Medium and large companies are made up of separate departments, and each of these will set its own goals for future success. In the marketing section, the team will focus on generating sales, accounting will maintain accurate records, and HR aims to recruit the right people and keep the workflow moving. To coordinate the efforts of these individual departments and make sure that they come together in a profitable, productive and efficient way, the company employs an operations manager.
A unifying force in a diverse workplace
In any organization, this is a vital role, because the operating manager takes responsibility for directing and refining every part of the venture. They will reorganize processes that are not working optimally, keep the lines of communication open between departments, and ensure that everyone in the facility is pulling in the same direction. In many ways, it is the operations manager who unifies the various departments, and in doing so, holds the company together. It’s an exciting career choice that can lead to positions in a business’s more senior executive roles.
People who feel ready for the challenges and responsibilities involved, as well as the ample rewards, can qualify with an Operations Management master’s degree online at Kettering University. To suit working professionals, the course is delivered online, and students can expect to graduate within 18 months.
Why do businesses need an operations manager?
A busy, successful business has so many different facets to it that keeping everything in check is a full-time job. The operations manager takes responsibility for anything that is ongoing, from sales to HR and the day-to-day running of a place. When done well, their work is what keeps the wheels turning smoothly. Should something go wrong or prove to be inefficient, they will take responsibility for designing and administering changes to procedures, and then monitor the new scheme’s progress to ensure that it is an effective solution.
The business also needs someone to keep an eye on changes in the marketplace and operating procedures, as most employees won’t have a chance to add this responsibility to their daily task list. It falls to the operations manager to research the latest trends in marketing strategies, software and technology, and then consider if they can be adapted to suit the business.
Finally, businesses have to ensure that everyone who works for them is properly trained for the role they have and is productive. The operations manager will implement a system that ensures that everyone is working optimally, without compromising on safety or the quality of the product or service.
What skills are essential for an operations manager?
Although overseeing and managing tasks takes up most of the operations manager’s time, their work can be more complex than it sounds. Primarily, they must have the ability to see beyond the smaller problems and distractions that concern individual departments. Instead, in order to decide what needs to be done in each level of the firm, they have to imagine the bigger picture. To do this, they should have experience in, or knowledge of, each department under their remit, from HR to sales and project management.
An excellent all-rounder who is ready to lead
A broad understanding of every area makes the operations manager less of a specialist and more of a generalist, but their leadership skills mean that they can motivate and manage a diverse team. Furthermore, to gain an insight into how the different areas of the company fit in around each other, they need excellent communication skills. As well as speaking directly to the executive team, they should feel comfortable chatting with the manufacturing team on the shop floor and the office staff. Therefore, most operations managers are very outgoing people who can make a point while remaining polite and constructive. This allows them to build positive relationships within the firm, but also with contractors, suppliers and external stakeholders.
The ability to remain organized in challenging situations
To keep on top of the latest developments in their industry and identify how these can be used to the business’s advantage, an operations manager needs excellent organizational skills. They often have to oversee a range of tasks every day and establish which of these should be prioritized. Doing this will test their problem-solving skills, but it means that they can get to the heart of an issue and help to find a solution swiftly.
Conflicts are dealt with promptly
Not all conflict within an organization is negative, as in the right circumstances, it can lead to innovation and change for the better. From communicating with suppliers to teams and management, operations managers need to be excellent negotiators and keep everyone unified in the workplace. They will handle conflict with tact and respect, encouraging people to reach their own conclusions, rather than risking a damaged relationship. If the conflict becomes a more sizable issue, they will use their listening skills and focus on the problem at hand, rather than the individuals involved. From accusations of unequal treatment to personality conflicts and differences of opinion, a good operations manager will strive to address the situation and seek lasting resolutions.
Managing the inventory
Operations managers who work in the retail industry or for a company that sells a range of products need to balance the inventory. Their work ensures that the business has enough stock to satisfy customer demand, without overspending and leaving the company vulnerable to losses. Managing this side of the operation is one of their most complex tasks. It takes a lot of experience and business acumen to know when you have enough stock available for customers without having too much.
Another aspect of inventory work that an operations manager carries out is supply chain strengthening. Many factors can create a problem in this area, from transport failures to the accessibility of raw materials. Operations managers need to understand which materials are reliably delivered and which should be stockpiled to avoid losing revenue. Similarly, in a company that has an element of seasonality to its sales, an operations manager will ensure that an inventory is built up in the quiet months so that the business is ready for a period of high demand. Finally, to get the best deals from their suppliers, they will take advantage of bulk buys or deals that reduce product shipping costs or the cost of the entire order.
Reporting on development and progress
As the operations manager monitors each department, they are in an ideal position to report on how certain policies or new processes have fared. They will bring together information and data from across the business, and then present it to executives or other employees in an accessible format. This ensures that the people at the top can make decisions and choose to act in real time, rather than waiting for a generated report from IT and then trying to extrapolate the relevant data. As well as acting swiftly when needed, these reports give the management team an insight into general trends within the business. This knowledge tips them off when something is not going well and gives them a chance to search for a solution before the issue worsens
A company can pivot when necessary
There are times when a company needs to move fast or switch tack to meet the demands of a changing market. Frequently, the operations manager is key to this fluidity. They can take into account the effect of change on every department, and then consider how the upheaval could be managed. A flexible business that is run well makes fewer mistakes, has lower costs, and when required, can increase turnaround times.
