Scaling business operations is counterproductive without the right systems and resources.
The chief operating officer at ThriveDX, Rohit Sharma, adopts a systematic approach to scaling the organization’s operations effectively.
[1:51] Rohit gives an overview of ThriveDX.
[3:43] Rohit explains what it means to scale operations.
[4:21] What are some of the things that Rohit has used or implemented to scale operations in his career?
[5:22] Rohit sheds more light on the three pillars he adopts for scaling operations.
[11:40] Rohit talks about the importance of data analytics in scaling operations.
[16:30] Rohit advises on the next steps to take in scaling your operations.
Committed to transforming businesses through effective leadership, Rohit has held senior leadership roles across higher education, training, certification, and workforce development sectors. He has more than two decades of experience driving step change in business performance, leading P&Ls, and overseeing global teams and operations in over 25 countries.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now, let’s get started with the show.
Chad Franzen: Chad Franzen here, co-host of the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. Past guests include David Allen of Getting Things Done, Michael Gerber of The E Myth, and many more. This episode is brought to you by SweetProcess.
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Chad Franzen: Rohit Sharma is a growth-oriented business transformation leader with a proven track record of delivering financial and social impact globally. He currently serves as the chief operating officer of ThriveDX, a leader in digital skills training, where he’s responsible for driving product design and development, operational delivery, and learner outcomes. Rohit, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you?
Rohit Sharma: Good. Thank you for having me on the show.
Chad Franzen: My pleasure. Hey, so tell me a little bit more about what ThriveDX does.
Rohit Sharma: We are a digital skills training company and what we do is we partner with higher education institutions here in the U.S. to provide boot camp style educational offerings, to mostly working adults who are looking to reskill or upskill themselves in the areas where there’s biggest skills gap that is happening due to digital transformation.
Rohit Sharma: Our current offerings include offerings in the area of cybersecurity, digital marketing, UI/UX software development and data science.
Chad Franzen: What is involved in your day-to-day role as COO?
Rohit Sharma: Like I said, we offer these programs. These programs are offered on a part-time basis because we are targeting working professionals like you and me, and they are delivered by industry experts. Our instructors are industry experts who are delivering these programs. If you think about it, my day-to-day role involves making sure that the content that we are providing to our learners is kept up to date with the latest of what’s happening in the industry.
Rohit Sharma: Our instructors who are professionals coming and working with us are provided the necessary retaining because while you may be a subject matter expert, not everybody’s born a teacher. We provide them the basics of how to be a good instructor in the class, how to manage a class. Then also making sure that our learners are engaged.
Rohit Sharma: From the platform, the content, everything is provided to them seamlessly. Then focusing on those who are interested in helping us land the next job, providing them with the tools and processes as well as the support that is needed to help them get to the next level in their career.
Chad Franzen: One thing I’d like to talk to you about in your role as COO is scaling operations. Could you define how you … Or can you give me your definition of scaling operations?
Rohit Sharma: Sure. Sure. Look, scaling operations are sometimes also known as how do you build operating leverage in a business is simply defined, the way I look at it and it’s a bit of a financial definition, is that to deliver every incremental dollar of revenue, can you do it at incrementally less cost than you did for the last dollar of revenue that you brought in?
Rohit Sharma: As you’re scaling the business, it should cost you overall less and less cost to deliver that same incremental amount of revenue.
Chad Franzen: What are some things that you have done or used in your career for scaling operations?
Rohit Sharma: Look, I think there’s no one magic bullet and I’m sure as you talk to different leaders, they’ll define several different things. Sometimes it’s also contextual chat in there based on the industry you are in, the life cycle of the company, the funding you may have gotten as well as starting points. Some companies invest a lot upfront that gives them certain scale benefits later on.
Rohit Sharma: In my experience, irrespective of that, there are three things that have worked for me. One is looking at automations. These are task automation, workflow automations. Second is also periodically you need to look at how you are organized as a company, especially on the operation side, but also other parts of the company.
Rohit Sharma: Then finally, ability to leverage on data, to make the right decisions and focus on the right things. Those are the three pillars that I’ve focused on.
Chad Franzen: Can you expand on some of those pillars starting with workflow automation?
Rohit Sharma: Sure. Look, I think if you think about any business that starts off at any stage, you start … especially we are a startup company. In the beginning you start doing many things manually. Then over time you realize as the company starts to grow, that this is just not ‘scalable’. A very simple thing that all of can relate to even if you’re not in the education industry is because we’ve been on the other side as a learner is attendance.
