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10 Best Business Operations Practices for Startups

This article was originally published on LinkedIn

Starting a business and hiring your first few employees can seem daunting. Without having a solid foundation, your efforts at managing finances, human resources, marketing, office locations, clients and stakeholders, can quickly become overwhelming. This may compromise a business’ chances of success.

However, following these proven strategies that ensure smooth operations’ practices will position your company for success.

1. Define Who You Are

Have a clear, well-construed message to your growing team, your current and potential clients, and to yourself. What makes your product or service unique? What do you offer that your competitors do not? What does your company want to be when it grows up? Answering these questions will help you understand your competitive advantage and will aid you in securing and retaining top talent. People want to work for leaders with vision, and if you can’t sell the business ideas to your potential employees, how are you going to fare with your clients?

2. Build a Strong Foundation

Clearly define all processes and departments, even if you don’t yet have staff to fill all of the roles. The most fundamental departments every startup should have are Administration, Marketing & Sales, Human Resources, and Accounting & Finance. These will become your sustainable foundation, allowing your company to scale up and maintain its manageability. You do not need to wait for a team to build your departments. I once set up these four basic departments with independent protocols and defined guidelines, despite having a team of just one!

3. Pick the Right Players

The biggest asset you will ever have in any startup is your people, so you must choose your team strategically. This is easier said than done, especially as you try to balance hiring enough people to provide the services that will keep your business afloat with onboarding the profit generators and the support staff that manage the actual business. It can be difficult to retain your star players when your company is growing and you don’t yet have much to offer in perks and benefits. Your clear vision of where you want your company to be in the future can inspire your employees to make them want to be a part of something bigger. Together, you can achieve the results you have envisioned.

4. Manage Your Team Expectations

Having determined your vision of the company’s future and established a sustainable foundation, you need to manage your team’s expectations. Doing so is an ongoing project that requires a clear line of internal communication explaining where the company is, where you want it to go, and how everyone’s contributions will help the company get there. Transparency is paramount, lest you risk losing valuable resources if they feel trust has been broken.

5. Keep Records of Everything

Document all of your processes and archive every document, email, memo, and receipt. Since cloud storage is incredibly affordable these days, take full advantage of it and maintain impeccable records. Pay special attention to your bookkeeping; your accountant will thank you later. The better you keep track of your records, the better your business analytics will be.

6. Manage Your Cash Flow Wisely

Bookkeeping should be a priority, both for the sake of record-keeping as well as a gateway for evaluating your company’s health. Watch your business spending and audit often. Although you cannot fully control the stability of your business income stream, you do have a much bigger control on its spending. Of course, an idea that becomes a business must be fueled by passion. Just don’t forget that actually running a business means you will also need a steady positive cash flow.

7. Automate Your Finances

There are plenty of options for every industry and company size, so there is no need to waste time manually creating invoices, chasing late payments, or processing payroll. Find a solution that works for your business model and remember that the small financial commitment you are dedicating for these services will actually yield anther commodity you might not have enough of: time.

8. Know Your Audience

In a competitive market, it is not enough to simply have a good product. You must also excel in customer service. Great customer service is first and foremost a combination of good communication and adaptability; every client is different and you must be able to meet their unique demands and speak their language while maintaining your company’s standards of quality.

9. Serve Quality

When you make products people want to buy, marketing is secondary. If your product quality leaves much to be desired, no amount of marketing will salvage it. Mistakes happen, and whether you sell a product or a service, addressing mistakes by thoroughly analyzing what went wrong and working to amend it will yield results and improve quality. Your team can use mistakes, and the efforts to correct them, as learning opportunities to fuel growth.

10. Invest in Your Company’s Future

Oftentimes, it becomes tempting to cash in on profits, rather than reinvest in your company growth. You must resist this urge in favor of your company’s future. Take a cue from successful companies like Amazon, whose revenue keeps rising while net profit stays incredibly low. While not every company is going to be the next Amazon, the lesson is the same. Invest in your own growth and plan for the future.