Thoughts about The Ops Director position

The Ops Director, Operations Manager or COO, depending on the size or hierarchy levels of the agency, is responsible for ensuring that the business has the best working environment and processes. From HR to finance, from best practices to client services, The Ops Director has the power and the responsibility to make the business – and the teams that make it possible – better.

This was part of my role at Buzz and I was curious when I read this article at The Drum which presented the Ops Director as the solution to the shrinking margins and rising costs problem that agencies are facing these days.

The Industry Club sat together Ops Directors from UK agencies, big and small, and questioned them about their roles. Here are my main takeouts:

It’s about executing internal strategy. But to be able to execute that strategy, I need to be at the table when that strategy is actually developed and pushed through. – Aidan Moran, Operations Director at Proximity

Yes, the Ops Director needs to sit with the CEO, ECD and the CFO. But not just to listen. Operations is a crucial part of the business, and it needs to be involved in its definition. I like that Moran mentions that Ops direction is about internal strategy. At Buzz, my role was both Head of Strategy and COO, and I always felt that, at the end of the day, I was working as a strategist 100% of my time, be it for external or internal clients.

You need someone that is constantly looking at the business: not just the finances, or the clients or the creative output or the many departments within an agency. You need someone who has the bird’s-eye view of the whole picture and crucially understands the mechanics of the business. – Nicky Russell, Director of Operations at Anomaly

Perspective is key: you need someone who oversees and understands both the business and the daily tasks. Apparently, in some agencies fees are agreed by CEOs and financial directors with no corresponding internal data to substantiate the fees or understanding of what resources and efforts are required to make the work at a decent margin. This is unacceptable and hard to believe. And would never happen if Operations was part of the decision-making process.

Because I’ve been in the agency for so long, lots of my experiences along that journey shaped me along the way. Starting in project management and traffic management, doing a lot of conflict resolution, budgeting, relationship management, creative delivery… All culminated in me feeling like I could go for that role and perform at that level. – Emma Gardner, Operations Director at Elvis

My opinion is clear: the right person to lead Operations is someone experienced, with project management skills, thirsty for knowledge, who can be trusted and is engaged, who knows the agency well, and whose agenda is clear and aligned.

Watch the whole, interesting conversation: