What Exactly is Operations Consulting?
Before we get into whether or not an Ops Consultant is right for you and your agency, let’s back up a wee bit. We first need to clarify just “What is Operations Consulting?” Well, in short, it can take many forms.
Operations Consultants (or those who offer operations consulting services, regardless of the their title) focus on three main areas:
- Business Processes
Additional Operations Consultants (like us here at Parakeeto) are more focused on the systems and data that help inform decisions, plus answer the tough questions within your agency. It’s less of a “gut feeling” one attains from 30 years immersed in the industry, and more about making key decisions based on our reliable friend, data. These decisions stem from asking such questions as:
- How should we price this project?
- How can we improve the accuracy of our scopes of work?
- What services and clients prove most profitable?
- Who do we need to hire, and when?
Let’s talk a little more about the operations consulting process.
Operations Consulting is All Strategic Planning
Operations consulting at an agency or business is all about planning – specifically project planning, capacity, profits, scaling, and strategic moves. However, “plans” rely on accurate, clean, and timely data. This data needs to come from different sources in a variety of formats – from time tracking software, project management tools, and more.
Knowing this information is imperative to making accurate, data-driven decisions that ultimately help your agency scale. Clean data is easier said than done, however…
For example, when an Operations Consultant arrives at your agency, they will focus less on the day-to-day of your agency’s execution and more on a high-level holistic view of your ops strategy in its entirety.
Operations Consulting vs. Operations Management
Operations Consultants provide an objective outside perspective on your agency at a pivotal point in time. They primarily focus extensively on the strategy of your agency’s operations, and less on the day-to-day.
Typically, with these folks, it’s a one-off engagement, or potentially an ongoing arrangement with a fractional operations team.
Conversely, Operations Management is much more about managing the day-to-day, plus the execution of the systems you already have in place, rather than the strategy behind them. Operations consulting services are much more likely to have a higher level strategic impact on the company, not the day-to-day tasks.
Benefits of an Operations Consultant for Agencies
Bringing in an Operations Consultant can result in a ton of potential benefits for your agency. Let us count the ways operations consulting can elevate your agency…
If you are a small agency, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to afford a super-experienced veteran in the field for strategy and operations consulting. This isn’t a slight on your agency; Operation Consultant salaries can be upwards of 200k per year, which is not on the radar for most micro-enterprises.
Operations Consultants provide senior-level expertise tailored for your business.
Related to the point above, this consultant (or Consulting Team, in the case of Parakeeto) comes with a slew of business operations expertise. They have dealt with agencies like yours before and observed the trial and error companies endure in order to solve such issues. By bringing them on, you’re attaining a wealth of experience that some would say is priceless.
This saves time and expense across areas – like defining proper KPI’s, calculations, plus data modeling for your firm. Additionally, it can help you identify the optimum team structures, delivery models, and contract structures for the services you offer. Furthermore, you will be guided to the right tools and reporting systems, matching the needs of your agency.
Finally, there is less risk involved in bringing in an Operations Consultant (or operations consulting companies) instead of hiring a COO. Fractional COO’s can typically ramp up rather quicker than a full-time employee and often bring a much more objectively diverse skillset to the table.
On top of the fractional nature of the engagement, consultants are often also de-risking your investment. They help decrease the likelihood of having strong biases or limited experience in a specific operating model/set of tools.
Typical Operations Consultancy Services for Agencies
First, an Operations Consultant can provide a wide breadth of value to your agency. This includes:
- Auditing the profitability and performance of your agency
- Auditing the quality of your data and reports
- Streamlining systems in your agency for measuring and reporting on performance, plus key metrics
- Strategic guidance on how to respond to metrics, while improving performance
- Helping to build out business processes and procedures for more efficient operations
The best part about this engagement is that it’s not a “one-size-fits-all” cookie-cutter service. You’re not downloading software/program that is supposed to fix everything for your agency – while also being applicable to other businesses in unrelated industries. Your acquired consultant will be able to apply their experiential expertise and develop a strategic operation plan specifically tailored to your agency.
Agencies that Would Benefit from an Operations Consultant
Is there a way of magically knowing if an Operations Consultant is the right investment for you and your business?!
Well, if your agency is struggling with some (or indeed all) of the following issues, you’ll know instantaneously that this may be the right move for you. Most importantly, be truthful with yourself when addressing the below:
First, what did you net last year? Did you actually pay yourself a market salary as the founder/CEO? If you’re not netting 15+ percent after paying yourself, it’s time to find where that money is actually going…
Speaking of profitability – have you copped your copy of the Agency Profit Toolkit? It’s a free resource for agency owners that includes spreadsheets, templates and training videos to take your profitability to the next level. Grab your copy today at the link below.
