When, Why (& How!) to hire a COO
For rapid growth companies in the Digital, Data & Tech ecosystem, COO recruitment is a vital piece of the puzzle to ensure long term success of the firm. The right COO can free up a passionate founder or CEO to implement the creativity & develop the strategy to push a company towards being the next Unicorn.
Does your business need a Chief Operating Officer (COO) though? Is it big enough? How will it affect established working relationships? Aren’t there other ways to expand your organisation that you need to manage first?
For many rapid growth firms companies it can be hard to know whether it is the right time to hire a COO. However, if your business is in need of time and resource for improvements, you’re hoping to implement important new ideas or you feel your organisation could benefit from a stronger leadership team, a COO may very well make all the difference.
The COO role
In most companies, the COO is the second-in-command to the CEO. The role has been a common feature in executive teams for as long as leadership teams have existed and plays a vital role in overseeing the operations of organisations in various industries and of different sizes.
The specific responsibilities of a COO will depend on the individual organisation, but they usually control the daily workings of a company in overseeing how resources are deployed, leading the delivery of major projects and optimising the way in which the organisation operates. With the everyday activities managed by the COO, the chief executive is, to an extent, freed to analyse and develop strategies to grow the business. A COO will create the capacity for the CEO and leadership team to push forward improvements and new ideas.
Putting a seasoned COO in place will help with the implementation of great ideas that have perhaps stalled due to issues with capacity or delivery know-how.
The precise profile & personality of a COO will be different from company to company depending on the CEO. The CEO / COO relationship should be like a good marriage, with each individual having skills and experience that complements the other.
What to look for in a COO
Once you know that you need a COO, this vital role clearly requires the best possible candidate. You’re looking for an executive team member who shares your company’s raison d’etre, so cultural fit, with shared values and a passion for what your business does is vital.
The COO will need to work with people at all levels across your business, so they’ll need to fit with your staff as well as the senior management team. This requires a communication style that can work with people across the business, in combination with the ability to lead teams by instilling their vision and expectations. They’ll need to strike the delicate balance of working closely with a range of different teams whilst maintaining the modicum of distance required of a member of the C-suite.
Previous experience in a broad range of operational functions will give a potential COO an edge over other candidates. If they are overseeing the daily operations of your organisation, understanding what is required through in-depth experience in both operational and leadership roles will ensure credibility with operational teams, together with a shorter learning curve and the ability to translate this knowledge into action.
You’ll need to hand off a wide range of activities to your COO, for the majority of which absolute trustworthiness is an important quality. You need to know that they will get on with running things the way you want them to be run with, of course, valuable input and suggestions for improvement where appropriate.
Once you’ve decided to hire a COO and you know what characteristics you’re looking for in candidates, it’s time to develop the right COO recruitment strategy.
Hiring an executive search firm can create visibility with precisely the right sort of candidates. An executive search firm will have recruiters who are experienced in searching for both active and passive COO candidates and who understand what potential candidates are looking for. They are best positioned to sell your COO opportunity to them and increase the likelihood that the candidates you’ll want to see will want to see you.
An executive search firm can conduct initial interviews and do a lot of the hard work, leaving you to conduct interviews with a small group of highly relevant candidates who have demonstrated that they have the hard and soft skills and experience to be a good fit for your role.
Ask candidates the right questions so you can understand their motivations and ways of working and likely fit to your organisational culture. A couple of useful interview questions for COO roles include:
How did you measure productivity and impact in your last job?
How do you think this business will change in the next two years? How would you create that change?
How do you go about taking a tough decision?
How do you like to manage people?
You’ll need to speak to references to help you determine whether your impression of them is backed up by delivery in previous roles and if the people with whom they worked have been left with the same positive impression. The Search firm you work with should also take independent references prior to you meeting the candidates.
It really is essential to invest some time in the COO recruitment process with the right cultural fit. You know what your business needs, so give the search process the time it deserves to find the best possible candidate.
Are you ready to start planning a route to bringing a chief operating officer into your business? If, so, please contact our expert team today for further information – wyatt.partners/contact-us