Career Story: Operations Manager For An Audio Products Company

Operations Manager For An Audio Products Company

Job Title: Operations Manager

Type of Company: My company designs, develops and sells digital audio hardware & software and certain iPhone applications.

Education: BA, Elmira College (Elmira, NY) •• certificate in management, University of Massachusetts

Previous Experience: I worked as a purchasing agent for a digital audio equipment producer and later as a purchasing manager for an audio technology company.

Job Tasks: My three key responsibilities are: financial management, production and inventory control and sales & marketing for our international distributors. In a small company (with eight employees), each employee has a range of responsibilities and we shy away from titles. In a large company, the operations manager would not be involved in sales & marketing, but the advantage of working for a small company is the more you can demonstrate hard work and good judgment, the more responsibility you're given and the higher salary you earn.

My typical day runs the gamut of -- financial management: accounts receivable (making sure our customers pay us on time), accounts payable (making sure we pay our suppliers on time so we maintain a good credit rating), developing a cash flow plan so we can look out 20 weeks to see where the cash shortages may be and strategize on those tight cash time periods, payroll and managing our company's SIMPLE retirement plan.

-- production and inventory control: looking at our product activity (sales, adjustments, returns from the field) and using that data to forecast our future needs, balancing historical activities against the influences of seasonal purchases by the consumer (i.e., Christmas up, summer down, general economy down). We have a twenty-week lead time (almost half a year) to order our product from China, so we look at our sales activity on a weekly basis, always trying to be ahead of demand. As a small company we don't have a lot of cash to spend on inventory, so we use several sales models to predict future demand.

It's always interesting to see where we failed and succeeded with our plan, and what were the variances we didn't predict very well.

-- international sales & marketing: 50% of our sales come from international distributors. 3-4 years ago 30% of our sales came from international distributors. Government deficit spending and the weak dollar have made most US products cheaper internationally, hence the large increase in international sales. 99% of our sales from international distributors are conducted via email. I am amazed at how proficient our international distributors are in the English language! I could not communicate in even the most pervasive languages like German or Spanish.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is being involved in a technology company which produces computer controllers and iPhone applications for music production and working with an interesting group of engineers. Music has appeal to just about everyone, and it's interesting to have customers who are well-known in their field (Sting, Maroon 5, Ray Charles, etc.)

The worst part is always chasing cash. Tight credit is one result of the recent bank meltdown. Very few businesses can finance their operations and expansion strictly from revenues from operations.

Job Tips: Three tips for being successful in an operations management job.
1. make sure you're comfortable with MS Office, especially Excel, Word and Access. I use these programs every day.

2. Have a strong accounting background, MBA preferred. You always have to base and justify your decisions on what improves the bottom line.

3. Because I interface with so many different groups (suppliers, customers, international distributors, engineers, bankers) strong communication skills are very important. Not just verbal communications, but email as most correspondence is electronic.

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