Momentum Podcast: 845
Is "How Do I Hire a COO?" the Right Question For You?
by Alex Charfen
In order to grow as an entrepreneur, you must go from doing everything in your business to having help and support. Especially when it comes to the day-to-day operations of the business. This process of transitioning is not just a single hire; it requires a methodical and systematic approach to permanently delegate tasks.
In most cases, bringing in a high-level executive is not necessary for early-stage companies. Instead, hiring an assistant or someone who is operationally minded to document the day-to-day tasks and to delegate them methodically is the best place to start.
In this podcast, I outline a process for bringing in operational help that starts with conducting a two-week time study, creating a list of tasks that can be offloaded, documenting the processes, improving them, and handing them off to the assistant. By following this process, you will feel like you have more time and more confidence in the process of delegation. Delegating tasks through this process is way more effective than trying to find someone who will fix everything in one go.
Full Audio Transcript
This is the Momentum podcast.
Because of what we do at Simple Operations, the company that my wife Cadey and I run, we get the question over and over again, “How do I hire a CEO?” And we help entrepreneurs simplify operations, put a team in place so that the entrepreneur, the visionary themselves, can do less as the company scales, become more strategic and grow their business even faster. And this question comes up over and over again: How do I find this person? How do I hire a CEO? Well, for most companies that are at the beginning stages of contemplating this question, for most visionaries, if this is you at the beginning stages of contemplating this question, how do I hire a CEO is probably the wrong question.
I'm Alex Charfen and this is the Momentum podcast made for Empire Builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Should we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will? We don't accept our destiny. We define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future. And instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution. And we always will be.
I get to talk to visionary entrepreneurs all the time. It's one of the joys of what I do. I love working with visionaries. I love working with people who have new ideas. I love working with people who are willing to go into the future, create a new reality, come back to the present and demand it becomes real. And one of the conversations I have with visionaries so often is based on the question ‘How do I hire a CEO?’ And if I had to give somebody instructions on how to hire a CEO, I could. You know, it's a process of looking at what the company needs, building out a job description, looking at how many people that CEO is going to be managing, what their day-to-day is going to look like and then going out and finding that person. But for most companies, I think this is the wrong question. I think that ‘how do I hire a CEO’ should really be replaced with the question, ‘Do I need a CEO?’ And if not, what do I really need?
Let me share this just with kind of an aggregate story of what I see over and over again and what I've seen a ton in the past couple of months. Entrepreneurs will say something like, “You know, I'm going to hire a COO for my business”, and the business might be a $1.5 million company with, say, a team of 5 to 7 people. A COO is a chief operations officer. A COO is a C level executive that is overseeing a broader organization, usually an entire operations department. And then having influence on a company that has multiple departments with multiple C-level executives and leaders in place. That is a very high level position that if you bring a COO into a 5 to 7 person company, you're going to do one of two things. One is give somebody a title for a job that they really don't have because the company doesn't support it and probably pay too much for them. Or two, you're going to go out and find somebody who's actually been in zero that's going to come into a smaller organization and not have enough to do. I think that, you know, part of this question, ‘How do I hire a CEO?’ for visionary entrepreneurs is really a question, “How do I get someone else to do this for me?” I'm frustrated with operations, and if this is you, believe me, I've been there and I talk to entrepreneurs that are there all the time. You're not alone. If you're frustrated with operations, if things aren't going well, if the company grown to a million or 2 million, or it's on the way there and you starting to see breaks in the armor, you know, cracks in the armor, chinks in the armor, whatever the phrase is, if you're starting to see issues on a on a daily and weekly basis where operations is not where you want it to be, if you're starting to have some concerns by customers, if they're starting to be some issues with projects not getting done, the instinct for us visionaries is how do I hire somebody to solve all of this? How do I find the person who can come in and fix it all? And here's what I see over and over again. And, you know, I've been doing this for a long time. And what I see over and over and I've now had enough time to actually follow up on these conversations is, I see an entrepreneur who's in this situation that says, I'm going to go out and hire a COO and I'll have the conversation with the, ‘Hey, you know, I don't know if this is the right move right now’. It doesn't feel like you have enough for them to do. But some people get kind of stuck in this idea that they want somebody to go higher or they want to hire somebody to fix all of their operations. And so they'll go out and do it. And then the subsequent conversation that I have with them is I'm getting rid of this person who's a COO. It didn't work. They came in and they just didn't do what I needed them to do. Operations didn't get simpler. It got more complicated for me. I'm more frustrated than I was before. They didn't really understand how we run our business. And in a lot of cases, I think it's because the person has over hired or at least given him way too much of a title that somebody coming into a company, and brought in the wrong type of person. And I see this over and over again and again.
I think part of this is I want to hire a COO so I don't have to do anything. And that's just not how this works. You know, that's not how transitioning from being the visionary entrepreneur that's doing everything to having help and support in the operations of your company works. In fact, what I just outlined, that part of that transition from you doing everything to having help and support in your company is a process. It's not just a single hire. It is a process of going through and methodically being able to permanently delegate all the things that you're doing. So, you know, in this transition of doing everything to getting help, we have to acknowledge the fact that as the visionary entrepreneur who's brought a company to life, who's brought a company from an idea to actually creating revenue, to actually having customers, to having a product, to creating an outcome in the world. You probably have done everything or most everything in order to make that happen. You're the person that understands where you've been. You're the person that understands where you are and you're the person that understands where you want this company to go. And so bringing somebody in to fix it all for you is not only incredibly challenging and causes frustrations, it's near impossible if you're not intimately involved. And if you're in the early stages of getting help, in the early stages of finding somebody to help you with operations, I would tell you that in most cases, the majority of cases you don't need a high level executive unless your company is exploding, like I'm talking adding seven figures of revenue a quarter. Then maybe you need somebody at a higher level. Maybe. But in almost every case where I talk to someone who's in the early stages of transition from doing everything to getting help, what they really need is a good executive assistant or just an assistant.
