Jul 9, 2019

How to Hire the Right Chief Operating Officer for Your Business

If you are a CEO who wants to hire a COO, did you know that understanding your management type will help you find an executive who will balance your style?

If you are CEO or visionary, who is strategic, analytical, and enjoys being in the background reviewing the numbers, you will pair best with a people-oriented, gregarious COO often coming from a General Management or sales and marketing leadership background.

If are a sales-focused visionary or CEO, a good wingman for you is a strategic COO. Without realizing it, you may appear to be very competitive, so in addition to needing an analytical second-in-command, you may need someone who is comfortable managing people.

Lastly, if you are a people-oriented CEO, you need a COO with sales and strategic experience. If you are focused on the employee value proposition, you may not give enough attention to growing the business. Because you are so likable and gregarious, you can attract great talent. However, you may need a sales-oriented COO to help focus on strategy and growth.

The Ideal COO Type to Support the Strategic CEO/ Visionary

If you are a strategic CEO, you stay up to date with industry trends, read business publications and blogs to stay current and watch CNBC in your free time.

You pay careful attention to the bottom line and love to report to the Board new cost savings you have instituted.

It would help if you had a COO who is an Integrator, as Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters described in their book Rocket Fuel:

“Integrators are typically very good at leading, managing, and holding people accountable. They love running the day-to-day aspects of the business….They remove obstacles so that people can execute.”

The authors offered the example of when Keith Walters joined Ron Johnsey at Axiometrics, a 28-person analytics firm. While Ron “could see the future like few others,” the authors said that as the firm grew, CEO Ron had less and less time to spend looking down the road. He found himself in “head down” mode most of the time.

However, once Keith was hired and became his Integrator, “a huge burden was lifted from Ron’s shoulders. Operational matters that would take Ron hours to resolve took Keith a fraction of that time….Ron was thrilled to let them go.”

Managing people takes a great deal of time and tact. Being able to delegate this important responsibility will give you the latitude to focus on what you do best.

The Right Hire for a Sales-Focused CEO

Do you come from a sales and marketing career? As CEO, are you focused on growing the business? Then a strategic COO will be a good match for you.

The sales-focused CEO often needs help with the people side of the business and needs a strong leader and manager as second-in-command.

You will want to select a COO who is careful and deliberate, one who will consider all sides of a problem before deciding what to do. This type of strategic COO will turn on the office lights in the morning, and be the last to leave. She/ he will get great satisfaction from being in office, while you are out selling.

Wickman and Winters described this kind of COO or Integrator as being:

  • Personally accountable
  • Adept at self-management
  • Decisive
  • Effective conflict manager
  • A catalyst for team cohesion
While you are an energetic and hard-driving CEO, having a COO who will make sure that the team operates with excellent communication and respect, will help propel your business to success.

A Match for the People-Oriented CEO

If you are a leader who is concerned with people and the corporate culture, and who embraces the company’s social responsibility philosophy both in words and action, then you can be characterized as a people-oriented CEO.

You might be the type of CEO who is always thinking about what kind of company you can be. Perhaps you joined the conscious capitalism movement or became a member of Small Giants. If you find a COO who enjoys paying attention to the spreadsheet and knowing that all departments are meeting their sales targets, this COO will be able to help grow the business while you keep everyone happy and motivated.

Wickman and Winters also discuss the crucial component of readiness in the CEO’s journey to hire an Integrator or COO. The four readiness factors are:

  • Financial readiness, or being able to afford a COO
  • Psychological readiness, being willing to let go of some of the control
  • Lifestyle readiness. You welcome being able to work fewer hours and delegate management responsibilities.
  • Unique ability readiness. You are ready to embrace your unique strengths and be you.

If you are a CEO who has built your business from scratch, you may be reluctant to cede control to a second-in-command. Consider what got your company to its place of increased growth. Was it your ability to network and bring in new business? To strategize about the future? When you have the right COO by your side, supporting you and taking over tough decisions, you will be free to invest your time in the activities which you enjoy the most, and at which you thrive.


One of the most critical hiring decisions you can make as CEO is to select the right COO to balance you, support you, complement your strengths and skills, and be a loyal and trusted partner. This snapshot of CEO types will help you identify what qualities to seek in candidates for the COO role. Your judicious and measured decisions to select the right COO could determine the success of your company in the years to come.

Next Step:

Check out our Abridged Guide to Hiring a Chief Operating Officer, containing top considerations for CEOs and Business Owners when hiring a COO.

The Abridged Guide to Hiring a COO


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