What is an Online Business Manager?

Business Growth

You’ve probably heard the term Online Business Manager (or OBM) and are wondering who they are and what they do? So, let’s get started.

An online business manager works with other online entrepreneurs to run the day to day operations, although some OBMs don’t work exclusively for online businesses, some work for bricks and mortar businesses as well.

As an online business manager is a partner, sounding board and your new business BFF. We work in the back end of a business, making sure it all runs like a well oiled machine and typically manage a team (even if that happens to be just 1 other freelancer), whilst our clients focus on serving their clients and creating a bigger impact in the world.

Who hires an Online Business Manager?

When you first start out in the world of business, you end up doing all the things and wearing all the hats. You are the manager AND the employee. In the first instance, business owners will often hire a VA to take over some of the tasks for them, so they can stop being the doer. Continuing to try to do it all can become extremely overwhelming and we risk burning out if the situation continues for a prolonged period of time. At the end of the day, you didn’t start your business to work 24/7, did you?

So, at what point do you need to hire an OBM? I’d say most online business owners typically hire an OBM when they have less than 10 team members (15 at the most, but you really don’t need a big team to run a business effectively, more on that another day) and are generating roughly between £150,000 to £750,000 (200,000 USD – 1,000,000 USD). Once you hit over the 1 million mark, its probably better to consider hiring a full time employee in a Director of Operations role.

What does an Online Business Manager do day to day?

When you embark on hiring and working with an OBM, you are hiring your second in command. The one who is going to take over in your abscence, so it is really important that the business owner’s number communicates very clearly what their vision, mission, values and goals are. An OBM cannot help achieve the vision, mission or goals, if the client is unable to communicate where they are right now and where they want to be.

I would say it takes a good 90 days for an online business manager to get up to speed as well. We need to get inside the business, see the back-end to be able to fully understand the business model, what the team are doing, who is responsible for what, the income generating activities and most importantly the client, how he or she works. It gives us a chance to figure out what needs to be tackled first and to see what the client likes to do, doesn’t like to do and where the best use of their time really is.

Here are some of the business activities we tend to get involved in managing:

  • Operations Management
  • Team Management
  • Launch Management
  • Website Management
  • Project Management
  • Speaker Engagement Management
  • Revenue Stream Management
  • Marketing Management
  • Business Metrics and reporting
  • Affiliate Management

If you want a breakdown of tasks or a more extensive list, you can grab a PDF copy of our OBM Services list here.

What do OBMs bring to the table?

A huge part of our role as an OBM is implementation. If you have read Traction by Gino Wickman, we are integrators. We do a lot of the doing. For example, perhaps there is no project management system in place. Perhaps the onboarding and offboarding process is done manually, sporadically with no defined process in place. We would jump in and take that over, document the processes, put the systems in place, implement the tech needed, manage the team members and generally make sure shit gets done without any issues. We make sure everyone knows their role and responsibilities as well as managing any other projects.

Our clients bring the strategy and the goals and we bring our experience of working with other clients. We love to strategise and share our knowledge and experience of what has worked well for other clients. Using our experience, we make suggestions for improvements and then focusing on turning the strategy into a plan of action.

More often then not we are the person to hold space for our clients, so you can share your ideas and get clarity on them. I love being a sounding board to my clients, alongside the strategy part, it is the most enjoyable part of being an OBM because it enables me to solidify my relationship with my clients. I get a deeper understanding of where the business is going and our relationship then becomes one based on complete trust. This in turn creates a bond that serves to improve their business through a partnership.

An OBM’s job is to understand the vision, to be the keeper of the vision and goals. To steer the ship in the right direction. Understanding the vision and goals fully is very important, because sometimes we may be required to make decisions on behalf of the client. If we aren’t clear on the vision, it can be very hard to make a decision. Sometimes what can happen is that we actually end up being clearer on the vision and direction than the client! In that scenario, we need to have the confidence to speak up and say, actually no I don’t think you should focus on that because it isn’t aligned with the vision right now.

We are not just an OBM, we are entrepreneurs ourselves and with that comes the need for excellent soft skills. We need to fully step into our leadership role, bring the right mindset, have great communication skills and be able to manage things with a cool calm head when things go wrong. In some cases this may even goes as far as creating a company culture for our client by putting things in place to create the right environment.

What makes a fantastic OBM?

Helping to get clients out of reactionary mode and freeing up clients from the day to day operations. But what does that really mean? Let’s explore this a little more.

Getting out of reactionary mode

Reactionary businesses are those that are in chaos for example, an email went out with the first name tag missing or the wrong link. People may be running around like headless chickens trying to constantly fire fight issues. OBMs help to banish the need to fight fires. We create and define the systems needed to implement structure, so that the business spends more time running on systems and not on people. We will also be proactive in assessing any gaps and bringing the right team members onboard to move the business in the right direction.

Free up clients from day to day

Sometimes we may walk into a clients business and see that there is no project management tool, 5 team members who have no idea what they are supposed to be doing, let alone what anyone else is doing, they haven’t had a team meeting in forever, mistakes keep happening and its just a complete and utter mess. An Online Business Manager’s role is to work their magic and release the client from this chaos so they can focus on the tasks that only they can do, such as writing a book, creating a new course, jumping on sales calls, serving clients, nurturing their own community etc… Enabling you, the client, to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

If after reading all that you are sat there thinking, god I really need to get out from under my business, and you feel like you may have reached the point where you need to hire an Online Business Manager, I’d love to hear from you. My DMs on Instagram are always open or you can book a discovery call here.

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I’m Emma

Emma O'Connell is an Online Business Manager and Business Strategist. She helps solopreneurs become soul-led CEOs, by implementing the right strategy, systems and support, so they can get back to making an impact. She firmly believes in working smarter not harder, setting yourself up for success and spending more time with the people that matter most.

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