An Interview With Our Director of Operations, Caroline Martin
Written by Courtney Raguso, Social Media Content Creator
A business that is well organized and has a good internal structure will outperform those that don’t. The environment in a company influences the behaviors and choices of employees, which in turn influences overall decision-making. The role of an operations manager is a very important one to have because it can produce suitable strategies to handle any situation. Small business owners can find themselves wearing many hats, and having a right-hand person who they trust can make decisions for the company will take time and stress off their backs. Operation managers are responsible for the internal management of the company including planning, control, performance improvement, and operations strategy. Having an operations manager helps streamline product quality, team productivity, and customer satisfaction. We interviewed our Director of Operations, Caroline Martin, to get an inside scoop on her role at MSM. Here’s what she had to say.
What does a typical work day look like? What is your strategy for scheduling your day?
“A typical day for me starts off with answering any client emails I receive. Clients are always my #1 priority, so I make sure to handle their needs first. Once my emails are squared away, I will check my daily schedule and add any new updates that I receive via email. My schedule keeps me on track and focused on my priorities, and helps me make sure I am meeting deadlines and client expectations.”
What is your project management style?
“My project management style has a heavy emphasis on organization and communication. I make sure each project has a dedicated and organized folder with all assets, adobe files, client images, stock images, etc labeled and sorted for easy access. I also keep documents of site maps, client or personal notes, and content to help me make sure I have everything that is needed on hand and I do not miss or forget something that is sitting in my inbox. I also make sure that I am crystal clear on what the client wants and is expecting. If I have any questions or if I feel there are grey areas of a project, I make sure to communicate with the client and determine what needs to be done. I like to also stay realistic with timelines and give a little wiggle room for any unexpected time that may need to be added to a project. This wiggle room helps us manage client expectations and avoid failure of meeting deadlines. It is always better to finish early than be late!”
How do your past experience and education help your role as Director of Operations?
“My past education and experience as a graphic designer has helped me tremendously in my current role. When you have an understanding of how and what the people you work closely with do and are capable of, it makes your job so much easier in a few ways. First, it is easier to communicate with the graphic and web designers you work with and have an idea of how long projects should take. Second, it is much easier to communicate with clients on what they can expect from our business. In order for me to give recommendations to clients and suggest creative ideas, having experience and expertise in the field is a must. I can also quickly assist and step in on graphic or web projects where needed.”
How do you handle receiving harsh, negative feedback from a client? How do you calm them down?
“When receiving negative feedback from a client, it is important to put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if the roles were reversed. This helps me communicate what I would want to hear if I was the one not satisfied on the other end. Instead of becoming defensive, stop and first apologize for any frustration. Then calmly explain what can be done and suggest a solution. Nine times out of ten, the client is looking for better understanding. As experts in our field, we can typically provide clarity for them and/or a fix that will make all parties happy and satisfied.”
When there is an internal issue between two employees, how do you go about resolving it?
“The best way to resolve an internal issue between two employees is to listen to both sides before making any assumptions. Then, bring both employees together for an open discussion. Mario is extremely talented in this area and always remains extremely fair and finds a solution. I believe his fair mind and ability to always bring us together as a team is one of the key reasons our office is so close-knit.”
Is being organized crucial for success in your role? If so, how do you stay organized on a daily basis?
“Being organized is absolutely crucial for success in my role. I stay organized by always writing down tasks that need to be done and never getting lazy when it comes to organizing my computer files. The project files I have are essential to how I function in my role. Quick, easy access to files makes keeping up with clients needs possible. Without extreme organization of all the emails, content, meeting/phone call notes, image files, Adobe files, site maps, and logins that go into a project, I would never be able to complete our projects on time and with all of the clients’ expectations met.
Over the years, I have learned that it is impossible to remember every detail on your own when managing a project, so I always stress the importance of writing things down and saving it to dedicated folders. This also makes it much easier for communication between me and our developers. When we start a project, I always pass along a zipped folder to our developers that neatly contains everything they need to get the project done successfully and without any gray areas. That is also a key factor in us staying on schedule.”
What is your educational background, and how did you get started at MSM?
“My educational background is in studio art and graphic design. I went to Marist College and majored in Studio Art with a Graphic Design track. This allowed me to study the history of art and what it takes to make physical art before diving into the digital world. After graduating, I was working as a freelance graphic designer and wanted to get into web design. I had originally interviewed at MSM DesignZ for a web designer position, but after extensive conversations with Mario, he knew I would be of much better use to him in an account manager role. With my understanding of design and my people skills, on top of being highly organized, I turned out to be just what the business needed to continue to grow. 8 years later, I am now even more involved in the business as the Director of Operations and couldn’t be happier with how my role has evolved since I started.”
Would you consider your job easy to learn? Can anyone be a Director of Operations for the day?
“I think my role as Director of Operations requires a certain personality type over simply learning tasks. When I first started at MSM DesignZ, there was no set job description for me. I simply took on anything and everything that needed to be handled based on what was lacking at the time. Which mainly turned out to be a higher level of communication with our clients, a better system of quality control, and proper organization for projects as well as for Mario. When I stepped in, Mario was very overwhelmed by juggling too much by himself. He not only needed someone to assist with project management and client communications, but also assist him directly in managing his schedule and taking some of the load off his shoulders. It turned out to be a truly perfect fit, and over the years I have taken on so much more than I ever imagined. My role can definitely be learned, but it requires a personality type that is able to remain flexible and wear many hats.”
You have held the roles of Account Director and Director of Operations. What would you say are the main differences?
“The main differences between my original role as an Account Director and my current role as Director of Operations is the broadening of responsibilities. When I started as an Account Director, I was responsible for communicating with clients and our designers and developers to complete daily assignments and projects. I still do exactly that, however, I have added so much more involvement in the company and responsibilities to my role. I am a go-to person for any internal issues that may arise, I manage our payroll, invoicing, employee time off, office supplies and I work directly with the CEO managing his schedule and setting up appointments. I also have taken on a much heavier and more independent role in our website projects. It is amazing to look back at where I started and where I am now – a face of the company and Mario’s right hand.”
How do you manage budgets? What do you do when facing a small budget or lack of resources?
“Managing a client’s budget is all about transparency. From the start, we try to be fully clear on what is possible given the client’s budget – big or small. One of the great things that sets MSM DesignZ apart is our ability to work with clients from such a large range of industries and budgets. When we first start working with a client on their project, right away Mario will discuss what their budget can do for their business and give advice on which services will be most beneficial to them based on what they can afford. He will also be honest about what to expect given what they are willing to spend. This transparency allows us to manage the client’s expectations and avoid any confusion on the services and results they will be receiving from working with us.”
Hiring the right team is going to affect the overall success of a business. Two-way communication and a true understanding of a customer’s needs are the signs of a skilled Director of Operations. Caroline’s role at MSM is a great example of why having organization is so important within a business. It’s also a great example of why customer service is so important. The level of personal attention she gives our clients is what makes our business so personal, and personalization is key when it comes to your customers.
At MSM DesignZ, we put in the time and energy needed for success, so you can ensure you are using every dollar for maximum return. With over 20 years in the business, we have watched marketing evolve from traditional to digital. Whether you need a website refresh, more attractive email, or a quality online presence, we can do it all. When we take on a client, we put in 110% and treat every brand as if it’s our own. We will always continue to place our clients’ needs at the heart of our operations. From web development to social media management, we’ll work directly with you to build a personalized strategy to not only retain but also gain business. We are assisting in all areas for our clients. Visit our contact page at https://www.msmdesignz.com/contact/, and we’ll work with you to devise a custom plan that will keep your brand alive and well. We look forward to working with you!