TomHart2014

This guest post is courtesy of Tom Hart, our powder-skiing, customer-supporting Ops fiend.
Inherent to any true “operator” is a constant desire to make things move in a positive and efficient direction toward resolution.  Never wavering to get to that resolution (be it technically, politically, or via sheer brute force) is the necessary adrenaline that charges through the main line of the truly excellent Operations individuals and teams.

But, how do you create and maintain such a dogged level of dedication and commitment to the well-being of your organization?  There are libraries of books, seminars, whole curriculum of classes in undergraduate and graduate schools centered on “teaching” these skills.

Early on in my career, when I was first tasked with hiring Operations team members, I was wowed by lexicon of acronyms thrown out by candidates who were educated in Operations.  I fired almost every one of them because aside from their fancy words – they actually didn’t like customers nor work.

I quickly found out that the best operators to have in your Operations team are former bartenders, waitresses, construction workers, and kids who grew-up playing team sports…or, still do. From my experience, it comes down to this:  If you don’t like dealing with people during difficult circumstances (many of which are circumstances you and your technology created!), you should not be in Operations.

Your company’s Facebook page, website FAQ, nor super fancy CRM will not solve your organization’s most strategic challenges.  That is why you have an Operations team.  They are your Cleaners.

So, I’ve been honored (truly) with the opportunity to build my third Operations team for my friend and mentor, Todd Vernon. He recently asked me, “Dude, why the hell do you constantly want to run up a hill with a sharp stick and a rock toward a machine gun nest of challenges?”.

braveheart2

Answer:  A high degree of ignorance combined with a steady consumption of Irish whiskey. Slight sarcasm aside, the high wire act of building an Ops team from the ground floor up is an adrenaline rush like no other.

So when asked about the foundation of building a great support team, here are some of my observations:

Over the years, I’ve found that productive and successful Operations teams (“the 99.999 percent” crowd) are centered on establishing and maintaining a positive culture of communication and collaboration, coupled with a tangible sense of ownership in the success (or, failure) of their organization.  True operators within those teams also recognize and appreciate that the dynamic nature of the challenges they encounter day-in and day-out make their jobs “fun”. Yes, fun and Operations go hand-in-hand and if your Operations team isn’t having fun, you might have a problem.

I’ve also noted that outstanding Operations team are keenly aware of the importance of their teammates in Sales and Marketing.  I wholly disagree with the old school notion that there’s a natural friction between those teams.  On the contrary, outstanding organizations recognize that friction creates…friction. Friction slows things down.  Operational excellence should always center on efficiency.

Challenges, complaints, potential attrition…these are all competitive opportunities in the eyes of outstanding Operational teams.  It’s our opportunity to provide our customers with an experience that ties back to the human emotion of truly being cared for.  That’s a powerful and lasting emotion with your customers that takes a very special group of individuals to deliver.