Business operations, to paraphrase Wikipedia, encompasses the day-to-day tasks that make money from a company’s assets. If you have a business, especially one with investors, then making money is what you are here to do. In the case of a startup you are usually starting with an asset in the form of an idea and turning it into profit. Like this:
In most early-stage startups, operations are haphazardly performed by the founders until such time as it becomes untenable. Then an office manager will, often begrudgingly, be hired and assigned the most menial tasks essential to keeping the company moving in a vaguely forward direction. Meanwhile the founders, becoming increasingly stretched in all directions and learning a great deal of new things, continue to build up operational debt across many aspects of the company.
Although, in a startup, it is both impractical and undesirable to impose rigorous structure early on– “baking operations into the DNA” of the company from the start can avoid a lot of headaches, mess, expense and failure later on. Think of it as making a commitment to start off on your journey with your shit as together as possible.
As a company grows you will find more and more under the business operations umbrella: sales operations, support operations, manufacturing and supply chain operations, HR, facilities, and general office coordination to name a few. Hire good people, collect and make good use of your data, and check back here when you have questions.