Not many people begin their careers with their sights set on revenue operations. More often than not, RevOps professionals start their career in a go-to-market functional role, and they (or their boss) discover a propensity for processes, data, and/or systems. Daniel Cohen began his career in sales and found a knack for identifying and fixing process issues. He's now a Revenue Operations Manager at Proton.ai, an AI-powered sales platform created for distributors.
"I basically just had all the sheets in Google Drive, and I created a couple of dropdowns and made a formula - and you had it," he says. "So, if you're talking to an HR department in Texas, it'll give you all the HR departments that use that platform. You could pull it up during the call."
He knew he loved that type of work and recognized that if and when the time came, he'd jump on an opportunity to hold a role more focused on tech and process. He'd met someone in revenue operations and knew the job sounded appealing - he just needed a chance.
Fortunately, Dan got the chance to change careers, and he took advantage of it. While he knew he'd enjoy the systems and processes, it may be a surprise how well he has adapted to being a team of one. Instead of seeing the ever-changing landscape of revenue operations in a busy startup as stressful, Dan has chosen to focus on its many benefits.
Because we regularly see teams of one in revenue operations, we thought others might benefit from Dan's perspective. Dan also had some great thoughts on surviving and thriving as a team of one in a startup.
It's common for startups to have a single revenue operations professional, particularly in the early stages. Operational tasks may fall to the sales or marketing manager until the company reaches 30 or more employees. I would wager more than a few of us have walked into companies that have decided to let everyone with access to the CRM have an administrator's license.
It only takes one sweeping "oopsie" to get the green light to revoke that access, but we digress.
Once a revenue operations professional is hired, there's a long list of items that need to be implemented and corrected for people to do their jobs well. There is never a lack of work for RevOps pros, but the key to survival is understanding the company's top priorities and selecting the projects that will have the greatest impact.
"Time management is really important," Dan says. "Part of that is not losing focus."
It's normal for people to think of ways to improve processes or systems and bring those ideas up to revenue operations. Sometimes those ideas are good, and sometimes not so much. Even the best ideas often must be appropriately prioritized against existing and in-flight projects.
Because people rarely understand what revenue operations is tasked with by management (or what we do all day in general), it's essential to learn how to communicate the current priorities rather than blurt out that the person's request isn't urgent.
It's also easy to forget the person making the request likely had admin access to the CRM shortly before you began as the revenue operations pro, or that you revoked that admin access from them. They'll think of a picklist or field add as a quick request they could have knocked out quickly. They may not realize the "quick" change has sweeping impacts across the tech stack (ironically, this lack of foresight is why they no longer have system admin access).
Learning how to communicate why other, higher priority tasks align with certain objectives or, even better, positioning the current projects as having a direct and positive impact on how well they can do their job goes a long way in soothing the sting of diminished access.
Dan brought up another great point regarding thinking through priorities no matter who revenue operations reports to (for more on that can of worms, check out this article jam-packed with community input).
"I think the strategic projects that you might be considering can vary greatly depending on who you're reporting to," he says. "If you do find yourself reporting to one person, I think it's really important to get face time and make connections with other stakeholders."
If you're reporting to a single functional manager, it can create suspicion. When there's already tension between departments, it's not unusual for revenue operations to be viewed as an extension of a particular team. It can impact how open people are about system or process issues. Getting face time with different team leads and team members can go a long way in establishing trust.
Speaking with multiple teams also improves your chances of positively impacting any team conflict.
The most common sources of conflict in a small company can be traced back to a lack of communication. Revenue operations is in a natural position to step in and build stronger relationships between teams by identifying and fixing points of friction created by system inefficiencies or process gaps during team hand-offs. For example, we've seen salespeople be furious with marketing over a suspicion they were padding their numbers (the real problem was a lack of alignment on the definition of a lead).
RevOps can also help go-to-market teams avoid conflict by providing a centralized source of metrics or clearly defining the filters and formulas used for core company metrics.
Dan's enthusiasm for being a team of one and embracing the challenges encountered in a startup was inspiring. It's easy to focus on the negatives—the ever-growing list of to-do's and the constant demands. Dan's outlook showed us a perspective that seemed - dare we say it? - more sustainable.
It doesn't hurt that Dan has a great sense of humor. For example, being a team of one means that Dan knows where all the bodies are buried.
Yep, he said that.
"Proverbially, obviously. Not literally," he clarified.
The goal of RevOps is to be the central source of truth regardless of an individual department's views, needs, and biases. Our alignment with the overall company objectives should give us a less biased idea of what should be addressed immediately and what can wait. When it comes to analytics, RevOps should be able to present a picture that is accurate to everyone in the organization.
The other benefit of being a team of one is that building things out means that you know the processes. It's your documentation, so there's no interpretation needed. While we strongly recommend that you document things, being a team of one means you get to decide whether it's worth creating a write-up given your various priorities.
"You don't have to scavenge for documentation that probably isn't there," he explains. "You know what the genesis of things was and how things were created."
Being an independent force can be exhilarating, but even the most productive revenue operations pros have limits. What happens when you have more work than you can do alone?
Dan believes knowing personal weaknesses is essential to identifying the next logical hire. Delegating doesn't come naturally to all of us. Determining what you don't enjoy or aren't particularly skilled at is a great way to build the next hire's resume. It also allows you to build a compelling business case that advocates for the next hire.
However, remember that a long to-do list is rarely enough of an argument to hire an additional person, particularly if the company struggles due to market conditions. Many of us must prioritize what must get done according to its impact on the business. He advises that RevOps pros embrace and enjoy the chaos, particularly if you're in a startup.
"I think it's really important to be someone who likes being in that state of perpetual anarchy," he says. "It's something that I enjoy. But, being able to say, 'okay, these are the things that I'm working on,' helps if you feel like you're getting overwhelmed by ideas."
And if you ever feel stuck or need to brainstorm how to solve a problem outside your wheelhouse, feel free to reach out to Daniel Cohen and others in the RevOps Co-Op. Why struggle when you can talk to someone who's been there and done that? ❤️
This week we highlight our education partner, Jeff Ignacio, and his framework for creating process for revenue operations.
Sales metrics come in various flavors, and we’ll be exploring some of the most common metrics by audience. Each layer of leadership needs a different level of detail, beginning with the extremely in-the-weeds front-line management report up to the more general executive reports.
System administration seems to become a sticky topic for companies that are well into their growth phase and are pushing beyond 150 employees. The sales organization is mature, they have enough customers to justify a large customer success team, and marketing is more focused on demand generation tactics than redesigning the corporate website (again).