Operations: An Overview


Operations: An Overview is a guide that forms part of the Social Good Guides, a series of essential small-business guides created for startup changemakers produced by the Social Innovators Collective. Authored by Aria Finger, COO of DoSomething.org, this guide discusses strategies for scaling a social enterprise and implementing systems to improve efficiency. Topics covered in this guide include three essential considerations for a lasting social venture, specialization and delegation in the social impact sector, and why mitigating the inefficiencies that come with growth is important. When asked to name common mistakes that startups make when creating their operations structure, Aria responded: “One basic thing I see time and again is an unwillingness or inability to delegate, which can lead to bottlenecks.”

I would hope that any startup entrepreneur has staff development and satisfaction as one of his or her main goals.

Below is an excerpt from the Q + A section of the guide.

The Social Good Guides (SGG): What do you think is the essential definition of what a COO does, and when should a startup entrepreneur decide to bring one on/create this position?

Aria Finger (AF): I think COOs at all organizations and companies are different. It’s often a job that is created to complement the CEO, and different CEOs have different strengths and weaknesses. I work with Nancy Lublin, a fast-paced visionary and forward-thinker, so my role is to execute her vision.
You may want to bring on a COO to run day-to-day tasks because the CEO has other important matters to attend to. If you’re scaling your company, a COO should be putting systems in place so as to make the organization run more efficiently and ensure that it can handle rapid growth.

SGG: As COO, you touch on marketing, campaigns, and business development. Can you tell us how they relate to each other?

AF: At DoSomething.org, all of those departments are interconnected. Take for example, a campaign called Grandparents Gone Wired. The campaign activates teens to visit local senior centers and introduce the seniors to Facebook, YouTube, Skype, and general computer usage. It’s a rewarding volunteer activity for the teens and it keeps the seniors connected to technology, their grandkids, and the outside world. For a campaign like this, we’re partnering with Intel on the business development front because they have such a long legacy of being on the cutting-edge of technology. Our marketing team lined up strong youth outreach partners to reach millions of teens and I worked with the campaigns team on messaging, a call to action, and user flows.

SGG: You put a strong emphasis on career and staff development, recently hiring a Head of Fun and organizing Fail Fests. Can you talk about how you see that factoring into your job and operations? How does that relate to the essentials that you think a startup entrepreneur should know about staff management?

AF: I have the privilege of working with a young staff that is incredibly ambitious and constantly learning and growing. We see no reason why working for a nonprofit and working hard can’t also be fun. People come to DoSomething.org because they are passionate about social change, but also because they are dying to learn new skills and be exposed to exciting ideas, mobile technologies, and data practices. When Nancy introduced Fail Fests, there were certainly a few people on staff that were concerned that it would hurt morale. Now, everyone loves them. I work with the Head of Fun to organize them at minimum every six months. It’s a great opportunity for everyone on staff to learn from some recent “failures” and also instill in our culture that, as long as we’re constantly improving, risk-taking and failure is OK. I would hope that any startup entrepreneur has staff development and satisfaction as one of his or her main goals.

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