Why your startup needs a COO to help scale faster

If you are founder and you pass the product market fit phase in your startup, then comes the scale-up phase where you have to execute your go-to-market playbook. This stage in your startup’s life cycle is about expanding our team while executing consistently, so that you can deliver predictably on the expectations that you have set and communicated to your stakeholders while seeing both the forest and the trees.

As a founder you need to know your limits  and when you need help, finding the right kind of help though is a different story, but its step two. At step one as a founder you need to have calmed your ego enough to have clarity. So when you reach the scale-up phase you must have seen all or some of the following signals, inside your startup:

  • Too Much Individual-Contributor Work: You and your core team have a lot of personal projects underway.
  • Misalignment: The functions in your startup are not working together as a symphony. Their individual activities don’t support each other’s goals or yourself as a founder may be managing initiatives as one-offs, as opposed to components of a larger coherent strategy.
  • Go-to-Market Fit Challenges: Despite your best attempts, the go-to-market playbook still does not exist, or has holes in it. The problem is not merely keeping everyone on the same page; instead, there’s a gap across the core team on what the end-to-end customer journey should/ would look like.
  • Product Gravitation: You find yourself gravitating significantly toward working on the product and evangelizing the company vision (both internally and/or externally).

Depending on which signal is most dominant, you need a different kind of COO. Where COO is probably the most ambiguous executive title, because it can refer to a wide variety of roles and spans of control inside any company.

In the intensity scale of less to more, and starting from the less end, are COOs that are more like Chief of Staff, whose job is to empower the CEO personally, with limited to none controlling functions inside the company.

Second to that is the COO type, known as Operations Lead addressing internal misalignments and one-off execution issues, typically owning company functions like OKR’s, People, Finance, Communications and Systems.

Addressing the go-to-market execution strategy and its relevant challenges is the Customer Journey type of COO, where in such case, he/she will usually will own functions like Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Services & Support. In some cases this executive will be referred to as Chief Revenue Officer especially where there’s a large pool of SME customers.

The most intense type of COO (also known as President) “runs the business” and seems to be the answer for the product gravitation challenge. Controlling functions usually include Customer Journey, OKR’s, M&A and People.

Titles vary considerably, therefore you’ll need to figure out first what the scope of responsibility is and then which title makes sense for your startup. Misalignment in scope and responsibility will drive an experienced executive away for your startup. Trust between you and the COO is the fundamental for a successful on-boarding of an experienced executive into this role.

Want to learn more on how-to-do, drop us an email and we will be happy to share our knowledge and insights with you!

For Hippocampus.io,

Christos Lytras – Managing Partner

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