Well-organised operations are key to efficiency and growth. Without solid operations in place, scaling could pose significant challenges.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how much easier it is to grow your business when you’ve got the operational basics in place. We’ll look at logistics, tools and people.

Did you know?

A lack of infrastructure and funding is one of the biggest barriers to growth for small businesses in the UK.

Data from  ​​​​The Federation of Small Businesses (PDF, 614KB)

KEY LEARNINGS

  • Be able to list the operational tasks that keep your business running
  • Check you have the right operations in place
  • Make sure your team is clear on their responsibilities
  • Put in place processes

Read time:

8 mins

Chapter 1

The purpose of operations

Read time:

1 min

What are operations and why do we need them?

What are operations?

This includes all the processes and systems that keep your business running. From how you run your finances to how you shape your marketing.

Operations bring every aspect of your business together. They help you to understand the impact of your decisions on different areas of the business.

For example, if you decide to increase production, you need to understand what each area of your business will need to do. From adapting your structure to paying for more tools and people.

 

Why do we need operations?

  • Meeting goals – Your processes need constant review. This helps them stay efficient and achieve your goals
  • Future growth – Getting operations right now can help to avoid blockers to growth in future

Chapter 2

Logistics - When and where you do business

Read time:

2 mins

Identifying the logistics you need

Logistics – the ‘where and when’

Logistics are where you operate and when. The ‘when’ can also be linked to the ‘where’. If you operate online, for example, you’re open 24/7. If you have a physical location, you may only open at certain times of the day.

These are your overall logistics. But each area of your business needs its own systems in place. Plan how these will all work, and keep them under regular review.

Activity

Take 5 minutes now to think about and list the areas of your business. These could be whole teams, an individual or just you.

For example, Marketing, HR, Finance, Logistics, Sales and Procurement.

Next, take your list. Go through and mark the ones where you feel sure you have operations and processes in place. This leaves you with a list of gaps. These will become your focus areas.

Working with other businesses

As well as your own ‘where and when’, you need to think about the logistics of the companies you work with.

Together, the logistics of your business and your partners make up a key part of your operations.

As you look at the logistics of those you work with, think about how they impact your business.

 

Examples of impacts:

  • A florist forced to waste expensive flowers because some components of their bouquet are delayed
  • A caterer whose food goes to waste after overheating in slow transit

Activity

To avoid these kinds of impact, think about mapping the stages of your processes. For each stage, you can then begin to think about where tools, processes or people can help reduce these risks.

You don’t need to know what these tools are, at this stage. Just note where there’s an area for improvement. You’ll be able to return to this when you’ve learnt more about tools in ​​Chapter 3.

Consider peaks and troughs

The final thing to note is time demands. Do these vary – do you have some busy and quiet periods?

Understanding your demand will help you manage your logistics. For example, ice cream shops may be busier over the summer than in winter. They should think about how to vary their processes based on the season.

Chapter 3

Tools - What you need to run your business

Read time:

1 min

Tools for an efficient business

What do we mean by tools?

Tools can be physical equipment or digital software. Most companies need both to operate effectively.

Tools are designed to simplify operations. They should also help you to meet your business goals.

Selecting the right tools for your business

There’s no such thing as the right tool. Only the right tool for your business. What works well for others might not work for you. But we can still learn from others.

What you also need to consider is your own set-up and needs.

 

What to consider:

  • Cost – The initial and ongoing costs of the tools you use
  • Goals – What business goals are each tool going to help you with?
  • Areas of work – Where each tool can help and how you’ll roll them out
  • Ease of use – Will you need training or are they easy to use?

 

Future-proofing tools:

  • Repair and replace – You may need to do this over time
  • Needs may change – So continue to check the tooling needs of your business
  • Growing your business – You may need more equipment or more advanced tools as you grow

Activity

In the last chapter, we asked you to list business areas and map your processes. This is to check where tools might help. 

Now you have a list of things to consider too. You can begin to do your own research into tools that can help you fill the gaps.

If you don’t have time now, make a note to do this later.

Chapter 4

People - Who does the work

Read time:

2 mins

Roles and responsibilities

Team operations

Having clearly defined roles and responsibilities will help you manage your team. This is just as key to your operations as tools and logistics. Your people use the tools and manage the logistics. Plus, they make sure you reach your goals.

You might not have anyone else in your business with you right now. That’s okay. Knowing the role that people might play in your business one day will help you set your business up to grow.

Internal and external

Internal and external people have their unique benefits.

Keeping skills and people in-house means you have people who truly understand your strategy. This makes it easier for them to act on your behalf, so you can free up your time.

You may want to outsource certain tasks. Examples might be a graphic designer or accountant.

The roles you keep in-house or buy in will change over time. As demand varies and as your goals evolve, you can flex your team.

Skills for the future

Training will also play a key role in your people operations. Sometimes you don’t need more people, you just need more skills.

Think about the skills you need for your business now. Then consider the future. What can you put in place now, to cater for skills you might need later? You’ll need a programme of training to help your people grow over time.

 

Top tips and things to consider:

  • Automation – Could you use software to automate specific processes instead of hiring extra people?
  • Operational plans – Some companies outsource. Others prefer to have their own employees. Put whatever you feel is right for your business into your operations plan
  • HR processes – You may not need an in-house HR team yet, but you might later. Set up payroll structures that will work easily when you need them

 

Policies and contracts

All new staff will need a contract. Work with an employment lawyer to draft these. You’ll need to keep them up to date with any changes in legislation.

Publish any policies in an employee handbook for your people.

Chapter 5

Processes - How the work is done

Read time:

1 min

Processes are key to operations

The role processes play

Processes help you to manage your operations. Clearly defined, they can save you time by empowering your team to deliver what you need.

Regularly review and update your processes. This makes sure they always reflect the way you want your business to run.

 

The benefits

  • Continuity – Processes can reduce the impact of staff absences. Detailed guides mean others can pick up roles
  • Onboarding – New joiners can use handbooks instead of always having to ask someone

 

Be detailed

Include detail. Pictures and careful explanations can make your processes easier to follow.

Chapter 6

Key takeaways

Read time:

1 min

In this lesson, you have learned to:

  • List the operational tasks that keep your business running
  • Check you have the right operations in place
  • Make sure your team is clear on their responsibilities
  • Put processes in place

 

If you haven’t already, you should take some time to:

  • Complete the activities from the lesson
  • Research what physical equipment and digital tools could help you

 

Lloyds Bank Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Lloyds Bank does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 21st April 2023.