OPERATIONS: THE LIFE SUSTAINING “WATER” OF GOODR’S ECOSYSTEM
In season 3, episode 5 of CULTURE goodr, Mr. Belding accidentally trips Zack, causing him to sprain his knee just before the big basketball game. In the hospital, Zack learns he must get surgery, sparking an existential crisis. Luckily, his friend Lisa is a part-time candy striper, and her mom --- oh no. Oh no no no no. That’s not CULTURE goodr. That’s season 3, episode 5 of the 100% realistic 90’s sitcom Saved By The Bell. Let’s try again.
In season 3, episode 5 of CULTURE goodr, Shaun and Stephen do a deep dive on the Operations team, AKA the Crystal Ballers. This flock is a giant department, with four areas of focus: Inventory, logistics, data analysis, and systems integrations. Aileen, the flock leader and Profit Prophet, joins the pod to explain the importance of sharing complex data in a simple way. If you can't explain something simply, you don't really understand it.
THE EPISODE IN A VERY SMALL NUTSHELL:
In the lightning round, Aileen reveals her favorite city in the US besides the one she lives in. (Las Vegas). She also shares her childhood nickname (Bobba), what she likes to listen to on walks (music), and her preference between iOS and Android (Android). Her spirit animal is a dachshund because they’re both stubborn and don't like to be told what to do. (And yes, dachshunds are ‘wiener dogs’, hahahaha, wiener, let’s move on.)
Before joining goodr, Aileen was the director of inventory planning at another startup. When she saw the job posting at goodr, she was super motivated to be a part of the culture. She prepared for each stage of the interview process as if it were a marathon. And when she got the job offer, she finally crossed that finish line! Which turned out to be another starting line. (Surprise, Aileen!!! The end is the beginning!!! Time is a circle!!! Life is a snake eating its own tail!!! AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!)
Aileen’s lame title is Head of Operations. Her real title is Profit Prophet (named by Lily Hanson, goodr’s best copywriter and extremely hot super genius, who is definitely NOT writing this goodrTIMES blog.) Aileen can optimize any type of bottlenecks that we encounter in the business. Basically, the flock plans and automates whatever they can.
On a high level, the Crystal Ballers plan inventory, track shipments, manage and maintain systems. Their flock values are reliability and learning. Reliability is important because you work with so many different people. You have to be dependable so that everything stays in motion. Learning is important because we're always improving at goodr. We always examine our mistakes and wins, so we can scale, and continue improving as time goes on.
Under the inventory management umbrella, Crystal Ballers has Aja as buyer and planner. She handles everything and anything that relates to inventory. She makes sure we always have the right amount of product at the right time and in the right places. We have several different sales channels, and want to make sure they’re all taken care of.
For global logistics, the team has an analyst that will be handling everything to get our shipments from point A to point B. For data and analytics, the Ballers act as a transformation machine, turning information into a story that helps you understand that info. And finally, for systems and processes, the flock is implementing an ERP. (No, not AARP, ERP, pay attention!) This system will help us organize all of our information into one centralized location. (Like how when kids “clean” their room, they just shove everything in the closet! Or maybe not. This analogy is not Aileen-approved.)
Forecasting is important, as you may have deduced from the name “Crystal Ballers.” It helps the flock plan for the future, by managing cash flow, and reducing unnecessary costs. (Uh-oh. Hope that doesn’t mean getting rid of free limo service for the copywriters! That is an extremely necessary expense, especially for A-list celebrity Lily Hanson.) Ultimately, goodr strives to achieve goals without over stretching ourselves as a brand. We find balance between risk and growth by being prepared.
As a brand growing faster than Sonic the Hedgehog after 97 espressos, cash flow is important. If we're not forecasting correctly, we end up with too much product, and that money is basically dead. And if we don't have enough product, we're losing money. It’s a juggling act. That explains why every morning, Aileen juggles flaming torches for two hours, or maybe she doesn’t, whatever, chill out, don’t fact-check this.
Some products sell out surprisingly quickly. For example, the 2021 Valentine’s Day sunglasses, “Carl's Got A Candy Heart On,” greatly exceeded expectations. They were supposed to last two weeks, but instead, they sold out in three days. When the Crystal Ballers have no history with a product, it’s difficult to predict the sellout timeline, so they make educated guesses. In the end, the episode taught them a valuable lesson: Never underestimate a heart on.
