Updated: Jan 26
Running a business is hard. Yes, that may sound like the most obvious and cliched statement of the decade – but if you’re a business owner, this will be your reality as your business grows and you have more to do as a CEO. How do you manage it all? It can sometimes seem impossible to balance all of the executive roles and not waste time micromanaging operations within your company; “Do I seriously have to do all of this myself?”, you may ask. Fortunately, the answer is no.
WHAT IS A COO?
Traditionally, Chief Operational Officers are a senior executive responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of a company or other institution. In other words, a Chief Operating Officer ranks right below you, the CEO, and makes sure the company runs optimally on a day-to-day basis, allowing you to spend more time on formulating strategies and considering the future of the company without worrying about micromanaging. You may already see some great benefits of hiring one – and there are many that you may not even initially realise.
THE BENEFITS OF HIRING A COO
When your business starts out small, it may be realistic (and preferred) for you to handle all of the executive functions of the company, which includes overseeing the day-to-day operations of the business. As your business begins to grow, however, you will start to notice the work pile up, and you will suddenly not have as much time as you initially did. This is where the COO comes in, handling all of the operations that you suddenly no longer have time for. This will allow you to focus more of your time on the business as a whole, considering strategies and planning for the future.
It’s natural that as your team size increases, it can become harder and harder to communicate with everyone – sometimes, a work email just won’t cut it. However, as communication becomes more difficult, it also becomes more important; an effective use of a COO allows you to pass on information to your employees so that everyone can be operating on the same page. A good COO will understand how to establish an efficient communication system and how to break down your information into sizeable chunks for your employees to digest.
3. OPERATIONS WILL BE BETTER MANAGED
When you’re struggling between multiple different roles as a CEO, it’s natural that the day-to-day operations of your business may struggle and fall behind standards; you simply just don’t have enough time to treat them the way they should be. By having a dedicated employee to managing operations, he/she can not only ensure that they run smoothly, but also begin to optimise and refine them to suit your company. You will begin to notice that your company workflow should be more efficient, a vast improvement from when you were managing the operations by yourself.
4. YOUR STRATEGY CAN BE EXECUTED EFFECTIVELY
In general, the COO is second in command of the company, which means that they report to only one person: you. Therefore, it is well within their duties to carry out any critical projects or long-term strategies that you may have for the company – a great COO will listen and know how to make your dream projects a reality. Additionally, they will often provide a pragmatic angle to your ideas – it can be easy to get swept away in fantastical possibilities when devising a future plan for your company, and so having a grounded persona to bounce your ideas off can be very beneficial to making your special projects feasible.
5. THE FUTURE OF YOUR COMPANY IS MORE SECURE
As the COO is second in command of your company, it’s natural that they will, generally, be a worthy successor to the throne. If you have the heir to your company secured early, it can ease the transition when you eventually hand over the reins. A good COO will constantly be listening and learning from you, so that if they are ever given the position of CEO they will immediately fit in and know what to do with the company.
All of these benefits are great, but timing is everything. Hiring a COO too early will result in them being underutilised – too late, and you will be missing out on a lot of their benefits. So, how do you know when the time is right?
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN TO HIRE A COO?
At the risk of giving an answer that I’m sure you’ve heard many times before, the right time to hire a COO really depends on the company. Operations are, obviously, unique to your company -- dependent on your industry, workplace culture, and size. As such, it may be possible that you never need a COO, or only need one in your early growth phrase. An obvious sign, regardless, is that you, as a CEO, are overwhelmed with work, and the quality of your day-to-day operations are suffering as a result.
The main role of a Chief Operating Officer is for you to delegate your work onto them, so if you feel like you need to do that, then go for it. It’s crucial that you never get too overwhelmed with work, on both a financial side and for your own personal mental health. Additionally, without a COO, you may be the only person in your company that has a holistic view of the business – it may be a good idea to have someone else to bounce ideas off of that have a similar top-down perspective. Additionally, it can be easy to fantasise about the future of your company when you are the only one that is producing ideas and long-term strategies. A good COO will be pragmatic, providing an additional voice that is grounded in reality and the limitations of what can actually be accomplished within your company.
If you’re experiencing any of the issues above, or the benefits of a COO seem like they would be incredibly beneficial to your company, it may be a good time to hire one. Fortunately, you don’t have to dive into this head first. Many organisations are unsure about whether a permanent COO will be of use to their company, and so will try it out with temporary or fractional chief operating officers. This, in effect, will be a trial of what your business will be like with another officer to delegate operations onto. So, if you’re unsure, hire a temporary COO, and see if that has a major impact on your company. If after a few months you believe that a permanent COO will be of great use to you, you can then confidently hire one permanently and integrate them fully into your company.
The COO role can be very beneficial to any company, both big and small. But it ultimately depends on how your business is structured and how much responsibility you are comfortable delegating.
Certainly, many process pain points can be solved with the appointment of a Chief Operating Officer and with the option of a temporary or contract COO, the “try-before-you-buy” ability can really give your business a low-risk option to test the waters.
If you’re not sure your business needs a COO or would like to understand further how that role could help your business, consider speaking to a business consultant or professional mentor for guidance.
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