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| Updated on February 13, 2011

An entrepreneur asks: I am getting my first few customers and have started delivering the products. I seem to be often caught up in operations, when I need to be focussed on getting new customers. What are the key things to do to set up a good delivery organisation? How should I structure the team, what systems should I have in place so the operations run smoothly? These questions were posed to MentorSquare, a global pool of experienced professionals and business leaders committed to guiding entrepreneurs on their journey to business success. This resulted in a conversation on, with inputs from a number of Mentors.

Excerpts from the discussion:

While most start-ups are strapped for funds and human resources are stretched to the limit, having an efficient delivery organisation primarily requires the business to have a simple yet efficient organisation structure in place.

Mentor Ravi G. Narayan says this is a persistent problem among new businesses. “It happens all the time as most of the entrepreneurs, promoters and founders are close to the technology of the company. They find it most interesting to involve themselves in the technology/delivery of the company.”

So where does one start?

Mentor Cherian Kuruvila feels, “The starting point is to segregate customer acquisition from service delivery or operations. The challenge for the entrepreneur is when he tries to get into everything. With limited resources both aspects start getting compromised. The skill sets, mindsets and managing system needed for getting new customers and ensuring the acquired customers get good delivery or service are different. Hence creating a simple organisation structure that keep the heads of the two roles separate is a must.”

Having a simple but structured review mechanism at fixed frequency at the entrepreneur level will ensure each one focuses on their individual agreed priorities and key result areas.

It is important to identify a suitable organisation, process and leader for the role. It might be the entrepreneur himself who could take on this role but he has to structure this organisation well. The business development should then be headed by an appropriately capable and ‘incentivised' person. And the two should work in tandem to chart the next set of steps and growth vision of the company.

Often the issues that crop up would be over commitments from the sales team. “A clear cut understanding of the internal strengths and capabilities of the delivery are paramount to win satisfactory customers. One of the main tasks for the entrepreneur is to oversee that both sections of sales and delivery work in complete sync and cohesion which is important for the organisation to grow from strength to strength” believes Mentor Renukaprasad M Belgur.

Creating a great delivery organisation separates average performers from the superlative performers. Why is this so? “Because, eventually great fulfilment - which is the hallmark of a great delivery organisation - is what brings customers back. First, delivery is a hot kitchen - you have to get someone as the head who can stand the kitchen heat. This person must not only have the people skills to rally the troops around the delivery issues but someone who has the people management skills to get the job done - without being offensive or abrasive,” says Mentor Prabhakar Valivati.

As a general policy, it is better to slightly over-staff the delivery teams to ensure that the redundancy being built-in will serve to take up any slack in delivery. It goes without saying that you need the right troops with the right skills, tools and motivation to see the execution is top notch.

Having the right people for every job is the key, according to Mentor Balaji Pasumarthy. “Get people who have the natural talent for the specific role. Remember these people could be full time, part time, consultants, does not matter, just ensure they have the right skills, aptitude and attitude. Define what needs to be done clearly, and create the incentive structure or salary structure to reflect what needs to be done. Once you have handed over responsibility, stay away from day to day operations in that particular area.

Remember that the person you have handed over responsibility to might not go about doing those tasks exactly the way you might do it. That does not really matter, you need to be committed to getting results.”

Starting off an efficient delivery system is the first step. Naturally, the follow-up question then would be how to maintain it? Mentor Nagendra Satyan warns: “If you need to continue to get customers (new or repeat), it is important that both customer acquisition activities and execution with respect to operations, happen with intense focus. One cannot be ignored for the other.”

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Published on February 13, 2011
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