Do You Need a Fractional COO? Here’s What You Should Know

by | Business Advice, Operations Management

So, you’ve decided it’s time to get some help. Things just keep piling up and it’s impossible to get to everything. But don’t really know what kind of person you should be looking for.

What you do know is that your business could use optimization, streamlining, and clarity—so you’re wondering if a Fractional COO is right for you.

While this may feel like yet another problem to solve for your business, taking the time to determine if you need another team member, a C-level executive will pay off in both the short and long run.

What is a Fractional COO?

A Fractional COO is a performance- and clarity-driven professional that will take a fresh look at your business, with both logical and creative goggles on. 

They have a sharp eye for discovering ways in which you and your team can work smarter, not harder—streamlining processes, creating a clear course of action for operation-related situations, allowing the essential information to flow seamlessly throughout the organization, and more. 

And the best part? You get their expertise and knowledge for a fraction (often, part-time or project-based pay agreements) of what you would pay for a full-time Chief Operations Officer. It’s a win-win.

5 Signs You Need a Fractional COO in Your Corner

  • Your business has grown using current processes and procedures, but now things are slipping through the cracks, and you don’t have the bandwidth to reevaluate and regroup.
  • There’s ambiguity about who’s responsible/accountable for different aspects of running the business, and the management team lacks direction.
  • You’re trying to make all day-to-day decisions and grow your business, but you spend most of your time making the operations decisions, so your business has stopped growing.
  • You don’t have a succession or development plan for key team members, so things will come to a grinding halt if one of them leaves.
  • You’ve tried to put processes and procedures into place but they’re either underdeveloped or overdeveloped, making it difficult to scale your operations.

Game-changers a Fractional COO Can Do

Two business women working on a presentation

You probably know that there are many things a Fractional COO can do to help, including running the day-to-day operations of your business, streamlining existing processes, enhancing customer experience, and implementing your strategic vision.

But now that you’re more familiar with both your situation and the idea of a Fractional COO, let’s dive a little deeper into some specific examples of things that every business should have but may not realize they need:

Analyze, improve, and codify processes and procedures

No matter what business you’re in, you and your team have either formally or informally adopted processes for getting things done. Typically, when a business is getting started, informal processes develop organically as you and your team work quickly to get everything done. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your business is operating as efficiently and effectively as it can.

A Fractional COO can analyze your current processes to help shine a light on what’s working and what’s not. Change is a natural part of any business but it’s easy to be so busy meeting business goals that you don’t stop to determine if you’ve outgrown your current processes. An objective review of processes and procedures can identify bottlenecks, streamline workflow, and improve outcomes.

And yes, while improving existing processes improves workflow, it also has a side benefit of freeing up existing resources that can be redeployed to work on other business goals.

Streamlining procedures is often one of those things you’re always saying you’ll get around to but rarely find the time for. A F-COO can partner with you and your team to analyze, improve, and solidify standard operating procedures to help your business function evening more efficiently.

Develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

One of the most common issues growth-oriented businesses experience is that nobody is 100% sure of what’s really working and what’s not. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bold entrepreneur who one day just decided to wing it, and now they’re successful—it’s incredible how businesses come to life!

But at a certain point in the development of any business, you need to know what’s working well and what isn’t, meaning that you need data to compare against a set KPI (you can also think of it as a goal or an operating standard). If you don’t, things can get hectic pretty quickly, and you’ll miss out on crucial insights into your operation’s performance.

Remember: what gets measured gets done!

Create an organization/accountability chart

Most people think of an organization chart as a visual representation of reporting relationships within the business – a hierarchical chart of who’s got the biggest and best title. But it’s actually a tool used to clarify responsibilities for decisions/outcomes and streamline the flow of information throughout the organization.

An organization can’t flourish if there’s no clarity about who’s responsible for making decisions in each functional area (and no, you can’t and shouldn’t make all the decisions). When team members don’t know whose responsibility it is to make decisions, it enables a hot-potato environment where everyone tosses difficult tasks and problems to the next person. Things don’t get done, and everyone can easily claim that someone else is responsible for the hold-up.

Additionally, to fully empower employees to excel in their positions, they must proactively be given the information they need to do their jobs (and it’s probably more information than you think). If anyone in the organization has more than seven direct reports, it’s almost impossible to juggle all the informational balls necessary to keep work flowing smoothly. The average Fortune 500 CEO has seven direct reports, with some as few as 5. But many entrepreneurs try to get by having everyone report to them, and that typically means that there are hidden inefficiencies somewhere in the organization.

Create a retention plan

If you want your business to grow, you’ve got to pay attention to the intellectual property in your organization. And no, that doesn’t just mean you.

Unless your entire business is run entirely by robots, your team members are key contributors to your business success. Every time you must replace a team member, you lose both time and money. Not only the time it takes to recruit and hire someone else, but you’ve also got to factor in getting the new team member onboarded, trained, and up to speed so that they’re contributing at full capacity.

It’s essential to be aware of what’s happening in the employment market (read here average salary increases) and working conditions in your business (yes, I’m talking about stress level.) And you should also assume that there’s probably some super-motivated recruiter out there scouring the internet right now to lure your top talent away.

Couldn’t I hire a lower-level position instead?

Young man working on laptop

Businesses often try hiring a Project Manager or Operations Director, thinking that will solve the problem. This doesn’t work because they don’t have overall responsibility for the primary functions of the business—those functions still report to the CEO/Visionary. They can only see their slice of the pie. So, it’s almost impossible for them to provide essential direction and leadership, proactively manage the flow of information, and streamline cross-functional processes.

You’re looking for someone with experience working cross-functionally, who knows what needs to be done, how to prioritize what to do first, and can work creatively to use the resources you already have or are reasonably within reach.

This isn’t the time to think about hiring anyone who’s less than an expert. You’ll be setting yourself—and them—up for failure.

What should I look for in a Fractional COO?

Fractional COO in a business meeting shaking hands with client

If you’re running a manufacturing business, you’ll want a Fractional COO with experience in manufacturing operations, logistics, and product development.

But if you operate assisted-living facilities, you’ll want someone with experience in implementing/managing safety protocols, attracting qualified team members (in short supply right now in the health care community), and experience establishing and maintaining excellence in service delivery.

So, don’t be tempted to snap up the first Fractional COO that comes along. Take your time.

It’s essential that they’re a fit for your business, and they need to be a fit for you too.

Because it’s a partnership, the two of you need to ‘click.’ Your F-Coo implements your vision, but they also make suggestions, comments, and tactfully point out when one of your ideas sounds good but isn’t actually a good fit for the business. Make sure you’re ready for that.

Well, there you have it. After giving it some thought did you decide you need a Fractional COO? 

If you’re ready to take action, here’s your next step: