Hiring a chief operating officer (COO) can be a daunting task for any business. Much of the operations lean on their shoulders, and you need to have consummate trust in their abilities. You want someone who is professional, yet in touch with your customers as well as your employees. It can be overwhelming to choose.
Whether you are scanning the global market or looking locally for a COO, there are some innate traits that go into ensuring you hire the best. Although the costs of a bad hire are sometimes difficult to quantify, they are definitely hard to ignore in terms of staff morale, productivity, and ultimately, financial losses.
Below, leading members of Young Entrepreneur Council give some insight into what makes for a great COO, whether it’s experience, attention to detail, integrity or other essential traits.
Members of Young Entrepreneur Council share the top things every founder should look for in a COO.
1. Integrity And Honesty
Hire someone who has high integrity, honesty, and is hardworking and willing to learn rather than someone who has a ton of experience. I interviewed a few candidates for my COO position and ended up hiring someone who is extremely dependable, fair, honest, and interested in the success of my company. We have a great work dynamic and he truly compliments areas that I need help with. - Rachel Beider, Massage Greenpoint
2. Being Able To Cross The T's And Dot The I's
In general, founders are excited by big ideas. A COO should balance out that visionary tendency with practical follow-through. The perfect COO for a startup is someone who can take the ideas of plans of the CEO, break them down into actionable steps, and ensure that they're done efficiently. With the right balance of a grounded CEO and a practical-but-ambitious COO, startups can go far. - Brennan White, Cortex
3. A Lover Of Systems
I've founded two companies, and in each, I have brought on a different COO. There are a few things they have in common that made them successful: They love details, they're meticulous, they do what they say they'll do, and they are lovers of creating systems to make the company operate better as a whole, whether it's with or without them. - Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40
4. A Drive For Data And Actionable Metrics
To make sure daily operations are running in the most optimal conditions, a COO should utilize strategies based on data-driven decisions and actionable metrics. A COO should never rely on vanity metrics that show nothing valuable, such as having 800 sign ups for a service but only a few paying customers. Actionable metrics are more work, but are the only way to effectively evaluate and set goals. - Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com
5. A Strategic Vision
It helps to get a COO with considerable strategic vision because they provide the framework for your overall vision and put a definition to it along with actionable steps. They can find the people to achieve that strategy and oversee their execution. I've found that a COO with considerable experience helped to direct where I was headed with my startup and offered new insights. - John Rampton, Due
6. The Visionary And Integrator Archetypes
In Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters, the case is made that a great business team requires a "visionary" and an "integrator." When these archetypes work together, they have effective synergy. Even if the founder isn't one of these, it’s good to notice what qualities they embody. Finding a COO who complements the founder means that the management team has a fuller, more diverse set of skills. - Peggy Shell, Creative Alignments
7. The Right Mindset
As a venture studio partner, I see many startups focusing on skill set when hiring an appropriate operator, which often leads to major issues down the road, like conflict between mindsets. You have to make sure the attitude of your operator is aligned with the key strategic priorities and commercial impact of the decisions that are made by the business. - Artur Kiulian, Colab
8. Experience Growing A Business
The one major skill you should look for in a COO is that he or she have experience with actually expanding and growing a small business or other venture. After all, that's going to be a major part of their work for you if you bring them on. They should have had previous experiences where they took an organization from its infancy to higher growth, and from medium success to over the top success. - Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
9. A People Person
COOs are useless if they cannot connect with people. As enforcers and systems developers, they implement and create ways to operate more efficiently. If they cannot connect with the people whom these systems affect, the chances of success and ROI are very slim. Communication is paramount, and being a cheerleader is preferred. Everyone wants solutions that make a system run smoother with less effort. - Matthew Capala, Search Decoder
10. Attention To Detail And Bluntness
I need a COO with close attention to detail. If he/she notices all the small issues, it frees me up to focus on the big picture. He/she can fix daily problems while I worry about where my company is going long-term. It's helpful to have a COO who tells it exactly like it is. If they're handling the gritty details of what's going on in my organization, I want them to come to me with total honesty. - Kevin Conner, BroadbandSearch
11. A Keen Understanding Of Your Own Limitations
A COO is an extension of your hands and the person who accomplishes what you cannot. They fill in your deficiencies, whatever they may be (sales, managerial, technical). You are hiring someone to fill the business needs created by the inescapable fact that you are an imperfect person and the business requires more than you can give. The one thing you must know when trying to hire a COO is yourself. - Matthew Nederlanden, Security Camera Warehouse
As seen in Forbes