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How to Decide When it’s Time to Hire a COO for Your Startup

How to Decide When it’s Time to Hire a COO for Your Startup

As with any startup business, there comes a point when you need to consider your position in the company and how many job responsibilities you can handle efficiently.  Many entrepreneurs start out running everything and adding staff as their business grows.  Once your startup business begins growing, it is time to consider your role in the business and startup hiring strategies to add top-notch people to your team to drive more success.

As Randy Nelson points out in his recent best seller, The Second Decision, “If you’re trying to be both CEO and COO, one of your roles is getting neglected”.

When you have been running the show behind the scenes in addition to front stage, it’s important to realize when and why you need to hire a COO. 

Too few people are trying to do too much

The loudest notification that you need to hire a COO is when your company and staff have grown to a point where there are too few people trying to do too many jobs.  You know what I’m talking about – every successful startup faces this.

When you are CEO and COO, you will find yourself completely overwhelmed, pulled into two different directions.

  1. Strategic planning / big picture for your business
  2. Day-to-day planning and operations

Needless to say, one or both of these will end up being neglected due to sheer amount of time available.  If either of these two areas is neglected, you are hurting the success of your business.

When you have too much on your plate and are unable to efficiently do your job, it is very likely that your staff is experiencing the same problem.  This is detrimental to your company’s success.

Why you need to hire a COO

If you and your staff are overloaded with the increasing growth of your startup, you need to hire a COO to focus “IN” the business while you are still focusing on the strategic side of the business.

When you hire on a solid COO who enjoys being involved in the business, this person will be your organizer.  Your COO will keep things flowing in order, allowing your staff to focus on their expertise in completing their jobs proficiently.

With a trusted COO focused on the day to day, you will be able to put the focus needed on the big picture growth of your business.

What to look for when hiring your COO

Once you have decided that it’s time to hire a COO, you may first be under the impression that you need someone with experience in your specific industry.  Please, disregard this thought.

The most important thing to look for in your COO is strong leadership and operations experience.  Your COO does not necessarily have to be an expert in your field.  Rather, your COO needs to be someone who can take the vision of the company and execute it, making it attainable and understandable to your staff.

When interviewing COO’s, make sure that you thoroughly vet them by asking questions regarding their past work experiences and responsibilities, as well as thoroughly checking references.  I recommend that you not limit your search to the local area, but that you open the search nationally and consider options such as live video interviewing before you travel anyone in for face-to-face interviews.

As Randy Nelson points out in The Second Decision, it’s important that you have a COO who wants “to work IN the business,” allowing you, as CEO to “work ON the business.”

What is holding you back from hiring a COO?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image: Ammentorp/

Julia Weeks

Julia is a skilled Recruiter with over 8 years of experience in sourcing, interviewing, and hiring within many industries globally. She works closely with hiring managers and job seekers to understand needs and desires, while offering guidance and ensuring the right fit. When not recruiting or writing, Julia enjoys spending time outside cycling, taking her dog for walks, or honing her sailing skills.

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