Enough already with the lectures! Where is this heading?

I hear you, this stuff can be a bit dry.  Here’s my plan for the next bunch bundle of posts:

  • Overview of the operations (this post)
  • Overview of the Critical Operations
  • Overview of the Profit Creating Operations
  • Overview of the Business Sustaining Operations
  • Introduction of the case studies

At my current pace that means 5 more weeks … it might actually have stopped snowing in Maryland by then.  If you’d like to read ahead then everything except the case studies are available from Amazon in Kindle format (SOHO Operations Planning) for $1.99.

A chance for literary immortality

If you’d like to volunteer to be one of the case studies then I would help you set up your tiny business using this approach for no charge.  In return you would grant my permission to use our experience as a case study.  I’m willing to write up the case study replacing all names, etc. with fictional names or with the actual name of your business – your choice and you don’t have to decide up front, you can wait until after I’ve written the case study and you get a chance to read it.  You can volunteer by leaving a comment on this post or if you want to be a bit more discrete then send me an email at stuart.l.lesley@gmail.com.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…..

Overview of the operations[i]

An operations plan provides a high level description of how your business works, that it is the actual things you do to provide your service or product to your customers. It should contain enough detail to accurately and comprehensively describe your business operations yet not contain anything that is not absolutely necessary. Beware of including things solely because you can or think they might be useful.  Anything you add to the operations plan will cost you time and money and those are two of your most scarce resources so chose those things carefully.

The recommended operations are based on a minimum set of widely accepted practices for services[ii] and should be fairly straightforward.  I’ve grouped these operations to help demonstrate the value of thinking through each of these operations as they apply to your business.  The 3 groups are:

Table 1: Critical Operations


Things you must get right immediately or your business is dead before it even gets started.

Requirements Management

“Is what you delivered what the customer ordered?”

If you don’t know what your customer wants you’re dead in the water from the very start.

Work Planning

“What are the major steps required to do the work?”

Once you have a good understanding of what the customer wants then it’s critical that you plan your work well.  As an expert this is probably the area you’re most comfortable with.

Service Delivery

“Did you keep your commitments to your partners, suppliers, etc.?”

Having performed the work you need to make sure that you’re delivering everything the contract (verbal or written) requires. This may include things that may not be explicitly included in the customers’ requirements like delivery location, packaging, etc.

Table 2 Profit Creating Operations

Profit Creating

Things you have to get right in order to make a profit.  These operations are not included in the critical group since not all tiny business ventures are designed to create a profit.  They are in the second group because they are important in keeping control of your costs (money and time).

Work Monitoring and Control

“Are you spending too much and as a result will you take a loss on this contract?”

These are things that will help you do your work efficiently, i.e. at the lowest cost and in the least amount of time.  If your business is a hobby or avocation this may not be that important but it’s always good to make sure you’re spending your time well.

Supplier Agreement Management

“How will you work with your partners, prime and/or sub-contractors?”

These are things that can quickly consume huge amounts of time and resources if you’re not careful.

Table 3 Business Sustaining Operations

Business Sustaining

Things that will help you stay in business and help create the conditions in which you can grow your business. 

Process and Product Quality Assurance

“Are you doing the right things AND are you doing things right?”

 These are things that help you stay on the right track and get better over time.

Measurement and Analysis

“How will you know you are making a profit?

These are things that help you see how your business is doing and what it can do better. 

Configuration Management

“Are you’re delivering the right version?”

 These are things that help you keep track of your stuff and make sure you’re delivering the right stuff to your customer.

That’s it!

8 operations of which there are only 3 (4 if you include visioning) that you really have to focus on.

Next up: Overview of the Critical Operations

[i] For the purposes of this plan the terms “operations” and “processes” mean the same thing.

[ii] Software Engineering Institute’s (SEI) Capability Maturity Model Integration for Services (CMMI-SVC), NOTE: Don’t let the fact that the source of this information has the work “software” in its title.  The practices described have been used in many other service areas, e.g. landscaping, etc.

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