’ll make acquiring in-depth financial skills a priority. Without strong financial knowledge, you’ll quickly find yourself falling behind. Furthermore, for employees and entrepreneurs to maintain a competitive edge in today’s times, they need to ensure that they’re moving with technology. In relation to business management, you may want to consider supplementing your traditional financial skills with digital technical ability.

3. Operations management

Yet another important skill is that of operations management. In whichever role you find yourself in, you’ll undoubtedly be called to streamline business processes in line with business objectives. While you can rely, to a degree, on your strong management and leadership skills, it’s imperative that you broaden your operational skill set by refining your risk management abilities too. As a well-rounded business manager or entrepreneur, you should quickly be able to identify risk and find solutions to keep it to a minimum.

4. Marketing skills

Marketing skills are essential if you’re serious about establishing a competitive advantage. As an individual with the responsibility of building and positioning a brand; it’s critical that one understands the fundamentals of marketing. This includes the product lifecycle, the marketing mix, consumer decision making and the customer experience, to name a few.
Without strong marketing know-how, your venture will likely struggle to compete; which may, in the long run, set you up for failure.

5. Up to date industry-specific skills

In general, no matter what field you find yourself in, or which role, it’s in your best interest to continuously look for opportunities to acquire new skills which can be used within the operations of your role. Lifelong learning has become a standard in the professional world as it keeps one up to date with industry advances as well as technological advances pertaining to the specific industry. If you’re an individual who’s eager to learn; eager to improve and seeks to drive positive change within their role, you’ll certainly stand out from the crowd and excel in your professional career.

Soft Skills

Don’t forget that possessing soft skills is just as important as showing competency in the hard skills relevant to the business sector. Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits and attitudes. A well developed social and emotional intelligence shows companies your ability to navigate their environment, your likelihood to work well with others and achieve goals.

If you’re ready to accelerate your career with a business management certification, register for a Business Management online short course today.

Are you new to business management?

business management

It’s always a good time to make smart career moves. Earning yourself a business management certificate or degree is a smart career move, and we’ll tell you why. Not only will it set you up for a great career in business management, but it will also open many doors for you in a variety of industries. Those in industries as diverse as construction, retail, health, tech and sales; all require a critical understanding of business processes and systems to successfully execute operations and improve efficiency. This naturally has an effect on the business’s bottom line. An understanding of business management also supports a move into the entrepreneurial sphere. With a degree or certificate in business management, your options span industries!

Responsibilities associated with business management

As a business manager working within a department or as a business owner, you’ll be responsible for overseeing the various departmental operations; ensuring that each component is running optimally. You’ll be required to devise plans and assign tasks accordingly within the team; manage workflow, adjust operational structures and find solutions for areas of concern. You’ll be expected to make sound financial decisions that are in the best interest of the business, including the drawing up and management of budgets and various financial operations.

Average annual earnings within the business management field

Yet another great reason to pursue a career in business management: earning an above average annual income. According to PayScale, South Africans working within the field, in a:

Occupational level Average annual income
Entry level (0-5yrs) R298.000
Mid-career professional (5-10yrs) R510,000
Top-end professional (10-20yrs) R536,000

Skills required to pursue a successful career in business management

It’s incredibly difficult to secure a well-paying business management role with growth potential, without a solid academic background, and at least some working experience either in the field or in a role which exposes you to some or all of the elements involved in business management. You should consider either obtaining a degree in the field or enrolling in a course which will set you up for a promising career in business management. You will need to have acquired the following skills in order to secure a job in the field:

  • – Strategic and operational planning, as well as drawing up competitive strategies
  • – Strong management and leadership skills
  • – The ability to build high-performance teams and create a positive organisational culture
  • – Financial management skills
  • – Strong marketing skills
  • – The ability to successfully manage operations

The Business Management online short course is the ideal course for aspiring business managers, as well as current managers or entrepreneurs who require the skills necessary to excel in their careers. On completion, you will learn the critical skills needed to enter into the field, including the ability to:

  1. – Demonstrate the ability to analyse and improve overall business effectiveness
  2. – Discuss the role of marketing and its role in achieving organisational goals
  3. – Demonstrate an understanding of modern management and leadership approaches
  4. – Discuss the role of financial management and budgeting in relation to business effectiveness
  5. – Earn a Business Management short course certificate

Ready to begin your prosperous career in Business Management? Enrol in a Business Management online short course facilitated by MasterStart, to take your first step in career development.