Working behind the scenes of a business is too often a relatively thankless job. It's a little like working backstage on a tour: The lead singer is a star, but you're stuck hauling around the equipment that makes any of it possible, with very little glory, and absent those highly anticipated moments of creative release. Indeed, "Business Operations" is a critical component of a business's success. From managing all the platforms a company uses daily to reporting on processes, from implementing changes to dialing back when things go wrong, the role is multifaceted, and the department is a necessity.
While having someone devoted to business operations is, technically, an expense — they don’t directly generate revenue, and they don’t deliver a product or service — they do help the rest of the team operate more efficiently. They can also provide a valuable, objective perspective when examining how well (and how fairly) the inner workings of the business are functioning. For example, if you're a sales rep and you're controlling the lead rotation, and your paycheck is coming from the deals you close, you're being incentivized to route leads your own way. Business Operations can offer the objectivity to prevent these cases.
And sometimes that objectivity is made even more clear when you've spent some time on the other side.
In some cases, people within these roles can get stuck. They're seen as cost centers, rather than revenue generators (like Sales). But the reality is, the two "sides" of a business may have more to learn from one another than initially meets the eye. This is the story of how I went from behind-the-scenes to center stage and back — and why your Ops team members should, too.
What Does a BizOps Role Entail?
As an Operations Strategist at New Breed, my (current) role involves:
managing the different platforms we use across the company,
making sure those platforms are speaking to each other,
ensuring that people are able to use those platforms and gain value from them,
assisting with reporting, and
overseeing change management.
That last one is especially important. Every change comes with pain; change management is the process of minimizing that pain and optimizing successes. Roll out is never going to be perfect. But the goal of change management is to consolidate all the risks and occurrences and mitigate impact on the end user.
From limiting the time-to-value by providing training materials to allowing for employee input in order to increase morale, change management is a complicated beast. Every aspect needs to go through QA, just like any other big launch would. The impact, if the change isn't managed correctly, can be disastrous.
Why Switch to Sales?
At some point, New Breed found itself in a situation where we had too many leads for our sales team to work, and we needed to capitalize on those leads to reach our growth goals. As such, I stepped away from my position in Operations to take on a sales role. But New Breed had to stay committed to the necessity of strong operations.
We were well aware of the challenges we would face without someone dedicated to this role, and we knew that change management and software support would be more difficult during this time. That being said, we decided there was a greater need on the sales side — I needed to generate revenue instead of prevent its leakage. So I stepped over to the sales team to attempt to close new business, get new clients with high lifetime value, and, of course, help the team out.
Suddenly, I had total insight into the difficulty of a sales role, and into how completely opposite the mindsets are for Sales and Operations team members. In operations, you’re not thinking so much about active listening. You’re not thinking about identifying the pain, or about the next great questions you'll toss your prospect's way. The switch into that line of thinking presented a challenge, especially on occasions when I would go on a sales call directly after being in an operational meeting.
Sales also requires investment without any guarantee of return, or any real influence over return. In Operations, every task plays out, even if the process it facilitates later fades into the background, or requires a change. You always have the opportunity to see what your investment produces. In Sales, that's just not the case.
As an Operations team member, you imagine the system you’re creating from the top view, like playing The Sims: you’re building this structure, and there are people inside of it, but you aren't inside of it. You can't really see the inside, in that way. When you personally are inside of it, you notice a lot of things that you couldn’t possibly have anticipated when you were building the whole thing. There were small nuances within our sales process that were significantly more annoying than I had anticipated — and the Ops version of me had a hand in making them so.
The same could be said in the other direction. In a sales role, these annoyances or issues are only seen for their impact, and not for the effort required to minimize that impact. Coming into Sales from Operations, I had a stronger opportunity to provide real, constructive feedback to my Ops self than most Sales team members ever get.
The experience also humanized sales reps for me. There’s a reason they’re not known for filling out their data in the CRM. They're busy! As a result of that humanization, I’m now even more driven to streamline operations and stay proactive. Just because a process might be "working" now doesn’t mean it's optimized.
Lastly, being in a sales role also reminded me that ticket response time is critical. No one wants to wait.
The return to Ops wasn't easy. I got pulled back in earlier than expected, and it was as though the floodgates had opened. But I was ready for it. I had gained insight into the many pains of working deals, the many pains of experiencing the effects of Ops' decisions without context, and the many ways I could improve Ops in the future. It also reminded me why Operations is so in demand — which always serves as a good ego boost.
Ultimately, the switch was worth it. If you have the opportunity to move through each of these departments in order to gain perspective, or if you can give your employees that opportunity, I highly recommend doing so — despite the fact that, in the end, I'm not a "salesperson" — and it was a close call.