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The chief operating officer (COO) is an executive team member responsible for managing a company’s people, culture, and processes. They are number two at a company, reporting to the CEO, and are virtually like a CEO’s right-hand person. As second-in-command, they serve as the CEO’s counterweight, helping execute the strategy. They ensure that the day-to-day operations are running smoothly and profitably (e.g., supply chain, HR, tech services, maintenance, bookkeeping, sales, marketing) so that executives can concentrate on growing and expanding the business. Why is the role of the COO important?
The success of a business depends on the execution of the strategies. The COO leads business operations, ensuring departments, teams, and individuals are trained, equipped, and ready for action. The COO is responsible for driving alignment and standardisation throughout the organisation, ensuring consistency and reliability in processes and policies. COOs also help companies react rapidly to changes in the marketplace by creating a culture of innovation, encouraging experimentation, and giving employees opportunities to develop ideas for solving problems and improving processes.
A COO can ensure you hit milestones, grow the right segments, and invest in the right areas. A COO can help you fight fires and build more predictable businesses. A COO can help to build a culture that fosters growth and recognises strengths.
A COO can help set strategy and guide the way. A COO can help you reclaim your life, leaving the business running without you.
As organisations try to grow, they will run into obstacles along the way. In some cases, these roadblocks will be external: A competitor might come out with a new product or service that is better than yours, or an unexpected dip in the economy might threaten growth. In others, the roadblocks will be internal: employees might not be able to cope with a transition to a new product or service or an expected jump in growth.
To help organisations grow, COOs should determine their weaknesses and strengths, identify the best ways to solve the company’s problems and capitalise on their strengths.
One of the COO’s prominent roles is risk management. However, with an organisation’s growth, the risk increases. That is why COOs should be proactive in managing their operational risks and finding ways to mitigate risks associated with daily operations. They must also put in place risk-management strategies and build emergency plans in case things do not work out.
Ensure culture and engagement among employees. A company’s culture is the key driver of its success.
Unfortunately, cultures can be inconsistent, changing over time, and challenging to maintain. Cultures are deeply embedded within organisations; they take time to establish and develop, and some top-down directives cannot manage them. That is why COOs need to be proactive about managing their organisation’s culture, living it, and enforcing values and expectations. They may even want to develop reward systems and performance reviews that reinforce the cultures they are trying to build.
All roles in the C-suite are essential, but some are more critical than others. CEOs have enormous responsibilities every day, leaving little time for operations management. CEOs need to be strategic and forward-thinking; they are in charge of setting the strategy and vision for the company. It means that they need to think about the big picture. They are representing the company to investors, customers, and all stakeholders.
The COO plays an integral role in helping the CEO get their work done, contributing to the bigger picture and strategy, and releasing time for the CEO to concentrate on their parts while ensuring the business runs smoothly. The COO’s role has evolved, becoming more strategic.
They need to define where the business will go forward and how they will get there. They must determine what the company does well and where there is room for improvement. They must identify how the company’s resources can best be used for profit.
In other words, COOs empower CEOs to make the strategy come true through the company’s culture and everyday operations.
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