Ops Cast

OperatING manager vs OperatIONS manager - what is the difference? with Frank Cowell

December 19, 2022 Michael Hartmann, Mike Rizzo, Frank Cowell Season 1 Episode 78
OperatING manager vs OperatIONS manager - what is the difference? with Frank Cowell
Ops Cast
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Ops Cast
OperatING manager vs OperatIONS manager - what is the difference? with Frank Cowell
Dec 19, 2022 Season 1 Episode 78
Michael Hartmann, Mike Rizzo, Frank Cowell

In this episode, we talk with Frank Cowell, most recently the CEO of Digitopia Agency, an inbound digital marketing agency with a proprietary methodology. Frank founded what is now Digitopia in 2004, and has evolved the agency from primarily website development and internet marketing to a digital marketing agency. Prior to founding his first agency, Frank worked in Sales and Marketing with Tandy, AT&T, and other technology companies. He is a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps and regularly volunteers his talents to the San Diego AMA, while mentoring young people in the areas of strategy, sales, and marketing.

Tune in to hear: 
- What he means by the Growth Engine Concept and how it applies to our audience of operations professionals. 
- His distinction between “Operations” vs “Ops” and the confusion of the terms.
- How he differentiates between an Operating manager (COO) vs an Operations Manager.



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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we talk with Frank Cowell, most recently the CEO of Digitopia Agency, an inbound digital marketing agency with a proprietary methodology. Frank founded what is now Digitopia in 2004, and has evolved the agency from primarily website development and internet marketing to a digital marketing agency. Prior to founding his first agency, Frank worked in Sales and Marketing with Tandy, AT&T, and other technology companies. He is a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps and regularly volunteers his talents to the San Diego AMA, while mentoring young people in the areas of strategy, sales, and marketing.

Tune in to hear: 
- What he means by the Growth Engine Concept and how it applies to our audience of operations professionals. 
- His distinction between “Operations” vs “Ops” and the confusion of the terms.
- How he differentiates between an Operating manager (COO) vs an Operations Manager.



Episode Brought to You By MO Pros 
The #1 Community for Marketing Operations Professionals

MOps-Apalooza is back by popular demand in Anaheim, California! Register for the magical community-led conference for Marketing and Revenue Operations pros.

Support the Show.

Michael Hartmann:

Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of OpsCast, brought to you by marketing ops.com. Powered by the Mo Pros. I am your host, Michael Hartmann. Joined today by co-host Mike Rizzo. What's happening, Mike?

Mike Rizzo:

You know, just trying to stay warm when it's cold in California. Everybody laughs at me for that

Michael Hartmann:

Well, and ironically it's, it's been cold here in Dallas, but it is warm today. I think it's almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit for those of you who are in like other countries

Mike Rizzo:

You know the rest of the world that that uses a system that makes more sense.

Michael Hartmann:

Right. Well, I'm excited. Today we are gonna be talking with Cowell most recently, CEO of Digitopia Agency, which is an inbound digital marketing agency with, uh, proprietary methodology. So, Frank founded what is now Digitopia in 2004 and has evolved. The agency had evolved the agency from primarily website development and internet marketing. By the way, internet marketing is a term I hadn't heard. 10 years to a digital marketing agency. Uh, prior to founding his first agency, Frank worked in sales and marketing with Tandy, at and t and other technology companies. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and regularly volunteers with talents to the San Diego ama, American Marketing Association, while also a mentoring young people in the areas of strategy, sales and marketing. So, Frank, thanks for joining us today. Thanks for your service.

Frank Cowell:

absolutely. Michael and Mike, it's good to be here with you.

Michael Hartmann:

Well, great. So, um, for our listeners, yeah, this was Frank's, Frank's situation with Digitopia has recently changed, so maybe we'll get a little bit of that along the way. But, um, when Frank, when you and I first chatted and we're kind of getting ready for this, which. Uh, for the folks listening happens usually several weeks before we record, uh, sometimes now months. But, uh, you talked to us about something you were calling the growth engine concept or a growth engine concept. Something where marketing sales and how they're, you know, how they're a growth engine. So for our listeners, cuz I think this is gonna be important for the rest of the conversation, can you describe what you mean by that and how it applies to our audience primarily of marketing ops, revenue ops, kinds of professionals.

Frank Cowell:

Yeah. You know, when we talk about the growth engine in marketing and sales world, you know what's conjured up often is, you know, what are we doing from a lead gen standpoint and. Marketplace selection standpoint, messaging, filtering. How do we have a sales process with BDRs that then handed over to the team? Like that whole continuity, that seamless approach. And that's very important, obviously. Um, and then, you know, once clients are landed, they're handed over to operations to fulfill the offering. And I kind of look at it the other direction in. Um, in my worldview operations is the heart of the growth engine. Uh, in other words, if we don't have something that's world class, on the operations side, something that, uh, meets the hallmarks of a world class offering such as repeatable, scalable, delightful, valuable, proven, uh, profitable. If we don't have those hallmarks, um, it's going to be extremely difficult to sell it and then it's gonna be even harder to market it. So operations, which as a function of the business different than operating, we can talk about that too in a moment. Operations being the fulfillment function. Of the business that is the heart of the growth engine. And I've been really beating that drum lately, especially in today's world. It gets just more and more saturated as the days go by and there's no end in sight. It's, we're just never going back to the glory days of buying ad time and hitting home runs because, uh, we can put out some really great creative, quote unquote, um, those days are gone. And it really comes back to the fundamentals of business. Uh, three things. What's the business strategy? Do we have a true north? Do we have a culture of excellent implementation? And then third is operations. Do we have a world class offering? That's really what it has to come back to if we want to be able to scale. So for those of you that are here in listening, if you're in the rev op space, the marketing side, the sales side of what I would start doing if I were used, I'd start getting real nosy and start getting real. With product, with your teams that fulfill whatever it is that you're selling. I'd get real friendly with CFOs. I'd get real friendly with, uh, COOs. Find out what are we doing, uh, to become special in the marketplace? What are we doing to dominate our marketplace with just one offering? Just, just find one piece. Where are we just killing it? Where are we world class and let's see how we can start with.

