Starting Your Operations

One thing that didn’t really get mentioned to us when we started the company was the importance of processes and establishing a common way of doing things. Six years on and it’s a key part of what we do. I was at a Scottish Enterprise event last November about focused on achieving an exit, and one of the first things that was mentioned was that to sell the business you had to be able to leave – and that means processes and infrastructure.

I can’t help you on the processes that are specific to your business, but I can give some pointers on the things you might do to create an infrastructure from which you can grow, and most importantly manage the business in fast and efficient manner.

The first thing for me that starts a businesses infrastructure these days is Email. Do not underestimate how important it is to have an email system you can rely on and work with at speed. Using RescueTimer I’ve worked out that some days I can spend upwards of 2 hours on email alone and I’m sure that I’m no where near the top of that scale. Also you’ll receive hundreds or indeed thousands of messages (many of them spam), and you’ll need a system that can deal with the load, filter the junk, and find you the message you need when you need it regardless of how long ago it was sent.

To that end I implore you; do not just signup for the default email server from your ISP or domain host, we did and for years we suffered email outages, unusable webmail, and unstable outlook installations (did you know that outlook has problems with data files larger than 2Gb?)

There are some excellent options out there now, the first that come to mind are Google Apps, and ZOHO Office, the former TPLD use intensively, the latter I’ve only read about, but it always features as Google Apps’ closest competitor. The best thing is that they are both free, and they both include the next few things on my list; shared calenders, and online documents.

Once you have your email system running you’ll need to do some actual work (ok, email is work too) these days there are two ways of working, traditional files or persistent online systems (like Google Docs) I think most business need both. Files are required where the document you are working on is either too complex for the slimmed down online systems (your finances are probably a good example) or you are working towards completing the document as an external asset that you are going to send out. Persistent files are great when the information is going to live and breath forming part of a large knowledge base for the company – Again this is where corporate wiki’s like Google Sites, ZOHO wiki and other similar systems can be used with excellent results.

But you still have to buy Microsoft Office right? Yes, but there is a reprieve for tech companies that work with MS software, even at an arms length. Check out the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription, this allows MS Partners to subscribe to MS software for under £200, you get 10 licenses for almost everything, and upgrades as soon as they are available.

There is one important app I’ve not covered so far. Task and Project Management systems, the best way to ensure that what should be getting done is getting done, is to track it and review the whole system on a regular basis. There are loads of great ways of doing this, at TPLD we use Agile/Scrum and we use it for almost everything – which for us means a lot of post-its. However you may decide to go with a more high tech approach; if you do there are loads of online systems, many for free, to choose from from systems aimed at individuals like Remember the Milk (my personal favorite) and Todoist, to full group Project Management systems – as we don’t use these extensively I’ll not recommend one, but they are not difficult to find and neither are opinions on which one to use.

I guess the main focus of this post is that when you are setting up a new company you are not just creating a business but you are creating an organism, and you have to think about how it’s going to function, and it’s very easy to think that you’ll get it sorted one day once the business is up and running – but think for a moment, these are the things that you need to get it up and running in the first place!

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