So, there you are, stuck at your desk late at night, overwhelmed by all the emails, calls you should return, and tomorrow’s list of non-stop meetings. You realize that you’ve been working 60+ hours every week, never taking a weekend off, and missing out on time with loved ones. You think it might be time to hire a Fractional COO.
You started your own business because you had a vision for your life. You wanted to create a life where you had more control, more freedom, and enjoyment. But while you’ve achieved business success, you feel bogged down by the day-to-day operations and don’t have time to do anything else.
You realize it’s time to bring in some help. Someone who can work with you as a partner to manage the minutia of daily operations so you can work on your vision.
You decide it’s definitely time to hire a Fractional COO.
But where should you start?
Hiring an executive may feel intimidating at first but it’s like hiring any team member in many ways. You need to identify your needs, understand the current employment marketplace, find potential candidates, evaluate your options, and make a decision. When you need to hire a Fractional COO you’ve usually got a problem you need solved and time is of the essence, so let’s get started.
1. List the Functional Areas of Your Business
To begin, make a list of the major functional areas of your business. For example, if you own a plumbing business, the functional areas might be sales/marketing, onboarding/scheduling, accounting/bookkeeping, and service delivery. If your company manufactures a product that you sell via a website, your functional areas might be product development, manufacturing, logistics, sales/marketing, customer service, and administration/finance.
This is an easy step, but it’s often skipped when business owners decide to hire a Fractional COO. But, it’s worth the few minutes it will take you to get pointed in the right direction.
2. Identify the Business Needs
Next, identify the areas of your business that are going well and the areas that need improvement. Maybe you’re a whiz at sales and marketing, and you’ve got more business coming in than you can handle. Good for you! But that could be putting a strain on a chaotic and underdeveloped product/service delivery system, so you need help with order fulfillment.
Or, maybe there’s a problem with project management. Client projects get started, move along at a snail’s pace, involve a lot of rework and scope creep, and take forever to finish. You could have a process problem, leadership problem, or staffing problem, and you need a little help figuring out which one it is.
Essentially this is a list of the areas where you’re doing well and the areas you know – or suspect – your business needs to improve.
This step will probably take you about 15 minutes. Don’t overthink it. These are your pain points. One to three pain points is ideal; more than five to start with right off the bat may be unrealistic.
3. Identify the Desired Outcome
This could be a simple statement like, “eliminate order processing and shipment delays” or more specific like, “reduce ordering processing and shipment time by 10%.”
You should have a desired outcome for each business need identified in step two.
4. Create a Job Description
Now, you’re ready to put together a job description that summarizes your business needs and the outcome you’d like to achieve when you hire a Fractional COO. This is the step where most people balk. Writing a job description can feel a little overwhelming, but it’s easier than you think because there’s a lot of information available for you to use as a reference.
While executive search firms fill many full-time COO positions, there are sample job descriptions on the Internet that you can use as a guide in creating your job description. You can do a quick search on the Internet, LinkedIn, or one of the job boards such as Indeed to find listings of open COO positions. It doesn’t matter if it’s a full-time position that you’re looking at because the duties and responsibilities will be similar, and that’s what we’re looking for here.
Review the different listings, identify aspects of a listing that are similar to your needs, and then restate the criteria, needs, requirements, etc., in your own words in your job description. Be sure to include such things as day-to-day operational tasks, projects such as improving certain processes and procedures, and say a few words about the work environment and company culture.
There’s no need for this to take more than one hour. Again, don’t overthink it. Pick out the things in the job description that are similar to your needs, add them to your job description, and move on.
5. How to Find a Fractional COO
There are a variety of places you can look to hire a Fractional-COO that’s perfect for your business. Let’s walk through the options so you can pick the one that works best for you.
Personal referrals are a great way to find the perfect fit for you and your business. So, let your business network know that you’re looking for a part-time COO, include a copy of the job description, and ask if they know anyone who might be a fit. The partnership between a CEO and their COO has to be a fit of personality and temperament – it’s not just based on skills and experience. People within your network are probably familiar with your business and how you operate as a CEO.
Contacting your network and asking for referrals is sometimes the fastest and most effective way to hire a Fractional COO that’s a match for you and your business. Don’t forget to check out any professional organizations you’re a member of to see if anyone knows a F-COO or if you can post your job description to see if anyone in the organization is interested.
Many Fractional COOs, myself included, use LinkedIn to promote themselves and their business. A LinkedIn search is a good option for finding people with experience who are a fit for your business. But remember to be selective. Is their profile complete? Does it seem well-written? Is there specific information about their background and experience? A COO position is one of those jobs where completeness, specificity, and communication skills are essential.
You can create a job posting on LinkedIn to hire a Fractional COO but be prepared to get responses from a ton of people, many of whom won’t be qualified. Unfortunately, anyone can label themselves as a Fractional COO. Make sure their background reflects the depth of experience and breadth of skills you’re looking for in a F-COO.
There are a variety of agencies that specialize in filling fractional executive-level positions. You can hire a Fractional COO, CFO, Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), or almost any other c-suite executive. A simple Internet search will bring up several options for you to consider, some of whom will include bios of Fractional COOs who are currently available. The only downside to using an agency is that you might pay a placement fee, higher projector free, or retainer fee if you hire an executive through the agency (meaning the agency is paying the COO, and you’re paying the agency.)
A basic Internet search is a good choice if you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for. (Although you should already know if you’ve created a job description.) By researching a variety of F-COOs or agencies, you’ll get a feel for what type of c-suite executives are available in the employment market. Be sure to look for a Fractional COO whose strengths are a match for the areas of your business that need improvement. You’re looking for someone to bring strengths to the business that don’t already exist in your current team.
6. Select Your Fractional COO
Since you’re already an experienced, successful business owner, I won’t bore you with the dos and don’ts of conducting an interview.
My one piece of advice here is that during the interview, you need to get a sense of whether you’ll be able to partner with this person. You’re looking for someone you’ll be telling all the uncomfortable bits and pieces about your business. They need to be someone you can trust, someone who you respect, and someone you’ll enjoy working with. We’re not looking for someone to “tell” you how to run your business or run your business for you. We’re looking for someone to help you run your business.
And even though this should go without saying, I’m going to say it because so few people actually do it: make sure you follow up after the interview even if you’ve decided not to move forward with that person. They may not be a fit for your current need, but you never know when you might want to circle back to them. Fractional COOs are hard to come by in today’s consulting/employment market, and you don’t want to burn any bridges when a simple two-paragraph email could maintain a positive relationship for potential future projects.
If you’ve decided that it’s time to stop the merry-go-round and get some help so you can enjoy running your business again, take the time you were planning to spend wading through your email and hire a Fractional COO. It may end up being the best staffing decision you’ve ever made.