Michael Hartmann:

So I'm glad you, you clarified. So when you said operations, I think at the end you were, I was gonna ask you do you mean cuz we started this primarily for marketing operations folks, but it's kind of grown and we've attracted other, other people including revenue operations. depending on what you call it, like, depending on how you define that, um, as well as other marketers and stuff. But you mentioned the word offering in there, and I think my head went right to the offerings that we Yeah. Uhoh. Did we lose me? Fuck.

Mike Rizzo:

Go ahead and do, uh, my head went right to, and I'll, I'll, I'll pull it all together for us

Michael Hartmann:

Okay. Geez,

Mike Rizzo:

Don't worry, it's fine.

Frank Cowell:

Mike and I were looking at each other, like doing that really great, like, we're gonna hold this,

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah, we're just,

Frank Cowell:

know, if there's a

Mike Rizzo:

sit here and wait and maybe we'll hear him. Uh, it'll be

Michael Hartmann:

I had gone on for like two minutes there and.

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah.

Frank Cowell:

just trying to see if we had a good recovery spot,

Michael Hartmann:

All right, so let's start again now. So where my head went to was, um, that you, you know, you had offering could be like what the, what the, your company or organization sells or offers to the external customers, but were you also meaning, or did, was that what you meant? Or did you mean more about what do you as an operations team offer to the rest of the um, business?

Frank Cowell:

No. So when I say offering, I use that as. Generic way to refer to the things that you sell. So I, in true marketing sense, we should use the word product, but then service people sometimes get hung up and say, we don't sell products. In the service business, your labor service is the product. So offer Ring to me is just whether it's a product or a service or you have a bit of both. Whatever your offerings are, the things that you sell into the marketplace. And operations is the, the function of the business that delivers the offerings. That fulfills the offerings. And so when we last talked, I think that's one of the things I've. Passionate about helping my, my peers and people within the industry understand, and within business understand that, you know, we've, we've taken the word operations and we've kind of like, you know, we're, we're sling it around quite a bit, quite a bit. We've got rev ops and DevOps and cloud ops and sales ops and marketing ops. We're just throwing this word around like crazy. And I think that's fine because it speaks to the idea that within our functions we need to operationalize what we. Fantastic. But the, the function of operations is not an overarching, that's over on top of admin, finance, sales, marketing, whatever. It is the function of the business that fulfills the offering. So in a service based business, that's where your production delivery team lives. The people that actually deliver the labor to the, the, to the clients. If that makes.

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah, that totally makes sense, and that that definition comes up often when you're. You know, I've got really, um, great sort of professional network friend, like built out in the agency space. Um, some colleagues that I've met through the years and, you know, the definition of marketing operations for them is like fundamentally like very different, uh, than what we talk about in like sort of the B2B embedded sort of provider. Within a team, like a SaaS company for that matter. Um, and digital asset management, right? Like that comes in often into the category of marketing operations. When you're looking at the sort of like, I think that bridges into the world of services delivery and all of that stuff. Um, And, and so yeah, I think we're, we sling these, you didn't even mention client success operations, Frank, like there's another one for us.

Frank Cowell:

ops. I forgot about success ops.

Mike Rizzo:

So I think all of that makes sense. I really like that. At the end of the day though, it's, it's delivering on the outcome, right? Whether you're delivering on the outcome for the client, um, or if your, if your team, your organization is your, We often, I think, in this community, talk about it in that way all the time, right? Like the, the internal teams are your clients, and so how do you operationalize delivery of business expectations, service level agreements, those kinds of things. Because at the end of the day, you are a service provider to your organization, to your teams.

Frank Cowell:

1000% and I, I'm a big, I'm a big

Mike Rizzo:

Hartman's pushing back

Frank Cowell:

Michael. What?

Mike Rizzo:

he's like, I do not provide services to my team.

Michael Hartmann:

I was, so here's, here's my hot take on this is that I, I hate, I hates maybe too strong a word, but it's like fingernails on a chalkboard. To me, when people say my internal customer, cuz I think it's a bunch. BS because I think customers are customers, right? So what you're providing as an organization, um, and this is where I thought Frank was going, is that we're operationalizing how to fulfill or operationalizing how to fulfill the offering to our end customers, the ones who are actually paying us for our that and enabling us to have the jobs that we have. I, I understand this, the intent of saying internal customers and trying to be a partner and all that, but I think the danger in that is that you forget. Who are you truly trying to serve as an organization, which in my view should be your external customers. Now, if you have a, a. An organization who's, that's built around enabling people to have that mindset, like from a culture standpoint, that you're gonna treat our people well so that they will then inter treat our customers well. Like I think that makes sense. But the idea that you, I just always struggle with like, cuz it would be really easy to make things really easy and efficient for our internal teams, but make it really hard for our customer. To work

Frank Cowell:

So Michael,

Michael Hartmann:

that's the danger.

