Role of a COO
February 1, 2021

What Is The Role of a COO Your Business?

Aik Deveneijns
Aik Deveneijns Founder/CEO

When scaling up, the right leadership can drive a company to grow. An executive must excel at both being a leader and a manager in order to succeed and take the company to the next level. Besides the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), the backbone of a successful executive team is the COO (Chief Operating Officer).

What is a COO (Chief Operating Officer)?

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) is part of your business’s executive team and is usually second in command, after the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The COO is responsible for the company’s day-to-day operational and administrative activities. Whether it’s strategy implementation or stakeholder management, the Chief Operating Officer is more hands-on in the business, often supporting the CEO.

What are the responsibilities & role of a COO in a company?

It’s tough to define what the role description of the COO should be. My best guess: do what is needed. Do what the CEO is not capable of doing or not willing to. I’ve even seen COO’s defining strategy for the CEO, which is the complete opposite of operations as far as I can tell.

However, in Riding Shotgun: The Role of the COO, Nathan Bennett & Stephen Miles state this collection of goals, which define the responsibilities of a COO: 

  • Provide daily leadership in an operationally intensive business
  • Lead a specific strategic imperative undertaken by management, such as a turnaround, significant organisational change, or planned rapid expansion
  • Serve as a mentor to a young or inexperienced CEO (often a founder)
  • Balance or complement the strengths of a CEO
  • Teach the business to the heir apparent to the current CEO
  • Retain the executive talent that other firms may be pursuing
But hey! Sometimes Sales is your key operation! Think of a SaaS business that has their product nicely in place. You could argue that at a 90% profit margin, a disruptive product and no setup, it’s the marketing and Sales that is truly the operations.

What is the difference between the CEO and the COO?

There’s this theory where the founding CEO is in charge of everything, and he/she hands over the operations (or part of them) to the COO. While the CEO is responsible for overseeing the bigger picture, setting the company’s vision, and communicating with external stakeholders, the COO’s responsibilities are more on an operational level, focusing on how the business will achieve its mission. 

However, the difference between a CEO and a COO is much more complex, as operations depend greatly on the company and industry. The part that gets handed over is fluid at best. An online marketplace’s operations are different from a SaaS business, which is equally different from an online food delivery platform.

The relationship between the CEO and the COO depends a lot on the personality of the CEO and yeah, of the COO too. And the extent to which you are synergetic. You want to have a complementary team, right? Super complementary, right?! No. Because being ‘too synergistic’ means you are very different. Being very different might mean you don’t understand each other, have a different set of values or speak a different language altogether. You might end up killing each other.

What is the difference between the COO and CCO (Chief Commercial Officer)?

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) is the structured, process and project-oriented executor who ensures that strategy gets acted on, in an orderly fashion. Part of their role is to make sure that everyone knows what to do and all problems get fixed. The COO is usually a data-driven and analytical person.

On a personality level, this person asks: “OK, what’s the next action?” and ensures new ideas get prioritised versus existing projects. I always thought I was this person, but I’m not.

The Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) is the person that leads sales, business development and potentially marketing. Part of their role is to coach individuals, set targets, KPI’s (Data-driven & analytical just like the COO), processes and best practices and if he/she wants, outruns all independent sales reps.

On a personality level, this person is curious to listen to the customers as well as aggressive and opportunistic towards growing the company.

Finding the right Chief Operational Officer for your business

Taking into consideration the role complexity of a Chief Operating Officer, finding the right leader for this position demands a thorough executive search. This is a delicate fit and requires a talent partner who understands your business and culture. As a boutique executive search firm, we leverage our ecosystem network and expertise to find the right addition to your leadership team. Bring your company to its full potential and hire the right executive for your business.

Do you want to expand your leadership team but you are undecided on what course to take? You can book a consultation call with us.

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