Fractional COO: What Is It and How Can It Save The Overwhelmed Entrepreneur?

by | Operations Management

There comes a time in every entrepreneur’s journey when winging it no longer does the trick. 

Sure, your bold vision and trial-and-error strategies got you to where you are today – the CEO of a successful, growing company. But that also means that you have reached a new level in business, and it requires a fresh approach, perspective, and expertise. 

So, what can you do? Hire expert help? But you can’t afford it… Or can you? 

Let me introduce you to the brilliant idea of a Fractional COO – the operations wizard that might just skyrocket your company’s productivity in the most cost-effective way. 

What is a Fractional COO?

In a nutshell, a Fractional COO (or F-COO) is an executive that you can contract (project-based, hourly based, or on a retainer), typically with many years of experience, who brings a new perspective to your company’s systems and processes to optimize them fully. 

Let’s break that down for a bit of insight into what’s going on with the whole ‘fractional’ thing.

Fractional: due to the new ‘gig’ economy, we’re seeing the term ‘fractional’ pop up everywhere. You can hire a fractional HR executive, a Fractional CFO, or a Fractional CIO. Businesses are taking advantage of the gig economy to hire someone at the COO level when they don’t have a full-time need or a big salary budget. 

COO (Chief Operating Officer): has responsibility for the day-to-day operations of a company as well as the implementation of the strategic vision/plan. Generally speaking, this individual has overall responsibility for the main functions of the business: sales/marketing, operations, finance/administration. Of course, a fractional COO can be flexible, depending on your company’s operational requirements and unique business structure.

Why is there a high demand for fractional COO’s?

I absolutely love the unwavering ambition, focus, and mental strength of entrepreneurs. It takes a special kind of person to take a company to 6 and 7 figures, and the journey is simply inspiring. 

Those numbers are excellent, but to keep them up is a whole new challenge, drastically different from what you’ve been experiencing so far.

And the truth is… those numbers can disappear lightning fast. You know the popular statistic: 20% of businesses fail during the first 2 years, 45% of them fizzle out during the first 5 years, and 65% crash and burn during the first 10 years. 

Do you think those staggering 65% of business owners haven’t seen the kind of success you’re seeing right now? And they still failed at some point. 

Now, don’t get me wrong—there are any number of factors that can bring a company to failure. 

But how can you make sure that you’re doing the best you can to not only keep your company afloat but make it consistently better? 

Get a person who can create a fully operational well-oiled machine out of your vision. 

Business Meeting Fractional COO

But how does a Fractional COO execute your vision to create a well-oiled machine? 

Well, it depends on the business but on a day-to-day basis, a Fractional COO can: 

  • Oversee day-to-day administration and operational functions of the business.
  • Provide leadership and accountability to the management team.
  • Integrate major functions of the business and ensure information is shared effectively across functions.
  • Provide organizational clarity on goals, priorities, and implement the strategic vision.
  • Streamline systems and processes for maximum productivity while avoiding employee burnout and lack of motivation.

Some projects a fractional COO can lead include:

Restructure organization/staffing

While clients often come to me thinking that they need to create or improve processes, quite often, the real problem is that they don’t have the right people in the right jobs. To make any business work, you need the right people in the right jobs.

Recently, I worked with a client whose business coach had referred him to me to create better processes for his team to follow. And while his processes needed improvement, they weren’t the root cause of the problem. He was following a recommended staffing model for his industry, but it wasn’t right for his target audience, price point, and management style. His organizational structure made it impossible to scale his business and achieve his next revenue goal. 

After identifying the real problem, we created job descriptions for his ideal team. The new organizational structure was based on his strengths and the business’s operational needs. Then, we sourced, hired, and trained new team members and helped existing team members find other positions and transition out of the company (yes, we value people)

He’s now on track for his first million-dollar year.

Talk about ROI, right?

Streamline processes

Often businesses either have under-developed processes that were thrown together on the fly or have procedures that are so overly complicated that nobody follows them. Either situation is a recipe for disaster.

The trick here is to be efficient and effective.

A smooth workflow that aligns with the business objectives is a game-changer. You’d be surprised to see what kind of impact that has on several aspects within the company: 

  • Better communication
  • Happier customers
  • Clear systems that make employees’ lives easier
  • Faster and better performance
  • More motivated and determined employees

Implementation of customer experience improvements

Here’s a harsh truth: your customers’ requirements are ever-changing, and keeping up with that can become a real struggle. 

One of my favorite clients had a talented team that worked hard on client projects but didn’t have any process or guidelines to update clients on their progress. They wouldn’t send an email to clients for weeks, and then they’d get an angry email asking where things were at and why they hadn’t heard anything. It didn’t create a smooth customer experience. 

Now, it might sound like it was just a case of someone needing to send an email, but it wasn’t that simple. 

The project teams worked in a silo environment and did not share essential customer and project information. People didn’t know what was going on with a particular project; they weren’t sure who was responsible for decision-making when things got stuck or who was supposed to update the client. 

We redefined roles and responsibilities, established a culture of shared information, and ensured that team members communicated with customers with an active project at least once a week. 

They started getting “love this” emails from customers about the improved communications. 

Identify and track key business metrics

Have you ever heard the phrase “what gets measured gets done”? Well, that’s the motto here. 

For your business to succeed, it needs clear KPIs that get tracked. That’s what will tell you where things need improvements. But you don’t need to put tons of complicated metrics in place. You just need three to five metrics for your business, and each team member should know how they contribute to that metric. Your fractional COO will be the perfect person to create that for you – data is right up their alley. 

Restructure systems and replace/upgrade technologies

It’s not uncommon to look to apps or online systems to help run your business. It seems like every system out there claims to run your business via an app, right? 

But sometimes, that’s just not the case. I recently worked with a client who had purchased a system to improve project workflow and time tracking. But she had purchased a system that really didn’t meet their business needs. Not only was it cumbersome and time-consuming for employees to use, but it did not meet the organization’s monthly reporting needs. She kept trying to make it work – sort of like forcing a round peg into a square hole – but the system had been over-hyped and did not have the capability to meet their business needs.

We identified a better, less costly option and quickly and seamlessly made the transition. 

Her end of the month reporting and invoicing took less than half the time with the new system. It was a win-win for everyone.

Fractional COO helping client

So, are you ready for a fractional COO?

You may be ready for a Fractional COO if:

  • You run a successful business that makes 6 or 7 figures and is continuously growing, and you have a team and a profitable pool of clients. 
  • You turned from a CEO to a full-time jack-of-all-trades that has to figure out how to build processes and systems that remove the bottlenecks in CRM, sales, marketing, HR, and more, all while your long-term vision and creativity are stifled.
  • You’re overwhelmed by everything you need to do, and it starts to reflect in lower-quality outcomes, mistakes, and losses. 

If this sounds like you, you’re in the right place. I’d be happy to help you save time, effort, and resources in your operations so you can spend them doing things that truly move the needle in your business.