Frank Cowell:

Where I would side with Mike on this, and my pushback, Michael, would be this. Um, there are many roles that have direct touching with the customer and then, and they. Probably KPIs that can be directly related to that. But then there are many people in the org, um, that have to serve someone else in the org to enable them to do their job. And so I tend to put everyone's role with a top level mission statement and as much as possible, I like that mission statement of every role to describe to me how you serve someone else in the organization, how you serve another role or function the organization, because without that connectivity, Then we can just say like someone in admin, oh, I'm here to serve our customer. But they never touch customers. Their job never even comes close to customers. But they do enable someone in the org to do their job better, to do their job well, which is, is, um, You know, a chain reaction. So I, I tend to lean towards every single person in the org has to have a mission statement, a one sentence description of why their role exists. And ideally in that mission statement, there's a reference to who or what they serve in the organization. It's serviced unto something or someone else besides, you know, themselves.

Michael Hartmann:

Yeah, I, I think maybe we're not as far off as, I mean, I, like I said, that's like my hot take, but I think my point is, I, I, I think it's more of a mental. Model for me, like I want, I don't want people to forget that they're, if they're serving in a role that doesn't directly connect, work with external customers, that they're, they're enabling somebody else who may be enabling somebody else who's gonna be providing the best, you know, interaction with end customers. And I think, I don't want people to forget that connection because we

Mike Rizzo:

think it's a really good call out. I think it's a really good call out. I, I, I don't think, I actually think we're all saying very much the same thing, but you're. Calling attention to an important nuance, which over the last decade and decade plus, you know, could have been lost in translation for sure. Um, in a world where a culture or an organization, uh, or let's just say in an organization where they weren't necessarily thinking about customer journey or customer experience, um, and the outcome wasn't in favor of how do we delight a customer? There was definitely a time where sales or marketing or anyone else in any function could have said, I need the ability to send more emails and, and that could have resulted in some terrible outcome. Like, oh, great. You get to just spam people. Uh, not, I need the ability to send more emails to a very specific audience because I have a KPI that I needed to influence because we know that this particular ICP that we're going after is the right buyer for us, and so I need to be enabled. Right. And that's a totally different ball game.

Frank Cowell:

Yeah. And I also think that it's the job of the CEO to, um, reinforce often the organization's true North, and that true North has some sort of impact on somebody, whether it's customers or a marketplace or a community, um, in the, in the mission that goes along with that. So, I, it, it really, I think CEOs can do a, a world of good by reminding everyone in the. Why they're doing what they're doing and how it ultimately impacts the mission that they're driving towards. Good CEOs will remind the org often of that and reinforce it.

Michael Hartmann:

Yeah, sorry, I, I took us down a rabbit hole that I didn't intend to, but I, you know, it's, it's just one of those ones that Mike, Mike knows this from doing this for almost two years. Like, there's a couple of buttons that if you push on me, there's gonna be like, I'm gonna come back at it with a reaction. Found it or not, so

Mike Rizzo:

one needs to know. Accounting

Michael Hartmann:

Right, exactly. They don't, they need to understand finance, which is a different.

Mike Rizzo:

Damn it. I went the wrong way. Either way. You'd think after two years I would've got that right. Oh,

Michael Hartmann:

You would, I would, I would expect that Mike, we're gonna have to have a conversation later.

Mike Rizzo:

I know. Sorry.

Michael Hartmann:

no. So, but I, you know, I, and part of this goes back, I will just wrap that up, right? Part of this goes back to a book that I got actually at a big worldwide marketing thing at a big company I worked for, and the author wrote this book, it's kind of a, who've moved my cheese style thing, right? Really short pi. Pa, uh, chapters in a short book anyway, but there was one, it was just two facing pages that basically the, the gist of that chapter in quote right air quotes was, you know, everyone's paycheck should have, this is customer money that, like, I used to have a photocopy of that at my desk everywhere I worked for. 10, 15 years. Just because it was a good Remi to your point. Right. It was a reminder. So it could have been the CEO or leader of a company doing it. Yeah. But it was for, that was my, my internalized the way I internalized it. So, um, maybe we can put a

Frank Cowell:

and I, I would, I would, uh, Twist that a little bit more too. This is our reward for bringing value to our customer,

Michael Hartmann:

Yeah. Yeah.

Frank Cowell:

We, this is a result of bringing value to somebody and, um, the more you make, the more value you've delivered.

Michael Hartmann:

Yeah, totally love it. Um, okay, so we'll get back on track here a little bit. Um, so you know, another thing you, you, you sort of, a term you used with me when we were kind of prepping for this was something you called, if I get this right, momentum Priority Management, which. Is method. You are, you know, you, you were either building or thinking about or used. That is a little bit of a, a flywheel model of some source in terms of, I guess, prioritization. So fill in the gaps there of how much I screwed that up. But yeah, what is, what do you mean by that and how could it apply to our listeners?