Rohit Sharma: Think about tracking attendance. As simple a task as that, somebody has to take an attendance. If you think about in a virtual setting like this, as you come into the class and I see all the Zoom windows popping up, as an example, I can go and market physically in, let’s say a Google Sheet. Then that has to be fed into another system that actually is the system of record for attendance.
Rohit Sharma: As you can imagine, even a simple process like this is fraught with error. Sometimes I forget to tick off a box, but imagine if we can leverage on technology and see that if there’s different Zoom windows and technology is tracking that how if out of a one hour class, let’s say, if people are not just present, as in logged in, but also engaged for, let’s say even 45 out of the 60 minutes, you can define your own threshold.
Rohit Sharma: There’s software that can track that, are you actively engaging? Are you nodding? Are you listening? Did you ask a question? All of those parameters you can define so that the system is calculating and actually putting in the attendance in the system of record, rather than somebody going and manually doing that as an example.
Chad Franzen: Wow. That’s an interesting development. What about reorganization that you alluded to, reorganizing yourselves?
Rohit Sharma: Yeah. Reorganizing and oftentime when you think about scaling, this is sometimes overlooked because it is difficult to do, especially if you are a very high-growth company, you probably need to at least go back and revisit and relook how you’re organized periodically. That periodically may mean every six months, sometimes nine months a year, because as the business has grown, you need to think about things differently.
Rohit Sharma: This not just reporting relationships, but also how communication flows between different departments and how collaboration happens within your company. As an example, a startup company lands its first client, and let’s say it’s an email automation company. I’m making it up. The first client happens to be in the real estate business. They want to do everything to make sure that the client is happy so everything is organized around that client.
Rohit Sharma: The next client, let’s say they land is a insurance company and they’re like, "This is our first client in the insurance company so let’s build everything around it." The third client happens to be in retail. We’ll do the same thing around it, but then obvious over time you realize that you’ve built three different organizations that are pretty much doing if not the same, but similar tasks. You have to re-look at yourself.
Rohit Sharma: Then people start to organize these functions as let’s say, customer service in general and say, "How can we serve all our customers while recognizing there may be certain differences between each of the industry segments that we are serving?" In our case, as an example, if you think about you are a student in a virtual environment, attending these training programs, you interact with several different people as part of your experience.
Rohit Sharma: You have an instructor who’s leading the class, like I mentioned, that’s an industry expert. We also have a teaching associate to help the instructor in the class, so interacting with those people on a daily basis. Then we assign what we call student success managers, who are responsible to making sure they work with you to ensure that the cohort as such is successful.
Rohit Sharma: Any issues or problems you’re having, they are the first point of contact to help resolve. Then for those who are interested in getting a job, work with our career coaches who are guiding them around defining their job search strategy, their resume review, their LinkedIn profiles and all of those things. Even in a situation context like this, you’re interacting with so many people now.
Rohit Sharma: Obviously, as you think about the instructor management function is separate from a student support function, which is separate from a career outcomes function. As simple as that, the first step could be, are they reporting into the same organization that helps for better flow of communication? More importantly, rather than just reorganizing that, because some of these roles have very different skill sets, you want to look at how communication flows happen between these different groups.
Rohit Sharma: How often are they meeting to discuss the cohort in general? Because then we could come together as a group and say, "Okay. From my interaction with the students in this cohort, Chad or Rohit may certain concerns about landing the right kind of a job. Hey, career coaches, can you work specifically with them because they’re interested in getting to the West Coast and working in a high-growth startup as an example."
Rohit Sharma: Even things like that, how you reorganize the cadence of meetings you’re having, as simple as that, what is the information that is being shared in those cadence of meetings to arrive at the right decision help scale. Because when we talk about scaling, what ends up happening, if you are not constantly rethinking these things, the same set of discussions are happening in three parts of the company and so when you think back, everybody is busy, but you are not getting the efficiencies from the system.
Chad Franzen: How are often would you say it’s necessary to do that kind of an assessment of yourself?
Rohit Sharma: Like I said, like we are a high-growth company, we look at how we’re organized every six months, give or take, and doesn’t mean we change everything. We are doing an assessment to see what parts may need to be tweaked sometimes, sometimes changed.
Chad Franzen: Would you say that there’s usually a change that occurs every six months? Maybe if it’s a full scale.
Rohit Sharma: Yes. Correct. Yes. That has been at least more of my experience over the last working with startups, et cetera.
Chad Franzen: What about data analytics in terms of scaling operations?
