The Foundation of Operations: Building a Strong Team and Mentoring its Growth

From an accounting and administrative perspective, operations is about team management. As the leaders of the team, we are responsible for making sure that our internal customers, who are also our co-workers, are able to function and perform at an optimal level.

Building a strong team starts by hiring strong employees. Recently, I read a LinkedIn article by Jack Welch, Executive Chairman of the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University. In the article titled, “Are You the Smartest Person in the Room? You Better Hope Not,” Welch discusses the concept that in order to succeed, you need to hire people smarter than you. Often CEOs and executives can let their egos run wild; however, it’s impossible to be smarter and more skilled than your employees in all disciplines—from human resources to recruiting to marketing.

When you have the opportunity to mentor a team of qualified employees, synergy will ensue and skills will complement each other. While I focus on hiring people with strong education backgrounds and working experience, I also want to find individuals who challenge me on an intellectual level and possess an innate sense of their unique skillsets and what they can contribute to the team and its goals.

Once the employees—the building blocks of the company—are in place, operations is about management and mentorship. In a previous position, I had five direct reports—a Controller, Treasurer, VP of Finance, Corporate Counsel and HR VP—who all had people reporting to them. Upon solidifying a budget plan, I asked the team members to identify three or four ways they could make a difference for the company that year. Throughout the year, and in between  the noise and chaos, I continued to remind the team to revert back to the goals set earlier in the year. Soon, HR had established a new payroll support system and the finance team had developed a new model that ultimately enabled us to sell the company. By giving your employees the appropriate tools and encouraging them to stick to their goals, disparate disciplines can turn into collaboration.

Ultimately, at its core, operations comes down to two vital tasks: establishing a solid foundation with intelligent, highly qualified employees, and managing their skillsets by encouraging growth and exploration in their specific areas of expertise to drive the company’s overalls goals. So set the egos aside and leverage each employees’ strengths—the synergy will follow.

Mike Wilfley is a Consulting CFO with vcfo. You can reach him at mwilfley@vcfo.com.

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