Need Operations Expertise?
What is a Fractional COO?
The Role of The COO
Before we go into what we mean by "Fractional" it's important to understand what a COO is and whether you need that expertise in your business. The title COO is a bit of a catch-all for a wide range of business functions, including legal, marketing, HR, IT, and customer service, among others.
While the details of the role can vary significantly based on the sector, business size, maturity, and the expertise of the rest of the senior leadership team. However, the role of a COO usually focuses on the internal operations of the business, while the CEO's focus is often on things outside.
The role of the COO is always somewhat general, and while they will have their specialist skills, they will often know a little about everything in the business.
Do You Need a COO?
To determine if you need a COO, there are four things to consider.
The workload of the CEO
Skillset of the CEO, CFO, Etc
Task preferences of the current C-suite
Time spent in the business versus on the business
To some degree, these are all related.
If the senior team are too busy with day-to-day tasks - they’re spending time working in the business not on the business, you might need a COO to find ways to reduce their routine tasks giving them time to think about how to grow and evolve your business.
Equally, they may not have an operations mindset or the experience needed to effectively improve how the business operates. Operations can seem quite dull to a lot of people, particularly the creative types (i.e. People who typically found business, do marketing or coding) But it’s the structural steelwork that holds up your business.
If any of this is resonating with you then you probably need a COO.
Getting the Expertise
You need to consider how you want to bring in a COO.
If the issues prompting the need for a COO are due to a recent change, the need might be short-term. Or perhaps you’re unsure if you need someone full-time.
If that’s the case then it may be best to bring in a COO on a flexible basis. This could be on an interim or consultancy basis.
Another option is a fractional COO. One way to think about this is as being very part-time. Instead of a few days a week, you have a few days a month. In a similar way to having a lawyer on retainer, you're free to use that time as and when you need it.
This arrangement gives you the advantage of having an experienced operations specialist to provide advice and work with your teams on their issues, but at a lower cost than employing someone that senior full-time.
The different options are suitable for differing circumstances. An interim assignment is best suited for a specific series of projects across the business. A consulting basis is usually better when working on a single well-defined project or goals for a team. A fractional COO is a resource to be used as needed.
The engagement length and frequency vary for each option, and you could of course combine them - interim to get over a particular problem and fractional afterwards.
Both interim and consulting are typically either time or project bound. A fractional COO is for an agreed amount of time per month for at least three months, with very flexible availability for as long as you need them.