Operating a Startup: Tips from One of Our Fellows

In order for a business to function properly, there needs to be plenty of oversight on all of the various moving parts. A lot of people may not witness what happens behind-the-scenes, but an Operations team is crucial to running an efficient startup. When I go out to eat, I never think about everything that needed to happen for me to have a good experience at a restaurant. I never look up at the name of the restaurant and say “Hey, I wonder what made them choose such bland colors or that logo for their business.”

Many times when people think about business, they only think of the CEO, co-founder or even COO– not the graphic designer who worked hard for the name of a business to be visually appealing to others, or the financial manager that ensures everyone is paid on time, or even the engineer who spends their whole day fixing bugs at a tech company.  

Customer Success: More Person than Product

Being an Operations Fellow

I never acknowledged how important different departments are for running a business, and I was interested in learning more. At my summer fellowship at Phone2Action, I can observe how different departments operate and how they each individually contribute to the company. Communication skills are important for all of the departments to interact with each other. While some work more closely than others, company-wide collaboration provides various teams with the resources they need to complete their goals.

When given the opportunity to work on the Operations team, I did not expect to be doing the things that I am currently working on—and they’re all very interesting. I am able to work with all of the departments, through engagements such as inventory projects, department check-ups, and client meetings. Even though I am on the Operations team, I am also given the opportunity to work across other departments, if needed! One of the ways I was able to work with every single department was through a Service Inventory Clean Up—which consisted of making sure that all of the services each department was using were up to date, owned by IT and not one single person, and making sure we have proper documentation of monetary activity. This project is important for the business as a whole, it allows for this fast growing startup to stay up to date, organized and well aware of billing—and it can improve the company’s budget. Whether its a beauty salon or a football team, Operations can improve both the organization’s future and ensure company culture is healthy and productive for everyone who works there.

Everyone has tasks delegated to them, they would not think to work on a project that does not fall into their field, or disrupt the projects that they are working on. There is a reason why departments are broken up the way that they are. Different teams have different tasks, and some members do not have the expertise to cross over to other departments. Without the Operations team here at Phone2Action, we would not have been able to carry out the inventory project, which was so valuable to our company.

Be the Change: Insights from our Sales Fellow

Major Takeaways

It is critical to consider the important facets of running a business. All departments hold a critical role, which allows the company to function the way that it does. Be mindful of the team members you choose to fulfill certain roles. Sales needs someone who knows how to effectively communicate, Marketing needs creative minds to put the message out there, and Engineering needs…engineers. Your company is only as good as the company you keep—in other words, it’s all about the people who work there. Embrace their ideas and spur innovation.

Being a part of the Operations team has opened my eyes on how to run a business. Because my role is comprised of managing different events and teams, I realized that one thing is super important: self-care. Make sure you don’t forget to eat, even if it is very hard to do. Make sure you have healthy snacks to keep yourself fueled throughout the day. When you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of other people. I can take what I learned this summer and apply it to my own business, a nonprofit called Perfection Takes Time, which focuses on helping students from low economic backgrounds develop both academically and professionally. Working at Phone2Action inspired me to be open-minded, caring, and to be a valuable resource for those around me. It’s all about representation, and after this summer, I can successfully rep the brand—and the business.

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About the Author

Waliyah Johnson is a 2018 Civic Tech Fellow, and an undergraduate student at the University of Rochester double majoring in African and African American Studies and Anthropology with a minor in English and a focus on Journalism. She plans to attend law school directly after her undergraduate years and go on to practice either corporate law or sports/entertainment law. She became interested in being a fellow at Phone2Action after meeting Ximena at a mentoring event. Waliyah loved her immediately: her drive, her encouragement—she is an amazing woman to look up to. Waliyah enjoys many things in her free time such as planning events, working with kids, and writing.

Learn more about our Civic Tech Fellowship Program from Phone2Action’s cofounder, Ximena Hartstock.  


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