Chief of Operations is a position that occupies a special place among managerial staff of large companies. The COO can be the piece of the company’s “puzzle” to get it running like a well-oiled machine. However, they may just as well be an unnecessary “pawn” who does not know exactly what to do or why.
How to recognize which scenario applies to your company? Based on what information can you decide if you need a COO at all? Finally: how to guide the recruitment process so that the selected director strengthens – not weakens – your company?
Keep on reading to find out!
List of contents:
- What does the COO do?
- Which companies need a COO?
- COO position in my company
- The specifics of recruiting the COO
- How to find the perfect candidate?
What does the COO do?
The Chief Operating Officer (COO) is an unusual position and does not occur in every organization (this is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to create an adequate job description).
Broadly speaking, the COO takes full responsibility for the departments that the CEO does not want to oversee. Typically, the CEO wants to delegate to the COO the management of the areas in which they feel weaker.
Let us consider three sample scenarios. In each of them, the COO will play a different role. However, one thing remains the same: usually a person in this position has a wide range of duties.
We can imagine a COO joining an organization led by an effective business CEO and a strong product CTO. In such a case, the weakness of the organization is most likely operations (i.e. the traditional work domain of the textbook COO).
Their duties within the company or enterprise will therefore include supervision over finance and customer service departments and responsibility for special projects (e.g. change of HQ without affecting the company’s current operations).
We see an organization managed by an efficient technology and product CEO who needs support in business areas in a different light. From this perspective, the COO takes over responsibility for sales, marketing, e-commerce, customer service and ongoing operations. The skills necessary for this position bring them closer to the role of CRO (Chief Revenue Officer). Thus, the COO also participates in creating the company’s strategy.
Another case is when the founder of a company launches a new business project. It will take more and more time in the long run.
Usually, in such a situation, two people (or another configuration of managers who are to support the founder) are employed for the position of COO. Thanks to this, the CEO has help with both projects and can manage them simultaneously.
This is what happened in the case of Jack Dorsey, who is both the CEO of Twitter and the CEO of Square (the difference is that Dorsey stayed outside the structure of Twitter for several years and returned to it). It was a similar case with Stefan Batory, who was the CEO of Booksy and iTaxi for some time. Lech Kaniuk became the operational director of iTaxi, and then took the position of CEO.
Which companies need a COO?
Most don’t need one at all! This position does not have a permanent place in the organization chart precisely because it is not essential in every enterprise.
However, you might consider hiring an COO if you recognize most of the following:
- your organization is growing very quickly (over 100% per year),
- despite the employment of people who manage key areas, some elements of the organization are hampered by the incompetence of the CEO,
- you feel that you could use your “right hand”,
- your organization records a minimum of PLN 5 million in revenue,
- the problems you have cannot be solved by new recruitments (e.g. hiring two team leaders, a director, an assistant for the CEO) or sorting out 2 other problem areas,
- The CEO develops other projects outside the company.
It may also turn out that your motivation is not purely business. For example, you are burned out and have not been on vacation for 3 years. Or you are struggling with a disease and it is not known when you will be able to regain full fitness. Or you’ve completely lost your passion for business.
In that case, consider hiring an outside CEO and moving to the chairman of the board position.
COO position in my company
I didn’t dissuade you from hiring a COO?
Well, let’s see what the organization for which such support is useful looks like.
It is definitely worth considering in a very, very fast-growing organization, especially when the growth is from fairly high levels. Suppose you grow from the level of e.g. PLN 4 million at the rate of 200% per year. Your friend, on the other hand, grows at a rate of 50% annually from the level of PLN 6 million. Which of you needs a COO more? Definitely you!
Okay, you are convinced that your growth is fast enough and from sufficiently large levels. In the next step, check if all key areas – sales, marketing, customer service, HR, product – are managed by people who are responsible for achieving goals within specific departments.
We often see CEOs who want to hire a COO where it would be enough to give up authority and delegate responsibility. Such – seemingly simple – procedure can “clean” up to 40% of the president’s calendar.
The specifics of recruiting a COO
For the reasons mentioned above, this recruitment differs significantly from other top management recruitments.
If we employ a marketing director with experience in a similar position, the probability that they will work well in another organization in the same industry is very high. It is the same with the sales director who manages sales targeted at similar target groups or the HR director whom we employ at a specific moment in the organization’s development.
This is not the case with the Chief Operating Officer. Experience in one organization may not translate into success in another company, although theoretically the position is the same.
That’s why hiring top managers is like choosing a high-quality suit. In this metaphor, hiring operational directors is akin to sewing a made-to-measure suit. It is no longer enough to buy a ready-made copy, even if it was made with the utmost care and using the best materials.
How to find the perfect candidate?
The recruitment process for COOs is more difficult and longer. However, you can use the experience of hiring people for other top managerial positions in the company. If the job description and the division of responsibilities are done well – it should be a success.
In addition to traditional candidate sourcing techniques, also consider:
- headhunting companies (Casbeg is also able to help),
- internal promotion,
- searching through consultants, investors and members of your supervisory board.
The job ads are not completely nonsensical, although the risk of hiring a COO who is outside the organization is certainly significant. Of course, include key information and requirements in your job offer. You can let go of the higher education-style obviousness at this level.
In Poland, Warsaw is the location for which it is easiest to find candidates. On the other hand, this is where it is easiest to get a job with the highest salary. So you have to propose better financial conditions.
In closing: take your time.
You may find that you will be able to hire a COO in a month. However, it will probably take 3, 6 or even 9 or 12 months. Hiring the wrong person can put your entire company at risk. So if the additional 90 days spent on recruiting reduces the risk by 5%, it is worth being patient.
Alternative to a COO – Interim Manager
COO recruitment usually takes several months. What if you don’t have that much time and need support “at once”? One of the solutions is cooperation with the Interim Manager – a temporary manager who will enter your company, organize processes and teams, suggest directions for development, verify business plans and accept other balls that you play at them.
Working with our clients as Interim Managers, we focus on making the changes we develop permanent, and the organization able to continue good practices also after the end of cooperation. Thanks to that, the interim management helps to prepare the ground for the employment of a COO – a new specialist then comes to an efficient company and, instead of extinguishing fires, can focus on the actual development of the organization.
Are you interested in cooperation within interim management? Let’s talk: email@example.com