Finance Cornerstone

Why your business needs an operating system

Why your digital business needs an operating system

At Finance Cornerstone, we’re often asked what the purpose of a business operating system is and what type of companies need one. The short answer is: it’s a bible for how your business operates to achieve its goals – and EVERY ambitious business needs one.

A business operating system is the practice of documenting your business processes, to ensure your company runs efficiently, profitably and sustainably. Without one, it’s likely that your operations will become chaotic, making it difficult to sustain operations or to scale.

As a digital marketing agency owner-manager, if you’ve ever asked the questions ‘why am I always micromanaging?’ or ‘why is it I’m dealing with the same problems every day?’, then it’s clear your internal operations require clarity. It’s time to find and implement the right operating system – it shouldn’t be as hard work as it is now!

Here’s our run-through of everything you need to know to get your business operating system off the ground.

If you need support, Finance Cornerstone can help. We work with ambitious digital agencies that turn over in excess of £1m and are looking to level up. Along with guidance on business operating systems, we can provide outsourced FD services to snap your finances into shape and steer you towards business growth. Please get in touch to find out more.

What are business operating systems?

A playbook, bible, songsheet… Flowery metaphors aside, a business operating system basically serves as an instruction manual for how your company operates.

It documents what your company’s goals are and how you go about achieving them, including your overall vision, organisational structure, culture, performance indicators, financial management and the procedures, software, systems and tools you need to do the job.

Crucially, a business operating system documents accountability so that every employee in every department of the organisation is clear on what’s expected of them in line with the company vision and business strategy.

Should all businesses have an operating system?

Most businesses that have enjoyed some sort of growth have processes that have developed organically, but often they’re undocumented or ill-defined.

Operations may hold up in the short term, but with a lack of a clear operating system, cracks will inevitably start to show. Growth will plateau, clients will be lost, people will walk – and you, as the managing director, will no doubt be ricocheting from one problem to the next.

Sure, if your ambition amounts to a handful of staff and clients and relatively low output, then processes may not be difficult to keep on top of. But if you want to take your digital agency to the next level and drive for bigger profits, then it’s time to take control and implement a robust business operating system.

What are the benefits of a good business operating system?

A strong business operating system will enable you to:

#1 Improve customer experience and client retention

When you’re operating at peak capacity, your clients will most definitely benefit. Your reputation will grow and you will start to attract more of the kind of clients you really want.

#2 Create a harmonious workplace

A clear, shared vision, great leadership and effective processes make for happy employees, which makes for improved output, which makes for satisfied customers.

#3 Attract talent

A good business operating system will improve your employer brand, attracting better talent. With the right people in the right seats, your business will continue to thrive.

#4 Increase productivity

With all employees on the same page and working to achieve common goals, they will naturally be more engaged and consistently productive.

#5 Scale your business

Good financial management and a business operating system go hand in hand. With your numbers in good order, you can make smarter decisions about the future of your company and grow at a pace without the wheels falling off.

#6 Achieve a sustainable business

Get all these building blocks in place, and technically, your business should run like a dream without you constantly at the helm. So you can a) spend time seeking your next growth opportunity or b) sod off to Barbados for six months of the year!

How to choose the right business operating system for a digital agency

There’s no one size fits all approach to operating systems and there are several useful philosophies and frameworks out there, of which these are the most useful for a digital agency:

While they all differ, six key components are fairly constant:

  1. An effective leadership team
  2. A clear vision
  3. The right people in the right seats
  4. Processes and accountability
  5. Data and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  6. Approach to problem-solving and decision making

Of course, you don’t have to follow a set rulebook; you can develop your own operating system. It’s a case of taking these essential components and defining your company’s unique take on them.

That’s where the support and guidance of a third party is really valuable. A consultant can step back and take an impartial view of the bigger picture, and be a driving force of change in your business.

Transform your digital agency business with Finance Cornerstone

If you’ve set your sights on scaling your digital agency, then Finance Cornerstone can offer professional consultancy to help shape your company’s operating system and financial management.

We work exclusively with ambitious owner-managed digital agencies, helping them gain control of their processes and finances and to identify the levers for scaling their business to the next level.

We have a proven track record in helping digital agencies to reach their potential. If your company turns over upward of £1m and you need guidance on how to get to your next million, let’s talk.

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In order for your company to thrive and achieve growth, it’s essential that you create and implement a business operating system.

It should set out your company vision, business strategy, roadmap to success, KPIs, organisational structure and key business roles, plus all of the associated processes, systems and tools you need to get you there. Once it’s in place, your operations will be more streamlined and your company will be in the best position for growth.

Learn more about growing your digital agency here:

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