6 Signs It’s Time to Make Your First Operations Hire

As a startup founder or new business owner, your first hire might well be in a non-operations area. But how do you know when you’re ready to hire your first operations employee?

First, let’s define the word: Your company’s operations consist of all those work activities that are designed to create products or services, market them to your prospects, and sell and deliver them to the purchaser. They’re the things that keep the business gears turning, outside of finance and accounting.

Operations employees and managers help you build, manage and grow the business systems that help your company scale up and run smoothly. Many mid-sized to larger companies break up their operations across departments, with separate teams for developer operations in engineering, marketing ops for marketing, sales or revenue ops for sales, and so on.

If you’re running a smaller business, don’t overthink it. Instead, look for these six signs that it’s time to make an operations hire.

1. You spend over 25% of your time on tasks someone else could do

You as an individual can only do so much. Your time, attention and energy are all finite resources. At some point, you’ll hit the limit and will need to either say no to additional tasks or delegate some portion of your task list to someone else.

An efficient new hire should know the right processes and be capable of making decisions that support your business goals. If a new hire can meet those two needs, you’re increasing your company’s performance and improving its ability to reach revenue and sales goals.

2. Your work systems need a makeover, but you can’t seem to get around to it

In the early stages of a company’s existence, there’s a tendency to keep patching over certain systems and “making do” with what you can at the time. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, until you wake up one day and realize your business systems are teetering on a shaky foundation. For example, if you keep track of all your clients in a single unorganized and unreadable Google Sheet, you know you need a better approach. Streamlining and optimizing your systems will help save the company time, money or both.

Yet if you simply can’t find the few hours or days it would take to create a better client-tracking system, nothing will ever change. Hiring a capable operations candidate can either allow you to delegate the systems makeover to your new employee, or take other items off your plate and hand them to the new person so you can focus on the systems issue.

3. Your business goals need operational support

How are you planning to meet those lofty, challenging business goals you set for your company? What does the path to those objectives look like to you now? That trajectory will look wholly different depending on your business model and resources, as well as the plans themselves. And in the early days, those initial goals may be reachable on your own or with the skeleton founding crew you brought on board pre-launch.

But at some point, your goals should exceed your operational grasp. They should make you and your business stretch and force some well-timed growth. In that case, you’ll need to make at least one operations hire to empower your company to scale up and reach those challenging goals.

4. You can bring a new hire up to speed

Making your first operations hire means you need to be able and willing to spend the time necessary getting a new hire up to speed. They can’t train themselves, after all. Bringing on an operational hire at a time when you can’t devote the necessary resources to training them and helping them acclimate will only set them up for failure. Make sure you have a solid, workable plan to ensure your new hire gets what they need to succeed.

5. You’re ready to let go of the reins, at least to some degree

There’s no question that it can be scary to give up control, but it’s crucial as you grow and take on more responsibility yourself. You alone can lead your team and take care of the CEO-level actions necessary to scale up to the next level.

That means you’ll need to let go of the need to control other kinds of tasks — the kind that someone else can handle. Freeing up the time and bandwidth you previously devoted to those tasks leaves you free to focus on the kinds of work that will help your company grow.

6. You have other business projects you want to work on but can’t make time for them

Most entrepreneurs and startup founders have at least one pet project, a challenging and creative endeavor that will help grow the company, raise the company’s profile and even attract venture capital investments.

Far too many of those dream projects fall by the wayside when the day-to-day business operations demand too much of your time. Hiring someone to take over those operational tasks frees you up to do that deep, creative work and make a splash for your company.

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