Updated: Feb 12
In the executive leadership team, it’s easy to get confused between the COO and the Director of Operations. A lot of their tasks overlap and much of their job description reads the same. Despite this, the Director of Operations role comes with its own unique skills that are crucial when it comes time for your business to scale.
So just how important is a Director of Operations?
In today’s blog, we’re taking a look at how a Director of Operations can benefit your business as it grows.
First thing’s first, what is a Director of Operations?
As the job title suggests, the Director of Operations oversees all operational aspects of a company. They’re responsible for the design, development, and implementation of the core systems that make your business run. A good Director of Operations is also a natural leader, adept at managing both processes and people.
Their job description does sound a lot like that of a COO, so, what’s the difference between a Director of Operations and a Chief Operating Officer?
The main differences are seniority, title and pay. COOs are often the business’ heir apparent, learning the business from an operational point of view before eventually taking over when the CEO moves on. On the other hand, the Director of Operations generally reports to the COO and is often a more junior executive role.
While both the COO and the Director of Operations manage the day-to-day running of the business, the role of Director of Operations is more hands-on.
So, what is it exactly that these hawk-eyed, operations superstars do? Let’s explore some of their responsibilities and how they help your business run like a well-oiled machine.
At the core of any business are the systems that run it. Whether they be software programs, a set of safety protocols or even the way two departments interact with each other, these systems form the backbone of any efficient operation.
It is the Director of Operation’s responsibility to design, implement and execute these systems to make sure everything runs smoothly and profitably.
When it comes to maintaining and improving systems, there’s an old saying. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. A good Director of Operations won’t disrupt processes just for the sake of it, but will instead look for inefficiencies to improve or correct.
It would be fantastic if every business has a crystal ball and could anticipate market moves, economic conditions and global trends. Unfortunately, we don’t, so the next best thing we have is a Director of Operations armed with data from every department of your business.
With accurate reporting, a good Director of Operations has a real-time feed of how every part of your business is faring. With this data, they’re able to forecast and plan for the future – either to capitalize on favorable conditions or minimize loss when things go pear shaped. They can allocate or redistribute space, energy, equipment, and any labor that will be needed as demand and production fluctuates.
But it’s not just internal metrics that a good Director of Operations relies on. They’re looking ahead by reviewing data trends, competitor pricing and industry news to stay informed.
If there’s one thing that you can rely on, it’s that technology is always evolving. A good Director of Operations stays up to date with the latest trends, technology, equipment and training relevant to their industry.
There is always room for improvement in a business’s systems and technology, and with a Director of Operations that has their finger on the pulse, you’re more likely to be ahead of your competition when the tech gets an upgrade.
Don’t be fooled, in any business, the Operations Director is the one pulling the strings and making decisions that are critical to the overall function and performance of the business.
If supplies, equipment, or manpower needs to be reallocated, the Director of Operations would formulate a plan to ensure a smooth and seamless transition that keeps the business running and free from any disruptions.
If a department restructure is on the cards, the Director of Operations makes the hard calls about which teams are let go.
Trace any difficult decision to its source and you’ll always find the Director of Operations.
Another task you can expect an experienced Director of Operations to take off your hands is hiring.
An experienced Director of Operations will have the ability to conduct interviews, weed out the good applicants from the bad and hire the superstars you need. Their bird’s eye view of the company gives them the ability to describe the role in detail, list employee expectations as well as judge if the prospective hire is a good culture fit for the business.
But it’s not just in interviews, a Director of Operations also ensures that key people are properly trained, motivated, and supported in their roles.
By having a direct hand in the interview and hiring process, the Director of Operations will be placing the right people in key roles, where their work will increase the efficiency and profitability of the business.
With your Director of Operations overseeing and improving all operational aspects of the company, it only makes sense that they are also in charge of the budget.
There’s often a difference between the balance sheet and how well the CEO thinks the business is going. Without context, alarm bells can sound when revenue or sales are down.
A Director of Operations that understands the company’s finances will not only be able to accurately report to the CEO, but they can very quickly make operational changes to save money if needed.
While the skills of a Director of Operations are transferrable, without knowledge of the industry, an inexperienced director will struggle.
The success of a Director of Operations is hinged upon them quickly developing a deep understanding of the company that they work for. This doesn’t mean you need a degree in aeronautic engineering to work for Boeing, but a little prior knowledge goes a long way.
This might just mean doing a little homework. Understand how each department interacts, study prices and competitor offerings as well as be across any relevant news in your particular industry.
Lastly, in business, negotiation is key, and a good Director of Operations will be armed with the best and most effective negotiation tactics at any negotiation table. Being able to read your negotiating partner’s intentions, mood and reactions are invaluable skills and can help turn the tables in your favor.
These soft skills, when used correctly, makes your opponent walk away from the negotiating table feeling like they’ve won. This, of course is despite the amazing deal your Director of Operations has just closed.
Executives should already be master communicators, but a Director of Operations should also be the kings of closing the deal.
If it wasn’t for the integral role of the Director of Operations, businesses would be a disorganized collection of unproductive departments. But, with their systems of efficiency, Director of Operations have the ability to turn your business into the profit machine you have always wanted.
As you can see, once a business hits a certain point in its lifecycle, Director of Operations are no longer an optional extra, they become a necessity.
If you’re looking for a Director of Operations or expert consultant to help you determine your next move, the right advice is priceless. As business consultants and COOs, we work with entrepreneurs every day to set them up for success by identifying where their business is suffering. We help them pinpoint which processes to re-evaluate and adjust to grow their business. And best yet… We offer hassle-free, no obligation 30-minute discovery calls to see how we could help you. Just email us today.
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