Frank Cowell:

So what I mean by momentum priority management is when I think. Stepping back and looking at the business and trying to understand where does the organization need to unblock something to create the most momentum for growth At the highest level, we wanna look at the functions of the business, and there are six core functions underneath the top two execs of CEO and coo. Those six functions are marketing, sales, operations, admin, finance, and r and d, right? Those are the generic six standard major functions of a. For the most part, generally speaking, everything flows under one of those six functions, right? So when we think about those functions, um, we want to think about the order in which we focus on them. So what I, I typically tend to do is line those up after the CEO's responsible for True North and making sure that there's a team to support Tru North. The COO is responsible for making sure there's a culture of elite implementation. And then we get into the, the functions and the very, very first one, this goes back to what we talked about earlier, is operations, is the, is the offering world class. And that's what the operations team is there to make sure it's the product, the service that we're selling. Is it world class? Is it, uh, and again, my world class checklist is repeatable, scalable, profitable, provable, uh, valuable to clients, right? Um, easy to buy, easy to easy. So do we have a world class offering? If we don't, yes, we might have lead gen problems. Yes, we might have sales conversion rate problems, and it's up to those teams to focus on those. But the number one focus of the entire org should be that world class offering. If you don't already have it, that comes before marketing sales or anything else after that. The next one that's in domino order or momentum priority order, uh, is the sales process. Why? Because now that we have a world class offering, we actually have to validate. That people have this need and that people want to buy it, that people will buy it and are as evidenced by really high close rates. We can get people into meetings and we can close them at a high rate, and we've got a process to repeat that. Once we've nailed that, then we go to marketing. Marketing then becomes the, the bottleneck. It becomes the next momentum. Area that we wanna focus on once we've solved those other things. And the reason it comes after those things is because it, when you have a world class offering, it makes selling easier. And then when you have that dialed in, now we use marketing for scale. And that's what a lot of smaller businesses don't understand. You don't do marketing as your standard growth engine. You do it for scale. Once the offering is proven, and once your sales pro process is proven, I see way too many orgs thinking they have a lead gen. When in reality they have an offering problem or they have a sales system problem marketing is for scaling, right? It's not for proving out offering. It's not for proving out, uh, the, the val, the value of the offering and being able to close consistently. After that, then we go to admin, then we go to finance. So putting them in that order nets you the most momentum possible. There's a really great video. You could find on YouTube where, um, a gentleman knocks over these dominoes and he starts with a domino that's probably around, you know, two inches high. It's a just a normal,

Michael Hartmann:

I've,

Frank Cowell:

and at the end there's this massive 200 pound slab that he's able to knock over. And the reason he is able to do that is because he lined up the dominoes in the right. If the second domino was the 200 pound slab right after the two inch domino, it would've stopped. He wouldn't have been able to knock it over. And so that's what Momentum Priority Management is about. It's about making sure that as an organization, we know our true North, and we have a team built that matches our true North with core values and excited about the vision of the mission. We have a culture of getting stuff done. Elite implementation, no matter what our problem is in the org, no matter what we're tackling. We get stuff done. We're consistent. We hit our targets, we keep our promises, we're accountable. We make decisions towards the true north. Then from there we go into offering and so on. So that that order is so critical because if you focus on one later as an obsession of the org, but you haven't solved a previous, you're going to be spinning your wheels. You're going to not be nearly as efficient and gain the momentum that you possibly.

Michael Hartmann:

It's interesting. A couple of thoughts and maybe a follow up, but what my, my big takeaway from this was I, I when you were describing marketing as the thing for scale, you know, after kind of get, getting the sales process figured out, I, I know I've seen multiple times over the course of the last few years in different communities, people in marketing saying like, marketing, marketing ops. Right. Can't solve for. Product market fit, right? So,

Frank Cowell:

Thousand.

Michael Hartmann:

um, it can maybe temporarily fill a little bit of a gap, but it's never gonna be a long term thing. Um, this may be getting into, you know, the part that you made a, you kind of hinted at a distinction between operations and operating function, and so maybe this is part of it, but the, uh, I'll ask the question this way you, the way you described, like getting that world class, um, offering out there is an operations thing. Is there an implication there from an organization standpoint that you need something like marketing operations or revenue operations to be elite and in place to support that at that, that in the first domino stage? Or does that tend to come later when you're dealing with sales and marketing? Uh, ramping up in the future stages.

Frank Cowell:

I, I tend to think. I don't wanna offend anybody who's listening. I tend to think that many organizations, if they focused on the fundamentals of what I talked about, right? Do we have a true north and are we abiding by it? Are we world class implementation is our offering world class? I tend to think if you keep going back to those questions and just solving for those questions in each function, it would be much, much later in your. Journey that you would need a marketing operations team, a revenue operations team, and so on. That being said, when you get to the point where you truly need it, then it's about, it's about taking what's already working and now sending it to another level. I am not a fan of. We need revenue operations to fix something that's just fundamentally broken. Does that make sense? I think once you have things that are fundamentally working well, and now we're trying to leverage things at scale, then things like revenue operations make sense. It's a lot like, you know, if we had a, a big, uh, lever and, uh, the boulder we were trying to lift was just a little five pound thing. It's just kind of a waste, right? We don't. A big lever, we could just pick it up with our hands. But if on the other end was a 500 pound boulder, that same lever with our same exact force, no extra energy, no extra effort, we can lift it. And so we've got leverage. And same thing with organizations. Once you reach a certain mass, once you reach a certain, um, Level of momentum and think the fundamentals are working. Now we can use things like revenue operations to do things at scale and leverage data, leverage throughput, leverage a size of a customer base that otherwise it just doesn't have the same impact when you're much smaller. Um, marketing operations, same thing. You know? Now when we are ready to do something at scale, then yes, the idea that we have things operationalized is way more important because now we have leverage something, something to leverage.

