Archive for the ‘Turnaround’ Category

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

 

Four Cases When Hiring an Interim CEO Makes Sense — Even for a Young Startup!

10 October 2012

Number 4

I’ve done 10 interim CEO / interim COO gigs during the last 10 years.  In my view, there are four cases when hiring an interim CEO make sense:

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  1. For The First 3 – 18 Months of a Startup: As detailed in this post (which in turn was prompted by a post from Flybridge Capital Partners venture capitalist Michael Greeley’s) there are times when hiring an interim CEO at the formation of a startup makes sense.  Adding the experience of a senior, successful entrepreneur to the passion and vision of the founding entrepreneurs can increase the likelihood of the venture’s success.  (This is the role I played at Ember Corporation.)
  2. Helping a Founding CEO: Often, later in a startup’s life, a founding CEO can use help.  Rather than terminating the founder and “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” a better solution might be to bring in an interim COO to counsel the founder, and – in many cases – to actually (more…)

My First Task as Interim President: Cleaning the Kitchen!

8 October 2012

In an earlier post I discussed the consistent process I take the first week of each interim CEO / COO assignment.  As noted, though my process is consistent across companies, the resultant actions taken are often quite different from company to company.  My strangest -– but in hindsight maybe my most effective –- first action was as interim COO at a $20+ million, unprofitable software company: The first thing I did was clean the company kitchen!

Little did I know that -– before the last clean mug was in the strainer -– word traveled to the company’s remote offices in London, Dubai, and Perth that there was a new kid on the block and he was taking no prisoners.  Unknown to me at the time, the foundation for a rapid turnaround was in place.

Arriving 45 minutes early that first day -– it’s amazing what you find out about a company arriving 45 minutes early on the first day –- the only employees in the office were four individual contributors having coffee in the company kitchen; a ridiculously extravagant kitchen any TopChef chef would die for.

I was told that the only available coffee cups were in the pile that filled the sink -– a pile of dirty dishes, it was noted, that was indicative of two of the company’s problems. (more…)

Report: 8 Cases When VC’s / Boards Should Hire An Interim CEO

25 February 2010

The Economist recently reported that venture capitalists and boards of directors of European companies are far ahead of their US counterparts in understanding when it makes sense to hire an interim CEO.  Now, a new report out of the UK – which has perhaps the most sophisticated interim management services in the world – details eight cases when a board should consider putting in an interim CEO.

I’ve listed them below, but first three other key points from the report:

  1. Interim CEOs are not consultants; rather, they are hands-on workers.
  2. Interim CEOs are not potential employees; the good ones do interim work as a way of life (and not as a “filler” until a poor economy improves.)
  3. Interim CEOs can be taken into the confidence of a board (as an interim person has the advantage of impartiality.)

The report also talks about why younger and younger executives are turning to interim management as a way to achieve a more flexible and rewarding career.  While delivering significant benefits to the client, interim managers provide themselves with (more…)

The Economist: “Why Many USA Companies Now Hire Interim CEOs.”

30 December 2009

The Economist has a great article about the type of work I’ve been doing for ten years, Interim CEO. The piece addresses why many American companies are now adopting a practice that originated in Europe, and why so many top-notch execs are enjoying these temporary CEO jobs.

The Economist postulates that “interim executives may be the wave of the future in all rich countries, as these countries evolve from what Peter Drucker called a ‘society of organizations’ into a ‘society of networks.’”

Why Companies Do It

The article details three reasons why a company might choose to (more…)

Building on Michael Greeley’s Idea for Senior Successful Serial Entrepreneurs Joining Startups

31 October 2009

StartupI agree with venture capitalist Michael Greeley of Flybridge Capital Partners who recently stated that building companies demands great passion, vision and intelligence but “it also helps to have done it before.”  He goes on to say that what the marketplace really needs are “senior successful serial entrepreneurs” to serve on the next generation of entrepreneurs’ boards, to open up their rolodexes, and to share what worked and what didn’t work. He ends by noting that, “such mentorship is difficult to find.”

I would like to build on that suggestion; rather than having these serial entrepreneurs simply serve on boards, I suggest that in some cases they should actually serve as the startup’s interim CEO while the company is getting off the ground.