Rohit Sharma: Yeah. No. Look, I think obviously this is a broad topic and besides ensuring that in this day and age you have the right data to work with is so critical. Obviously it goes without saying, there’s the technical aspects of figuring out how data is captured, where it’s stored, what’s the platform you want to use? What’s the tool for BI or visualization? But two things I would say.
Rohit Sharma: The first part starts with what I call just data literacy. That to me is making sure that the right levels of the organization have the right set of data to work from. Like I mentioned, I was giving the example of our students who come to us, we want to make sure that our career coaches, our student success managers, our instructors, have data that is relevant.
Rohit Sharma: In this case, we are looking a bit in the rear-view mirror, but at least it is giving us an indication of how we are performing. As an example, if I’m an instructor, I’d want to know how the class went. When I say how the class went, I want to make sure that you as a learner, did you learn something? Was the session engaging?
Rohit Sharma: If those things are not happening, I want to know before my next class, which may be in two days from now. There’s no point looking at that data a month later and saying, "Wish I knew this earlier and I could have done …" Even though this is looking in the rear-view mirror.
Rohit Sharma: That’s the first step around making sure that the right people have access to the right kind of data in a timely fashion, but then you get to the next stage, which that’s where you start to become a bit more focused because as companies start to grow, there’ll be so much data that is generated that you want to focus on the right things, which is classic 80/20 to do more of the predictive kind of focus.
Rohit Sharma: Can you focus on 20% of your customers that generate 80% of the revenue or the vice versa, 20% of sometimes problems take up 80% of your time? As an example, if you think about a class of 30 students, our internal SOP as an example could be that, "Hey, as a student success manager, you should reach out to your students once a week to check in on them, to make sure you’re checking with them on their progress, any issues they’re facing and helping them resolve." That’s good.
Rohit Sharma: Suddenly from tens of students, now you have hundreds of students to thousands of students, and it starts to become a bit more challenging. How about if instead of that, we were to refine and say, "Taking several different data points, making sure we look at your attendance record, making sure we look at your Zoom activity, making sure we are looking at your learning management system, how often you logged in, making sure we look at your grades, making sure we look at the feedback that you’ve given us.
Rohit Sharma: Take all of that, combine it with potentially some of the demographic information we have on you, regards to your prior educational background, anything related to work or income level.
Rohit Sharma: We say that, ‘Based on our historical track record, how we teach the kinds of students that have come to us, we have created a risk model that says that Chad is at a 70% risk of dropping and not completing the program if he has missed three classes in a row, if his grades in the last course were below a certain threshold and that he hasn’t logged in in the last seven days into his learning management system.’"
Rohit Sharma: Instead of now focusing on 30 students and reaching out to all of them, I’m focusing on two, but also on a very targeted manner.
Chad Franzen: All that stuff can be tracked, like Zoom activity, things like that, that can all be tracked?
Rohit Sharma: Correct. Correct. Correct. That’s the benefit of, like I talked about, we are training people on digital skills on skills that there’s a big gap due to digital transformation, but there’s so many benefits coming out of the digital transformation as well.
Chad Franzen: I have one more question for you, but first tell me how people can find out more about ThriveDX.
Rohit Sharma: Yes. Obviously people can go on to thrivedx.com, but here in the U.S., as I mentioned, we partner, and when you go there, we partner with leading educational institutions to offer these programs. These programs are offered in conjunction with institutions such as the University of Miami, NYU, University of Michigan, Cal State, Long Beach. People can look at all our education partners through which we offer these different programs.
Chad Franzen: My last question, what would you say is the next step or even the first step that somebody could do to move down the road of effectively scaling operations?
Rohit Sharma: No. Everything starts with, first of all understanding and documenting the different roles and what people spend time doing. Even starting a conversation like the one we are having and saying, "Chad, tell me about your typical day. What do you spend time doing?" I think that in itself is a simple thing, but can be very impactful in understanding especially where you have multiple people doing the same role.
Rohit Sharma: You can understand where people are spending time. That helps you then from a prioritization perspective, look at the impact. If you were to automate one task, two tasks, three tasks. If 40% of your time is spent on manual activities and we were to automate that, the amount of benefit that it would give, not just from cost savings, usually scaling is approached from a cost savings perspective.
Rohit Sharma: Yes, that is definitely part of the objective. But part of the objective is also to better serve the business, the customers, so that we are meeting them where they need.
Chad Franzen: Okay. Great. Hey, Rohit, it’s been great to talk to you today. I really appreciate your time and your insights. Thank you so much.
Rohit Sharma: Thank you, Chad. Thank you for having me
Chad Franzen: So long everybody.
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