And there's a process that you can use in order to go from doing everything to methodically and systematically permanently delegating what you do so that you don't have to do it all. And it's way more effective than trying to find somebody who's going to come in and fix everything. The process is simple. It's a process for permanent delegation. You bring in an assistant and somebody who is operationally minded, somebody who offsets your visionary skills of seeing the future with the ability to see what needs to happen on a day to day basis or at the very minimum, to document what needs do or what is happening on a day to day basis, to document what you're doing. And the process we train our members, the process I've seen work over and over again for hundreds of visionaries at this point is probably thousands of visionaries, is to conduct a two week time study, which is where you write down everything you're doing in 15 minute increments for two weeks, review that list of things and you're looking for those things that you shouldn't be doing anymore, that you can delegate to somebody else, that you can delegate to an assistant. But you don't just hand them off, you actually bring somebody in and you document each of those processes. As it stands right now, you don't document improvements, you don't document the changes you're going to make. You document the exact process you're following. And with an assistant, you go through that process and you look for ‘how can we make this better?’ And you make a copy of that process documentation. We like to use really simple flowcharts. You make a copy of the documentation in that process of the documented process. Then you create some improvements. And then once you and the assistant agree, ‘Hey, this is what needs to happen’, you hand it off to that person and you move on to the next process and start documenting and hand something else off and you start documenting the hand something else off. This is a process that an assistant can help you with. It doesn't need to be somebody who has tons of experience in operations. It's just someone who is operationally minded. And if you're willing to go through this process of documenting what you're doing in time study, creating the list of processes that you want offloaded, documenting those processes, improving them, handing them off, and then checking in from time to time to see how they're going. You will make so much more progress than trying to bring in somebody to fix it all. Because if you try to bring in somebody who's just going to fix it all, if they don't follow this process, eventually what will happen is as a visionary, you're going to see that things were done, how you've been doing them. And you're going to see that because they're not done how you've been doing them, there wasn't a good transition from you doing them to getting help with them and processes are going to break. And there's going to be challenges in the business and things that you were doing won't be replicated the same way. And you'll have problems with your members, with customers, with the product. It's just inherent in trying to have someone else fix it all for you.
On the contrary, if you bring in an assistant and you follow a process to permanently delegate what you've been doing, you have a very high likelihood chance of success. And as you hand off each process and as you methodically go through this process, you'll start feeling like you have more time. You'll actually recognize there's something coming off your plate. You'll see that someone else is doing what you were doing before, and it's going to increase your confidence in the process of delegation. It's going to increase your confidence in the process of documenting processes and having them be real in the company. And it's going to increase your ability to do this with other people and to do this over and over again. Because as a visionary, what we have to understand is that what we are doing at the beginning, transitions of getting help is what we need other people to do. And that's how we actually recognize progress. That's how we actually create more time for ourselves. That's how we get more off of our plate. That's how we end the death of a thousand paper cuts, feeling like we have to do everything all at once and right away and do everything in the company to make it grow. And you know, the story I hear again is somebody bringing in a CEO, dismissing the CEO. And at that point, sometimes they're willing to take some coaching and listen to me and I'll have them go through this process. They bring in an assistant at a fraction of the cost. They do a time study so they understand what they're doing and where they actually need help. They start handing things off one by one, documenting the process, documenting improvements, making sure it's delegated. Then checking in occasionally as they continue that process with other things that they're doing. And they start almost immediately recognizing that they're taking pressure off themselves. Almost immediately realizing they have more time in the day. Almost immediately realizing that things are getting easier for them on a day to day basis instead of more difficult.
On the contrary, when you bring in somebody too high level, they start trying to operate the entire company. They start trying to put new processes and processes in place. They don't really have this ability to work at such a granular level. If you bring in somebody who really has been a COO at another company, typically that someone who's very good at leading an organization, leading a team, people management at a very high level, people accountability at a very high level. But not this granular process that actually works to get you out of doing everything on a day to day basis to get you to where you have more time and to get you to where you can go from doing tactical activities in the business to moving yourself to more and more strategic activities, behaviors and outcomes.
Again, the question, ‘how do I hire a COO?’ if you're in the early stages of transitioning from doing everything is not the right question. The question is how do I get my time back? How do I become more efficient and more effective, and how do I increase what I'm doing from tactical activities to strategic activities? And methodically over time, we have the people in our membership go through this time setting process at least once a quarter. If their company is growing really fast. We do it once every other month. If the company is growing really, really fast, we have to do it every two weeks. And if you're willing to go through this process and methodically offload what you're doing, you will make infinitely more progress than the entrepreneur that tries to do it all at once and right away by hiring a single person. That's going to create the entire solution. Process structure in routine is what we fight as entrepreneurs. But process structure and routine is what will set us free. If you are in the stages of transitioning from doing everything yourself to having a team around you and bringing in help so that you can offload processes, so that you can delegate first time, then delegate the outcomes that you are chasing, then delegate success,we want to help you.
At Simple Operations, this is exactly one of the disciplines we help CEOs, visionaries and founders go through so that they can have more time to be strategic within their organization. If you'd like to talk to one of us about how we can help your company go to simpleoperations.com, fill out the short survey right there on the home page, jump on a call with us and let us show you how we've helped hundreds of CEOs go through this process, get their time back, become more strategic, grow their businesses like crazy without feeling like they have to do everything themselves. Go to simpleoperations.com now apply for a call and we look forward to talking to you.