If your business has grown substantially since it was founded, you may be contemplating hiring a chief operations officer (COO). If so, congratulations. This is a big step. It's also one that should be taken seriously, as a COO will help run the organization so that you can focus on broader business goals.
1. Define your vision.
Since there is a huge variety in what a COO does, hiring for the position can be tricky. Here are two tactical steps I would take when looking to hire a COO. First, have a vision. COOs should have a defined vision with which to work. COOs can certainly contribute to refining or even reinventing a vision, but it's best to have one predefined by the top leader. Some of the most successful COOs are people who successfully executed on a predefined strategy. Second, think creatively. Understand that a candidate with years of COO experience may not fit your company's culture or know how to effectively engage your organization's operating model. On the other hand, a divergent candidate with the right skills could breathe new life into the leadership suite. - Robert J Choi, RJC & Company Transformation Consultants
2. Identify your needs and compensate well.
Determine if you should look for a COO from within the company or hire someone from outside. While an insider will come with institutional knowledge, an outsider will bring a fresh perspective. Unfortunately, there are instances of both succeeding and failing. Simplify the process by defining your needs at the onset. Visualize where you want your business to be five years from now and look at how a new COO fits into the scheme of things. Create a detailed job description geared toward the future and look for potential candidates accordingly. To attract the best, you will need to offer a competitive salary. Gauge salary norms by going through job listings from competitors and on online platforms such as PayScale.com and Salary.com, or by networking with peers from your industry. - Derek Robinson, Top Notch Dezigns
3. Make a wish list.
When looking for my COO, I made a detailed list of everything I wanted. Through this list, I got very clear on the dynamics and expectations for our relationship. I looked for someone who would honor the experience and passion of our team and be able to find the balance of leveraging their strengths, helping each team member become more successful than they could ever imagine while stepping into leadership. I wanted someone who had shared values around family, passion, equality and tolerance. They needed to be oriented toward growth and results: for themselves, for our team and for the company. Lastly, I wanted someone who was comfortable challenging me and telling me what they really think. - Rachel Beider, Massage Greenpoint, Massage Williamsburg, Massage Outpost
4. Don't wing it.
If you are in a place where you can hire a COO, then that is a good sign for your business. It means your business is more than just operating; it is thriving. When you begin your search, have a plan of attack. A COO is hired to handle daily operations so that the CEO can work on the business’s long-term strategy and goals. A COO is your second in command, which means the person you hire needs to be able think independently and stay in sync with your goals, mission and brand when talking to stakeholders, even if the person disagrees with your thinking in private. With this being understood, clearly outline the duties of the COO. Adding another leader to the mix can cause confusion inside and outside the company, as well as a loss of time and resources, if the position is not clearly defined. Also, determine what type of experiences and skills you want the person in this role to possess. It’s never a good idea to have a carbon copy of yourself. You want someone to challenge your ideas and bring new ones to the table. Now that you know what you want and need, look at the people within your organization to see if anyone fits the bill. This can be a good approach because you already know that you can work with this person effectively. However, this can cause resentment among other employees. Hiring an outside candidate means fresh ideas. Regardless of what route you take, remember that the CEO-COO power structure is difficult, and takes even more finesse to work well in smaller organizations. For this to truly work for your organization, relinquish some control to the COO but make it crystal clear that they must always follow your lead. - Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
5. Ask how they are qualified.
Any officer you hire is going to be your right hand, and a COO is your go-to person between you and the people running your company. But you have to ask yourself if a resume full of work experience can tell you anything about that person's character, work ethic or desire to succeed. We live in a world of successful business owners and startups, so sometimes your best COO may currently be working. While an unemployed candidate could look enticing, they may not have the drive you need for someone on your board. Create relationships with people who are successful in fields that require traits that you need in an officer, and offer board positions to people who are currently extremely successful at what they do. A chief position is not a job, it is a creative role that requires action. - Jason Criddle, Jason Criddle and Associates
6. Move slowly.
Finding a good COO for your company is, without exaggeration, as important as finding the right spouse. You need to be in a similar mindset when making this decision because both are long-term commitments with extremely high stakes. My recommendation is to take your time finding the proper candidate and thoroughly vet him or her before making the decision. It's a good idea to pick someone who has been working for your company for a long time and understands the way it functions and the way you think. You don't necessarily want someone who thinks the same as you, but you do want someone who can work with you and shares your vision. Do not rush this decision under any circumstances. I cannot stress this enough. You have to take the time to know that he or she will be competent and a good fit. - Bryce Welker, Crush The PM Exam
7. Get referrals and understand their values.
The best employees often come from those we know, as this ensures similar values and brand alignment. When looking for a winning candidate for any job, it’s important to understand both the hard and soft skills needed, as well as the values framework that is best for the business. An example is the thinking that young people are great at entrepreneurial “work all the time” environments, but this is less feasible when they grow up and have families themselves. This doesn’t mean you need to hire a COO that doesn't have the experience you need. What’s important is understanding which values and corresponding actions are required for a successful candidate at different levels of the organization. - Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure
8. Review their track record.The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Why not let history verify what the candidate tells you? Anyone applying to be COO needs to go through extensive background checks. You’re not just looking for an employee, you’re looking for a partner and someone you can trust to manage your business. The best way to determine the best candidate for this position is to simply look at their track record. What other businesses have they served as COO? How successful was that company under his or her management? Are there any online reviews about that company? Most importantly, what does that company’s financial situation look like? These are all questions you need to ask about the person you're considering to help run your company. Ultimately, that will tell you how they will treat your business. - Codie Sanchez, Www.CodieSanchez.com
9. Look for growth and hunger.
Do your research. If there aren't members of your own management team who have shown growth and a well-rounded education, look for qualities like this in similar industries. Pay attention to your competition and the employment pool. The candidates who have grown through departments in their businesses, learning different facets of the same company and rising through the ranks each time, are poised for growth and possess hunger that can be harnessed for moving your business forward. Our COO began in a labor position on the production floor right out of high school, rose to manager, cross-trained to sales and made it to VP of sales before accepting the COO position. He accepted every opportunity for training, education and challenge that we threw his way with astronomical results. - Brandon Stapper, Nonstop Signs