Michael Hartmann:

Yeah. I'm curious, Mike, you know, you've got a lot more like early stage company experience than I do. Does that resonate with you, that kind of domino model in the order or is it, have you seen, I'm just curious. I, I have, I don't have enough experience in that early stage company world to. To have a strong opinion, shocker.

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah, I, it definitely resonates. I think, um, there's a balance now. There's something happening today that wasn't happening 10 years ago. Uh, and that is the executives who have been around long enough or who have at least conferred with other leaders in their space on. What should I be paying attention to? You know, and Frank, you're calling attention to a bunch of different things that are really important. Um, they're gonna ask questions that are actually hard to answer if you don't have an operational like rigor in place that allows you to answer those questions. So, by way of example, um, you know, we are trying to operationalize our business for a go to market product. And, uh, we figured out our icp. We've made some bets and it seems like it's working, but the only evidence I have right now is that we've closed a few deals. I don't know what channels those deals necessarily came from. And if I ask the question, where did the leads come from? If nobody built the rigor to be able to track that right from the very beginning, that question's not gonna be answer. And so there is a natural inflection point at some stage of any early company that eventually says, right, somebody please lay a foundation that is super, super basic that we can at least do some real simple reporting off of that. I can understand and trust,

Frank Cowell:

That I, I would thousand percent agree.

Mike Rizzo:

yeah, that takes expertise though, right? Like that takes an operations person. Now maybe you don't have to hire an operations. You don't have to hire a marketing ops expert full-time, but you should probably contract somebody who knows what they're doing.

Frank Cowell:

Yeah, absolutely. Getting those foundations in place. Are definitely critical. I think I was more so referring to, I see a lot of orgs trying to grow these various ops teams that otherwise would be unnecessary if they had just obsessed about some fundamentals. Core, core underlying technology to make sure that we have, uh, seamless data between the flow of marketing, sales, operations, and so on. Absolutely a thousand percent. I think another thing that becomes a trigger point is, Ultimately, like I think about Rev and I think about why a Rev team would even exist. And in my opinion, the only reason a Rev team would exist is to extract more, uh, revenue and or profit to the bottom line that otherwise is not currently happening. And so if there is opportunity on the table to do. And a then a rev team makes sense. Why? Well, normally the COO is responsible for finding the, and analyzing the profitability. What is happening within my functions

Mike Rizzo:

Mm-hmm.

Frank Cowell:

can inflect revenue and drop more profit online. At some point, that becomes too big of a job for the COO due to all the data throughput and the technology. At some point that becomes outside their technical scope, not their strategic.

Mike Rizzo:

Mm-hmm.

Frank Cowell:

And so in my opinion, that becomes a triggering point where, hey, team members, uh, to assist in enabling that to happen. That otherwise what's easier for that person to tackle when they were smaller is now needed, which is why I then, uh, often say in my worldview, the Rev team is really a right hand to the c o because they're enabling that person to do, to do the mission of their job that otherwise was already there. Does that make.

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah. Yeah, that totally makes sense. And I, I think just, just going back to some of the points you were making earlier. Actually, you know, I think it backs a lot of the thinking that, you know, you can't go to a, or you shouldn't, in my opinion, go to a marketing ops person. You know, to echo what you're saying before, to try to figure out your go to market. Like, like, like they're not your growth strategist. They're not your, your, your growth hacky, like come up with all kinds of new ways to try to bring a product to the market person. They can create the pipelines and all those other things. And, and look, some marketing ops professionals, they move into that role and that's good, but they are distinctly different function. And so I, what I was hearing earlier about like, you know, trying to find product market fit and all this other stuff, like, I actually really like that because at the end of the day, if you're hiring somebody for an ops role, it shouldn't be because they're your growth hacker Like that isn't, that isn't their actual job. So please stop trying to lump like, Growth hacking in with this idea that that's like what a marketing automation person marketing operations person does. Like, they're different roles, they're different functions. They serve different purposes. And so I, I actually liked that you were pulling those things apart, but yeah, I, uh, all of what you said made sense. I just wanted to,

Frank Cowell:

The, the, the slash ops as we add ops onto all these different, uh, things like marketing, sales dev and all that. Again, to me, I think it's there to operationalize what's happening in their world and also to be connectivity to other functions within the business. But typically, um, that means that person is following someone else's strategy, right? There's the strategy of the executive team of here's the approach to our growth and here's where we're pointed for our growth, and here are the big decisions that we think will lead to our. Now the folks below that have to figure out how to make it happen. By the time we get to marketing ops, the how they're figuring out how to make happen are things like repeatability and interconnectedness and consistency and data exposure.