An operations manager realizes the director’s ambitions
Operations managers are more hands-on than the average director. While the director focuses on exploring new business ventures and attracting new clients, it is the operations manager who will be watching the daily progress of the company. The skills required are very different but equally important, and the people in these roles should have a great working relationship. This means that when the director wants to boost retention rates, strengthen the supply chain or test out a new software package, the operations manager is the first person they call.
Ideas are shared in the boardroom, but it is the operations manager who makes them happen on the office floor. Directors need someone to manage the practical aspects of the business because they often have to juggle several commitments. This means that their attention is frequently diverted elsewhere and daily tasks can be overlooked. They employ an operations manager to support them and ensure that they aren’t missing anything important.
Generating income throughout the operation
Operations managers use a range of techniques to realize the financial potential of their organization. Along with negotiating with suppliers and managing budgets, they have many other ways of driving revenue.
Maximizing the potential of every department
One of the most substantial challenges faced by operations managers is nurturing a working environment in which every department is generating the maximum revenue. To do so, they ensure that they understand how each team works and what will be of most benefit to them. When the time comes, this knowledge enables them to provide solutions for working more efficiently that have every chance of success. Operations managers are constantly thinking of the next step, the next goal and the next idea, as well as staying grounded in the present.
Enhancing the company’s organizational structure
A business’s organizational design refers to its hopes and needs for the future, the stage it is currently at, and what can be done to reach the eventual goal. Operations managers improve this vision by having a deep understanding of where the business is heading, who needs to help get it there, and what role each individual will take on as part of the process.
Demonstrating excellent project management skills
Operations managers use their organizational skills to manage projects being undertaken in house or with the help of a third-party provider. The aim is to get the work finished accurately, delivered on time, and within the budget specified. They monitor the progress of a project and ensure that any tasks that need coordinating are managed smoothly.
Taking control of KPIs
There are a huge number of KPIs (key performance indicators) available to executives, but operations managers make sure that they know which of these are the most meaningful. KPIs can be used to measure productivity, sales and efficiencies (more details), as well as any other metrics that could be useful. Understanding these, and being ready to act when necessary, allows the operations manager to grow the business, even in tougher times.
Understanding the financial side of the business
A good operations manager will take an interest in the company’s finances, familiarizing themselves with the profit and loss figures, as well as other metrics. They will pay close attention to the budgets of each department, monitor which projects the company has taken on, and work out whether these are profitable.
Driver of recruitment
Even though an operations manager will not get involved with the recruitment process, they are familiar with how it works and can help out. When there is a query about the best person to hire, they can be consulted, because they are aware of every part of the business and will have an idea of which candidate might bring value.
A behind-the-scenes multitasker
Being a good operations manager is not just about being at the front all the time – it’s more about working hard to keep things moving in the right direction, and often this happens behind the scenes. Part of this involves bringing in different teams or individuals from within the company to get their help with a project, and in the process, making them feel invested in the firm. When a particular department is having an ongoing issue, they might spend an entire day with that team to troubleshoot and get everyone moving in the right direction. They will put measures in place, and then check back to see what progress has been made.
Signs that a business would benefit from an operations manager
Although operations managers are considered essential by most CEOs, some companies feel that they are not needed or that they would be an unnecessary expense. However, it is often the case that businesses without an operations manager, especially larger companies, show signs of needing one.
Here are a few issues that companies often experience in the years or months before choosing to hire an operations manager.
Customer demand is getting out of control
If a firm is struggling to meet the needs of its customers, it can lose a significant amount of revenue and risks losing the business altogether. Whether the problem is linked to production or fulfilment, an operations manager can step in to boost the company’s output, identify inefficiencies, and analyze processes with a view to streamlining.
The resources are not supporting potential growth
Rapid growth is one of the best things that a business can hope for, but when the company is unprepared, it can end in disaster. Whether the business is suffering from a lack of staff or resources, an operations manager can find ways to acquire what is needed to support a period of growth. To do this, they will help the business owners or CEOs design and roll out a plan that scales the company realistically and sustainably.
Customers are looking elsewhere
As new products and services hit the market, customers’ expectations change. If a business fails to keep up with what its buyers want, it could lose them and experience a dramatic reduction in revenue. Operations managers mitigate the risk of this by researching what a client base expects and wants, and then developing a strategy to meet their expectations. As part of this process, they will implement an ongoing scheme to measure customer satisfaction so that the business can adapt when necessary.
A lack of organization is impacting productivity
Disorganized companies often experience ongoing periods of low productivity, poor communication between departments and negative customer feedback. As a result, it can eventually lead to falling profits, and the company could find itself in an increasingly vulnerable situation. Operations managers will expertly create and administer organizational processes that touch each area of the business, get things running more smoothly, and improve productivity levels.
Ensuring that each function of the business is managed and supported
Operations managers can be taken for granted on a day-to-day basis, but when someone needs help, they are always available to provide support and guidance. They add value to a business by moving it from A to B in the shortest, most efficient way, while also working hard to generate revenue. In the most complex of organizations, it is the operations manager who will make sure that essential processes are running smoothly and that each team is optimally efficient. Along with managing workflows, they minimize waste and constantly refine procedures, to get the most out of every process.
Operations managers are a major asset to any company that wants to boost its profitability while maintaining a positive working environment.