Six Tips to Demystify Hiring a COO for a High-Growth Company

13 April 2018

Executive Recruiters sometimes say the most difficult C-Suite search is finding the right COO. Even agreeing on the job description can be a battle! It doesn’t need to be so hard!  Here are 6 tips to demystify the process.

  1. Understand Why It’s Difficult: A problem is easier to solve if you understand the root cause.  The COO role differs from all other C-Suite roles for one reason: while other C-Level jobs are defined in relation to the work to be done, the COO’s role is mostly defined in relation to the CEO as an individual.  From company to company, the role of COO is hugely varied, depending on (a) the needs of the company and, even more importantly, on (b) the strengths — and the desires — of the particular CEO.
  2. Pick One of the 7 Types of COO’s: The first requirement is to pick the “type” of COO needed.  There are as many as seven different “types” of COO’s as listed later. Each of these different types arises from the different motives behind creating the position in the first place.  Once you agree on these motives, picking the type is easy.
  3. NOW Tackle the Job Description: Only after you’ve agreed on your motive for hiring a COO — and you’ve picked the type – can you now create the COO’s job description; which things will s/he do (and which things will the CEO still do.)  Define the COO’s role to be complimentary to the particular CEO.  Define the roles so the CEO can focus on the things at which s/he excels and, hopefully, enjoys.
  4. Agree on Decision Making Authority: One of the toughest things to determine is which decisions the CEO is now going to relinquish to the COO. You’ll not be able to attract a top-notch COO if this is not discussed in advance.  Define clear decision-making “rights” for the COO, with explicit and reasonable lines of demarcation between CEO and COO decision making responsibilities.
  5. The Last Remaining Hurdle: Throughout the recruiting process you need to determine two more things:
    1. Establishment of Trust— The most important aspect of a successful CEO-COO relationship is the establishment of trust.  Trust begins with the CEO coming to terms with why a COO is even being added to the C-Suite.  The CEO must then convey the “why” to any prospective COO.
    2. Respect— The CEO and COO must have mutual respect. They need to recognize and appreciate the skills each brings. And they must be completely open with each other. This is the “chemistry” that people often speak of and it must be determined before the COO is hired.
  6. A Short-Term Alternative – an Interim COO: The process or specing and then hiring a COO can be daunting, particularly if it takes a long time for the CEO and the Board to work through all the above.  If that’s the case – and if you have immediate needs — you might consider bringing in a seasoned Interim COO while you work through the process.  This should NOT be a “try-and-buy” situation, but rather someone who can be an extra set of hands to “get stuff done” while the CEO and the Board work through the process.  In addition to getting stuff done, a good Interim COO can help you get through the above process more quickly.

Seven Different COO Roles

As noted earlier, the different types of COO’s arise from the different motives behind creating the position in the first place.  Note: In some companies, the COO could play two roles at the same time.

Seven Types of COO’s:

  • Executor.  Execute strategy; deliver day-to-day results.
  • Change Agent.  Lead a specific strategic imperative, such as a turnaround, a major organizational change, or a planned rapid expansion.
  • Mentor.  Mentor a young or inexperienced CEO (often a founder). As the CEO develops, this COO role will either disappear or be heavily restructured.
  • CEO’s “Other Half.”  If CEO is the kind of person who works best with a partner.
  • Heir-apparent.  To groom—or test—a company’s CEO-elect.
  • Important Team Player.  Promote to the COO role an executive considered too valuable to lose.

What I Do:  I am a professional Interim CEO or COO.  Since 2000 I have been asked 24 times by investors and/or board members to jump into a company on an interim basis to help the company get started, restarted, or grow to the next level. I am an agent of change.  LinkedIn  www.linkedin.com/in/DesmondPieri

 

Workbar Gig Finished; Perfect Example of when a Founding CEO should hire an Interim COO

13 March 2018

Interim

Most startup CEO’s would love a COO but can’t afford it.  So they do the work themselves, even though “COO work” is not what they love.  My just-finished Interim COO gig at Workbar is a perfect example of where the short-term expense of an Interim COO might be the way to go.

Workbar is Boston’s original coworking space and has a hub-and-spoke network of 20 locations, each with a unique “four-neighborhood” design.  As interim COO, I revamped the management team of this 30-person company, implementing processes to get the company organized, focused, and in sync.  As a team, we migrated the company so it can sustain rapid growth in Greater Boston and beyond.

Whether interim or long term, it is important that the skills of a COO complement those of the CEO, as detailed in 9 Reasons Why Your Startup Needs a Mysterious, Unsung Hero..

What I Do:  I am a professional interim CEO or COO.  Since 2000 I have completed over 20 interim roles in the US and abroad, from pure startups to companies with $25 million in revenue.  I am an agent of change, helping companies get started, restarted, or grow to the next level.  LinkedIn  www.linkedin.com/in/DesmondPieri

Hate Networking? Here’s How to “Connect Without Networking”

4 March 2018

Chapter Four of Diane Mulcahy’s book, “The Gig Economy” is a must-read for anyone who needs to network – whether you’re part of the gig economy, or you’re someone in a long-term job looking for prospects. We all know the importance of our networks, but many people hate networking.

In 15 pages, Mulcahy’s, “Connect Without Networking” chapter gives step-by-step instructions on how to network in a far more effective way; a way that is more satisfying for everyone.

Some of the key points:

1. Weak vs. Strong Ties: It’s your weak network – acquaintances, not friends – that will be most important. Your weak ties will result in far more new opportunities, whether you are looking for a new gig, or for prospects for your current company.

