How to not go nuts doing operations at a startup

startup communication framework

Every startup is looking to reduce the time from idea –> execution.

End of weekly reports are my “cheat code” for managing operations at a startup (or a few, actually).

I wanted a way to-

-Reduce the niggling sense of not being good enough, visible enough or just “enough”

-Increase knowledge sharing across departments (in an async way)

No one cares what I do”.

I remember Googling this. Full of self-pity and frustration. I took my concerns to my manager at the time.

“Make others look good. And tell them why they should care what you’re doing”.- my old manager

End-of-week reports are proactive communication.

1:1’s, retrospectives, project updates, you talk about blockers, but you’re waiting.

How many times have you said, “I’ll bring that up in my next 1:1” (and then the 1:1 doesn’t happen because you’re busy)?

Weekly summaries serve as a narrative thread. They stitch disparate tasks into a coherent story.

We’ve spoken about types of knowledge before.

Whether you’re a chief of staff at a startup, operations manager or head of something- you’ll be managing comms between teams, and a way forward is enhacing tacit knowledge.

How I’ve implemented EOW reporting

Step One- Assess the need

After some check-ins, I learned I wasn’t alone in feeling unheard.

(Wanting to pulse-check your own org? Some culture questions)

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Officevibe is great for this

Step Two- Address the cause

After some probing, and chatting (with HR) we realised that part of the issue came down to ownership and accountability overlaps.

Meaning that without people understanding at a base level what each other did functionally, they wouldn’t respect how they did it or their achievements.

image 1
same girl

Step Three- Define it

It’s a startup. If you need a prescriptive set of tasks… not the best place to be working.

However, I realised that a basic, functional RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) was necessary to move forward.

It helped not only the team to move quicker- but customers knew who to speak to!

Step Four- Communicate their wins

Once we established who did what and had less double-handling, communicating wins became easier.

The language still had to change.

Less: “David closed 14k”

More: “David closed 14k in existing accounts- new SKUs”

Show how the team’s activities are meeting accomplishments and their direction.

operations at a startup
This was a V1 from Confluence

Startup operating report

Brevity is an art and clarity is your ally. You’ve likely skimmed the majority of this. And that’s okay (if you loved me you’d read it all…)

Get the design right. Choose headings, placement, and wording so that you’re extracting the signal from the noise of daily operations.

Structures for Comms

  • Metrics- Define your metrics in the beginning, similar to how you would an investor memo. Establishing this EOW report may even drive a conversation to define your interpretation of certain metrics.
  • Blockers- An EOW summary isn’t a place to chest-beat. A summary should candidly outline blockers, not as setbacks, but as opportunities to get going. (The practice of writing these blockers may have you recognising that it’s not a priority after all)
  • Next actions/focus- Clarity on next steps gets eyeballs on prize….balls. It prevents the diffusion of effort.

An antidote to imposter syndrome?

I’m convinced that startups attract a breed of individual who is both-

high achieving

thinks they suck

These individuals are often pushing the boundaries of their experience and expertise.

EOW updates are a mirror. They reflect back the reality of progress, combating the gnawing doubt of “Am I really contributing?”

By objectively documenting successes and learnings, we have a voice of reason (and a cool time capsule).

What to remember when writing an operating report

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“The project prioritisation matrix”

I remember blinking back at my manager.

“Uh, what”.

The intention was to have an internal form that circulated department heads, gathered requirements for proposed projects and initiatives and then aligned it to business objectives.

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the dream

Created in collaboration with a business analyst, it was a sophisticated spreadsheet with nodes and backend formulas that I seemed to constantly break.

Bigger node= more revenue, easier to put in place for the engineering team. You get the point.

It was, theoretically beautiful.

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another early version

Attached to the end-of-week report with plain instructions “If you have a project request, submit it here”.

Stakeholders could see where their project was on the map based on alignment and we’d have a meeting.

Creating this for a startup?

The time taken to plan out the matrix, and have the BA make the sheet (pre-GPT days), was a waste.

A learning, absolutely. The takeaway? Simple does it.

Methods to communicate (because shouting “I’m the best” rarely works remotely)

  • Notion/Confluence/etc
  • The point here is to have somewhere you can have a repeatable template (no reinventing the wheel)
  • A version/edit history
  • Access controls
  • Emojis
  • Slack Automation- There are workflows you can create that pull from collective voices rather than a single narrator. Tools that pull from sales reports etc. These can all be part of your EOW.
  • ‘Wins Channel’- It’s a sad state of affairs when there’s no win channel. A dedicated channel for wins keeps morale high and provides instant content for the weekly summary.
  • Email Newsletter- An end-of-week newsletter can double as external communication, keeping investors and customers in the loop and reinforcing momentum.

Stop waiting for others to notice you, pat you on the back, and give you a star.

Give yourself your own star and while you’re at it, build your portfolio of achievements, increase team morale *and* practice comms.

Keep tabs on me over here while