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What the Heck Does a COO Do?

What the Heck Does a COO Do?

On day sixty-one as the "not so new guy anymore," I joined our monthly institute-wide call to talk about initiatives and wins.

But, before jumping into good news, I thought I'd ask everyone, "what the heck does a Chief Operating Officer do?" An interesting question for the dozens of team members who were on the call as -- I am the COO. (I'm sure they were hoping I knew the answer)

So, what in the heck is a COO, and what do they do?

The book-learned definition of a COO is:

"The chief operating officer (COO) is part of a company's executive team often charged with implementing strategy, managing change, and overseeing day-to-day operations."

I am blessed to have previously been a CEO for several years without a COO at my side. Because of that experience, I arrived at the institute with several ideas on who and what I would be. And how I would be of service.


In the book "Trillion Dollar Coach," there's a great quote about executives leading from a position of love.

"Love the founders - hold a special reverence for - and protect - the people with the most vision and passion for your company."

Great COO's serve. My mentor, Blaine Bartlett, refers to this person as a servant leader.

In light of my aspirations, I created a COO Manifesto. It is a place to start—and anchor what the role means to me, the business, organization, and clients.

COO Manifesto

  • I enrich our founders

  • I contribute knowledge and expertise to strategies that meet both short-term and long-term business objectives

  • I initiate projects which support our strategy and ramp down projects which lose money or don't support the strategy

  • I live into our core values and lead with integrity and honesty

  • I strive daily to maintain my business acumen and financial literacy

  • I ensure we provide a culture of performance and reward for success by hiring top talent and preparing employees for success

  • I strive to make the best possible decisions quickly

  • I remain focused on the primary duties of increasing revenues and meeting the goals identified in our vision

  • I meet with team members from all over the institute to learn about their needs, challenges, and goals

When I boil all of this down to my elevator pitch, I say:

"I collaborate with our founder, CEO, and leadership on strategy - and then help the organization understand and execute on it without friction. No friction means WE GO FASTER with EASE and ELEGANCE!"

Why Is a COO Important to Your Business

There's a commonality among all CEOs. Their primary focus is to drive growth. Be that organic, mergers, acquisitions, or transactional strategy ... they drive growth.

In doing so, the CEO is faced with two choices.

  1. Who will manage the current operations of the business? (and/or)

  2. Who will take charge of the growth effort?

The question of whether to create or maintain a COO position comes down to which of these two roles the CEO is ready to pursue. What I do know is that, in smaller companies, most CEOs get stranded in operations.

Some CEOs think of hiring a COO only when the grind of running the business has them exhausted and frustrated. That is the worst time to hire a COO. The COO is not a fixer. Don't add a COO to your team just to take away the CEO's pain.

The COO must sit in the middle of the "trilogy" of CEO and CFO to add executive bandwidth and scale the company. As the right-hand person to the CEO, the COO doesn't disrupt communications. Instead, the COO reinforces communications within the organization and instills confidence in the teams and leaders.

Over the coming weeks, I'll start to take apart the role of COO. We'll share a journey together and explore some wins ... and some challenges.

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