Operational skills

Whether you’re a new business owner or a veteran, there is always room for improvement in regards to the day-to-day operations of your company. If you can fine-tune your processes, you can optimise the performance of your business; ultimately, saving you time and money.

It’s easy to get a little caught up in the details and lose your way as a business owner, so in today’s blog, we’ll be detailing the need-to-knows to help you boost your operational skills and deliver results. There are a variety of different ways to improve your operations, and as an entrepreneur, you are constantly presented with new opportunities to improve, although these may not always suit you. So, we’ve compiled a list of the proven methods that can be tailored to best suit you.

As we go through this list, you may find yourself concentrating only on areas of improvement – current weaknesses you’ve perhaps identified. However, it’s important to also draw attention to and utilise your current strengths too…

What are operational skills?

These skills are traits that operational managers or business owners develop in order to effectively support a business and maximise efficiency, productivity and achieve overall success. Through the use of both hard and soft skills, this individual will organise and direct their organisation’s processes. But, exactly which attributes make up these operational skills?

  • Technical knowledge – expertise, a qualification in a specific field etc.
  • Data processing skills – the ability to look for patterns, plan short and long term based on this data
  • Product development – seeing an opportunity, innovating
  • Risk analysis – identify potential challenges and create solutions should negative situations arise
  • Strategic planning – anticipate issues and approach these with innovative solutions before a major complication develops
  • Budget management – make careful choices in regards to cash flow
  • Staff management – delegating tasks, organizing and maintaining employee schedules
  • Decision-making skills – consider different perspectives and alternative outcomes
  • Problem-solving skills – weigh options and implement solutions that help overcome problems
  • Communication – exceptional communication skills to interact with colleagues, staff and other individuals daily
  • Organisational skills – keep track of project files, employee paperwork, budgets, project schedules and other important details surrounding company processes
  • Time management – scheduling deadlines, monitoring important production milestones and ensuring teams finish projects within specific deadlines
  • Interpersonal skills – develop trust with customers and staff and build supportive relationships at work
  • Adaptability – act quickly to keep up with changing demands

These are just some of the main skills that make up operational management, which then leads us to ask how these can be utilised to form actual processes. It’s vital you understand where to look to actually streamline the right operational activities of your company.

#1 Simplify and upgrade your current processes

Are you turning a two-step task into a drawn-out ordeal? It may be time to consider making changes. The business world is constantly evolving, with new methods, tools and products popping up every day. Whilst not all of these developments will specifically suit your business, investing in the right upgrades can streamline your operations and increase productivity in the workplace.

Systems can quickly become out-of-date, and just because you’ve always used a certain method doesn’t mean it’s the most effective way. Letting go of old habits can open up a variety of new opportunities and open the door for significant improvement. Of course, there are certain processes that will never change – these tend to be associated with your USP; perhaps you handmake sustainable clothing – you can’t suddenly swap to large-scale fast fashion production! But, if you are completing your accounting books by hand, you could be wasting a lot of time.

TIP: If you hire a new employee and they come to you with a suggestion to improve the day-to-day operations, make sure you listen to their insight! They may have a valuable recommendation that could be utilised within your business. Furthermore, it will make them feel respected as a team member.

#2 Resolve the small issues first before they develop

A small issue may seem like an unimportant niggle that can generally be overlooked. However, this is not the case! As a business owner, these weak spots you see as insignificant can quickly develop into major problems. And, a large setback could cost you time, money and even bring your operations to a complete standstill.

Use your operational skills as a business owner to look into areas of improvement. Spend time reflecting, analyse and create solutions that you believe in – put these into action. A business coach can be a vital resource during this process as you can consult with them and ask for their expertise – it’s likely they may have handled a similar problem in the past too. But, once you create an action plan to manage and develop current weaknesses, you can continue analysing and ultimately grow your operational skills.

#3 Ensure you have an effective method in place to measure performance

You can’t improve what you don’t measure! You need to identify what your priorities are by asking yourself what it is you want to accomplish. These need to be clearly defined SMART targets, so that you can gauge when your business reaches a milestone. Once you have these targets, you can create an actionable plan to work towards these goals and measure how you are progressing.

An example may be, “I want to improve our communication” – this is vague and says little about how you will actually get there. Instead consider trying “I will improve our team’s communication by the end of the month, we will trial a no email or phone policy to encourage clear, direct conversations in person. As a result, we will connect with 5 new leads as a team every day.”

You can also use the data you collect and measure to then base your decisions upon – allowing you to make smarter choices and improving your problem-solving abilities.

Operational skills

#4 Motivate your employees and offer additional training

Employees and the work they do are the lifeblood of your business! If there are weak spots in your systems, it’s likely they’ll already know about them, and may be frustrated trying to deal with these obstacles. If you come across as a “my way or the highway” leader, your staff will likely be unresponsive and not want to work towards a solution. Yet, if you can involve them in the process, this may motivate them to go above and beyond.

A great tactic can be to do offer additional training and open the floor for discussion on what this training should be focused upon. Take note of the flaws pointed out and solutions offer, proactively listening will ensure your employee’s feel valued and may reveal something you had yet to consider. In addition to smoothing processes within your operation, you will also reduce employee turnover and take the stress off your team.

#5 Monitor trends across industries

It’s not enough to just stay up-to-date with what’s happening within your own industry, you need to be aware of your local economy, changing legislations, and the national state of your industry. Keeping up with the latest, relevant developments will help you uncover the best practices.

Trends can often be quick fads that come and go, but they can also inspire innovation, helping you discover new ways to improve your businesses operations and get ahead of your competitors.

#6 Schedule time to reflect

As we’ve mentioned, it’s easy to get swept up in the daily on-goings of your business. However, taking a step back and reflecting ensures you are not running down an ineffective path. If you can schedule just a few minutes a day, or week, to review your business plan and processes you can continue moving forward in the right direction. As you take the time to analyse what has been successful, you can make executive decisions and choose which processes work and which need tweaking. Continuing to experiment and trial new methods will see your business’s operations streamlined.

Operational skills: Why do they matter so much?

As a business owner, you are responsible for a range of important tasks and projects, each will see you utilising a range of hard and soft skills to do so – as a result, this will organise and propel your company forward. However, it is easy to get swept up in the daily hustle and bustle, thereby neglecting the actual operational running of your business. But, if you can combine your skills with these proven methods to reflect and streamline your processes, you’ll find the day-to-day operations of your organisation are greatly improved.

There are three main benefits of this: you’ll see improved productivity, lower levels of staff turnover and increased profits. It’s clear to see why the operational side of your business is so crucial to its success – there is always room for improvement to continue to see you thrive in an ever-changing and highly competitive market.

Are you looking for a coach to work with you and develop both your personal operational skills and business processes? Book a meeting with me today and we can discuss whether business coaching could be right for you. With over 30 years, I have the expertise and experience to confidently guide you towards your goals. Contact me now at info@cpsouth.co.uk or complete this contact form, and I’ll be in touch shortly.

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