Michael Hartmann:

That

Frank Cowell:

really far. That's really far away from the business strategy. Not saying those people can't elevate and be capable one day, but at that point, you know, we want to be really clear. I often. Um, cuz we, a lot of people throw the word strategy around strategy versus tactic, strategy versus tactic. Some people will say, oh, we have an SEO strategy. And um, and that may be true, but what I like to remind people of is every person that that has a tactic to their strategy, that tactic is someone else's strategy. And that strategy is someone else's tactic. Does that make sense?

Mike Rizzo:

Mm-hmm.

Michael Hartmann:

Hmm. Yeah.

Frank Cowell:

Your tactic becomes the next level down strategy. So everyone's got this straddling of strategy and tactics, and so we just need to all be very aware of our role and what we're there to do. And so we have to be clear like, what is the strategy I'm following, which is someone else's tactic? Then what is my strategy to implement that tactic?

Michael Hartmann:

Right. What, so would you also agree that as you as an organization evolves and, and matures, right? As you add op, these operation operational functions for the different functional areas, that there should be a feedback mechanism that should then inform back to the strategy from the other team that might have been supporting? Okay. A fair assessment.

Frank Cowell:

Yeah, I think any, anywhere and everywhere we can have feedback loops and work together as unified teams, which is why I love the idea of once an organization's ready for it and it's justified. I love the idea of Rev cuz we're really, uh, unifying that marketing sales operations loop, right. What marketing, sales success. Um, so we're really unifying that, that thread, uh, and making sure that the throughput is just consistent, seamless, not only in terms of customer experience, but then the, the data and then how do we make sense of it so we can leverage it for better performance. Um, so anywhere we can infuse that kind of thinking throughout the org. I am, I am absolutely all for, um, what was the heart of your question again? I was, wanted to make sure

Michael Hartmann:

No, no, I, so, no, I think you did. Like, here's why I was asking the questions. I think. I think folks, Listening who are marketing operations roles is, this could come across as a little bit of a disheartening message, right. Which that. But I think, and you hit on what I thought would be the point, which is fairly consistent with what we've heard from other guests, is that I think the way that I'll keep the marketing op, but it could be revenue ops, uh, one of the ways in which we. Show additional value back to the organization is by leveraging our access and understanding of the data that we are really a part of enabling, and that that's where insights can come from. And it's not just reporting back numbers, it's re like looking at the numbers, understanding what it, what it's telling us, right. The storytelling piece of it. And I, I think that's where I was going was like, I think it could be the message you could, people could be hearing is that it's just a. D there, there's not a strategic element to what they do or could. Not a possibility. And I don't, I didn't think that's what you meant, so that's why I

Frank Cowell:

No, no, not at all. So, so I think what, what I, let me be clear from my role to any other role in the org, we need to be very self-reflective and understand where we are the strategic person and where we're the tactical person. And we all have both.

Michael Hartmann:

Yeah.

Frank Cowell:

And so it's being mindful of, um, kind of goes back to what Mike said earlier, which is how are we serving? Someone else or something else in the org. So this, uh, this mindset of service to each other in the org. And so I think regardless of whatever level you're at, being mindful of that and then also understanding like why, why the org exists and what its vision and mission are, and how can you. Obsess about how your work can impact that, but then your function, so if we're talking about marketing, right? Like the whole job of marketing's function is to drive awareness and leads contacts in the database, right? Like qualified leg gen awareness and qualified leg gen. So you have a bit of a long term play and a bit of a short term play. So if you're in marketing ops and you, you know, like it's awareness and legion, right? Like those are the holy grails, the long term short term. Then I would become, as a marketing ops person, I would start to become very curious on a regular basis about the things you're seeing in the data, in the systems, in the interactions, in the, the, your, the throughput that's coming across your computer. And I'd start to get very curious and start to ask questions and say, what is this telling me about our opportunity to drive awareness? What is this telling me about our opportunity to drive qualified leg gen? And once. Once you find something that makes you really curious, that you think is worth investigating, then go and investigate it. Go and investigate it and start coming up with a hypothesis that says, you know, I saw this and it made me curious about our opportunity to drive more long-term awareness. So therefore, I did this research and I found this, and my hunch is if we do X, Y, and Z, we might see this as a result. If you can formulate that sentence, As a result of going through the exercises and the motions, you, you're going, no matter what role you're in, you're gonna be wildly valuable. So I think people that are in, you know, let's add on the ops, cloud ops, marketing, ops, dev, op, whatever, right? When you're in those types of roles and you're really there to like operationalize and enable these, the data on the systems and the cross functionality, stay curious. That is how you're going to drive impact, and that's how you're going to, you know, raise your own stock within the organization.

Michael Hartmann:

Yeah, I, I think the curiosity is gonna be, I think that theme right there is gonna be a critical one, and I think. If you talk to enough marketing ops folks, one of the, one of the consistent themes you'll hear about what makes good marketing ops people is curiosity, right? They wanna understand how things work. So what I would add, the nuance thing is like follow that curiosity when you see something that, you know, stands out and figure it out and try and then do that exercise that you just described. I wanna go back to you, you, the, the operations versus operating distinction that you made, cuz truth be told, like from our conversation, Few weeks ago, I still, it feel like I'm not clear about what you're making, how you're making that distinction. And I dunno if it has to do with job titles or something else, like, but what, how do you distinguish operations from operating and what's the kind of the, the, um, I don't know the context in which you might use one or the other terms from your perspective.

