Written by EO Germany member and CEO Feliks Eyser. A version of this article first appeared on Feliks’ Medium blog.
Building an amazing company requires more than vision. You’ve heard the saying that every success story is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. You have to sweat and execute! Many people have good ideas, but few can execute and build a great company around it. It’s in the execution that a great chief operating officer (COO) comes in very useful!
Why hire a COO?
My strengths as chief executive officer (CEO) of RegioHelden were typical founder qualities: I was good at designing an MVP, persuading customers and employees, raising money and defining an overall vision and strategy. Some of my greatest assets were qualities like willpower, curiosity, creativity and impatience.
These qualities got me quite far, but it took me some years to realize that those same assets could be liabilities when it came to building and managing an organization. I remember a situation where an early human resources manager quit after a few months and told me one of her reasons for leaving was she didn’t receive any management from me. Oops …
I learned the hard way that starting a company and managing one require a different set of skills.
- My willpower drove people crazy because my expectations were often too high and could very rarely be met.
- My curiosity and creativity made it hard to predict my behavior. I had plenty of new ideas and wanted to experiment!
- My impatience often pushed people to their limit (good!) but sometimes past it bad!), causing frustration.
I might have been good at setting directions, recruiting and motivating the team, which were all important things, but I basically sucked at the managerial role.
What does a COO actually do?
To define these roles, I consider the Visionary and the Integrator. The Visionary focuses more on driving innovation, creating ideas and assessing the market. The Integrator tends to work on building the organization and maintaining business harmony. A good COO/Integrator defines systems and processes, manages staff, and ensures stability.
Often the CEO role is focused externally (market, customers and investors) while the COO role is focused more inward (employees, organization design, processes and systems).