A guide to managing operations in your small business

SMEs accounted for 99% of all UK businesses in 2019 according to Parliament research. Operations management is essential for the success of each and every one, regardless of size or industry. Do you feel confident that you’re on top of yours?

Think of it as the optimisation of your everyday business operations. It involves planning, coordinating and controlling resources such as people, equipment and information, and impacts both the business itself and customer experience.

business operationsSuccessful operations management can improve efficiency and profit margins. It can also make life easier for your staff and build customer loyalty. Here’s a quick overview of what operations management could involve for your business:


The primary concern of a retail business will be stock management. At a basic level this involves having enough of the items people want at prices they’re willing to pay, while finding ways to shift what isn’t so popular.

You may want to negotiate better deals with your suppliers or increase your prices to improve your return. These aren’t decisions you should take lightly however, and implementing a software programme could help you back up your strategies with real-time data.

Food and drink

Food and drink businesses often have more complex operations management requirements for various reasons. Firstly, a lot of their stock will be perishable, putting an even greater emphasis on planning and preparation as well as monitoring equipment such as fridges and freezers.

Then there’s the customer experience. Eating out is a treat for most people, bringing added expectations around standards of service. Are there more effective ways to manage reservations, for example? Could you speed up your bar service to minimise queues and sell more drinks?


Most service companies will have external and internal operations to look after. On the client side, this could involve managing and logging all updates to ensure they enjoy a smooth and consistent experience. Body shop software could help a garage give customers more realistic timelines, for example.

Moving internally, many staff will need suitable infrastructure for collaboration, time tracking, expenses and so on. Training and recruitment platforms will also help to ensure you hire the best talent and entice people to stay.


Many operations management processes evolved from companies that manufacture physical products. Industrial revolutions were driven by those improving efficiency wherever possible, from the assembly line to packaging and shipping.

Operations management processes should be used to identify bottlenecks and propose instant solutions. Any improvements made could allow a business to take on larger orders or produce more output in the same length of time.

Ultimately operations management should be an ongoing process in which you are constantly monitoring your organisation’s inner workings to identify opportunities for optimisation. When done right, it can help your business to grow and hit targets that once appeared unachievable.