Frank Cowell:

So operating is typically where there's some confusion sometimes with folks is like the COO for example. So oftentimes people think that's the operations head. But that's the operating head. So COOs, chief operating Officer, not chief operations Officer. Little slight difference in the words, but huge difference. So the coo, the operating officer, they're the ones who head up the functions, they, they the head functions of marketing, sales, operations, admin, finance, and r and d report to that in. Does that make sense? So the COO doesn't just manage operations, they manage marketing, sales, operations, admin, finance, r and d. So those heads report to that individual operations is one of those functional heads that sits peer to marketing, sales, admin, finance, and r and d. Underneath operations would be all of everybody having to do with the delivery of the offer. So again, if you're in a services based business, that's your, that's your, uh, you have your head of operations and you have your client success manager and you have your account, uh, strategists and account directors, and you have your, you know, service execution people. Um, if you're a physical product, it's people that are doing assembly and, and so on and so forth, right? So it's everything to do with fulfillment of what was.

Michael Hartmann:

So if I place us back, so the operating piece really has to do with more of the whoever is, whether there's coo, but somebody who's the leader within a company that has, uh, responsibility for those functions, including the operations functions that may have. And over time probably have leaders of each of those sort of functional operational teams. Is that right?

Frank Cowell:

Correct. And that the operations are gonna have is going to have its own head. Right. So we might call that a vice President of operations, but a lot of, um, distinction that should come out of that is the vice president of operations isn't over marketing, sales, admin, finance. They're peer to those folks. Over those folks is the coo or what you could call president or general manager. One of those three titles often gets used for that individual. Then above that individual is obviously the ceo. Um, and so I just think it's a real important distinction so that when we talk about operations in our world of rev, op, DevOps, cloud ops, marketing ops, we should be clear like operations as the major business function is the offering. Operations as a concept or operationalizing things isn't necessarily a core, uh, distinct function of the.

Michael Hartmann:

Okay. I'm curious, uh, this is to total, well, it's, it's a related thing. So I've seen some conversations online and stuff with, um, marketing leaders in particular like CMOs who typically their title is chief Marketing Officer. And, uh, there's been some, uh, articulated that they think they should be. Market officer, cuz I think their role is a little different than just just marketing. That they have responsibility for understanding customers and what the market, you know, what the market space is available, what the, you know, total market, total available market is and things like that that go beyond. I think what people outside of marketing probably in particular think of what marketing does. Right. So is, is it a similar distinction where you're trying to like separate. I mean, I think it sounds like it's a, it's really, um, what you're trying to articulate is that whoever's that head of responsibility for the things like admin, a, admin, accounting, finance, whatever, and then the operations functions is a operating leader

Frank Cowell:

Yeah, the op, yeah, the operating leader, the coo or the GM or the. It. One of the, pick a title they manage five to six. You know, this is generically speaking, right? Five to six leaders, you know, the leader of marketing, the leader of sales, leader of operations, the leader of admin, the leader of finance, the leader of r and d, right? Like, that's a generic corporate org structure. And so the COO there is, there is a head of operations that the, that reports to the coo.

Michael Hartmann:

Yeah. So I'm curious to, do you, do you, sorry. Oh, I thought, thought Mike was about to jump in. So I'm curious if you, in, in this model that you're articulating, is there, is there an implication there that, uh, and I think I heard this a little bit, is it. Some of these operations functions that say marketing operations currently usually reports to head of marketing. Um, say sales operations usually has reports to a head of sales. Are you making it a suggestion that those roles should not report back into those functional lines, but actually to the operating leader within an organization?

Frank Cowell:

No, no. Marketing ops is in the marketing function. Sales ops is in the sales function, and so.

Michael Hartmann:

Okay, now I'm, okay. I'm gonna go back like, how, then, how do these other, what operations functions would report to the head of operating this operating leader?

Frank Cowell:

So it's, it's the head of marketing,

Michael Hartmann:

Okay. Oh, okay. So the, okay.

Frank Cowell:

head of operations, head of admin, head of finance. I'll report to the coo.

Michael Hartmann:

Got it. Okay, now I, so then there's second level. See, I should have been listening closer.

Frank Cowell:

So then to go to your point, to go to your question about like, uh, you know, head of marketing versus a head of Marette or Marks, I mean, I think that's really up to that org where they're trying to go and you know, who serves who. And gi give me a why. What's the justification, why would that role exist? And, and, um, how does it interconnect to marketing? And um, ultimately how is it gonna help the organization?

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah, I.

Frank Cowell:

it's just a, if it's just a data and, and feedback and insights that just affect marketing decisions, well then they probably should just report to the head of marketing.

Mike Rizzo:

Mm. Yeah. I think we're seeing, we're seeing a roll up of, um, functions like marketing ops, sales ops, et cetera, roll into, um, sort of a, a umbrella, categorical sort of operational organization. It's. Basically becoming rev ops now. Um, but I think there's still always, you know, there's a, there's a need to, essentially in the world we're all sitting in, uh, offices have that person sitting in that, that environment, right? With that team interacting on those daily meetings. Um, even though you might report directly to someone in another operational function,

Frank Cowell:

