Building A Business Operating System

Matt Blumberg‘s amazing new book Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business is out and shipping. The early reviews are great, including this detailed one from Tech Cocktail.

Matt’s book is already having an impact in my world. At Cheezburger, we just added Scott Moore to the leadership team. Ben Huh, the founder/CEO who I adore and love working with, send out a powerful email about how he’s approaching Cheezburger’s next stage of growth, and how he’s thinking about building the business operating system. He builds off many of the concepts in Matt’s book and told me I was free to blog this for the world to see.

Following is Ben’s email.


Hey Cheezburgers,

After recruiting our new COO & President Scoot Moore, I am shifting one of my major projects to on boarding Scott. I’m kicking off the process of building the business Operating System for Cheezburger. This is a super important item that I am thrilled to get started on.

It’s perfect timing for us. As COO & President, Scott has management responsibility for a huge area of Cheezburger. By building the metrics, communication rhythms, reports, etc. I can really help Scott get a feel for our business and where we stand as we plan for 2014. It’s one part communication, one part feedback process, and one part creating clarity.

A business Operating System is a simple idea:

  • Using the company’s values (of Truth, Excellence, and Happiness)…
  • create a set of consistent rhythm for communications, meetings, procedures and decision-making…
  • which helps align everyone’s goals with the ultimate objectives of the company.

Put in other words: A business OS is how we consistently and clearly communicate, hire, make decisions, etc. that help us do more faster.

In practice, this comes down to some answers to questions like this: (examples)

  • When do we plan for the next year? And who owns the process?
  • How do I measure my performance against my, or my team’s goals?
  • I need another person on my team to help better reach my team’s goals. How do I go about doing that?
  • I’d like to send out a company-wide update on something my team did. How do I do that?
  • How do I know what I am working on aligns with the company’s goals?
  • What metrics do we report company-wide? And why?
  • etc. etc. etc.

It’s an idea I first heard from another Foundry Group CEO, Matt Blumberg. In fact, he’s written a book based on those ideas.

One of the key improvements you should see as a result of this should be more consistency and clarity in communications and processes. This is one of the reasons why I push for a single IT system like Google Drive vs having two, and why I want you to post content for dissemination in our intranet. I hope that the OS will help you see the bigger picture. The opposite of having an effective business OS is a company that is confused due to lack of clarity and unable to move in the same direction together, therefore missing goals and opportunities.

There are 6 key areas that I want to structure the OS around (this will evolve as I work with Scott and the exec team):

  1. Company-wide communications and meetings
  2. Creating, aligning, and sharing goals
  3. Measuring performance against goals and metrics
  4. Establishing cadence, rhythm, and deadlines
  5. Clarity in decision-making process, transparency, and openness
  6. Well-functioning systems and operational processes

For you, the impact will be that I will be talking about almost everything in the context of our Culture/Values, Goals/KPIs/Metrics, and Systems/Processes.

  • Geremy Ferguson

    Thank you for sharing the email from Ben Huh. It’s well timed for me personally and I like the approach/thought process he is applying to tough questions/issues. Adding Blumberg’s book to my list now. Thanks!

  • Awesome stuff. Thanks!

  • boulderservices

    Reading now – and looking more forward to it – thanks for the push!

  • Jeffrey Hartmann

    Very excited about digging into this book, just got my preorder email from Amazon this morning. Thanks so much Brad for the seeds you have planted in the Startup Rev series, and a deep thanks to Matt for putting this together so all of the first time CEO’s out there can draw on your experience.

  • Cool. I’ve been thinking a bunch about this topic lately. I’ve also been thinking about cookies. <- Come on… Someone has to get a laugh from that one.
    Seriously, thinking through the "processes" of a business is what business leadership is all about. You can't do it all yourself so you must define the processes for getting it done. Tweaking them as needed is also important.

  • Nikki Braziel

    Just purchased on Amazon for Kindle and had it wirelessly sent to my start-up CEO’s iPad; he’s on the tarmac waiting to fly to visit our factories in China. How cool is this modern world?! A lot of what he does is focus on building processes which, like Ben mentioned in his email, has a huge IT aspect. Fortunately, our CEO has a passion for database architecture, and we’ve spent a lot of time building our own integrated database. He’s taken pushback on it at times, especially from me, when I want him to be out… “being a CEO.” I guess we’re both learning what that means! If not for his vision, I’d probably have settled for a hodgepodge of pre-built solutions that didn’t dialogue. Instead, we have an integrated system that links our contacts, customer service tickets, invoices, shipping logs, inventory records, BOMs, press efforts, and task and project records. Since we manufacture hard goods, scalability is really important, and I do appreciate how much consistent thought and energy he continues to put into building processes. I am sure this book will be helpful. Thanks for the read!

  • I’m a big fan of that book, but I’m biased because I was one of the early reviewers of it.

    Nonetheless, the idea of the Business Operating System is essential for growing a startup past 30-40 people. There is no other way to scale a company without being methodical and disciplined about it. And Matt has done a great job explaining that.

  • panterosa,

    Love this. Super useful in simple way.

  • benberkowitz

    Great suggestion. Just purchased in iBooks.

  • Determine the value of the company and started building the business plan is the most essential. This book I have ever read, it is quite interesting and useful

  • Craig Mathews

    This is nearly identical to Gino Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) that is discussed in his book Traction. EOS Worldwide has the tools for you on the website ( Most are free and make a huge difference (I’ve been implementing them for several months, and they’re fantastic).