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Scope Creep/Project Planning
Do you find most of your projects snowball out of control? How about client expectations? Do you experience classic profitability issues, rooted in contract language, poor estimates, or expectation management?
Resource and Planning
Have you noticed your agency is growing but profit has stagnated? Maybe it feels like everyone at your agency is totally swamped, yet money remains elusive…
Perhaps you’re aware that your agency needs a full-time COO (or a Senior Delivery Manager, Executive Director, Data Analyst, CPA, etc) but you just don’t have the capital to throw at this issue right now. Luckily for you, consultants are much less risky, plus comparatively a fraction of the price.
The Difference Between Operations and Strategy Consulting
Listen. I know what you’re thinking at this point… something along the lines of “That’s all well and good, but this sounds a lot like a typical agency coaching engagement.”
In our (vast) experience, most agency coaches are extremely talented across the board, especially when it comes to client acquisition, positioning, marketing, and even recruiting and delivery systems.
In the case of Operations Consulting, they’re not coming into your agency to provide recommendations on your service offerings, positioning, branding, sales, etc. Consider it more about ensuring things go smoothly after the sale is made; that the services/products you’re selling are clearly defined; that the necessary details are accurately planned and projected into the future.
Operations consulting services tend to start where more growth-focused consultants/coaches prefer to end. It gets into the nuances of how things work and the systems, tools, data, and reporting that run the business in the background, leaving you with a healthy profit margin at year-end.
What can an Operations Consultant Charge?
The fees for operations consulting services can range widely.
By way of example; an experienced operations consultant boasting 10+ years of tactical experience in your industry will likely cost upwards of $200/hr.
More focused firms will often have an array of flat-fee-based packages to solve specific problems in your agency.
Ballpark? Generally speaking, you can expect entry-level engagements to start around the $5,000k mark.
Roles and Responsibilities of an Operations Consultant
An Operations Consultant is – in a way – customizable. They should be agency-tailored. Most experienced ops consultants, however, will have a base repertoire they’re able to bring as a bare minimum.
Operations consulting includes:
- Profitability Performance Auditing
- Cleaning & Interpreting Reporting Data
- Streamlining Systems
- Building out Business Processes and Procedures
- Business Process Management
- Change Management, and more!
How can an Operations Consultant Improve Business Operations in an Agency?
Depending on the size of your agency, bringing in operations consulting has the potential to provide a tremendous amount of value to your agency.
It’s very possible that your agency’s Senior Project Manager is attempting to run the operations of your business on the side of their desk. They execute and deliver and don’t have the bandwidth or background to tackle complex operations strategy.
An Operations Consultant’s goal is to bridge the gap between tactical execution and strategic thinking. They take information about the routine day-to-day occurrences of your agency and format your reporting systems such that actionable decisions/conclusions can be drawn from said reports.
Next, the recurring issue we see time and time again with our consulting clients is this: their PM has been tasked with finding and setting up a PM tool that, in theory, should make systems and business processes roll smoother.
The problem here is that said PM is setting up the tool to manage the projects day-to-day… OK, while there is nothing inherently wrong with that per se, what the PM should be doing is setting this up in a way that aids execution while also helping inform reports which the operations/finance teams need to see in order to optimize decision-making.
The Bottom Line…
Operations Consulting is a holistic view of how your agency’s business process management and systems ladder up into your reporting. This should result in clean data, informed decisions, and – ultimately – allowing your business to become more profitable, scalable, and valuable.
An experienced Operations Consultant has the ability to zoom in for detailed decisions (like the naming convention on tasks within project management or time-tracking tools) and zoom out to understand how that decision impacts other systems, tools, reports, and data across your agency.
Finally, they are the stewards of the entire system for measuring your agency’s performance while empowering stakeholders with the information they need to excel in their field.
Operations Consultant FAQs
At the highest level, operations consulting generally focuses on how to do things, whereas strategy consulting focuses on what things to do.
Operations consulting effective rates can range anywhere from $100 to $1000/hr and up, wth most good consultants landing in the $200-$500 per hour range. It’s not uncommong for consultants to charge flat project fees or retainers as opposed to billing by the hour.
Operations consultants can help uncover and implement better processes for running the agency, leading to more efficiency, smoother operations and higher profit margins.
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