Every startup has a myriad of details and actions that need to be done. Rather than having a board member who simply advises, “You need to do this; and you need to do that,” in many cases the startup would be better served by (more…)

My 1st Interim Assignment a Decade Ago, E Ink, Was Just Successfully Sold.

2 June 2009

Kindle2My very first interim assignment a decade ago was at E Ink, the maker of Amazon’s Kindle. I am pleased to see the company was successfully sold and will remain in Boston. Congratulations to Russ Wilcox and the great team at E Ink

Here’s what I say about E Ink in my resume:

“Reporting to the CEO, Jim Iuliano in an interim role as General Manager of a 22-person group within a 100-person Atlas Venture funded company that originated out of MIT.  Was charged with determining why divisional revenue targets had not been achieved.  Although I possessed no prior knowledge of the product space (electronic, centrally controlled signage) or the target markets (retailers and consumer package goods companies), within weeks determined that success could not be immediately achieved with the current product in the existing markets.  Created and managed four SWAT teams which rapidly conducted exhaustive research to find a new market opportunity for the Company’s technologies, the Ink-In-Motion line which is still in use today.  Currently, E Ink’s technology is the display in the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader wireless reading devices.  Eink was sold for over $215 million.”

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Three Things to Demand Before Going to Any Business Meeting

16 February 2009

meetingoneDuring my first day of each interim CEO / COO assignment, inevitably I’m invited to what I’m told is an important meeting.  And inevitably I refuse.  Agreeing with the points made by University of Chicago professor Reid Hastie in his NY times article, “Meetings Are a Matter of Precious Time,” one of the first things I change at each company is the plethora of ineffective meetings.

1231The tactic I use is simple; I refuse the very first meeting to which I’m invited – no matter how important the subject may appear – by stating that I’ll only even read meeting invitations that include three things.  1.  The objective we will achieve by the designated end time.  2.  The agenda we’ll rigidly follow during the meeting.  3.  The homework required of each attendee before the meeting starts.

The objective can’t be “to discuss…”; it needs to be a decision or an action.  Not “We’ll discuss why sales are 20% below plan” but rather (more…)

Great Polaris Venture / MIT “Triumph in Tech” Event

2 March 2008

180px-wfm_stata_center.jpgLast week’s “Triumph in Tech” event at the R&D Pub in MIT’s Stata Center was a success. Polaris Venture Partners and the MIT VCPE (Venture Capital and Private Equity) Club hosted the ‘round robin’ dinner – we changed tables after each course – with the purpose of bringing together three types of people: Venture Capitalists (looking to meet this year’s top graduates); MIT Sloan School MBA students, most from the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program (looking to find a start-up that’ll hire them); and seasoned CEOs – people like me who Polaris asked to speak directly to the subject of the evening, “How Great Teams Come Together and Break Through to Success.”

Though I enjoyed talking about the teams I’ve pulled together in early-stage start-ups, turn arounds, or ‘growth-phase’ companies both here and in Europe, I enjoyed even more learning new ‘tricks of the trade’ from my contemporaries. Unfortunately I suspect some of the students did not enjoy the advice given by many of the CEOs: since start-ups don’t have the luxury to groom, you’ll not likely find a start-up willing to hire a fresh MBA grad for their executive team. So land a position – preferably in Bus Dev and / or Product Management – at a large, well run company with a strong management training program. Then come back in ten years and seek out your start-up.

This event was one of those win / win situations where all in attendance – the Polaris VCs, the MIT MBA candidates, and the CEOs – benefited.

Anatomy of a Turn Around: The First Five Days

16 September 2007

untitled1.jpgHaving completed a dozen turn-arounds – usually in the role of Interim CEO / COO / GM – I’m often asked, “Are there consistent actions you take the first week at each company?” to which I answer, “Yes…and no.” ‘No’ because each company is unique, with it’s own set of problems, strengths, and market constraints; therefore each company requires a unique set of actions. But ‘Yes’ because I have settled on a consistent process for the first week, a process that helps me determine the real problems and possible solutions.

That said, there is one action I always take the first day; although the companies I’ve helped turn around have been in very different industries – from electronic ink to wireless mesh to software (of many types) to heart defibrillators to video games – each company needed cash to survive. So the one action I always take the first day is… (more…)