2. Inbound Connecting: Do you dread the typical networking events with a room full of strangers and a glass of bad wine? Mulcahy tells you how to skip those events and instead apply the digital marketing approach of Read the rest of this entry »

9 Reasons Why Your Startup Needs a Mysterious, Unsung Hero

11 February 2018

imagesEvery business — even a startup — needs a mysterious, unsung hero, a COO.

Importance: A COO — particularly one with lots of broad exposure — knows which levers to pull to make each functional area work in a coordinated way, needed for a startup to succeed.

Don’t Wait Too Long: Most startups wait too long to hire a COO.  Hire immediately if you produce a physical product – or if the founder/CEO is immersed in building the technology. Hire when you hit product/market fit if you build digital products.

Why “Mysterious” : Per this Harvard Business Review article, the role of Chief Operating Officer is the most mysterious and misunderstood position because of the complexity and diversity of responsibilities.

Why “Unsung”? The COO always expects to be blamed, yet knows they will miss out on the praise.

Custom: Per Etsy COO, the COO role needs to be Read the rest of this entry »

I Love VC Mark Suster’s “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way” on Medium

30 April 2016

 

UnknownAI don’t know Mark Suster from Adam, but I agree with his four-minute post on Medium.  He talks about how leadership is about being respected more than loved; about how leadership is a thankless and stressful job.  He talks about the importance of the followers — the team — and how the results are owned not by the leaders but by the followers.  And he talks about how if you’re not going to lead or follow (and most of us do both; we follow our boss while we lead our team), then you should quit and join another organization.

Well worth the four minute read.

MassChallenge – Another Successful Interim Assignment

21 January 2016

HQ Standard_VerticalI have been involved with MassChallenge since its inception, mentoring over a dozen companies.  Some went on to become cash prize winners, and most are still on-going concerns. I have also completed three interim assignments, helping MassChallenge itself by working on key operational initiatives. Most recently as Interim COO I implemented organizational changes so we could take the best practices from our Boston accelerator and apply them to the successful launch of MassChallenge UK, our first international in-country program. In 2015 we welcomed 90 startups to our London accelerator while spending $500k under budget. Based on what we learned in the UK, we created a “Play Book” to permit the simultaneous and efficient expansion of MassChallenge to multiple cities around the world, with three cities –- Jerusalem, Geneva, and Mexico City — added in 2016 vs. a plan for two cities. I once again will mentor companies in 2016.

Bridj – Another Successful Startup Launched

5 September 2014

140513 LOGO Bridj-logo-taglineLike start-ups RelayRides in 2010 and Ember in 2001, it has been satisfying to help a bright, young founding CEO get his start-up off the ground. As the second person at Bridj, my first task was to quickly hire a team. It was that team which:

  • Launched the service on June 2nd (on time, no less!),
  • Expanded service every couple of weeks,
  • Raised $4 million in venture capital from Atlas Ventures, Zipcar investor Jill Preotle, NextView Ventures, Suffolk Equity, and FreshTracks Capital and,
  • Positioned the company for great things to come in Boston and beyond.

I am proud of what we accomplished as a team.

My time at Bridj was similar to assignments at Ember (where I was interim COO and which went on to raise a total of $89 million in venture capital before being acquired in 2012 by Silicon Labs) and RelayRides  Read the rest of this entry »

22 Ways To Make Email Not Suck

22 July 2014

--If what Alexander Graham Bell invented in 1876 was email – and if the technology invented 95 years later was the telephone – the immediacy of a telephone call would have been seen as an improvement over the delayed back-and-forth communication of email.

Most of us either misuse email ourselves, or we get buried in emails sent by others – often our boss! – who misuse email.

Here’s a collection of 22 tips others have taught. I contend that, if each of us followed all 22 tips, we’d have better communication – and we’d spend a lot less time on email each day.

Today, there are companies who claim the productivity tool they invented will allow you to eliminate email — Asana’s claim of, “Teamwork Without Email” comes to mind. Don’t believe it. Email’s here to stay. So.. Read the rest of this entry »

Completed 15th Interim CEO Gig in 14 Years

9 April 2014

CSM LogoAs with all of 15 interim gigs, the success we had over the last year when I was Interim CEO at Cambridge Sound Management is due to the people.   As my first boss said, “Success in business is all about the people.” Hire good people. Train them. Motivate them. Empower them.

I’ve found this to be true no matter what industry I’ve been in and no matter what size the company.

CSM is the number one sound masking company in the world. It’s main product line, QtPro is based on patented technology and is used by over 40% of the Fortune 100 companies to protect speech privacy and to Read the rest of this entry »

Eileen Desmond Pieri Eulogy

31 December 2013

Comptometer     I was lucky to be asked to write the eulogy for my mom’s funeral on December 30th — exactly 51 years to the day after my dad’s funeral.   But it wasn’t my work – rather it was the collective work of many people, whose help I appreciate. In case you’re interested, here it is…

There’s an expression, “You only die if no one remembers you.” Based on the many heartfelt stories we’ve received, it’s clear that if ever there is someone who will be remembered, it is Eileen.

Today, let’s remember Eileen with numbers.

As many of you know, Eileen was always good with numbers. Well into her 97th year mom could still rattle off all sorts of numbers such as the World War II dog tags of our dad and her brother. Right out of high school, Eileen became a master at running one of the precursors to the modern computer, a machine called a Comptometer. She was so good at it the bosses gave her some of the toughest calculations to do, often with businessmen in suits and smoking cigarettes hovering over her shoulder waiting until Read the rest of this entry »