Tips for Finding Success in Operations at a High-Growth Startup

With the rise of revenue operations, ops professionals are in higher demand than ever. In this environment, more go-to-market professionals are considering a move into ops. In high-growth startup operations, individuals are finding themselves propelled into the ops role out of necessity. However, as the field evolves, many are discovering that achieving success in operations is not always simple. While a career in operations presents unique challenges, the rewards can be plentiful, especially in a high-growth startup environment, where your success will be instrumental in accelerating company growth.

So, what leads to success in an operations role?

Operations professionals, especially those building ops teams from scratch, must wear multiple hats and have (or build) a wide range of skills. This is part of what makes an ops career both challenging and rewarding. Every day is different, and there are endless learning opportunities. Achieving success in operations also gives you the opportunity to make a noticeable impact on go-to-market success.

While ops roles can look different from company to company, certain foundational skills will help every professional succeed in their role. In a conversation a few years back, Lane Four’s esteemed ops experts, Megan (now Senior Account Manager, Lane Four) and Aidas (now Senior Director of RevOps Consulting), engaged with Asia Corbett (now Senior RevOps Manager, GTM, Bread Financial) to delve into the keys to success in operations within high-growth startups. While this insightful interview dates back a few years, a recent reassessment underscores the enduring relevance and practicality of the insights shared—an affirmation made more compelling by the career advancements achieved by all three individuals since that discussion. Whether you’re a newcomer entering the field or someone aiming to advance in your ops role, the wisdom shared by these seasoned professionals remains invaluable.

Here are three operations career tips that surfaced during their discussion.

1. Stay Organized

In ops, you never know where you’ll end up on a given day. With responsibilities ranging from enhancing technical functionalities to improving revenue processes, SaaS operations professionals manage infinite tasks across multiple projects. One minute you might be working on reports, and next thing you know, your sales team is requesting critical changes in Salesforce.

So how do you stay consistent in the face of constant flux?

The best way to prepare for the unpredictable nature of the role is to be organized in your own workflows. This can come in the form of finding a simple habit that works for you.

For Aidas, who’s been in ops for nearly a decade and, in the past, led an ops department from its inception through $300 million in funding, organization means blocking off time for every single task in his calendar. Others like to leverage task management tools like Asana to creatively organize projects in folders. Some may even take it old school and manage their tasks on color-coded sticky notes.

However it’s done, having your own unique organizational method will help you stay ready for the curveballs that will inevitably come your way.

2. Be honest about your processes

In high-growth startup operations, it’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and get excited about revamping go-to-market or revenue strategies. But none of that should be a priority until you build core processes that you can trust.

Particularly when starting at a new company, you need to make sure that the core sales process works. The sooner you can identify snags or gaps in your processes, the sooner you can take action to optimize them…and we don’t mean implementing an array of band-aid solutions. Temporarily patching up problems and ignoring fundamental issues of a broken sales process will only amplify bigger issues down the road.

Some of the first questions that can help you identify gaps in the sales process include:

  • Are there clear definitions of our sales stages?
  • Is our Salesforce data clean or are there tons of duplicates?
  • Is our sales forecasting based on real data or gut feelings?

This is where you have to be honest. Megan and Aidas both agree that the first step to fixing a broken sales process is to sit down with team members to understand what isn’t working and why.

Sometimes, the issues are minor and the solutions are simple. In other cases, ops professionals need to be the bearers of bad news and push for a process overhaul. This may be daunting, but proactively solving problems before they become major barriers will serve the company well during growth.

No matter how much experience you have, if you’re not honest about the shortcomings of your core processes, you’re only setting yourself up for trouble in the future. For those who want to lead their companies through major rounds of funding, attempting to scale with a broken process is a surefire way to turn your dreams into a nightmare.

Embracing honesty and acknowledging areas in need of improvement for the business not only benefits your team and organization but also positions you as a catalyst for positive change. Taking the initiative to champion and implement significant process improvements can serve as a pivotal factor in gaining recognition and unlocking opportunities for your own career growth and advancement.

3. Understand the big picture

Although the goal is to align multiple go-to-market teams, you don’t necessarily need to know the detailed ins and outs of every department to start taking action to optimize operations.

What you do need to know is the overall direction of the company. This mindset is how Megan once helped usher her operations team through a funding round of $100 million.

With the company’s funding goal as a guiding light, Megan was able to hone in on one critical question when making decisions about her work:

“How does this [task/project/objective] get me closer to the end goal?”

To answer that question, you’ll need to understand the metrics and milestones that take you to that goal. One key milestone for a company aiming for large funding may be increasing market size and unlocking full territory coverage.

By pushing yourself to work towards specific milestones, you’ll start to see how each task connects to each other. As you begin to connect the dots, you’ll be able to bring insightful strategies to individual teams and guide them to proper alignment.

This type of laser focus is critical for reaching success in operations for any startup because it will help you prioritize when faced with infinite competing priorities and possible directions for your work.

Stay grounded, learn, and trust the process

Finding success in high-growth startup operations is a process. Everyone wants to be in the spotlight and be the one to increase revenue and make major business impacts, but it’s the small things that are often left uncelebrated that get you there. The best way to find sustainable success in an operations career is to stay grounded and focus on the current work without getting ahead of yourself.

But that doesn’t mean you should stay idle. To help propel your success in the field, it’s crucial to seek out learning opportunities through resources and networking.

Utilizing ops resources as well as connecting with other ops professionals will give you practical insights to prepare you for the bigger opportunities that will eventually come your way.