How to Find a COO to Take Your Company to the Next Level | COO Recruiters

      How to Find a Chief Operating Officer to Take Your Company to the Next Level

      As a business executive, you understand how having the right people in key roles can make or break your organization. This statement rings particularly true for the chief operating officer role. The COO is responsible for not only developing successful operations strategies but also driving growth in every part of the business.

      If you don’t clearly understand what you need, it can be easy — and costly — to hire the wrong person for the role. Discover how to know whether you’re ready to hire a COO, what you need to do before you start your search, and how to set yourself and the company up for success in the search.

      Understanding the Role of a Chief Operating Officer

      The role of a chief operating officer isn’t always completely clear. Those who possess this title often seem to be chameleons. What they do depends heavily on the company’s needs at the time of hire and is subject to change as the company grows and evolves.

      As a top executive, you know that the COO isn’t a director of operations. That position is more heavily focused on keeping everything running smoothly in the here and now. Your chief operations officer has to be much more forward-thinking, designing and implementing business strategies today for success in the future.

      So what will your COO do? The person in this role acts as a complement to the CEO. In short, they take on the tasks that the CEO doesn’t want to do, and that allows the CEO to operate in their core strengths. While the COO is developing and implementing operational strategies in line with business goals, the CEO is focusing on long-term vision and strategic planning.

      This means that the COO functions in a partnership. If a CEO wants someone to just take over key operational tasks, that’s more of a job for someone at the director level.

      Knowing When to Hire a COO for Your Organization

      Understanding when to hire a COO is just as crucial as knowing who to hire. If you hire for this role too early, you’ll risk underdevelopment in the CEO role. This is because the CEO won’t have time to develop an in-depth understanding of all parts of the operation.

      You should hire a COO when the company is either preparing to grow or has reached a point in expansion where the CEO no longer has the time (or interest) to manage certain aspects of the operation. You’ll then bring on a COO to take on the tasks that the CEO no longer wishes to handle.

      What to Look for in an Ideal Candidate

      The most important trait of a chief operating officer is that they are totally uninterested in becoming a CEO. When a COO isn’t focused on the spotlight and external validation, they’re more likely to be intrinsically motivated by and focused on their work.

      This inward drive is also likely to produce a team-oriented candidate who truly wants to see the organization win. Because your COO will function like the glue that helps departments work together, they should be well-liked and a great manager — even when they’re dealing with aspects of the company they don’t have extensive experience with. A few of the specific skills you should be on the lookout for include:

      • Analytical and strategic thinking to manage budgets and projects
      • Strong sense of judgment to help with prioritizing initiatives
      • Leadership and communication skills that bring together the executive bench
      • Talent development strategies to meet the company’s goals
      • Cultural values that align with the company
      • The ability to properly identify and manage risks

      It’s important that you don’t compromise on these core strengths, as they will determine the COO’s success in their position.

      Recruiting the Right COO for the Job

      Before you begin recruitment for the role, it’s best to ensure that you fully understand which parts of the operation the COO will be responsible for. Then, list and prioritize those functions according to what’s most pressing for you. 

      The functional areas at the top of your list are where the ideal candidate’s core competencies will lie. A candidate may have direct experience in the competencies at the bottom of the list, but they don’t need deep expertise in managing them since those areas are less important to you.

      Make sure your candidate has experience scaling teams in their previous positions. In addition to being well-liked, they should be able to present you with proven methods for recruiting and retaining executives. Your candidate should be well-versed in coaching, delivering feedback, and knowing when an executive just isn’t a good fit for a role.

      Recruiting Mistakes to Avoid

      While technical expertise is important, try to avoid prioritizing technical knowledge over cultural fit. The COO needs to be someone who can bring the C-suite together, so make sure their cultural values will allow them to build long-term relationships, communicate well, and ensure cohesion.

      Additionally, make sure you’re not rushing through the selection process. This is a key role in your organization, and it may take time to identify and get to know the right candidate for the job. Make sure to spend time with the candidate to truly understand their values and competencies and ensure they are aligned with your needs.

      How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Search Process

      As you begin your candidate search, make sure you stay focused on the following:

      • How the candidate stays motivated to work in difficult circumstances
      • How the candidate intends to maintain unity in the C-suite and ensure effective collaboration between departments
      • Whether the candidate understands their weaknesses and how they intend to develop them

      Even though all stakeholders may be involved in evaluating candidates, ensure that the CEO makes the final decision. The COO will be working most closely with the person in that role, which means the CEO should be the primary decision-maker.

      The Right COO Can Make All the Difference

      Having a capable and committed candidate step into the COO role is critical for the company’s growth. If your business has expanded to the point that the CEO needs a partner to take over some of the operational functions, it’s essential that you choose an intrinsically motivated, team-oriented candidate.

      It is crucial to go with someone who can bring executives and departments together, recruit and develop talent, and think strategically in challenging times. These traits, along with a strong alignment with company values, will help your company succeed.

      Top Operations Executive Recruiting Firm | COO Recruiters

      Operations Recruiters & Executive Search
       Operations Recruiters & Executive Search

      The experienced operations executive recruiters at Cowen Partners have a long-standing reputation for excellence when it comes to connecting companies with the most experienced operations leaders. We are well versed in multiple industries; private equity portfolio operations, manufacturing operations, defense operations, facilities operations, healthcare operations, and retail operations. We take exceptional care identifying the best candidates for our clients’ operational leadership needs.

      Read more of our operations executive search resources to see why Cowen Partners is a top operations leadership search firm in Atlanta, St. Louis, Anchorage, Denver, New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and beyond.

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