Yeah. You know, like when we think about, and I mentioned this a moment ago, like in my worldview, who I think Rev reports into, um, I think it's important that I like the worldview that the rev. Um, is a, a small but specialized team that is a right hand of the COO because it really truly is about enabling that COO to fulfill their personal mission within the org, which is, you know, increase revenue, drop more profit to the bottom line. And so, um, and I think that's, in my worldview, I think that's important that they have that kind of connectedness to the COO because they oftentimes will have to influence what's happening in marketing. And operations as they try to tie those three together. And so that function, that role needs the authority that needs the clout of being the COO's right hand team. Does that make sense? Because I think what I've often seen in a lot of these organizations, they get hung up on, well, when is this Rev? And when is this just marketing stuff? Or when is this Rev and when is this just sales or client services stuff? And. I, I've personally seen a lot of Rev people. Then just all of a sudden they're just doing regular old marketing work. And so there's a lot of confusion as to like, who's got the, the authority to and why does the role even exist? So, uh, I personally think, again, rev exists purely to, to maximize revenue potential and drop more to the bottom line. That's it. That's the only reason exists.

Mike Rizzo:

I think, I think that's like the, I, you know, I'll hold my place and say I reserve the right to to, uh, adopt a different definition at some point. But right now, I, I think that might be one of the best definitions I've thought of or heard. Not I've thought of. I didn't think of it. You did uh, heard in, in this space. Like really, really?

Frank Cowell:

I just think we have to get, we just have to get really clear on each function of the business. And again, I outlined the, the six core corporate functions, and then you have the two, which are CEO and coo. I think we have to get really clear on why each function exists, so when we wanna add rev ops as either another function or uh, a major subfunction, we have to also answer that question, why does it even exist?

Mike Rizzo:

mm-hmm.

Frank Cowell:

and because without it, businesses like business survived all these years without it. So why are we adding it? Right? It's to maximize revenue potential and drop more to the bottom line that otherwise is not happening.

Michael Hartmann:

I think it's

Mike Rizzo:

can see the, I can see the mission, the mission statements coming in really handy In your, in your, uh, architecture of what we've just described through this episode, like,

Frank Cowell:

Oh, yeah. In, in any, uh, org that I have or any, uh, company I coach. E, every role gets a mission statement, a one sentence mission, which is why does the function exist? Why does the role exist?

Mike Rizzo:

Mm-hmm.

Michael Hartmann:

I like that it's, it's interesting the way you described that, that role my, I was thinking that sounds maybe somewhat similar to like a chief of staff. Type role, right? It's cuz you want somebody who kinda has carries the authority of the, the use, the c coo in this case, but maybe doesn't have that direct oversight of the individual operations functions. Um, so they're really there to, to ensure that there's a, a consistent focus across those to do what you described, right? Maximize revenue potential and, and drop more profit to the bottom line. I like that. Interesting.

Frank Cowell:

Yeah. In fact, that dotted line's a great word, Michael. In, in, in that worldview there, there would definitely be dotted line of marketing, sales and operations over to a rev leader. Um, which basically says, um, Anytime we need to create consistency in the decline experience so we can maximize retention and repeat buys. Why? Cuz we're, we're maximizing revenue potential. We're dropping more to the bottom line. Anytime we need those systems talking, anytime we need that consistency there and this person has something to operational lies across those three functions, then we're, we're going to listen to that person. We're, we're going to, gonna pay a lot of attention. Because they're going to be measured on how well those strategic initiatives result in more revenue and more profit. And if it's not, if the rev function can't prove that, and it's actually not doing that in the org, no reason for its existence.

Michael Hartmann:

Yeah, it's interesting. So, uh, I wish we had more time. Frank, this has been like, I, I feel like I'm gonna walk out here and I'm gonna think of like half a dozen more questions that I'd love to ask you, but we'll have to, we'll have to leave it at that. So thank you for your time. If, if folks who are listening want to keep up with what you're doing or connect with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

Frank Cowell:

Yeah, come connect with me on LinkedIn, Frank Koel. Just gimme. A search, uh, my LinkedIn is slash frank r ko, l c w e l. You can also, um, my new website, uh, with my new ventures launching here soon, which by the time this podcast air should be ready. It's called Revenue Ranch is my new business, and that is revenue ranch.com.

Michael Hartmann:

Revenue Ranch. Uh, and I, now I realize I mispronounced your name, so sorry about that. I usually ask ahead of time.

Frank Cowell:

Don't, don't worry about it. It's often, uh, I think our family mispronounces it to begin with. Anyway, it's probably. The way you say it, to be honest,

Michael Hartmann:

Oh, that's funny. Well, that's all right. I do, I do try like this. One thing I've learned is just try to get that right. So shame on me. That's what I get for, it's like when I do, I forget to look over my shoulder when I'm changing lanes driving, right? And then there's somebody there. Um,

Frank Cowell:

yes. I, I, I had that happen to me recently.

Michael Hartmann:

It'll be my reminder to ask the next time. Well, Frank, really appreciate it. Some great insights, some great stuff to think about now, um, and I'm sure our listeners will be. Really noodling on this for as well if they're like me. So thank you for that. Mike, thank you for joining and, and jumping in. And thanks to all our listeners for supporting us. If you've got questions or suggestions, uh, or topics you want us to talk about in future episodes or suggestions for guests or you wanna do any of those things, feel free to hit us up. You can get ahold of Naomi, Mike, or me, uh, on LinkedIn or on the Slack or whatever. Until next time everyone. Bye.

Mike Rizzo:

Bye

Frank Cowell:

Hi, Michael. Mike. Take care. See you folks.