When Aileen first arrived at goodr, the systems looked like separate puzzle pieces that didn’t fit together well. Everyone was pulling information from different places and didn't know which place to trust. Now the puzzle is nicely pieced together, and everything is connected properly. There’s no more licking our fingers and putting them in the air to guess things. (And there’s no more licking our fingers and putting them in people’s ears. Our CEO, Carl the Flamingo went through a “Wet Willy” phase, and it was harrowing.)
It takes one year to plan and implement an ERP, possibly longer, because you keep discovering more intricacies about the business. If you're in project management, you have critical paths. Finance and accounting portions need to sign off. There are things in the operational world that can shift a bit, but if certain financial pieces are broken, then everything falls apart. And they're stuck with the paperwork and reconciliation, which is the opposite of what we want to do. Everyone wants things to happen quickly, but it always costs more and takes longer. (So, stop bitching and moaning about George R.R. Martin taking a decade to write The Winds of Winter, nerds! There are a million other fantasy books out there!!! LEAVE!!!! GEORGE!!!! ALONE!!!!)
Ops sits between the Product and DC teams. Product works directly with the vendor. Ops also works with the vendor, but at a different capacity. Their job is to make sure that we get products produced in time, purchase the right quantities, and get them here on time. Also, they make sure the DC knows we have shipments coming, or else they're going to be like, “WTF? Why’s this container sitting on our dock?” Really, Crystal Ballers are the communicators, the glue between our teams. Hug them at your own risk.
Once goodrs are done being produced at the factory, the Ballers work with our freight forwarder to book a vessel. (Pro-tip: Do NOT book vessels named “Titanic.”) The boats pick up products at the factory door, make sure they’re packed in a big container and transport it to port. In 30 to 45 days, the freight arrives at The Lagoon (goodr’s offices plus warehouse in Los Angeles.) The Ballers coordinate with the freight forwarder to estimate the arrival date, then notify the DC, who receives the shipment, puts it on our shelves, and ships it to you. (Arguably, this process is just as magical as the miracle of childbirth. Maybe more so.)
What are the three most important ops metrics? Aileen says: 1) Productivity, a versatile metric to understand how well areas are performing compared to the norm. 2) Inventory, which helps project the amount of weeks we have left on hand. And 3) Operating costs, which includes costs related to transportation and inventory equipment. It’s important to understand cost and identify areas of improvement for efficiency. (Like, for example, how Family Matters got rid of that boring middle child Judy character and made Steve Urkel a main character. Very efficient for comedy.)
For anyone starting out in operations, Aileen recommends looking at productivity from all angles, such as profitability and creating the runway. “Don't run out of product,” she commands, while juggling flaming torches. “DON’T RUN OUT OF PRODUCT.” As far as ops processes go, the Profit Prophet is most proud of the productivity index. It gauges how well a specific style is doing compared to everything else.
For example, take Bosley’s Basset Hound Dreams. (Long live the King.) “Those are so amazing, right?” says Aileen. “Is it the silhouette? Is it the color? Is it how it's displayed on the website? There are a variety of different things that you can look at and then apply that to future launches by taking little tidbits from those attributes that you see from your best sellers and then...plan them into your future line.”
Last year, the shadowy cabal behind goodr realized we should keep top sellers in line, and that we don't have an all black pair of every model. So, we launched the Blackout series last February. But, Aileen says, if we had a productivity index, we would’ve noticed earlier: “Hey, all-black sunglasses kills. We should have all-black everything.”
As an Enneagram type 8 personality (The Challenger), with a wing nine (The Diplomat), Aileen loves a good challenge. It grants opportunities to take on big plans and learn things along the way. Nothing's ever the same in the span of days, weeks, months or even years. She helps make people's lives easier, and rack up more accomplishments. The best ops people in the world are super creative, because they have to be to excel. (Especially when transforming data FROM Excel. Do YOU excel at Excel? Or do you excel at being an incel? The choice is yours.)
Here’s Aileen’s three cheat codes for anyone in the ops space:
1. There is always a way, no matter what. Just keep pushing through.
2. Garbage in, garbage out. For those computer science folks.
3. Microsoft Excel.
That’s it for this week, kids! Remember: never get into cars with strangers, unless you asked for that on an app, then it’s totally fine.